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Subject: Media Pronunciation of 'S'
Question:
Perhaps we both are going nuts, or perhaps we both have been asleep for a very long time, but we both ''think'' we are hearing people in mass media on television (e.g., newscasters and TV reporters) and celebrities pronounce ''s'' as ''sh'' much more often than just a few years ago (e.g., saying ''shtreet'' for ''street'' or ''shtraight'' for ''straight''), sometimes in what seems like fairly exaggerated fashion. The pronunciation seems, perhaps, related mostly to a leading ''s,'' and perhaps is associated with a leading ''st'' or ''str.'' We both have accents influenced by Midwestern/ North Central roots and the ''sh'' pronunciation sounds ''alien'' and distinct to us. We think we would have noticed the ''sh'' accent in the media in the past if it had been in wide use.

Only partly in jest, we get the impression that there must be a new edition of the ''Manual of Standard Media Accent'' that recently has promoted the accent change. We even have heard reporters stumble or strain over efforts, more than once, to place the ''sh'' sound into words containing an ''sh'' (and resulting in a sort of stuttered double ''sh'' such as ''sh-shake''), and this effort seems to have reflected a deliberate effort to follow a particular accent form that isn't ''natural'' to the speaker.

Our questions are (1) are we nuts, or is the ''sh'' sound occurring more generally in mass media as a relatively new (or recently expanded) phenomenon; and (2) from where does the ''sh'' treatment arise?

Thank you!
Dave & Jane Kearney

Reply:
To add to what Prof. Stahlke said, this pronunciation is also found in Hawaiian
English and in AAVE (African-American Vernacular English). One hears it a lot in
New York, which is where a lot of American news organizations are based. In my
experience, when you have sCr becoming shCr, that conconant in the mittle has to
be /t; i.e., I don't hear "shcream". The phenomenon of retroflection affecting the
preceding consonant is, as Prof. Stahlke said, quite general in many dialects. In
fact, with words like "street" and "try", in some dialects the retroflection can lead to a
process of fusion where t+r become "ch" with a little bit of the 'r' leff over; there is
then very little difference between the pronunciations of "try" and "chai" In "street",
the actual pronunciation is closer to "shchreet".

Reply From: Susan Fischer     click here to access email
Date: Aug-31-2006
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Media Pronunciation of 'S' Herbert Frederic Stahlke    (Aug-31-2006)

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