Yod-dropping in American English

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by HZTB, Mar 13, 2009.

  1. HZTB Junior Member

    I wondered when yod-dropping (the elision of the sound [j] so that 'news' is pronounced /nuːz/ in American English as compared to /njuːz/ in British English) became widespread in American English?
  2. Fred_C

    Fred_C Senior Member

    To my knowledge, it is not widespread in American English. It is regional.
  3. CapnPrep Senior Member

    It is widespread and regional — including many regions of Britain. But there are many factors involved, and the phenomenon is not well-defined/unified enough (not to mention the vagueness of the term "widespread") for there to be a precise answer to the question of when. In fact the change is still in progress in many varieties of both American and British English.
  4. brian

    brian Senior Member

    AmE (New Orleans)
    Take a look here. The Wikipedia article doesn't say anything specific about when it started to happen, nor how widespread it is, but I can tell you that I personally drop my yods in all those examples except the ones in the second-to-last paragraph: pure/poor, beauty/booty, mute/moot, cute/coot. I distinguish these.

    In fact, before I learned what yod-dropping is, I would've thought that people who pronounced chews and choose differently (with /j/ in chews) were actually adding an extra sound that should normally not be there, like yod-adding. :D
  5. HZTB Junior Member

    Thanks for your replies. I just wondered if people already pronounced "news" as /nuːz/ in, say, early American movies, just to get an idea of when this gained preeminence (I would never hear someone say the /njuːz/ in an modern American sitcom for instance).
  6. Yôn Senior Member

    Indeed; I believe the phenomenon as a whole is more restricted to coronal sounds.

    Interestingly, you might be on to something. What we call 'dropping' might be a rule-governed preservation of older pronunciations. It is certainly not an unheard of explanation for linguistic phenomena.

    Last edited: Mar 16, 2009
  7. CapnPrep Senior Member

    I guess it's clear that there was no yod in these words, say, in Old English. So there could be some varieties that never developed it. This would have to be proven (good luck… :) ). But as I understand it, it has been established that these yods appeared in the "majority" dialects of English in the 16th or 17th century, and have been dropped in different environments / at different rates since then.
  8. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    "Yoo" for French u I think came in earlier than the 16th century. Was chute ever "shyoot"?

    I think (many of) the regional differences have to do with acceptance or rejection of the palatalization process.

    Where I live, the yod coalesces with /s/, /t/, or /d/ (becoming "sh", "ch", "j", respectively) in unstressed syllables, but in stressed syllables, the yod disappears to prevent merging of many minimal pairs like sue-shoe, due-Jew. "Massatoosetts" is a common overcorrection. Yod disappears after "sh", "ch", and "j".

    In the city, we have dropped the yod after /n/ and /l/, but in (some) rural areas /lj/ and /nj/ are still pronounced. In some places, there seems to be a new falling diphthong developing to keep newspaper from sounding like "noose paper", etc. while simutaneously preventing development of a palatal nasal and lateral. This new diphthong seems also to be used to advantage in "shoot" (the euphemism). I call this a new diphthong because it is most common among children of people who use /lj/ and /nj/.

    What a "r" would become were it to be palatalized I can't hazard a guess, but no one I know pronounces a yod after "r".

    Yod after "th" (as in "enthusiastic") follows the same pattern as yod after /n/ and /l/. Many children go through a phase in which they pronounce bathroom as "bathyoom". I don't know how one might palatalize a "th".

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