Pronunciation of "death, dead"

Dennis R. Preston preston at PILOT.MSU.EDU
Mon Apr 28 11:33:10 UTC 2003


In NZ English all /E/ vowels (the vowel of "bet") raise to /I/ (the
vowel of "hit"), not just the ones before nasals, like in Standard
American English. It was cool to hear "Dennis" pronounced correctly
while I was there, but puzzling to hear someone ask if I was "riddy"
(i.e., "ready").

The /I/ is relatively tenser than ours and could leave you thinking
you heard an /iy/.


>Awhile back I accidentally happened to catch a segment of an animal
>program on TV while channel-surfing, and was surprised to hear the
>narrator, who sounded possibly like a New Zealander, pronounce both
>"death" and "dead" with /iy/, the vowel of "see". I hadn't heard this
>before, and wonder if anyone might be familiar with the program (which
>seemed to be a "regular" on the channel) or would know otherwise where
>this pronunciation is current. (It's not surprising in itself, given the
>fate of other "ea" words, and the alternation in "deaf", but I had not
>heard it before.)
>         Thanks,
>         Rudy

Dennis R. Preston
Professor of Linguistics
Department of Linguistics & Germanic, Slavic,
      Asian & African Languages
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824-1027
e-mail: preston at
phone: (517) 353-9290

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