Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden … Diely bread … Wagon spoor, or not 13th of June, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 09:59
Back in Berlin after around forty hours of travelling, which involved mild food poisoning, an Australian train that didn’t show up, my shoes falling apart, and my wash-bag with my great-uncle’s razor remaining on the farm somewhere. But I’m alive, and coherent, have a mild tan from sitting round the barbie, and am not remotely jet-lagged. I’m also showered, foddered, sitting at my machine, am about to ring my cousin Martin who’s here in Berlin for the match, as are thousands of Brazilians and Croatians. And the weather here is fantastic, and the wedding was very enjoyable for everyone there, I think—‘swimmingly’ is the mot juste if ever there was one.
Linguistics field reportage; those vowels in English that are rendered [eɪ] in the south of England can be rendered [aɪ] in rural Australia. So, for the line of the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ the officiating minister at the wedding said something like [gɪvˈʌzˌðɪsˈdaɪˌaʊəˈdaɪˌlɪˈbɹɛd], and this was consistent—it wasn’t as consistent from the flight attendants on the Quantas flight home, who presumably have more to do with people who don’t have Australian English as their first language. Now, if you apply this transformation to the names of the letters of the alphabet, you get a problem. To our friends in the south of England, the name of the first letter of the alphabet is just [eɪ] and the name of the third vowel is [aɪ].
Applying sound transformations to the names of the letters of the alphabet is the most natural thing in the world, by the way—they are among the clearest examples of the respective diachronic changes in French and English, since in their current form in English they date from the Normans, and they were not that influenced by spelling pronunciations, their sound not being written down as such. The Normans said [ˈatʃ] for H, the French say [ˈaʃ], and the English say [ˈeɪtʃ]. So the French consonant mutated, and the English vowel did, and that’s repeated throughout the alphabet.
I found this curious, so I asked a random child (thank you Jarred!) what the letter at the start of Italy was. He said [aɪ]; I asked him what the letter at the start of Australia was, and he said, after a half-second of hesitation, [eɪ]. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I heard him say that vowel, but it’s nice to see this random kid doesn’t have the issue of a one-time colleague of mine here, who had a tendency to say [ɑːɐ] for the name of the letter R, which is a problem when contrasting with [ɑː] for A.
More news tomorrow, hopefully. Word of the day is „das Gleis, Gleise“ which is German for ‘track’ or more often ‘platform’ at train stations. I had thought it masculine, but one of the DB folks at Frankfurt HBF corrected me; it turns out that g at the start is the prefix ‘ge-’, which normally triggers the neuter. „Leis“ itself is from a Slavic root.
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