LINGUIST List 15.3227

Wed Nov 17 2004

Qs: English Pronunciation; Orient vs. Orientation

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        1.    John Esposito, English pronunciation
        2.    John Esposito, orient vs. orientation

Message 1: English pronunciation

Date: 16-Nov-2004
From: John Esposito <>
Subject: English pronunciation

 Wondered if anyone had an idea why a substantial number of Americans
 pronounce the word ''both'' with an l. 
 A first-semester lx. student surprised me by supplying a hypothesis: she
 grew up in a community of Danish ancestors. In some environments, Danish d
 and t become a liquid, acoustically similar to /l/ (or perhaps a uvular R);
 I believe this sound was pronounced as eth until recent generations,
 following more or less predictably the weakening hierarchy.
 However, a survey of other students with this pronunciation yielded only
 about 50% having contact with Scandinavian (mostly Norwegian) neighbors;
 furthermore, I'm not aware of Dano-Norwegian (bokmal) having this sound.
 Perhaps there's a simpler explanation? Is it due to an acoustic similarity
 between /o/ and /l/? An analogy to ''bowl''?
 John Esposito
 San Diego State Univ. 
 Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics; Phonology

Message 2: orient vs. orientation

Date: 16-Nov-2004
From: John Esposito <>
Subject: orient vs. orientation


I'm looking for insights into the choice of ''orientate'' over ''orient''
by a fairly polished writer of British English who is probably also fluent
in (at least) French and Italian. In particular, I'm looking for historical

As everyone knows, ''orient'' is the standard verbal root and stem of
''orientation'', and ''orientate'' is a backformation; but a quick sampling
of bilingual dictionaries with English and another European langauge shows
a preference for ''orientate.'' The OED says that ''orient'' has been
around longer, but it seems to me that at some time & place, ''orientate''
may have been standard.

I'd like to know if ''orientate'' was standard at some time in British
English (and if possible, precisely when and where), or whether a
preference for ''orientate'' might come from another major European
language. French and Italian don't have the ''-ate'' suffix on this word,
and German has ''-ieren''; the only alternative explanation that occurs to
me is that this is a leftover from the author's schoolboy Latin.

John Esposito
San Diego State Univ. 

Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
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