My wife Karen talks funny, and it’s often of more than passing linguistic interest. Most recently, she has taken to calling different berries by the following truncated names:
- blueberries [blu:bɛɹi:z] → bluebs [blu:bz]
- strawberries [stɹɔ:bɛɹi:z] → strawbs [stɹɔ:bz]
- raspberries [ɹæspbɛɹi:z] or [ɹæzbɛɹi:z] → raspbs [ɹæspəbz]
It’s the last one that interested me the most, so I asked Karen how she’d handle boysenberries [bɔɪzənbɛɹi:z]. She thought about it, at first said [bɔɪzənbz] and decided that couldn’t be right, then settled on [bɔɪzənɪbz].
In section 14.3 of my contribution to Paul de Lacy‘s forthcoming Cambridge Handbook of Phonology (p. 343ff), I argue that epenthesis and deletion can at the very least serve as backups to assimilation in the case of unassimilated clusters, contra claims to the contrary by Donca Steriade, Joe Pater, and Linda Lombardi, as well as by me and Colin Wilson (see also de Lacy’s dissertation and recent book). This case looks like a relevant example: assimilation (*[bɔɪzəmbz]) is independently blocked by whatever is responsible for the lack of word-final noncoronal nasal-voiced stop clusters ([mb] and [ŋg]) in English, deletion (as in bomb [ba:m]) is also blocked because the point of the truncation is for the [b] of berries to be retained, and so epenthesis is employed as the last resort. At least, that’s an interesting way to look at what may just be Karen’s funny way of talking.