Posted by: Jack Henry | March 11, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Mature

One of you asked me about words ending in “ure” (such as mature, picture, manure, etc.) and why the ending isn’t necessarily pronounced the same way, even when we are talking about two people saying the same word. In particular, we are looking at the pronunciation of “mature” (məˈCHo͝or vs məˈto͝or). I thought I’d share this answer with you from a website called Quora. It contains several linguistic terms, but I think most of us will get the gist of it.

Why are there two ways to pronounce mature?

They probably don’t say "matoor." They probably say "matyuer," which is the older and more formal pronunciation of "mature." It’s an affectation to the extent that the younger generation doesn’t talk this way normally, but it’s not very surprising that narrators and newscasters speak more formally and make more phonemic distinctions than people do in everyday life.

"Machoor" arises through a phonological process called yod-coalescence, which is common in informal varieties of English. It involves the palatalization and affrication of a preceding coronal consonant. It’s the same process that turns "Did you eat yet?" into "Did jou ea’ chet?" and the London "Tube" into the London "Chube." In American English, it’s considered perfectly standard in unstressed syllables, but gets more iffy in stressed syllables. The word "mature" is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, so it’s an example of a word where the older generations disallowed yod-coalescence, while the younger generations expect it.

In American English, yod-coalescence only occurs in the middle of a phonological word, because elsewhere, the glide is deleted instead.

I think I’m going to create a new word based on yod-coalescence and call it yodel-coalescence, which is the glide of Maria’s voice while singing “The Lonely Goatherd.” Happy weekend!

Kara Church

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