the long vowels as monophthongs

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon May 5 01:13:19 UTC 2008

At 3:42 PM +0000 5/4/08, ronbutters at wrote:
>I have stopped reading Mr. Truespell's  postings, but if I remember
>correctly he argues (faced with obvious spwcrographic evidence)
>that the "long" vowels are "pure"--they are just always followed by
>That is, he is merely using a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of
>"diphthong" in which a "diphthong" must require back-to-front, or
>front-to-back, and/or low-to-high movement. Thus /iy/, /ow/, etc.
>are not "true" diphthongs, but /oy/, /aw/, and /ay/ are.

Au contraire; he has informed us over and over that /ay/--or "long
I", as he prefers to think of it--is a monophthong and/or a pure
vowel.  Why?  Because he "hears" it that way.

>Another way of looking at it is to say that diphthongs must be
>"phonemic," not phonetic.
>If I'm right about this, then this is only a trivial argument about
>terminology--everybody agrees about the underlying reality.
>Or truespel may even have a small point with respect to
>psychological reality, since the long-vowel offglides are (as Ben
>notes) unconscious for native speakers, whereas the "true"
>diphthongs are functional.

That may be a bit closer to the mark, but I think the fact that we
spell /ay/ as "i" (sometimes) is a major factor too.  Someone earlier
mentioned the comparison to flat-earthers who would point out that,
indeed, the earth looks flat to them; I don't think this is too far
off base.


>In many respects all this mirrors phonoogical-theoretical
>controversies from the 1950s concerning allophones, phonemes, and
>"psychological reality"--which all seemed pretty trivial by about
>Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM>
>Date:         Sat, 3 May 2008 19:46:49
>Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] the long vowels as monophthongs
>I don't follow all of his threads, but this seems to be the absolutely
>clearest example that he can be given of what a diphthong is.
>Because of the nature of English, native speakers are prone to hearing
>certain diphthongs as monophthongal (just as the "t" in prince and
>princess is nearly unrecognizable).
>I do hope that others will chime in on this as I think it has the best
>chance of getting through to him.
>If it doesn't, his e-mail doesn't just go on my kill list, I'll
>register it to my server for deletion so it's not even relayed to me. BB
>On May 3, 2008, at 7:11 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>>  Mr. Zurinskas has been peddling his wacko ideas for at least twenty
>>  years
>>  and is proud of his ignorance -- or, as I suppose he thinks of it, his
>>  refusal to compromise his God-given instinct by listening to anyone
>>  who
>>  knows anything about the subject. Nothing we say will sway such deep-
>>  rooted
>>  obtuseness. Save your breath, save your fingertips, save your
>>  electrons,
>>  time, and energy and put him on your kill list.
>>  Of course, that won't help if you get the digest version. That was
>>  my single
>>  most compelling reason for switching my subscription.
>>  Mark A. Mandel
>>  On Sat, May 3, 2008 at 8:57 PM, Benjamin Barrett
>>  <gogaku at>
>>  wrote:
>>>  Those are what are referred to as diphthongs. BB
>>>  On May 3, 2008, at 5:23 PM, Tom Zurinskas wrote:
>>>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>>>  -----------------------
>>>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>>>  Poster:       Tom Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM>
>>>>  Subject:      the long vowels as monophthongs
>>>>  The long vowels as one sound - monophthongs.  Go to the the link
>>>>  below.  I express the long vowels as I say them, and as I believe is
>>>>  the majority form in USA.  They are monophthongs to me.  Click on
>>>>  the play arrow twice to hear play.  If you can identify the phoneme
>>>>  in one sound, it's a monophthong.
>  >>
>The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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