Don't start me on diphthongs…

Eric, I was going to post this as a comment, but couldn’t figure out how.

Just a quick reaction to the diphthong bit. Nice of Eric to blame the journalist instead of the linguist. Anyway, among my thoughts about diphthongs here, I might have some hairs to split.

I think we’ll agree that [aj] is usually not front. And it’s probably too understanding of us to attribute such a statement to an awareness of its underlying specification.

Eric responds to Mark’s response to Hopkin’s interview with Perfors.

MH: Which brings us to the most pressing question of all: is my own name, Mike, a help or a hindrance when it comes to attractiveness? “Mike is a front vowel sound, so it’s a good name,” says Perfors. “If you do badly with the ladies you can’t blame it on your name.”

EB: Mark then jumps on the obvious phonetic misclassification, and takes both Perfors and Hopkin to task for it:

ML: Mike is NOT “a front vowel sound”. The vowel in the name spelled “Mike”, in all English dialects that I know of, has a low back nucleus.

Here’s where I split the hairs: I thought it’s almost always central rather than back. The only dialect I know of with a nucleus both low and back is Surfer Dude (which I’d link if I could find a clip — think Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and islander dialects like Martha’s Vineyard, Okrakoke, or (probably some varieties in) Newfoundland. Many of these will have a variant more like [ɔj]*, where the nucleus is back but not low. I’m sure I’ve also heard [æj] (with a front nucleus) from Southerners when not monophthongizing, as well as [ɛj] (fronted and raised!) from some Canadians. Weird eh?

*my attempt at blind coding of open-o

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