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LINGUIST List 17.2084

Tue Jul 18 2006

Qs: Onset [r] Deletion in English

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        1.    Nancy Hall, Onset [r] Deletion in English


Message 1: Onset [r] Deletion in English
Date: 14-Jul-2006
From: Nancy Hall <nhallessex.ac.uk>
Subject: Onset [r] Deletion in English


Some English words are occasionally pronounced with deletion of an onset
[r]. Examples include the following (thanks to Maria Gouskova and Linda
Hall for pointing some of these out):

February -> Febuary (this is pretty much standard)
veterinarian -> vetinarian
Tristram Shandy -> Tristam Shandy
respiratory -> respitory
spectrogram -> spectogram
secretary -> secetary
extraordinary -> extodinary (Fiona Apple sings this in
''Extraordinary Machine'')

[A blogging Apple fan comments on this last one, ``For some reason I really
like her pronunciation of Extraordinary. It becomes ''extordinary'' because
no one on the planet can sing Extraordinary, it's a terrible word.''
(http://www.diaryofaband.com/2005/05/051005.html)]

Although this deletion seems to be sporadic, the examples above
share certain traits, suggesting there is a phonological basis for the
deletion. For example, each word contains more than one onset [r], and the
[r] that deletes is in a complex onset in a non-initial syllable. Usually
it's unstressed, and usually it precedes the other [r].

I would be grateful to anyone who can point out 1) any published or
unpublished work on onset [r] deletion; 2) any other examples of onset [r]
deletion that you may have noticed (whether or not they are similar to the
examples above). I will post a summary if there is sufficient interest.

--Nancy Hall

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
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