Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Dec 3 21:34:15 UTC 2001

What's normal about an [e] (lax midfront) before a nasal? Surely the
normal pronunciation is [d at fInd@nt]. Just because there are more
abnormal than normal people in the world shouldn't deter those of us
who know we are normal.


>I first encountered this as a juror at the Essex County Court in Newark,
>New Jersey.  The judge not only pronounced the final syllable with an
>unreduced [ae], he gave it strong primary stress: "the dee-fen-DANT."  I'm
>sure not only the judge used this pronunciation, but I can't say for sure
>that EVERYBODY connected with the court used it.  This was certainly not
>the everyday local pronunciation outside of court, and I strongly suspect
>that even the judge would have slipped into the "normal" [di'fend at nt]
>pronunciation outside of working hours.
>--On Monday, December 3, 2001 1:53 PM +0800 Laurence Horn
><laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
>>At 1:38 PM -0500 12/3/01, Benjamin Fortson wrote:
>>>A semi-related question: does anybody know anything about the
>>>pronunciation of "defendant" with fully-realized ash (rather than schwa)
>>>in the last syllable? I get the impression it's a Northeast (NYC?)
>>>lawyer/police-speak feature, presumably a spelling-pronunciation in
>>>origin. I only heard it for the first time a couple of years ago in
>>>"Night Falls on Manhattan" (1997), but I'm guessing it's probably been
>>>around a while. Is it limited to law-enforcement authorities and legal
>>>professionals in certain regions, or...?
>>>Ben Fortson
>>I've noticed that unreduced vowel on TV court shows too, e.g. A&E's
>>100 Centre Street.  It's as if the attorneys and judges want to make
>>sure the court reporter gets the spelling right.
>                               Peter A. McGraw
>                   Linfield College   *   McMinnville, OR
>                            pmcgraw at

Dennis R. Preston
Department of Linguistics and Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
preston at
Office: (517)353-0740
Fax: (517)432-2736

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