End of ADS-L Digest - 21 Mar 1995 to 22 Mar 1995 ************************************************ There are 9 messages totalling 301 lines in this issue. Topics of the day: 1. 'see' or 'say' 2. rabbit/rodent 3. Rabbit = Rodent? 4. Grammar Books (2) 5. 6. Words for 1995! 7. Picayune (2) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Thu, 23 Mar 1995 00:24:30 EST From: Terry Lynn Irons Subject: Re: 'see' or 'say' My familiarity with the Northern Cities Shift is merely anecdotal, based on eaves dropping in airports. In that regard, I came across an utterance that is emblematic of what Labov describes as the low vowel part of the shift in the north. As I was awaiting a flight, I overheard not entirely unconsciously (is surreptitious listening unethical or illegal?) two gentlemen talking and one, bragging or bemoaning exploits of the day prior said, "Last night I lost my wallet in the bar." His vowels in the first (last), fourth (lost), and sixth word (wallet) of this sentence were all fronted from what are their cardinal positions (at least for me) in Gen'ral Umurican. My experience with the so-called Southern Vowel Shift is more direct, and I suspect I may be undergoing it myself. I find it easier and easier to pronounce the accusative form of the first person personal pronoun with a mid front vowel in contrast with the high front vowel it became as a result of the GVS. I hear this change all around me. But the third person singular nominative form {he} does not seem to be affected so. And many other words don't either. I could run through many other examples, but I really have some questions here. First, what does this example say about the Neo-Grammarian dictum about the irreversibility of sound change? {me} was [me] then became [mi] and now is [me] again? The first time I talked to students about the SVS, a student asked what I first reacted to as a stupid naive question but which I have since come to see as crucial in this case. We were working through the exercises in Walt's book on these contemporary vowel shifts, and a student asked, "How are we supposed to know what the underlying vowel is to apply the rule to?" (Extreme paraphrase from memory). I said something like, "Well, you just know." And I went on about how we have real time evidence that people pronounced this pronoun with a high front vowel but that now some people used a mid front vowel and blah blah blah. Now I question the nature of this evidence. First, as I understand it, Labov's work here seems to posit a homogeneous speech community that has since diverged in accord with these shifting patterns. Where is the evidence that the community was homogenous? What looks like change and an actuation problem may not be that at all. It may be the case that we have a continuity of several varieties all along (like for 400 years) and social scientists are simply now becoming aware of that fact and are trying to explain it in the context of a bad paradigm (i.e., XXXXXXX). It may be that some people said [me] and never [mi] all the way back. The other point I wish to raise is that this so-called vowel shift may be simply a lexical change, that via lexical diffusion may be later interpreted as a chain shift. To use the introspective paradigm (I am my best informant, if we can trust Noam), for me--which may phonetically be sometimes [me] for me, but only variably--{we} and {he} are still [wi] and [hi] for me. More importantly, others whom I have heard say [me] for {me} show NO CHANGE WHATSOEVER in other areas of the pronominal system in regards pronunciaton. What Labov claims to be a vowel chain shift on the basis of limited evidence provided to him by various students, I would suggest, might be limited lexical change or a misinterpretation based upon lack of appropriate historical evidence. Certainly, any such claims must be supported by more quantitative evidence than is provided in the 91 article or the most recent tome. -- (*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*) Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]msuacad.morehead-st.edu Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164 Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351 (*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)=(*)