English retroflexion

George Thompson thompson at JLC.NET
Sun Jun 21 00:34:59 UTC 1998

In defense of Jonathan Silk:

Isn't it true, though, that native speakers tend not to notice such
phonetic features of their own language, insofar as they operate with a
phonemic system that does not recognize the feature as phonemic? Whereas
non-native speakers [as we all are when it comes to Sanskrit, for example]
are very acutely aware of such things, insofar as they are
language-learners [second language acquisition is a more conscious process
than first language acquisition].

There is also he influence of the writing system, which in the case of
English, of course, does not recognize retroflex phonemes [or phones, for
that matter].

Also, recalling the examples of retroflexion from East Norwegian and
West Swedish which Lars Martin Fosse cited on the list a few months ago, I
wonder how cogent this "minimal pair" is, since it is derived from two
different languages [or dialects]. Can such minimal pairs
[retroflex-dental, or retroflex-alveolar, etc.] be cited *within* the same
dialect? In other words, it is still not clear to me that there are many
languages outside of the Indic linguistic area in which retroflexion is

Any help from the list's comparative linguists?

Best wishes,

George Thompson
>Incidentally, about everytime someone mentions
>U.S. English as an example for some linguistic
>feature (I noticed that on other lists too)
>some "native speaker of American English" interjects
>that "as a native speaker of American English" he
>is not aware of the feature in question in his
>speech. It seems there is a huge conspiracy to
>misrepresent U.S. English in linguistic textbooks
>so maybe people should stop quoting U.S. examples :-)
>I wonder if it's not some kind of paranoia. After all
>it should seem odd that someone could be accurately
>informed on Pugliese, Calabrese, Sardo, Asturian, Swedish,
>Russian, Polish and Mandarin Chinese but get it completely
>wrong when it comes to U.S. English (not exactly an obscure
>exotic language). If someone quoted French as an example
>for a linguistic feature that I didn't immediately
>recognize, I think my first reaction would not be that he is
>necessarily ignorant. I would probably wonder first
>if the feature in question might not be present in a dialect
>with which I wasn't familiar or even if I understood correctly
>what he was talking about.

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list