From NYTimes.com: "A Mannah of Speaking"
hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Sep 3 18:26:32 UTC 2009
An exercise in dialectological inanity that, as it progresses,
descends to the level of utter nonsense in its clumsy attempts in
eye-phonetics. I'm not sure how many dialects other than
(primarily-Northern) BE use "a mannah _of_ speaking," but, in rural
BE, in Boston, in the UK, etc., it's "a mannah _r-of_ speaking." The
writer goes on to note that the Boston /a/ is "broadly" pronounced.
What does "broadly" mean in that context?
One of the things that has bothered me for dekkids is the exact
description of the sound that replaces the /ai/ of Northern English in
BE and other Southern Englishes. I ran across a claim somewhere that
the sound is merely /ai/ minus the /i/, yielding the sound spelled
"ah" in eye-phonetics. I admit that that this is surely true of some
speakers, both black and white. I've heard perhaps five such speakers
in my entire life. Not that that's supposed to mean anything, since,
clearly, the total number of people that I've heard to speak *any*
variety of English is vanishingly small, compared to the total number
of (native) speakers of the language. But, it's not true of my speech
and not true of that of my family and my friends, not true random
people that I overhear in the pubic way, random blues singers,
blue-grass singers, R&B singers, C&W singers, "Deacon" Andy Griffith,
Dave Chappelle, etc., etc., etc.
If it's not clear to which pronunciation of the "i" sound it is to
which I refer, go to YouTube and listen to The Parliaments, who have
now evolve into P-Funk, sing Testify, their original R&B hit from
1967, which begins:
It should be obvious to anyone with ears that they do *not* say "[a]"
and "testif[a]." For those tempted to suggest that the sound is [&] -
I agree entirely that it's some kind of front vowel quite close to [&]
- e.g. "cat" and "kite" are as distinct as they are in standard
English. Not really a knock-down minimal pair, since the vowel of BE
"kite" is at least as long as the diphthong of sE "kite," so that it
could be argued that listeners use that length alone to distinguish
the one word from the other in citation-pronunciation. But work with
me, here, people. Nobody's tenure hangs on this. Nothing beats a try
but a failure, right?
FWIW, I'm surprised that the Prez sounds as black as he does. I had
expected that he would have less "black voice" and would sound more
like, say, General Powell or, well, like your humble correspondent,
when the latter is not getting down with the colored people.
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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