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“Where’d you learn to speak like thee-at?”

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The Northern Cities Shift affects the six different vowels appearing in caught, cot, cat, bit, bet and but. Those affected by the shift pronounce words like bit with a vowel nearer to bet or even but. They pronounce bet with a vowel similar to that in cat or but. The chart represents where in the mouth the tongue is placed for those vowel sounds. (Courtesy of Matthew Gordon)

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Brooke Taylor, a 25-year-old Rochester, N.Y. native, stands with her boyfriend, Austin Fossey, in front of what many locals would call the Rheaaa-chester skyline. Rochester is one of several cities affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, an epic vowel shift sweeping the Great Lakes region. (courtesy of Brooke Taylor)

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Brooke Taylor, a 25-year-old graduate student living in Washington D.C., is a Rochester, N.Y., native. Rochester is one of several cities affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, a vowel shift unparalleled in the last thousand years. (Courtesy of Austin Fossey)

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Brooke Taylor, a 25-year-old graduate student living in Washington D.C., is a Rochester, N.Y., native. Rochester is one of several cities affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift. (Courtesy of Austin Fossey)

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Brooke Taylor, a 25-year-old graduate student living in Washington D.C., is a Rochester, N.Y., native. Rochester is one of several cities affected by the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, a multi-stage shift that eventually makes words like 'cat' and 'bat' sound like 'cee-at' and 'bee-at.' (Courtesy of Austin Fossey)

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Parts of the country, from Eastern New England to the West Coast, is experiencing a trend commonly called the 'cot/caught merger.' (Devon Haynie/CNS)

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The Northern Cities Vowel Shift is sweeping the Great Lakes region from Buffalo to Milwaukee. The multi-stage shift eventually makes words like 'cat' and 'bat' sound like 'cee-at' and 'bee-at.' (Devon Haynie/CNS)

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Parts of the country, from Eastern New England to the West Coast, is experiencing a trend commonly called the "cot/caught merger." (Devon Haynie/CNS)

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A historic vowel shift is transforming American English. Where's Professor Higgins when we need him?


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