Trivial note on pronunciation: forehead

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Sat Aug 8 14:57:02 UTC 2009

On Aug 7, 2009, at 9:00 PM, Paul Johnston wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Paul Johnston <paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Trivial note on pronunciation: forehead
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Tom:
> As in America, there are all kinds of articulatory settings
> ("default" or constant positions of the vocal tract), depending on
> dialect, both regional and social.  I don't think you can generalize
> as to which one is "more forward in the mouth", though there are
> tendeecies in the settings and the setting is just as much part of
> the dialect as the sound system is.  Many American accents use an
> "open jaw" setting--i. e. we tend to open our mouths fairly wide when
> we speak--most British ones don't have this setting (though I bet
> localized Southeast of England does).  Edinburgh Scots, the dialect I
> did a post-doc on, has a raised larynx, prominent dentalization and
> pharyngealization, and a protruded jaw setting.  You can actually see
> the latter in pictures, where Scots speakers seem to have a "Hapsburg
> lip".  Upscale speakers don't have this, but have close jaw instead
> and less pharyngealization.  If you are really interested in this (or
> if anyone here is) look at John Esling's sociolinguistic study of
> voice quality in Edinburgh, or the works of john Laver or, more
> recently, Jane Stuart-Smith.  The difficulty John ran into is to
> measure how much of a certain voice quality feature someone has  (and
> have phoneticians agree on the values), but modern technology might
> help this along.  The dialect component of voice quality might be a
> really big factor in setting constraints on directionality of sound
> change, in fact--the extreme velar setting of Liverpudlian English,
> for instance, might "help along" the change of /u/ and /o/ to [Iu~Y:]
> and [8u] (where [8] is an IPA backwards e, a high-mid central
> unrounded vowel) and block the alternative route to [Uu] and [Ou~^u],
> since these sounds require more effort to make with such a velarized
> background setting.
> I realize I'm waxing technical over something which is plainly folk
> linguistic, but I'm always interested in what anyone has to say about
> the dialectal component of voice quality anyplace, and its role in
> setting vowel shifting routes.
I've long been curious about the effect of, e.g., dialect on vocal
timbre. ISTM you are saying the articulatory settings would be
operative here.  I note that there is a common vocal timbre very often
heard in the speech of indigenous Americans, even though their native
languages may be different.  Do infants cry in a recognizably
different vocalization from one language group to another?  These are
obviously amateur questions, but I would be happy to have any light
shone on them.

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