Friday, December 21, 2007

Shutter Bus

Interestingly, the sign says ‘shuttle bus’ but the graphic on the left reads ‘shutter bus’.

A knee-jerk analysis would be to treat this as evidence of the writer pronouncing /l/ as /r/, and vice versa.

However, that would be fallacious because, in the pronunciation of many Singaporeans, neither /l/ nor /r/ are sounded in shuttle and shutter — the result of the deletion of syllable-final dark /l/ (especially in the speech of Chinese Singaporeans) and the fact that Singapore English is non-rhotic (/r/ following a vowel is not sounded).

Hence, shuttle and shutter are homophones (pronounced alike) for many Singaporeans, and the issue of /l/-/r/ confusion does not even arise because they are not sounded in these words.

2 comments:

Vinodh said...

While you are correct that many Singaporeans pronounce "shuttle" and "shutter" in the same way, that is to my mind indeed the root of this error.

In a November 2007 article, the ST motoring editor described an engine as having been "fettered" when he obviously meant "fettled". Same error, arising from the belief that that particular sound (the unpronounced "l") is represented orthographically by an unpronounced "r".

The Grammar Terrorist said...

I do think the l/r distinction doesn't quite arise here because the /l/ is vocalized syllable-finally. It would, however, arise if it were in the onset of syllables, e.g. pray/play.

I wonder if you mean Christopher Tan (ST motoring) -- he does write well generally (except for some blatantly sexist language) but often makes silly errors.