LINGUIST List 11.603

Fri Mar 17 2000

Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Douglas G. Wilson, Re: 11.590, Disc: Underlying Schwa?
  2. Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Underlying Schwas

Message 1: Re: 11.590, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 01:13:54 -0500
From: Douglas G. Wilson <douglasnb.net>
Subject: Re: 11.590, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

The LINGUIST Network wrote:

> LINGUIST List: Vol-11-590. Thu Mar 16 2000. ISSN: 1068-4875.
>
> Subject: 11.590, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

With respect to the 'two schwas', following Jakob Dempsey and other
recent contributors:

>From those dictionaries which I have immediately available (OED =
Oxford English Dict. [BIG one], CI = Cambridge International, RH =
Random House Unabridged, AH = American Heritage, PH = Prentice Hall
New World, MW = Merriam-Webster):

Transcriptions of unstressed vowels:

Pallet: OED /dot-e/, CI /I/, RH /I/, AH /I/, PH /I/, MW //
Palate: OED /weak-e/, CI //, RH /I/, AH /I/, PH //, MW //
Palette: OED /dot-e/, CI //, RH /I/, AH /I/, PH /I/, MW //
Ballot: OED //, CI //, RH //, AH //, PH //, MW //
Carrot: OED //, CI //, RH //, AH //, PH //, MW //
Carat: OED /weak-a/, CI //, RH //, AH //, PH //, MW //
Caret: OED /dot-e/, CI [not listed], RH /I/, AH /I/, PH /I/, MW //
Tulip: OED /I/, CI /I/, RH /I/, AH /I/, PH /I/, MW //
Frolic: OED /I/, CI /I/, RH /I/, AH /I/, PH /I/, MW /I/

(some use 'i' for 'I', etc.; 'dot-e' is 'e' with a dot on top,
'weak-a', 'weak-e' have a 'smile' on top [can't remember the name of
this mark]; '' = inverted-e)

Note the differences in 'minimal pairs'. RH or AH gives only
'carat'='carrot' vs. 'caret', CI gives only 'pallet'
vs. 'palate'='palette', PH or OED gives 'palate'
vs. 'pallet'='palette'. OED gives 'carrot' vs. 'carat'
vs. 'caret'. MW echoes the intuitive feeling of Mr. Dempsey or myself
that they're mostly about the same (in standard casual US speech).

The last two items (to me) are distinct -- 'tulip' showing a schwa or
weakened and centralized vowel, 'frolic' having an unreduced /I/ like
in 'big'. Certainly I pronounce the 'i' in frolic as very much
different from any of the other unstressed vowels above. Some speakers
perhaps give 'tulip' a full /I/ also, but I think that's unusual here
('harelip' however will usually have an unreduced /I/). Only the MW
shows this difference ('frolic'/'tulip'); again the MW echoes my type
of speech, I guess. The OED gives more distinctions than the others,
trying to make a compromise between standard speech with variable
weakening/centralization and the fuller pronunciations used in careful
speech or singing. As far as I know, RH, AH, and MW are all popular
and respected American dictionaries. Are the systematic differences
(/I/ vs. //) shown by RH=AH as contrasted with MW in most of the
above list (1) an effort at a narrower transcription, (2) a
transcription of a slightly different type of standard US English, or
(3) an effort to reach a compromise between US English and RP?

- Doug Wilson
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Message 2: Underlying Schwas

Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 09:00:04 -0500
From: Elizabeth J. Pyatt <ejp10psu.edu>
Subject: Underlying Schwas

This has a been a great discussion. I have a comment and a question.

(1) On the I vs // issue:
>Jakob is correct
>that there's never a minimal pair based on this distinction, but I really
>have to concentrate to produce the wrong vowel in a given environment.

(Todd O'Bryan)

I speak a standard American Northeast dialect with I and . When 
teaching phonetics, I've made up a minimal pair of roses /rozIz/ and 
Rosas /rozz/. The hit 'im/hit 'em is a good one too.

>Hit 'im means "hit him", although the vowel in the second
>syllable is not identical with that in "him".
>Hit 'em means "hit them", although the vowel in the second
>syllable is not identical with that in "them".
>The two utterances are distinct: the first has [I] and
>the second [].

(Wayles Browne)

(2) What's the status of the stressed /^/ vowel in words like "cut" 
and "autumnal" /Ot^mnl/ which varies with "autumn" /Otm/? (This 
pair come up sometime in the "cactusia" discussion.

Also, what's the medical condition of being additcted to autumn? I've 
come up with "autumnusia" /Ot^mnuzh/ or "autumnasia" /Ot^mnezh/, 
but not "autumnsia" /Otumzh/.

Interestingly, catusia /kaektuzh/ is plausible to me is as is 
"cactal" /kaektl/ ("relating to cacti") where the final coda is 
deleted before the -al ending. There seems to be a difference in the 
status of the reduced vowels, at least in my dialect.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
Instructional Designer
Penn State University
ejp10psu.edu, (814) 865-0805

227C Computer Building
University Park, PA 16801
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