Date: Sun, 23 Nov 1997 12:31:42 -0500

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

Subject: Re: Why = hwy or wy? (A Tale of Two Regions)

First, /hw/ is dying in Michigan (thought you'd like to moarn).

Second, you ain't got no linguistic marraige problems at all! I am a

standard American English speaker from Louislville marreid to a

starnge-talking Wisconsinite. Of course, I am a post-vocalic /l/ vocalizer

(or even deleter in some cases). I pretty completely delete it in 'wolf,'

and, although it is not a high-frequency word around our house, whenever I

say it, my wife looks at me and starts to bark.


At 09:36 PM 11/22/97 -0500, you ("Bethany K. Dumas" dumasb[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UTK.EDU ) wrote:

I've been aware for some time that my /hw-/ ~ /w-/ usage is variable; I

think it fits the pattern that DInIs describes (and Garland Bills also

claims) --

Well, as long as we're onto this, these things can cause great troubles in a

marriage when they come up at the wrong moment, you know! I was raised in

Michigan and say "hwy" (initial aspiration) for "why," and my wife, who was

raised till age 10 in New York City, and thereafter by a relative in

Michigan who had also been raised in New York City, says "wy" and only "wy."

For fifteen years she has bugged me from time to time about the fact that I

say "hwy" not "wy" (most of us probably know how it is with relationships

and getting one's way etc...).

It's because she notices it the most when I am asking her a question she

does not want to answer. Do I need to draw a picture here? So when the

discussion on a given topic reaches the point where (hwair) I am trying to

get her to give a good reason for whatever (hwutevr) she is advocating at a

given juncture, so's I can take it apart systematically and (of course) get

my way on the issue at hand, I'll say, "Yes, but hwy?" She'll almost

invariably try to derail the interrogation by responding, "Hwy? Hwy? Hwy?

Hwy? Hwy? Wy do you put that stupid extra sound at the front and

overenunciate? Wut's yer problem? Wy do you always do that?"

Part of my problem on this topic results from the fact that when she and I

got married and first came to NYC I ran across folks who had, or were trying

to affect, boarding-school accents (with or without the actual educational

experience to ground them, natch), of the semi-RP/BBC east-coast variety. As

a basically perverse type I went through a period of making a point of

speaking midwesternly, with the idea that if anyone was going to think I

knew what I was talking about I wanted it to be for content not accent....

Thus ends my brief lesson on the convolutions of regionalism,

status-markers, pragmatics, etc. etc.... Glad I got that off my chest. I

feel much better now!

Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[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