Whatever happened to our neologizers-in-chief? - column in Boston Globe (UNCLASSIFIED)

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Wed Jan 23 20:53:15 UTC 2013

On Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 3:35 PM, Mullins, Bill AMRDEC wrote:
> In the article, Ben says: "Since 18th-century New Englanders were
> already dropping their r's, "corcas" would have been pronounced the same
> as "caucus." "
> Is this (spelling evolution corcas => caucus) the evidence for how NE
> pronounced things?  Or did people describe accents in print? (I've never
> seen such, but that is more a sign of my limits than anything else).

Yes, pronunciation spellings are one important source of evidence for
reconstructing dialectal features from written records. For non-rhotic
dialects, orthographic "r" may be added (as with "corcas") or subtracted.
Richard Bailey's "Speaking American" gives a number of r-less examples from
colonial New England, such as "fouth" for "fourth", "bud" for "bird", and
"Geoge" for "George". He uses this evidence to argue that non-rhoticity
achieved prestige in the Boston dialect before it did in England. See my Globe
column: http://b.globe.com/baileybz


Ben Zimmer

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

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