I found myself being just a tiny bit querulous when commenting on a posting in Language Log. A reader had asked about the word with, saying
I have always used unvoiced [th] as the pronunciation of that word, and had never noticed anyone doing otherwise.As for the voiced [ð] in this word,
I'm interested in what the distribution of this variant is, but I'm having a hard time finding it online
In reply Mark Liberman, the usually very knowledgeable writer of the post in question, said just
Short answer: I don't know. I've never heard a discussion of this point of pronunciation variation, except with respect to the varieties of English that have [wɪf] or [wɪv].
There followed a string of commentators reporting what they said or what this or that dictionary reported.
Finally I felt I must chip in:
Doesn't anyone ever consult my Longman Pronunciation Dictionary? There you will find both preference statistics and graphs for wɪθ and wɪð in both American and British English. Also a note mentioning that "in Britain, wɪθ is nevertheless frequent in Scotland" - again, with statistics.
Why do I bother, if no one reads what I write?
I suppose the problem is in the phrase “finding it online”. People now no longer look for information in books, or in libraries: they expect to be able to locate it in in Wikipedia or via Google. They don’t want the inconvenience and expense of buying a book or locating the book in a library.
So the only way I can reasonably expect to disseminate the research I carried out into whether people prefer wɪθ or wɪð is indeed to put it online, which I shall now proceed to do, Here’s the entry for with from LPD.
You’ll see that in Britain taken as a whole we overwhelmingly prefer wɪð, though the Scots, unlike the rest of us, go for wɪθ. In the States most people, like the Scots, prefer wɪθ. The graphs alongside show that the situation is fairly stable over the generations in the US, while in Britain wɪð is gradually increasing in popularity as we move from older speakers to younger.
What the LPD entry doesn’t tell you, because it’s not really germane, is that there is an archaic/dialectal form with no final consonant at all, represented in special spelling as wi’. There are also forms such as wɪv, wɪf, used by TH-fronters in the wɪð and wɪθ areas respectively, and likewise forms such as wɪd, wɪt used by TH-stoppers. So don’t be surprised if a Londoner (probably young, possibly black) says wɪv or even wɪd, or if a similar NooYorker says wɪf or wɪt. But that’s for the sociolinguists.