Date: Sat, 28 Oct 1995 09:27:57 -0500

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

Subject: Re: folk/folklore

My attempt to apply phonological principles to this earlier would, of

course, not apply to people who have an 'l' in all words. (In the spirit of

modern linguistics, they are not 'interesting.' OUCH!)

What I failed to observe before were all the possibilities:

1) Has all 'l' (not interesting)

2) Has no 'l' except in 'folklore' (see my earlier explanation)

3) Has no 'l' in 'folk' but has it everywhere else (e.g., in 'folklore'

'folkdance,' etc...)

4) Has no 'l' anywhere (me [and, I suspect, lots like me], also not interesting)

It is the third possibility I did not address.

I still believe my syllable-reassignment rule will work for Type 2

speakers, but why do 3) speakers exist?

First, it is well-known that polysyllabic versus monosyllabic words will

have an effect of phonetic processes. For example, in the Northern Cities

Shift, the raising of tense (peripheral) low-front vowels is retarded by

extra syllables. For example, a speaker who might often raise the vowel in

'tack' might much less frequently raise it in 'tactical.' Perhaps that same

process is at work here. Perhaps related to this is the fact that the

'folk' part of such forms as 'folkdance' will receive (locally) prominent

stress in compounds (FOLKdance). In fact, one might contrast these

compounds (which I think people had in mind when they were reporting this

phenomenon) with attributive (i.e., folk DANCE) patterns and see if they

observe the same phenomenon. If that is so, extra syllables play an

important role only in the resulting locally contrasting stress.

Second, and I have only some background memory of this, I think I recall

that the distribution of 'dark;' and 'light' 'l' is different in different

parts of the US South, but I cannot believe that this context (after /ow/)

would allow that contrast.

Third, the status of the 'l' residue (if any) may be fooling even some

careful self-reporters. In my 'folk' there is no 'residue' of 'l.' Although

I have no 'foke' word, I do have a completely homophonic 'Polk' and 'poke.'

I do not, however, have homophonic 'golf' and 'Goff' (or 'palm' and 'pom'

[as in 'pom-pom']). Another issue, is therefore, whether 'l' is 'gone'

(with no 'residue' in the preceding vowel, which can show up as lengthening

and dipthongization [including rounding in appropriate vowels, as in my

'golf' -- [gawf] not [gaf]). In some cases (certainly where I grew up in

Louisville), this 'residue' in some words can be extremely diagnostic

(socially). For example, those with homophonic 'help' and 'hep,' were

hicks; those who had a little up-back glide and rounding after 'e' (but no

'l' "contact") were thought much better of. (Those of us with this

miniature distinction thought we 'pronounced our 'l.' Imagine our surprise

when we found out later, after contact with those farther North, that we

were hicks too.)

More than I meant to write. I'll get the 'l' out of here. I just thought I

would expand my imaginings to take care of the rest of you.

Dennis (always a dull [fowk]) Preston


On Fri, 27 Oct 1995, Kathleen M. O'Neill wrote:

Funny thing is, I'm pretty sure I'm pronouncing the "l" in all of them.

Folk, folklore, folkdance, etc.

I also pronounce the "l" in all three.

Elaine Green

University of Georgia