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I'm curious about the connection between word order/grammar and how that influences the way we pronounce a word, particularly in reference to dialect.

For example, if we take the word 'going' and think about its pronunciation in different sentences:

  • How ya going?
  • What's going on here?
  • Are you going to the party?
  • I'm not going to take this anymore.

How do the words around 'going' shape how we say it?

For example, do the sounds made when saying 'how ya' influence whether we then say 'going' or 'goin'? Would changing it to 'you going good?' make a difference because 'going' is no longer at the end?

And, is there a common way of describing this idea so I can read further into it?

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  • 1
    Is that first usage, "How ya going," common in English? In what regions is it common? As an American, I don't think I have ever heard it before. "How's it going" and "How ya doing," on the other hand, are extremely common. I also haven't heard "you going good" - that would be "you doing good."
    – Graham H.
    Mar 20, 2023 at 18:21
  • @GrahamH. How ya going for How are you going? to the party etc.
    – Lambie
    Mar 20, 2023 at 19:46
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    @GrahamH. It is a common replacement for "How ya doing" in Australia
    – Nacht
    Mar 21, 2023 at 3:25

4 Answers 4

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This question is about connected speech:

Here is an comprehensive introduction to it from one Keith Taylor, an English teacher:

eslbase_connected speech

A look at assimilation, elision, delayed plosion, catenation and intrusion in connected speech. In spoken discourse the boundaries between words are very often not clear-cut. Words and sounds are lost and linked together in different ways to enable us to articulate with minimal movement.

This is one of the reasons learners find spoken discourse more difficult to understand than written discourse. At higher levels it is often not a lack of vocabulary which prevents understanding, but lack of ability to deal with these features of connected speech. Native speakers are more able to use top-down processing to decide whether what they have heard is red dye or red eye.

Here are some of the more common features of connected speech:

Assimilation

Assimilation occurs when a phoneme (sound) in one word causes a change in a sound in a neighbouring word. For example, try saying the following pairs of words:

in Bath

last year

Hyde Park

You’ll notice that the last sound of the first word changes in each case. The /n/ sound becomes /m/, /t/ becomes /tʃ/ and /d/ becomes /b/.

Elision
Elision is the loss of a phoneme, most commonly the last phoneme of a word, and most commonly the /t/ and /d/ sounds. Have a look at these examples:

left back
stand by
looked back
I must go

In each case the last phoneme of the first word is elided (lost). In the most simple terms, the reason is that the time and effort required to change the mouth position from the /t/ to the /b/ sound (as in the first example) or the /t/ to the /g/ sound (as in the last example) is too great!

Delayed plosion Our “red dye” and “red eye” is an example of this. To articulate “red dye”, we must take a very short pause before the /d/ sound. The /d/ is an example of a plosive, consonant sounds where the vocal tract stops all airflow. Other examples are /b/,/d/, /g/, /p/, /t/ and /k/. This pause before the plosive gives us the name of this feature, delayed plosion.

Another example: the right tie (delay) – the right eye (no delay)

Catenation

In catenation the last consonant of the first word is joined to the vowel sound at the start of the second word. For example:

pick it up – (learners will hear something like pi ki tup) what is it – (learners will hear something like wo ti zit)

Intrusion Intrusion is what you might expect from the name – an extra sound “intrudes” into the spoken utternace. Try saying the following pairs of words:

media event
I always
go away

Do you hear the /r/ sound intruding after “media”, the /j/ sound intruding after “I” and the /w/ sound intruding after “go”?

In summary, sounds of words can change in connected speech. The above mechanisms account for most of them.

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  • Also coalescence, stress shift, rhythmic clipping, lexical content, new v old information, tonicity, grammatical relations, type of construction, etc, etc, etc Mar 20, 2023 at 22:46
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The facts that you're referring to are generally generally disposed of in syntax as being phonology, and phonologists tends or tended to relegate the matter to "fast speech phenomenon". Syntacticians took note of one part of the problem a half-century ago in observing the pronunciation difference in "Teddy's the man that I want to see" (wanna) versus "Teddy's the man that I want to win" (*wanna). Similarly, "gonna" vs "going to", where the contracted forms has a restricted syntactic distribution.

There may be sociolinguistic factors involves as in your first example, which is not in my dialect but I can imagine it, and in that imaginary (hyper-casual) dialect the verb is [gon], not [goɪŋ].

There can also be syllabification differences related to the following word beginning with a vowel versus a consonant, which would be straight-forward phonology.

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  • Sue Schmerling's new book Sound and Grammar: A Neo-Sapirian Theory of Language (Brill 2019) takes on this notion seriously. As she points out, Sapir's notion of language starts with phonetics and moves upwards, but experiences a sharp disjoint at the stage of syntax, which abandons phonetic transcription as somehow irrelevant. She illustrates how phonological abstractions influence syntactic constructions in several languages.
    – jlawler
    Mar 20, 2023 at 16:32
  • "want to see" (wanna) versus "Teddy's the man that I want to win" (*wanna)? Of course it has occured to nobody that wanna could simply continue wanna, cuz ya couldntve wrote "wanna" until recently. "There may be sociolinguistic factors involve" like English teachers having their heads in the clouds? And by clouds I mean where the sun don't shine.
    – vectory
    Mar 23, 2023 at 19:24
  • @vectory I believe we write "couldn't've" for that. But none of these contractions account for all the phenomenon. One would have to write out each utterance in IPA which is something you won't find me doing. Anyway, all these written contractions like wanna, coulda, etc. are used in dialogue writing but are not the same as regular contractions like don't/didn't/haven't/hadn't etc. etc.
    – Lambie
    Mar 23, 2023 at 20:47
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Definitely yes!

When a certain word of phrase is pretty predictable, is is uttered faster than the same word or phrase in a less predictable context. There is a lot of research ongoing in this field, and I want to point you to Project C1 in SFB 1102: Information Density and the Predictability of Phonetic Structure and their publications.

Disclaimer: I'm working at the same university, therefore my choice of the reference is probably biased.

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This feature is called prosody (the corresponding adjective is prosodic).

Your final examples is also potentially an example of external sandhi, where the form of one word is influenced by that of its neighbour(s).

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