Vowel elision is common in Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara connected speech. It also appears to be a locus of language change, with young people extending elision to new contexts; resulting in a distinctive style of speech which speakers refer to as muṯumuṯu
(‘short’ speech). This study examines the productions of utterance-final past tense suffixes /-nu, -ɳu, -ŋu/ by four older and four younger Pitjantjatjara speakers in spontaneous speech. This is a context where elision tends not to be sociolinguistically or perceptually salient. We find extensive variance within and between speakers in the realization of both the vowel and nasal segments. We also find evidence of a change in progress, with a mixed effects model showing that among the older speakers, elision is associated with both the place of articulation of the nasal segment and the metrical structure of the verbal stem, while among the younger speakers, elision is associated with place of articulation but metrical structure plays little role. This is in line with a reanalysis of the conditions for elision by younger speakers based on the variability present in the speech of older people. Such a reanalysis would also account for many of the sociolinguistically marked extended contexts of elision.
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