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Summary Details

Query:   SUM: emerging pronunciation of 'presentation'
Author:  Rob Hagiwara
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonology

Summary:   Back in April, I posted the following question to Linguist List

> Does anyone have any data on the variable use or extent of the
> pronunciations of 'presentation' with [i] (high front tense)
> vs. [E] (mid front lax) in the first syllable? When did this
> start to become common? Is it limited to particular
> areas/social groups? Is there a difference between the two
> forms (for people who have both)?

I?d like to thank Tim Beasley, Bernard Comrie, Alice Faber, Clyde
Hankey, Mika Hoffman, Susan Banner Inouye, and at least one other
whose e-mail I must have deleted in the interim (to whom I also
apologize). I also thank several Canadian colleagues who
survived my inquisitions.

My original question was prompted by an individual for whom I?m
doing some dialect consulting. All I really wanted to tell her
was whether it was definitely ?pr[i]sentation? in some locales or
sitations and ?pr[E]sentation? in others, or if there was
something more subtle going on. My personal experience was that
?pr[E]sentation? was somehow normal (although I do remember at
least one friend with similar background to mine who always said
pr[i]senation when we were in college). But I?ve been hearing
?pr[i]sentation? on TV and so forth lately, so I assumed this was
a recent innovation. Apparently it is not.

Bernard Comrie pointed out that Jones?s English Pronouncing
Dictionary (1999) lists only the [E] pronunciation for England,
and lists the [i] pronunciation as a US variant. (He also relates
this to question of [E]/schwa/syllabic-n variants in the second
syllable of ?presentation?.) This accords with his memories of
the [E] pronunciation being the only one available in England in
the mid-70?s, with [i] regarded as an American innovation.
Although the English tend to regard any innovation as an
Americanism, similar memories from the northeast US regard the
[i] pronunciation as standard. So it would appear that
?pr[i]sentation? is an innovation, but it isn?t ?emerging?.

Some people shared my intuition that there may be a distinction
between a ?pr[i]sentation?, as an event of presenting something,
as opposed to ?pr[E]sentation? as an abstraction (as in
?presentation skills? or ?skillful presentation?). There was a
similar, though incongruous, viewpoint expressed by someone who
suggested that ?pr[i]sentation? was something you did to plates
of food (as in ?an elegant pr[i]sentation?), although just about
everyone I asked rejected ?pr[i]sentation is everything? in favor
of the [E] variant.

More than one person (from the Eastern US) contributed the
intuition that ?pr[i]sentation? is obviously derived from a verb
to ?pr[i]sent?, with a tense [i] in the first syllable. I can
only have a reduced vowel in the pre-tonic syllable of ?to
present?, so the preference for ?pr[E]sentation? may be
analogized (?) from the noun ?pr[E]sent?, rather derived from
than an abstract ?to pr/i/sent?.

As Bernard Comrie summarized so succinctly, some questions

a. What is the relation, both now and historically, between
[E] and [i] variants in the US/North America?
b. What is the incidence, both now and historically, of
unreduced [E] versus schwa/syllabic [n] in the second
syllable in the US/North America?
c. To what extent, if at all, as the US pronunciation
established itself in Britain?

Robert Hagiwara, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Linguistics Department
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, Manitoba

voice: (204) 474-6998
fax: (204) 474-7671

LL Issue: 14.2390
Date Posted: 09-Sep-2003
Original Query: Read original query


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