From "A Mannah of Speaking"

Geoffrey Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Thu Sep 3 19:29:15 UTC 2009

The standard description of this vowel (i.e. the one that is the result of what I believe is called 'Southern Smoothing' (not to be confused with Southern Smoothies, which are different, but tastier) is Cardinal Vowel no. 4, i.e. the one that has the shape a,  the standard printed letter.  Most non-southern Americans have a more central vowel in words like 'ah'.
On the other hand, it's quite close to the vowel in Northern Cities versions of the formerly back vowel that used to be 'short-o'.
Damn, I wish we had easier access to IPA, but html makes the ADS-L server throw up.


Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

----- "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM> wrote:

> From: "Wilson Gray" <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, September 3, 2009 2:26:32 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
> Subject: From "A Mannah of Speaking"
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      From "A Mannah of Speaking"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> An exercise in dialectological inanity that, as it progresses,
> descends to the level of utter nonsense in its clumsy attempts in
> eye-phonetics. I'm not sure how many dialects other than
> (primarily-Northern) BE use "a mannah _of_ speaking," but, in rural
> BE, in Boston, in the UK, etc., it's "a mannah _r-of_ speaking." The
> writer goes on to note that the Boston /a/ is "broadly" pronounced.
> What does "broadly" mean in that context?
> One of the things that has bothered me for dekkids is the exact
> description of the sound that replaces the /ai/ of Northern English
> in
> BE and other Southern Englishes. I ran across a claim somewhere that
> the sound is merely /ai/ minus the /i/, yielding the sound spelled
> "ah" in eye-phonetics. I admit that that this is surely true of some
> speakers, both black and white. I've heard perhaps five such speakers
> in my entire life. Not that that's supposed to mean anything, since,
> clearly, the total number of people that I've heard to speak *any*
> variety of English is vanishingly small, compared to the total number
> of (native) speakers of the language. But, it's not true of my speech
> and not true of that of my family and my friends, not true random
> people that I overhear in the pubic way, random blues singers,
> blue-grass singers, R&B singers, C&W singers, "Deacon" Andy Griffith,
> Dave Chappelle, etc., etc., etc.
> If it's not clear to which pronunciation of the "i" sound it is to
> which I refer, go to YouTube and listen to The Parliaments, who have
> now evolve into P-Funk, sing Testify, their original R&B hit from
> 1967, which begins:
> *I*
> Jus' wanna
> Testi-
> *Fy*
> It should be obvious to anyone with ears that they do *not* say "[a]"
> and "testif[a]." For those tempted to suggest that the sound is [&] -
> I agree entirely that it's some kind of front vowel quite close to
> [&]
> - e.g. "cat" and "kite" are as distinct as they are in standard
> English. Not really a knock-down minimal pair, since the vowel of BE
> "kite" is at least as long as the diphthong of sE "kite," so that it
> could be argued that listeners use that length alone to distinguish
> the one word from the other in citation-pronunciation. But work with
> me, here, people. Nobody's tenure hangs on this. Nothing beats a try
> but a failure, right?
> FWIW, I'm surprised that the Prez sounds as black as he does. I had
> expected that he would have less "black voice" and would sound more
> like, say, General Powell or, well, like your humble correspondent,
> when the latter is not getting down with the colored people.
> -Wilson
> ���
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -----
> -Mark Twain
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