cannot: OED pronunciation

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Wed Jan 19 14:06:06 UTC 2005

From:    Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU>
: On Tue, 18 Jan 2005 09:32:08 -0500, David Bowie wrote:


:: I was in a graduate seminar once where the professor said that only
:: speakers of NYC English phonetically distinguish the two verbs 'can'
:: and 'can'. I said i (from Maryland, south of DC) make such a
:: distinction, and said professor responded that i didn't (by definition,
:: i suppose), and that i was merely forcing the distinction i'd just
:: demonstrated.

:: Not the most glorious moment in the history of teaching about
:: American dialects, i'd say.

: Yep, your professor should have known that the "short a split"
: distinguishing lax "(I) can" from tense "(tin) can" characterizes not
: only New York City but also the Mid-Atlantic region encompassing
: Baltimore, Wilmington, and Philadelphia...

Even to the extent that it had never occurred to me before the incident i
mentioned that rhymes matching "(I) can" with ?an words (ban, man, tan, &c.)
could be *actual* rhymes, as opposed to laziness on the part of the poet.


: Hmm, based on Labov's maps the part of Maryland south of DC *is* a
: bit far south for inclusion in the Mid-Atlantic system.  Perhaps that
: region (or your idiolect) is influenced by Baltimore?  I also wonder how
: extensive your short-a split is beyond the nasal environment -- you might
: have grown up in a transitional region.

Actually, the LAB maps show Southern Maryland as a kind of a linguistic
no-man's-land, unassigned to any region. It's kind of fun being from a
nobody knows sort of place.

Anyway, it could be a transitional thing, maybe--but there really isn't any
Baltimore influence the speak of in the part of Southern Maryland i grew up
in (as opposed to Calvert County), unless it came indirectly from Annapolis.

Kurath & McDavid pool Southern Maryland in with the Virginia Piedmont
region. Given my experience with speakers from the Virginia side of the
Potomac, i think that's probably correct, though Northern norms seem to be
creeping into Southern Maryland (see, for example, my own work on the
disappearance of monophthongal /ai/ there)--though they may be creeping into
the rest of the Virgninia Piedmont, as well.


David Bowie                               
    Jeanne's Two Laws of Chocolate: If there is no chocolate in the
    house, there is too little; some must be purchased. If there is
    chocolate in the house, there is too much; it must be consumed.

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