Fritz Juengling Friolly at AOL.COM
Fri Jul 12 02:36:37 UTC 2002

In a message dated 7/11/02 6:56:49 PM Pacific Daylight Time, mam at THEWORLD.COM

> On Thu, 11 Jul 2002, Fritz Juengling wrote:
> #Perhaps this is an isogloss that separates Oregon from Washington (I would
> be
> #very surprised, though), because I pronounce 'hock' and 'hawk' with all
> their
> #meanings exactly the same and I cannot ever recall anyone distinguishing
> #them--that would have struck a chord right off.
> Would it? If you are a conflater, I would not expect you to hear the
> difference in non-conflating speech as clearly and automatically as you
> hear differences that are distinctive to you, such as /ae/ vs. /E/.

Well, just because folks "merge" vowels does not mean they cannot hear the
difference when someone else makes it.  Everyone in my family, for example,
has the caught/cot merger, but we all hear the difference.  Even my youngest,
who is now nine, has been snickering for years when she has heard someone on
TV say 'cawt'.  We have been watching 'Hogan's Heroes' for since she was 5
and she notices every time Bob Crane says 'bawl'  for 'ball,' and so on.
When I was a kid, though, I could not tell the difference between 'tin' and
'ten.'  I did watch Sesame Street and I am sure they said eight, nine, 'tin.'
 I never heard it when I watched Mary Tyler Moore--who was supposed to be a
Minnesotan, but is from New York.  Now, when I watch those same shows, she
sounds like she's from New York--no way is she a Minnesotan.  My ability to
discern items has increased, of course.
On the other hand, when my oldest was in first grade, one of his spelling
words was 'bag.' So, he studied all week and when the test was given, there
was a new word on the list--'beg.'  The teacher was a 'bag/beg' merger (very
common in Minnesota).  So, my son naturally wrote what he heard, even though
it was new "b-e-g" and it was marked wrong.  I brought this up at parent
teacher conferences, the teacher could not hear the difference that I clearly
made to save her life.
A third anecdote.  I had a buddy from Utah whose last name is Peel.  However,
certain vowels in Utah speech get (nearly) merged before /l/.  So, when he
would introduce himself, the conversation would run thusly:
My buddy: Hi, my name is Mike Pill
other person: Oh, Mike Pill?
My buddy: No, Mike Pill
other person: Mike Pill?
My buddy: No, Pill!
This round-robin would go on until he finally spelled his name.  I am sure he
thought everyone else was saying 'peeel.'  After I had known him for quite
some time, I finally asked him what he took for a headache--a 'pill.'  Then
what his last name was --'pill.'  I had him say both over and over and
finally I could hear a *slight* difference, but it was as clear as day to
him.  The vowels are really not merged, but they sound like it to outsiders,
but he, and his wife (and I believe the other Utahns) could tell the
So, sometimes people can hear differences and sometimes they cannot.  I do
not know why some things are so obvious to some and not to others.  There are
probably many reasons.

More information about the Ads-l mailing list