Mark A. Mandel Mark_Mandel at DRAGONSYS.COM
Tue Apr 17 19:40:07 UTC 2001

Herb Stahlke <hstahlke at GW.BSU.EDU> writes:

This sounds like a variant on the "athalete" or "fillum" pronunciations we
were warned away from in elementary school (50 years ago).  I can see why
both those l's would become syllabic, since thl and lm are not comfortable
clusters for a lot of English speakers, but I'm not sure why pl would be a

Compare "puh-lease!". I theorize... well, I suspect that the heavy
aspiration of syllable-initial non-postconsonantal /p/ has one or both of
the following effects on the /l/:

1. The first part of the /l/ devoices so strongly that many hearers
perceive it as a [phonetically devoiced] vowel and internalize the phonemic
pronunciation of the word as having a schwa at that point.

2. The flow of air is strong enough to hinder and delay the formation of
the tongue contact until after the start of voicing, creating an actual
voiced vocalic segment between the [ph] and the [l].

I see a cause similar to #2 for the change of /fT/ to /pT/ (T = theta),
with resultant mis/// change of spelling, in "naphtha" and "diphthong". [f]
physically prevents the articulation of an interdental theta until the
speaker thrusts his tongue-tip through and makes a catapult of his lower
lip*, but even with a dental (not inter-) theta the airflow causes a (to
me) palpable difficulty in the articulation.

* I'm borrowing the ph(th)rasing from a humorous sf short story I must have
read in the 60s called iirc "Diabologic", author's name forgotten. Our hero
was being drilled in an alien language on the sentence "Fthon deas fthleman
fthangafth, Wet nights are gnatless."

-- Mark

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