Deltas 802

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Mon Apr 26 21:50:21 UTC 2010

I think it is correct that a glottal stop is sort of optional at best before a word beginning with a consonant. Still, the sense that the pronunciation with /z/ "flows" better could be related to a subconscious sense that otherwise one could get a glottal stop.

Yes, the "s" notation is the product of a naïve writer, and probably really means /z/, but we can't know that for sure.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

-----Original Message-----
From: Mark Mandel <thnidu at GMAIL.COM>
Date:         Mon, 26 Apr 2010 17:39:15
Subject:      Re: [ADS-L] Deltas 802

Does this happen only, or especially, before flight numbers starting with 8,
as in the questioner's example? That's the only digit whose English name
begins with a vowel (except "oh" for zero; do flight numbers use leading
zeros?), and so the only context that would produce the glottal stop Ron
mentions. On that assumption, his analysis sounds sound to me.

Commenting in the other direction, to Ron: The airline pilot writing to
Ask-a-Linguist is the one who wrote "add an 's'", which is what we expect
from non-linguists and what we should use it in answering them, assuming
that, as here, it engenders no confusion. In this case, an excursus into the
difference between /s/ and "s" in Herb's reply would only add confusion.

Mark Mandel

On Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 1:36 PM, <ronbutters at> wrote:

> Do you really mean that it is an /s/? Isn't it rather a /z/? In either
> case, though, the use of a "normal" consonant rather than a glottal stop is
> not surprising, especially since it is close to (probably identical to) the
> full possessive form ("Delta's flight #1") rather than the attributive noun
> form ("Delta flight #1") which is, after all, identical in meaning but
> perhaps a bit harder to parse aurally.
> Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Herb Stahlke <hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM>
> Date:         Mon, 26 Apr 2010 10:25:06
> Subject:      [ADS-L] Deltas 802
> Yesterday I received the following query from Ask-a-Linguist:
> "I'm an airline pilot. I frequently hear other pilots add an ''s'' to
> their airline call sign if their airline ends in an ''a.'' For
> example, a pilot will say ''Cleared for takeoff, Deltas 802'' instead
> of ''Cleared for takeoff, Delta 802.'' The same is true with my
> company, Mesaba. Some say ''Mesabas'' instead of ''Mesaba.'' I think
> the sentence flows better with adding the ''s,'' but I can't find any
> linguistic reason why people do it. Answer?"
> I suggested that the -s might be a genitive bu-t then it should occur
> with any airline name.  Perhaps the -s is an alternative to the
> elliptical noun phrase "Delta (flight) 802, but, once again, that does
> not explain why it occurs only with airline names ending in <a>.  I
> asked him if he knew of airlines ending in <y> or <o> and whether he'd
> heard the -s with them as well.  I haven't heard back from him yet.
> I'd be interested in other interpretations of "Deltas 802."
> Herb

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