Wilson Gray wilson.gray at RCN.COM
Fri Jan 21 23:07:04 UTC 2005

On Jan 21, 2005, at 6:20 AM, Dennis R. Preston wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at MSU.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Idea/ideal
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> Is it any surprise that /l/ would behave like /r/ in English? There
> is not only the perceptual/articulatory fuzziness which
> introduces/deletes a final /l/, there is also a historical
> background. In the West of English, centered perhaps on Bristol,
> /l/-vocalization is common. The city name itself is pronounced
> "Bristow." This /l/ vocalization (or outright loss in some cases) is
> also very common in the American South (including the South
> Midlands). Where I grew up, the vocalizers (Kin Ah hewp yu) made fun
> of the deleters (Kin Ah hep yu); boy was it a wakekup call to us when
> we went a little farther North and found out that the vocalizing got
> lumped together with the deleting so that we were all classified as
> SKs.
> I digress into perception; my bad.
> So some teachers and others defenders of the tongue went around in
> Bristol telling people that the city had an /l/ in final position,
> whuppin chillun somethin awful till they said it. Don't take smart
> kids long to figger out that if they start puttin /l/s in after final
> vowels, they will risk their butts less.  So, of course, they started
> saying "Bristol," but they also started saying "ideal," "sofal,"
> "sodal," and lots of other treasures of the tongue.

Hm. I reckon that the kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol even when
they're not doing the "Bristol stomp."

-Wilson Gray

> Now I don't want to claim that hypercorrection is the only source of
> "Bristol L" (as this phenomenon is known amongst us dialectologists).
> Once an indeterminate pronunciation is in the air as regards the
> treatment of these final vowel words, whether a child learns the
> lexical item "idea" as "idea" or "ideal" is up for grabs.
> Note, for example, how, without teacher supervision, the linking /r/
> of "pizzar and beer" has caused some learners to reanalyze the
> underlying form of the first word as "pizzar," in spite of general
> phonotactic constraints is the local dialect.
> The hypercorrection story is similar to one of the accounts of the
> Cincinnati, Missouri pronunciations with final schwa. Since some of
> us old-timey SKs say "sodi" and "sofi" (for "soda" and "sofa"), we
> got whacked just like them little Pistols from Bristol, and started
> eschewing all final schwas; oncet you do that, hit's easy to get
> Cincinnat@ and Missour at . (I know there's other accounts of this,
> specially for the state name.)
> Course, it's obvious that little poopers who have made one rather
> than another analysis of the phonemic composition of a word during
> their growing up years will clearly constitute the class known as the
> ignorant in adulthood. We all know that.
> dInIs
>>        Original message from Jonathan Lighter, Jan. 20, 2005, 7:09
>> p.m.:
>>         [...] The students I'm thinking of even *said* "ideal" for
>> "idea." Anybody else notice this?
>> ********
>> Yes, In past years I was active in two community groups (Rolla,
>> Missouri),
>> and the leaders of both groups would sometimes say that they were
>> looking for "good ideals" or "new ideals"  (ideas) from the members.
>> That and "liberry" (library) stick in my mind.
>> Gerald Cohen
> --
> Dennis R. Preston
> University Distinguished Professor of Linguistics
> Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian, and African
> Languages
> A-740 Wells Hall
> Michigan State University
> East Lansing, MI 48824
> Phone: (517) 432-3099
> Fax: (517) 432-2736
> preston at

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