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Jim Henry, On 21/10/2010 13:31:
> On Thu, Oct 21, 2010 at 3:45 AM, Philip Newton<[log in to unmask]>  wrote:
>
>> I'm reminded of a complaint by a resident of New York that her niece
>> was asked to "underline all the short vowels" in a piece of text at
>> school... which was supposed to include the "o" in "dog". Only in the
>> niece's native 'lect, that word has a *long* vowel (I suppose that's
>> where the "dawg" respelling sometimes used in slang comes from).
>
> It seems to me that "long vowel" and "short vowel" in
> elementary-school language instruction are arbitrary sets whose
> membership has to be memorized, having more to do with patterns of
> spelling reflecting long-past vowel lengths than with the actual
> lengths of vowels in any modern English 'lect.  If I recall correctly
> (~30 years later), we were told that any sound typically spelled with
> a vowel letter + consonant letter + "silent e", or with two vowel
> letters in a row, was long, while vowel sounds typically spelled with
> a single letter were short; thus "dog" has a short vowel by the rule,
> irrespective of how it's pronounced in one's 'lect.

I've just written in another message: "Note that the "underline short vowels" task would be phonological not phonetic: it means "underline vowels that can occur only in closed syllables"." But while I think that would be the case in England, in the USA it may well be as you suggest it is. In England, the long--short distinction makes sense both phonologically and orthographically -- hate--hat, mete--met, bite--bit, rote--rot, cute--cut are all phonologically long--short -- but in some American accents (and others, e.g. Scottish) that neat pattern breaks down, and "phonologically short" is no longer always equivalent to "orthographically short" (or "morphophonologically short"); given the obtuse stuff that primary school teachers normally teach about language, it wouldn't be surprising if the orthographic definition, or some mixed-up hybrid, won out.

--And.