Tuesday, November 07, 2006

uh...er...really Alex?

On Jeopardy this week (Celebrity Week!) there were two phonetic/phonology events to note that I can remember. One of Jane Kaczmarek's responses got me thinking about phonology but I can't remember what it was.

Event #1
Two letter words.
Paraphrase of the Clue:
The "sound" represented in AmE orthography as u-h is represented this way in BrE.
Correct Response:
My Thought:
When I saw the response I recognized the likely reason for the difference. I always read the spelling as a heavy 'uurr' [ɻ] but in Received Pronunciation the 'r' would be dropped. So RP 'er' would sound very similar to the AmE pronunciation of 'uh.' Both could be transcribed phonetically as a very long [əː] or [ɜː]. The AmE might sometimes be pronounced and transcribed [ʌː].
Alex's 2 cents:
After providing the answer he decided to perform the sound. But he pronounced it [ɻː]. Why? It's not really a word and the British spelling isn't meant to be translated. When a Spanish speaking friend sends an email and decides to represent a laugh orthographically it's written 'jaja.' It would be silly to tell someone that my friend represents a laugh with [dʒa.dʒa].

Event #2
When Nancy Grace responded to a question about a world record foot tapping speed in a certain type of dance she responded "what is flamingo?" The judges thought about it and deemed it an incorrect response. The dance is of course the "flamenco." She laughed and demanded that she had in fact said "flamenco." She defended her pronunciation by saying "I'm from Georgia!"

Is she claiming that in Georgia the voiceless velar stop is voiced in that environment? I haven't heard a Georgia dialect that voices [k] intervocalically or in contact with a sonorant. Let me know if there is one. Is she claiming that a Georgia accent is hard to understand? The judges have tape and they do go back and listen to the audio carefully when they have to. Is she claiming that in Georgia people choose random sounds and as long as it's close she shouldn't be held to the same standard as other people? C'mon Ms Grace--your accent is just as rule driven as any.


  1. yeah, she just didn't want to admit she'd called it a flamingo because then she would look stupid on national tv! and talk about an easy question!!!

  2. Talk about a bunch of easy questions. I could have totally kicked Regis Philbin's butt.

    What happened there? Do they really think that celebrities couldn't cut it on regular old Jeopardy?

  3. That comment doesn't sound like the Chef of Mystery. That sounds like Jeff's voice. Jeff are you hijacking her account?


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