Date: Mon, 19 Jan 1998 11:44:13 -0600


Subject: Re: New York vowels

Interesting posting from Barry Popik. A journalist reporting on a

presentation to the Acoustical Society of America!!?? Well,....

The University of Missouri boasts of the first (true) and best (I really

don't know) school of journalism in the world. MU J-students

systematically avoid both linguistics and cliches like the plague. So the

Metro Gnome who wrote the cutsie NYPost piece on New Yawk vowels is in good


I'm not even mildly tempted to comment on most of the piece, but one item

piqued my curiosity. Or should I say peaked or peeked?

Linguists have long marveled at how New Yorkers add extra sounds--called

back vowels--into words like "talk" or "dog," which we pronounce "tawahk" and


In the so-called Standard American English, those words are pronounced

with a single vowel sound, "ah" (as in "tahk") and "aw" (as in "dawg").

Being an unrepentant speaker of a version of South Midland American, I've

often wondered whether people who "tahk" (considered "standard" by Metro

Gnome) also tick.

An examination of 'talk' and 'dog' in PEAS is an interesting exercise. I

don't think I'll suggest that Metro Gnome waste any of his (Gersh Kuntzman,

I assume is a male name) valuabe time or synaptic energy by looking into a

few "facts," but a good exercise for linguistics students is an examination

of the entire set of low back vowels as they vary throughout the Atlantic

States. PEAS = The Pronunciation of English in the Atlantic States, by

Hans Kurath and Raven I. McDavid, University of Michigan Press, 1961.

Does "marveled" accurately characterize what Bill Labov has been doing for

more than a generation, apparently with little notice taken by gnomish

practitioners of journalistic cutsieness?