Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sun Jul 15 21:19:20 UTC 2001

It's suggestions like those at the bottom of this message which
caused (although I shudder to even remember it) one of the Monday
Night Football worthies (which I have forgotten, but am sure it
wasn't Howard - after his time) utter "How many times out does Dallas
have left?" Times out? Brothers-in-law? Get real. At least "correct'
was in scare quotes


>In a message dated 07/15/2001 12:46:29 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
>rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU writes:
>>  I need to check my Classical Nahuatl dictionary, but the stem
>>   "chil" occurs in the name for a small wild pepper found in Texas and
>>   Arizona (chiltepin in AZ). The noun suffix -tl/-tli, which is responsible
>>   for the -te in Spanish in borrowed words such as "chocolate" and "tomate",
>>   typically assimilates to -li after /l/.
>I have no disagreement so far.
>>So if the stem were "chil", one
>>   would expect, by assimilation, chil + tli --> chil-li.
>Phonetically plausible, orthographically impossible.  In Spanish single-l and
>double-l are considered two entirely different letters.  (The Spanish
>alphabet has 28 letters---it includes "ch", "ll", "n~" (that's n with a tilde
>over it), and "rr" which are not in the English alphabet, but excludes "k"
>and "w" which occur only in foreign words and names.)
>If a Spanish-speaker were to take "chil" + "tli" and drop the "t", s/he would
>"chil" + "li" = "chili"  with a single "l", since "chilli" would be
>pronounced differently from "chil + li".  "Chilli" is the equivalent of, in
>English, saying "a female chick becomes a hen and hence is called a chick+hen
>= chikhen, and therefore is pronunced with a guttural kh".
>>           Incidentally, I'm always amused by the English pluralization of
>>   "chile relleno" as "chile rellenos" (taking the whole as a unanalyzable
>>   term and pluralizing it at the end) rather than "chiles rellenos" as it
>>   would be in Spanish, with the adjective agreeing in number with the head
>>   noun.
>"Chile rellenos" is perfectly plausible for an English speaker who does not
>speak Spanish and is not an expert on Mexican cuisine.  In English there are
>several noun phrases beginning with "chile/chili" such as "chili powder",
>"chili pepper", and "Chile saltpeter" (sodium nitrate).  There could
>plausibly be a Spanish noun "relleno" for which "chile/chili" was the
>modifier, and hence "chile rellenos" makes sense.
>If you wish "plural amusements" in English, try to find how many native
>English speakers can produce the "correct" plural of
>    - postmaster-general
>    - brother-in-law
>                - Jim Landau

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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