Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 00:26:25 CST From: "Donald M. Lance" Subject: Re: TV and dialect Mike Picone asked some questions about [U] before /r/. Rather than regional dialect, this item seems to me to be language change. In my 37 years of teaching, it seems I've heard an increasing frequency of [por] for [pUr] and other similar words. Picone's 'tour' is one of them. If you examine which vowel distinctions we have before /r/ (however realized phonetically), you'll see spelling evidence, if not regional/social evidence,of the collapsing of vowel distinctions in this context. When I was in high school I was taught (later taught it myself) that [por] is a [pUr] way to say that word; it reveals hillbilly ignorance. Well, don't we hear [po[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]] in British English? So my teachers were wrong! I don't think the [U] realization of -or/spelled words was common in our family, so I agreed with the teachers, smugly. As I've "matured" I've gotten a broader picture. Do the paradigm of vowels before -/r/ and see how many you have -- more than 5? If more than 5, you're not very modern. We all know about Mary, merry, marry. And maybe we know about mere, mirror vis-a`-vis high front vowels. Well, the high and mid back vowels want to get into the act. Most young students at Missouri have no high back vowel before /r/. As with 'sure' (= "shirr"), the medial vowel in the name of the Show-Me state is now said, by many-many young people, as "err" (the way dictionary editors usually want you to say the word). That is, the high back vowel, whether tense or lax, has merged with /o/ before /r/ when it has a spelling that suggests "o" and has merged with the mid central "retroflex" vowel when its spelling suggests a "u" of some sort. Some stubborn words like 'pure' resist the dialectal preparation for the millenium, but it's not far behind in the parade. I don't think I would have noticed this development if I hadn't been shamelessly passing out questionnaires asking students and their friends to fess up to saying 'Missouri' with -uh or with -ee, the fessing depending on attitude toward each of these "correct" pronunciations. Look for an article from me on this in a year or so (Am Speech if they have the good judgment to accept my humble submission). Within a few years I began noticing a high incidence of 'err" in the middle of this great American word! (my tongue is in my cheek here, but you'll have to wait for my article to find out why.) So, Mike, it ain't just a penchant for snootiness. It's a patriotic language change that sends today's yuppies on tores of distant shores where they're shirr to get a good tan, fer shirr. The 'shore' pronunciation of 'sure' always seemed, in my wisdom-filled youth, to reek of more ignorance than did 'pore' for 'poor'. So there! Of course there's some regionality; there almost always is in language change. When I left the South Midland tones of Texas and came to Missouri, I was struck by the apparent fact (I didn't do a systematic count) of the much higher incidence ot [por] in Midwestern English, both North Midland and SWINE. I hope younger scholar is beginning to trace this item. A good research project for an assistant professor seeking heavy stuff for tenure things. DMLance