Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Sat May 19 01:17:48 UTC 2007

James Harbeck wrote:
>> On a Seinfeld episode from 1995, Michael Richards is talking about hockey
>> tickets and he pronounces the sport as "hawk-y." Has anyone ever noticed
>> this pronunciation of this word or similarly constructed words? IMDB
>> lists
>> him as originating from Los Angeles, for what that's worth.
> This surely betrays my Canadian phonemic stuntedness (we don't have a
> separate phoneme for the open o, meaning "caught" and "cot" are
> phonemically identical in CanEng), but can you give more detail on
> how Richards pronounces it and how you would pronounce it? In Canada,
> generally (I don't want to rule out a few regional variations, but
> for the most part CanEng is pretty homogeneous), the first three
> phonemes of "hockey" are identical with "hawk". So, because I wasn't
> paying attention to this detail when I lived in the US (and I try not
> to watch TV shows where they talk about hockey), I'm not sure which
> of the two words has which sound for you...

For those of us who distinguish COT from CAUGHT, HOCKEY would typically
be in the COT class, with a low central unrounded vowel (except for
advanced Northern Cities speakers, who might have a rather fronted
vowel). Without recalling the specific Seinfeld episode, I suspect that
Richards used a backish, perhaps somewhat rounded vowel. However, if his
native speech lacks a contrast, it's likely that his native vowel (in
both HOCKEY and HAWK) is closer to the low central unrounded vowel
(unless he's really from Boston!), and that the rounded vowel represents
an imperfect attempt to produce the contrast.

Alice Faber
faber at
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