/or/ distinctions and more

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Thu Apr 13 15:14:38 UTC 2000

As a Minnesotan also getting my kid language in the '40s, I never
distinguished 'horse' and 'hoarse' or 'morning' and 'mourning'.  The older
Atlas maps give me the impression that these were early New
England/Northern distinctions, but they clearly hadn't spread to the Upper
Midwest even by my parents' time (early 1900s); nor did we have the
'which/witch' distinction.  I also have the same variable 'soggy/slog'
system that Ron has (but I'm no longer variable on 'Chicago', though I may
have been as a child).

COT and CAUGHT are still distinct for me but variable in my Minnesota
nieces and categorically merged to COT in my great-nieces.  The fanning out
of the merger west of the Mississippi has now encompassed Minnesota (as
Labov's maps show), with the result that my brother, who has spent 40 of
his 65 years in Minneapolis, keeps our childhood distinctions, but, like
DInIs, has only the COT pronunciation in adult-acquired words.  But what
about 'sorry'?  It used to rhyme with 'sore' for me but doesn't now (except
in the idiom "a sorry mess"), though it still does (I think) for my
Minnesota family.  Come to think of it, it may now be [sari] for my brother
too.  Kid words which are also very high-frequency in adult discourse may
be more susceptible to change, I suspect--any thoughts on this?  A complex
picture indeed!

At 10:13 AM 4/13/00 -0400, you wrote:
>If a northeasterner's perspective is of interest, HORSE and HOARSE are
>homophones for me (and for most northeastern students in our dialects
>class) but COT and CAUGHT are sharply distinguished.  I suspect that the
>voiceless WH is on its way out--as a New Yorker, I never distinguished
>'which' and 'witch' except metalinguistically to disambiguate them--but it
>survives in pockets up here.  My wife, who grew up in Connecticut half a
>century ago, retains the distinction, but our kids, who are currently
>growing up in Connecticut, don't.

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