[Ads-l] super-relaxed pronunciations of "pretty"

Eli Bishop this at ERRORBAR.NET
Wed Aug 7 05:21:03 UTC 2019

Hi! I'm new to the list, and I hope it's the right place for this kind of question.

I was recently asked to help someone understand some English dialogue that had some phonetic dialect spellings. The phrase that puzzled him was "perwel"... which was this character's way of saying "pretty well." Now, to me this was obvious: when I read it out loud, it wasn't that far from how I sometimes catch myself slurring those words if I'm in a hurry. But my friend is British and apparently he'd never heard anything like that. And the writer was an American expatriate in England, originally from Pennsylvania (like me).

So basically I'm wondering—since I've lived in different parts of the US—what the regional distribution and history of this pronunciation might be, and also if there's a technical term for it.

Specifically, what I'm referring to is a kind of slurring together of the word "pretty" where the tongue just vaguely gestures toward making a T or D sound, but doesn't really do anything of the kind; there isn't a glottal stop either, just a slight jog where a consonant would be. The Y gets soft-pedaled as well. So the result is somewhere in between "pri'y" and "purty" or even "purrih." This would generally be in a not very meaningful phrase like "pretty well" or "pretty much" that's being said quickly, becoming more like "per'well" or "per'much."

Thanks in advance for any insight.

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

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