endangered phonemes

Anne Lambert annelamb at GNV.FDT.NET
Tue Apr 18 00:55:43 UTC 2000

I always use /hw/ in words spelled "wh-" ; on the other hand, my husband
doesn't.  I assume that this is a Midwest-East distinction.  However, I
have heard that the younger generation uses /w/ exclusively.  I wonder if
this loss of /hw/(and some other traits) began on the Eastern seaboard
and had not yet spread to the Midwest when I was growing up?

Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> /w/ vs. /hw/: i have the distinction, but for me interrogative and
> exclamatory WHY diverge.  i was born before 1943, by the way, and i
> recall noticing the two WHYs in my very first linguistics class, taken
> over 40 years ago.
> for me, all words with /hw/ have variants with /w/ in unaccented
> positions and in fast/casual speech.  so for me the distinction is
> between words that always have /w/ and words that are variable between
> /hw/ and /w/.
> presumably, this is the source of invariable /w/ in exclamatory WHY
> for some of us; it's a casual speech item, *and* it's usually
> subordinated in accent to what immediately follows.  WHOOPS has
> preserved its (variable) /hw/ for me, because it's accented, but
> i could see how it could move to the /w/ camp for some speakers
> who have the /hw/-/w/ distinction.
> arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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