Fronter and Backer

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Jun 22 15:00:50 UTC 2002

Hmm. It would make a great hit at MLA just to mention vowels. I
reckon you meant ADS or LSA.

Once I remember working a crossword puzzle on a long international
flight. I usually hop through them fast,  getting the really easy
ones (like What's the mid-central lax vowel", actually one of the
first questions in a Playboy "All-time hard crossword puzzle of
several years ago). When I hit a three-letter slot, the clue for
which was "Linguists' Org." I promptly put in LSA. Later words showed
I was wrong, and I discovered, much to my amusement, that they wanted

When I was learning Xhosa, I asked the instructor if the lateral
click was made on one side or the other (after I discovered I could
do it only on the left). He thought it was a strange question. Port
and starboard laterality never occurred to me (not to mention
"porter" and "starboarder").


>In a message dated 06/22/2002 12:25:49 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
>rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU writes:
>>   Larry will probably tell us that "front" and "back" are not gradable per
>se. It
>>   is interesting that one dimension would be gradadable and another not.
>Yes, the dimension is gradable: "further forward" and "further back".  You
>can also say "more forward" and "more backward" but "backward" has all sorts
>of other meanings, e.g. retarded, backwoods, behind-the-times, underdeveloped
>(referring to countries,the long-standing PC term is "developing").  Or you
>could use the nautical terms "forward" and "aft" (with superlatives
>"forwardmost" and "aftermost"), but I'm sure even a freshman linguistics
>class would find that strange.  Hmm, It would make a great skit at the MLA
>convention to talk about "bower vowels" and "sterner vowels".
>If you think the front-back dimension is clumsy when it comes to gradation,
>consider the left-right dimension.  Someone who speaks out of the side of his
>mouth has "liberal" and "conservative" phonemes?  Or "starboarder" and
>"porter" phoenemes and can be said to have a bad case of the yaws?
>       Jim Landau

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics and Languages
740 Wells Hall A
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027 USA
Office - (517) 353-0740
Fax - (517) 432-2736

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