Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 31 14:55:21 UTC 2009

So, Tom, are you going to tell 100 million or so proud Southerners
that they have to start pronouncing final /r/ and that they can no
longer say /raad/ for "ride"?  Or will you perhaps tell Eastern New
Englanders to drop their intrusive /r/ and stop pahking cahs?  You
will, of course, require most of the population west of the
Mississippi to distinguish caught and cot.  There are those who would
legislate English as the official language of the US and the only
language to be used in matters of government.  You're taking this a
step farther.  You want an official dialect.  But where is your
evidence that dialect differences have caused disruption to civil
peace in this country?  Most of us are bidialectal, at least
receptively.  We understand with ease more than one dialect of English
and may even be able to speak more than one well.

Sound change is a fact of language and always has been.  No one has
ever been able to stop it.  Forcing a particular pronunciation works
in very specialized, narrow venues.  When my choir sings Latin
religious texts, I train them in the 18th c. Roman pronunciation that
is standard for Church Latin, unless we sing a setting by a German or
Finnish composer, in which case we use the pronunciations of Latin
that are standard in those traditions.  Even singing in English, I try
hard to get them not to use /r/ after a vowel because of what it does
to vocal resonance.  They let me get away with all this, but if I
tried to tell them they had to speak everyday English with choral
diction they'd probably find a new choir director.

Sound change has always gone on and always will.  We've been studying
it with some precision for about two centuries now.  Even the Northern
Cities Vowel Shift is probably more than a century old, so it was
going on long before whole language approaches to reading came on the
scene and beginning reading was taught with some variety of phonics.
Of course, I remember hearing a Southern Indiana teacher telling her
students that some people claimed that "pin" and "pen" were pronounced
differently but that we all knew that wasn't really so.


On Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 9:23 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: sumetary
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 6:54 AM +0000 3/31/09, Tom Zurinskas wrote:
>>Thanks, Herb, for that interesting clip in which Bill ~Lubbaaf talks
>>about the Great Lake Northern Cities Vowel Shift (for short vowels).
>>(I didn't see his last name spelled but I can spell it phonetically
>>in truespel).  He says that around the great lakes cities certain
>>vowels are changing.  This area contains cities such as Cleveland,
>>Detroit, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffaloe (about 34M people).  It used
>>to be the USA English standard pronunciation for media.  Some
>>examples are:
>>saying "block" the same as "black"
>>saying "buses" the same as "bosses"
>>Other short vowels are swapping too.  ~Lubbaaf says we are growing
>>apart linguistically even with massive media exposure.  To me this
>>is a bad thing.  It should be changed and can be changed.
>>I speculate that the main reason for this is that many schools have
>>dropped phonetic or phonic instruction for teaching reading and gone
>>with "whole language" or "whole word" approach.  This forbids
>>teaching the alphabetic principle that letters stand for sounds, so
>>kids are taught that they have to learn words visually, and thus
>>pronunciation is not linked to spelling and can vary capriciously.
>>Huge mistake.
> And of course we know from the findings of historical linguistics
> that there's a strong correlation between the presence or absence of
> phonic instruction and the likelihood of sound change...   ;-)
> LH
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