Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Evolving Language: How do you say "kitten"?

BYU professor researches the missing T in Utah speech

PROVO -- A Brigham Young University linguistics professor is researching the case of the missing T.
The unusual pronunciation of certain words like "mountain," "kitten," and "button" isn't unique to Utah, said professor David Eddington, but it is certainly far more prevalent here than in other Western states.
And young Utah females are particularly prone to not pronounce the "T," Eddington said.
"We found cases of it in New York, Michigan, Southern California," Eddington said. "But in Utah what we found is that generally it's younger people and especially women."
For his research, Eddington recorded 57 volunteers reading the same words.
What he found was that if someone had lived at least two-thirds of his or her life in Utah, he or she was much more likely to speak with the unusual pronunciation.
"Every place I've been, people say 'kitten,' " Eddington said. "And then I listened more [in Utah] and started to hear 'KIH-un.' "
Eddington said that males are far less likely than females to lose the T in their pronunciations, but he thinks men will likely follow suit in the future.
"Linguists have found that young women are always, or generally, on the forefront of linguistic changes," Eddington said.
And of course, he noted, no one can say the pronunciation is wrong since language is always evolving, and young people have always had their own way of talking.
"You go back to Roman times," Eddington said, "and you hear Romans talking about how the young people don't speak correctly."