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USAGE: [YAEPT] non-rhotic r (was Re: "To whom")

From:Tristan McLeay <conlang@...>
Date:Friday, January 28, 2005, 0:08
On 28 Jan 2005, at 7.16 am, Mark J. Reed wrote:

> Anyway. I tend to use /../ for broad phonetic transcription, not just > phonemic. It's a bad habit I shall attempt to lose. I should > certainly > have used [] for my description of the British pronunciation of > |better| > as [bE?@]; in this case I'm actually more confident of the phonetic > transcription. What's the phonemic status of trailing -r in non-rhotic > English? Is it considered an underlying phoneme whose phonetic > realization > is a modification of the preceding vowel (or none at all, in the case > of > schwa), or merely a graphical convention used to indicate in writing > which > of two vowel phonemes should be selected? (At least in those cases > where English spelling has some bearing on pronunciation.)
Generally the latter. Also, if you didn't say the /r/ didn't exist phonemically (i.e if you said it did), you would probably want to include the set of phones anyway; unlike in American English where there's only a limited number of vowels which are distinct before /r/, in Australian (at least), almost any vowel can go before /r/, so the only thing to generate [2:] from is /2:r/, and the only time /2:/ would occur is before an /r/ (though [2:] occurs in more interesting places). (The exceptions are /&i/ and /Vu\/ I think, which could then be used to generate [e:] and some cases of [o:], but those exceptions are excepted in compounds, so you'll need a syllable break instead.) Also don't forget that after /a: o: u@ e: I: 2: @/, no matter the origin (bra~bar, lore~law, pure, care, deer~idea, fur, harder~data), if the next word begins in a vowel, a hiatus-avoding [r\] is inserted. Unless you want to posit that 'law' is /lo:r/, you still have to create a rule that says you need to add it, so really it's no big advantage. There's also evidence that non-rhotics don't consider the <r> to make a difference. The well-known Australian spread Vegemite was at one stage called Parwill, with the slogan 'Marmite, but Parwill', for instance. These days this kind of pun is less common in Australia because we consider the needs of Americans I would say... Spelling mistakes still show the sameness: 'ya' and 'yer' aren't readily distinguished, and I've seen (and produced!) plenty of times 'a' where 'are' was meant. 'Farther' is another one: Most of the time I've seen it from Australians, the word clearly meant 'father', not 'further' ('farthest' is also disused, but it's homophonous with nothing so it's never used instead of something else). The world would be a less spelling-mistake-prone place if MS removed the word 'farther' from the AuE spell checker.) PS: Any [r] mean [r\]. And don't be scared by other things in square brackets either, I'm using very broad transcriptions almost to the point of being phonemic :) -- Tristan.


Mark J. Reed <markjreed@...>