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Summary Details

Query:   English Pronunciation: Bolth Part 3
Author:  John Esposito
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   Regarding query http://www.linguistlist.org/issues/15/15-3227.html#1

Part Three

I would like to gratefully acknowledge some new responses to the ?bolth? question, from Damien Dabrowski (ScanSoft), Andrew Spencer (University of Essex), Rosemary Beam de Azcona of UC Berkeley / La Trobe University (who, from Kansas, has the ?bolth? pronunciation herself), Natasha Warner (University of Arizona), and Roger Lass (Uinversity of Cape Town).

Dabrowski provides additional data from the Philadelphia area, noting that
can appear in words like ''house'' and ''out'', and that one speaker ?had odd ls in lots of places, notably ?draw/drawing? and ?saw?,? but not in ?couch, south, house?.

Others have joined Susan Fischer (see Part One) in discussing a sound change in, according to Lass: ?the final [l] in parts of the SW of England that gives e.g. Bristol < Bridgestowe, and final [l] in words like 'idea' in that city and its surrounds. Another case is the frequent dark-l like phone before labials in some inland Southern US dialects.?

Of Bristol, Spencer writes: ?English word final vowels acquire an excrescent lateral. A name like 'Norma' will therefore be pronounced 'Normal'. Alternations between d/l are not uncommon cross linguistically. It's a frequent feature of Bantu morphophonemics, for instance.?

Lass also suggests that the absence of
in ?oath? is not a theoretical problem, since the change is in its early stages. ?Neogrammarian change is simply an epiphenomenon of completed lexical diffusion; here I suspect what we are seeing is the early stages of a development that will be worth watching, but could take centuries to complete. (It took at least 400 years for postvocalic /r/ in England to delete in non-rhotic dialects.)?

Finally (for now, at least), Warner provides a new explanation, writing ?that it?s... overlap of the vowel gesture and the interdental gesture leading to there being a time period with roughly the gestures for an
, which can get reinterpreted as an intended
. The vowel involves lowering and backing of roughly the tongue root. The interdental involves extending the tip of the tongue upward and forward. An
involves lowering and backing of the tongue root, and involves some kind of alveolar gesture, particularly a raising of the tip. I think the reason you get the epenthetic
before the interdental and not before, say, a /t/ (no ?l? in ?boat?) is that the interdental gesture, requiring really the tip to move so far forward, is more similar to the
gesture with tip up and at least one side down than a regular alveolar closure gesture is. Bryan Gick suggested this gestural overlap explanation during a discussion one time, although I don't know if he's written about it. It parallels his explanation for epenthetic ?r? in non-standard ?warsh? for ?wash.??

Warner herself has an epenthetic
in ?both? but not ?oath?, (also, lexically specified, in ?mouth? but not ?south?), while noting a different vowel: ?more of an open-o in ?both,? more of a real /oW/ in ?oath.??
I find it interesting that what started out as a casual comment by an undergrad has been answered with at least four substantially different theoretical explanations. Thanks to all respondents for their contributions. -- John

LL Issue: 15.3323
Date Posted: 27-Nov-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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