Date: Sat, 22 Nov 1997 19:04:17 -0500

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

Subject: Re: pragmatic change in progress?

Arnold's post reminds me of two of the best hypercorrectios I ever heard,

and, as Arnold will surely like, they are both Ohio State stories (but

before Arnold's time, so I'm not sure how much of a codger he can clainm to

be). (Only the first is relevant to the /hw/-/w/, but while I was on OSU

hypercorrection, I just couldn't turn it loose.) Both were in graduate


1) A student was reading a list of words from some experiment he had done

and apologized that the next word might be 'dirty' for some. He then went

on to say /hwor/. Stupidly, I could not decode it for a bit. Finally I

caught on. I don't exactly recall how the difficulty was resolved, but I

know the other students didn't let him get away with it. (In short, Arnold

is right; not all 'wh' spellings are pronounced /hw/. But hwo doesn't know

that!) (While we are on this lexical item, however, does anybody know the

approximate boundaries, geogrqphical, social, whatever, of the /hur/

('hoor') as opposed to /hor/ ('hore') pronunciations? The first time I

heard /hur/ I found it very foreign, but I'm a standard English speaker

from Louisville. My impression was that the /hur/ forms were northern and

eastern exclusively.)

2) The second one is my all-time favorite. A student was reading a list of

example sentences, one of which was 'I took my dog out for a walk on its

leash.' When he got to the last word he pronounced it /lIsh/. I said

(crassly), 'Don't you mean leash /lish/?' He said 'Oh, I don't talk that

way any more.' Then I realized (as, of course, I should have earlier just

from the 'input data') that he was a high lax vowel tenser before /sh/ (the

well-known 'feesh' and 'poosh' phenomenon, although the boundaries of this

are a little fuzzy). It is not common in all of the South Midlands (or

'Upper South,' and I suspect that for younger speakers in many areas it is

a status marker.


i agree with DInIs [preston] entirely. these occurrences of WHY

are entirely natural for me - hey, i'm three years older than

DInIS, so i'm even more of an old codger - *and* the discourse

WHY has /w/ while the interrogative WHY has /hw/. (not everything

spelled wh is pronounced with /hw/, even for folks like me who

hwinny. WHOA *never* has /hw/, in particular.)

arnold (zwicky[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Dennis R. Preston

Department of Linguistics and Languages

Michigan State University

East Lansing MI 48824-1027 USA


Office: (517)353-0740

Fax: (517)432-2736