From "A Mannah of Speaking"

Alison Murie sagehen7470 at ATT.NET
Thu Sep 3 20:07:55 UTC 2009

On Sep 3, 2009, at 2:26 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      From "A Mannah of Speaking"
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> 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
Could it be that he is putting it on, rather like Bush with his
folksy, hard-to-pin-down dialect?  By tradition, we call a person,
half black/half white, "black," but we could, just as reasonably call
him/her "white."  The Prez seems to me not only white, but privileged,
to boot.  His black side hasn't got a lot to do with the generality of
black Americans whose families have lived "the American experience,"
good and bad, for up to four hundred years.
As for [ai], Roy M. Blount Jr., from Georgia, gives as the (sE)  vowel
sound of, e.g., "pie"  something closer to "at" than "ah."

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