restricted access /u/-fronting and agent-based modeling: The relationship between the origin and spread of sound change


This study is concerned with whether an asymmetric phonetic overlap between speaker groups contributes to the directional spread of sound change. An acoustic analysis of speakers of Southern British English showed that younger speakers’ fronted /u/ was probabilistically closer to that of older speakers’ retracted /u/ distributions than the other way around. Agent-based modeling based on the same data showed an asymmetric shift of older toward younger speakers’ fronted /u/. The general conclusion is that sound change is likely to be propagated when a phonetic bias within an individual is further magnified by a difference between speaker groups that is in the same direction.