Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tibe[tʃ]an!?!? Bush pushes the envelope

On News Hour just now, I swear I heard Bush talk about the Tibe[tʃ]an people. I'm puzzled. This is a case of /t/, like the last sound in Tibet, affricating, that is, becoming a 'ch' sound. That is hardly in and or itself striking — actually is regularly pronounced a[ktʃ]ually. But this doesn't usually happen in this environment. Put an -an on Montserrat and see if you get a [t] or an affricate for the adjective form for that place. Or Wisconsin places, like Little Chute, Rosholt, Jacksonport, etc. Affricates sound truly odd in those. (These are questions, not assertions … I'd like to hear from people who find affrication in these forms to sound OK.)

Is there some pattern here I don't know about? Bush wasn't obviously reading, so that kind of reading-based pronunciation error is probably out. Is Bush treating this (by analogy?) like -tion suffixes? Was he extending the pattern of affrication noted above? Is he really and truly not a competent speaker of English? What's happening?

Hey, I'm just trying to understand the world around me. And by the way, free Tibet.

Update, Thursday, 3:53. As the Ridger's comment below indicates, Mark Liberman has flat out answered this question, here. It in fact is a consistent oddity of Bush's idiolect.  Wow.

12 comments:

Jon Boy said...

I vote for "really and truly not a competent speaker of English." Also, my first thought was that it might be influenced by the word "Chechen."

Ellen K. said...

My assumption is he was thinking Tibetian. From Tibetian to /tibechan/ is a pretty normal transition.

Wishydig said...

I'm thinking Tibet-ian by analogy with a those attributive nationality forms that have a penultimate stress and take -ian: Pe'ru.vian; Ca'na.dian; 'Ru.ssian; Ma'lay.sian; E'gyp.tian; Nor'we.gian; and so on...Green'lan.dian?

Let's pretend I don't know the term Japanese. I wonder if my next guess wouldn't be [dʒə'pæ.niən] or [dʒə'pe.niən]. I doubt it would be [dʒə'pæ.nən].

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks, everybody. Hey, he could be confusing the Tibetan people with Chechens for all I know.

As for palatalization, I figured he would have had just a [ʃ] in that case. Many people have that Egyptian and presumably everybody in Tahitian. Lilliputian is from Lilliput. Can people get an affricate there? Gotta be a plain fricative for me. That seems like the productive pattern -- If I put -ian on Montserrat, the fricative sounds way better, but I guess I can imagine the affricate.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Hey, Mark Liberman mentions you and this at Language Log

(And fev at headsup says you guys were going wild...

John Wells said...

This may come as a shock, but people from Montserrat (West Indies) call themselves Montserratian. Worse, they tend to pronounce this Mon-STRASH-an.

Mr. Verb said...

Thanks, both. That the good folks of Montserrat use the -ian doesn't shock me, but getting a-str- in there does cause an odd eye twitching. (I think I've met exactly one person from there, only briefly, and don't actually recall hearing the relevant form.)

And yeah, we Verbs have been going wild lately, though obviously NOT on analyzing Bush's derivational morphology.

Ellen K. said...

Alas, Mark Liberman in his long post doesn't add anything (regarding that specific form) to what I said in my one sentence comment. Which is disappointing because I'm now curious about the sh sound in Egyptian and Tahitian, verses that ch in Tibetian. I do personally think ch rather than sh sounds right in that word, but I've no explantion why I and Mr. Bush (and perhaps others) should think that way while other parallel standard forms have a sh pronunciation. Does the sound before the -tian make a difference perhaps?

Mr. Verb said...

Oh yeah, he didn't answer that. Have you checked the list of patterns Mark Liberman gives? One question is whether you agree with those judgments generally or, like Bush, have lots of -ian forms.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I think it might be influenced by the presence of the T in TibeTian. It's almost pronounced, while the T in EgypTian is knocked out by the P.

Ellen K. said...

Yeah, he did add the bit about Bush and -ian forms. I stand corrected on that.

I saw the list of forms, with the examples. It was interesting, but I guess I see it as more of an aside rather than an answer to the question.

And let me clarify. I'd say Tibetan, pronounced with a normal t. But if I were to say the word Tibetian (rather than Tibetan), I'd use a ch sound.

Tadhg mac Aindriu said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. It's just slenderizing the t sound. The Irish do it all the time. Especially the Cork and Kerry Irish. They don't do it because they are Irish, making more effiecient sounds is just a normal thing to do in human language. It is in fact why we call the kind of music Duke Ellington played Jazz and not teas, ach sin sceil eile.