often / sophomore (was: Pronuncations)

Doug Harris cats22 at STNY.RR.COM
Thu Jan 15 19:35:34 UTC 2009

I associate that (often with the 't' sound) pronunciation with what I think of
as a 'soft' southern 'North Carolina accent'. One distinctive feature, to my
ear, is the treatment of 't' within words such as 'temperature', 'important'
and, yes, 'often'.
Could this feature be a carryover, like some Appalachian speech patterns,
of the earlier form of English that was spoken in those areas when they
were first settled by Europeans?

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----- Original message ----------------------------------------
From: "Damien Hall" <djh514 at YORK.AC.UK>
Received: 1/15/2009 1:52:01 PM
Subject: often / sophomore (was: Pronuncations)

>A couple of responses to Robert Lawless' earlier questions about _often_
>and _sophomore_, which I posted here:

>>From Chad Nilep:

>There is variation in the pronunciation of 'often', but I'm not aware of
>arguments that this is age-related. Some suggest the t-full version is an
>Americanism, other that it is a Briticism, but both variants seem to exist
>in the USA, Scotland and Ireland (not sure about England nor other
>Anglophone countries).

>(On the other hand, it appears to be age linked in the Lawless household.
>Personally, I think my own pronunciation varies, but recollection for such
>things is notoriously unreliable.)

>The variation seems to go quite far back in history. The American Heritage
>Book of English Usage (1996) suggests that the /t/ was lost in the 15th
>century, but that "Because of the influence of spelling," often "is now
>commonly pronounced with the t." http://www.bartleby.com/64/C007/0141.html
>That would, as Robert suggests, make the t-full version a spelling

>In contrast, though, Oxford English Dictionary notes, "Several orthoepists
>of the 16th and 17th centuries, including Hart, Bullokar, Robinson, Gil,
>and Hodges, give a pronunciation with medial -t-. Others, including Coles,
>Young, Strong, and Brown, record a pronunciation without -t-, which,
>despite its use in the 16th cent. by Elizabeth I, seems to have been
>avoided by careful speakers in the 17th cent." OED goes on to note that
>twentieth century usage guides, including Modern English Usage (Fowler
>1926) call pronunciation with /t/ a hypercorrection.

>I note, too, that OED lists spellings with and without <t> going all the
>way back to Middle English. The first spelling OED lists is <offen> (dated
>simply "ME" Middle English), but their earliest literary citation (dated
>1325) spells it <often>. Etymologically, it is thought to derive from 'oft'
>(which appears unchanged since Old English), with the final syllable
>probably added by analogy to 'seldom' (also Old English; earliest spelling
>in OED <seldun>, c897).

>Chad D. Nilep
>University of Colorado at Boulder


>>From Alex King:

>I am not sure if this is generational so much as regional, although
>change happens, of course. I don't pronounce the t in often or the
>middle o in sophomore. I am from western WA state, born 1968. I first
>encountered the ofTen pronunciation while living in Virginia. A fellow
>grad student, about my age but from Baltimore, consistently said
>ofTen. Struck me as weird, but I was getting a lot of weird-sounding
>accents at the time, so I didn't think that much of it. I hear it a
>lot in Scotland, too, even BBC radio Scotland.

>Quick quiz of two Canadians on my hallway (both from Edmonton, both
>mid-40s) one says 'ofTen' (but slightly voiced, unaspirated) and the
>other says 'offen'. Jokes about north vs. south Edmonton ensued. The
>'ofTen' Canadian lives with a Scot, for what that is worth.

>I have never been aware of 3-syllable sophomore, and that
>pronunciation has always been a joke in my circle of family/friends of
>general NWC provenance, but including parents born 1940. I must
>confess that it sounds stupid (writing as a native, no offense meant!).


>Any more replies, still to Robert Lawless (<robert.lawless at WICHITA.EDU>) as
>well as here.


>Damien Hall

>University of York
>Department of Language and Linguistic Science
>York YO10 5DD

>Tel. (office) 01904 432665
>     (mobile) 0771 853 5634
>Fax  01904 432673

>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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