I’ve been scribbling about triggering environments for diphthong raising in Canadian English for the last few days, because I keep hearing examples in my own speech that illustrate a complication in the process. The canonical pattern is that the low-nucleus diphthongs acquire a raised central nucleus before voiceless consonants (in the same word). Thus (roughly) [aw] and [aj] become [ʌw] and [ʌj]; the contrast is observable in pairs like ride [rajd] vs. write [rʌjt].
The process is called Canadian Raising because it applies to both diphthongs throughout what Chambers (1973) calls “Heartland Canadian” (Ontario westward), and (as far as I’ve been able to discern) in the remainder of contemporary Canadian English as well. (A little bit of digging into it reveals anecdotal stories of a similar process applying to one or the other of the diphthongs in New England, western Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the colder parts of the Midwest).
The ‘famous’ part (first noted in Joos 1942) is the opacity introduced by intervocalic flapping, such that the diphthong is raised even before the phonetically voiced variant of /t/ in writer, pronounced [rʌyɾɚ] by speakers of the dialect. A separate issue (and I believe one no less deserving of the same degree of teeth-knashing) is the interplay of stress in the application of the rule.
It works like this: Chambers (1973) notes that if the syllable following the one with the diphthong bears relatively more stress, the process is blocked. Thus, the diphthongs remain low in words like typology [tàjpáləǰi], isosceles [àjsásəliz], and psychology [sàjkáləǰi]. If the morphology forces a different stress pattern (namely, a reduced vowel following the diphthong), the same vowels will raise as expected, as in typological [tʌ̀jpəláǰəkəl], isotherm [ʌ́jsəθɚm], and psychological [sʌ̀jkəláǰəkəl]. (btw my judgements match Chambers for this set; we’re both speakers of Cdn. Eng.).
Chambers also notes an issue with cyclops, citing four subjects as well as himself as people who do not raise the diphthong in this word, despite not having relatively more stress on the following syllable. He does acknowledge that others raise the diphthong; I’ve mumbled the word to myself too many times since January to have any reliable judgement one way or the other. (An interesting account offered by Chambers is that perhaps the exceptional form is learned from Classics professors).
Nevertheless there is an additional set of words (for me at least) in which the stress in the second syllable can be relatively less than that of the diphthong, and raising again fails to apply. Some examples include icon [ájkàn], biceps [bájsɛ̀ps], and Ticonderoga [tájkàndərógə] (forgive the stress marks in the last one; I only want to indicate that the first syllable can be more prominent than the second). NB Chambers counts icon as raised – I’d be curious of other judgements going either way.
I’m tempted to lump Cyclops with icon and say that any degree of stress in the following syllable is sufficient to block raising. Then the process basically applies only if the diphthong and voiceless consonant are in the same foot, thus unifying the failure of raising in icon and typology.
But along comes nitrate, which does have a raised diphthong, and which Jensen (1993), another speaker of the dialect, uses to argue that the foot domain cannot be part of the structural description. Presumably nitrate is two feet, parallel to icon. So I don’t know what to do with this; removing the foot restriction ruins the story for typology and icon. Maybe nitrate is actually one foot, because of its chemical morphology or something.
Anyway, it’s an awfully complicated set of restrictions. Even aside from the nitrate problem, it seems like a pretty cool example of combining ‘do something only if’ and ‘do something except when’ … raise the diphthong only if it’s followed by a voiceless consonant (or remnant thereof), except when the following syllable has any degree of stress.
Chambers, JK. 1973. Canadian Raising. CJL/RLC 18. 113-35.
Jensen, J. 1993. English Phonology. Benjamins.
Joos, M. 1942. A phonological dilemma in Canadian English. Language 18. 141-44.
Mielke, Jeff, Mike Armstrong, and Elizabeth Hume. 2003. Looking through Opacity. Theoretical Linguistics 29.1-2: 123-139.