Date: Sun, 30 Apr 1995 22:28:00 CDT


Subject: Re: Why, and how we transcribe it

If you make a spectrogram of a native speaker of /hw-/ saying 'whine',

you'll find the same kind of delay of voice onset that you find in 'twine'

and 'slime' etc. That is, there is an initial /h-/, though the energy

level of the "aspiration" in /h/ is so low that there's no way to tell

whether the /w/ overlaps with the /h/ for 100% of the segment, but it is

clear that the /h/ does not extend through the entire articulation

(temporally) of the /w/. I've always suspected that the phonologists or

phoneticians who transcribe /hw-/ with the upside-down w or with a little

circle (for voicelessness) under the /w/ do not produce /hw-/ natively.

Yes, Bill, I agree that "voiceless w" is a bit of an oxymoron, in reference

to this particular consonant cluster--though that's not quite what you said.

There MIGHT be a voiceless /w/ in some language(s), but that's not what

I perceive in English, either when I say it or when I hear it. The

cluster, of course, is misspelled. Try over-articulating and say /h/

followed by /w/; then /w/ followed by /h/. The latter isn't even close

to anything we do with our articulators in English. As any good HEL book

will point out, the two letters were reversed after sh- and ch- became

so common in early Middle English spelling. And th-. DMLance