"h" in where, while etc.

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ibex
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"h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von ibex »

Hi,

here and there I notice native speakers of English, also linguists, producing a distinct h-sound in words like "where", "while" and other words, but when I look them up, the dictionaries don't give any mention of an h-sound. It is a bit unfamiliar to my ears, but I love its sound. Is this h-sound common (in the sense of "does it appear often")? Is it a regional feature?

Thank you!
ibex




Keswick
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Re: "h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von Keswick »

This is a regional feature as well as a phonological development, possibly dating back to the "h-adding" which counteracted the so-called "h-dropping". The "h-adding" is not common all over the UK and can mainly be heard in the South.
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ibex
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Re: "h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von ibex »

Thanks for your answer. I suspected something like that, but wasn't sure because I heard language-aware people like David Crystal do it. Thank you! So you wouldn't recommend to adopt it, would you?

Keswick
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Re: "h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von Keswick »

I personally wouldn't use this kind of phonology but then again I live in the North of England. If I started speaking like that I'd have people staring at me :mrgreen: .
Then again if you lived in a part of the UK where using this phonology is common, then there is no reason not to adopt it.

At the end of the day, if you like the sound and don't mind using this kind of phonology, then by all means go ahead with it. Who are we to stop you :wink: ?
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tiorthan
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Re: "h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von tiorthan »

TL;DR "wh" may be pronounced as a voiced "w" or as a voiceless "hw". The voiced "w" is used by most English speakers but has not gained enough dominance to be considered "standard".
Keswick hat geschrieben:This is a regional feature as well as a phonological development, possibly dating back to the "h-adding" which counteracted the so-called "h-dropping".
Not in this case. The "wh" sound has its origin in the Indoeuropean Kw. You can already see where the "w" comes from. The "K" part of that however, underwent a number of changes over time. First it changed into Xw (the X is the CH sound in the German word "Bach") and thence to "Hw". The hw-sound is actually as old as Old English and it is a voiceless sound, mind you. They even spelled it "hw" in that time. "Who" was "hwa" and "where" was "
hw
ӕ
r" in Old English. Old English had several of these H-consonant sounds like "hn" or "hr". All but "hw" were lost over time.

The origin of the voiced "W" pronunciation of words beginning in "wh" is actually much junger. Things began to move around "hw" at the end of the Middle English period (in the 15th century). Middle English had changed the spelling of "hw" to "wh" but the sound did not change "w" and "wh" remained distinct (as can be seen in the origin of "were" for example). The end result in Modern English was that in front of rounded vowels the "hw" had most often become "h" like in "who". In front of unrounded vowels it remained a voiceless "hw" at first but later (and I cannot put my finger on it in this case) most dialects adopted what linguists call the wine-whine merger meaning, "hw" changed to a voiced "w". The regions often coincide with the h-dropping areas.

The voiceless "hw" pronunciation is still used in significant parts of the eastern and southern U.S., in Schottland and in Ireland and by some speakers of Received Pronunciation as well. So, all in all, while not being in the majority, it is still correct to say hwat instead of wat.

Sometimes people incorrectly correct the "w" pronunciation to a voiced "hw". Yet that it neither historically accurate nor is it regularly used in any dialect.
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ibex
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Re: "h" in where, while etc.

Beitrag von ibex »

Thank you so much! :freu:

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