Thursday, 23 September 2010

the jewelry is out?

Paul Reed, writing from South Carolina, says
I heard on the radio today an interesting statement. The DJ said,'The jury is out, and I don't mean the diamonds and pearls, but 12 of your peers.' I thought that this was intriguing that the DJ felt it necessary to clarify his meaning.
Is there an AmE variety where jewelry/jury are homophones? I have queried several of my friends (all students like me), and we all tend to have the /l/ or a different vowel, GOOSE for jewelry and FOOT for jury.

I wouldn’t have thought there were any speakers for whom jewelry and jury are categorical homophones (i.e. always pronounced identically), though I suppose it’s possible that there are speakers who sometimes pronounce them so similarly that a listener might be momentarily confused. Even if you vocalize the l, turning ˈdʒuːəlri jewelry into ˈdʒuːori or something of the sort, the vocalic element between the and the r is still going to be different in AmE from that of ˈdʒʊri jury.

The same applies, mutatis mutandis, in BrE. We usually spell the first word differently, as jewellery, but this doesn’t really imply any significant difference in pronunciation. In RP the can be smoothed prevocalically to ʊ, producing ˈdʒʊəlri. I suppose that if you vocalize the l in that version you might get something containing some sort of indeterminate ʊəo or even ʊːː that could be confused with the ʊə of jury, nominally ˈdʒʊəri but in practice often ˈdʒʊːri. However with the decline of the phoneme ʊə jury can also sometimes be ˈdʒɔːri or ˈdʒɜːri. In non-RP you can also get the historically conservative version ˈdʒuːri (lumped in with the majority form in this LPD graphic). None of these are likely to be confused with jewellery.

Furthermore, jewellery also has a BrE version ˈdʒuːləri, which I mark in LPD with the siɡn §, non-RP. Since the l in this form is prevocalic, it would not be a candidate for l vocalization.

17 comments:

  1. John, you have just explained why I was never impressed with the rhyming of:

    Herod then with fear was filled
    'A prince', he said, 'in Jewry?'
    All the little boys he killed
    In Bethl'em in his fury

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  2. I think it may rhyme with "jury" in AAVE

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  3. In my AmE, Jewry and jury are homonyms (well, the vowel may be a touch longer in Jewry, which isn't exactly a common word), but the vowel quality is in any case that of GOOSE, as in all CURE words. I think this makes me an archaism.

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  4. I have NURSE in jury. Same with mature. I have GOOSE in jewelry.

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  5. @anonymous
    The DJ was not using AAE, nor was the station explicitly aimed at speakers of AAE (or any other particular variety), as it was the morning talk show of a top 40 station. Also, some of the people that I queried about the pronunciation were native AAE speakers, as I thought that could be a possibility. Maybe it was a bad attempt at a joke?

    @J.C. Wells,
    Thanks so much for the post! It definitely clarifies and explains my hunch.

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  6. This post comes as a surprise, as my boyfriend and I were just commenting the other day on my Australian English pronunciation of 'jewellery', which is basically a homophone with 'jury' (perhaps except for a slight length difference of the FOOT vowel), due to the lack of contact between the tongue tip and alveolar ridge of /l/ in some contexts in Australian English.

    This aspect of Australian English once led to me confusing an American friend who wasn't sure whether I'd told him we were going to "the Moor" or "the mall".

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  7. @David Crosbie

    This carol, written in 1928, also rhymes "asses" with "surpasses". What do you think: TRAP or PALM?

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  8. vp

    My mother's accent was RP purchased from an elocution teacher. A sound investment, since she had no education and a Swansea accent at a time when jobs were very hard to come by. She would often accuse someone of being a sɪli a:s.

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  9. @vp: BATH(=PALM) is the only RP possibility in "surpass". Whether "ass" was intended as a true rhyme or just an eye-rhyme it is difficult to know, but ɑːs for "ass" (donkey, fool) was not unusual in 1928.

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  10. PS - nowadays I would expect a choir or congregation in the south of England to sing ˈæsɪz, səˈpɑːsɪz, making the words eye-rhymes only.

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  11. Yes, sɪli a:s was still around into my twenties, and from respectable old ladies and gents, and certainly with no anatomical connotations. I even affected it myself as a child and probably even into my teens, no doubt with infantile archness about those connotations.

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  12. My Irish accent has no opposition between SQUARE/NEAR/CURE and (FACE/FLEECE/GOOSE + /r/). I can never work out which accent, if any, pronounces e.g. "jury" differently from "Jewry".

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  13. My jewellery and jury are as good as homonyms (EE). Jewellery is possibly darker, maybe there's a postvocalic [w] in there for the /l/, and that's possibly also the case for those who wrote about lengthening.

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  14. For me jewellery has GOOSE+/l/ and jury is CURE. So they're different, but I can see that /l/ vocalisation (which I don't have) would make them quite similar.

    As for Jewry, it's not a word I use or hear often enough for me to really be sure how it's pronounced. However, if singing that carol I would rhyme it with fury (so CURE). Oh, and southerners should learn to pronounce surpasses properly when singing it :-)

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  15. Today I went on a trip in County Wicklow and on the bus the guide said something which sounded like "The hamlet we're about to pass through is called Animal". It sounded like a very implausible name for a settlement to me; when we got there, I saw it was actually called Annamoe.

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  16. The best way to buy her an engagement ring she'll love is to let her pick it out herself. She'll wear this ring every day. It must feel good on her finger and it must suit her lifestyle.

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  17. @army1987: Annamoe ought to have stress on the final syllable; I suspect the guide was not local.

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