Monday, November 30, 2009

Morphophonology Rules (Actually, I Prefer Syntax and Semantics)

Following is a reader's comment on a recent post about paraprosdokians.

I've always loved gags like this -- "I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my father, not screaming and terrified like his passengers." — Bob Monkhouse

I never knew they had a name, so I did a Google search to find the proper pronunciation. says it's pronounced "para pros DOK ian," which is what I expected to find. However, the droll Brit at seems to have added a vowel where none exists in the spelling: "PARA pros(o) dokian."Is that an example of metathesis ?

And here is my response:

That would actually be an example of the morphophonological rule of insertion. Insertion is when a sound is inserted between two morphemes either for ease of articulation (to make the word easier to pronounce), or for ease of perception (to make it easier to hear every sound in a word), or both. British English speakers must not like having the morpheme /pras/ followed by the morpheme /dok/. I would guess that they insert the /o/ more for ease of perception than ease of articulation because the /s/ is in a syllable coda (end of the syllable) and the following /d/ is in a syllable onset (start of the syllable). Because the sounds in question are in two separate syllables, pronunciation should not be an issue. Are there any British English speakers who care to comment? I would love to hear from you.

I thought I would reprint this comment exchange because I always enjoy it when a post of mine piques a reader's curiosity and because I truly would love to hear what other readers think.

1 comment:

Sandafluffoid said...

I am British, and I must say that added 'o' confused me too. I would certainly not insert this phoneme.

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