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Old 01-08-2013, 07:32 PM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,726 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63330

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Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go stand outside and try to tell myself that I'm amazed at the cool, wet winter we're having in the South. Tomorrow I'll try to get fascinated about how many Mexican food restaurants there are here in my Texas town. Next week I'll try to work up some shock and awe about how many women I see sporting riding boots and jeggings around town.

Life is an adventure! Relish every small detail!

 
Old 01-08-2013, 07:38 PM
 
Location: Bellingham, WA
9,745 posts, read 14,181,297 times
Reputation: 14796
I'm from the south and I don't think I do this, and if any of the southerners I know do it, I've never noticed. Unless it's really, really subtle.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 07:41 PM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,726 posts, read 36,145,910 times
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It's the difference between "why" with a breathy sound at the beginning, and "wy" with a nasally sound. "When" or "wen." "Where" or "ware."

That's it.

Ever so interesting.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 07:50 PM
 
Location: Bellingham, WA
9,745 posts, read 14,181,297 times
Reputation: 14796
Quote:
Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
It's the difference between "why" with a breathy sound at the beginning, and "wy" with a nasally sound. "When" or "wen." "Where" or "ware."

That's it.

Ever so interesting.
I'm beginning to wonder if my ears are even capable of detecting something that subtle. The only way I can even imagine it is in the Family Guy example, which is obviously over-the-top and I know I've never heard anyone do it that way naturally.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 07:51 PM
 
Location: Atlanta & NYC
6,620 posts, read 11,668,387 times
Reputation: 6603
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lamplight View Post
I'm beginning to wonder if my ears are even capable of detecting something that subtle. The only way I can even imagine it is in the Family Guy example, which is obviously over-the-top and I know I've never heard anyone do it that way naturally.
That's how my mom talks but I don't get why since my whole family is 100% northeastern to the core. NY, CT, RI.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 07:53 PM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,726 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63330
But it's time now for me to turn on the TV and watch something REALLY amazing like House Hunters or maybe the local weather report!
 
Old 01-08-2013, 08:14 PM
 
1,027 posts, read 1,648,653 times
Reputation: 280
Quote:
Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
It's the difference between "why" with a breathy sound at the beginning, and "wy" with a nasally sound. "When" or "wen." "Where" or "ware."

That's it.

Ever so interesting.

I always thought wh had own type sound more subtle sound between h sound or w sound.

sort like when people say water or butter it not really t or d sound more subtle d sound.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 08:24 PM
 
5,012 posts, read 4,716,338 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophiasmommy View Post
With all due respect, our good family friend lives in Mt. Lebanon (?) and almost everyone there, like all of the south puts the h before the w.
With all due respect, there is no such place as Mt. Lebanon. Nashvols is completely correct about the pronunciations in this area (Middle TN). If you don't even know the town names of where your good family friend lives, then you don't know the area well enough to declare how everyone here speaks.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 08:47 PM
 
Location: Boston
1,432 posts, read 3,347,954 times
Reputation: 780
Quote:
Originally Posted by brentwoodgirl View Post
With all due respect, there is no such place as Mt. Lebanon. Nashvols is completely correct about the pronunciations in this area (Middle TN). If you don't even know the town names of where your good family friend lives, then you don't know the area well enough to declare how everyone here speaks.
Another Middle Tennessean chiming in here to say that the Hw sound your describing definitely doesn't occur normally there.
 
Old 01-08-2013, 08:48 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 6,970,506 times
Reputation: 4061
Guys, guys, guys.

I usually try to avoid playing the "linguist" card, but I have to put my expertise to good use and step in here and mediate.

First of all, take all your ideas about "correctness" and throw them out the window. Do you seriously believe that there is only one "correct" way to pronounce every word in the English language? If that were the case, there would be no regional accents. There would be no language change. That's not how language works. Language is a living organism that is constantly evolving and diversifying.

Dictionaries do not dictate what is "correct." Human communication and comprehension dictate what is "correct." Dictionaries exist to catalog words that humans use in their speech, and how they say them. Really good dictionaries will include lots of different possible pronunciations to account for the natural variation in language.

A little history on all these "wh" words in English. As some of you astutely pointed out, English spelling is far from phonetic, and making any arguments about pronunciation based on orthography is a failed endeavor. In many cases, however, this is because the spelling of the language has evolved far less rapidly than pronunciation has. These "wh" words were in fact, hundreds of years ago - in Old English - "hw" words. What was hwt. Where was hwǽr. And so on.

Historical evidence leads us to believe that these words were indeed pronounced with an [hw] onset. For some reason, spelling standards transposed the two letters around the 13th century, but we have no concrete evidence that the pronunciation started changing (deleting the [h]) en masse until the 18th century. The change apparently originated in London, and then diffused across England.

By this point, America had already been settled by Englishmen, the vast majority of whom did not have the merger between /hw/ and /w/ when they arrived in the New World. So while England was losing the [h] sound in these words, Americans largely retained it.

Eventually, the situation in America began to change as well. Linguistic interviews from the 1940s reported that speakers in and around coastal cities in the Northeast did not pronounce the [h] sound in these words, while other Americans still did. These cities had extremely close commercial ties with Britain in the 19th century, which led to the importation of numerous linguistic features from across the pond.
The most recent dialectology research shows that the loss of [h] in "wh" words spread has rapidly across the country since the studies of the 1940s.

This map from the Atlas of North American English shows that the merger of /hw/ and /w/ is now nearly complete in the US. The OP is correct in that the resistance to this change is strongest in the South, but the retention of [hw] is not universal there. On the map, red dots indicate speakers who maintain the distinction between /hw/ and /w/. Green dots are those individuals who either say OR hear them differently, while orange dots are those who pronounce them closely. Yellow dots mark speakers who have no trace of [h] in their "wh" words.

Although there are more red dots in the South, you will see that many Southerners do not have the [hw] pronunciation. Moreover, you will notice a decent number of red dots outside the South as well, namely in the Midwest and New England, proving that this is not an exclusively southern phenomenon. Which makes perfect sense, considering that 70 years ago, a majority of Americans had the [hw] sound in these words.

I will take point with the poster who claimed that the [hw] pronunciation was the more common of the two, because the evidence indicates that it is rapidly disappearing. But to suggest that either pronunciation - [hw] or [w] - is "incorrect" or "correct" just demonstrates a mean-spirited attitude towards language diversity and change.
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