Date: Wed, 24 Jul 1996 14:52:54 EDT
From: Larry Horn LHORN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALEVM.CIS.YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: WAFT and the Principle of Linguistic Entropy
Ellen Johnson writes,
Waft rhymes with raft for me. Yes, I'm Southern, and I hope I'm mistaken about
the assumption that some here seem to have made that this is the incorrect
pronunciation bc it's Southern and it's an educated word and Southerners are
uneducated. Or something like that. Although someone did note that it might
be more common among Scots-Irish descendants and it doesn't seem like such a
terribly unusual word to me. Anyway, the "broad-a" pronunciation of other
words (path, dance, aunt, etc) has some local prestige but can hardly be
considered standard AmEng. I guess I am just questioning the source of the
original determination of "wahft" as correct.
Did I miss someone claiming that the "raft" pronunciation is 'incorrect'?
Incorrect because its practitioners are Southerners and (hence?) 'uneducated'?
Golly. What I remember is several correspondents (including me) claiming they
pronounce 'waft' one way and others claiming they pronounce it another way.
Someone indicated they found a dictionary which listed the 'wahft' version
first, followed by the rhyme-with-"raft" version. Someone else (actually a
few correspondents) discussed diachrony, with the suggestion that the 'wahft'
version is older, and we wondered why wa- words with short /a/ (or a
phonologically describably subset of such words) failed to merge with /wae-/
while /a/-- /ae/ elsewhere. Are we claiming we "wahft"ies are more virtuous
for failing to front (while we're equally sinful as you elsewhere, since we
all pronounce "daft", "draft", etc. to rhyme with "raft")? I don't recall the
value judgments you seem to be imputing to us wahfties, and I'd be surprised
to find them professed (even covertly) on ADS. Incidentally, this wahfty
pronounces "aunt", "dance", and "path" with the digraph; the first is a
homonym of "ant". (I realize other Yankee speakers differ from me in this.)
It's a fact about wa- (remember that "quaff" was brought up as another case--
do you non-wahfties use a front vowel for that one too?) before coronals and
-f-, not a general fact about rare words or high-falutin words or anything of
the sort. Other dialects are described with a different generalization.
What does it have to do with education levels or "correctness"?
End of sermon.