dropping /h/ in human, humiliate, but....

Discussion in 'English Only' started by audiolaik, May 19, 2009.

  1. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hello,

    The other day, when talking to a native speaker (an educated Mancunian), I noticed that he tended to drop the initial /h/ in words like human, humour, humiliate, etc. I immediately grabbed the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary by J.C. Wells, and this is what I found there:

    Words like human, humiliate, humidor, humorous can be pronouced without the front /h/ (ju:m....). The author, however, claims that this type of pronunciation falls outside Received Pronunciation*.

    After pondering for a while, I arrived at the conclusion that it is the sound /j/ that lets one drop the initial /h/. However, I came across words like Hume and humoral. In this case, Mr Wells doesn't mention this alternative pronunciation, despite the presence of the sound /j/.

    I infer the initial /h/ dropping must be in widespread use among not-RP speakers. Am I right?

    Are there any rules governing the process described above?

    Thank you.


    *Please, do not start the topic:D
     
  2. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    Few (or none?) of the vernacular dialects of England pronounce h; and many highly educated people do not speak with 'received pronunciation'.
     
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with teddy:)

    I'd also say, audio, that someone who regularly dropped the inital /h/ in human, humiliate, humidor, humorous would also drop the initial /h/ in Hume and humoral.

    Thank you for humoral, by the way. I'd never come across it before....
     
  4. pen22 Junior Member

    English - USA
    Well, this is news to me, I guess. AE rarely, if ever drops the initial /h/. Actually, if I heard someone drop the /h/ I would be surprised unless he/she had a British accent.
     
  5. Overrider Junior Member

    Russian
    Isn't it specific for the Cockney accent? My Fair Lady (1964 movie) is about that.
     
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hello, Overrider - welcome to the forums!

    No, h-dropping isn't limited to Cockney - though you're right that it's a typical feature of the Cockney accent. And that it was put under the spotlight in My Fair Lady :)
     
  7. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    It is news to me that there is one single, standard practice for anything in AE. Some versions of AE rarely, if ever, drop the initial /h/. Around here, though, I think it is fairly common to hear someone speak of "yooman" beings.
     
  8. pen22 Junior Member

    English - USA
    Ah, I apologize. I shouldn't have spoken so generally. Here in the Midwest (Minnesota to be exact), I rarely hear it.
     
  9. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you all for your input. However, I'm so desperate to find out why Mr Wells doesn't include the alternative pronunciation that I've just sent him an email. I hope he replies soon.

    Audiolaik
     
  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Let us know the answer, audio!:)
     
  11. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    You know I will, Auntie.:)
     
  12. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Maybe it's just because words like Hume and humoral (whatever that is) occur a lot less often in general speech, Audi; whereas huge and human are humdrum everyday stuff.

    I have a dull anecdote about yuman, but can't be bothered to type it.
     
  13. audiolaik

    audiolaik Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hello,

    To tell you the truth, I hadn't expected Mr Wells to bother to reply to such a trivial and simple question. However, to my great surprise, the answer arrived yesterday. Since I'm not allowed to quote more than four lines, I'll try to paraphrase the words of Mr Wells.

    First and foremost, he claims that many English people drop all or most h's. On the other hand, he says that this is "stigmatized" and looked upon as "uneducated." Furthermore, Mr Wells points out the fact that there are a few people who do not drop h otherwise, but who do so in words such as "human". He adds that this is not as common as it used to be, and is mainly now restricted to people with from "non-British places such as South Africa."

    When it comes to those exceptions to the rule (if there is one:)), he says that he's never heard anyone drop /h/ in "Hume" or "humeral". On the other hand, he says he may well never have heard a South African say either of these words - "one a rare name, the other a medical and anatomical term not used by non-specialists."

    His final piece of advice is that one had better pronounce initial /h/ in all words written with "h", (exceptions: "hour", honest", etc.) except weak forms.

    Any comments, dear native speakers?

    Thank you.
     
  14. Halloway Senior Member

    English English
    As someone from England who used to have a regional accent but no longer does, I'd agree with Mr Wells summary.

    The dropping or retention of /h/ is well-known as an indicator of class or education in the UK. Rarely, someone who habitually drops their aitches may reinstate them in order to appear more educated. Unfortunately they may reinstate them where they never existed. The most commonly stated example of this is pronouncing 'eggs' as 'heggs'.
     
  15. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    Yes, I agree with what Mr.Wells says too.
    His thing about the dropping of /h/ amongst folk who don't drop it elsewhere does ring faint tinkly bells. (The opposite phenomenon occurs in some 'high class' speakers, who introduce a /j/ into words like suit > /sju:t/ ... but again, those speakers are now very rare in the UK).
     
  16. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    I have heard h dropping in AE, but I would say it is gradually disappearing and not considered standard.
     
  17. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    New York
    USA - English
    I would say that there is no such thing as "standard" in American English.
     
  18. mplsray Senior Member

    There's no standard accent in American English, nothing comparable to Received Pronunciation's status in British English, but there are standard pronunciations, which are those shown in modern American dictionaries unaccompanied by some sort of usage label.

    In the case of human, the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary lists the version without the h as a variant. Furthermore, it shows it as a pronunciation which is not controversial.

    Controversial variants, such as "mis-CHEE-vee-us" for mischievous are preceded by an obelus, ÷. But note that even when that symbol is used, the pronunciation shown is one which educated speakers actually use.
     
  19. boozer Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgarian
    Indeed, the "South African" observation seems very relevant to me. Then, again, from what I've seen, it's only people of non-British descent that actually tend to drop the "h" in words like human, huge, etc. The ones I know who do that are very well-educated and speak otherwise excellent English.
     

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