Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 31 23:03:28 UTC 2009

On Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 5:19 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu> wrote:
> Perhaps American pronunciation of "Afghanistan" is partly influenced by =
> our familiarity with "afghan" (type blanket/shawl/wrap).
> =20
> Gerald Cohen

(entering WAG territory) Or perhaps we see the difference between
/'aen_stae/ and /'aek_stae/.

Suppose we start with /'paekI,staen/ and /af'gaenI,staen/. The /ae/ in
the surrounding syllables in both words is low.  The coronal
consonants need the front of the tongue to be raised to contact or
friction, but the height of the back of the tongue isn't distinctive
for them, whereas the /k/ requires the back of the tongue to be raised
for contact.

For an unstressed vowel between two coronals, it might be reasonable
for the tongue to stray as little as possible from the approximate
position it needs for both the consonants. If the back of the tongue
stays low in "Afghanistan", minimizing movement, the vowel will be low
or mid, a schwa. But in "Pakistan" the back of the tongue has already
had to rise from its low position (for the first /ae/) to make contact
for the /k/; and from that shape, [I] is three-quarters of the way
toward /s/.

m a m

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

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