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Long OO vs short OO in English

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by hadronic, Jan 2, 2011.

  1. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Hello,

    Could someone provide me with a minimal pair in English constrating between long "oo" and short "oo" ? Like leave vs. live for [i:] vs. /

    My point is actually that I expect there's none, unless from secondary formation. Indeed, after the GVS, we have :
    - *[u:] ==> [au] (house)
    - *[o:] ==> [u:] (food) (1)
    - * ==> [ʌ] (cut) (2)

    (1) Later, [u:] got sometimes shortened, impredictibly, on a word-by-word basis (ex: good [gud] vs food [fu:d]).
    (2) Some * failed to undergo this change : push

    So, the only way to get a [u:]/ minimal pair, would be to find a pair like *poosh/push, *poot/put, i.e., an historical *[o:]/* with an *[o:]==>[u:] that didn't undergo shortening, and a * that didn't undergo the [ʌ] change.

    One other way would be to find a secondary [u:] formation, like in fruit, cruise,... constrasting with either a shortened [u:] (good) or an inchanged (push), so giving hypothetic pairs like fruit vs. *froot [frut], or fruit vs. *frut [frut].

    Any true examples ?
     
  2. Hulalessar Senior Member

    Andalucía
    English - England
    How about should v shooed?
     
  3. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    [fʊl] <- full
    [fu:l] <- fool

    [pʊl] <- pull
    [pu:l] <- pool

    In my variety of English anyway.
    You are talking about FOOT and GOOSE, right?
     
  4. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Great examples, thank you ! But I guess there aren't so many, compared to other long / short pairs in English.

    So my next question : what about the perceived phonemicity of [u:] vs. for native speakers of English ? I mean, when a foreigner speaks while mixing up long and short oo's, how does it affect comprehension compared to mixing up [i:] and , like saying beat for bit, seen for sin ?
     
  5. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    You are concentrating to much on the length difference. The more important difference is between /u/ and /ʊ/ and between /i/ and /I/: /liv/ would be understood as "leave" and not as "live" (living in a French speaking area, I've heard this mistake many times) and /bit/ would be understood as "beat" and not as "bit". Likewise /ful/ would be perceived as a funny pronunciation of "fool" but not as "full".

    "Good" can be pronounced long and short: /gʊd/ or (stressed) /gʊ:d/ but never ever /gud/ as you transcribed it. I think, the length has become a secondary characteristic and sometimes varies with stress. The main distinction between the different pronunciations of "oo" is quality, not quantity.

    I think the real question is: Why did ME /o:/ ("oo") sometimes become /u/ and sometimes /ʊ/? I wonder myself. "Moon" and "food" where originally two syllable words (ME: "mone", "fode") while "good" and "foot" were single syllable (ME: "god" and "fot"). Maybe there is a relation, I don't know.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  6. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I should have been able to work that out, assuming it was being clipped by a fortis [t] or something along those lines.

    I thought hadronic's was just shorthand for [ʊ] and we were comparing [ʊ] and [u:] (which has a very obvious length distinction to me). But after reading your post it seems the distinction is about [ʊ] (FOOT) and (tensed FOOT).

    Is that right?

    I would agree with that.
    I'm not sure how this would affect dialects that have undergone the foot-goose merger though, I think it might sound normal to those speakers.
    [Edit]: Also, speakers of the full-fool merger, which affects (ironically :p) those exact words we're talking about, i.e. /ʊ/ and /u:/ before /l/.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  7. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Most "short oo" words are monosyllabic. And the minimal pairs seem to follow certain patterns (e.g. past tenses, oo spelled as u):

    who'd hood
    wooed would
    cooed could
    shooed
    /shoed should
    gooed good
    (route root, in some places, e.g. Pennsylvania)
    poot (= "fart") put
    suit soot
    Luke look
    nuke nook
    kook cook
    gook
    (long oo, derogatory for "Chinese", I think) gook (short oo, "sticky stuff")

    Foreigners usually seem to be saying "long oo" for both, and this does make them hard to understand. We have to stop and remember what they are substituting for.
     
  8. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    In your examples, Alex, it is really just a short/long issue. Hadron's question was specifically about "oo" which is theoretically a long vowel. In actual fact all four combinations can be observed (/u/, /u:/, /ʊ/ and /ʊ:/). This always puzzled me and I don't really have an explanation.
     
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    In Chancery English, i.e. just before the Great Vowel Shift started they were all /o:/. The question is: why did then develop differently.
     
  10. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I think they were more like /oː/ and /ɔː/, but perhaps distributed a little differently.
     
  11. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    To my knowledge, in ME /oː/ and /ɔː/ were written identically, mone /mo:nə/ and stone /stɔːnə/. But only /o:/ became "oo" in Chancery English which is the base for ModE spelling. Please correct me, if I am wrong.
     
  12. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    This is probably right. Stone got the "long o", and mone the "long oo". And the "short oo" in Modern English only happens where "short i" (as in sit) can, never at the end of a syllable.
     
  13. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yeah, KIT [I] and FOOT [ʊ] are lax vowels / checked vowels and can't exist in open syllables in English.
    Regarding stone, when did it get this pronunciation? I know it was stan in OE, just curious when it went to /stɔːnə/ <slash> /stoːnə/.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  14. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Sorry for my lack of clarity (the question wasn't clear to me neither I think:) ). All of your understandings are fine, it just shows the complexity of the thing.


    For my purpose, I will posit that only /ʊ/ and /u:/ are used in English, in a non fool-full or foot-goose merger dialect of it. Stressed or emotional /ʊ:/ is considered out of scope, and I keep /u/ as the French realization of the two English phonemes.

    First, you all acknowledge that (French) /u/ is more readily understood as /u:/ rather than /ʊ/, even though it lacks the length feature. That's pretty much a part of the answer to my question : in your interior phonemic representation of English, you do have an /ʊ/ - /u:/ opposition of some sort.

    My question is actually : if I neutralize the /ʊ/ - /u:/ opposition, realizing it either /u/, /u:/, /ʊ/ or /ʊ:/, or even, /ʉ/ or /ɯ/, long or short, how bad does it affect your understanding ?

    Sure, you already gave a list of some minimal pairs, but you will admit that they involves quite uncommon pieces of vocabulary, unlike the leave-live opposition. So, most of the oo-word of English will exist only in one unique version, one unique concrete realization of that /U/ archi-phoneme : /ʊ/ or /u:/.

    So if you hear /hu:k/, how difficult is it for you to figure out it's actually hook, given that /hu:k/ doesn't exist, and more, cannot exist, as /hʊk/ already occupied the /hUk/ archi-syllable. And furthermore, English orthography doesn't provide obvious orthographic convention even though someone wanted to create the word /hu:k/. You just cannot write it. And with good reason, English orthography represents pre-GVS English, and this /ʊ/ - /u:/ opposition is a "recent" feature of English.

    I don't deny the lists of pairs you gave, but lots of them are secondary formations (who'd, gooed,...), some are due to the dew-do merger (nuke, and maybe also suit and Luke (?) ), that doesn't make up a consistent ensemble. And if ever you happen to have that /ʊ/ - /u:/ opposition hardcoded in your brain more I would think, I doubt it would come from this kind of pairs. Obviously, you would have created this opposition in your brain in the absence of any such minimal pairs, actually, just based on the good - food relation, which is not a minimal pair. And this, would be unique among all languages I know.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  15. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    If we're trying to find archiphonemic relationships, I think we need to look at words with pronunciations that differ yet are perfectly comprehensible to speakers (like me). So far we've only focused on differences, which do exist but I don't at this point think it convinces me that the difference can be neutralised that well, and maybe this is exactly your question.

    Going back to:
    It really is (at least for me) dependent on the exact sound in the word, as berndf pointed out before, having a stressed FOOT pronunciation of the word 'full' actually renders the interpretation impossible for me, because all I can hear is a variant of 'fool', because the quality is that different (even if the length is the same.

    What neutralised archiphonemic relationships can you suggest that involve these 4-6 sounds?
     
  16. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    In a sense, I think that the fact that this "allophony" is not predictable / not context dependent, helped in producing the impression they are two actual phonemes of the language.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  17. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    I'm not sure to get all of what you say in your first paragraph above.

    This is because you take here the full/fool example, that is one of the very few examples I admit. Rather, take the example of */hu:k/ that does not exist.
    For example, if I say */blIk/ for bleak, you would have a hard time to recognize the word, EVEN if *blick as a word doesn't exist as such in English. It's just because it could exist, and as a matter of fact, you don't deny its existence and try to go in a wrong direction (in the first few seconds after hearing the word). I posit that this phenomenon cannot exist for */hu:k/ .
     
  18. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I've just had a look at this page, and found out a lot of stuff I didn't know before :D

    So /o:/ changed in all types of "oo" words (food, took, blood, room) to /u:/ in the 17th century, then the shortening happened before voiced plosives, before the foot-strut split, then the foot-strut split in Southern English became inactive and then the /u:/ shortening before voiceless plosives took place, which explains the distinction why even RP speakers don't have STRUT in words like book/took, because the /u:/ shortening affected the earlier phonetic environment, and only applied to the reduced words.

    That makes some of what we've been talking about a lot clearer for me because these sound changes of back vowels I haven't really looked into that much but I'm glad I posted here now :)

    Actually, my dialect allows this and it's a common pronunciation of "hook".
    The site I linked to above actually contains the answer to this, when it talks about Irish English and the influx of Irish immigrants has had a profound effect on the speakers pronunciation of my dialect. For example both my parents both say /ku:k/ and /kʊk/ for "cook" (and when people like to do impressions of other speakers in my area it's very often by saying 'cook book' (/ku:k bu:k/).

    I agree with this.
    Even with blick not being a word, I still would find it hard to realise you were talking about bleak. In that sense, I'm more inclined to agree that this doesn't happen as much with back vowels because I'm used to certain variants of this phoneme being in free variation where I am from.

    For me /u:/ (and to an extent /u/) in "oo" words like "hook" and "cook" (and "book") are variants and I always get the correct meanings.
    However, they sound quite different to me, but in that sense for me they are archiphonemic.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  19. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Counter-examples :
    - mood /mu:d/
    Origin:

    bef. 900; ME; OE mōd mind, spirit; courage; c. G Mut, Goth mōths courage, ON mōthr anger
    - foot /fʊt/
    Origin:
    bef. 900; ME; OE fōt; c. G Fuss; akin to L pēs (s. ped- ), Gk poús (s. pod- )

    Both are mono-syllabic, with long close o, and one developped into long oo, the other one into short oo.
     
  20. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Thanks. I gathered by now, my idea would lead nowhere. According to the source Alex discovered (thank you very much Alex!!!), the split happened much later than I thought.
     
  21. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France


    This is actually what I was briefly explaining in very first post.

    That said, regarding what they explain in that link, there's not such foot-strut split, as a phenomon per se. They're just talking about [ʊ] lowering to [ʌ].
    The foot-strut split as a unique phenomenon never happened as such. At the time were strut [ʊ] got lowered to [ʌ], foot was still long [u:].

    When we talk about foot-strut split, we're talking about varieties of English that underwent [ʊ] lowering to [ʌ] and, later, shortening of [u:] to [ʊ], as opposed to those who didn't undergo the [ʌ] lowering, and for which foot and strut rhyme (pronounced [ʊ]).
     
  22. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It was FOOT [ʊ] that got lowered to STRUT [ʌ], yes.
    As for when the lowering happened, this page says it wasn't this order (as you can see, the first line of "Quality Adjustment" indicates the introduction of the FOOT vowel, which precedes the lowering to STRUT, which happens in the second Quality Adjustment, showing that it wasn't still [u:] when foot-strut occured).


    Yes, this is the foot-strut split as I understand it (barring note above about timing of shortening of back vowel).
    (For clarification of others: [ʌ] didn't lower, [
    ʊ] did)

    We don't have the STRUT phoneme in the north of England, and they didn't use to in the south of England, so there was a phonemic split to cause this.
    I am not sure if I have misinterpreted your post, please excuse me if I have.

     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  23. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    No, precisely not !
    foot dit not get lowered because it was still a long [u:] at the time where the [ʊ]>[ʌ] lowering took place.

     
  24. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    This table in Wikipedia says it wasn't a long [u:] when the foot-strut 'separation' happened. As it says, the "Later Shortening" changes "foot" to have the FOOT vowel, preceding the lowering to STRUT (that happened in other groups of "oo" words), not to "foot".

    :idea: I know where our confusion is coming from now..

    When I write FOOT (in capitals), I am talking about the vowel sound, not the word.
    You're talking about the word, not the vowel sound.

    Things make sense now ... :D
     
  25. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    I'm not reading the chart the same way as you are.
    At the "foot-strut" split line, "foot" is still [u:]. I don't know why they call this the "foot-strut" split as those two words just didn't split at that period of time.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  26. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    See above :p

    I do admit I was looking at the line below foot-strut split and interpreting it as that line, so I was wrong on that point.
     
  27. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Just a small footnote: The Southern English /ʊ/>/ʌ/ shift was mainly an unrounding and not a lowering phenomenon. Lowering and fronting to its current position which is about [ɐ] was a gradual process which happened later.
     
  28. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    In the chart, ɤ and ʌ are basically the same sound.
     
  29. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    The wiki page says it itself :

    The name "foot-strut split" refers to the lexical sets introduced by Wells (1982), and identifies the vowel phonemes in the words, though that name may be a bit misleading as the word foot itself may have had a different vowel from put at the time the split occurred and so did not participate in the split.
     
  30. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Yeah, I wasn't aware you were not following me when talking about vowel sounds. Whatever the word itself, it has become irrelevant. For example I talk about FOOT/STRUT differences but they don't even exist in my dialect. My 'BATH' is the same as my 'TRAP', these labels are used so you can represent sounds through writing, irrespective of what the words sound like themselves to you. It's common now (as berndf pointed out) that the STRUT vowel has gone on and developed even further, but it's still useful to keep these labels in a phonemic historical context.

    When I was talking, I was referring specifically to the lexical sets (when in capital letters).
    This was where I think we got confused.

    That, and me looking at the wrong line on the table on the Wiki page.

    So for example, in the following:
    Now I understand your confusion, because I was not talking about the word "foot".
    Hopefully, you understand mine, because the FOOT vowel, present in the words "blood", "flood", "dull" and "fun" all did develop into STRUT [ʌ] in RP English.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  31. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    Agreed.

    So now back to my /hu:k/ vs /hʊk/ question :) .
     
  32. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    That feels like so long ago!
    So where we left off with that was, they both exist where I am from, and don't create a minimal pair, but that's not the case everywhere.

    I would imagine most people would understand it to be "hook", but maybe it's better to wait for someone who doesn't have the unusual pronunciation around them all the time :)
     
  33. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Most cooks are not kooks, but some are. And I never imagined "kooky monster" when I heard "Cookie Monster", though now that I think of it he is a little kooky, isn't he?

    Saying poot for put will make most ten-year-olds in my area snicker. Poot may not be universal, but I don't think only Arkansas kids say this sort of thing:

    Beans, beans, the musical fruit.
    The more you eat, the more you poot,
    The more you poot, the better you feel,
    So let's have beans for every meal.

    The difference is clearly phonemic where I live, and cook, kook, put, and I daresay poot are not uncommon words. Of course, put is transitive and poot is not, but kook and cook are both well-used count nouns applied to people.

    Most native English speakers (by sheer numbers) pronounce no y sound in suit, Luke, or nuke. I think the [j] was lost from these words because the preceding consonants might otherwise have palatized (in the same large region), making suit sound more like shoot and making Luke and nuke harder to understand. Nevertheless, I suspect this change would not have happened if soot and look had rhymed with boot and kook.
     
  34. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I agree 66.6% (i.e. suit/Luke) but with nuke I would say an absence of [j] is a characteristic of American English. A lot of English underwent yod-dropping (loss of [j]) but American English took it a little bit further and applied it to /t/, /d/ and /n/ (as described here):

    Many many many of us (dare I say vast majority of Brits?) have it still in new [nju:] and in general the environments where American has applied it.
    So for example, a clear example (and one I remember talking about) was with tuna. General American had yod-dropping, and lost it, while it remained in British English and thus underwent yod-coalescence (resulting in our modern pronunciation of [tʃu:na]). As yod-coalescence also occurred with /d/ alongside /t/ (like I said with 'tuna') this also is why we have 'dew' as [dʒu:], unlike how I think it still is in American, like the wiki quote above says. As it didn't apply with /n/ it just meant [j] is still there as it was earlier on.
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2011
  35. hadronic Senior Member

    New York
    French - France
    @Ferero :
    I'm not denying that you actually make a phonemic difference between the (very) few examples of /ʊ/ vs. /u:/.

    My question is more about the (many) other possible syllables that do not show this kind of pair, like /fu:t/ vs. /f
    ʊt/, /bu:t/ vs. /bʊt/, /su:n/ vs. /sʊn/ etc.... where we do have on the other hand, feet vs. fit, beat vs. bit, seen vs. sin, ...

     
  36. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I would understand /bʊt/ as "but" and /sʊn/ as "sun" because that's how these words are pronounced in large parts of England.

    I might understand
    /bʊ:t/ and /sʊ:n/ deviant pronunciations of "boot" and "soon", respectively, but I am not sure.


     

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