Thursday, September 18, 2008

Latest political flap

Over at Mr. Verb you'll find some discussion of Sarah Palin's dialect features. (Check out James Crippen's long comment on the second link.)

Most of Palin's dialect features are familiar -- maybe jumbled from various regions. The salient features seem to put her somewhere in the northern plains at first. But as Susan comments, it almost sounds affected. I don't think it is. It's just pronounced -- so to speak (so to speak).

One odd feature that I heard in her interview with Charles Gibson: intervocal flapping outside the typical environment in prioritize: [pɹɑɪɔɹɪɾɑɪz] (around 4:10)

It might actually be a voiced stop [d] instead of a flap. Close call. I don't know if this is a regular pronunciation of hers. If it's not then a [d] could be some sort of partial preservation of the stop in the middle of an overgeneralization error.

The typical flapping environment would allow alternation before the final syllable in priority but it is just picky enough to exclude the alternation before the final syllable in prioritize. The necessary unstressed syllable environment is lost (at least in my dialect) with a secondary stress which is often heard in a syllables whose nucleus is a diphthong.

And not just with diphthongs. It can be simple stress. Some might process words such as retail and retard more like spondees than as trochees. And then there are some morphemic considerations that might be complicating the rule. But not for this post.

A somewhat related counterfeeding effect of the diphthong can be heard in the regular preservation of [t] in anti when the prefix is used as a free morpheme (it's not common but in focussed use it sometimes occurs: e.g. decide whether you're pro- or anti- the proposal.) Normally we would see t-deletion after the [n]. Say the sentence 'I see plenty of bounty hunters.' In my dialect I would usually delete all 3 of the /t/s. But I might preserve one or two of them occasionally. I'd never say all three unless I was making some sort of point about pronunciation.

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