Heard on local NE PA news

Gordon, Matthew J. GordonMJ at MISSOURI.EDU
Tue Jan 26 03:24:40 UTC 2010

Actually, I wouldn't call the /veys/ vs. /vaz/ distinction sound symbolic in the same way as Arnold suggested /krik/ vs. /krIk/ might be. The semantic distinction between 'vase' pronunciations is based on American vs. British usage, i.e. on conventionalized connotations.  The interpretation of a /krik/ as bigger than a /krIk/ is presumably based on the vowel difference alone, perhaps the fact that /i/ has a longer duration. As it happens, I think the opposite associations might work better from a sound symbolic perspective. High front vowels are commonly used in diminutives (e.g. English -y), a pattern that has a clear sound symbolic motivation. There's a connection to animal communication where high-pitched vocalizations are used to mark submission and low-pitched ones to threaten e.g. a dog's yelp vs. growl. Anyway the general pattern is that /i/-like sounds are used, inter alia, to mark small things. So that's why I wouldn't have been surprised to see the opposite pattern!
  for /krik/ vs. /krIk/. Of course /i/ is only a little bit higher and fronter than /I/, so maybe length or other phonetic features play a role here.

-Matt Gordon
From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Benjamin Zimmer [bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU]
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2010 8:25 PM
Subject: Re: Heard on local NE PA news

On Mon, Jan 25, 2010 at 8:41 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> footnote: a fair number of speakers say that a /krik/ is bigger than
> a /krIk/.  nice sound symbolism.

Ah, like the old /veys/ vs. /vaz/ distinction reported (often
jokingly) for "vase". Discussed here in 2005:


--Ben Zimmer

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

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list