foreign and domestic "a"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jan 14 20:36:14 UTC 2013

The pronunciation in the movie "Ghandi" is  / gaendi /.

But everybody knows it's just a movie.


On Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 1:09 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at>wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: foreign and domestic "a"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Jan 14, 2013, at 12:52 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> >
> > On Jan 14, 2013, at 12:42 PM, Charles C Doyle wrote:
> >
> >> I notice, to my surprise, that some dictionaries (e.g. M-W 9th
> Collegiate) now show [neesh] as a variant pronunciation of "niche."
> >>
> >> Regarding the name "Gandhi":  Hasn't the pronunciation with ash been
> most common in Britain (and perhaps India),
> >
> > as in "Gandhi-dancer"?
> >
> >> with "aa" widely heard among Americans (trying to out-Brit the
> British?)?
> >
> > Not sure about out-Britting the Brits; they're much more likely to
> nativize "pasta" to rhyme with "Rasta" or "Shasta" than we are.  (I think
> /paest@/ might also be used in Canada?)
> >
> > Then there are place names like "Colorado" and "Nevada", where locals
> are more likely to domesticate the stressed vowel to ash than easterners
> are.
> >
> > LH
> >
> On second thought, I wonder if what's going on (apologies to anyone who
> has discussed this in print, or in an earlier thread) is that in the U.S.
> (outside of old New Englanders) the /ae/ vs. /a/ variation in such cases is
> based on the domestic vs. foreign feature (which is why we in the eastern
> U.S. tend to use the "foreign" vowel in ColorAdo, NevAda, pAsta, and
> GAndhi), while for the Brits it's still more of a lexical and phonological
> split ("cAn" with /ae/ vs. "can't" with /a/, etc.; I know the relevant
> environments and conditioning factors have been described closely in
> descriptive work over the centuries and are complicated and subject to
> change).  I don't know the conditioning factors, but presumably (I could be
> wrong) they would "domesticate" a word like "pasta" to rhyme with, say,
> "canasta".  Can't be entirely phonological, though, given e.g. the /ast@/
> of the Brits' versions of "plaster", "faster", etc.
> LH
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