free variation in pronunciation

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Mon Apr 2 22:39:30 UTC 2001

At 06:08 PM 4/2/01 +0100, you wrote:
>_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

"economic" --> [i] or [E]

There are also some words that can be spelled with initial 'i' or 'e' (and
presumably are pronounced as [I] or [E]), but I can't think of examples
this late in the day.

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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