Date: Thu, 21 Mar 1996 07:48:05 -0500

From: "Dennis R. Preston" preston[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PILOT.MSU.EDU

Subject: Re: your mail

Since I use 'jeetchet' in my beginning classes as an example of allegro

speech processes and specifically relate it to 'did you eat yet,' I am

surprised to find it on a list of 'non-words,' particularly since the

'jeet' part requires, at least for me, an 'underlying' 'did.'

I will avoid extensive discussion of the more philsophical question about

the word status of some of the other items on this list, but I think one

would like to distinguish several levels here, at least, for example:

1) Pseudo-imitatives which have clearly have the status 'word' (e.g.,.

cock-a-doodle-doo' and 'oink' (which no self-respecting rooseter or pig,

respectively, would ever say).

2) A middle category of items which appear to be 'conventionalizing,'

derived from 'sounds' but not yet fully lexicalized. Judgments here are

difficult since they may be further along in the process for some than for

others. For me, for example, 'blech' is such an item (while the similar

'yuck' belongs to category one.

3) 'Semanticized' noises; i.e., noises whose ',meanings' are clear but seem

to lack (or resist) lexicalization. (E.g., the 'mmmmmmmm' which means

'tasty,' or, to take an example of the same semantic terriory which surely

exists in 2) (or perhaps 1 for some) above, 'yum.'

Morphological tests help me a bit with these. For example, I can attach

bound morphemes (plural, past tense, etc...) to category one freely (He

oinked yeasterday; He let out three loud oinks). I have a lot of trouble

doing this to category 2 (*He bleched yesterday, as opposed to 'He went

'blech' yesterday.') The last (*He 'mmmmmmmed' yesterday) is really bad for

me. (This is what helps me clear up 'yum.' I don't like 'he yummed'

yesterday, but it's not as horrible as 'he mmmmmmmed' yesterday, so I would

put 'yum' in 2) and 'mmmmm' in 3).

When I say 'I don't like these,' of course, I do not refer at all to the

possibility of 'pseudolexicalizing' them (like any stretch of noise) in

'performance' speech.

GGGGGmmmmppph. (The noise a real pig makes)


gleep- my brain is melting

bleh, blech, yuck(and similar derivatives)-that's disgusting

yum- delicious

humph- what nonsense

pshaw- ditto

grunt- grunt

jeet?- You eat yet?

I'm sure there's many others.

Dennis R. Preston

Department of Linguistics and Languages

Michigan State University

East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA


Office: (517)432-1235

Fax: (517)432-2736