Donald M Lance lancedm at MISSOURI.EDU
Wed Dec 12 20:28:44 UTC 2001

The discussion is proceeding as if the variant under discussion is just a
vowel, but as DInIs points out, stress also appears to be a variable here.
It appears that in American English we tend not to have the lax vowel if
that syllable has secondary/tertiary stress. Or maybe it's strong syllable
versus weak syllable.  Anyway, this is probably a lexical rather than
phonological thing.  Are there any other disease names that manifest this
variation?  I can't think of any.

> From: "Dennis R. Preston" <preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU>
> Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Date: Wed, 12 Dec 2001 13:14:12 -0500
> Subject: Re: diabetes
> Ya'll should remember that some schwa-like sounds are more [I] like
> in southern speech. If one does not give some stress to the last
> syllable (permitting [i]), it's going to end up as a schwa; if that
> schwa is more /I/ like, some of y'all northerners might have been
> fooled. That is, it may simply be vowel reduction with regional
> quality variation.
> On the other hand, that variation may have led to "real" /I/
> pronunciations (although that would seem to require some degree of
> stress). (I just noticed I called the phoneme rather than the phone
> "real." Heaven help me!)
> Of course, "medical -itis" (the spelling only) may also play a role here.
> dInIs (who always notes the more [I]-like pronunciation of his last
> syllable, even when unstressed, the farther south he goes)
> PS: I'm just jerkin y'all around by putting the apostrophe in
> different places in ya'll. Y'all don't need to write in about it no
> more.
>> Alice:
>>> For what it's worth, I've seen the spelling "diabetis" fairly
>>> regularly from certain posters on the usenet diabetes support groups.
>>> I've never understood where this came from, as it's certainly not
>>> something I've noticed here in the northeast. One particular poster,
>>> who used to use this spelling *a lot* is a good enough writer that
>>> the "mis-spelling" really stood out. She's lived in Alaska most of
>>> her adult life, but, if I remember the autobiographical details she's
>>> posted correctly, she grew up in Michigan (I'm not sure where).
>> This gets weirder.  I've never seen the *spelling* "diabetis", just the
>> pronunciation.  But then, I may not be reading the right kind of literature.
>> Anne G
> --
> Dennis R. Preston
> Department of Linguistics and Languages
> Michigan State University
> East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA
> preston at pilot.msu.edu
> Office: (517)353-0740
> Fax: (517)432-2736

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