LINGUIST List 14.2390

Tue Sep 9 2003

Sum: Emerging Pronunciation of 'presentation'

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


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  1. Rob Hagiwara, emerging pronunciation of 'presentation'

Message 1: emerging pronunciation of 'presentation'

Date: Tue, 09 Sep 2003 19:42:39 +0000
From: Rob Hagiwara <robhcc.umanitoba.ca>
Subject: emerging pronunciation of 'presentation'

Back in April, I posted the following question to Linguist List
(Linguist 14.1117):

> Does anyone have any data on the variable use or extent of the
> pronunciations of 'presentation' with [i] (high front tense) 
> vs. [E] (mid front lax) in the first syllable? When did this 
> start to become common? Is it limited to particular 
> areas/social groups? Is there a difference between the two 
> forms (for people who have both)?

I'd like to thank Tim Beasley, Bernard Comrie, Alice Faber, Clyde 
Hankey, Mika Hoffman, Susan Banner Inouye, and at least one other 
whose e-mail I must have deleted in the interim (to whom I also 
apologize). I also thank several Canadian colleagues who 
survived my inquisitions.

My original question was prompted by an individual for whom I'm doing
some dialect consulting. All I really wanted to tell her was whether
it was definitely pr[i]sentation in some locales or sitations and
pr[E]sentation in others, or if there was something more subtle going
on. My personal experience was that pr[E]sentation was somehow normal
(although I do remember at least one friend with similar background to
mine who always said pr[i]senation when we were in college). But Ive
been hearing pr[i]sentation on TV and so forth lately, so I assumed
this was a recent innovation. Apparently it is not.

Bernard Comrie pointed out that Jones's English Pronouncing Dictionary
(1999) lists only the [E] pronunciation for England, and lists the [i]
pronunciation as a US variant. (He also relates this to question of
[E]/schwa/syllabic-n variants in the second syllable of presentation.)
This accords with his memories of the [E] pronunciation being the only
one available in England in the mid-70s, with [i] regarded as an
American innovation. Although the English tend to regard any
innovation as an Americanism, similar memories from the northeast US
regard the [i] pronunciation as standard. So it would appear that
pr[i]sentation is an innovation, but it isn't emerging.

Some people shared my intuition that there may be a distinction
between a pr[i]sentation, as an event of presenting something, as
opposed to pr[E]sentation as an abstraction (as in presentation skills
or skillful presentation). There was a similar, though incongruous,
viewpoint expressed by someone who suggested that pr[i]sentation was
something you did to plates of food (as in an elegant pr[i]sentation),
although just about everyone I asked rejected pr[i]sentation is
everything in favor of the [E] variant.

More than one person (from the Eastern US) contributed the intuition
that pr[i]sentation is obviously derived from a verb to pr[i]sent,
with a tense [i] in the first syllable. I can only have a reduced
vowel in the pre-tonic syllable of to present, so the preference for
pr[E]sentation may be analogized (?) from the noun pr[E]sent, rather
derived from than an abstract to pr/i/sent.

As Bernard Comrie summarized so succinctly, some questions 
remain:

a. What is the relation, both now and historically, between 
 [E] and [i] variants in the US/North America?
b. What is the incidence, both now and historically, of 
 unreduced [E] versus schwa/syllabic [n] in the second 
 syllable in the US/North America?
c. To what extent, if at all, as the US pronunciation 
 established itself in Britain?


Robert Hagiwara, Ph.D. 
Assistant Professor

Linguistics Department
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba
CANADA R3T 5V5


http://www.umanitoba.ca/linguistics/robh/
robhcc.umanitoba.ca 

Subject-Language: English; Code: ENG 
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