Distinguishing THING and THINK / ____ COMING

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue May 27 14:27:54 UTC 2008

Well, if my memory is correct, there is often a subtle pronunciation difference, Arnold. In "thing coming," the "ng" is usually fully articulated. But in "think coming," the velar nasal is often reduced to nasalization of the vowel in "think" (or at best devoiced). Still close enough to be confused, given that the semantic cues are so weak. But given the meaning of "another" and the fact that "think" is already in the sentence, it is easy to see why people would conclude that the speaker had said "think"--especially if she did.

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-----Original Message-----
From: "Arnold M. Zwicky" <zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU>

Date:         Tue, 27 May 2008 06:46:04
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] ADS-L Digest - 25 May 2008 to 26 May 2008 (#2008-148)

On May 26, 2008, at 9:45 PM, Rosemary wrote:

> On May 24, 2008, at 7:01 AM, Larry Horn wrote:
>> At 1:53 AM -0400  5/24/08, Your Name wrote:
>>> 1919 _Syracuse (N.Y.) Herald_ 12 Aug. 8/3  If you think the life
>>> of  a
>>> movie star is all sunshine and  flowers you've got another  thing
>>> coming.
>>> I grew up in Syracuse, NY; and the newspaper  there never got
>>> *anything*
>>> right!
>>> Actually, right there in Syracuse and environs, I  often heard,
>>> "You've got
>>> another think coming."  I  never once heard
>> My only question is how could you tell (for the  spoken version)? The
>> vector for reanalysis would be that precise  construction, which
>> could
>> be heard either way.  Newspaper  renderings would be another story,
>> of
>> course.
> How I could tell what I was hearing is: the last sound in "think"
> coincides
> with the first sound in "coming."  So people ran the two together.
> It  was
> the type of sentence one tended to speak emphatically, making it
> even  clearer
> that they were using the same sound.
> If someone said "thing" followed by "coming," I would have heard two
> separate sounds: G then K.

first: i doubt very much that you pronounce a [g] in "thing".  the
word almost surely ends with a [N] (a velar nasal, the sound that
precedes the [k] in "think" when it is spoken in isolation) in your
speech.  the G is a feature of spelling, not pronunciation.

more important: "think coming" and "thing coming" are pronounced
identically (or nearly so) most of the time in connected speech.
please read mark liberman's Language Log discussion, including his
replies to comments.

people's perceptions that they *hear* "think coming" or "thing coming"
are projections from the way they have stored the idiom mentally.
that is, people who think the idiom is "think coming" will interpret
what they hear as having "think", while people who think the idiom is
"thing coming"  will interpret the very same production as having


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

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

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