Folk Awareness oif Dialect

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Dec 4 19:51:24 UTC 2000

What's "the phonetic value of the letter U"?  The 'au' digraph has been
variously pronounced for a long, long time.  Words in this class (including
branch, dance, grant, aunt) are of French origin, of course, with
Anglo-Norman/Middle English /au/ monophthongizing to /a/ and then variously
becoming [backward C], [script a], [a], [ae], and even [e] (as in ain't,
cain't, and Aint Jane in Southern English), as the vowel is fronted and
raised.  The 'aunt/ant' homophone pair should caution (caeshin'?) us
against assuming only one pronunciation is correct; Hughes and Trudgill
show the variation in pronunciation of 'aunt' all across the British
Isles.  In SE Ohio we have a town called Chauncey which is pronounced
locally as 'chancey', presumably because, like Staunton, it was founded by
immigrants from an /ae/ area in Britain.  And spelling can conform to this:
consider gauntlet/gantlet.  Outsiders in our area regularly say the 'dumb
hicks' here don't know how to pronounce their own town's name--which makes
you wonder who's ignorant and who's not?

Nativizing of borrowed words is common everywhere; again, witness British
English's english-ing of foreign words from way back.  And what on earth is
the 'Confederate Diaspora'?  In Minnesota we have Milan ([mayl at n], New
Prague ([preg]), Montevideo ([man at vIDio] with stress on vID), and any
number of French names.  This isn't just a Southern phenomenon by any means.

At 12:56 PM 12/4/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Virginia also has a Buena /bjuna/ Vista, the pronunciation of which is
>probably a nativism due to the fact that people have been calling it by
>that pronunciation for about 120 years.  Ironically, there's a city
>called Staunton not too far up the road from Buena Vista, but they
>pronounce that name /stan t'n/ as in Elizabeth Cady Stanton, rather than
>/stahn t'n/ as one would expect based on the spelling.  Maybe
>Appalachian Virginians have some confusion over the phonetic value of
>the letter U... :)
>  - Drew
>Robert Kelly wrote:
> >
> > add another component (to ignorance & nativism):  humor, folk or
> > otherwise.  Thirty years ago in California I heard Buena as /bjuna/,
> > Vallejo as Valley Joe (so stressed), Mesa as mee-sa, Palos as pale-os,
> > etc.  I was never sure my eastern leg wasnt being pulled, but I heard such
> > things too often for me to assume myself the victim of a Conspiracy of
> > Native Informants.
> >
> > RK
> >
> > On Mon, 4 Dec 2000, Ray Ott wrote:
> >
> > > #14.  Here in IL, of course, with  our Cairo=Kay-ro and
> Marseilles=Mar-sales,
> > > etc.
> > > but everywhere in the Confederate Diaspora as well, I think.  The rigidly
> > > English pronunciation of non-English spellings (In CA one is beginning to
> > > hear such things as Buena Vista=Beeyuna Vista) springs from a determined
> > > Nativism rather than mere ignorance.
> > >
> > > Ray Ott
> > >
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Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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