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Thread: Wail / Whale distinction

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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    Wail / Whale distinction

    Hi guys.
    Do you do this preaspiration (that's what it's called) in your native accent?
    I mean things that historically had sounded differently, like whine-wine, whale-wail, but then merged in some accents hwile in some they havent.
    Should I bother with learning it or just let it go as it's considered uncommon?
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    Евгений, зачем Вам лишние проблемы в этой жизни?

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    Властелин Medved's Avatar
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    И тем не менее...
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    Завсегдатай Throbert McGee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medved View Post
    Hi guys.
    Do you do this preaspiration (that's what it's called) in your native accent?
    I mean things that historically had sounded differently, like whine-wine, whale-wail, but then merged in some accents hwile in some they havent.
    Should I bother with learning it or just let it go as it's considered uncommon?
    According to Wikipedia (which has a long summary of consonant variants in different dialects of English), pairs like "whine/wine", "whale/wail", and "which/witch" are pronounced as homonyms (i.e., they've merged to "w") in nearly all standard dialects of English worldwide. The exceptions are in Scotland, Ireland, and parts of the southeast US:



    In these areas, people still say h'wine, h'wale, h'wich, and so forth. But in other regions, such pronunciations may sound old-fashioned or affected, so I would advise not learning it. (Honestly, h'wich and h'wine, etc., all sound ridiculously pompous to my ears -- it's an accent I associate with the stereotypical criminal super-geniuses from Hollywood movies. I don't remember h'wether Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers films actually had this accent, but I would expect he did, because that's h'wat tells the audience that he's evil.)))) In other words, saying "whine" as h'wine now sounds "hyper-correct" to most English speakers.

    PS. If you check out the Wiki article above, I would also point you to the section on "Yod-dropping" -- this refers to whether such words as "do" and "dew" are pronounced alike, and whether the word "new" sounds the same as the second syllable in "menu," etc. Again, it depends on which dialect of English you're talking about -- I say "do" and "dew" identically, but people in some parts of the US South pronounce the two words differently.

    You might also be interested in the section on "L-dropping", which discusses whether the L is clearly pronounced in words such as "golf" and "walk". Yet again, it's a matter of regional dialect.

    I mention these three sections specifically because they talk about pronunciation differences that can be heard in certain varieties of "acceptable educated English." Some of the other phenomena are not accepted as "the educated standard " in any part of the English-speaking world -- so they're probably of less interest to a non-native learner.
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    on a similar note, in North Wales there is something close to Manchester/Liverpool accent, eg. money= муни, London = лундн, cup = куп, etc. My opinion is a non-native speaker might reteach him/herself to speak like the locals do (as I did while staying there) for better integration in the local community (if one actually stays there not for a short time); in any case locals like when you speak as they do, it facilitates communication. So the key word here is 'local' or 'vernacular', and it becomes really important when one actually lives in a certain area, otherwise it's more of a matter of scientific or practical interest, imo.

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    Властелин Deborski's Avatar
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    I think Throbert covered this one pretty thoroughly. It is a matter of regional dialect.

    I do not pronounce the "h" in "whale". I pronounce "wail" and "whale" exactly the same. However, I do pronounce the "l" in golf. But I do not pronounce the "l" in walk.
    Вот потому, что вы говорите то, что не думаете, и думаете то, что не думаете, вот в клетках и сидите. И вообще, весь этот горький катаклизм, который я здесь наблюдаю, и Владимир Николаевич тоже…

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    Quote Originally Posted by Deborski View Post
    I do not pronounce the "h" in "whale". I pronounce "wail" and "whale" exactly the same. However, I do pronounce the "l" in golf. But I do not pronounce the "l" in walk.
    Deb, so do I.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Medved View Post
    Hi guys.
    Do you do this preaspiration (that's what it's called) in your native accent?
    I mean things that historically had sounded differently, like whine-wine, whale-wail, but then merged in some accents hwile in some they havent.
    Should I bother with learning it or just let it go as it's considered uncommon?
    In my New Zealand accent in both whine and whale the 'h' sound is slightly aspirated in contrast to wine and wail that do not have it at all.
    It is very slight and may not be noticeable to other speakers at all but my lips are more pursed and I can feel the air pass through them.

    Btw your question reminded me of this Family Guy clip, which is good for a laugh. (Here there is extra emphasis and stress placed on the h for comedic purposes)

    Family Guy - Wil Wheaton

    Regards

    PS: Don't know how to embed videos here, anybody able to enlighten me?

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