Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Oct 26 13:40:39 UTC 2002

>Please, let's keep sounds and letters apart.

First, "libary" has two motivations:

1) To avoid the repetition of similar (usually marked) sounds (as US
English /r/ is). "Library" with one /r/ is a happier word. This is
often cited as "dissimilation."

2) In "library" the /b/ and /r/ form a cluster of consonants. As
noted in earlier postings, civilized languages hate clusters (onset
clusters less than final, but, they are still dispreferred).
Therefore, "library" does fit, to a certain extent, our earlier
posting. In other words, you can get rid of a cluster by inserting a
/@/ (or other "default" vowel of the language) between the two
consonants or you can simply waste one of them.

Second, "chorestoral."

1) The "a" for "o" in the spelling may signify nothing about the
pronunciation. Since I am an open-o ~ /a/ distinguisher, I, of
course, chuckle when people end the final syllable in /al/
(especially when it is Northern Cities Shifted /a/, which nears my
/æ/). But we're into consonants in this thread.

2) The /r/ for /l/ substitution has two possible sources:

a) For younger speakers, for speakers from non /r/~/l/ dsitinguishing
languages, and (related to the next), and from speech error, these
"unstable" sounds, very close to one another in articulatory
production, may simply be switched (or "neither" realized, causing
the hearer to hear first one and then the other). Note that,
according to their experience, many US English speakers say "Asian
speakers can't say their /r/s," but another hearer group just as
strongly asserts they can't say their /l/s. For many such speakers,
both groups are right.

b) Long-range Regressive Assimilation is the grown-up term for what
might could happen to make the /r/ for /l/ here a permanent,
native-speaker, non- speech-error practice. The /r/ being present as
the onset only one syllable in the "future" in the articualtion of
this word causes the speaker to "preprepare" for it and deliver it
"early." This is related to the "error" offered in a) above since
this may be a source of speech error, but, of course, assimilation
happens over longer historical periods to establish new phonemic
patterns in words.


>Anne Gilbert observes that,
>   >> There are also "jewelery", "libary", and "choresteral"
>Someone else mentioned the first one, I believe.
>I don't think the last two fit the particular pattern we've been
>discussing--i.e., the insertion of a "@" sound between letters or
>syllables. "Libary" (like "Febuary") is the omission of a consonant,
>"choresteral" the substitution of two letters for the correct ones ("r" for
>"l," "a" for "o").
>--Dodi Schultz

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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