Reverse rhotacism

One meaning of the word rhotacism is the phonological process which changes a consonant into a r-sound in certain environments. The consonant affected is usually alveolar and most frequently s or z. The particular realisation of r depends, I suppose, on which language is involved

What got me thinking of this process is my recent efforts to learn some Cornish. The Middle Cornish for “I am” is yth esof vy (ɪθ ˈezə vɪ is the pronunciation I have heard for this). A variation is yth esoma (ɪθ ˈezəmə, I assume, though I have never heard it). In Late Cornish the phrase is th’eroma or th’erof vy. This is a good example of rhotacism.

Then it struck me that in certain parts of the English-speaking world there is a process of reverse rhotacism, whereby r → z. Barry sometimes gets called Baz or Bazza, doesn’t he? And Jeremy, if he is unlucky, may be called Jez or Jezza. I tried to think of more examples, but all I could come up with was soz, which I have occasionally heard for the word sorry. Does Gary ever get called Gaz or Gazza?

It also occurred to me that rhotacism does not appear in SID. I must do something about that, and about lambdacism, but that is a matter for another post.

Mousehole memories

As you can see from the map, the village of Mousehole is due south of Penzance and is about 2.5 miles (4km) away. The name is pronounced ˈmaʊzl and is thought to be a reference to a cavern in the cliffs nearby. The original Cornish name is Porthenys (pronounced pərˈθenɪs), which means “island cove”.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about Mousehole here before , but what has prompted me this time is the discovery of an interesting short film about the place. It was made by The British Council and was released in 1943. The film is part of a large collection of films made by The British Council and can be viewed for free here. The village is not actually named in the film, but there is absolutely no doubt that it is Mousehole.

The British Council website looks very interesting, but I haven’t had time to investigate it thoroughly yet. Apart from the historical interest of what life was like in the 1940s in England, there is the added bonus that some of the narration for the films is in beautiful antique RP.

Map credit: Google Maps.

PTLC2015 Proceedings

The proceedings of the Phonetics Teaching and Learning Conference held at UCL 5-7 August this year are now available online here. The ebook version will appear in the near future.

The proceedings for previous meetings from 2005-2013 are also availabe. There are plans to republish the proceedings of the conferences held in 1999 and 2001.

Many thanks are due to Michael Ashby.

Cluster fun

Petr Rösel’s latest post deals with variations in the pronunciation of the word length. He points out quite rightly that it can be pronounced leŋθ, leŋkθ , lenθ or lentθ. The same sort of variation also applies to the word strength.

I have always thought it a shame not to pronounce strength with a three-term final cluster – ŋkθ or ntθ, because this means that the plural of the word is a maximal monosyllable for GB English. By this I mean that it is not possible to have more consonants than seven in a syllable, three at the beginning and four at the end. This is what we have in streŋkθs or strentθs and as far as I know this is the only English word like this.