/l/ vocalization

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Thu Mar 20 10:28:14 UTC 2008


I've always taken these to be hypercorrections by those of us who
vocalilze our postvocallic /l/s. They were very common pronunciations
in my parts of the South Midlands (Southern IL & IN, and Northern and
Western KY among older working class speakers, white and black.
I don't want to be picky (although my wife says I am enormously so
when it comes to phonetic detail), but I think one would have to note
a rounding of the schwas you show as the centering glide in such
examples as "film" and "elm" for many speakers, but perhaps not all.
I think I say something more like [EUm], and I bet that rounding (or
its loss) is connected to low-level social differences in many speech

Loss of rounding does not imply deletion however. Notice how the
[hE at p] or [hEUp] versus [hEp] pronunciations are strongly socially
stratified in most South Midland and Southern areas where
vocalization is the norm even among the highest status speakers. It
makes me chuckle to remember that I thought [hEp] speakers were
hillbillies and shitkickers when I left Louisville for the snotty
heights of Madison WI to do my PhD in the early 60's. Turned out I
was one too!


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      Re: Baby Mama Spawns a Movie
>The only person that I've ever met who used things like "fillim" and
>"ellem" in his normal speech was my late stepfather, a native of Saint
>Louis of mixed African-American and European-American Arkansan
>The expected BE pronunciations are "fi'm" [fI at m] and "e'm" [E at m],
>though the blues phrase, "deep Ellum," implies that such was not
>always the case.
>On 3/19/08, Doug Harris <cats22 at frontiernet.net> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>   Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>   Poster:       Doug Harris <cats22 at FRONTIERNET.NET>
>>   Subject:      Baby Mama Spawns a Movie
>>   The phrase, not the baby mama per se.
>>   'Baby Mama' is the title of an upcoming
>>   filim starring Tiny Fey, according to
>>   Parade magazine. The premise: A single
>>   woman, desperate to conceive, engages a
>>   surrogate 'baby mama'.
>>   Somewhat ironically, both the aspiring
>>   mom and the surrogate are Caucasian.
>>   dh
>>   ps: is the 'filim' pronunciation peculiar
>>   to a particular geography?
>>   ------------------------------------------------------------
>>   The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>                                               -Sam'l Clemens
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list