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The days of the week in English, such as Monday, are sometimes pronounced with a final -[deɪ] and sometimes with a final -[di]. For example, Merriam-Webster gives Monday as \ˈmən-(ˌ)dā, -dē\ and Wiktionary gives /ˈmʌn.deɪ/, /ˈmʌn.di/. This is evidently true for both British and American English.

My question concerns the distribution of this variation. Is it dialectical? If so, what dialects exhibit which form? Is it based on register? Stephen Fry says in Moab is My Washpot that it's an example of U vs non-U: "A gentleman does not pronounce Monday as Monday, but as Mundy". This wouldn't explain the variation in the US, though. On the other hand, the two forms do not seem to be in free variation.

I'm not aware of any of any English vowel mergers that would explain this. Is there a DAY-DEE merger? A rule for final [eɪ]-raising?

There's lots of anecdotal information on this, like this English.Stackexchange question, which is interesting enough, but I'm curious if anyone knows of scholarly work on the subject.

EDIT: I have found one scholarly work on the subject, K. Wheatley in American Speech, Vol 9 No 1, Feb 1934, pp 36-45, "Southern Standards". Author writes:

Yesterday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., always have [i] in the final syllable in Southern speech while [ei] is often heard in these words in the linguistic West.

It is not clear what dialects she means by "Southern" and "Western" other than that these are American dialects.

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Haha--I'd noticed that when an expected "long A" /eɪ/ is unstressed it often goes to [i], and hadn't thought of the -day words at all. For other examples of the phenomenon look at the A in "Israel" [ɪzriəl] and the Anglicized form of "karaoke" [kɛrioki]. (Not sure if the same effect could be responsible for "harakiri" [hɛrikiri].) – Muke Tever Dec 24 '11 at 13:09
@Mitch Sorry, it's not clear to me what you're trying to say there. – Mark Beadles Dec 24 '11 at 16:17
@MarkBeadles -- It may well not be a dialectal matter. Individuals vary a lot in how their final vowels get reduced in rapid speech, even from hour to hour, or mood to mood. Not to mention that socioeconomic factors like class, income, education, race, and status are more often correlated than geographical location. Except of course where there's cross-correlations already. – jlawler Dec 24 '11 at 19:27
Also note the facetiously hyper-corrected "partay" – jlovegren Dec 24 '11 at 21:16
As I stated in my question and in my response to Mitch, there is a nearly identical question on English.stackexchange. The link to the question which I provided in my own question here is at‌​k-end-with-dee Unfortunately I have not found that english.stackexchange does a good job providing research-based or linguistically rigorous answers, rather its more useful for English-language learners and providing usage advice. – Mark Beadles Dec 30 '11 at 1:53
up vote 7 down vote accepted

As I posted on english.stackexchange, in response to essentially the same question (along with a protracted jumble of further results of my inexpert research), the short answer can be found in these maps from Professor Bert Vaux's Dialect Survey:

the final vowel in "Monday," "Friday", etc.

Also, the speech accent archive, suggests that the [i] (?) ending is popular in the American Southeast, particularly in Louisville, Kentucky; Atlanta, Georgia; Belmont, Mississippi; Plantersville, Arkansas; Elmore, Alabama; and Pensacola, Florida.

I hope this helps.

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Thanks, this is exactly it. Much appreciated! – Mark Beadles Jan 3 '12 at 17:21
Take into account that although this is great information, it's a survey. So instead of being data on what people actually say, it's data of what people think they say. Very different usually! – mollyocr Jan 4 '12 at 22:18
@mollyocr So true. Perhaps especially in this case, with the [e] symbol counter-intuitively (at least to the non-linguists among us) paired with the say rhyme in the survey question. And even the Speech Accent Archive examples, which provide audio recordings as proof, only account for one representative speaker in just one instance. I wonder if a more complete study is out there. I'd also like to know if there are other features shared uniquely by the [i] ending users. (I know I haven't made it clear what I'm asking here, but that't the best I can do with the character-count limit!) – sarah Jan 6 '12 at 8:00

[this would be better as a comment, but I need more space]

Here are English words from the MRC psycholinguistic database that are disyllabic, have stress on the first syllable, and end in [eɪ].

airway, archway, assay backstay, birthday, bobsleigh, bobstay, byway, causeway, crossway, daresay, doomsday, doorway, entree, essay, fairway, flyway, gainsay, gangway, hatchway, headway, hearsay, heyday, highway, horseplay, inlay, leeway, mainstay, midday, midway, noonday, norway, nosegay, outlay, pathway, pipeclay, pulque, railway, slipway, speedway, stairway, straightway, subway, sundae, survey, tramway, washday, waylay, weekday.

As you can see, most of these are compounds or foreign words. If this is a regular sound change, then we should find dialects where people pronounce most of these words with final [i] instead of [eɪ].

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Interesting, thanks for the list. Since in fact one doesn't find dialects (to my knowledge) that pronounce these with final [i], then this is not a regular sound change. So maybe this means that dialects that exhibit -[di] have inherited it, rather than producing it synchronically? – Mark Beadles Dec 29 '11 at 19:34
I've heard many of these words pronounced with a final [i] in fast speech. I think this would be especially true of compounds ending in -day (and sundae), but also essay, entree, and survey. It does not seem to be productive (*/spidwi/, */-wi/), and it might be more lexicalized for certain roots. I am not sure whether this is localized to a specific dialect, for comparison I have grown up and always lived in the northeast/Philadelphia region of the US. Interestingly Philadelphia is supposed to have a different sort of /eɪ/ /i/ split in which /eɪ/ becomes /i/ when not at the end of a word. – user325 Dec 30 '11 at 10:20

My assumption has been that this [di] for "-day" was a part of general reduction of non-first elements in compounds the likes of [vUł] for "-ville" and [mIn] for "-man" that occurred over the centuries. That could explain why "freeway" doesn't do it: it's too new.

Notice that English spelling generally has retained the original forms ("-day", "-ville", "-man") even when they were reduced at least by some in pronunciation. I have observed children sounding out words like "Fri+day", "milk+man", "fore+head", and I therefore suspect that the conservative, etymological spellings of these variably reducible forms in English combined with the mass literacy of the last couple of centuries could be exerting a push in favor of the full, rather than reduced, forms.

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