A nice Southernism . . .

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Sep 4 16:28:02 UTC 2008

At 12:04 PM -0400 9/4/08, sagehen wrote:
>on 9/4/08 10:22 AM, Laurence Horn at laurence.horn at YALE.EDU wrote:
>>  At 10:12 AM -0400 9/4/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>  Randy, Charlie is right WRT East-Texas English. If I were talking to
>>>  you, I'd say [wasp] and [b^lb], because I wouldn't want to sound
>>>  "colored," as it were. But, talking to Charlie, who's accustomed to
>>>  the various Southern styles of speech, I'd say [wOs, wOsiz] 'n' [b^:b,
>>>  bu^:bz]]. In the second case, both the loss of the /l/ and the
>>>  following voiced consonant cause lengthening of the /^/.
>>>  As fate would have it, I didn't hear [b^:b] used for the female breast
>>>  until I was a senior in high school. Since the speaker was also black,
>>>  I naturally assumed that he was saying "bulb," obviously a reasonable
>>>  slang term for a woman's breast.
>>>  Not until some forty years later, as I was browsing through HDAS, did
>>>  I discover that the term actually is "bub"! Nevertheless, I'd bet
>>>  money that, for a whole lot of people who live where the Spanish moss
>>>  hangs from the live-oak trees, the word is spelled "bulb."
>>>  As for the noun, "clothes," IMO, the correct pronunciation is [klowz],
>>>  falling together with the verb, "close." The pronunciation, [klowDz],
>>>  is that of the verb, "clothes," as in "a harlequin clothes himself in
>>>  motley."
>>  It may be worth noting that Wilson's last minimal pair, the reduced
>>  [klowz] for the (frequent) plural noun vs. the unreduced [klowDz] for
>>  the (rare) verb form, is extremely widespread in U. S. English,
>>  unlike the other, more regionally restricted reductions we've been
>>  discussing.  It's so general that it forms the background for one of
>>  my favorite examples of children's eggcorny back-formations, "a
>>  (nice,...) clo" (for 'an article of clothing').
>>  LH
>>>  On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 11:16 PM, LanDi Liu
>>><strangeguitars at gmail.com> 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: A nice Southernism . . .
>>>>  ---
>>>>  On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 12:11 AM,  <ronbutters at aol.com> wrote:
>>>>>  However, CONSONANT CLUSTER is a well known term in linguistics.
>>>>>  employed to name the rule that describes the phenomenon in English
>>>>>  whereby a word-final consonant is variably deleted iff it is alike
>>>>>  in voicing with the consonant that immediately precedes it (i.e.,
>>>>>  both must be either voiced or not voiced) .
>>>>  You're saying that anytime you have this situation at the end of a word:
>>>>  {unvoiced consonant} + {unvoiced consonant}
>>>>  or
>>>>  {voiced consonant} + {voiced consonant}
>>>>  that the second consonant can be deleted?
>>>>  So (according to your rule) for the word "wasp", you can just say
>>>>  [was]?  And for "bulb", you can just say [b^l]?
>>>>  I'm pretty sure I've never heard anybody in any English dialect say
>>>>  either of those, or anything similar.  The final consonant cluster
>>>>  reduction rule that I'm aware of only affects [t] and [d], and it
>>>>  doesn't have much to do with voicing, but rather what kinds of
>>>>  consonants are next to the [t] or [d] in question.  It's not simple
>>>>  enough to make a one-sentence rule about; and the processes involved
>>>>  form a "process continuum" that ranges from speaking in citation forms
>>>>  to slurred and unintelligible speech.
>>>>  --
>>>>  Randy Alexander
>>>>  Jilin City, China
>>>>  My Manchu studies blog:
>>>>  http://www.bjshengr.com/manchu
>This discussion reminds me that I was wondering recently how widespread
>the pronunciation "comfterble" for comfortable is.  I'm sure it occurs thre
>or four times as often in my own speech as a more deliberate, spelling
>-conscious  one does.

That's the only way I ever say it (and the only way I'm aware of
hearing it, modulo non-rhoticity) in ordinary-register U.S. English,
unless it's used to mean 'capable of being comforted', which it
virtually never is.  But when I ask students to transcribe it (using
their own pronunciation), they tend to transcribe it as they spell it
rather than as they say it.  It's one of the more impressive examples
of metathesis in action.


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list