Date: Fri, 6 Sep 1996 16:05:31 -0700


Subject: Re: American accent: nasal

On Fri, 6 Sep 1996, M. Lynne Murphy wrote:

So it seems as if there's some quality in at least some American vowels

that speakers of other languages (maybe even including British English)

perceive as nasalization.

lack of roundness seems to be what is being perceived as

nasalization. the examples that peter mcgraw brought up (bob and

mcgraw) are both less (or un-)rounded in many/most american dialects.

perhaps the perception as nasalization comes from there being more

space for the sound to resonate in the vocal tract in both the

low unrounded and nasal vowels (albeit rather different spaces).

or, maybe when we unround our velums (vela?) drop a bit (but not as

much as our imitators suggest).

Well, not quite. My vowel in "Bob" is no more unrounded, though it is

more fronted, than the Dutch sound spelled "aa" (though the Dutch sound

spelled "o" is short and rounded, so perhaps spelling played a role). But

my vowel in "McGraw" is definitely rounded, and certainly more rounded

than the sound my landlady produced, so it would rather seem as if

rounding was what she was trying to approximate by nasalizing the vowel.

To complicate matters further, Viennese German (especially blue collar

Viennese) has a comparable vowel that is even lower, further back and more

strongly rounded than mine in "McGraw".


as long as i'm on the line here, let me give a cumulative thanks for

everyone's help this week on my various questions. your stories and

recollections all made it (pending editing) to the radio show, though

it will be 1.5 weeks before i know how idiotic i sound (not because

of your stories but just because i'm an inarticulate american). so,

your influence is felt around the world. thank you thank you.