This paper presents the results of an acoustic analysis of the front centring diphthongs in the speech of New Zealanders from the Intermediate Archive. These are speakers born between the late 1890s and the early 1930s. It will be argued that although these speakers tend to have non-merged realisations of /I´ / and /E´/, there were already precursors of an incipient merger present at that time. That is, it will be shown that in certain contexts, the distributions of the two phonemes approximate each other over the Intermediate period. 1. Background The merger of the front centring diphthongs /I´ / (as in ‘NEAR’) and /E´ / (‘SQUARE 1 ’) is now one of the most thoroughly studied phonetic phenomena in New Zealand English. There is a wide range of auditory, acoustic and perceptual data available (cf
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