Date: Mon, 1 Dec 1997 08:47:54 -0500


Subject: Re: of(t)en

I think your "hypercorrect" explanation is accurate. /l/ was lost

in EMnE after low back vowels and before labial and velar consonants

(talk,palm) but not after other vowels or before dental or palatal

consonants (elm,milk,bulk, salt, mulch). But spelling pronunciation is

reclaiming these sounds, as in (your kid's) calm and palm, though not yet

talk and walk (?). Try Wm. Faulkner vs the Atlanta Falcons.

Likewise /t/ in often, though not soften or listen. On Mon, 1 Dec 1997, Gregory {Greg}



At 04:05 PM 11/30/97 -0500, you wrote:

My impression is that often (with the /t/) is increasing in use, at

least among college students. I've considered it a spelling pronunciation,

given that for several hundred years (no OED handy) the standard pronuncia-

tion was without the /t/. But then, I'm still trying to figure out why one

of my own children pronounces the /l/ in calm and palm.

Re "no OED handy" -- OED2 has both t-pronunication and t-less (as well as

more than one realization of the first vowel), giving the t-less one first

which usually indicates some kind of priority/preference. But no comments

are made on pronunciation that I saw in looking quickly. Without endorsing

the analysis, I can point out that I recall being taught, in a relatively

basic linguistics class in the late 1970s, that the t-pronunciation was a

case of hypercorrection based on spelling, common among the culturally and

linguistically insecure lower-middle and middle classes. So the theory went,


Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]