Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at
Mon Mar 21 14:40:15 UTC 2011

While I've been reluctant to get into this flurry, I have to share two small points. 
First, it never occurred to me that 'rooster' was related to 'roost', because it never occurred to me that 'roosters' 'roost'. I don't know where or how male chickens sleep, but I'd always thought it was the females that 'roosted'. 'Rooster' is therefore, to me, quite different from 'baker', 'singer', 'liar', because the semantics is completely opaque. 

In response to Jo, I think the syllabification your students come up with is correct--both the Maximum Onset Principle and the fact that primary stress attracts consonants would lead to roo.ster, which I think is how English syllabifies. Else we would have an aspirated [t], which we don't--at least in my dialect it's typical voiceless unaspirated (as in 'stir') (i.e. VOT between 0 and 40 ms. for the three I just said). 

Geoffrey S. Nathan 
Faculty Liaison, C&IT 
and Professor, Linguistics Program 
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT) 
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics) 

----- Original Message -----

From: "Angus B. Grieve-Smith" <grvsmth at> 
To: funknet at 
Sent: Sunday, March 20, 2011 8:41:38 PM 
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] Versatility? 

Aya, I've been thinking about your "rooster" example. I think one 
important factor is that the noun "rooster" has become much more 
frequent than the verb "roost." As English-speaking societies have 
become less and less agricultural, we see roosters a lot less 
frequently, our opportunities to see them roosting dwindle, and thus 
roosting has become less significant as a characteristic of roosters. 
In contrast, I think that most English speakers would be able to tell 
you why a particular kind of bird is called a "roaster." 

Other derived words that have similarly outpaced their roots, like 
"computer," and we'd expect them to be treated similarly. 

-Angus B. Grieve-Smith 
grvsmth at 

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