Man & male

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Tue Apr 8 16:13:48 UTC 2008

Thank you, Randy--I'm sorry in misidentifying you--yes, your pattern
matches that of most of my students at Western Michigan.  It sounded
like you were saying there was a complete merger in all situations,
but obviously it isn't. (Some Midwestern speakers might have a
triphthong in  male by the way--my wife's name is Gail, and for my
Northern Ohio-born nieces, she's [e at nti gei at l].) We could debate the
idea of what the underlying form is in these two words, but your
points are taken.

Lexical transfer is a historical process of partial merger, where
some items that originally belonged to one sound class (phoneme) are
put into another one by sound change.  Your case is a classic one
which involves phonological conditioning, both in the raising of ash
and the diphthongization pre-/l/ resulting in the same vowel.  It can
also happen on a purely one-off, idiosyncratic basis, usually due to
dialect contact or a sound change that didn't quite go to completion
or is just beginning.  That's what produces my New Jersey vowel in
dog= [do at g], as opposed to hog, fog, frog, log, cog, (egg)nog, all
with [A~A@], i. e. the COT vowel, not the CAUGHT vowel, which dog
has.  Dog has been transferred to CAUGHT.  My terminology comes from
my training in Scots, among people like Jack Aitken or David

On Apr 8, 2008, at 10:51 AM, LanDi Liu wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       LanDi Liu <strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Man & male
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 12:26 AM, Paul Johnston
> <paul.johnston at>
> wrote:
>> Hold it, with man and male.  It is true there are dialects out there
>> with [eI] for both--Muddy Waters's AAVE, for instance  (Listen to
>> either "I'm a Man" or "Hoochie Coochie Man", both [meI~(n)]).  But
>> most dialects with "tensed ash" have an INgliding diphthong starting
>> with something in the [e~I~E] range, or maybe, in the South, a
>> triphthong made up of an upgliding diphthong plus schwa; male, on the
>> other hand, has an UPgliding diphthong.  I can conceive of some
>> Southern dialects having [aeI@] for both, with the /l/ of male
>> generating a schwa before it (though I think of this as a Northern
>> feature)/  There are also dialects with [E] in male (the gel=jail
>> merger of the Midlands produces this).  Michael, do you really merge
>> the two under one of these realizations?
>> That wasn't Michael that said it, it was me (Randy).  When I say /
>> ei/ +
> /l/, it comes out [e at l] if it is in the same syllable.  If it is
> not in the
> same syllable, then it comes out [ei.l], as in "playland".  I
> believe this
> to be a feature of midwestern English.  With the ash-tensing in
> "man", I
> pronounce it [me at n].  Both are the same centering diphthong.
> Incidentally, if I say "eel" slowly, and completing the /l/ by
> touching the
> tongue tip to the alveolus, I get a centering diphthong [i@] before
> the /l/.
>> The way I was trained, a diphthong acts like a unit phonemically, but
>> has a V1 and a V2 (first and second element) that are not identical.
>> If V1=V2, you have a long vowel.  And, yes, I realize that the
>> description in  this way is something of an idealization anyway,
>> since in real speech, segments shade into each other.   A diphthong
>> ending in schwa  (or anything non-high and not likely to be analyzed
>> as a glide) is just as much of a diphthong as any other one.
> I agree, although there are those who think that centering
> diphthongs are
> not "true" diphthongs.
>> This is a side point.  If the vowel in man=male for you, this is
>> probably another case of phonemic neutralization, which different
>> schools of phonologists would treat differently.  Generative
>> phonologists might well analyze it as you do.  Others might posit
>> archiphonemes, which is something like Tom Zurinskas seems to do,
>> probably without realizing it.  Others might posit lexical transfer,
>> depending on what the surface realization is.  I doubt it is a case
>> of total merger, since to my knowledge, no English dialects merge the
>> WHOLE CAT class with the whole MATE/BAIT class.  But it's a debatable
>> point in phonology anyway.
> The generative phonology point of view sounds close to how I'm
> looking at
> it.  I have no idea what you mean by lexical transfer in this
> case.  It's
> definitely not a whole merger of one phoneme class into another.
> Randy
>> On Apr 5, 2008, at 11:04 PM, LanDi Liu wrote:
>>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> -----------------------
>>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Poster:       LanDi Liu <strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM>
>>> Subject:      Re: yahoo
>>> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>>> --
>>> ---------
>>> On Sun, Apr 6, 2008 at 6:29 AM, Michael Covarrubias
>>> <mcovarru at>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Scot LaFaive wrote:
>>>>> Essentially, phonemes are
>>>>> in your head and allophones are the actual production of
>>>>> phonemes in
>>>>> specific environments. I don't know of any other definitions for
>>>>> phoneme and allophone that phonologists use, so I'm not sure what
>>>>> you
>>>>> mean by "search engines give several definitions." I think I'll go
>>>>> with what phonologists mean by phoneme and allophone instead of
>>>>> Google
>>>>> and Yahoo.
>>>>> Scot
>>>> Something "in your head" isn't much of a definition. Phonologists
>>>> probably have more definitions of phoneme than Google and Yahoo
>>>> combined.
>>>> michael
>>>> Why not?  It's just a less technical way to say that phonemes are
>>> perceptual.  Allophones are the way that phonemes are physically
>>> expressed.
>>> A tapped /t/, an aspirated /t/, and an unaspirated /t/ are all the
>>> same
>>> phoneme, /t/, but are different allophones.  /t/, however, is a
>>> very clean
>>> example.  When you get into vowels, especially diphthongs, it gets
>>> tricky,
>>> and murky.  For example, some of you may think Mary, marry, and
>>> merry have
>>> different phonemes, but they're all the same for people like me who
>>> have
>>> merged them.
>>> And if you're American, you probably say "man" and "male" with the
>>> same
>>> vowel sound -- "man" with a tensed ash, and "male" the same way,
>>> but you
>>> also probably consider "man" to have a short a sound, and "male" to
>>> have a
>>> long a sound.  If you say them that way (and I do), you are using
>>> the same
>>> sound in two different phonemes.
>>> When defining an accent one must make some arbitrary decisions
>>> about what
>>> constitutes a phoneme in that accent, and what constitute
>>> allophones in each
>>> phoneme.  Usually we try to apply an objective rule to this
>>> process, like
>>> the idea that changing phonemes affects meaning, but changing
>>> allophones
>>> doesn't, but this is not always cut and dry.
>>> --
>>> Randy Alexander
>>> Jilin City, China
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society -
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society -
> --
> Randy Alexander
> Jilin City, China
> --
> Randy Alexander
> Jilin City, China
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

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