LINGUIST List 15.3278
Mon Nov 22 2004
Sum: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 1
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English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 1
Message 1: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 1
From: John Esposito <espositocsusm.edu>
Subject: English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 1
Regarding query http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-3227.html#1
There were many varied and detailed responses to this query; so many in
fact that it will be difficult to do them justice in the space allowed
(quotes have been edited for length). I will try to summarize and cite a
sampling of the supporting information.
Susan Fischer (Rochester Inst. of Tech.), Herb Stahlke (Ball State), and
Anthony Lewis (Syracuse) all point out that /l/ frequently becomes a vowel
or glide. The latter is more relevant here, as it is the glide in /bowTH/
that has become /l/.
Susan Fischer writes:
"1. In French, historically l--->w/__C.
2. In certain dialects of British English, l--->w/ V_#.
3. In Western Pennsylvania, l-->w after a high back vowel.
4. In Brazilian Portuguese, there are contexts where l -->w.
5. In standard American English, diphthongs containing back vowels have a
homorganic glide (e.g., [sawT] for 'south', in many southern dialects, that
glide is replaced by a dark /l/.)"
Damien Dabrowski of ScanSoft has also observed an /l/ in words like south,
couch, and mouth, in the Philadelphia-New Jersey area; this is "perhaps
related to the vowel, which is very front and mid-low, about the same
vowel/l sound as 'ralph')."
Anthony Lewis writes:
"In Slavic, /l/ --> /o/ in Serbo-Croatian in word-final position, and
deletes entirely in this position in Russian. Also, in 1st language
acquisition, coda /l/'s often surface as /w/ or /o/ (e.g. 'field' -->
[fiod]). This is also common in (adult) dialects of Cockney English."
(JE: In addition to the above observations, one might add the Polish dark l
Herb Stahlke writes:
"What you're describing sounds like the inverse of /l/-vocalization...
I've noticed a similar excrescent /l/ in words like 'draw' and 'saw'. In
speakers for whom /l/ vocalizes post-vocalically, the /l/ becomes a lax
high back rounded vowel, as in 'put'. It does this presumably because
post-vocalic /l/ is velarized and when it delateralizes the result is the
velarization, or /U/. What seems to be happening in words like 'draw',
'saw', and 'both' is that the diphthongization, which also involves a
/U/-like glide is strengthened to a lateral on the analogy of words like
'fold' and 'bowl'."
Stahlke's point that this is the 'inverse' of a common phenomenon is
sufficient to lead us to consider other possible explanations. It seems to
be agreed that /l/ --> V and /l/ --> /w/ are common, but /w/ --> /l/ is
considerable less common, and perhaps seems a little backwards from what
one might expect.
Stahlke expresses surprise that this "takes place also before a fortis
fricative in 'both' since fortis obstruents shorten vowels in English," and
observes that this does not seem to occur in 'boat'. Similarly, Lewis
inquires "Why would the lateralization in the pronunciation of the word
'both' not extend to similar forms (e.g. 'growth' --> *[grolth])?"
Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics
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