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Old 01-08-2013, 08:53 PM
 
5,654 posts, read 5,618,727 times
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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.
No need to be nasty, as I already stated I confused Mt. Juliet and Lebanon, that's why I put a ? after typing it. You would have known that if you had read the entire thread.

 
Old 01-08-2013, 09:21 PM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,742 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63367
Quote:
Originally Posted by Verseau View Post
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.
Thanks for your educated, intelligent and interesting input.

Just need to point out something - I am the poster that said that the HW pronunciation was the more common of the two, and I based this on several dictionaries' placement of the HW pronunciation first. Perhaps I am not remembering my grammar school lessons well - I thought that the first pronunciation listed in a dictionary was the most commonly used one. I could very well be wrong on this.

But beyond that - I never stated that either pronunciation was incorrect. I merely stated that the HW pronunciation was a correct one. Am I wrong? I mean - some pronunciations of some words are incorrect, aren't? I understand that there can be SEVERAL correct pronunciations, but there can also be incorrect ones, right? For instance, it's incorrect to say "He ran out into the screet."

I never claimed that anyone was pronouncing any of the words in question "incorrectly," however. Just wanted to clarify my position on it. What I was claiming is that the HW pronunciation is not amazing or fascinatingly rare - OR "incorrect." And as you and others point out, it is not limited to the southern US.

By the way, for the record, I have lived in nearly every southern state over the course of my life, as well as in California, Ohio, Maryland, Japan, and Germany, and I've heard these words pronounced with the HW sound everywhere I've lived. I pronounce them that way as well. I've never, not once in fifty years, heard anyone remark on the oddity of that pronunciation, or for that matter remark on it at all - except when I was learning spelling and punctuation in grammar school and was taught to say these words with a blended HW sound.

Last edited by KathrynAragon; 01-08-2013 at 09:30 PM..
 
Old 01-08-2013, 10:27 PM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 6,970,506 times
Reputation: 4061
Quote:
Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
Thanks for your educated, intelligent and interesting input.

Just need to point out something - I am the poster that said that the HW pronunciation was the more common of the two, and I based this on several dictionaries' placement of the HW pronunciation first. Perhaps I am not remembering my grammar school lessons well - I thought that the first pronunciation listed in a dictionary was the most commonly used one. I could very well be wrong on this.

But beyond that - I never stated that either pronunciation was incorrect. I merely stated that the HW pronunciation was a correct one. Am I wrong? I mean - some pronunciations of some words are incorrect, aren't? I understand that there can be SEVERAL correct pronunciations, but there can also be incorrect ones, right? For instance, it's incorrect to say "He ran out into the screet."

I never claimed that anyone was pronouncing any of the words in question "incorrectly," however. Just wanted to clarify my position on it. What I was claiming is that the HW pronunciation is not amazing or fascinatingly rare - OR "incorrect." And as you and others point out, it is not limited to the southern US.

By the way, for the record, I have lived in nearly every southern state over the course of my life, as well as in California, Ohio, Maryland, Japan, and Germany, and I've heard these words pronounced with the HW sound everywhere I've lived. I pronounce them that way as well. I've never, not once in fifty years, heard anyone remark on the oddity of that pronunciation, or for that matter remark on it at all - except when I was learning spelling and punctuation in grammar school and was taught to say these words with a blended HW sound.
Thanks for clarifying your thoughts. Linguists are scientists of language, and as such we try to avoid using words like "correct" which convey judgment. Linguists are not concerned with what is right and wrong but rather with what is and isn't. We refer to this as "grammaticality."

This word is used in a different sense than it is used by English teachers or others who maintain that certain pronunciations or words or word orders are superior to others. For them, something is "grammatical" if it follows an artificial set of standards, even if these standards do not correspond to natural human speech. For example, many grammarians will insist that ending a sentence with a preposition is "incorrect," even though English speakers "violate" this "rule" consistently in their natural speech (in fact, it is an integral component of English syntax which was unquestioned until the scholarly obsession with Latin that arose during the enlightenment - some brilliant minds believed English should be more like Latin, a language in which sentence-final prepositions are literally impossible).

For linguists, an utterance is "grammatical" if it is a possible utterance that conveys meaning between members of any given speech community. "He ran out into the street" and "He done ran out into the street" are both technically grammatical utterances in their respective speech communities. *screet is ungrammatical because it does not convey the intended meaning (of a paved strip that cars drive on), and similarly a sentence like *"Street he out into ran" would also be considered ungrammatical by linguists because it is not a possible English sentence.

But let's go back to the example of "He done ran out into the street," a sentence that linguists would call "grammatical" but which any English teacher would pull their hair out over and decry as "incorrect." English teachers and grammarians are really concerned about what we would call the "standard dialect." It is generally important for people to learn how to communicate in the standard dialect if they wish to maximize their opportunities for success, but we have to remember that the "standard" features are chosen, arbitrarily, by human beings at some point in history. And even what is "standard" today may not be so in another generation. If language was completely restricted from changing, then we would still be speaking the very first primitive human tongues.

Coming back from that rather philosophical tangent... at any rate, your assertion was correct in that some pronunciations for a given word (meaning) are impossible. *"Screet" does not convey the intended meaning that "street" does. On the other hand, [hwat] and [wat] for "what" both convey the exact same meaning; they are both possible and can be understood.

I'm not sure how dictionaries' editors choose to list pronunciation variants, but I would not put much faith into that rule of thumb you were taught. Knowing definitively which pronunciation is most common across the English-speaking world would often require a tremendous amount of survey data that no dictionary has the time or money to obtain. If anything, dictionary editors may opt for the older (more conservative) pronunciation, whichever is considered "standard" by some authority or other, or (most likely) whatever their personal biases lead them to choose. And dictionary editorial boards are certainly not without controversy in their selection processes.

Anyway, sorry for the rambling post. I think many people are aware of the variation between [hw] and [w] thanks to this Family Guy clip mocking the receding [hw] form:


Family Guy - Cool Whip - YouTube
 
Old 01-08-2013, 11:49 PM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,742 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63367
But wait - people who say "screet" for "street" DO mean it as "street" and most people who hear them say "screet" would know that they are talking about a "street." So it's not impossible for "screet" to have the same meaning as "street." In fact, it conveys EXACTLY the same meaning as "street."

Slippery slopes!
 
Old 01-09-2013, 07:55 AM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 6,970,506 times
Reputation: 4061
Quote:
Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
But wait - people who say "screet" for "street" DO mean it as "street" and most people who hear them say "screet" would know that they are talking about a "street." So it's not impossible for "screet" to have the same meaning as "street." In fact, it conveys EXACTLY the same meaning as "street."

Slippery slopes!
Do people actually say "screet" for "street"? As in, this is a dialectal feature somewhere? If so, I apologize; this would undermine my example, but not my general point. I wasn't familiar with any dialects where people say "screet," but I could certainly be mistaken.

If you mean that someone could accidentally say "screet" instead of "street" as a slip of the tongue, this doesn't undermine my point either. We may be able to understand the meaning in context, but in isolation, the sounds [skrit] (IPA transcription) do not convey the same meaning as [strit].
 
Old 01-09-2013, 08:26 AM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,742 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63367
Quote:
Originally Posted by Verseau View Post
Do people actually say "screet" for "street"? As in, this is a dialectal feature somewhere? If so, I apologize; this would undermine my example, but not my general point. I wasn't familiar with any dialects where people say "screet," but I could certainly be mistaken.

If you mean that someone could accidentally say "screet" instead of "street" as a slip of the tongue, this doesn't undermine my point either. We may be able to understand the meaning in context, but in isolation, the sounds [skrit] (IPA transcription) do not convey the same meaning as [strit].
Oh, yes, there are definitely plenty of people who say "screet" for "street" in their daily conversation - it's the ONLY way they say it. There are also lots of people who say "mines" instead of "mine." Many people say "sWord" instead of "sword." Aren't these pronunciations incorrect?
 
Old 01-09-2013, 10:53 AM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 6,970,506 times
Reputation: 4061
As I said before, "correctness" is an arbitrary notion that is related to the "standard" dialect. Are they standard pronunciations? No.

Are they linguistically valid and grammatical pronunciations? Yes. They are used and understood within a speech community.
 
Old 01-09-2013, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Wonderland
44,742 posts, read 36,145,910 times
Reputation: 63367
Quote:
Originally Posted by Verseau View Post
As I said before, "correctness" is an arbitrary notion that is related to the "standard" dialect. Are they standard pronunciations? No.

Are they linguistically valid and grammatical pronunciations? Yes. They are used and understood within a speech community.

OK - but they won't get one far in the business community!

I know that languages shift and change over time, sometimes over short periods of time. I find that fascinating.

But I also think that there has to be SOME standard of "correct" vs "incorrect." I mean, there are correct and incorrect spellings, correct and incorrect grammar. You can call those values "standard" vs "correct" if you like though. But I think we're talking about pretty much the same thing. Close enough for me, anyway.

Look both ways win yew kross dat screet!
 
Old 01-09-2013, 11:43 AM
 
425 posts, read 505,303 times
Reputation: 375
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sophiasmommy View Post
I don't care what an online dictionary says...
Clearly.
 
Old 01-09-2013, 11:45 AM
 
Location: New Hampshire
2,257 posts, read 6,970,506 times
Reputation: 4061
Quote:
Originally Posted by KathrynAragon View Post
OK - but they won't get one far in the business community!

I know that languages shift and change over time, sometimes over short periods of time. I find that fascinating.

But I also think that there has to be SOME standard of "correct" vs "incorrect." I mean, there are correct and incorrect spellings, correct and incorrect grammar. You can call those values "standard" vs "correct" if you like though. But I think we're talking about pretty much the same thing. Close enough for me, anyway.

Look both ways win yew kross dat screet!
You're exactly right - I'm intentionally using the word "standard" and avoiding the word "correct."

There is unquestionable value in learning how to communicate using standard features!
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