cannot: OED pronunciation again

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Jan 17 21:03:10 UTC 2005

At 2:06 PM -0500 1/17/05, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>Even in nonraisers, the nasal element in the stressed syllable would
>cause the vowel to be raised (or at least cause the perception of it
>to indicate raising, based on the nasal formant).

I'm not sure I follow--are you saying that all speakers distinguish
"Can it!" ('put it in a physical or metaphorical can') from "Can it"
(as a response to "It can get down to 50 below in Lansing") on the
basis of the first vowel's formants?  I was assuming that for many
raisers, only the lexical verb and not the modal will undergo
raising, or a high degree of raising.  Is this wrong?  And aren't
there non-raisers (e.g. in the U.K.) who would neutralize the
distinction between these expressions?  If so, would some of them
also merge "cannot" with these?  I'm not sure how "the nasal element
in the stressed syllable" would affect this, since they all have
such.  (And now that I think of it,it wouldn't be an American-style
script [a] that the non-schwa RP cannotters opt for in the secondary
stressed syllable, of course, but open [O].)


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