Author Topic: Do we have any linguists on this board?  (Read 3619 times)

fuzzyoctopus

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Do we have any linguists on this board?
« on: May 10, 2006, 01:39:38 PM »
I find myself with no local professors I know to discuss these things with.

Is it my imagination, or is "R" the most commonly added/dropped phoneme in English words in various dialects?  Everyone who grew up in Ashland county or any of a few surrounding counties says "warsh" instead of wash.  Never noticed until I moved back here. We went to Indiana last weekend, where we met a guy who grew up in the Terre Haute area, and he said "warsh" too.
Then you have the British english where the "sophisticated" accents often add random 'r' sounds to the ends of words like 'Africa'.  And of course your standard Boston accent that DROPS r's from various things.

Why is it that 'r' does this so much in so many ways, but other phonemes don't seem to?  Do other languages do this with one specific phoneme, or do they have others that just bounce around?  
« Last Edit: May 10, 2006, 02:21:21 PM by fuzzyoctopus »
"Hr hr! dwn wth vwls!" - Spriggan

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stacer

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2006, 02:02:04 PM »
Not only does the Boston/Massachusetts accent drop the R, but it adds them in various other places like the Brits, as well. Thus, my friend Heather from Worcester is actually "Heatha from Woostah," but the continent is still Africer.
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Fellfrosch

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2006, 06:06:16 PM »
If I remember correctly from my linquistics classes, R (and L, to a lesser degree) are the most commonly dropped or altered phonemes because they are relatively difficult to form. They're called 'liquids," and you don't so much say them as make them accidentally on the way to saying something else.
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Oldie Black Witch

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 05:25:00 PM »
Yup. They're both liquids, and r's are dropped in almost every language.

Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2006, 10:28:37 PM »
Yes.
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Entsuropi

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2006, 08:05:48 AM »
No.
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Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2006, 01:03:24 PM »
Anyway I don't know why /r/ gets affected so much. But I'm pretty sure the sound to get affected most is /h/. Well, other letters like /s/ and /j/ can get easily turned into /h/, and /h/ can pretty easily disappear. The /r/ sound in English is actually pretty rare...I mean, apparently Dutch has it, and Chinese has it (except it's a vowel), but most other major languages do not--they have the flap or trill /r/ (like in Spanish) instead, and that is not nearly as variable as the English /r/.
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Oldie Black Witch

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2006, 12:48:39 AM »
Fuzzy,

Here's something that's a little more than everyone saying "Yeah! What they said!"

From Historical Linguistics: An Introduction by Lyle Campbell:

"A very comman change is the devoicing of stops or obstruents word-finally; some languages devoice sonorants (l, r, w, j, nasals), and some devoice final vowels."

Because the "r" sound is already an alveolar approximant (a weak consonantal sound) in English, and because most consonants are determined by small changes in the pronunciation of neighboring vowels, the "r" is devoiced/dropped while remnants of it remains in the neighboring vowel sounds. And like Campbell said, it is a very common language change.

Does this mean it will spread to the entire language? That depends heavily on sociolinguistic triggers. If there is enough social impetus to drop final "r" on most words, then yes. Otherwise, this change will probably remain only in local dialects.

Oldie Black Witch

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2006, 12:50:15 AM »
Quote
Anyway I don't know why /r/ gets affected so much. But I'm pretty sure the sound to get affected most is /h/. Well, other letters like /s/ and /j/ can get easily turned into /h/, and /h/ can pretty easily disappear. The /r/ sound in English is actually pretty rare...I mean, apparently Dutch has it, and Chinese has it (except it's a vowel), but most other major languages do not--they have the flap or trill /r/ (like in Spanish) instead, and that is not nearly as variable as the English /r/.


Yeah. English "r" is an approximant, whereas in most other languages, it's a flap or a trill.

Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2006, 05:16:53 PM »
Yeah, but "sonorant," "approximant" etc. mean very little to non-linguists. :)
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fuzzyoctopus

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2006, 08:43:28 PM »
Well if I where my notes from Prof. Oaks's class were I'd dig them out.   ;D

I don't mind your being technical; I can look things up.   I appreciate the thorough answers.
"Hr hr! dwn wth vwls!" - Spriggan

I reject your reality, and substitute my own. - Adam Savage, Mythbusters

French is a language meant to be butchered, especially by drunk Scotts. - Spriggan

caiticlu

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2006, 09:43:47 PM »
Im having flashbacks...
I just failed my linguistics class... but I still have my book... as soon as I unpack it I can look stuff up - if you want that is, cuz if youve been adequately answered and dont need more information, Id just as soon burn the book as find it...
Ill keep it at hand to be helpful though
And with that... May your days be bright and your contact with stupidity limited...

Oldie Black Witch

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2006, 02:41:29 AM »
Oh. And about the "warsh" pronunciation--it's kind of a reverse of what I was talking about before. In this case, it's a voicing of an approximant that was already inherent in the way the word is pronounced. The most common dialectical differences within a language are vowel shifts. (Utah has a funky vowel shift--the one that makes /I/ go to /i/, so "What's the deal?" sounds like "What's the dill?"). If you have a dialectical vowel change that rounds the "a" in "wash", then continuing the voicing of the vowel as your mouth changes shape on its way to the "sh" will add the "r".

I'm always amused by spelling changes that arise from sounds that are inherent in a word's pronunciation. Take the word "hamster" for example. It's not uncommon to see it spelled "hampster"--even though the /p/ is only pronounced because it's impossible to go from an /m/ to an /s/ without including the /p/.


Peter Ahlstrom

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Re: Do we have any linguists on this board?
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2006, 09:00:13 PM »
I had a companion from Idaho who did the "dill" thing (or, as I liked to call it, the "fill" thing). It sounded very odd in Spanish. Thankfully he was a really smart guy and he was actually able to work on it once I pointed it out to him. (In Spanish, I mean. I have nothing against any particular accent in English.)
« Last Edit: May 20, 2006, 09:01:26 PM by OoklaTheMok »
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