Friday, 14 December 2012

shoe dye etc (ii)

Ren Houbo writes to say that he is delighted with yesterday’s answers and examples, and is looking forward to hearing about handle. So here goes.

The l at the end of handle constitutes a syllable on its own, usually with no separate ə after the d. The word is pronounced ˈhænd.l̩. Being, therefore, ‘syllabic’, this l may be somewhat longer in duration than it would otherwise be.

When a syllabic consonant is followed by a ‘weak’ (unstressable) vowel, it may optionally lose its syllabicity and become the ordinary (nonsyllabic) equivalent. Thus in handling, with the weak-vowelled suffix -ing, the basic three syllables ˈhænd.l̩.ɪŋ are usually reduced to just two, ˈhænd.lɪŋ. (This is the process I refer to as ‘compression’.) In this compressed form, the l is indeed now at the beginning of a syllable. The same applies in handle it, ˈhænd.l̩.ɪt or ˈhænd.lɪt, where the compressed version sounds identical to hand lit. Note, though, that handle lit is different, ˈhænd.l̩.lɪt, with a syllable-final l followed by a syllable-initial l. Here, as always happens when a syllable-final fricative or liquid is followed by an identical syllable-initial consonant, the two consonants are articulated by simply prolonging the steady state, not by moving any articulator. (Compare the prolonged s in bus stop and the prolonged m in same man.)

As I see it, the only common cases in English in which a syllable-final consonant is moved into the following syllable are the intensifier at all ə.ˈtɔːl and the combinations it is ɪ.ˈtɪz and it isn’t ɪ.ˈtɪz.n̩t. These three expressions usually have a strongly aspirated t, which tells us that it must be syllable-initial. (Some people think that syllable transfer also happens in the case of linking or intrusive r in BrE. I disagree, because more ice mɔːr ˈaɪs sounds different from more rice mɔː ˈraɪs.)

17 comments:

  1. "The only common cases in English in which a syllable-final consonant is moved into the following syllable are the intensifier at all ə.ˈtɔːl and the combinations it is ɪ.ˈtɪz and it isn’t ɪ.ˈtɪz.n̩t. These three expressions usually have a strongly aspirated t, which tells us that it must be syllable-initial."

    Could this imply, that for Anglophones who tap /t/, the alveolar tap begins a syllable, as in /æ.ˈɾɔɫ/~/æ.ˈɾoːɫ/ or /ɪ.ˈɾɪz/ or /i.ˈɾiz/ or is the syllabification different in these accents?

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    1. By the way, the second transcriptions (/æ.ˈɾoːɫ/ and /i.ˈɾiz/) are supposed to stand for Australian (as I hear it), in case anyone finds these confusing.

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  2. I think it implies that these speakers do NOT resyllabicate in these items, but respect the word boundaries in the usual way. The /t/ is then final, therefore subject to possible tapping. No one begins a syllable with a tap.

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  3. I find the variant of at 'ome interesting (rarer today unless the speaker is /h-impaired anyway, but not dead):

    step 1: At home obviously has a full h.

    step 2: But this variant treats the h as unstable (as were all in older stages, those pronouns being the only other survivors), and as the preceding word ends in a stop, it's dropped without a trace.

    step 3: But there's a syllable-border move as in at all (which doesn't contradict John's words, as this pronunciation isn't common), so the t is syllable-initial, and so, strongly aspirated.

    step 4: But this pronunciation is (or was) more typical of people who'd have nearly French sounding unaspirated stops.

    (Phillip Minden.)

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  4. When a syllabic consonant is followed by a ‘weak’ (unstressable) vowel, it may optionally lose its syllabicity and become the ordinary (nonsyllabic) equivalent.

    Any rule of thumb for when it is likely to occur? ˈhænd.lɪŋ I'd go along with, but I think I can still distinguish fennel and carrot cake from Fenland carrot cake.

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  5. And, regarding ˈhænd.l̩.lɪt, I suppose the first half of that long [l] would remain "dark" before becoming "clear"?

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    1. No. It's all clear. Why do you imagine any of it would be dark? [l] is clear before a vowel sound.

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    2. Yes, of course! I was trying to change from dark to clear without realizing that that would mean changing the position of my tongue dorsum, so that I would no longer be prolonging the steady state (It is not only the tip that must remain fixed, I gather).

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  7. John (Wells):
    'more ice mɔːr ˈaɪs sounds different from more rice mɔː ˈraɪs.'

    without disputing that it does, it would interest me what you think this difference more precisely resides in. Is the /r/ of 'more rice' more intense, for instance, than the /r/ in 'more ice'? Does this difference manifest itself on the respective 'r' at all?

    Full name --- see Profile

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    1. thank you.
      full name see profile

      btw these 'capture'-exhortations 'please prove you're not a robot' remind me of an ancient Polish idiom 'proving you're not a camel' meaning proving you're not guilty of something you have been accused of and which it is to all sensible persons obvious you are not guilty of.

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  8. I wonder if the linking r could ever be realized as r-coloring of the preceding vowel. So more ice would be pronounced [mɔ˞ː aɪs]. Or is this not possible in a "non-rhotic" accent?

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  9. Hello everyone !

    I've got a question concerning the syllabification of the word 'handle'. The syllabification given by John /hænd.l̩/ is, from what I know, incorrect. As far as I know the SSA of English, the N-placement rule sets /l/ as the nucleus of the second syllable. Then goes the CV rule which assigns /d/ to the onset of the syllable. This could be only blocked by a segment violating the SSG. That is not the case here as the sonority of the voiced alveolar stop [d] doesn't violate it. The syllabification of the word should be then /hæn.dl̩/ . This is something I was taught duing my first year of studies so I might have got it wrong... it's been some time since then. I'm wondering if John has made a mistake or I have still a lot to learn. Thoughts ?

    Marek Krzemiński

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    1. You can see the syllabification principles he uses, which do indeed give hand.l, at http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/syllabif.htm

      I find most of his arguments convincing, except for the bit about /tr/ and /dr/ (and I think that may be because I don't pronounce those words in the traditional RP way).

      dʒɔnəθən dʒɔːdn

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  10. My favourite play on a final consonant's moving to the next word was Ringo Starr's company "Ring O'Records". It only worked if you had an accent with no NG-coalescence, but still the joke was quite funny.

    Ed Aveyard

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