Some data on herb, /hw-/

Natalie Maynor maynor at CS.MSSTATE.EDU
Mon Jan 29 16:16:39 UTC 2001

Dale Coye wrote:
> In the USA in my survey of freshmen at Princeton ten years ago I found that
> they reported in a questionnaire that /hw-/ in 'where'  was virtually unknown
> in the Northeast (In NY, PA, MD out of 127 resonses only 4 used /hw-/ - 2
> from NYC and two from Philadelphia), but the percentages were higher in other
> areas: Hawai 3 out of 8 used it, in Tex-Ok, Ark 29% used it, in Ontario and
> the city of Montreal combined 3 out of 20 used it.  Nowhere else was it over
> 15%.  Where it does exist in the Northeast I can't help thinking it's owing

I think I've mentioned before that /hw/ seems to be fading rapidly in
the U.S. South.  Old people like me (57) still have it, but each year
I find that fewer and fewer of my students have it.  It was down to
zero in a class I asked about it a week or so ago except for one student
who said that he has /hw/ when the wh word is at the beginning of a
sentence but not in other places.  It was interesting -- I had just
asked the class about /hw/, asking how many of them distinguished
between "which" and "witch."  Not a single hand went up.  Right after
that this student said something that started with "when," and I
definitely heard a /hw/.  When I commented on it, he said that it was
because "when" was the first word in the sentence.

Am I the only person left who pronounces h-less "humble"?  With the
h, I think it's an oil company -- or at least used to be.
   --Natalie Maynor (maynor at

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