LINGUIST List 4.766

Tue 28 Sep 1993

Disc: Can't

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Directory

  1. Robert D Hoberman, Two can's and can't
  2. "Anne M Loring-1", Re: 4.756 Can't
  3. Jack, can / can't

Message 1: Two can's and can't

Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1993 12:40:37 Two can's and can't
From: Robert D Hoberman <RHOBERMANccmail.sunysb.edu>
Subject: Two can's and can't


I don't think anyone has mentioned that for many speakers from New York City
and the vicinity the two words spelled "can" are pronounced differently when
both are stressed. In "I CAN peaches, I don't bottle them" the vowel of CAN
is a mid-front vowel ending in a central off-glide [e], while in "I CAN read
French, I just don't like to" CAN is not diphthongal at all: it is a steady
low-front vowel [ae]. "Can't" [ken?] has the vowel of the former "can" (can
peaches) and not the vowel of "can" 'able'. Though people are sometimes
uncertain as to whether they've heard "can" or "can't", especially when talking
with someone whose dialect is different, the difference between the two vowels
(or the two CANs) is phonemic, as we used to say. Some speakers from this area
when self-conscious tend to hypercorrect, monophthongizing all [e] diphthongs
to [ae]; this adds to the possibilities for confusion.

Bob Hoberman
rhobermanccmail.sunysb.edu
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Message 2: Re: 4.756 Can't

Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1993 16:44:23 Re: 4.756 Can't
From: "Anne M Loring-1" <loringmaroon.tc.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 4.756 Can't

Like others, I also helpfully encouraged the original poster to watch for
those glottal stops as a signal that the word intended is "can'T" rather
than "can". (Good luck hearing them!)
Look into the negations of other auxiliaries, too. I recorded participants
in an experiment
negating past-tense verbs, gathering from many a litany of [dIn? wak],
[dIn? iyt], etc. (those [I]'s are nasalized, but I don't know how to
show that. In fact, there may be no dental/alveolar closure to [n] at
all, but just the nasalized vowel followed by the glottal stop.) There is of
course zero chance of confusion for even the nonnative speaker between
"did" and "didn't", since the nasalization is a dead giveaway even if the
glottalization is hard to hear.
 I'd bet money on the [dIn?]-sayers also producing [won?] for "won't"
and making "wouldn't", "couldn't", "shouldn't" similarly monosyllabic.

 Anne Loring
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Message 3: can / can't

Date: Mon, 27 Sep 93 20:22:16 EDcan / can't
From: Jack <JAREAukcc.uky.edu>
Subject: can / can't

I'm not sure what the problem is about the pronunciation of 'can' versus
can't. Anyone who comes from a place where they don't talk funny knows
that the affirmative form rhymes with 'pin' and the negative with 'paint'

Ki semenat ispinaza, non andet iskultsu!

J. A. Rea jareaukcc.uky.edu
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