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  1. #1
    Bosko is offline Newbie
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    Default Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    Hello, fellow users.

    I've had this question on my mind for a while now. I've heard several well educated, well known people and scientists, pronounce words like "white", why" etc... with the same aspiration as in the word "whom" for example, Morgan Freeman in this videoclip :

    youtube dot com /watch?v=z2d2SzRZvsQ (I can't post links yet, forgive the crude way in which I do it, but I cannot think of any other way than providing an example)

    At about 43 seconds in, he pronounces the word "white" exactly in the manner which I described.

    Is there a specific reason for this ? Is this manner of speech in any way related to specific accent or ethnicity ?

    I believe this would have more to do with education than anything else, since I've seen many examples of this from people in no way related in ethnicity or locality, example : Morgan Freeman there, but I've also heard Richard Dawkins speak in this way.

    Thanks for your time, and sorry for the long read !

  2. #2
    Grumpy's Avatar
    Grumpy is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    I have listened to the clip 3 times now, and it seems to me that Morgan Freeman is pronouncing "white" exactly as I would say it, along with "why" etc, using the [to me] normal aspiration of "wh". However, I pronounce "whom" as "hoom"; not as "whoom".

    Maybe I misunderstand the point you are trying to make. I am Scots, and I find that most English people tend to pronounce all words beginning with "wh" as if the "h" were absent. Thus "when" becomes "wen" and "whether" is "wether" etc etc. I'm sure there are specific terms for these differences, but I'm not familiar with them.
    I'm not a teacher of English, but I have spoken it for (almost) all of my life....

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    Scottish Standard English uses a [ʍ] for 'white'. I'm not sure what 'I pronounce "whom" as "hoom"; not as "whoom"' means, and I haven't seen the clip (though, to the best of my memory, Morgan Freeman also uses a [ʍ]. The OP's 'several well educated, well known people and scientists' come from Scotland. But the only people (not many) whom I've heard pronouncing who|m with any trace of either [ʍ] or [w] were French students - and not many of them - (who, I suspect, had been exposed to written English too early).

    b

  4. #4
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    5jj is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I'm not sure what 'I pronounce "whom" as "hoom"; not as "whoom"' means
    It means that the first phoneme of Grumpy's 'whom' is /h/, not [ʍ].

    When I was at school in Southern England in the 1950s, the masters tried to change my 'uneducated' /w/ to [ʍ] in 'wh-' words, (just as they had me chanting 'How now brown cow'). The school influence faded in my everday speech, but I still notice it if I am giving a formal talk.

  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    It means that the first phoneme of Grumpy's 'whom' is /h/, not [ʍ].

    When I was at school in Southern England in the 1950s, the masters tried to change my 'uneducated' /w/ to [ʍ] in 'wh-' words, (just as they had me chanting 'How now brown cow'). The school influence faded in my everday speech, but I still notice it if I am giving a formal talk.
    Mine did too; Miss O'Malley gave us a spelling test including 'Wales' and 'whales', empasizing that we had to get the capitalization right.

    (And I did know what I claimed to be unsure about. Like Cook's Little Boy, 'he only does it annoy/because he knows it teases'.)

    b

  6. #6
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    emsr2d2 is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Pronunciation of words like "white", "why", "whom"

    My grandfather, who was born in 1921, always pronounced the "wh" at the beginning of "where" and "white", almost as if it were "hw", giving a sort of "hw-air" and "hw-ite". The pronunciation was not passed on to his three daughters.
    Remember - correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing make posts much easier to read.

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