ice cream parlers (was: CONtract/conTRACT)

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Thu Nov 1 13:50:16 UTC 2001

Bill Labov used to say theat Phildelphia was the northernmost outpost
of southern speech. Maybe he missed. Sorr larry that I missed who was
being "noed."

More seriosuly (although all that was pretty serious), I suspect that
so-called compound stress rules get confused with lexical item rules
(which, of course, are surely the source of compound rules in the
first place). On the other hand, one would expect a great deal of
variation there (although social variation, resulting from the
general stigmatization of southern speech, is also to be expected
even in single lexical items).

Throughout this discussion, although individual examples are welcome,
we seem to be missing a set of related facts:

1) Southerners seek to  move stress to "root" syllables, and root
syllable is easy to confuse with first syllable (when historical
morphology is not available to the ordinary native speaker).

2) When compounds show variation in stress assignment, southerners
will go for the first (putative root), hence the southernesss of ICE
cream (although I did not intend to suggest that it was exclusively

3) Other factors conspire in this search:

a. If the first syllable can be deleted (leaving a semantically
distinct form) to achieve root stress, do it (tater for potato, bout
for about, scuse for exscuse), a process by no means limited to
southern speech byt preferred there.

b. If two syllables can be merged (to produce stress on the "root"),
do so. Someone wrote in about CLUM-bus, Ohio [I never heard
CO-lumbus], a good example, although I have also heard CLUMPS. Note
how a number of interesting processes take the strange city name "New
ALbany" (with stress in the "wrong" place) and convert it to NAWB-ni
(stress where it blongs [please note "blongs"]) - nuAWLbuni -->
l-vocalization --> nuAWbuni --> weak syllable loss --> nuAWBni -->
vowel colescence (regressive assimilation) --> NAWBni (each reduced
form, by the way, is attested).

So, POlice and DEtroit and INsurance may all be interestring
citations, but there is a quite regular (and tricky) set of processes
going on here, ones often not seen as related


>At 6:54 PM -0500 10/31/01, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>Whatcha mean "No."? That's what I said. Southerners say ICE cream
>>(like all the other items in my list).
>Beverly was saying "no" to *me* (who had opined, based on his own
>non-southern initial stress pattern on "ICE cream", that everyone in
>this joint uses initial stress here, as opposed to your other exx),
>not to *you*, dInIs.  The point remains that "ICE cream", even if not
>the universal U.S. stress pattern, is a lot more general than
>"CE-ment" or "UM-brella" (or my nominee, PO-lice), all of which may
>(for all I know) be truly Southernisms.  I guess New Yorkers are more
>southerners than northerners when it comes to ice cream, according to
>the diagnostics we're compiling.  Could it be the upper Midwesterners
>who are the outliers on this one?
>>>No, Northerners (like us Minnesotans) usually say ice-CREAM, except in the
>>>rhyme "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."  BTW, my
>>>diphthongs would all be centralized (or "Canadianized," if you prefer)--to
>>>/wedge y/--in the stressed pronoun and 'ice'.
>>>At 02:28 PM 10/31/01 +0800, you wrote:
>>>>At 1:51 PM -0500 10/31/01, Dennis R. Preston wrote:
>>>>>Many of us Southerners eschew fancy-pants Romance stress rules and go
>>>>>for a root (or even misunderstood as root) earlier syllable. I bet
>>>>>them good ol- CON-tract speakers are also
>>>>>and even
>>>>Isn't everyone (at least in this country) an ICE-cream speaker?  To
>>>>join CE-ment and UM-brella, you could trade in your ICE-cream for
>>>Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
>>>Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
>>>Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967
>>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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list