Date Approved

2015

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Beverley Goodman

Committee Member

T. Daniel Seely

Abstract

This study examines the vowels /ɪ/ as in tin and /ɛ/ as in ten in African American English (AAE) and Standard American English (SAE) spoken in the Detroit, Michigan area. I first analyzed the acoustic properties of a number of speech samples to determine vowel quality and duration measurements. I then performed speech perception tests using the same speech samples. My analyses support and contradict claims about AAE and SAE, particularly with respect to speaker participation in vowel shifts such as the Northern Cities Shift (NCS), Southern Shift (SS), and pin-pen merger. My investigation of AAE and SAE vowels also showed discrepancies between acoustic characteristics and the perception of the target vowels. My thesis contributes to the exploration of the broader connection between acoustic properties and speech perception as well as to the study of the space where linguistic research intersects with human social interactions.

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