Dropping the aitch from "human"

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Tue Dec 19 02:21:21 UTC 2006

I second this division of /h/ + glide vs. plain /h/, and add an even
more widespread /h/-dropping phenomenon in the US, which/hj/ > /j/
seems to be related to phonetically: /hw/ > /w/ in wh- words, which
is common in a lot of areas.
/hj/  > /j/ is certainly common in Greater NY and New Jersey; it was
native to me (though living in other areas restored that /h/) across
the board.  The next sound is almost exclusively /u/--it'd be
interesting to see what that once fairly good-sized Norwegian
contingent in Brooklyn (yes, there was one) does with names like
Hjalmar or Hjordis, but for most New Yorker vernacular speakers Hugh
= you  and you have yoomin beinz and a sensa yooma.  I don't know
where else you get it.
        Otherwise, except for low-stress cases and in one-offs like herb,
honor, honest, /h/-dropping doesn't seem to appear in the US much.
I've heard theories that the large number of Scotch-Irish (/h/-ful)
who settled here helped preserve /h/ as they might have done with
postvocalic /r/.  Maybe you get /h/ dropping before a vowel among
Gullah speakers, as you do among Caribbean creole speakers?

Paul Johnston
On Dec 18, 2006, at 7:38 PM, Gordon, Matthew J. wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "Gordon, Matthew J." <GordonMJ at MISSOURI.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Dropping the aitch from "human"
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---------
> I think you need to differentiate h-dropping in 'human, humor,
> humid' =
> etc. from the others. In these cases you have consonant cluster =
> simplification /hj/ > /j/ which continues a long tradition in the =
> history of English. This flavor of h-dropping is associated with NY/
> NJ =
> but I can't find a citation for that. I checked Wells and found no =
> mention of it. I'm 99% sure that it's not mentioned in Labov's =
> Phonological Atlas.
> I've never heard of the more general h-dropping of the English type
> in =
> any American dialect.
> -Matt Gordon
> -----Original Message-----
> From: American Dialect Society on behalf of Grant Barrett
> Sent: Mon 12/18/2006 4:51 PM
> Subject:      Dropping the aitch from "human"
> =20
> Can anyone offer insight into or sources covering the regions of the
> US where "h" is likely to be dropped at the beginning of words in
> which the "h" is typically pronounced in other regions? The classic
> example is the word "human."
> I'm not interested in discussions of just "herb," but words like
> human, humor, humid, hunger, hoot, hootenanny, hooter, hook, hush,
> hungry, humble, hundred, hunk, hunker, happy, handle, hanky, hanker
> and any others where the "h" is, or seems, likely to disappear in
> specific parts of the country.
> Journal articles or book recommendations welcomed. I don't have
> access to Labov et al's Atlas, though page-pointers are welcomed.
> Thanks, in any case.
> Grant Barrett
> http://www.doubletongued.org/
> editor at doubletongued.org
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> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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