free variation in pronunciation

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Mon Apr 2 17:08:17 UTC 2001

_Either_ and _neither_ have two pronunciations each, and as far as I can
tell they are in absolutely free variation within certain speech
communities and even speakers.  Sometimes I've heard the claim that one or
the other pronunciation is more emphatic, but I've seen little empirical
evidence to back this up.

A few months ago here we discussed some other variant pronunciations and
spellings (e.g, vase, theatre/theater, gray/grey), and came up with
semantic distinctions that are (believed to be) made amongst the two
variants.  (Thus they aren't free variants.)  Other variants are not 'free'
because they mark regional, social, formal (etc.) distinctions.  Are there
any other examples of absolutely free variants in lexical pronunciations?
By my definition of "absolutely free", they must be equally acceptable in
all semantic, social, (in)formal, stylistic (etc.) contexts for a single
speaker/speech community.


M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH

phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax   +44-(0)1273-671320

More information about the Ads-l mailing list