free variation in pronunciation

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Tue Apr 3 21:03:04 UTC 2001

At 08:18 PM 4/2/01 -0400, you wrote:
>I submit the following as possiblities only (i.e. I will refuse to defend any
>of them that get attacked):
>"route" can rhyme with either "bout" or "boot".  I use the former, but I
>can't recall ever having heard "rout 66" instead of "root 66".
>referring to where one lives, either ADdress or adDRESS.  However a speech is
>an adDRESS.  "LIncoln's Gettysburg adDRESS was 'Fourscoure and seven years
>ago' but his Gettysburg ADdress was 101 East Main Street"  (I think that's
>from an Our Gang movie).
>including or omitting the "h" sound on words beginning with "wh".
>"fiche" and "microfiche" can rhyme with either "quiche" or "dish"---I have
>yet to work at an installation where there was a consensus on which to use.
>New orLEANS versus New ORleans versus New ORle-ans (3 syllables).  I've never
>been there so I have no idea if these are free variations.
>"wash" can rhyme with either "harsh" or "gosh".  I use "warsh" and always
>have, despite my mother-in-law's attempts to ridicule it.  (i.e. to my
>mother-in-law it certainly is not a free variation).
>"Sundy" versus "Sunday" (particularly in the expression "Sunday school", and
>similarly for other days of the week.  However, in my experience the ice
>cream dessert is always "sundae" and never "sundy"
>CHAUffer versus chauFFER (French lacks accented syllables, so according to
>the French, both are wrong)
>           - Jim Landau
>P.S. I always pronounce "often" without a "t" sound (I am a native of
>Kentucky) but both my children use the "t" sound.  In fact, my son who is
>sitting next ot me as I write this cannot recall how I pronounce the word.

None of these examples is truly "free"; i.e., the choice signals something,
whether geographical region or attitudes about style or book-learning or
whatever.  You're noting "alternate forms," but which form is chosen is
constrained by some nonlinguistic factor.  Most notable in your examples
are "w(h)ich" and "wa(r)sh," which are marked both geographically and socially.

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

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