From: tgpedersen@...
Message: 8854
Date: 2001-08-30

--- In cybalist@..., "Piotr Gasiorowski" <gpiotr@...> wrote:
> Welcome to the list, Phil.
> The labiodental approximant [V] (which could be defined as a "lax"
version of [v], pronounced without any lip-rounding and without
audible friction, as if halfway between [w] and [v]) is a rather
common substitute for English /r/. I suspect that Lawwy's speech
disorder was of that kind. The substitution of /w/ for /r/, so
that "red" and "wed" don't contrast at all, has also been reported,
but is vewy, vewy wawe.
> The cause of the defect can't be determined confidently without
examining the speaker in question. It could be some minor physical
malformation or impairment of neuromuscular control, impeding
articulations involving the tip of the tongue (at least one person on
this list will inevitably think of damage caused by heavy-metal
poisoning). If Lawwy parents were British, perhaps one of them had a
similar condition and Lawwy simply happened to imitate the wrong
model. This "labiodental /r/" is, I think, more common in Britain
than in the US (it apparently better matches the British realisation
of /r/ in acoustic terms) and even used to be regarded as an upper-
class affectation. Now the tide has turned and some authors associate
it with Estuary English for a change -- without good reason, as far
as I'm able to judge.
> Piotr
Ah, someone brought up the subject again! One devious indirect way
that this condition might occur in two consecutive generations is
that they might both be deficient in the genes that code for
triggering the production of metallothionein - a "heavy metal sponge"
protein, this condition causing a gradual accumulation in the person
when exposed to levels of heavy metals that are harmless to other
people. According to an article in Science (?) some years ago (and I
shouldn't probably be saying this etc etc) this is also related to
ethnic group, eg. Africans are six times more sensitive to mercury
poisoning than Europeans (perhaps resistance to poisoning reflecting
the length of time an ethnic group has known the use of metals?).
Hypothetically, we might claim this means that as more and more
Africans get access to proper dental care and get their teeth filled
with mercury, we would see an increase in mass violence and even
genocide in those countries; thus a rapid Darwinian selection for
heavy metal resistance. This is of course nonsense and speculative,
so I will refrain from that. And having said this (too) much, I shall
(once again) hold my tongue.