She had an herbal scent to her - [AE pronunciation]

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Biffo

Senior Member
English - England
Hello

I am reading a book by an American author and noticed the following:

She had an herbal scent to her, light and fresh and clean.
Jordan, Robert (2009-12-15). The Dragon Reborn (Kindle Location 6794). Hachette Littlehampton. Kindle Edition.

From this I deduce that in AE the word 'herbal' is pronounced with a silent 'h'. In BE (received pronunciation) we aspirate this 'h' and so would expect to see "She had a herbal scent to her, light and fresh and clean."

My question is to AE speakers. Is 'herbal' invariably pronounced with silent 'h' throughout North America? Are there areas where this is not true?

Thanks.
 
  • Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    People I hear pronounce herbal as 'erbal'. I can't tell you whether there is any regional variation.

    I listened to 7 YouTube videos in which the herb or herbal was pronounced without h. Except for one woman who seemed to have a southern accent, I couldn't identify the region these people represented.

    This previous thread expresses the general view: H as in herb [pronunciation]

    My view is that if people have enough experience with the herbs to be making a video on the subject, they are likely to pronounce it without the h.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hello

    I am reading a book by an American author and noticed the following:

    She had an herbal scent to her, light and fresh and clean.
    Jordan, Robert (2009-12-15). The Dragon Reborn (Kindle Location 6794). Hachette Littlehampton. Kindle Edition.

    From this I deduce that in AE the word 'herbal' is pronounced with a silent 'h'. In BE (received pronunciation) we aspirate this 'h' and so would expect to see "She had a herbal scent to her, light and fresh and clean."

    My question is to AE speakers. Is 'herbal' invariably pronounced with silent 'h' throughout North America? Are there areas where this is not true?

    Thanks.
    I can't say for Canadians, but some Americans do indeed pronounce the h in herb, including me. See the usage note in this entry in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    For what it is worth, here is the Wiktionary comment on the matter:

    US pronunciation of the word varies; some speakers include the h-sound and others omit it. Individual speakers are consistent in their choice, but the choice does not appear to be correlated with any regional, socioeconomic, or educational distinctions.
    Addition: This is from the entry on the word herb, but in my experience it applies to herbal as well.
     
    Last edited:

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Thank you. :)
    That Wiki note seems reasonable.

    (I agree that the same rule would apply to both herb and herbal.)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    As for the Canadian pronunciation of herb, The Cambridge History of the English Language identifies it as being among those words whose Canadian pronunciations resemble British pronunciations. From Vol. 6, Page 431:

    Spelling pronunciations, such as herb, arctic [ɑrktɪk], or often [ɑftən], seem to be fairly frequent in Canadian English, as they are in British English.
     
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