Sunday, August 12, 2007

Spoonerism → Freudian / Dialectal Merger __

I'll post about interface again at some point, although I'm feeling a little self conscious writing about something I'm so naive about. Today is a day for funny videos.

The video itself is an oldie but a goodie. Blake Bergstrom, a southern youth pastor tries to talk about how Lot "pitched his tents," but he says...

"pinch his tits." The poor guy!

Of course, this wouldn't have been an issue at all if he weren't a southern dialect speaker with a full blown pin~pen merger. Before /m/ and /n/, ɪ and ɛ have merged, to something close to ɪ, but a bit more tense. You can hear it elsewhere in his speech. Right at the beginning he says [ðɪn], and later on he says [frɪndz].

There are two reasons why the pastor would have been in less trouble if he didn't have the pin~pen merger. First, the shifted segments wouldn't have been as naughty. It's unclear whether just the /n/ was shifted, or whether it was the full vowel-/n/ sequence that shifted. Either way, neither [pɪnʧ.ɨz.tɛts] nor [pɛnʧ.ɨz.tɪts] are particularly risque.

The second reason, I have less well thought out, but it seems to me that [pɪʧ.ɨz.tɛnts] is less likely to experience a spoonerism than [pɪʧ.ɨz.tɪnts]. Myself as a non pin~pen merged speaker find "pitch his tints" to be a bit of a tongue twister. It would be interesting if this particular malapropism were some kind of evidence of the pastor's personal phonological representation of "tents" as /tɪnts/.

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