Halloween pronunciation

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Sat Nov 3 12:39:00 UTC 2001

Yes, bet may become butt, but, as Penny Eckert shows, bet may also
become bat (especially among jocks as opposed to burnouts). Remember
too, however, that butt goes on to become bought (which has already
become bot- - first syllable of botulism, for example), and don't
forget that bit has dropped to bet, just in case you thought there
were any megers lurking in this whole mess. They ain't.

Note too, that when we say stuff like bat goes to bet, we are talking
about vowel onsets only. In this /ae/ raising business in particular
there seems to be an accompanying off-glide (centering) which also
helps in the avoidance of mergers.

Recent work (by Bartek Plichta at Michigan State) also suggests that
/ae/ raising may cqtegorically involve nasalization, a feature often
noted in cross-dialectal folk perception but little commented on in
technical work on these vowel shifts.

Post-vocalic /l/'s by the way, retard vowel tensing (or fronting),
and that would prevent the subsequent raising of any /ae/ which
lurked underlyingly in a Northerner's 'Halloween,' making the forms I
cited earlier ("helloween and hilloween) very unlikely, but not
impossible in the most advanced (and probably untreatable) cases.


>Dennis R. Preston:
>>Backwards you have it. In the NCVS the /ae/ vowel (of "cat") moves
>>forward and up (to the /e/ of "bet" or even to the height of the /I/
>>of "bit"). I hear Halloween around here (Lansing, MI) as "Helloween"
>>or even "Hillloween" all the time. They are all, however,
>>underlyingly /ae/ pronunciations.
>Yes. Dennis is right. Bat becomes bet and bet becomes butt, with further
>horrors yet undocumented. But I may be wrong (do correct me!).
>As for Halloween. As one of the last living members of the
>I-learned-my-religion-with-the-KJV, I think, as a child, I would have
>wondered about 'hollowed by thy name' (a la 'Gladly' thy cross-eyed bear',
>i.e. your cross-eyed bear named 'Gladly'). I do remember being taught early
>that it was All-Hallow's-Eve.
>'Hallow' is probably an obsolete word in current English. Most
>post-Christian neo-pagan Americans are not into 'be made holy, be
>sancitified' language.
>Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp

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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