wheel barrels?

Lesa Dill lesa.dill at WKU.EDU
Wed Aug 11 15:48:34 UTC 2004

I had always assumed "wheelbarrel" was the simply an example of
regressive assimilation.  Perhaps all explanations for similar
language variation are equally multidimensional.

On Wed, 11 Aug 2004 11:17:07 -0400
 Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
> At 10:41 AM -0400 8/11/04, Thomas Paikeday wrote:
> >Bethany,
> >
> >FWIW, here is my explanation of why you hear "wheel barrow"
as "wheel
> >barrel":
> >
> >The "l" sound in that position is rounded, so is "w". The "-ow"/"-
> >confusion, I believe, is borne out in similar phonetic contexts
> >"-al", "-il", "-ol", -"ul", and "-yl" if someone will supply
examples in
> >support of or against this claim by a non-phonetician.
> >
> >www.paikeday.net
> Tom, I'm not sure I buy this, however persuasive the phonetic
> My wife purchased a wheelbarrow earlier this summer and since then
> has referred to it consistently as a wheelbarrel.  (This surprised me
> because she's from Greenwich, CT and doesn't have all that many
> "folk" pronunciations in her dialect.)  I just checked and she
> confirmed that she (like others who have commented) would always
> *spell* it as "wheelbarrow" but usually *pronounces* it as
> wheelbarrel.  She claims (essentially like Tom) that it's "easier to
> say" as 'barrel", but when I grilled her on whether she'd say "bow
> and arrel" because it's easier than saying "bow and arrow", she
> acknowledged she'd be extremely unlikely to do so.  So I think the
> folk etymological link with "barrel" is crucial in the former case,
> whatever the phonetic motivation.
> Larry

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