metathesis defined? / hooked schwa status

Dfcoye at AOL.COM Dfcoye at AOL.COM
Fri Feb 4 22:07:43 UTC 2000

Responding to Ron Butters and Aaron...

<< Strictly speaking, I suppose that Coye is technically right about the
 relationship between syllabic [r] and [r] + schwa, even in words such as
 "bird", at least in "surface" structure. It is doubtless slightly stretching
 the term METATHESIS to cover this situation. However, it is such a small
 reach that it I am comfortable with it--as are all the standard textbooks on
 the history of English that I am familiar with--indeed they often give "bird"
 as a garden-variety example of metathesis.

I can't exactly remember the details from the past but I think the brid-bird
was something like /brId/ /bIrd/-  that is, historically, hooked schwa
(syllabic /r/) was not involved so I have no trouble with calling that
metathesis.  But isn't it the case that this performance-preformance change
is recent?  So if the word was already hooked schwa in the first syllable,
then /pr at -/ wouldn't be metathesis...

 In a message dated 2/3/2000 8:07:26 AM, aaron at LING.ED.AC.UK writes:

 << On Wed, 2 Feb 2000 Dfcoye at AOL.COM wrote:

 }Also metathesis does not really apply when
 }we're dealing with the hooked schwa in a word like 'performance' -
 }'preformance' in rhotic speech-- the first vowel is not schwa plus /r/.

 Isn't it?  Phonetically, it is clearly one sound, hence hooked schwa or
 alternatively syllabic r.  But is the second syllable of 'performance'
 also just one sound phonetically, a rhoticized O? At least it is for me,
 and I suspect for many other rhotic north Americans.  Yet, there would be
 no argument in transcribing the sequence as [Or] two sounds- or maybe even
 O plus hooked schwa. So why couldn't the first syllable be schwa+r and
 coalesce on the surface.  Or would you argue that hooked schwa is a single
 sound throughout the whole of the phonology?  Positing 'er' as two sounds
 somewhere certainly allows for the metathesis in the 'per/pre' prefixes,
 as well as in 'modren' and 'southren'. >>

"or" is either /or/ or as you say, /o/ plus hooked schwa- in other words a
diphthong for me (though I may just be locked into an old habit of thinking
that way about it). The idea of a "rhoticized o" is a new one for me.   The
hooked schwa for me, and I think for most rhotic Americans, is a monophthong
everywhere.  In "modern", in "mother", in "her".   In the NYC region
including North Jersey, these words are sometimes schwa plus /r/ or schwa
plus hooked schwa, I'm not aware of anywhere else that has this... maybe
someone else could tell us.

Dale Coye
The College of NJ

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