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USAGE: VOT and the status of /r/

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Friday, January 28, 2005, 20:59
Marcos wrote:
> and I'm half-convinced that aspiration is a case of pesky > furriners trying to gaslight us poor ignorant 'Murkins by making up > inaudible "distinctions" where none really exists.
Humor understood, but in point of fact voice onset timing is one of the easiest phonetic facts of a language to measure. In English, the VOT of our 'voiceless' stops is about 40-50 milliseconds, which is similar to the aspirated segments of Hindi IIRC. I was just talking to a young phonologist at a party yesterday, though, and she mentioned that Ladefoged has lots of examples of "voiced" and "voiceless" contrasts being really far apart, being really close together, sometimes close at great extremes of the VOT continuum.
> 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.)
With respect, I must disagree with Tristan. In most nonrhotic dialects, the /r/ is really there underlyingly. One can prove this by how it will show up as a regular English [r] in liaison situations, as when the following word begins with a vowel. The only catch is that a lot of nonrhotic dialects, such as some in Britain and New England, have an epenthetic linking-r where historically no such /r/ existed*. To my knowledge, nonrhotic varieties of the American South do not have that linking-r. *(This fact is not expected if one holds to a theory of phonology such as Optimality Theory where the quality of epenthetic segments should fall out from general markedness constraints.) ========================================================================= Thomas Wier "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally, Dept. of Linguistics because our secret police don't get it right University of Chicago half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of 1010 E. 59th Street Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter. Chicago, IL 60637