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Re: COMMENT PLEASE (WAS:Conlang Journal and being a fish)

From:John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Date:Monday, September 23, 2002, 1:26
Roger Mills scripsit:

> Or Engl. "great" vs. "meat" (presumably they once had identical > vowels)...There MUST be a reason, somewhere. Oh, the sheer perversity of it > all......
We actually do have evidence on that one. When Sam. Johnson was first making his dictionary, he considered adding a pronunciation guide. (In the end, he only marked the stressed syllable.) But when he asked two different noblemen (why noblemen? It is the 18th century!) how the word "great" was pronounced, one replied that it rhymed with "straight"; the other, that it rhymed with "meet", and that only an Irishman would make it rhyme with "straight". So /grejt/ is a result of dialect mixing. Now you want weird, consider "vixen". The /v/ (contrasted with the /f/ of "fox") probably comes from a dialect that voiced initial fricatives ("'What were you doing?' 'Zailin' the bloody boat.'" --Dorothy L. Sayers). But on investigation it turns out that *every* dialect has /v/ in "vixen"! How the devil did it become so uniform? -- John Cowan "You need a change: try Canada" "You need a change: try China" --fortune cookies opened by a couple that I know


Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>"vixen" [was Re: COMMENT PLEASE]