Saturday, February 27, 2010


While perusing Not Always Right the other day, I came across a post entitled The Rule Deep-Ends On How Cute You Are. I was nonplussed; deep-ends? Certainly I'm familiar with the deep end of a pool, but as a verb? It took me the entire reading of the post to realize they were playing on the (in my opinion, mostly orthographic) similarity of "deep end" to "depend".

I think the main reason for my confusion is that I always, even in careful speech, pronounce "depend" as dǝ.ˈpʰɛnd, rather than di.ˈpʰɛnd. "deep end", on the other hand, is ˈdip.ˌɛnd. Thus, even if we treat both as single phonological words, "deep end" is different in stress, aspiration, and vowel quality. I can't tell if the assumed transparency on the part of the author is due solely to orthographic similarity, or if most people (or at least the author) have the unreduced vowel quality in the first syllable.


vp said...

I have unmerged weak vowels, and for me the first vowel of "depend" is the vowel of "kit". I suppose the pun works very slightly better for me, but not much.

Is it possible that the author is a non-native English speaker?

Anonymous said...

Yes, they differ in all those ways phonetically, but phonologically they only differ based on the placement of the stress. The vowel reduction and the aspiration are phonetic by-products of the different stress patterns of the words. I would transcribe them phonologically as
/diʼpɛnd/ and
Incidentally, I usually have [i] or [ɪ] in "depend", which may be why it's more acceptable for me.