British Dialects Book

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Sep 21 12:43:40 UTC 2002

Nope. I still don't grasp the concept of a phonemic pronunciation.
Your example shows us that some people have two phonemes - /O/ and
/a/ - represented by the phones [O] and [a]. Others have one phoneme
/a/ represented by the phone [a]. So far it looks like people are
"pronouncing" phonemes and that phones are gratuitous. What about
more troublesome cases. I sign my e-mail (phonetically) as dInIs, but
neither [I] is a phone representing the phoneme /I/. The first [I] os
an allophone of the phoneme /E/ (which occurs before nonvelar
nasala); the second is an allophone of schwa whose environmental
triggers are more complex (I do not say [sowfI]  and [sodI] for
"sofa" and "soda" for example, so I clearly have environmentally
conditioned allophopnes of schwa. All my pronunciation=s are phonemic
in the sense that they come from my underlying representation of
words (a cognitive not acoustic fact) and awaaken the same underlying
representation in people who share my dialect, sometimes even
awaekening similar responses from people who don't. (Cross-dialectal
comprehension resulting from rephonemicization of differently
distributed allophones you would want to say if we were in
professorial garb).


>On Fri, 20 Sep 2002, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>#>I don't understand what a phonemic (since it is a mental
>#>representation) pronunciation is. Nobody ever pronounced a phoneme.
>Let's try an example, made up a-purpose:
>         sought. vb: past tense and perfect participle of "seek".
>         /s O t/
>where the phonemic symbol /O/ is defined as the vowel of "caught",
>*whatever that is phonetically for you*. If you merge it with /a/ as
>[a], you'll say [sat]. If you merge it with /a/ as [O], or don't merge
>it, you'll say [sOt]. In any case, your pronunciation will be the
>correct one for whatever dialect you speak.
>-- Mark M.

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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