The History of the Appalachian Dialect.

Chi Luu’s JSTOR Daily piece on Appalachia starts with an account of all the nonsense that’s been believed about the local dialect (“pure Elizabethan English”), then continues:

It is true that Appalachian speech can be quite different from standard American English. This is a dialect that famously uses different vocabulary and meanings, some of which may be archaic, such as “britches” (trousers), “poke” (bag), “sallet” (salad, as in a poke-sallet, of pokeweed rather than bags!), “afeared” (afraid), “fixin” (getting ready, as in “I’m fixin to do something”), “allow” (suppose, as in “I’ll allow as how I’ll go over yander for a leetle spell”). […]

Where it gets interesting are the many grammatical changes from the standard dialect. Michael Montgomery and others have used grammatical evidence, which is generally slower to change than pronunciations, to track Appalachian speech back to their origins from the predominantly Scots-Irish immigrants that settled in the area, along with others. For example, most are familiar with the pronoun “y’all” but there are also unusual constructions such as “might could/should” (“we might should tell him”), “done” (“they have done landed in jail again”), a-prefixing (“he come a-running at me”), “like to/liketa” (“I got lost and liked to never found my way out”). […]

It’s important to note that the region is about more than just the Scottish and Irish immigrants who lent their language to the land. Despite the legend that there’s a pure linguistic line from Scots-Irish immigrants to present day white Appalachians, this is just another myth. What linguists like Michael Montgomery and Walt Wolfram have shown is the influx of other immigrant groups have had a profound effect on southern speech.

There’s a discussion of creole influence from AAVE, among other factors. My father’s side of the family is from the Ozarks, whose dialect has many features in common with that of Appalachia, and I’ve been known to say “might could” now and again. Thanks, Trevor! (Appalachia previously on LH: 2007, 2017.)

Comments

  1. A classic of fieldwork in Appalachia:

    Fieldworker: What are some of the things people grow here in their gardens?
    Informant: Oh, potatoes and tomatoes—or did you want me to say ‘maters and ‘taters?

  2. Christopher Culver says:

    Where a branch of my family lives in Northern Alabama is sometimes shown on maps as the southernmost extent of the Appalachian dialect, and indeed their speech exhibits most (though not all) of the features of that dialect. What is interesting to me is that you only have to drive an hour south and you already hit a very different Deep South accent. To my ears, the difference between the mountain speech and the rest of Alabama is like night and day, but strangely it doesn’t even seem to register for the locals with whom I have spoken. Perhaps when there is a third demographic in the region (AAVE speakers) perceived as very alien, whites just don’t pay attention to whatever speech differences they might have among themselves?

  3. Bob Shackleton says:

    You all might find this work I did on southern American speech interesting:

    https://www.rug.nl/research/portal/files/2614676/11_thesis.pdf

    In that work I find that phonetic forms in southern West Virginia are most clearly related to forms from southeastern and southwestern England. (See especially conclusions on p. 152.) I wouldn’t argue that Scotch-Irish speech had a negligible impact on Appalachian speech but I would definitely argue that most of what makes the sound of Appalachian speech distinctive from other forms of American English comes from southwestern England — via 17th-century indentured servants who emigrated to Virginia from the southwestern counties — rather than from Northern Ireland. I’m pretty sure that founder effects dominate.

  4. So, did rhotic tater originate as a spelling pronunciation, when the intended pronunciation was supposed to be tatuh?

  5. So, did rhotic tater originate as a spelling pronunciation, when the intended pronunciation was supposed to be tatuh?

    I don’t follow. Appalachian English is normally rhotic.

  6. Trond Engen says:

    Potato has no [r], so why does tater?

  7. Trond Engen says:

    If not a spelling pronunciation, it could be a false nativization. If the word was picked up from a non-rhotic neighbour, it might have got the [r] in analogy with other words ending in -er.

  8. Tater goes back to England. It might be a hypercorrection, for potato in non-rhotic dialects.

  9. Lars (the original one) says:

    I have never been within a thousand miles of Appalachia, but I find ‘might could’ so very useful that I use it on occasion anyway. I hope that is not seen as cultural appropriation.

  10. Stephen Carlson says:

    I’m not sure I like the language of “grammatical changes from the standard dialect” when one of the examples, a-prefixing, is a retention. It’s the “standard dialect” that has changed.

  11. Tater goes back to England. It might be a hypercorrection, for potato in non-rhotic dialects.

    This sounds like the most likely explanation, but there is another possibility – that “tater” is “tat” from “potato” plus the suffix “-er” which is used to form a lot of English slang words (Americans will be familiar with “soccer” formed from “association” plus “er”; British universities have not freshmen but “freshers”).

  12. Speaking of false nativizations in AppE: warnut.

    And as I’ve told Michael Montgomery, the term “a-prefixing” always makes me think, “That feller goes around a-prefixin ever participle.”

    Bob Shackleton: Yes, MM points out, maybe based on your work, that the phonetics of AppE is from a different region than much of the grammar.

    Lars (tthe original one): It’s not cultural appropriation unless you say “mought could.”

  13. A friend who was born in 1947 and has lived all his life in SE Alabama, says “mater” as well as “tater”, as in “mater sandwiches”: tomato slices with mayonnaise on white bread. Also “nanner” sandwiches, with banana slices. He is rhotic.

    Many of the features cited in the post are prevalent in his speech and not strictly confined to Appalachian speech: “done” with preterite, “like to”, “fixin to” a-prefixing. I once heard “done crunk” as preterite of “crank”, meaning “to start a car or engine”.

    My grandmother, born in the 1880s in Nebraska, used a-prefixing, so it’s not, or hasn’t always been, confined to Appalachian speech.

  14. I’m not sure I like the language of “grammatical changes from the standard dialect” when one of the examples, a-prefixing, is a retention. It’s the “standard dialect” that has changed.

    Yeah, “grammatical differences” would have been better phrasing.

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    British universities have not freshmen but “freshers”

    They have both: “freshmen” is formal, “freshers” is informal.

  16. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    My grandmother, born in the 1880s in Nebraska, used a-prefixing, so it’s not, or hasn’t always been, confined to Appalachian speech.

    Or even to American speech, I realize that “I love to go a wandering” was translated from German, but I’ve no reason to suppose that the translator was Appalachian. The song seems to have been popular in England (especially as the theme song of the football team The Bolton Wanderers) before it reached the USA.

  17. I once heard “done crunk” as preterite of “crank”, meaning “to start a car or engine”.

    Lady tourist comes to Boston for the first time and asks her taxi driver “Excuse me, I’m new in town; can you recommend the best place to get scrod?”
    “I certainly can,” says the taxi driver, “and can I just say that it’s very rare for someone to ask me that using the preterite tense?”

  18. When I was teaching at the University of Alabama 20+ years ago, one of my students raised in a rural area went to a summer program called ‘Alabama in Oxford’. She reported back that she and the English girls had a kind of mutual admiration society: each loved to hear the other side talk. The English girls didn’t mind “ain’t” or “y’all”, but there were two things that astonished them, and not in a good way: one was “might could”, and the other may have been “fixin’ to” (it’s been a long time), but I think it was “I reckon” for “I suppose”. I’m surprised that’s not on the list.

  19. Teaching more recently in Appalachia (western edge of the Shenandoah valley, very close to one of the passes to the next valley over, which was included in the school district and had a Klan chapter), I noticed that everyone, students and teachers, including English teachers, even when speaking formally, used “drug” as the past tense of “drag”, as if they knew no other. Is this usage widespread? growing?

  20. I grew up listening to, reading, and rereading (in Japan!) Richard Chase’s The Jack Tales and The Grandfather Tales (now available on Kindle), recorded in the mountains of NC and VA by a WPA folklorist and first published in the 1940s. They were family treasures, but we never talked like that except when alluding to the stories. (My mother was from the Shenandoah Valley edge of Appalachia.)

  21. I posted a comment that must have gone directly into the spam trap. It had two links to books of Appalachian tales recorded by a WPA folklorist in the 1940s, books I grew up reading and rereading.

  22. J.W. Brewer says:

    Participial “crunk” was common enough not long ago in at least some regional varieties of AAVE (Memphis and/or Atlanta) that it became the name of a musical subgenre: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crunk

  23. Trond Engen says:

    Past tense ‘drug’ looks like a retention. The cognate verbs are strong. Nynorsk dra(ga) – dreg – drog – har drege.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    I realize that “I love to go a wandering” was translated from German

    The construction isn’t, though: the only way I can retranslate that is ich gehe gern wandern, with no trace of aspect-marking.

    (OK, it’s a song, so something more rhythmic is called for; I bet it’s ich geh’ so gerne wandern. Still no trace of aspect-marking.)

  25. At the Language Log post on Gilded Age diglossia, I became engaged in a discussion that wandered into Appalachian dialect issues. (My initial comment was at August 8, 2018 @ 9:12 pm).

    I expressed doubt that “kinder” in Bret Harte’s stories actually reflected a rhotic pronunciation, but one person averred that ‘“Kinder” c’n be rhotic, jes’ lahk “holler.” If’n y’ever warch The Beverly Hillbillies, I betcha someone’ll say it purt near soon as ya turn on the show!’

    I suggested that “holler” might be a kind of re-rhoticisation, given that it is supposed to be derived from “hollow”, and that even in non-rhotic dialects, “following” can be pronounced as “follerin”.

    We then had a to and fro over whether “kinder” was actually pronounced rhotically, with some people feeling that it was, while others were dubious.

    Unfortunately John Cowan didn’t turn up.

    Then there was “warsh”. I don’t know why this is rhotic, but one suggestion from Rodger C was:

    ‘”Warsh” seems to me a simple case of retaining the labialization of the “w” and anticipating the articulation of the “sh.”‘

    In the end I was left confused about the facts on the ground. And John Cowan still didn’t turn up.

  26. David, it appears the translation is much less literal. The original is “Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann / und mir steckt’s auch im Blut.”

  27. I love to go a-wandering

    German text is not all that hard to find. Here’s the first stanza. Watch for the last line (and the last word!), which is also part of the refrain.

    Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann,
    Und mir steckt’s auch im Blut;
    Drum wandr’ ich flott, so lang ich kann,
    Und schwenke meinen Hut.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Ah, so the translation is less close than I naively assumed. Here’s a more literal one:

    My father was a wander-man,
    and it’s in my blood, too;
    so I wander swiftly for as long as I can
    and wave my hat.

    (Too bad hood and blood don’t rhyme anymore.)

    Still no hint of an aspect. 🙂

  29. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If it’s not a literal translation it seems to me likely that the original English was invented by an English speaker who found “a-wandering” a natural way to write in what was effectively a new song very loosely inspired by a German original.

  30. A-verbing in songs is relatively unremarkable in English. Examples can be found across the range of Christmas carols (“Here We Come A-Wassailing,” which actually features “a-wand’ring”) to rock and roll (“Johnny B. Goode,” whose “a-ringin’ a bell” was discussed at Language Log years ago).

  31. The OED first reports tater (-or, ur) in 1759 in Essex, England. The variant tatie lands around 40 years later, and Scots tattie about ten years after that. The compounds tater trap and tater poke ‘mouth’ are definitely American, though. Tolkien has Sam speak of taters to Gollum (which are of course anachronistic in the Third Age) because it sounds more English, and thus more Hobbit-like, than potatoes, though Sam syllabizes the word out when Gollum doesn’t recognize it. So I think etymological nativization is the right answer for rhotic tater, as for rhotic idear (pl. idears).

    Unfortunately John Cowan didn’t turn up.

    I haven’t read Language Log in years. Too many comments. LH is the only daily blog post I read these days.

  32. Very wise. Language Log doesn’t seem to attract many linguists, so the level of commentary is depressingly low.

    The section in question was:

    Bret Harte’s stories and novels were similarly careful to portray differences in spoken and written English. His 1890 short story “A Sappho of Green Springs” is particularly interesting in this context, since its central characters are the editor of a San Francisco literary magazine The Excelsior, a middle-aged woman who turns out to be the author of verses sent to him under the pseudonym White Violet “from a remote village in the Coast Range”, and a lumberman from Medocino who falls in love with the poet sight unseen. Here’s the lumberman, come to ask the editor how to find the poet:

    “I should like to have got to see her and kinder asked her a few questions,” continued the stranger, with the same reflective seriousness. “You see, it wasn’t just the rhymin’ o’ them verses,-and they kinder sing themselves to ye, don’t they?-it wasn’t the chyce o’ words,-and I reckon they allus hit the idee in the centre shot every time,-it wasn’t the idees and moral she sort o’ drew out o’ what she was tellin’,-but it was the straight thing itself,-the truth!”

    “The truth?” repeated the editor.

    “Yes, sir. I’ve bin there. I’ve seen all that she’s seen in the brush-the little flicks and checkers o’ light and shadder down in the brown dust that you wonder how it ever got through the dark of the woods, and that allus seems to slip away like a snake or a lizard if you grope. I’ve heard all that she’s heard there-the creepin’, the sighin’, and the whisperin’ through the bracken and the ground-vines of all that lives there.”

    And the question is, is “kinder” really pronounced rhotically — especially in California? Harte was born in Albany New York but, as you know, was well known for his stories about the California Gold Rush.

  33. Well, I went off and read that particular LL, and the quality of comments was higher than I remember, perhaps because many of Us were there.

    As for hyperrhotic spellings like kinder, I think the truth lies between the “non-rhotic non-standard spellings became conventional” and the etymological nativization views. American as a whole split off from the rest of English around 1700, before derhoticization took place in the mother country, but the cities of the Eastern Seaboard continued to interchange with England for a century or more after that, leaving them non-rhotic but otherwise quite American. Just how much the non-rhotic tendency spread westward depended on local considerations: I grew up a mere 9 miles / 14 km west of historically non-rhotic Manhattan (admittedly across water and a state line) but I am fully rhotic, whereas in the South the non-rhotic area once covered the whole of the Confederacy except for the mountainous interior.

  34. I think I may have said this elsewhere one day, but I think it’s interesting that this historical matter is now phrased as “How did nonrhotic dialects come to be in America?” In my long-ago youth, the question was taken up from the other end: “How did rhotic dialects come to survive, let alone predominate, in America?” That, I suppose, represented the viewpoint of the days when a large bulk of American academics hailed from the New York-Boston corridor.

  35. Well, there’s no doubt that the Scots-Irish accent (and perhaps rhotic Dutch and then-rhotic German) helped keep AmE rhotic (as well as h-ful). I think it’s just a matter of correcting the emphasis, pointing out that AmE is not like the Southern Hemisphere Englishes, which are fully non-rhotic because their immediate ancestors were, but has a more complex etiology.

  36. David Marjanović says:

    I once read that most of the first immigrants to New Zealand came from rhotic places, but a few where non-rhotic upper-class people, and everybody imitated them so thoroughly that NZ was quickly established as non-rhotic.

    To my surprise, I know nothing about how old German non-rhoticity is, except that it must have been rare or absent before the mid-18th century and must have achieved pretty much its current extent by the beginning of the 20th.

  37. @David Marjanović: I have a vague recollection of reading something written during (or at least taking place during) the First World War, in which the Prussian army men were making fun of the way the Austrians (who had been their enemies for decades) spoke. I think rhoticity played a role, but I do not remember much more.

  38. 1-John Cowan: Since rhoticism was the more prestigious feature at the time of the settlement of the Thirteen Colonies, I genuinely do not think that the Scots-Irish accent of the first settlers played any role in causing American English to be ubiquitously rhotic before overseas influence caused it to become non-rhotic at various points of the East Coast (see 2 below).

    2-David: Perhaps you read it here? I had once mentioned that aspect of the history of New Zealand English (A majority of the first wave of anglophone settlers were speakers of rhotic varieties, but the prestige variety was non-rhotic, leading to rhoticity disappearing in New Zealand a generation later) here (June 12, 12:01 comment):

    http://languagehat.com/lefebure/

    3-Brett: It went further than mere accent differences! There is at least one known case of a makeshift pidginized French used between two “German”-speaking soldiers in France during World War I, one of whom was a Northerner (and thus, presumably, a Low German speaker), who could only communicate with one another by means of this pidgin, as their spoken “German” dialects were mutually unintelligible. Yes, I do have a reference, should anyone want it.

    4-I recently ran into interesting evidence (involving transcriptions of Aboriginal languages in Canada) that non-rhoticity must have been dominant if not universal in *lower-class* London speech during the first half of the eighteenth century. Yes, I do have a reference, should anyone want it.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    Perhaps you read it here?

    Most likely! Direct link to your comment.

    There is at least one known case of a makeshift pidginized French used between two “German”-speaking soldiers in France during World War I

    That is amazing. I mean, yes, the dialects are that diverse, but by WWI I really would have thought everyone was passively familiar enough with Standard German to base their fallback option on that – more familiar than with French at least.

    Yes, I do have a reference, should anyone want it.

    Yes, please, in both cases!

  40. Oh, and David, on the subject of the history of non-rhoticity in German: Pennsylvania German is variably non-rhotic, making me suspect -since the migrations which gave birth to Pennsylvania German ended in the mid-eighteenth century, approximately- that non-rhoticity must have had a firm foothold in Central German before then.

  41. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting. Vaguely along the middle Rhine, German today is non-rhotic behind long vowels but rhotic behind short vowels; is that how it works in Pennsylvania?

  42. I genuinely do not think that the Scots-Irish accent of the first settlers played any role in causing American English to be ubiquitously rhotic before overseas influence caused it to become non-rhotic at various points of the East Coast.

    Oh, I completely agree with that. But then why did that prestigious non-rhoticity not spread westward until the whole country became non-rhotic (except perhaps in Pennsylvania; Philadelphia has always been a rhotic city)? I think that’s where the influence of non-English varieties of British English comes in.

  43. @ John Cowan

    Thank you for your comments. I’m not sure what ‘the truth lies between the “non-rhotic non-standard spellings became conventional” and the etymological nativization views’ actually means 🙂

    @ Etienne

    I have a Mongolian friend who had so much trouble understanding an Inner Mongolian speaker (they are very different, especially to listen to) that they switched to English. Similar phenomenon.

  44. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I have heard Spanish and Portuguese speakers talking to one another in English without anyone else in the conversation. Portuguese speakers seem to understand Spanish almost perfectly, but many Spanish speakers can’t make any sense of Portuguese. (Even Brazilians have told me that they can’t understand Portuguese Portuguese.) Is Outer-/inner Mongolian a one way filter like that? Like Danish/Swedish, for that matter?

  45. David (and others interested in Shoes and Ships –err, I mean in French pidgins and in English and German non-rhoticity):

    1-On the French pidgin used by two German soldiers in occupied France during World War I, have a look at page 111 here:

    http://crecleco.seriot.ch/textes/Meillet28.html

    As you see I had only half-remembered the story: one soldier indeed was from the North, but I had forgotten that the other was Bavarian.

    2-On evidence for non-rhoticity in lower class London speech during the first half of the eighteenth century: have a look at footnote 5 of David Pentland’s 2003 article “The Missinipi dialect of Cree”, published in the Papers of the thirty-fourth Algonquian conference (Edited by H.C. Wolfart).

    3-Pennsylvania German R: have a look at this article, especially pages 275-276:

    https://read.dukeupress.edu/modern-language-quarterly/article/8/3/267-289/20052

  46. I think the R in tater is irrelevant. Potato is traditionally pronounced petayta in London with a glottal stop between the Y & T. That becomes shortened to tayta. But -a or -o or -er, it’s all the same to us.

    Turning to television – and I’m not finding tv being mentioned enough by hatters; at its best it’s books with voices, music & pictures, and you can sometimes find its best on Youtube, Netflicks and Amazon Prime nowadays – I watched yesterday an episode of an Elmore Leonard story made flesh under the name ‘Justified’. It’s set in Harlan Co. in SE Kentucky and all the characters have, I think, Appalachian accents. They sounded a bit fake to me, like when San Franciscans put on A Streetcar Named Desire, and then I read that the star is a descendent of Cornelius Vanderbilt who was born in Hawaii. So, no wonder.

  47. AJP, nobody doubts that; it’s a matter of why rhotic speakers have an explicit /r/ in their pronunciation of tater. Either they READ the non-rhotic tater spelling, as with Shar-day, Burma, and supplied an /r/ in speech, or they HEARD non-rhotics saying tayta and assumed that their corresponding word should have an /r/ in it, and made it so. (That’s the distinction I was trying to make and failing, Bathrobe.)

  48. I’m not finding tv being mentioned enough by hatters

    In that case, let me recommend The Great British Bake Off. It’s a lot of fun even if you don’t bake, which I don’t.

  49. @ John Cowan

    Thanks for the explanation. I was thinking that something like that might be involved.

    There seems to me to be a big gulf between rhotics and non-rhotics due to lack of understanding of what is happening on the other side.

    As someone who grew up and went to school as a non-rhotic, I learnt that the ‘r’ in spelling (except at the start of syllables) wasn’t actually an ‘r’ at all. ‘Pore’, ‘pour’, ‘poor’, and ‘paw’ are all just different ways to spell words that are pronounced just the same. ‘Ore’, for instance, is just one way of spelling /o:/, no different from ‘awe’, one more of those endless spelling variants that you have to remember when learning to write English.

    Of course I was familiar with the way that North Americans, in particular, inserted ‘r’s after vowels in certain environments. The way they did it seemed quite regular. Most non-rhotics I know assume that you just insert an ‘r’ in those positions and presto, you’re speaking American English. It never occurred to me (at least) until very late in the piece that those North American ‘r’s were actually the ‘r’s that you saw in English spelling, and that they were originally meant to be pronounced as such!

    Rhotics don’t seem to understand this totally different way of perceiving spellings and sounds and struggle to understand why non-rhotics are so slipshod in their use of ‘r’s.

  50. It never occurred to me (at least) until very late in the piece that those North American ‘r’s were actually the ‘r’s that you saw in English spelling, and that they were originally meant to be pronounced as such!

    Wow! That is eye-opening to me; thanks very much for, er, spelling it out.

  51. There are rhotics and then there are rhotics. Scots are as rhotic as Americans, but because they are under pressure from non-rhotics, they sometimes make speech errors with foreign words that Americans wouldn’t make, the equal and opposite effect to the Shar-day/Burma effect. The Scottish phonologist James Scobbie, for example, reports that he says Chica[r]go, supplying a ghost /r/ that doesn’t belong in the word. No American would say that, because with no written r we won’t supply an /r/. By the same token, English people sometimes write Chicargo, pronouncing it of course the same as Chicago.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    I believed for years that Charadriiformes had one more r. Which is remarkable because that makes it one of about 5 spellings I’ve ever misremembered, and of course I learned the word from reading.

    BLACKADDER: I spy with my little eye something that begins with [ɑ].
    BALDRICK: Army!
    BLACKADDER: [ʔɑː]. [rːːːːː].

    (Set in WWI, so not anachronistic.)

    the ‘r’s you saw in English spelling

    I bet you insert an r in saw in. And in drawing, too.

  53. Sorry, JC! I’m a bit slow on the uptake.

    Thynne White Mahquess of Barthrobe: …I learnt that the ‘r’ in spelling (except at the start of syllables) wasn’t actually an ‘r’ at all…this totally different way of perceiving spellings and sounds and struggle to understand why non-rhotics are so slipshod in their use of ‘r’s.

    Yes, that’s it. Well said. And of course Chicargo, because sounds like “cargo”. I may start writing it that way myself.

    “And in drawing, too.”

    I saw-rinside or Draw-ring are very common exaggerated mispronunciations made by kindergarten-age English children (ie before they have seen them written).

    No Rs, but when I lived in America the US Sec. of State was for a time Cyrus Vance pronounced vɑːns by me and by everyone else væns – including, I subsequently discovered, everyone in England, who had learnt the US pronunciation off the radio & telly.

    I watched a whole series of Bake Awf on the BBC and was very impressed by the attention they paid to doing things properly and by the amount of time it required. There was none of that Jamie “Whack it in the oven”.

  54. David Marjanović says:

    1-On the French pidgin used by two German soldiers in occupied France during World War I, have a look at page 111 here:

    By Meillet no less! That part is short enough that I’ll quote the whole thing:

    L’anecdote suivante, contée dans la Frankfurter Zeitung, 8 août 1917 (édition du matin), montre combien vite on est amené à recourir à la langue commune du pays où l’on se trouve ; cette anecdote se trouve dans une chronique non signée, mais faite évidemment par un observateur qui a été sur les lieux. Deux soldats allemands, l’un Allemand du Nord, l’autre Bavarois, travaillent dans la partie occupée de la France; l’Allemand du Nord demande au Bavarois sa hache; mais les parlers des deux soldats sont trop différents ; ils n’arrivent pas à s’entendre ; le Bavarois fait comprendre qu’il ne peut pas se dessaisir de son outil. L’Allemand du Nord dit alors : « Touteswite retuhr ! ». Ces mots font partie du petit vocabulaire français qu’ont acquis tous les soldats en pays occupé ; le Bavarois répond : « Wui, wui, kompri », en employant aussi des mots du même vocabulaire.

    Maybe the trouble was just in Axt vs. Hacke (“ax”) or perhaps Beil (“hatchet”, whatever the difference is)? But I don’t even know what the geographic distribution of these words used to be.

    However, to call that a pidgin is perhaps a bit exaggerated. 🙂

    2-On evidence for non-rhoticity in lower class London speech during the first half of the eighteenth century: have a look at footnote 5 of David Pentland’s 2003 article “The Missinipi dialect of Cree”, published in the Papers of the thirty-fourth Algonquian conference (Edited by H.C. Wolfart).

    Found it! It’s here on p. 292, and unambiguously non-rhotic spellings are on pp. 294, 295, 297 and 298.

    3-Pennsylvania German R: have a look at this article, especially pages 275-276:

    No access any way i’ve tried. 🙁

  55. David Marjanović says:

    I saw-rinside or Draw-ring are very common exaggerated mispronunciations made by kindergarten-age English children (ie before they have seen them written).

    Claire Bowern, on the other hand, has reported she only noticed she was saying draw-ring when she moved to Texas – after she had learned and published on several Aboriginal Australian languages.

    “Whack it in the oven”

    I am amused.

  56. saw in, almost certainly.

    De-rhoticisation appears to have been applied quite mechanically. All /r/’s except those in front of vowels were eliminated. That means that the /r/ was retained when the following word started with a vowel, as in ‘father in’ or ‘father on’.

    Since, as I said, all consciousness that there was an /r/ in words like ‘father’ disappeared, the /r/ that occurred in ‘father in’ was reinterpreted as a linking r and generalised to all such environments (words ending in /o:/ /a:/, /ǝ:/, or /ǝ/ and followed by a vowel in the next word). This accounts for ‘the idear of’ and ‘sawr in’. Similarly, ‘saw him’ will be pronounced as ‘sore im’ if the /h/ is elided in ‘him’. Perfectly regular process. (I don’t think it’s confined to kindergarten children. Pink Floyd pronounce the /r/ in ‘sore a crater in the sun’ in their song ‘Cirrus Minor’.)

    Drawing is more variable. That’s because inserting an /r/ here does not involve a word boundary; it involves a word-internal morpheme boundary. I suspect that the insertion of /r/ in this environment came later than the word-ending variety. This kind of pronunciation was always stigmatised and my feeling is that it might tend to sound uncultivated, although it is common enough.

    For follow, it depends how you pronounce ‘follow’. If you pronounce it as /fɔləʊ/, it will be followed by a linking /w/ (e.g., /fɔləwɪŋ/ or colloquial /fɔləwən/). If you pronounce ‘follow’ as /fɔlə/, it is quite likely to be pronounced as /fɔlərən/, which sounds uncultivated. This also applies when ‘follow’ is followed by vowels, e.g., ‘follow ’em’ might become /fɔlərəm/. But as I said, this isn’t regarded as terribly high class.

  57. Re Claire Bowern and Pink Floyd, perhaps it’s just that I was myself admonished for draw-ring. But at 65, I still see no problem with ‘sore a crater in the sun’, in fact I’d have a hard time saying ‘saw’ there.

    Axt vs. Hacke (“ax”) or perhaps Beil (“hatchet”, whatever the difference is)
    Hatchet is from hacke, a diminutive version (of an axe). It’s used one-handed instead of two- for chopping off twigs or splitting small logs. Thus (in my opinion) George Washington’s “I cannot tell a lie, I did it with my little hatchet” is less an admission that he chopped down his father’s cherry tree and more that he did so using the wrong tool.

  58. late in the piece

    Is this an idiom meaning the same as late in the day ‘not long before the end/present’? I read it first as a reference to the JSTOR Daily piece linked in the OP.

    generalised to all such environments

    Including other languages: John Wells, of all people, singing “scopra[r] il nuovo dì” in La Traviata.

    It’s used one-handed instead of two- for chopping off twigs or splitting small logs.

    But hatchets are also used by children who are too short and weak to handle axes. In any case, cherry trees don’t have very thick trunks unless they are too ancient to crop well.

  59. late in the piece

    Hah! I used an Australianism without knowing it.

    I guess it means something like “late in the game”. It means, basically, at a very late stage. I think of a piece as maybe a play or performance, but I don’t know if that is what its original meaning was.

    I can’t remember when I woke up to this but I might have been in my 20s. I suspect the idea that the ‘r’s are there to be pronounced doesn’t occur to a lot of people in Australia at all.

  60. Trond Engen says:

    I’ll sudgest that most or arll vowel phonemes in non-rhotic English are rheally rhoticized (or postalveolarized or alveopalatalized or whatever), but the rhoticization is lost in certain environments, notably before consonant or pause.

  61. Actually, I think there was a flaw in my analysis of non-rhoticism. That is, where an ‘r’ occurs at the end of a word, schwa can be added after it. For example, both ‘ore’ and ‘or’ can be pronounced /o:ǝ/, but ‘awe’ can only be pronounced /o:/. So the ghost of the rhotic ‘r’ is still there. Nevertheless, I would still maintain that the way I was brought up, these ‘r’s weren’t regarded as ‘r’s to be pronounced with a real /r/ sound.

    I’m not sure what Trond means by saying that most or all vowel phonemes in non-rhotic English are really rhoticised.

  62. Trond Engen says:

    Bathrobe: I’m not sure what Trond means

    You are not alone.

    I mean that it may be simpler to describe r-insertion by where and when it doesn't happen than where and when it does. "English vowels end in a palato-alveolar approximant except before …"

  63. David Marjanović says:

    Not all vowels, of course; just START = PALM, NURSE, NORTH = FORCE = THOUGHT, CURE (often merged into the previous, as for Bathrobe), lettER = commA (7 = Severn), and… oh, CARE and NEAR. Does FLEECE ever merge into NEAR?

  64. Trond Engen says:

    So not the diphtongized vowel sets. I wasn’t sure if it applies to all of them, and if it does, if the same sets count as diphtongs for all non-rhotics.

    Thinking of it … would a glide into a vocalic r count as a diphtong?

  65. David Marjanović says:

    So not the diphtongized vowel sets.

    And not LOT, STRUT, KIT, DRESS, TRAP, FOOT and GOOSE either.

    What do you mean by “vocalic r“? Diphthongs in [ə] or [ɐ], which are often descended from vowels followed by /r/, are called centering diphthongs, as opposed to closing and opening ones.

  66. I mean that it may be simpler to describe r-insertion by where and when it doesn’t happen than where and when it does.

    Linguists love things like that. It’s always there in the underlying representation except when it disappears under certain conditions.

    The trouble is that r-insertion is perfectly predictable, so you don’t really need that.

    As David pointed out, the dropping of r’s resulted in a rearrangement of homonyms, as it were. ‘Master’ rhymes with ‘martyr’. ‘Court’ rhymes with ‘thought’ and ‘tort’.

    The resulting system, is messy, however, because of the schwas, some of which can be dropped. In my English, ‘beer’, ‘here’, ‘ear’, ‘steer’, and ‘near’ can all become monophthongs by dropping the schwa. And I don’t know what IPA symbol should be used for this vowel; it is virtually a new vowel that isn’t found in the vowel system for this dialect. It’s not /i:/. Similarly for ‘bear’, ‘care’, ‘chair’, ‘mayor’, and again the monophthongal vowel doesn’t fall terribly well into the preexisting vowel system. The schwa can also be dropped from ‘bore’, ‘core’, ‘ore’, ‘tore’, ‘four’, ‘sure’, but in this case the monophthongal vowel rhymes with ‘awe’, ‘claw’, and ‘law’, so it is a preexisting vowel within the system.

    Of the schwa-dropped vowels, that in ‘beer’ is the least acceptable in good speech, while those in ‘bear’ and ‘bore’ are quite normal.

    Schwa-dropping doesn’t apply to ‘cure’, which requires the schwa. And the vowel is the same as in ‘drew’. (But in RP I think it’s possible to drop the schwa.)

    In a sense, it sounds like a system in transition in the wake of derhoticisation.

  67. David: Allow me to cut and paste the relevant part of the article:

    “prevocalic [r] is always a tongue-tip trilled dental fricative; preconsonantal and final [ r] is normally a weak post-velar fricative. Since MHG r followed by a velar or labial appears in PaG with a developed vowel after the [r] , preconsonantal [ r] in PaG can only occur before dentals [d, n, l ] and post-dentals [c, č , s, š ]. This preconsonantal [r] is very unstable; it may be weak or completely lost, depending upon the word in which it occurs and the habits of the individual speaker.

    PaG [r] is derived from the following source : MHG r before a vowel: ro:d “red”, šraiwe “to write”, šdro: “straw” ; as well as before the developed vowel, as in : marig “market”, kareb “basket” ; before a consonant : waršd “sausage”, karn “rye”, harc “heart” ; in final position : mar “mare”, waser “water”.”

  68. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: And not LOT, STRUT, KIT, DRESS, TRAP, FOOT and GOOSE either.

    Right, not the (traditional) short vowels. I thought I’d said that somewhere above, but I must have forgot. But why not GOOSE? I can at least imagine do taking an r/merging into CURE.

    Relevant to the analysis is whether it’s spreading. If so, under what conditions? I don’t really believe my own analysis, but I think it may be where the system is heading.

    What do you mean by “vocalic r“?

    I meant that some varieties of rhotic English has a syllabic r that phonetically is an alveolar approximant [ɹ] (or thereabouts). This approximant also occurs non-syllabic behind vowels. If a vowel ends in a glide into a palatal or labial approximant, we call it a diphtong. What do you call are?

    Oh, maybe I mean this:

  69. Trond Engen says:

    And while I went looking for an IPA symbol and stumbled on an inteɹesting aɹticle, Bathrobe laid it all out in detail.

    Edit: An interesting article, at least judging by the abstract.

  70. Trond Engen says:

    Bathrobe: Linguists love things like that. It’s always there in the underlying representation except when it disappears under certain conditions.

    And I usually don’t. But whatever explains the data by the simplest rules. Which makes this a definitive argument:

    The trouble is that r-insertion is perfectly predictable, so you don’t really need that.

  71. Actually, the vowel in ‘bear’ is the long version of that in ‘bed’. But while this might be so phonetically, I don’t think it would be perceived so phonemically. Note that I’m only speaking of my own variety of Australian English.

  72. I’m actually still a bit confused by the proposal to insert r’s.

    Historically, the reason for the mess is the disappearance of r and its substitution by lengthened vowels or schwas. So positing an /r/ here might make sense.

    But it would involve inserting a non-etymological /r/ in ‘master’ (/ma:stǝ/), since it rhymes with ‘martyr’ (ma:tǝ/). So I guess you could represent them as /marstǝr/ and /martǝr/ respectively. But it wouldn’t work interdialectally. (And ‘idea’ would have to be /aɪdɪr/.) Incidentally, writing ‘master’ as /marstǝr/ would mesh very well with non-rhotic perceptions. This is exactly how non-rhotics would try to represent the vowel in ‘master’ if trying to do so ‘phonetically’ — to the great confusion of rhotics.

    With the system in flux, it might be possible to posit a new set of long and short vowels:

    baird /be:d/ vs bed /bed/
    beard /bɪ:d/ vs bid /bɪd/
    bard /ba:d/ vs bud /bad/
    bird /bǝ:d/ vs short ǝ except that ǝ is found only in unstressed syllables

    These could be represented by /r/:

    baird /berd/ vs bed /bed/
    beard /bɪrd/ vs bid /bɪd/
    bard /bard/ vs bud /bad/
    bird /bǝrd/ vs short /ǝ/

    i’m not sure these are immediately intuitive to a native speaker, although native speaker intuitions can be screwed up by spelling, etc.

  73. J.W. Brewer says:

    Barthrobe is right that his “marster” example confused at least this rhotic speaker. But I figured out after a while that the confusion was in large part due to the fact that his native variety of English, unlike mine, has undergone the so-called trap-bathrobe split, which led (given non-rhoticity) to a start-barthrobe merger. Note that a traditional “spelling pronunciation” of master in some non-rhotic AmEng dialects is “massa.”

    Rhotic/non-rhotic is not the only variation between regional varieties of English one needs to account for when trying to create minimal-pair examples that will work across those dialect lines.

  74. Whereas in RP vowel length is locked to vowel quality, and in AmE and ScE vowel length is determined by the consonant environment, in AusE vowel length is phonemic: thus cup-carp, bid-beard, bed-bared are pairs with the same quality differing only in length.

  75. If you want to be thoroughly confused about North American vowel sounds, try this video:

    American English Vowels – IPA – Pronunciation – International Phonetic Alphabet

  76. J.W. Brewer says:

    Come to think of it, however, another now-largely-obsolete AmEng dialect-spelling variant of master is “marse,” often associated with slave dialect (earlier form of AAVE) but also once in use by Southern whites, notably in colloquial/affectionate references to Robert E. Lee as “Marse Robert.” I have no idea how it was pronounced – i.e. whether it was supposed to suggest a particular non-rhotic vowel, or whether it was pronounced like the intrusive /r/ in “warsh.”

  77. It’s reasonable to assume that Plantation Creole speakers were non-rhotic, in which case [mɑs] is almost certainly what was intended.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    David: Allow me to cut and paste the relevant part of the article [on /r/ in Pennsylvania German):

    That’s interesting. The epenthetic (“developed”) vowel is, AFAIK, a unique development not found in the old country (where the two examples are Markt, Korb). One of its consequences, as described, is that preconsonantal /r/ is now rare enough to be subject to attrition.

    AFAIK, Pennsylvania German comes from the area that is now rhotic behind short vowels but non-rhotic otherwise. If so, the last common ancestor of that and PaG must have been fully rhotic.

    If a vowel ends in a glide into a palatal or labial approximant, we call it a diphtong. What do you call are?

    Ah. Here we run into deep-seated issues. 🙂

    IEists, Baltic accentologists and the like do in fact call such things as /ej ew em en el er/, i.e. sequences of a vowel and a “resonant”, “diphthongs”. It makes various kinds of sense to have overarching labels for these things; for example, all of these can carry the same tones as long vowels can in Baltic and in Central Franconian for instance (…but not in Ancient Greek, where /em en el er/ do not participate). So, by this definition, rhotic are is indeed a diphthong.

    This doesn’t result in a lot of confusion because phonemic contrasts between such things as [ei̯] and [ej] are extremely rare; they’ve been reported from the much-neglected Central Franconian, and from nowhere else that I know of. I prefer to reserve “diphthong” for things like [ei̯], where both components are phonetically vowels.

    At this opportunity, check out the hypothesis “that West Germanic vowel phonology is organized differently from the other languages in Europe” precisely in having diphthongs that are not underlying sequences with /j/ or /w/, further discussion starting here, containing mentions of High German centering diphthongs a thousand years older than non-rhoticity.

    Historically, the reason for the mess is the disappearance of r and its substitution by lengthened vowels or schwas. So positing an /r/ here might make sense.

    Diachronically, yes. Synchronically, the opposite might make more sense. Sound changes often lead to “rule inversion”.

  79. @David Marjanović:

    > Maybe the trouble was just in Axt vs. Hacke (“ax”) or perhaps Beil (“hatchet”, whatever the difference is)?

    If the passage is accurate, then no: even before they resorted to French words, the Bavarian soldier understood that the North German was asking for his ax, and the North German understood that the Bavarian couldn’t part with it.

    What the North German said in French words was “right back”, meaning (I assume) that he only needed to borrow it for a moment, and would bring it right back. The Bavarian’s reply in French words was “yes, yes, understood” meaning (I assume) “OK, I understand now”. (Presumably the Bavarian ended up letting the North German borrow the ax, but the passage doesn’t say.)

     
    I wonder if the two Germans could have communicated at this same basic level of “right back” and “yes, yes, understood” using shared German words, but using French words made it easier for them to strip out all the grammar and speak in a very basic way?

  80. David Marjanović says:

    If the passage is accurate, then no: even before they resorted to French words, the Bavarian soldier understood that the North German was asking for his ax, and the North German understood that the Bavarian couldn’t part with it.

    I assumed we simply weren’t given a transcript of the whole conversation.

    […] but using French words made it easier for them to strip out all the grammar and speak in a very basic way?

    That doesn’t make much sense either. Perhaps the use of French was more like a joke.

  81. The Scottish phonologist James Scobbie, for example, reports that he says Chica[r]go, supplying a ghost /r/ that doesn’t belong in the word. No American would say that, because with no written r we won’t supply an /r/.

    I remember working in Northern Ireland with an Iranian colleague, called هادی /ˈhɑːdi/, who had lived from his teenage years in the south of England and spoke English with that accent. Another colleague, a local with a rhotic accent, back-triangulated from his English accent and ended up referring to him as /ˈhærdi/. Completely reasonable, but very wrong!

  82. An American analogue is the rhotic child who moves with his family to a non-rhotic area and hears his new friends talking about some sort of giant named “Gourd” that they all believe in. On investigation, this turns out to be good old familiar “God”, etymologically nativized by the child (the LOT vowel also being different). But this is only a joke, because no American but a child would really be likely to make such a mistake.

  83. @David Marjanović: I prefer to reserve “diphthong” for things like [ei̯], where both components are phonetically vowels

    I think I read somewhere that e.g. [j] and [i̯] are really the same phone, the conventional distinction is whether they behave as consonants or vowels phonemically.

    @John Cowan: Whereas in RP vowel length is locked to vowel quality, and in AmE and ScE vowel length is determined by the consonant environment

    AFAIK, both AmE and RP have both vowel-specific length and pre-fortis clipping. (And I think Wells writes about it somewhere.)

    > AusE vowel length is phonemic: thus cup-carp, bid-beard, bed-bared are pairs with the same quality differing only in length.

    Is there any systematic alternation between short and long vowels, or is the existence of pairs with the same quality differing only in length sufficient to talk about phonemic vowel length?

    > God/Gourd […] the LOT vowel also being different

    So it would have to be a non-American non-rhotic area, right? In an American non-rhotic area, could it be God/Guard?

    @Bathrobe: If you want to be thoroughly confused about North American vowel sounds, try this video:

    That seemed fairly vanilla to me, could you share examples of what is confusing?

  84. David Marjanović says:

    I think I read somewhere that e.g. [j] and [i̯] are really the same phone, the conventional distinction is whether they behave as consonants or vowels phonemically.

    They’re close, but one is a vowel, the other is an approximant outside vowel space, and I don’t find that hard to hear: a Mandarin [ei̯] never sounds like a Slavic [(j)ej]. (Even though the latter is /ɛj/ and the former could be /ɤj/ or something.)

    in RP vowel length is locked to vowel quality

    J. B. Rye describing his own near-RP accent: “That said, the length‐marker /ː/ that forms part of the symbol for (e.g.) the phoneme /ɔː/ does not mean that it always takes longer to say than (e.g.) the phoneme /ɛ/; only that length is one of its distinguishing features. All other things being equal – as in the pair <bought/bet> – I take more time over the former; but other things very rarely are equal.”

    Is there any systematic alternation between short and long vowels, or is the existence of pairs with the same quality differing only in length sufficient to talk about phonemic vowel length?

    That’s pretty much the definition. You seem to be asking for a morphological function for this phonemic distinction…?

  85. David Marjanović says:

    If you want to be thoroughly confused about North American vowel sounds, try this video:

    So I finally tried. /ɛ/ is not [ɛ], but has almost merged into /æ/; I needed to listen at least 3 times to make sure there really was a difference (between said and act especially). /ɔ/ (THOUGHT, not LOT=PALM) is a wide-open [ɒ], and barely rounded, too. Been having /ɪ/ even when stressed seems to be universal in the US. /ɜ/ is a fiction for this speaker, there’s no vowel at all in these words; there’s just a syllabic /ɹ/ (though on the phonetic level [ɝ] may still be the best way to put it). /u/ is a diphthong [ʉu̯], but of course it is, there aren’t many Englishes left where it’s still [u].

    The only confusing thing for me here is the said-sad near-merger, which I’ve encountered before; for the rest I agree with “fairly vanilla”.

  86. pre-fortis clipping

    That certainly exists in AmE, but all else being equal (as in bit/beat) there is no intrinsic difference in my vowel lengths, unlike J. B. Rye’s. So when describing AmE I write /bɪt/ and /bit/, with no length mark.

    Is there any systematic alternation between short and long vowels

    No. But there is no systematic alternation in English between voiced (unaspirated) and voiceless (aspirated) stops either, even though there is certainly a phonemic difference.

    So it would have to be a non-American non-rhotic area, right? In an American non-rhotic area, could it be God/Guard?

    No, it was actually Boston, which is non-rhotic, cot-caught merged, and not father-bother merged. A rhotic Midwesterner could hear it as Guard or Gourd depending on the details of the cot-caught merger.

    Been having /ɪ/ even when stressed seems to be universal in the US.

    Yes, that’s a genuine phonological difference, not just a phonetic one, and is similar to canine with FACE vs. TRAP or missile with vocalic /l/ vs. /ail/, or between dictionary with four full syllables and diction’ry with three.

  87. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: IEists, Baltic accentologists and the like do in fact call such things as /ej ew em en el er/, i.e. sequences of a vowel and a “resonant”, “diphthongs”.

    That makes sense in PIE, phonologically. But it’s not what I’m trying to say here.

    There’s a subset of (Non-northern) English with a syllabic /r/ [ɹ̩] which behaves like a vowel — I think even phonetically. That’s what I meant by “vocalic r”. The same dialects have a non-syllabic /r/ [ɹ] which is phonetically an approximant — or a semi-vowel — and arguably in the same relation to [ɹ̩] as [i̯]~[j] to [i] and [u̯]~[ʋ] to [u]. Why isn’t [aɹ] a diphtong when [ai̯] and [au̯] are?

    Some English dialects de-diphtongize. ‘Cow’ is [ka:] and ‘cows’ is [ka:z]. If the approximant is kept in hiatus, you may call that an underlying diphtong. In non-rhotic English ‘car’ is [ka:] and ‘cars’ is [ka:z], and the approximant is kept in hiatus. You may call that an underlying /r/ or “rhotic diphtong”. When the hiatus-breaking /r/ is spreading, does this mean that the underlying diphtong is spreading?

    I prefer to reserve “diphthong” for things like [ei̯], where both components are phonetically vowels.

    That’s a very strict definition. Or at least a strictly phonetic one. As you say there are hardly contrasting pairs anywhere, and I suspect that [ei̯]~[ej] is allophonic in most languages where they occur. They are in mine, anyway. (Eastern Norwegian arguably has [æʝ:] and [æv:] for syllable-final ei, au

  88. David: The DRESS vowel in some US pronunciations is quite close to [æ]. In the video, the first formants of the DRESS vowel average to about {880, 2150} Hz; for the BATH vowel in act they are about {1130, 2180}; for bad and have they are glides, going from about {1000, 2180} to {950, 2000} (within the area seemingly free of the consonant transitions).

  89. @John Cowan: But there is no systematic alternation in English between voiced (unaspirated) and voiceless (aspirated) stops either, even though there is certainly a phonemic difference.

    I think my point was that “phonemic length” could be misinterpreted as meaning that length itself can be analyzed as a phoneme, as e.g. stød in Danish, where vowels (well, syllables, more accurately) with and without stød alternate systematically.

    > all else being equal (as in bit/beat) there is no intrinsic difference in my vowel lengths.

    I can’t speak for your speech in particular, but I believe it’s common to pronounce /i/ longer than /ɪ/, even in AmE. For /i/ vs /ɪ/, length might not be a significant phonetic cue, but I’m not convinced the same can be said for e.g. /ɛ/ vs /æ/ (cf what David says about how close they are). Pronounce “mess” with a long /ɛ/, and I’m ready to bet some would think it sounds more like “mass” than “mess” (again, in an AmE setting).

    > No, it was actually Boston, which is non-rhotic, cot-caught merged, and not father-bother merged. A rhotic Midwesterner could hear it as Guard or Gourd depending on the details of the cot-caught merger.

    Boston merges cot/caught to something like [ɒː], I believe, which seems far from anything that might appear in “gourd”, so I feel like I’m still missing something.

  90. Pronounce “mess” with a long /ɛ/, and I’m ready to bet some would think it sounds more like “mass” than “mess” (again, in an AmE setting).

    Not unlikely. What with the Northern Cities Shift, the Southern Shift, the California Shift, and various individual splits and mergers, the chance that two Americans chosen at random will understand each other’s isolated words is getting smaller all the time. Fortunately, we communicate in connected speech that means something, which obviates most such misunderstandings, though the NCS pronunciation of block-to-block search as black-to-black search did cause a lot of misunderstanding when a police officer in NCS territory said it.

    For me, at least, the difference between mass and mess is that the former has advanced tongue root and the latter does not, not anything about length.

    Boston merges cot/caught to something like [ɒː]

    It depends on the individual and possibly sociolinguistic effects; I have heard [ɔ] as well.

  91. John C, what do you know about /ɛ/ lowering? Is it a West Coast thing?

  92. David Marjanović says:

    In the video, I forgot that sofa doesn’t end in [ə] but in [ɐ], and it must confuse a lot of foreign learners (myself included) that [ɐ] is not supposed to be /ɑ/.

    Also, it looks like I need to get in touch with the fellow who says Boston is locally [bastn̩], i.e. the product of the local megamerger being a front [a].

    That’s a very strict definition. Or at least a strictly phonetic one.

    Yes.

    I think my point was that “phonemic length” could be misinterpreted as meaning that length itself can be analyzed as a phoneme, as e.g. stød in Danish, where vowels (well, syllables, more accurately) with and without stød alternate systematically.

    Oh, suprasegmental length that behaves like tone? Estonian has that (on top of an ordinary segmental length contrast which is written), and so do some Low German dialects if they still exist (also, at it happens, on top of an ordinary segmental length contrast).

    Is it a West Coast thing?

    I’ve heard it from a born & bred Marylander with no particular connections to the West Coast that I know of.

  93. I at least can lower my jaw until it touches my chest, and still articulate either /æ/ or /ɛ/ depending on my tongue-root position.

  94. David Marjanović says:

    If I lower my jaw as far as possible (it doesn’t touch anything that way, though), I can articulate [æ] and [ɛ], but also [ʊ] and even [i]! Only [u] and [ɯ] are impossible

  95. David Marjanović says:

    [y] works, too, with mostly but not entirely endolabial rounding.

  96. @David Marjanović: I need to get in touch with the fellow who says Boston is locally [bastn̩],

    My guess is he’s a father-bother merged American who thinks the vowel in “Boston” must be fronted since the one in “spa” is. The usual shibboleth mimicking a Boston accent is “Park the car in Harvard yard”, also with long, non-rhotic, fronted [a]s for the START vowels. I have heard some people throw a “Boston” in there with the same vowel, but that must be a mistake. They were probably unable to resist the autological appeal.

    In either case, [a] or [ɑ] seem even further away from any vowel that could appear in “gourd”.

    > Oh, suprasegmental length that behaves like tone?

    Could you explain to this non-linguist what you mean by suprasegmental and segmental length here? My understanding of the term “segmental” is that it means something like “exists in its own time interval”. So I don’t understand how it makes sense to distinguish whether the length belongs to the whole vowel, or is “extra vowel attached at the end”.

  97. David Marjanović says:

    “Suprasegmental” means “a property of a whole syllable (or word), not just the vowel(s)”. Tone spreads to voiced consonants around the vowel, for instance, and stress has effects all over a syllable as well.

    My guess is he’s a father-bother merged American who thinks the vowel in “Boston” must be fronted since the one in “spa” is.

    He’s not an American at all, but I’m guessing you guessed where he got his information from!

  98. David Marjanović says:

    In the video, I forgot that sofa doesn’t end in [ə] but in [ɐ], and it must confuse a lot of foreign learners (myself included) that [ɐ] is not supposed to be /ɑ/.

    Or /ʌ/, or a neutralization of just the two!

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