Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 09:14:45 -0700
From: Peter McGraw pmcgraw[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]CALVIN.LINFIELD.EDU
Subject: Re: variation in unstressed vowels
On Thu, 27 Jun 1996, David Bergdahl (614) 593-2783 wrote:
RE: Dan Coyle's request for more info on Ohio official
In some apparently standard dialects (used by radio &tv announcers, politicians)
a word like official has an elongated /o/ with main stress on the initial
syllable and a secondary stress on [fIs^] and [*l] with low stress. This
pronunciation has become standard in the last 25 yrs., I would guess, or at
least become more prominent. My intuition (for what it's worth) is that
pronunciations with schwa are heard as "slurvian" and to be avoided, hence the
strange stress situation of a primary followed by a secondary rather than an
unstressed syllable. Another plausible explantion is that it's one of the words
affected by front-shifting of stress, as in The Columbus DISpatch, POlice,
MOtel, &c. Some speakers may have level stress in official : each syllable
equally stressed, as if it were French.
A non-standard (although used by former Gov. Rhodes, from Appalachian Jackson,
OH) pronunciation with unstressed /o/ or schwa initially has [i] as the stressed
vowel, popularly spelled of-FEESH-al. But that, I think, is the result of the
change in syllable boundary with the loss of the final vowel when the [l] became
syllabic. Since [I] doesn't appear in open syllables, it was raised to [i]. . .
or, at least, that's my theory.
I assume that in the paragraph above, your first "[I]" uses the twelfth
letter of the alphabet, while the second "[I]" uses the ninth. Otherwise
I'm really confused (and maybe even a bit "Ill").
In any case I doubt that Gov. Rhodes's pronunciation has anything to do
with a syllable boundary shift, since the word 'fish', too, is pronounced by
some Ohioans, and other Midwesterners (others on this list can
probably enlighten us as to the feature's geographic boundaries), with a
vowel that native New Yorkers seem to hear as [i] but which in my
experience is a diphthong [Ij] (read "capital-ay jay").
I lived in Yellow Springs, OH, during the Rhodes administration, and
don't recall hearing anyone say "OH-fish[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]l", so I assume it's an
Appalachian feature characteristic of the southeastern area of the state.
I moved into southern Ohio in 1968 from Syracuse in upstate NY, but I grew up on
Long Island, N.Y. in a suburb on NY, so the pronunciations I'm describing are
"foreign" to my ears since they're neither my native pronunciations nor the
"standard." Hope this helps.
David Bergdahl BERGDAHL[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]OUVAXA.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Associate Professor of English Language and Literature
Ohio University / Athens fax: (614) 593-2818