Friday, June 22, 2007

The joy of anaptyxis

I'm not the only one who is hypnotized by Bob Ross. His soft voice and slow rhythm are famously popular. I used to watch him every summer afternoon at 12:30 on PBS and his calm joy and belief in the general goodness of rocks helped to ease and clarify my turbid adolescent soul.

I found some of his videos on YouTube realized that I had forgotten what a lovely soft drawl he had. Some notable vowels that add to his light lilt:

  • He adds a soft diphthong to the [ɛ] in 'again': it sounds like [əgɪən] or [əgeən]

  • Initially [ɛ] in 'anybody' is raised to [ɪ] so it sounds like 'inibody'

  • Compunded '-body' doesn't gain the mid vowel [ʌ] -- it keeps a nice open [a] (usually 'body' becomes 'buddy' in compounds somebody and anybody)

  • [ɪ] is tensed/raised to [i] so 'him' sounds like 'heem' or 'eem'

Two words this video he pronounces with an extra syllable. Each should be analysed differently.

Around 3:15 he says "canvasseses" reduplicating the final [-əz] syllable. Not part of his dialect. And so quickly said that I'm fairly certain it was an accident. A 'happy accident' to be sure.

His anaptyctic vowel in 'umbarella' (7:20 into the video--2:40 left in the countdown) is pretty carefully pronounced and probably not accidental. This is a common pronunciation similar to 'athalete'. Note that in each word an approximant [ɹ/l] follows a consonant of lesser sonority [b/θ]. Of all the possible analyses of this extra segment--anticipatory vowel or delayed articulation of the alveolar or pure epenthesis (i.e. not a "part" of either adjacent segment)--I like to think that Bob Ross was such an optimist that he simply believed every word had the potential to be more than it was.


  1. His "umbarella" seemed to be a deliberate affectation. I did like how he pronounced "way" though.

  2. I think part of what makes "umbarella" sound like an affectation is the primary stress on the first syllable. As you and I pronounce it the stress is on [.brel.] so we would expect it perhaps to stay on that even with the epenthesis. Unless of course somebody is 'playing' with the word and moves it around. Maybe that's why?

    Did you hear "way" said nicely in a specific place?

  3. While he says way at 8:56, the pronunciation I noticed was when he repeated the phrase "way over here" at 6:37 and 6:31 remaining in the clip.

    That's what I mean by affectation, he was trying to sound like a character from Mt. Pilot and not just speaking with his standard pronunciation.

  4. Ha. Those last two are more like 'wee' than 'way.' More of the vowel raising.

    The first one is so quick I can't quite catch exactly what he's doing. It's close to 'wee' except there is definitely the diphthong. So normally it'd be [wej] or [weɪ] (depending on your analysis) but he shortens the [e] segment. We use a breve to indicate that: [wĕj].


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