Hypercorrection of /w/-/hw/

Dennis R. Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Sun May 23 12:43:58 UTC 2004


The lexicalization argument is good, but that it is a carryover from
casual speech is a bit odd, especially if we associate fast/casual
speech and, presumably, reduced phenomena it. Exclamatories are not
reduced but usually strongly pronounced. I'm still a little puzzled
by the motivation.


>On May 22, 2004, at 2:48 PM, Douglas G. Wilson wrote, replying to
>dennis preston (below) replying to geoff nunberg:
>>>Nothing informal about it. I am a native speaker of wh-, and I cannot
>>>utter exclamatory 'why' with wh-. Now you have elicited data (albeit
>>>reported) from an native respondent.
>>Me too. That's two natives.
>>>Why is this? (By the way, plenty of wh-ers agree with me; well, maybe
>>>not plenty, we are fading fast.) Could it be the date? Apparently
>>>not; the first OED exclamatory use is cited from the early 16th C.,
>>>well before the loss, even in the south of England.
>>In my own speech (and experience, I think) "whoa" (for the horse, etc.)
>>also has "w-" pronunciation rather than "wh-".
>there's certainly been at least one previous discussion of this, a
>while back, but whether it was on ADS-L, OutIL, or sci.lang, i don't
>"sincere" hw- users (like me and dennis) are, so far as i know, all
>variable in their use of hw- vs. w-, with the latter tending to appear
>in unaccented positions and in casual speech.  presumably, the w- in
>exclamatory "why" and in "whoa" represents a lexicalization of the
>casual speech variant -- or at least that's what i've been saying in
>classes since the 60s.  (one or both of them might even be in my '72
>paper "On Casual Speech".  but i don't think the observation was
>particularly novel even then.)
>arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)

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