Some speakers, mainly middle-aged and older males, sometimes pronounce ねえ as [ne:], i.e. with a more closed variant of the usual /e/-sound, let's call it [ɛ]. There are also speakers for the same approximate group who sometimes pronounce そう as [sɔ:], i.e. with a more open variant of the usual /o/ sound, let's call it [o], usually when going そうそうそうそう.
Usually this just strikes me as slightly amusing, and it seems to have the same effect on other speakers of my approximate age group (early thirties).
However, on further thought, this is actually interesting. Some of these speakers otherwise speak standard Japanese and don't use (as far as I can tell) these vowel variants in other words.
So my questions are:
- Do these vowel variants appear in other words that I am missing?
- What is the history of these vowel variants (if any)? Are they by any chance remnants from historical phonemic mergers, or are they just one-off phenomena?