Date: Wed, 26 Apr 1995 17:55:09 -0400

From: "H. Stephen Straight (Binghamton U,


Subject: Re: Why, and how we transcribe it

As one of those who claim that the voiceless labiovelar glide ["turned"

W] differs (phonetically?/phonemically?) from a sequence of voiceless

glottal spirant and voiced labiovelar glide [hw], I feel obliged to

respond to Bill Kretzschmar's comment that he

had never thought

of this as a voiced/unvoiced contrast because I always thought that the

/w/ was +voice, whether or not an initial aspirate was present. Is there

acoustic or other evidence to support one side or the other? Or is the

difference in notation simply a residue of the segmental-phonology wars of

the 50s and 60s.

I hear two differences between the voiceless-segment versus the cluster

renditions, though I'll concede up front that they reside at the two

poles of a phonetic continuum, and that I know of no lexical contrast

that employs the two, so I guess they're allophones of a single phonemic

unit (whether a segment or a cluster). The two differences are those

implied by the transcriptional contrast: The voiceless glide is shorter

and induces initial voicelessness on a following vowel, while the

(longer) cluster exhibits voicing in the [w] portion with a clear

formant-transition voicing into the following vowel.

Sociolinguistically, though, my less-than-systematic conclusion is that

[hw] is found only in the speech of those for whom the w/wh contrast is

dead or dying, and only in words for which there exists a minimal pair

that they are trying to preserve (wail/whale, wet/whet, wile/while,

wine/whine, wit/whit, and, rarely, wen/when, wear/where,

weather/whether--the wh-words having been among the first to "lose their

h", so to speak).

Reactions invited!

H STEPHEN STRAIGHT, Assoc Prof of Anthro & of Ling, Binghamton Univ (SUNY)

Director: Grad Studies in Anthro, Prog in Ling, and Lgs Across the Curric

MAIL: Box 6000, Bing, NY 13902-6000; 24-hr vmail: 607-777-2824; fax: -2477

EMAIL: sstraigh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]bingsuns.bitnet or sstraigh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]