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Old 07 October 2018, 11:41 PM
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Reading Language questions and discussion

Continuing the discussion from the little things that annoy you thread.

It seems like we have lots of interest in pronunciation, accents, language, grammar, usage, etc. I could see this being an ongoing thread, but if not we can at least use it to un-hijack the other one.
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Old 08 October 2018, 01:33 AM
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I'd be interested if you can find the link to the site that talked about whether the speaker thinks they pronounce two similar words differently and whether other people actually hear the difference.
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Old 08 October 2018, 01:53 AM
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OK, I'll come reply to this one over here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Esprise Me View Post
I think I pronounce cot and caught differently, but that might be just because I'm a visual person; if you recorded me saying each of them in a sentence, then played back just one of the words, I'm not sure I could tell you which one I was saying. I'm similarly uncertain about Mary and marry, though I definitely pronounce merry differently.
I double checked by noticing how my lips, jaw, and tongue were moving. My lips move distinctly differently when I say 'cot' and when I say 'caught', for instance.
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Old 08 October 2018, 03:32 AM
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Esprise Me, I guess it doesn't really say if they think they pronounce them differently, but it seems likely they would. This is the map I was thinking of. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki...ump-to-license

There's a paper (link is to PDF) here studying the production/perception split for a different merger. It sounds like people who still produce the sounds differently lose the ability to perceive the difference rather than the other way around. Which sounds consistent with your experience, and mine as well.
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Old 08 October 2018, 03:20 PM
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I say cot and caught differently, and I know it because I can hear the difference. I also say Dawn and Don differently. Upon analysis, my lips are in different positions as I say the vowels.

I don't know how much my awareness is influenced by the linguistic information I have studied, and the basic linguistics class I took in college (the teacher wanted me to go into graduate linguistics, but I'd already been accepted into law school).

Seaboe
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Old 20 October 2018, 11:01 AM
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erwins, thanks for starting this thread since I also find these discussions fascinating.
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Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker View Post
I say cot and caught differently, and I know it because I can hear the difference.
Ditto. The difference is subtle but I can hear the difference when I say those words.

However, according to silly and unscientific quizzes that we used to have more frequently in the past that's the "wrong" answer for me. For example, we had American dialect quizzes, including the "What American Accent Do You Have?" quiz in 2006 and the "What kind of American English do you speak?" quiz in 2005. The 2006 quiz incorrectly said that I have an "Inland North American accent. If I remember correctly if I changed my answer of cot versus caught to pronounced the same and one other question it correctly said I had a West accent.

What was interesting about that quiz was that many other snopesters got a false positive for Inland North. Interestingly, the author of the quiz said that that people were, perhaps, incorrectly thinking that they said cot and caught differently. However, I liked Errata's explanation of the differences.

Brian
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  #7  
Old 20 October 2018, 03:17 PM
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This might be UK-specific so not of much use, but I find sound merger/split discussions fascinating.
I was reading up on the put/putt or foot/strut split and for me they're all the same vowel. My partner is from within 5 miles of me but from a slightly posher family, and uses two different vowels. (He also used to have the trap/bath split, which is uncommon in our region of origin, but I proled him out of it.)
I can hear the difference but can't pronounce it without overcorrecting to a weird ah-y schwa; my 'u/oo' is emphatic and somewhat drawn out, so it's difficult to flatten into what I think is the other sound.

Relevent because I cannot think of pronouncing cot/caught, don/dawn, and mary+ with anything other than wildly different sounds. Not subtle; not just in 'shade' of vowel but in length, and it's the same sort of pattern.
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Old 20 October 2018, 04:25 PM
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Now put/putt and foot/strut I do pronounce differently. (though put and foot rhyme for me, as do putt and strut.) I thought at first that I also pronounce trap/bath differently, but now I'm not so sure; that may be the same vowel sound, or it may be subtly affected by the r, though that leading r doesn't have anywhere near the same effect as the following r in Mary/etc.
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Old 20 October 2018, 04:56 PM
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An aspect of this that fascinates me is how easily we adapt to other accents. For example, I would never think put/putt or foot/strut were the same vowel, but if I heard someone naturally speaking that way I wouldn't find it odd. Then again I watched a LOT of British television in my youth.
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Old 20 October 2018, 08:35 PM
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My weird language question has to deal with transportation. In American English, we use "on" or "in" to describe our relationship to different methods of transportation, but there doesn't seem to be a logical reason that I can figure out. For example:

I'm on the plane: I'm a passenger seated inside a plane.
I'm in the plane: Technically means the same as the above, but this specific phrasing isn't used by USAns. We also say that cargo and luggage is "on the plane" rather than "in the plane" even though it is physically inside the plane.

I'm on the boat: I am a passenger seated or standing inside a boat.
I'm in the boat: Means the same, but isn't really used. If I heard this I would picture someone seated in a small boat like a dinghy or lifeboat rather than a large fishing boat. I'm not sure why.

I'm on the car: I'm sitting on top of the car. (Hopefully it is not in motion.)
I'm in the car: I'm a passenger seated inside the car.

I'm on the bus: I'm a passenger seated or standing inside the bus.
I'm in the bus: Technically means the same, but this phrasing isn't used by USAns.

I'm on the train: I'm a passenger seated or standing inside the train.
I'm in the train: Technically means the same, but this phrasing isn't used by USAns.

So, why is car the odd one out when it comes to saying "I'm on the [transportation]"? I can be on a plane, on a boat, on a train, and on a bus, but if I'm on a car, that is something totally different, and a phrasing that's never used to describe being transported by car. The only think I can think of is that all the other transportation methods are boarded, whereas we don't board a car. I've no idea if that has anything to do with it, though.

Also, luggage/cargo is loaded on the plane, on the boat, on the bus, and on the train, but in the car. However, it wouldn't sound odd to me to hear that the luggage is in the bus. I think "on" is used more often for that one though.
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Old 21 October 2018, 12:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cervus View Post
So, why is car the odd one out when it comes to saying "I'm on the [transportation]"? I can be on a plane, on a boat, on a train, and on a bus, but if I'm on a car, that is something totally different, and a phrasing that's never used to describe being transported by car. The only think I can think of is that all the other transportation methods are boarded, whereas we don't board a car. I've no idea if that has anything to do with it, though.

Also, luggage/cargo is loaded on the plane, on the boat, on the bus, and on the train, but in the car. However, it wouldn't sound odd to me to hear that the luggage is in the bus. I think "on" is used more often for that one though.
Just a thought, but maybe the size of the transports has something to do with the "in" vs "on" thing? I mean, you're not usually on a canoe, but in it. Yet, it's a type of boat. And the old-timey biplanes? Typically, the pilots (and rare passengers) were in them, not on them. (Also, consider that trucks are considered to be a variant of a car since in tends to be used when discussing people but cargo is loaded on a truck; of course, once it's loaded, then it's in the truck.)
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Old 21 October 2018, 12:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BamaRainbow View Post
Just a thought, but maybe the size of the transports has something to do with the "in" vs "on" thing? I mean, you're not usually on a canoe, but in it. Yet, it's a type of boat.
Yeah, this is why if someone told me they were in a boat, I'd picture a small boat. In a canoe, in a kayak, in a raft, in a dinghy, etc. Yet no one would say I'm in a yacht or I'm in a cruise ship -- you say you're on those boats.

Truck is a weird one I didn't think of. If I were riding in the back, especially if it's open, I'd probably say I'm on a truck, whereas if I were in the cab, I'd say I'm in the truck.

ETA: Now that I think about small planes and helicopters, it doesn't sound odd to say the pilot or passengers are in them. But when talking about jets, we say that pilots or passengers are on board or on the plane.

Last edited by Cervus; 21 October 2018 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 21 October 2018, 05:51 AM
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I think it's not so much the size as whether it's a public conveyance such that you could be "on board." Which does tend to imply a larger thing, but that's not the determinative thing.
ETA: D'oh! Semi-spanked by Cervus's ETA.
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Old 21 October 2018, 07:13 AM
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I think it's because a car was originally a box that was carried or later wheeled. Unlike any of those others, it was an enclosed space from the beginning. A carriage or automobile that wasn't enclosed wasn't a car (that is, until the open-top car or open car, aka the roadster or convertible).
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Old 21 October 2018, 01:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pudding Crawl View Post
I was reading up on the put/putt or foot/strut split and for me they're all the same vowel. ...
I can hear the difference but can't pronounce it without overcorrecting to a weird ah-y schwa; my 'u/oo' is emphatic and somewhat drawn out, so it's difficult to flatten into what I think is the other sound.
For me (as a southerner) I would pronounce "put" to rhyme with "foot" and "putt" to rhyme with "strut" but they're different; I don't know how to describe the difference though. It's less the length of the vowel than where they are in the mouth - both are short but the "oo" is lower and further forward than the "u".

I was trying to think how my Lancastrian grandad would have pronounced them (he's the person in my family who had the purest Blackburn accent; my dad only has one when talking to other family members, and my aunt and cousins have mostly moved away from Lancashire and their accents drifted a bit).

This distinction would also have held with him - he'd say "put" to rhyme with "foot" (and "book", "cook", "look" etc...), and "putt" to rhyme with "strut", but the way he pronounced "putt" and "strut" would be closer to the way I say "put", and the others would have had the classic Lancastrian long "oo", which I might try to write as "lewk", "bewk" and so on. I think, anyway - he died nearly 30 years ago and I'm trying to reconstruct his accent from memory!
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Old 21 October 2018, 01:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cervus View Post
I'm on the boat: I am a passenger seated or standing inside a boat.
Reminds me of this song... I'm on a boat (NFBSK lyrics!)

(eta) Which in turn reminds me of the US / UK difference in the pronunciation of "buoy" - you say it "boo-ey" but here it rhymes with "boy" without having to fudge the pronunciation!
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Old 21 October 2018, 04:41 PM
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I'm pretty sure I'd say 'put that in the truck' for either the cab or the open back of a pickup. I think I might say either 'put it in the truck' or 'put it on the truck' for a semitrailer. But come to think of it I'm not at all sure which I'd say for the UPS van; though for the similar cargo van which I use to take produce and the market stall to farmers' market, I'd use "in".

This is not an issue I'd ever thought of before but now that it's been brought up I'm finding it really interesting.
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Old 21 October 2018, 04:51 PM
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https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-englis...ther-languages
Quote:
English speakers know that their language is odd. So do people saddled with learning it non-natively. The oddity that we all perceive most readily is its spelling, which is indeed a nightmare. In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ competition. For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words. But English is not normal.
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Old 21 October 2018, 07:22 PM
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Neat article, Steve.

I particularly like this sentence:

Quote:
Notice how even to dwell upon this queer usage of do is to realise something odd in oneself, like being made aware that there is always a tongue in your mouth.
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Old 22 October 2018, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
For a normal language, spelling at least pretends a basic correspondence to the way people pronounce the words.
Tell that to German elementary pupils...

In German, a long vowel is marked by putting a silent h behind it, as in "Bahn". Unless it's marked by putting a silent e behind it, as in "Schiene" (works only for the vowel i, which can have a silent h behind it, too). Unless, that is, when it's marked by being a double vowel, as in "Boot". Unless, of course, it's not marked by any additional letter, but by the fact that there is not a double letter behind it, as in "Oper". Keep in mind, though, that short vowels can also be followed by a single letter, as in "Opfer". Additionally, if the vowel is followed by a sharp "s" sound, it is spelled "ss" after as short vowel, as in "Hass", but after a long vowel the "s" sound is spelled with the unique letter ß, as in "Spaß".

But you are right, English spelling is horrible to the non native speaker.
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