Wednesday, 6 April 2011

wringing the changes

Why does English r have such a strong labial component?

Despite Gimson’s claim in his Pronunciation of English, retained by Cruttenden (p. 220 in the seventh edition, 2008), that
The lip position is determined largely by that of the following vowel
nevertheless I am sure that I am not alone in lip-rounding initial r in read and rest just as in root and raw.

I have found that I can often improve English speakers’ pronunciation of Spanish or Italian r by getting them to get rid of the lip-rounding of this consonant that they wrongly carry over from English to the target language.

Where does this labiality come from?

Rohan Dharwadkar asks
Does the secondary labialisation of the RP R have anything to do with the loss of the labio-velar approximant in initial 'wr' sequences in words like 'write', 'wring', etc.?
My impression is that the R-labialisation is a relatively recent change, whereas the 'w's in question have been silent for a lot longer. And yet, for R to take on labialisation with no apparent trigger seems whimsical (which I realise languages very often are, but still.).

It’s an attractive idea, and one that I think has been floating around for some time, though I can’t put my hand on any discussion of it in the literature.

The OED, under the letter W, has a long discussion of “The combination wr”. Here’s a fragment.
Signs of the dropping of the w begin to appear about the middle of the 15th cent. in such spellings as ringe for wring v., rong for wrong adj.; these become common in the 16th cent. (for examples see wrangle n., wrap n., wreak n., wreck n.1, wrench n.1, wrest n.1, etc.). Reduction of the sound is also indicated by the converse practice of writing wr- for r-, which similarly appears in the 15th cent. (in wrath for rathe), and becomes common in the 16th; for examples see the subordinate entries under wrack n.1, wracked adj., wrap n., wretchless adj., etc. In standard English the w was finally dropped in the 17th century.

Pairs such as wring – ring, write – right, wrap – rap are homophonous in all kinds of modern English. Yet until a few hundred years ago they were distinct, the first in each pair having a labialvelar component and the second lacking it. Is it plausible that as the distinction disappeared it was the labialvelarized variant that became generalized, so giving us our modern labialized r?

Some idiosyncratic speakers take matters further. Gimson/Cruttenden again (p. 221):
some speakers labialize /r/ whatever the following vowel. In extreme cases, lip-rounding is accompanied by no articulation of the forward part of the tongue, so that /r/ is replaced by /w/ and homophones of the type wed, red are produced. Alternatively a labiodental approximant [ʋ] may be heard as a realization of /r/ or even for both /r/ and /w/. Pronounciations [sic] of this sort were a fashionable affectation in the nineteenth and early twentieth century; and can still be heard as such from some elderly people educated at major public schools.

I don’t know what evidence there is for accusing those who do this of a ‘fashionable affectation’. None, I suspect.

The Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer Simon Hoggart regularly lampoons Sir Peter Tapsell MP for his supposed use of /w/ for /r/. Here he is recently.
Sir Peter Tapsell had made one of his stupendous interventions, calling for "the complete sepawation" (Sir Peter has a slight speech impediment) of commercial and investment banks.

I doubt very much that Sir Peter actually confuses /r/ and /w/. He does use [ʋ] for /r/, though. Listen here and judge for yourself.

41 comments:

  1. I've noticed that [ʋ] for /r/ is very common in Ormskirk, Lancs.

    The main exception to this is speakers whose accents are heavily influenced by the nearby Liverpool accent. For these speakers the main realisation is Scouse [ɾ~r] or Standard English [ɹʷ].

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  2. But are the [ʋ] and [w] realisations of /r/ really caused by the majority pronunciation's common labial component, or are they simply the closest substitute available even to a non-labialised [ɹ]?

    The variety in English is amazing, both in a given accent and between accents. With L-vocalisation taking hold, it'll be pretty hard for many foreigners to pronounce "very well" with vɹ(ʷ)w.

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  3. If the theory is correct, it would explain why I have such a hard time even imagining /wr/.

    Shame the video is from such a nasty source, but I can't find a better (short) one either.

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  4. A terminological matter:

    Shouldn't we be talking about /wr/ as having a 'labial-velar' component, not 'labiovelar'?

    Doesn't the 'labio' of 'labiodental' indicate that the lip is the active articulator while the 'labial' of 'labial-velar' indicates a double articulation?

    That's what the IPA chart seems to suggest.

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  5. Paul Carley: yes, I've amended it now.

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  6. /wr/ makes for good terminological fun. What would that be (assuming it's a phonemic simplification of a single complex articulation)? A triple articulation - three approximants. A labial-velar-postalveolar approximant? Or maybe we should take the labial-velar model as suggesting that the fronter articulations are to be written first? A labial-postalveolar-velar approximant, then.

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  7. The lip-rounding that accompanies /r/ is as John points out a very noticeable feature. This is why I find the advice given by some speech pathologists annoying, when they advise that clients with /r/ problems should be told to smile when attempting /r/ to avoid lip-rounding. This is intended to avoid labial-velar or labiodental articulations, but results in a non-native sounding /r/ anyway!
    But I guess it's on a par with the ejectives that are regularly produced by SLPs/SLTs when they model fortis plosives...!

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  8. @Martin J Ball

    I've often used some pretty inauthentic pronunciations when trying to get EFL students to grasp something. If it somehow prods them into producing something more authentic, then great. But if not, straight on to another line of approach, or if we're tiring of not getting this point, then on to something else, preferably easier.

    I think it's a matter of 'anything goes' as long as the teacher/therapist is aware of what he/she is doing phonetically. Problems arise when such things end up in print and many such techniques end up being taken as phonetic facts. With these I would, perhaps controversially, include stress timing (I think we can blame Arthur Lloyd James for that one, though I'd be happy to hear of any earlier references). And also Catford's linking /j/ and /w/.

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  9. Is it possible that the alveolar approximant is inherently prone to labialization in onset position, in much the same way that non-open back vowels are said to be "naturally" lip-rounded?

    To evaluate this claim we would want to look at other languages which feature this phone, but none readily come to mind -- perhaps some of the Dravidian languages?

    If my suggestion is true, then /r/ became labialized at the same time that its realization became an alveolar approximant instead of a non-sibilant fricative, tap, trill, or whatever it was before.

    I grew up with an labial approximant realization of /r/ and have now hypercorrected away from this, to the extent that my /r/ is now extremely non-labialized, unless followed by a rounded vowel. So my subjective impressions in this matter are probably worthless.

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  10. Paul Carley: Not to mention the famous pear-shaped vowels.

    I myself have no lip-rounding at all in my high-central GOOSE vowel, even when a labial consonant precedes: boot is completely unrounded. But root starts rounded to pronounce the /r/ and then unrounds for the /u/. This is quite distinct from how I pronounce German gut, which is backed and labialized. I don't actually speak German, but I apparently picked up its phonology quite accurately from my bilingual mother.

    (By the way, my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words. I wonder if this is a harbinger, or if he will regress to the mean as he grows older and interacts more with other children of his age.)

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  11. If you care to listen to a longer stretch of speech illustrating Sir Peter's replacements of /r/ by [ʋ], go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/hi/house_of_commons/newsid_9115000/9115345.stm

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  12. I'm not sure if I round my /r/ or not. If the lips are involved in the articulation of the sound at all, do we have to call that rounding? On second thought, I think I do have rounding because when I try to smile while making the sound it's somewhat difficult and it doesn't sound right. I believe I answered my own question.

    John Cowan wrote:
    I myself have no lip-rounding at all in my high-central GOOSE vowel, even when a labial consonant precedes: boot is completely unrounded. But root starts rounded to pronounce the /r/ and then unrounds for the /u/.

    Interesting. That doesn't sound like an American pronunciation to me (not there's only one American way of pronouncing that vowel). Maybe I need more phonetic training. I've read that it's possible for a vowel to sound rounded without actually being articulated with rounded lips. Maybe that's what's happening.

    ...my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words.

    That sounds Scottish or something else to me. Maybe this is a change that's happening. My nieces and nephews might do it too actually, but I haven't heard them speak for quite some time. Thanks for mentioning that. I'm interested in these things.

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  13. vp: If an alveolar approximant has lip rounding inherently, it may be due to its being alveolar, or approximant, or both at the same time.
    The criterion of being alveolar is not sufficient, because other alveolars such as [n], [l], or [ɾ] are not rounded.
    Being approximant is insufficient, too, because [j] is not rounded.
    Being both could be enough if the pre-velar approximant realization of /r/ (bunched/molar r) that prevails in America didn't have rounding. But it does, so something more or different than these two criteria is necessary to explain rounding. It seems like it's the /r/ itself that intrinsicly has lip rounding in onset position, regardless of its actual realization (alveolar, postalevolar, pre-velar, labiodental).

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  14. @teardrop:

    It seems like it's the /r/ itself that intrinsicly has lip rounding in onset position, regardless of its actual realization (alveolar, postalevolar, pre-velar, labiodental).

    Yet alveolar trills, taps, and uvular trills or fricatives (to name some of the most common rhotics in other languages) are not usually accompanied by lip rounding.

    Does anyone know the mechanism whereby nonopen back vowels are "naturally" rounded? Is it physiological, psychological, or what?

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  15. teardrop said
    ...the pre-velar approximant realization of /r/ (bunched/molar r) that prevails in America...

    This might be slightly off topic, but why isn't this type of /r/ on the IPA chart? It is the kind I use and I haven't been able to find much information about it anywhere.

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  16. vp,
    «Is it possible that the alveolar approximant is inherently prone to labialization in onset position, in much the same way that non-open back vowels are said to be "naturally" lip-rounded?

    To evaluate this claim we would want to look at other languages which feature this phone, but none readily come to mind»

    I suggest Swedish. I first had converse with standard Swedish speakers when my knowledge of phonetics was still relatively rudimentary, but even then, having like you corrected my "defective r" but unlike you, not unrounded it, I was struck by the way even when the canonically fricative r seemed more than a little approximant, it was not rounded even in anticipation of a vowel so closely rounded as almost to involve a bilabial fricative, as in 'ro' ruː.

    Paul Carley,
    «/wr/ makes for good terminological fun. What would that be (assuming it's a phonemic simplification of a single complex articulation)»

    I can't see why you would want to assume that. I have always assumed it was [wr] for most of the time it was distinct from r, but I'm quite drawn to the idea that the merger was caused by a single complex articulation that lost its distinctiveness.

    In Dutch, where the canonic w is only half way from w to v, wr remains a sequence but the w goes the opposite way from English and becomes a fully fledged v. (The uvular r still doesn't seem to have become as widely established as in neighbouring languages.)

    Phil Smith,
    There was an entry entitled "bunched/molar r" dated 8 February 2010 on this blog with a long discussion concerned with the points you make.

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  17. @mallamb

    I had in mind the common treatment of [ʍ] as /hw/, but ignored the historical fact that when the /w/ of /wr/ was pronounced, the /r/ wouldn't have been an approximant.

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  18. vp: These /r/ sounds can all be pronounced with or without lip rounding -- in English they vary allophonically in the onset and in the coda. But other languages could have them only as rounded or unrounded. Similarly English has a rounded (protruded) /ʃ/ and /ʧ/, while e.g. Spanish /ʧ/ as in 'chico' isn't protruded.
    That's why I think it is not intrinsic phonetically, i.e. it's not the articulation itself that triggers the rounding effect. It's an additional feature of a language, something like aspiration: some languages have aspirated and unaspirated stops only allophonically, while others have them even phonemically, yet there are languages that have only unaspirated stops.

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  19. @teardrop:

    Similarly English has a rounded (protruded) /ʃ/ and /ʧ/, while e.g. Spanish /ʧ/ as in 'chico' isn't protruded.

    For what it's worth, my /ʧ/ isn't rounded when preceding an unrounded vowel, but my /ʃ/ is always rounded.

    I've read that lip-rounding emphasizes the formants that distinguish [ʃ] from [s]. Thus I only round [ʃ] when there is potential [ʃ]-[s] contrast: in e.g. "catch" (compare "cats") or in "shell" (compare "sell") but not in "chill" (*"tsill" is impossible in English).

    So one could certainly argue that my rounding of /ʃ/ and /tʃ/ derives from inherent phonetic qualities of the sounds. I don't know whether this would explain its distribution in Spanish.

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  20. @JW

    Pairs such as wring – ring, write – right, wrap – rap are homophonous in all kinds of modern English. Yet until a few hundred years ago they were distinct, the first in each pair having a labialvelar component and the second lacking it. Is it plausible that as the distinction disappeared it was the labialvelarized variant that became generalized, so giving us our modern labialized r?

    /wr/ was so uncommon in comparison to plain /r/ that this seems implausible.

    Is it perhaps more likely that /r/ became labialized for independent reasons, and that the consequence of this was the disappearance of the /r/-/wr/ opposition?

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  21. Quoting the entry above: "Is it plausible that as the distinction disappeared it was the labialvelarized variant that became generalized, so giving us our modern labialized r?"

    I've always assumed that the labialization is a byproduct of tongue retraction, which also explains the subconscious English labialization of "sh". If that's so, I'd reason that labialization started when English "r" became retroflex. Am I wrong?

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  22. The explanation that I've always heard for lip-rounding in English /ɻ/ is not an articulatory one, but acoustic. English listeners pay the most attention to the frequency of the third formant in their perception of /ɻ/. F3 is quite low for /ɻ/, approximately 1800-2000 Hz. Constriction in the palatal region and in the pharynx causes F3 lowering, but lip-rounding does as well.

    There is a similar explanation given for lip-rounding in /ʃ/. In order to distinguish it from /s/, lip-rounding is used for lowering the center frequency of the aperiodic noise. /s/ has a higher center frequency than /ʃ/.

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  23. Christian, yes exactly. We're on the same wavelength, pardon the pun, although I prefer more intuitive explanations. (I also fear acoustics terminology. Lol.)

    Naturally tongue retraction on its own doesn't lead to labialization and we have an example in Mandarin's non-labialized retroflex "sh". Changes driven by speaker perception and acoustics specific to English must follow from the physical articulatory processes of this tongue retraction.

    So, perhaps this is too casual for some, but I would simply describe the English approximant "r" as a [-low][+back] sound - ie. "non-low" because the jaw isn't gaping open; "back" due to tongue retraction.

    Since non-low back vowels in English are typically rounded, added labialization (aka u-colouring) helps to emphasize this pre-existing [-low][+back] quality further and to make contrasts sharper like that of /s/ and /ʃ/. I'd imagine that for "r", since there is no relevant contrasts like among sibilants, that the additional lip-rounding just makes the sound more salient to the ear.

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  24. So, perhaps this is too casual for some, but I would simply describe the English approximant "r" as a [-low][+back] sound

    Presumably you'd need some way to distinguish /r/ from /w/. [+apical] perhaps?

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  25. I remember skimming through something Morris Halle wrote on the issue of the WRING-RING merger (is there a name for it?). But I don't know where.

    I patchily remember him saying that it was the labial-velar pronunciation which survives, despite what people like to think, and that (if anything), the spelling is the one that should be kept, in initial position at least.

    On that issue, I find it interesting that the short form of he name 'Lawrence' is spelt 'Lar' (here in Rhotic City at least). This is the only example I can ever think of that distinguishes the two different allophones of /r/ orthographically.

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  26. vp:
    What distinguishes bunched /r/ from [w] is that the tongue is laterally contracted in case of the former, with the tip of the tongue not being an active articulator, which makes it [-apical].

    The British-style postalveolar /r/ is [+apical], of course, but while it has the tongue laterally contracted just like the bunched /r/ does, it is not retracted, so it's not [+back], unless we consider the tip of the tongue slightly curled back to the postalveolar region or the lateral contraction a [+back] feature.
    So I would say:
    - the British /r/ is [+apical][-back][-low][+round][+lat.contr'd]
    - the bunched /r/ is [-apical][+back][-low][+round][+lat.contr'd]
    - [w] is [-apical][+back][-low][+round][-lat.contr'd]

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  27. Phil Smith: In my GOOSE vowel, the corners of the lips are together, but there is no actual rounding. If I separate the corners, the sound is no longer recognizable as GOOSE to me.

    Because there is no phonemic distinction between [u] and [y] in English, GOOSE is free to move forward, and in fact has been doing so in many dialects including both RP and most kinds of American over the last half-century or so. My grandson hears four different dialects from his grandfather, grandmother, father, and mother (and relatively little from anyone else, as he doesn't leave home much), but none of us are remotely as fronted as he is.

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  28. I've often wondered exactly how Old English "wr" would have been pronounced. What about OE "wl"? Would this have been /l/ with a secondary labialvelar articulation?

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  29. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 01:15

    I have often pondered the rounding of /ʃ/, because it is stronger in German than in English, weaker in French, and completely absent in Navajo (soundfile accessible from here).

    I suspect the reasons are carried over from the origins of these sounds.

    /ʃ/ is the most strongly exolabially* rounded sound in the entire German language. One source of German /ʃ/ is [sx]; this was not in itself rounded, but rounding makes [ʃ] sound much more like velar friction. Another is /s/ in front of what must still have been [w] at the time (attested by spelling variations in Old High German like swimman ~ sowimman).

    The English /ʃ/ comes from [st͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /sk/ in front of front vowels. In German, /sk/ turned into [sx] and then [ʃ] in all environments. I suppose the palatalization didn't bleed over into the [s], so a bit of a damper was put on the palatalization of the eventual [ʃ].

    The French /ʃ/ comes from [t͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /k/ in front of front vowels. No [s] participated, so nothing held palatalization back.

    The Navajo /ʃ/ goes back at least to Proto-Athabaskan, and if I remember correctly what I've read, that language is supposed to have had a phonemic contrast between /ʃ/ and a retroflex /ʂ/. Rounding and retroflexion can sound similar, so rounding may have been avoided.

    * = actually visible lip rounding. The alternative, called endolabial rounding, involves faking it using tongue and palate and makes it probably impossible to read my lips.

    By the way, my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words.

    I once read on Language Hat about an adult Canadian doing this when talking about a loud boom. The onomatopoietic effect, the source said, was totally ruined. :-)

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  30. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 01:20

    I suppose the palatalization didn't bleed over into the [s], so a bit of a damper was put on the palatalization of the eventual [ʃ].

    Uh, here I'm talking about English again. And I overlooked something interesting: my hypothesis fits vp's observation that the modern English /t͡ʃ/ is less rounded than the /ʃ/.

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  31. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 01:27

    Now that's funny. My second comment deleted my first!

    As this will probably delete the second one (which clarifies the first, quoting it), I present a merger of both:

    ===========================

    I have often pondered the rounding of /ʃ/, because it is stronger in German than in English, weaker in French, and completely absent in Navajo (soundfile accessible from here).

    I suspect the reasons are carried over from the origins of these sounds.

    /ʃ/ is the most strongly exolabially* rounded sound in the entire German language. One source of German /ʃ/ is [sx]; this was not in itself rounded, but rounding makes [ʃ] sound much more like velar friction. Another is /s/ in front of what must still have been [w] at the time (attested by spelling variations in Old High German like swimman ~ sowimman).

    The English /ʃ/ comes from [st͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /sk/ in front of front vowels. In German, /sk/ turned into [sx] and then [ʃ] in all environments. I suppose the English palatalization didn't bleed over into the [s], so a bit of a damper was put on the palatalization of the eventual [ʃ]. This fits vp's observation that the modern English /t͡ʃ/ is less rounded than the /ʃ/.

    The French /ʃ/ comes from [t͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /k/ in front of front vowels. No [s] participated, so nothing held palatalization back.

    The Navajo /ʃ/ goes back at least to Proto-Athabaskan, and if I remember correctly what I've read, that language is supposed to have had a phonemic contrast between /ʃ/ and a retroflex /ʂ/. Rounding and retroflexion can sound similar, so rounding may have been avoided.

    * = actually visible lip rounding. The alternative, called endolabial rounding, involves faking it using tongue and palate and makes it probably impossible to read my lips.

    By the way, my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words.

    I once read on Language Hat about an adult Canadian doing this when talking about a loud boom. The onomatopoietic effect, the source said, was totally ruined. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  32. The unrounding of the vocoid in words like the quoted "goose" has, in my experience, been proceeding for several years. (Since I have no IPA symbols on my phone, I will use slashed pseudo-IPA /dhus/, and trust that readers will understand my intention.)

    I believe we are experiencing a Vowel Shift in RP
    Long /u:/ > /y:/ > /i:/
    Short /u/ > /uh/ (schwa)
    in words spelled with "oo", and in words having the same /u:/ sound but spelled otherwise. The shift does not seem to be affecting the /^/ sound of "buck", "cut" &c. The intermediate sound in the Long sequence is an innovation in RP, though not in Scottish or Welsh accents, so it will be interesting to see how it progresses (and I hope to live long enough to do so).

    Some examples may be useful;
    food - /fu:d/ > /fy:d/ > /fi:d/ = "feed"
    rude - /ru:d/ > /ry:d/ > /ri:d/ = "reed"
    noon - /nu:n/ > /ny:n/ > /ni:n/ = "neen".
    Most speakers participating in this shift have reached the intermediate stage, but some have completed it - at least in some words subject to it.
    good - /gud/ > /guhd/
    book - /buk/ > /buhk/
    This appears to be virtually complete.

    The Shift seems to be different or inhibited in some surroundings. Words like "pure" and "sure", which I pronounce (non-rhotically) as though spelled "pyooer" and "shooer" are tending instead towards /pjo:/ and /sho:/ (= "shaw"), with or without rhoticism, as appropriate, and words like "few" and "beauty", which I pronounce as though spelled "fyoo" and "byooty", towards /fiw/ and /biwti/. Perhaps the difference between the two kinds of shift lies in whether the syllable is open or closed.

    The cause of this Shift is unknown to me, but I speculate that tv presenters may be the culprits. The rule "smile at all times" seems to be a factor, and I sometimes derive a perverse pleasure in counting occurrences of "orfterneen" in weather broadcasts.

    Would anyone more knowledgeable than I care to speculate, and particularly on whether this Shift is related in any way to the well-known Ablaut grade e - o?

    Finally, and for what it's worth, I pronounce "wr" exactly the same as "r" in every case, so that "rite", "write", "right", and "wright" are all homophones.

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  33. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 17:48

    And again my comment has disappeared. Perhaps it works if I try it in several parts?

    =====================

    I have often pondered the rounding of /ʃ/, because it is stronger in German than in English, weaker in French, and completely absent in Navajo (soundfile accessible from here).

    I suspect the reasons are carried over from the origins of these sounds.

    /ʃ/ is the most strongly exolabially* rounded sound in the entire German language. One source of German /ʃ/ is [sx]; this was not in itself rounded, but rounding makes [ʃ] sound much more like velar friction. Another is /s/ in front of what must still have been [w] at the time (attested by spelling variations in Old High German like swimman ~ sowimman).

    The English /ʃ/ comes from [st͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /sk/ in front of front vowels. In German, /sk/ turned into [sx] and then [ʃ] in all environments. I suppose the English palatalization didn't bleed over into the [s], so a bit of a damper was put on the palatalization of the eventual [ʃ]. This fits vp's observation that the modern English /t͡ʃ/ is less rounded than the /ʃ/.

    The French /ʃ/ comes from [t͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /k/ in front of front vowels. No [s] participated, so nothing held palatalization back.

    The Navajo /ʃ/ goes back at least to Proto-Athabaskan, and if I remember correctly what I've read, that language is supposed to have had a phonemic contrast between /ʃ/ and a retroflex /ʂ/. Rounding and retroflexion can sound similar, so rounding may have been avoided.

    * = actually visible lip rounding. The alternative, called endolabial rounding, involves faking it using tongue and palate and makes it probably impossible to read my lips.

    By the way, my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words.

    I once read on Language Hat about an adult Canadian doing this when talking about a loud boom. The onomatopoietic effect, the source said, was totally ruined. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  34. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 17:51

    And again my comment disappeared! Is there perhaps a length limit that is applied retroactively? I'll try again in four parts:

    ====================

    I have often pondered the rounding of /ʃ/, because it is stronger in German than in English, weaker in French, and completely absent in Navajo (soundfile accessible from here).

    I suspect the reasons are carried over from the origins of these sounds.

    ReplyDelete
  35. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 17:54

    Seems to work so far! Part 3 of 4, containing the footnote to part 2:

    ==============================

    The French /ʃ/ comes from [t͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /k/ in front of front vowels. No [s] participated, so nothing held palatalization back.

    The Navajo /ʃ/ goes back at least to Proto-Athabaskan, and if I remember correctly what I've read, that language is supposed to have had a phonemic contrast between /ʃ/ and a retroflex /ʂ/. Rounding and retroflexion can sound similar, so rounding may have been avoided.

    * = actually visible lip rounding. The alternative, called endolabial rounding, involves faking it using tongue and palate and makes it probably impossible to read my lips.

    ReplyDelete
  36. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 17:56

    Strange. Part 1 is there, part 3 is there, but part 2 is gone. In the meantime, here comes part 4:

    =========================

    By the way, my almost 3-year-old grandson often uses a highly fronted [y] in GOOSE words.

    I once read on Language Hat about an adult Canadian doing this when talking about a loud boom. The onomatopoietic effect, the source said, was totally ruined. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  37. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 17:58

    Parts 1, 3 and 4 have come through (we'll see if part 4 stays), so here's the first half of part 2:

    ===================

    /ʃ/ is the most strongly exolabially* rounded sound in the entire German language. One source of German /ʃ/ is [sx]; this was not in itself rounded, but rounding makes [ʃ] sound much more like velar friction. Another is /s/ in front of what must still have been [w] at the time (attested by spelling variations in Old High German like swimman ~ sowimman).

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  38. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 18:00

    Part 4 is still there. Second half of part 2:

    =======================

    The English /ʃ/ comes from [st͡ʃ], which was the allophone of /sk/ in front of front vowels. In German, /sk/ turned into [sx] and then [ʃ] in all environments. I suppose the English palatalization didn't bleed over into the [s], so a bit of a damper was put on the palatalization of the eventual [ʃ]. This fits vp's observation that the modern English /t͡ʃ/ is less rounded than the /ʃ/.

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  39. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 18:03

    Hoping that the second half of part 2 is still with us...

    A soundfile of the Navajo /ʃ/ is accessible from here.

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  40. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 18:05

    Everything has come through. I conclude there is a very restrictive length limit which is applied retroactively, deleting all but the shortest of my comments (due to my lack of a login?) a few seconds after they are posted.

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