Minstrel's Dialect

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 12 01:59:11 UTC 2003

At 1:31 PM -0600 11/11/03, Matthew Gordon wrote:
>As an explanation for "yeller" "feller" (also "winder" and "holler"),
>spelling pronunciation seems unlikely to me, considering the forms are
>traditionally associated with the rural Upper South/ South Midlands -
>not exactly the literacy capital of America. Of course, I mean no offense.

You're probably right--as I acknowledged (below), this was a guess on
my part, although the change from [o] to [@r] still seems a bit to me
if unmediated by any reanalysis.

>A clearer case is the common r-ful rendering of Joel Chandler Harris's
>characters Brer Rabbit et al. It seems clear that Harris intended to
>represent a schwa here; i.e. "Bruh".
>Is the common (in American English) r-ful pronunciation of the Korean
>name "Park" related as well? Isn't the name r-less with a central or
>back vowel as "park" would be in Std. British English?

I've always assumed so; compare also the intended (motivated)
pronunciation of "Eeyore", the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh stories,
originally intended for an r-less readership.


>Laurence Horn wrote:
>>That's my guess too--much like the pronunciation of "Ye olde sweete
>>shoppe" with the determiner pronounced as if it were the second
>>person pronoun, although in that case it's because of unfamiliarity
>>with the archaic spelling of the dental fricative, or (I assume) the
>>r-ful pronunciation of "yeller" (for the color), "feller", etc.,
>>which (as I understand, although I could be wrong) were originally
>>designed to represent a schwa here for r-less dialects but now are
>>widely pronounced like the agentive ending (= 'one who yells', etc.)

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