Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 19:13:25 -0500


Subject: mb..., nd..., ngg...

I was hoping that the posting of a graduate student at Georgetown regarding

[mboi] 'boy' etc. would yield more fruit than the puny little peach that I

threw in. I've been thinking more about the phenomenon, even playing

around with pronunciations.

I pointed out that pre-phonation in words like 'boat' or 'bone' would be a

phonetically nasal, though I didn't say it quite that way. In order for

the pre-phonation to occur with much strength, the velic must be open (oral

cavity is closed for [b]) to allow a pressure differential across the vocal

folds that would enable phonation. If the velic doesn't close during the

closure for [b], stopness is compromised -- as the student said, "[M]any of

my /b/ and /d/'s are not stops at all." She's quite right (I no longer

have her name in my files but think I remember that the querier was

female). In the case of 'boat' the velic may not close until articulation

of the [o] is under way, and in 'bone' nasal resonance may accompany the

entire word. Similar observations may be made regarding 'dote' and 'goat'.

Apparently the querier felt that the consonant retained a sufficient amount

of the features of a voiced-stop gesture that kept her from speculating

that the stop had "become" a nasal. When I play around with these

pronunciations, the stop does not "turn into" a nasal.

I have noticed the phenomenon, but never associated it with regional or

ethnic lects. I doubt that it is of Afro-Caribbean origin, as she

speculated -- "If anyone knows anything about this feature in WSE, AAVE,

Creoles, or West African languages,..." It doesn't seem to me to be the

same (or even similar) phonomenon as we see/hear in Swahili 'ndizi'

"banana" or Kikongo 'nzadi' (old name of the Congo River). Such an origin

would very likely have had to originate in the retention or

"misunderstanding" of the prefixes represented by these unEnglish

N+voiced-obstruent clusters.

Any other observations? This was a question about dialect. We've heard

complaints about postings that aren't about dialect.