May 07, 2004

'you' as in 'pleasure'

Back in January, Geoff Pullum mentioned in passing Henry Sweet's listing of the four pronunciations of have:

"(1) like the first syllable of havoc in I already have; (2) like the first syllable of Havana in I have often thought so; (3) like the first syllable of avoid in I'd've thought so; (4) just a [v] in I've forgotten."

Another English word of protean pronunciation is you, with several reduced variants that have more-or-less conventional orthographic representations, as in willya, ain'tcha and didja. The other day I happened to notice a more extreme example, in a clip that I've used for years as one of a number of examples illustrating various regional and ethnic accents of American English (if you'd like to listen to the other ones, look for the table of links down in the middle of this set of lecture notes on sociolinguistics).

In this passage, a reduced version of you in the context "says you should not do it" becomes simply a long voiced palatal fricative, like the sound in the center of pleasure drawn out for about a third of a second.

Here's a spectrogram

and here is a link to an audio clip. As you can see and hear, this is not an especially informal or reduced passage -- "should not" is not contracted to "shouldn't", and the final [t] of "it" is released. The accent is that of middle-aged New York-area Jewish man, but this version of you is pretty widely distributed.

Posted by Mark Liberman at May 7, 2004 03:33 PM