7

I'm asking specifically about Yod* coalescence when connecting two words together.

Some very (neat) phenomenon in American English is to "fuse" you/r/s when the word ends in t/d/z:

I was thinking about you -> aɪ wəz θɪŋkɪŋ əˈbaʊtʃu
what did you do? -> wʌt| dɪʤu du?
close your eyes -> kloʊʒəɹ aɪz

From my observation, Americans only coalesce some or non of the t+y, d+y and z+y combination, depending on their regional accent and how articulate they want to sound (the more they coalesce, the informal it sounds).

Another observation I have is that across words (I'm not talking about inter word combinations like future, solider and vision), it can only happen when the second word is you/your/yours.

Am I correct? are there any other words which start with y and can be coalesced? or the only "valid" coalescence is when the second word is you/r/s?

I mean, one can't say "but yeah, you're right" as something like "bucheah, you're right" without sounding very awkward.

If anyone wants to answer about different dialect of English (British, Australian,etc.) they are welcome, but the question is about American English, with bias toward Midwestern/West coast/General American accent.

*hey, that's a Hebrew letter!

  • 3
    Good question! If you include y’all and similar variations that are based on you, then I think you’re right. I can’t seem to naturally produce yod coalescence with any other word either. With the you-based words, I have more or less free variation when it comes to /-t j-/ between coalescing to /-tʃ-/ and reducing the /t/, leaving /-ʔ j-/ (or in some cases deleting the /t/ entirely). With other words, only the latter is possible. And producing something like [hiwəˈʒεɫɪ̵nəʔmi] (with [ʒ]) for “He was yelling at me” feels unnatural, too. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 16 '17 at 8:00
  • @JanusBahsJacquet another question I had - what about words which has /yu/ at the beginning, but they are not "you"? would you pronounce "but using it is wrong" as "bu-chu-zin it is wrong"? or you would just glottolize the T instead? – David Haim Sep 16 '17 at 8:08
  • Definitely glottalise. [bəˈtʃuːzɪ̵nɪtsɹɑːŋ] with [tʃ] would represent “But choosing it is wrong” if I were to produce it. “He was using it” can just about come out as [hiwəˈʒuːzɪ̵nɪʔ], though. Feels less unnatural with using than with yelling. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 16 '17 at 8:16
  • So, quit strangely this is a phonological phenomenon which is affected also by the meaning and not entirely by sounds alone, like the other phonological phenomena. thanks you! – David Haim Sep 16 '17 at 8:29
  • 1
    @JohnLawler I'm not so sure. I've seen many articles and academic works referring to it as "Yod coalescence", including Wikipedia. as for Judaism, the religion itself doesn't care much about phonology :) – David Haim Sep 16 '17 at 16:45
2

This coalescence is not so special. It actually seems to be natural and normal at times.
"And now, about yesterday" could be heard as

and now, a bough chesterday (or, jesterday)

and the person so speaking not be aware that he never really eaid "yesterday".
It may be that Americans perform this coalescence more than some other English speakers, but it is surely not a new phenomenon.

The Classical Latin word for "yoke" might be used as an example. IUGUM majstro.com in Latin gives a number words in modern languages (the I is equivalent to the English"y").

In Italian wordreference.com we have giogo which sounds much like "jogo" in English spelling.
In English we have "jugular" Wiktionary and "subjugate" from the Latin SUB IUGEM , among others.

Spanish retains the "y" sound: yugo, but French does not: joug. Neither does Portuguese: jogo. Perhaps there was a shift in Vulgar Latin that did not occur in Castilian Spanish. May be there are other explanations.

As to American English, this coalescence might just be normal to the language, and not exceptional. I am an American English speaker. If I say SUB IUGUM as a Latin phrase, formally, the "y" sound will be intact. If I informally say the phrase it might sound like

sabjugem

and I will have committed the coalescence, and not given it a thought.

The pity is we have only recently been able to go beyond good guesses as to how sounds change in language over time. The "y" sound in yesterday may not have been there 1500 years ago. German uses a "hard G" in its current word (gestern) Collinsdictionary.com and some, or all Anglo-Saxon dialects may have had the hard sound instead of "y". It is possible that "y" is not stable in all dialects of English today. I fear it will take thousands of hours of sound recordings to sort this out. This is a very good question.

  • We have some spelling-based evidence that even in Anglo-Saxon times, words like "yesterday" were pronounced with the /j/ sound rather than /g/, as in German. Words like "year", that don't have a /g/ sound in German, were spelled with the letter "g" in Ango-Saxon. This suggests that already at this time, the /j/ sound that Anglo-Saxon inherited from Proto-Germanic had merged with the palatalized sound from Proto-Germanic *g, and both could be spelled as "g". – herisson Oct 16 '17 at 20:57
  • @ sumelic I agree basically. But all of the figuring of sounds 2000 years ago have to be just "good guesses".. Dutch today uses neither a "y" or "g"" but a hard "h" in our "yesterday". "y" may well have superseded /g/ by 1500 years ago in all English dialects, but,I do not think I will say it for sure. Thank you for the comment. – J. Taylor Oct 16 '17 at 21:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.