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Summary Details


Query:   SUM: emerging pronunciation of 'presentation'
Author:  Rob Hagiwara
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonology

Summary:   Back in April, I posted the following question to Linguist List
(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 I?ve 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-70?s, 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

voice: (204) 474-6998
fax: (204) 474-7671

http://www.umanitoba.ca/linguistics/robh/
robh@cc.umanitoba.ca

LL Issue: 14.2390
Date Posted: 09-Sep-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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