Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
|13/03/2017||People Speaking 44 A la Australienne||#534|
|10/02/2017||More on Weakforms (xx) nobody, no-one, nor, obvious(ly), on, our||#532|
|01/02/2017||People Speaking 43 Unsung Newsreaders||#531|
|13/01/2017||People Speaking 41 News at When?||#529|
|02/01/2017||More on Weakforms (xix) Let, Mrs, Monday, my c c||#528|
|29/12/2016||Names for a Dictionary||#527|
|06/12/2016||DOP by RAI||#525|
|22/10/2016||Some Nonsense Verses||#524|
|23/08/2016||Statistics Can't Lie. People Speaking 42||#523|
|10/08/2016||Weakforms (xviii) madam, many & me||#522|
|01/08/2016||People Speaking 40 Englishman in Russia||#521|
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/ˈɑ ˈlɑ| ɒˈstreɪliˎen/ ie In the Australian style.
1.We had a Goanese steward, who was called Anis.
/wi had ˈgoʊəˈniz `stjuəd | hu wəz kɔld `anɪs
2. And we had a couple of lovely Australian girls
ən wi ad ə ˈkᴧpl ˈəv | `lᴧvli | əˈstreɪljən ˎɡɜlz |
3. in the cabin with me, who were…
ɪn ðə kabɪn wɪð ˏmi | hu wə...
4. The original dumb blondes.
ði ə`rɪʤənəl ˈdᴧm ˎblɒnz
It’s completely ordinary to elide the /d/ of the sequence
/-ndz/ in a word like blondes.
5. Except they weren’t blondes really. They made..
ek sept ðeɪ ˎwɜnt ˎblɒnz ˏrɪəli | ðeɪ meɪd—
Words like really are normally transcribed as /rɪəli/
tho their /ɪə/ phoneme may be realised not as a diphthong
as here with a long simple vowel [rɪːli]. It’s occasionally
possible to hear this word pronounced with a perfectly short
[ɪ] vowel so it’s possible to consider the version [rɪːli] as /rɪli/ phonemicly but with a lengthened /ɪ/.
6. (They) used to spend hours in the cabin with a bottle
jus tə spend `ɑz ɪn ðə `kabɪn wɪð ə `bɒtl...
In this sense of ‘used’ as ‘accustomed to’ it sounds very
strange if a speaker shd say /juzd/ instead of the normal
devoiced /jus(t)/. The 'smoothing' /ɑz/ is not unusual.
7. At any rate, they were the original sort of dumb blondes
ət `eni reɪt | ðeɪ wə ði ə`rɪʤənl sət əv ˈdᴧm ˎblɒnz |
It’s only in the adverbial expression ‘sort of’ that the
word sort may be heard with its wowel reduced to /ə/.
8. And they insisted on calling him ‘Anus’
ən ðeɪ ɪn`sɪstɪd ɒn kɔlɪŋ ɪm `eɪnəs.
9. And they obviously didn’t realise...
ən ðeɪ ˈɒbvɪsli ˈdɪdnt ˎrɪlaɪz..
It’s extremely common to replace the traditional form
of the word obviously with such a weakform.
10. We used to have hysterics every time.
`wi jus tə hav ɪ`sterɪks evri taɪm...
It’s not uncommon to drop initial aitch of a second successive word beginning with a weak syllable.
11. Yes he could shamble in early morning with the tea.
ˎjes i kəd ˈʃambl ˈɪn | ɜli ˎmɔnɪŋ | wɪð ðə ˎti |
12. And they used to say | Hullo Anis.
ən ðeɪ ˈjus tə ˈseɪ | ˈhᴧˈloʊ ˏeɪ ˈnəs |
12. It made the day for us.
ɪt `meɪd | ðə `deɪ | fər ˏᴧs.
Our title meaning ‘in the Australian style’refers
to the manner of pronunciation used by the
Australian girls of the story.
The English word anus /`eɪnəs/, sez the Oxford Advanced
Learner’s Dictionary, is ‘The opening in a person’s bottom
through which solid waste leaves the body’.
The speaker is describing a voyage on board a ship where
a steward is a man who serves meals etc to ship’s passengers.
Goanese means coming from Goa, a state on the west coast
of India which was formerly a Portuguese colony.
Our transcription gives only the words of the person describing
The story partly reflects the feature of the Australian accent that,
like various other English accents, for the final vowels of words like tennis, office etc it has a schwa by contrast with General British which has /ɪ/ for them.
I’ve long been puzzled by a unique feature of the four words anything, everything, nothing and something. In Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary of 1905 one finds that he recorded the pronunciation anythink as reported from places especially in the midland English counties Cheshire, Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. He had no entries for everythingk or somethink but for nothingk, besides its incidence in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Staffordshire, he noted reports of its occurrence in Warwickshire, Kent, Wiltshire and Somerset.
One of the few scholars to refer in the past to the weakening of word-final /-ŋɡ/ to /-ŋk/ was E. J. Dobson in Vol II of his English Pronunciation 1500-1700 (1968) at p.942 where he remarked ‘The unvoicing of final [ŋg] to [ŋk] … occurs sporadically in late OE…’ [OED gives an instance from the Will of Ælfhelm in D. Whitelock’s Anglo-Saxon Wills (1930) ‘Gif hwa æfre ænig þinc of þysum…’ It also mentions, at the noun thing, Old Dutch thing becoming Middle Dutch dinc and the same development in High German.] Dobson continued ‘it is regular in the North-west Midlands in ME and is a widespread vulgarism in ModE. The orthoepists, however, give no evidence of it.’
It’s true that there’s surprisingly no mention of the phenomenon in the works of the supreme orthoepist John Walker (1732-1807) nor in those of his principal successor B. H. Smart, (1787-1872) but that last comment of Dobson’s was contradicted by his ref·rence to the fact that Henry Cecil Wyld (1870-1945) in his History of Modern Colloqial English (1936 p.290) quoted the orthoepist James Elphinston (1721–1809 a London-based Scot) as saying ‘Among very vulgar speakers — not in London alone — we sometimes hear “nothingk” for ‘nothing at the present time’ and also ‘a common Londoner talks of anny think else or anny thing kelse’. It’s cert·nly a puzzling matter that, in modern times, altho this kind of ‘excrescent’ /k/ is never found anywhere in England on simple words, not even attached to the word ‘thing’, it’s to be he·rd fairly widely ending one or other of these four very common compound nouns anything, everything, nothing and something.
It seems that in earlier times this very limited occurrence of such a phenomenon was not quite the whole story even in English. Wyld (1936) had a relevant quotation from a biography of the famous Cardinal Wolsey by his ‘gentleman-usher’ George Cavendish (1497 – c. 1562) under the title ‘Thomas Wolsey, Late Cardinall, his Lyffe and Deathe’ which came to be printed in 1641. In it the word hanging appeared as ‘hankyng’. Wyld (1936) also reported from A. J. Ellis’s monumental five-volume On Early English Pronunciation quotations of 1548 in her own handwriting by Queen Elizabeth containing ‘brinkinge of me up’ and ‘our brinkers up’.
The mystery of the under-reporting of this phonological phenomenon thickens when we consider that some of the keenest observers of ‘received’ as also of less ‘accepted’ English speech, included most remarkably the Londoner Daniel Jones, who for example drew attention in The Pronunciation of English 1956 §247 to the insertion of an ‘intrusive’ /k/ after the /ŋ/ in the words length and strength, but nowhere referred to the existence of any /k/ after a word-final /ŋ/ despite his readiness to refer to other Cockneyisms.
The large-scale Leeds University Survey of English Dialects (1962-1972) provided records of numerous informants saying the word anything with final /k/ (in response to its Questionnaire Book V item 8.16 and Book VII items 8.14 & 15) in over half the counties of England including besides the midland ones mentioned above, the more peripheral Durham, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. This consideration makes it rather disappointing that, in the Survey’s magnificent 1978 Linguistic Atlas of England edited by Harold Orton, Stewart Sanderson and John Widdowson, we find Phonological Maps 242 and 243 of tongue and tongs showing the incidence of variants with and without /ɡ/ but no phonological map was included of anything which cd’ve shown the wide distribution of final /k/ variants of that word.
Anyway, while I was continuing to bewail scholars’ neglect of these final-k forms, the current OED3 team suddenly came up last June (ie in 2016) with a brand-new OED entry headed ‘anythink’ which reads “Forms of anything pron. and n. showing devoicing of /ŋɡ/ to /ŋk/ are attested sporadically from Old English onwards …. It is noteworthy that the early modern orthoepists make no mention of this development, which appears to have been first noticed (and condemned as a vulgarism) by the Scot Elphinston…They add the caution ‘Occasional occurrences of the forms anythink, any think (as also nothink, somethink, etc.) in standard English printed sources from the late 17th cent. to the early 19th cent. probably reflect the language of the typographer.’ OED’s quotations begin with the 1698 “L. Milbourne Notes [on] Dryden's Virgil 138 There was Pasturage enough, if anythink was wanting, it was Flocks and Herds to graze on ‘em.” Apparently the most famous writer to demonstrate the use of anythink was Charles Dickens from whom OED quotes his 1861 novel Great Expectations (at Chapter III. xix. p. 333) as containing ‘O dear old Pip, old chap,’ said Joe. ‘God knows as I forgive you, if I have anythink to forgive!’ In current spoken usage the phenomenon is occasionally to be heard twinkling in the speech of a rather curious variety of quite prominent speakers.
[Further examples of ‘-think’ compounds in Old and Middle English quoted in OED are tr. Vitas Patrum in B. Assmann Angelsächsische Homilien u. Heiligenleben (1889) 196 Þa ne gefredde he naþinc þæs brynes for þam miclan luste, ?a1425 (?a1350) T. Castleford Chron. (1940) 21494 (MED), Dedeing me þink anens þin dedes, Þe to amende na þink þou spedes” and Seven Sleepers (Julius) (1994) 39 Us nan þingc on worulde fram Gode ne gehremme & sum þing(c), ðing, ME sum ðinc.]
For weakforms of nearly, see our BLOG 397
nobody: This word can be sed to have two strongforms of which the stronger /`noʊbɒdi / is the much less usual. It’s not used by most speakers (and by very much only a minority when unstrest) in expressions like Nobody `else ˏdoes. The weakform / `noʊbdi/ isnt usual phrase-finally. Very casually and quite unstrest /noʊ(d)di/ may occasionally occur.
Except in deliberate speech the strongform /`noʊwᴧn/ is replaced by the
weakform /`noʊᴧn/. This is very often replaced by /`noʊən/ eg in No-one at all as
/`noʊən ə`tɔl/ and sometimes casually tho not phrase-finally by /noʊn/.
nor: As the Wells LPD sez ‘There is also an occasional weak form’ /nə/. This is probably confined to use in rather old-fashioned set phrases like what I find in ODC (which I call without their leave: see our Blog 527) the Oxford Dictionary of Current English. They give the example ‘I could find neither hide nor hair of him’. In an expression like ‘neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring’ the first phrase-internal nor may well be heard as /nə/ but the nor initiating the final climactic phrase is far more likely to take the strongform /nɔ/.
obvious/ly: The /b/ of the strongform of these very common adjectival and adverbial items will naturally take not its canonical precisely bilabial form but will anticipate the labiodentality of the following [v]. This will not constitute the formation of a weakform but the simplification of the /bv/ sequence to [b̪b̪] will often result in a labiodental or sometimes bilabial simple consonant giving /`ɒvɪs(li)/ or less often /`ɒbɪs(li)/. Both of these transcriptions assume the usual accompanying reduction of the canonical diphthong /ɪə/ via [ɪː] shortened to /ɪ/. Markedly casual weakforms of the adverb as /ɒbsli/ and /ɒvsli/ are both quite common.
on: This has no weakform listed in any of the dictionaries not ureasonably becoz it very rarely exhibits one. The most frequent occurrence of its form /ən/ is probably in the exclamatory expression How on earth… /ˈhaʊ ən `ɜθ…/etc. It also may occur in a truly rapidly delivered eg in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as /ˈkat n ə hɒt tɪn `ruf/ or in set on fire as /set n `faɪə/.
was well described in the Wells LPD where it is reasonably referred to
as taking a weakform /ɑ/ for ‘some speakers’. Apart from acknowledging
that very common ‘smoothing’ in any context, one cou·d say this alone
until almost the end of the last century. However, the alternant
weakform /aʊ/ fomerly not used by GB speakers is now readily observable
currently as an establisht GB usage, no dou·t having arisen from the
motive to adopt what is perceived as more properly ‘careful’ or ‘clear’
speech. Current BBC Radio 4 Newsreaders from whom it may be heard include Charles Carroll, Corrie Corfield and Diana Speed.
Note on transcription: The vowel of words like hat
is now becoming increasingly recognised as having changed in GB
from what was formerly best represented in IPA notation by the symbol /æ/ two or
more generations ago to what is now more suitably recorded with /a/.
Such widely varying forms these days exist of the GB goat
diphthong as to justify transcribing it /oʊ/. We use no length colons
and the now recessive diphthong /ɛə/ is replaced by the monophthong /ɛ/.
1. / ˈðat | wəz `veri wel ˎred | ˈveri ə `mjuzɪŋ /.
That was very well read. Very amusing!
Altho the textbooks rightly describe the phoneme /ð/ as
characteristicly fricative it’s often heard with no friction
at all as at the first sound here and twice in Turn 4.
2. / `jes | `awz ɪnʤɔɪ ðoʊz bɪts | frm ðə ˏpeɪpəz /.
Yes. I always enjoy those bits from the papers.
She telescopes to I always /`a(ɪ ɔ)wɪz/ in a very casual manner.
3. /ˈhu wəz ɪt ˎridɪŋ | ˈdɪdju `ˏhiə /.
Who was it reading? Did you hear?
The fall-rise tone on hear sounds tentative and therefore
more polite or friendly than a simple rise.
4. /`ðeɪ dɪdn `seɪ | ˏdɪd ðeɪ /.
They didnt say, did they?
There’s very often no final /t/ of the spelling heard when a
word with this negative ending -nt doesnt occur before a pause.
5. /`oʊ jes aɪ k`spek ðeɪ ˎdɪd | aɪ θɪŋk ɪt wəz kɒlɪn mək`dɒnld /.
Oh yes, I expect they did. I think it was Colin McDonald.
It’s not unusual for ‘expect’ in such contexts as here
to lose its initial vowel and final consonant.
6. /nevə `hɜd əv ɪm /. Never heard of him.
This sentence at normal speed wdve sounded ridiculous with the
strongform /hɪm/ of the pronoun after fully strest /h/ beginning ‘heard’.
7. /ˎoʊ jes ju ˏhav | ju prɒbəli hɜd ɪz `-neɪm | `hᴧndrəz ə taɪmz /
Oh yes you have. You probably heard his name hundreds of times.
The word probably is commonly reduced. LPD lists a casual variant /prɒbli/. hundreds of has a hardly if at all audible second /d/. The weakform of of
is often /ə/. The intonation
marking / `-neɪm/ means the high fall goes only down to the
8. / ˈhiz ˈbin | wᴧn ə ðɛ ˎʧif ˏridəz | fə `jɜz |
He’s been one of their chief readers for years.
In phrases where one of precedes a word beginning with a consonant,
the shorter weakform without any /v/ is often preferred.
9. /ˈðeɪ ˈdu | `gɪv ðɛ neɪmz ˏðiz deɪz | `doʊnt ðeɪ /.
They do give their names these days, don’t they?
Her first two words are uttered with a voice quality
so much higher than the rest that it cd be called 'falsetto'.
10. `jɛs | ˎəz ə ˎˏrul | bət ˏveri ɪ`ratɪkli ɪt simz ˏmi |
Yes. As a rule. But very erratically it seems to me.
Rather curiously, we make adverbs from most adjectives ending in -ic
by adding -ally in writing but usually speak them only adding the -ly.
11. ðeɪ ˈɒfn sim tə fə`get | ɔ ˈnɒt tə `bɒðə|.
They often seem to forget or not to bother.
Since the last century often has often had its /t/ restored.
12. /aɪ kspekt ɪt dɪˈpenz | haʊ lɒŋ ðɛ `spikɪŋ fɔ/.
I expect it depends how long they’re speaking for.
After a vowel sound the initial /ɪ/ of expect is often elided.
Neither speaker used a /d/ in depends after the /n/.
11. n`oʊni ˎpɑtlɪ | `eniwei | ɪt dɪpenz ɒn ðə `sɜvɪs
Only partly. Anyway it depends on the service.
He seems to have begun to say No but switched to Only. Speakers
of all varieties of English very frequently omit the /l/ of only
not that the lexicographers care to admit it.
12. ˈhaʊ dju `min |.
How d’you mean?
Probably nowadays /ʤu/ is commoner GB than /dju/.
13. `wel | ɪf ðɛ | ˎreɪdioʊ `wᴧn | ɔ `tu | `dɪsk ˏʤɒkɪz |
Well if they’re Radio 1 or 2 disk jockeys,
ðeɪ ˈivn hav ðat | ˈblᴧdi ˈneɪm `sᴧŋ
They even have that bloody name `sung!
Bloody is quite mild a swear word.
The useful but rather abstruse word ‘hypocorism’ was classified in the NED (aka OED1) in 1899 by its chief editor Murray as ‘rare’ and defined as ‘pet-name’. The literal meaning of its Greek etymon was ‘somewhat childish’. The sole quotation of its use was, and to this day still is, of its earliest recorded appearance in 1850. Murray supplied it with two pronunciations which were transliterated into IPA for OED2 as (hɪp-, haɪˈpɒkərɪz(ə)m). The second, with the diphthong /aɪ/, was the only one of the two supplied with one of the OED3 audio demonstrations that since late 2015 have been such a welcome extra OED3 facility. That pronunciation was the sole one suggested in the Wells LPD in 2008. The word has not been included in the Cambridge EPD nor was it in the 2001 Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation (now, since last November, re-emerging as The Routledge Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English). It was employed freely in the Dictionary of First Names by Patrick Hanks & Flavia Hodges (OUP 1999). This mainly excellent account of its subject was unfortunately not adequate in its coverage of pronunciation matters. The term did not appear at·all in Elizabeth G. Withycombe’s 1945 Oxford Dictionary of Christian Names which at 136 pages was less extensive than the 443 of Hanks & Hodges.
People’s names in the mouths of their closest companions and associates very commonly indeed give rise to reduced forms. These are obvi·sly gen·rally the result of speakers’ wish to utter them with maximum ease. Sometimes there may be the added desire of some degree of playfulness. Hanks & Hodges sensibly classify each item as either ‘short form’ or ‘pet form’.
The most common hypocoristic adaptations reduce the name to its first syllable as with Alf, Ben, Bert, Chris, Dan, Ed, Fred, Geoff, Joe, Kath, Len, Nat, Max, Nick, Pat, Pete, Pru, Ray, Reg, Ron, Sam, Tim, Vi, Vic, Will etc. Some show reduction to a medial element as with Liz, Beck (from Rebecca), Sandy (from Alexander) and Zeke (from Ezekiel). Others use final elements as with Tina, Lottie (from Charlotte), Trixie (from Beatrix), Trudy (from Gertrude) and Tone. This last is vastly less used than Tony. One wonders if those who pronounce Anthony as /`anθəni/ ever reduce it to /anθ/ or /θoun/!
The form Toby suggests that in an earlier era people must’ve accented the first syllable of Tobias. The medieval diminutising of Nicholas to Col similarly suggests that it had been at some time accented on its second syllable. The name Colin formed from it with the diminutive suffix -in of French origin remains very popular. That suffix is now obsolete but centuries ago, when added to the short form Rob of Robert, it produced the nickname Robin which completely replaced the original name ‘redbreast’ of the popular small bird.
The forms Betty, Matt, Nat, Tad, Tess and Tom undou·tedly witness the fact that in very early occurrences the names Elizabeth, Esther, Matthew, Nathaniel, Nathan, Thaddeus, Theresa, and Thomas were pronounced with /θ/, which over time was converted to /t/. Today we find that <th> has retained pronunciation with /t/ only in Thomas and Esther. The name Theresa, of dou·tful origin and often also spelt Teresa, isnt pronounced with /θ/. Antony was given its now most usual spelling, Anthony with <th>, by mistake, the original of the name not having had /θ/. Tho the unetymological spelling of the word has largely prevailed, the pronunciation with /θ/ has not been much used except in America. The forms of Dorothy reduced to Dot or Dottie will have originated from telescoping of the name by elision of its middle syllable at a time when its final syllable began with /t/ rather than /θ/. The same kind of process will have accounted for Theodore having been reduced not only to Theo but often to Ted or Teddy.
Forenames like Barry, Carol, Derek, Dorothy, Harold, Sara(h), Terence, Teresa, with initial syllables ending /r/, have not acquired short forms ending with the consonantal sound /r/. Speakers have instead adopted short forms mostly ending in /z/ or /l/ eg Baz, Caz, Del, Doll, Hal, Sal, Tel and Tess. Some of these have been converted to the pet forms Dolly, Sally etc. In creating a monosyllabic abbreviation it has usually been preferred to end it in either a single consonant or a cluster closed by /s/ or /z/. For example, in producing a short form from Gilbert,*Gilb was rejected. A form with a single-consonant ending Gib has produced the common surname Gibson. Forms with final /s/ include Babs from Barbara, Becks from Rebecca, Bets from Elizabeth, Debs from Deborah, and Else from Eleanor. In many cases pet-form extensions like Betsy have become far more popular than the short forms that preceded them.
An additional motive speakers may show in their choices of hypocorisms is the wish, despite its being counter to effort reduction, to express affection or familiarity by the addition of a diminutive suffix chiefly /-i/ spelt -y or -ie. This has given rise to common forms like Annie, Charlie, Johnny, Harry, Reggie, Sammy, Tommy and Vicky. Some names can’t receive a diminutive /-i/ because they already end with another kind of /-i/ as in the case of Amy, Barry, Esmé, Gary, Ivy, Lucy, Mary, Murray, Rodney, Rory, Sidney, Phoebe and Zoë.
Other names have developed variants with further irregularities. Frances, having become reduced to its first syllable Fran, underwent a further reduction by the dropping of its second consonant /r/ reducing it to Fan. In turn that became diminutised to Fanny which was very popular in the nineteenth century. These days it’s probably little realised to have been derived from Frances.
Until two or three centuries ago it was a very common affectionate or familiar way of addressing someone to prefix their name with ‘mine’. We find one consciously archaic survival of this custom in the rather old-fashioned humorous use by some people of the expression ‘Mine Host’ to refer to the landlord of an establishment such as an inn. This ‘mine’ was pronounced not only as it still is /maɪn/ but also very often in a weakform that has long been obsolete as /mɪn/. As a result of hearing things like ‘mine Ann’ or ‘mine Ed’ or ‘mine Ell’ spoken with that reduced /mɪn/ in ways that sounded no diff·rent from the way they were pronouncing ‘my Nan’ or ‘my Ned’ or ‘my Nell’ with my reduced to /mɪ/, people often tended to think that the names they’d heard used werent Ann, Ed or Ell but instead Nan, Ned or Nell. In this way by mistake various new names came into existence. And these new names began to be given pet forms like Nanny and Nancy and Neddy and Nellie.
That James shdve become Jimmy isnt too surprising when we consider how Jamie spoken quickly, may sound, especially from Scottish speakers, very like Jimmy. The change from Will to Bill
is much less expectable tho it did only convert its initial approximant
bilabial consonant into a ‘stronger’ plosive correlate. The change from
Margaret to Mag and then to Meg and further to Peg at least preserved a bilabial initial consonant but the jump to Moll or Poll wou·d’ve been unlikely to’ve been predicted.
Other rather capricious developments have included monosyllabic short forms produced by changing Rob to Bob and even Nob, Dob or Hob. These have led to the patronymics Dobson and Hobson. Again we find the reduction of Richard not merely to Rich but also to Rick and even very commonly to Dick from which we get Dixon. The name Philip has been rather fancifully contracted to Pip. Among those who at one time used the curious pet form Tetty for Elizabeth was the great Dr Johnson (for his wife). Another common eighteenth-century pet name was Sukey for Susan. Tamsin (nowadays taken to be Cornish but actually only having survived in Cornwall longest) was derived from Thomasina possibly first used in Scotland where Tam has been a common variant of Tom.
Some hypocorisms have been inspired by grown-ups imitating infant speech. Sometimes a child has been called Buffy becoz as an infant she sed her name Elizabeth like /lɪzbᴧf/. The Queen has been well known to have a family pet name that has been sed to’ve come from her infant saying of her name Elizabeth sounding like ‘Lilibet’.
1. ˈwɪʧ ˈdju | prəˎfɜ | ˈbi bi ˈsi | ɔr aɪ ti ˎen.
Which d’you prefer? BBC or ITN?
(ITN stands for Independent Television News)
2. ðə `njuz proʊgramz ju ˈmin.
The news programmes you mean?
Books on English intonation aren’t likely to mention interrogative sentences ending with level tones but there’s clearly no pitch movement on the word mean here tho it sounds quite natural.
3. `jes, ˏʧifli.
4. oʊ aɪ doʊnt `maɪn wɪʧ.
Oh I don’t mind which.
Words ending /-nd/ very often lose the /d/ when a consonant follows.
5. ˈaɪ ˈlaɪk | ðə ˎridəz ˏbest | ɒn ˈbi bi `si.
I like the readers best on B B C.
6. ˈi ˎes | bət `naɪn ə ˌklɒks | ə ˈbɪt ˎɜli | fə ðə meɪn ˏnjuz |
Yes, but nine o’clock’s a bit early for the main news.
The ‘semivowel’ /j/ of yes being hesitatingly stretched becomes the vowel [i].
7. ə ˎkwaɪt | aɪd `rɑðə hav ɪt ət ˎˏten| bət aɪm ˈglad | tə hav ðə ˎʧɔɪs |
Er. Quite. I’d rather have it at ten, but I’m glad to have the choice.
Our vertical bar ‘|’ doesnt necessarily indicate any interruption where the speaker makes no sound but it does record a discontinuity, usually very slight, in the smoothness of the rhythmical flow. Here after glad the next three words don’t belong rhythmicly with the word they follow but with the ones they precede.
8. ɪt ˈsoʊ ˎsɪli | havɪŋ ˎboʊθ əv ðəm ˏɒn | ət ˈten | tə ˎsɪks |
It’s so silly having both of them on at ten to six
ən ˈoʊvəˈlapɪŋ | wɪð bi bi si ˎˏsaʊnd.
and overlapping with BBC sound.
Any dictionary will correctly show the verb to overlap
as having stresses on its first and last syllables, minor on the former
and major on the latter. This will only be invariably true if the word
is uttered in isolation. Here we hear that relationship reversed
because, in the context of the word’s initiating the head to a
falling-rising climax (aka 'nucleus') tone, the speaker chooses to give major stress to
the former of the two stressed syllables.
Let: In very casual speech a form of Let with its final /t/ elided often occurs before 'me' or 'us' as in /'le mi `si/ Let me see or /'les av ə `goʊ/ Let's have a go.
EPD has always given only /`mɪsɪz/ for this. So has LPD except for including a ‘non-RP’ variant /`mɪsəz/. They have both ignored the existence of the common weakform /mɪsz̩/ and its assimilatory variant /mɪss̩/ which occur in sequences like Mrs Jones and Mrs Smith. This must at least in part account for the hard to explain commonness of the orthographic form ‘Missus’ which can hardly have mostly reflected a spoken form /`mɪsəs/. That wd be the common form in Ireland but very much less usual in the rest of the British Isles.
Until modern phonetic analysis of English, notably by Henry Sweet, in the late nineteenth century there was hardly any awareness of syllabic /z/ or /s/, but the spelling Missus wdve fairly effectively represented what they were encountering when people actually heard /mɪsz̩/ etc. The spelling missus cd simply have become so common elsewhere that it was employed even when the unreduced form /`mɪsɪz/ was intended. For speakers in some non-southeastern parts of England and most of America the spelling does accord with a schwa value for the latter vowel.
Henry Bradley, who edited the OED for M-words in 1907, entered missus only as a second spelling of the headword missis. He gave the pronunciations as (mi·sis, mi·sɒ̆s) /ˈmɪsɪs/ /ˈmɪsəs/. OED3, revised in 2002, listed at ‘missus’ the historical spellings ‘17–18 missess, 18 mizzes, 18– mis'ess, 18– mis's, 18– misses, 18– missis’ some of which were very likely to have been employed by writers who had heard /mɪsz̩/ or /mɪss̩/. It currently gives the pronunciations Brit. /ˈmɪsᵻz/ and U.S. /ˈmɪsᵻz/, /ˈmɪsᵻs/. ODE (for this abbreviation see my Blog 527) gives only the one transcription /ˈmɪsɪz/, The female who demonstrates it for OED3 has /ɪ/ in both syllables. The Longman Dictionary (LDOCE) at ‘missus’ gives only /ˈmɪsɪz/ which is clearly heard so spoken for British English. The same goes for the ‘Cambridge Dictionary’. (These days OALD sadly no longer gives free access to audio.)
Besides /məs(t)/ there is a common casual form /ms/ eg in I must go as /aɪ ms `goʊ/.
Like all the days of the week this has the extremely common weakform with final /-eɪ/ reduced to /-i/ as in Monday morning /ˈmᴧndi `mɔnɪŋ /.
The forms /mi, mɪ/ and /mə/ are now very casual, old-fashioned or humorous.
Examples are: Shiver my timbers! (a mock oath attributed in comic fiction to sailors’ OED) as /`ʃɪvə mɪ ˎtɪmbəz/, I’ll help myself /ɑl ˈhelp mə`self/ and I’m on my own /əm ˈɒn mi ˎoʊn/.
followed by ‘sign in’ and icons for Facebook, Twitter, Google and
Instagram. Then the next line begins with the latest Oxford
Dictionaries ‘signature’. This has, white on a pale blue background, a
bullet enclosed in a circle ⦾ with a break at its northeast. Letters to
its right spell ‘English’ and below them thinner fainter ones spell Oxford Living Dictionaries
(a feeble motto suggesting questions like ‘As opposed to Oxford
lifeless dictionaries?’. Next we have THESAURUS again and a pointer
which when selected discloses below choices saying
DICTIONARY, DICTIONARY (US), GRAMMAR, THESAURUS.
To the right we see a slot with the invitation ‘Type word or phrase’ followed by a miniature keyboard ⌨ with ∨ on its right which being clicked opens up to offer
Clicking on an arrow mainly converts these symbols to their upper-case forms (presented now for no apparent reason in a vertical line)
[Only three of these are IPA authorised symbols but many of them are used in non-IPA systems of showing pronunciations used eg in American dictionaries.]
At the end of the slot where you type there is a red magnifying-glass
icon clicking on which brings up definitions and explanations of items
[Around these items various rather numerous commercial advertisements appear. The price we pay for the welcome ‘free’ use of the dictionary.]
Pronunciations may be heard by clicking on loudspeaker icons. There is an etymological section labelled ‘origin’ and another headed Pronunciation where phonemic transcriptions are supplied. A question mark in a circle when clicked brings up ‘Key to pronunciations (British and World English dictionary)’ What can we guess this bracketed designation to be but an alternative or substitution for ‘Oxford Dictionary of English’(ODE).
A note next comments with some extremely unacceptable wording that ‘The
pronunciations given represent the standard accent of English as spoken
in the south of England (sometimes called Received Pronunciation or
RP), and the example words given in this key are to be understood as
pronounced in such speech’.
Among scholars in general there are very few who accept the application
of the term 'standard' to an accent of English. The word 'sometimes' as
used here is an absurd understatement.
At the dictionary, again identified by a URL, we see a historical note, under a heading Oxford Dictionary of English, saying ‘In
1998 a completely new title appeared: a new single-volume dictionary
larger than the Concise… Access to large databases of language and
new ways of looking at the English language’ prompted production of ‘a new dictionary, the New Oxford Dictionary of English now called simply the Oxford Dictionary of English’. This reached its third edition in 2010. It’s the ‘main source of the current Oxford range’. They dont mention that something very like this had appeared in 1995 with the title Oxford English Reference Dictionary. It’s likely that ‘ODE’ was too like OED not to
cause confusion. A better solution wdve been to rename the ODE as the Oxford Dictionary of Contemporary English: ‘ODC’ wdve been less likely to’ve been a problem.]
Then we see ‘oxforddictionaries.com' a division that ‘focuses on current language and practical usage’. By contrast the OED, it tells us, shows how words and meanings have changed over time but this new dictionary (ODE) makes use of ‘real-world sentences derived from the ten-billion word Oxford English Corpus ... a huge databank of 20th and 21st century English’.
This is followed by illustrated inserts on various popular entertainment topics more or less in the field of English dictionaries and clearly directed very largely at junior readers containing various items like ‘Quizzes and Games’. Their Blog, which can respond in detail to readers’ queries has a great deal of interesting content: it sports the motto ‘Oxford Dictionaries’. Finally, cross references are provided at ‘Help’ to other OUP materials. And other questions may be asked via ‘Contact us’.
I shd like it to be known by newcomers to these blogs that, by
contrast with my practice on most of the ‘Homepage’ part of this
website, I choose to treat these entries much as I have offen been
accustomed to treat my diary, that is I spell as I please. This means
that I often use unorthodox, rationalised spellings and abbreviations.
I do so with no regular attempt at consistency because I like to
experiment with how I feel about the appearance of various spellings. I
invite readers to consider how they react to these unorthodoxies in the
light of the consideration that if ever English spelling is to be
reformed some of these types of reactions will probably be of
importance. I refer readers to my blog 102 of the 11th of June 2008 and
to the following:
Wise Words on Our English Spellings
I don’t go in for long quotations in these blogs but a lecture given long ago in America in September, 1909, at Columbia University, by the great Danish linguistic scholar Otto Jespersen (1860-1943) that I’d no dou·t long forgotten but anyway have recently come across has to be an exception.
‘Everywhere the educated classes have more or less systematically for the last few centuries been doing everything in their power to prevent that readjustment of spellings to sound that is indispensable if the written language is to remain, or is again to become, what it was everywhere to begin with, a tolerably faithful picture of the spoken language. The present situation is one of a clumsy and difficult system of spelling that causes a miserable loss of time in all schools (and out of schools, too); much valuable time which might be used profitably in many other ways, is spent upon learning that this word has to be spelt in this absurd manner, and that word in another equally absurd way, and why? For no other apparent reason than that such has been the custom of a couple of centuries or more.
Each new generation keeps up faithfully nearly all the absurdities of the preceding one, and as each new generation is bound to change the pronunciation of some sound and of some words, the gulf between the spoken and the written word is constantly widening, and the difficulty of learning how to spell is ever growing greater and greater. Now I know very well that it is not every phonetician who is a spelling reformer tho a great many are; but what I do maintain is, in the first place, that only a good phonetician can show what is to be reformed and what is to be the direction of change, because he alone knows what sounds to represent and how best to represent them’.
He added some further very wise words I don’t remember seeing before I began my spelling experiments in these blogs:
‘Much would ... be achieved if scholars of renown, philologists, students of literature, and writers of books in general, would indulge in some individual spellings, ... These individual spellings need not be very numerous, nor should they be necessarily consistent, and the author need not give any other reason for his special heterodoxies than that they just suit his fancy. This would educate readers by showing them that different spellings need not always be marks of illiteracy, and that there may exist difference of opinions in this as well as in other respects without any fear of human society falling at once to pieces on that account’.
I consider that instant total spelling reform that various cranks have advocated in the past wd simply bring about chaos but I do like to remind readers that very many spellings much more logical than many we use need not be inconvenient. My inclination is to rationalize the spellings of words only insofar as their ready recognition isnt impeded. I try to be helpful to readers of these blogs these days by using a pritty unobtrusive dot [·], something at least less obtrusive than ‘sic’, to reassure them that the irregular spelling they see is not an unintentional ‘typo’. I choose to avoid any respellings that stop readers in their tracks because they hinder comfortable comprehension of what I’m saying.
I use this ‘middle’ dot occasionally when I prefer a spelling that unites two words that are usually divided because the spelling I prefer recognises their phonetic unity as when I prefer ‘not a·tall’ to ‘not at all’.
Sometimes I use a dot where I wish to indicate that my preferred pronunciation omits some sound that’s represented by the prescribed spelling but people dont use. An example is ‘solem·’ whose orthographic final ‘n’ is never normally used. Warning dots may not be used in cases where the spelling, altho unorthodox, is instantly and effortlessly comprehensible (as with sed for ‘said’, pritty (for traditional ‘pretty’ etc). I retain many phonetically obsolete spellings because they help to make words that contain them instantly recognisable eg ‘know’ cd be very inconvenient if ritt·n ‘no’.
Spelling Matters have also been delt widh at these postings:
010 Happy New Year etc
047 Spelling Reform
102 Spelling Reform - Feasible or Futile?
129 The Rigidity of English Spelling
172 Handwriting, Spellings and Sounds
173 Spelling Reform Experiments
224 The Future of English Spelling (i)
225 The Future of English Spelling (ii)
302 Rational Spellings
304 Free Spelling
370 Spellings in these blogs
I’ve long been rather int·rested in the Italian language for sev·ral
reasons. My earliest exper·ence of it came from liss·ening with my
father to our collection of gramophone records of fav·r·te music of which
a good number were operatic arias sung in that language. It was also
natural for someone who spent eight years studying Latin to be rather
fas·nated to le·rn about what it turned into in its ‘home’ c·untry.
While I was serving in the British Army and stationed within easy distance
of Oxford I managed to enrol in a weekly ev·ning course on Italian
given by a don whose name I have unfortunately long forgotten. I
vividly remember how, when referring to various Italian words, he’d quote the forms that their Latin originals had taken in
Spanish or Portuguese or French and even, if I remember rie·tly, on
occasion Romanian. I found that wonderf·ly stim·lating.
As a Cardiff undergraduate back in the postwar
days when it was on·y 'University College' and a fraction of the size
it's become, I opted to take courses in Italian. I cdnt say that they
were well tau·t becoz the sole rather agéd lecturer seemed to throw us strai·t
and Leopardi and I don’t remember any mention of anything of any sort of c·nsideration of Italian linguistics.
Many ye·rs later, when I’d come to work at Leeds University, I was very
happy to be ‘lent’ weekly to our Department of Italian for six years
to give classes in its pronunciation to their undergraduates.
I found two books in particular of great help to me in devising those co·rses. The main one was the work of pers·n who·d been a member of the Un·versity College London Department of Phonetics, my phonetic alma mater. She was Marguerite Chapallaz whose 1979 book ‘The Pronunciation of Italian: A practical introduction’ I found invaluable. The other was the 1969 edition of the ‘DOP’ ie the Dizionario D’Ortografia e di Pronunzia published by Radiotelevisione Italiana in the first place for guidance of their radio presenters and announcers. Its editors were Bruno Miglorini, Carlo Tagliavini and Piero Fiorelli leading scholars at Italian Universities. It was a substantial volume of over 1400 pages of clearly printed double columns. Fairly impressive tho it was, it became replaced by or rather evolved into, a far more ambitious version that was very much a library item that was so enlarged in form that it became two large handsome he·vy volumes really comf·tably handled on·y by laying th·m out flat on one’s desk. And we have to wait for a third such volume to see how they treat non-Italian entries.
John Wells referred to that 1969 book in the preliminary Acknowledgments as the sole Italian one among the various pronouncing dictionaries he·d ‘frequently consulted’ in preparing his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, which has inc·dentally long been the one book of any sort that I consult more of·en than any other except possibly the OED. Anyway —
‘un dizionario enorme’
was the startlingly forren title of the Wells blog posting of the
19th of July 2010. This referred to ‘an unsolicited and unexpected
package … A massive 5kg in weight …two volumes of a pronunciation
dictionary from Radiotelevisione Italiana, entitled Dizionario italiano
multimediale e multilingue d’Ortografia e di Pronunzia, or DOP for
short…With 133 pages of introduction and 1253 pages of dictionary
proper — large pages, almost as big as A4 — it’s an enormous work. The
two volumes already published are claimed to cover 92,000 Italian
lexical words and proper names; the third will cover 37,000 proper
names and other words from some sixty different languages’. Admitting
that he was looking a gift horse in the mouth, he continued saying ‘Why
oh why don’t they use IPA? Instead, they use an idiosyncratic mishmash
of a transcription system’
Like John, I felt some immediate dismay at the thau·t of having to face age·n the typographicly inferior set of symbols of the orig·nal RAI diction·ry in this reworking of this very worthy enterprise. I hazarded the comment following his posting that I suspected ‘that Piero Fiorelli the original junior collaborator ‘…who had been ‘a regular supporter of the IPA’, might well·ve been ‘outvoted on a proposal to use the IPA alphabet’. I was wrong but I think that praps the next piece of this story had best be saved for a later one of my pres·nt postings except praps to explain one small matter that puzzled me lit·rally for ye·rs namely the simple fact that ev·rywhere you see the comp·ny responsible for the this diction·ry referred to as RAI or Rai or La Rai unless as at length Radiotelevisione Italiana. The reason I speculated for a time was that inste·d of reducing it to RI they felt it more recognisable in a reduction of Radiotelevisione to ‘Ra’ using also the second letter of the long word as well a its initial letter. Yes, I was wrong agen. What’d happened was that when they changed the company name from Radio Audizioni Italiane to Radiotelevisione Italiana the initialism formed from the older name must obviously have become so ‘popular’ that they simply carried on using it.
The ˈsun was ˈshining ˈon the
ˎsea, ðə sᴧn wə ʃaɪnɪŋ ɒn ðə si
Shining with ˈall his ˎmight: ʃaɪnɪŋ wɪð ɔl ɪz maɪt
He ˈdid his ˈvery `best to make | hi dɪd ɪz veri bes tə meɪk
The ˏbillows ˏsmooth and ˏbright | ðə bɪloʊz smuð əm braɪt
And ˈthis was `odd, because it `ˏwas | ən ðɪs wəz ɒd bɪkəz ɪt wɒz
The ˏmiddle ˏof the `night. ðə mɪdl əv ðə naɪt
The `ˏmoon | was shining ´`sulkily, | ðə mun wə(z) ʃaɪnɪŋ sᴧlkəli
Because `she ˏthought | the `ˏsun| bɪkə(z) ʃi θɔt ðə sᴧn
Had ˏgot no ˏbusiness | to be `there | (h)əd ɡɒt nou bɪznəs tə bi ðɛ
After the day was ˏdone — ɑftə ðə deɪ wz dᴧn
It's `very ˎrude of him, she said, ɪts veri rud əv ɪm ʃi sed
To come and spoil the ˏfun. tə kᴧm ən spɔɪl ðə fᴧn
The ˈsea | was ˈwet as ˈwet could ˎbe, ðə si w(ə)z wet əz wet kəd bi
The `ˏsands | were ˈdry as ˎdry. ðə san(d)z wə draɪ əz draɪ
You ˈcould not `see a `ˏcloud,| be`ˏcause ju kʊdn(t) si ə klaʊd bɪkɒz
ˈNo ˈcloud | was in the `sky: noʊ klaʊd w(ə)z ɪn ðə skaɪ
ˈNo ˈbirds| were `ˏflying | over`ˏhead | noʊ bɜdz wə flaɪ.ɪŋ əʊvə hed
There `were no birds `to fly. ðɛ wɜ noʊ bɜdz tu flaɪ
The ˈWalrus and the ˎCarpenter ðə wɔlrəs ən ðə kɑpɪntə
Were walking close at ˏhand; wə wɔkɪŋ kloʊs ət hand
They ˈwept like `anything to see ðeɪ wept laɪk enɪθɪŋ tə si
Such `ˏquantities of `ˏsand: sᴧʧ kwɒntətiz əv sand
If `this were `only `cleared a`way,' ɪf ðɪs wər oʊn(l)i klɪəd əweɪ
They ˏsaid, | ˈit ˎwould be ˎgrand!' ðeɪ sed ɪt wʊd bi grand
If ˈseven ˎmaids | with seven `ˏmops ɪf sebm meɪdz wɪð sebm mɒps
ˎSwept it for ˎhalf a `ˏyear, swept ɪt fə hɑf ə jɪə
Do ˈyou supˈpose, | the ˏWalrus said, | də ju səpoʊz ðə wɔlrə(s) sed
That they could get it `ˏclear? ðət ðeɪ kəd get klɪə
`I ˎdoubt it, said the ˏCarpenter, | aɪ daʊt ɪt sed ðə kɑpɪntə
And ˌshed a `bitter `ˏtear. ən ʃed ə bɪtə tɪə
These lines are offer·d for study. The ones on the left are provided
in ord·nary spellings but accompanied by simple tone markings so th·t
attention c·n be concentrated on the intonations used which in this
case are rather diff·rent fr·m what you hear if the speech is ord·nary
The last line of the third stanza shows the peculiarity of
the preposition ‘to’ being strest & consequently taking a
in a uniquely English way becoz emphasis is being put on this
essentially meaningless ‘to’ which is nothing but a prefixal unattached adjunct
identifying the grammatical fact that the verb ‘fly’ is here
automaticly being used in its infinitive form. The choice of emphasis on this occasion is
becoz it’s such a strong feeling on the part of English speakers that any of them at any time might well feel
it totally inappropriate to be re-accenting a word that’s already been accented
so very little earlier. On the other hand many speakers wd ignore the ‘rule’ and, preferring a more satisfying rhythm, say
The lines on the right show pronunciations without the sim·ltaneous
distraction of prosodic markings. The symbols in brackets indicate
omissions th·t’re very common in conversational speech tho not
invar·ably made. Other elisions shown are what you usu·lly hear in
conversational styles of speaking. The brackets around the ell of the word only in line 5 of the third stanza are there becoz it’s perficly common in an ell-less form. See my Blog 397.
The Intonation Notation
Readers are cautioned that speakers are so imprecise in the way that
they operate their use of pitch patterns that transcribers are
constantly obliged, in order to produce a reasonable degree of simplification, to represent
them in ways that make arbitrary choices between diff·rent possible
Those not familiar with the tone marks used here might like to note that the unmarkt word (or syllable) beginning any (new) tone phrase is to be taken to be pitcht at the ‘neutral’ level ie at the top of the bottom third of the speaker’s ordinary vocal range. This might be referred to as ‘lowish’ as opposed to ‘very low’.A level tone in the speaker’s top third range is represented by the mark / ˈ / which, placed before for example an ‘m’, shows like this / ˈm /. This tone I find it convenient to call an Alt, pronounced /alt/.
When a tone phrase is felt to have been completed, because there isnt a
completely smooth flow in the rhythmic transition to any next word, the
rhythmic-break mark “|” is interposed before what follows.
2. The first lady said to the second, she said,
ðə ˈfɜst ˏleɪdi | sed tə ðə ˏˌsekənd | ʃi ˎsed |
4. but how many children have you got?
ˈbət |ˏhaʊ meni `ʧ(ɪ)ldrən hav ju gɒt |
5. I’ve quite forgotten’.
aɪv ˏkwaɪt fə`gɒtn |
8. And er .. oh ..the..er first lady said ‘Well that is surprising!
and [ᴧ] | ˎəʊ | ði [ᴧ] `pfɜs ˏleɪdi ˈsed | ˈwel ðat ˎɪz səpraɪzɪŋ |
9. From what you used to tell me, I always imagined you were going to
frm `wɒt | `tju | `justə ˏtel mi | `aɪ ɔlwɪz ɪˏmaʤɪn | ju wə gəʊɪŋ tə
11. ‘Oh, yes. That’s quite true.
ˈəʊ ˎ jes | ˈðats ˈkwaɪt `tru | The second of these two Alts is again lower.
12. But you see I’ve just been reading
bət ju `si | aɪv ˈʤᴧs ˈbin ˎridɪŋ |
13. some sta`tistics .. and I see by them that
sᴧm | stə`tɪstɪks | ˎan aɪ `si baɪ ˎðem | ðət
14. every fourth child born is a Japanese!’
ˈevri `fɔθ ʧaɪl ˏbɔn | ɪz ə ˎʤapə`niz/
in line 3, one sometimes hears it sed that English phonology doesnt
permit /i/ preceding /ŋ/ in the same syllable but that isnt true of
this form of being. It’s braut about by elision of the /ɪ/ of its lexical form.
In line 7 the bracketed (t) wd be expected to be a /t/ but isnt like an ord·nary one but as much like a /d/.
This passage shows a variety of the forms taken by the conjunction and. Its usual form when unstrest is /ən/ which we see at the beginning of line 6. Its rarest form unstrest is its ‘strong’ form phonemicly /and/ which occurs at the beginning of line 8 where its unusual occurrence is clearly explainable as having more of a function as a hesitation signal than as a conjunction. It also quite often occurs in the form /an/ even when strest as at line 13.
The transcription is phonemic except where square brackets surround the phonetic symbols ᴧ and ɜ
to convey hesitation noises that only roughly resemble the phonemic
values of those symbols. In line 8 the speaker’s attempt to say first
involves a slip of the tongue in which a [p] precedes its articulation
resulting in his normal /f/ being replaced by a [pf] sequence
reminiscent of the German bilabial affricate consonant.
Very few uses of the term of address ‘madam’ are to be heard these days except in relation to mature customers in relatively upmarket shops etc where no weakform of the word is normal. The case of addressing the Queen, as /mam/ seems to be a unique exception. At least this is what those meeting her are recommended to use by palace authorities.
Not a General British usage but a quotational borrowing from popular American parlance is ‘Wham (alternatively ‘slam’) bam thankyou ma’am’. This somewhat improper saying is of linguistic int·rest because, tho usually so spelt, it is not uttered with the long vowel that the two a’s might be taken to betoken but regularly as /mam/ as its rhyming confirms.
When Henry Sweet came to make the historic first-ever identification of English ‘weak forms’ his list of 63 items in his 1885 Elementarbuch des gesprochenen Englisch didnt contain those of either ‘any’ (on which see our Blog 436) or ‘many’. Daniel Jones in the first edition of his Outline of English Phonetics (1918) at Section 497 for ‘many’ gave two ‘weak forms’ for it illustrating its use in How many more as / ˊhauməni ˊmɔ: / or / ˊhaumni ˊmɔ:/ but neither he nor subsequent editors have included mention of such forms in any editions of the EPD (English Pronouncing Dictionary) or the CEPD (Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary). Nor has the OED. Gimson (1980:263) remarked of any and manythat ‘reduced unaccented forms may be heard in rapid speech’ (a regrettable term because the phenomenon is not characterised essentially by rapidity but the stylistic feature one might better identify as relaxation) but he didnt include them when he revised EPD. By contrast the Wells LPD has from its 1990 first edition included the comment ‘There are occasional weak forms məni, mni (esp. in how many)’.
There’s gen·ral agreement to include ‘weak forms’ of me in pronunciation dictionaries but there has sometimes been some confusion regarding their notation. This has been because over the same mid twentieth-century period there was a change in predominant notational practice of GB and a change in its pronunciation which were quite distinct from each other. The change in pronunciation was exemplified in a word like city which by General British types of speakers for the generations of successively Jones and Gimson that word was by the majority perceived as having exactly the same vowel (phoneme) in both of its two syllables. That vowel was transcribed by Jones in his EPD (English Pronouncing Dictionary) as in /'siti/ but preferred by Gimson in the notation /'sɪtɪ/. Both spoke the word in the same way.
From the middle of that century onward GB
speakers came to increasingly tend to make the final vowel of such
words and other comparable ones more like the fleece vowel, so that they came to be markedly diff·rent. Jones assigned the vowel of his ‘weak
form’ of me,
which he transcribed
as /mi/, to the vowel phoneme which latterly people are most accustomed
to see with the /ɪ/ with which Gimson replaced Jones’s /i/ in his
extensively revised thirteenth edition of the EPD of 1977, the relevant
entry containing ‘mɪ freq. weak form’. When in 1990 J. C. Wells’s LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) first appeared, by contrast with the EPD the newly predominant vowel of the final syllable of words like happy was transcribed not with /ɪ/ but the now more appropriate phonemically diff·rent /i/.
At the 1997 fifteenth edition of the EPD, for the first time edited principally by Peter Roach, the notation that appeared for the ‘weak form’ of me was \mɪ\. However, by the seventeeth (C)EPD edition, the single ‘weak form’ given had been brought up to date as \i\. This was not a mere change of preferred symbol for the same sound but a well justified if slightly belated bringing in line of this word with happy-type words of the CEPD.
The OED gives Brit. /miː/, /mi/, /mɪ/ not very unreasonably suggesting that it’s possible to recognise a second ‘weak form’. The audio illustrations for the ‘Brit.’ strong and first weak forms seem to differ in nothing but speaker and no audio is given for the second ‘weak form’. The 2001 Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (which is after some considerable time about to reappear renamed and from a diff·rent publisher) gave /mɪ/ as the only weak version which will perhaps now be changed to reflect more current usage.
The vertical bar ‘|’ in any of these transcriptions indicates a discontinuity in 'prosody' (a word meaning essentially rhythm-&-intonation) of either an interval of silence which may at its briefest be so short as to be barely sensed, or a break in the smooth flow of consecutive pitches with no necess·ry silent interval whatever. Our title would quite offen be spoken in one of these ways ie in two prosodic phrases. The more marked the interval, the more likely it is to sound rhetorical.
The text that the actor performed from was noted down from the words of a well-known broadcaster as follows:
I went in to the bathroom late at night — no clothes on — to take an Alka-Seltzer after far too many vodkas. And there, sitting in my bath, was an elderly Chinaman washing his toes. So I said ‘Hi!’ in English, and he said ‘Hi!’ in Chinese — which sounds much the same. Of course I hadnt realised that these bathrooms serve two bedrooms. Unless you lock the door on the other side, the chap can get through. Well the next day, unfortunately, our interpreter said that the President of the Outer Mongolian People’s Republic had been insulted in his bath by a drunken nude.
In line 1 of this monolog you can hear at the word bathroom that it’s being spoken in what is called (as I prefer to use the term) a ‘weakform’ ie a variant pronunciation that has come about by speakers’ uttering it with reduced articulatory effort. LPD (the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) gives the word as most often used with the weakly stressed vowel of its latter syllable the /u/ phoneme but records also the existence of a weakform where speakers replace that vowel with the shorter and less closely rounded /ʊ/. These days, especially among younger GB (General British) speakers, we increasingly hear a further weakened form with, as here, the schwa vowel — if not something in between /ʊ/ and /ə/.
Our transcription uses / ˈ / to indicate a (level)
upper pitch and / ˌ / for a (level) lower pitch.
It leaves a middle level pitch unmarked. The word ‘late’, beginning the second prosodic phrase in line 1, is thus to be taken as uttered at a level pitch that’s not markedly high or low.
The tempo of this narration is quite brisk.
1. aɪ ˈwent ɪn tə ðə ˎbɑθrəm | leɪt ət ˏnaɪt | nəʊ ˏkləʊðz ɒn |
2. (tə) ˈteɪk ən ˈalkə ˎseltsə | ɑftə `fɑ | tu ˏmeni `vɒtkəz | ən `ˏðɛ |…
The absence of the grammaticly required word ‘to’ /tə/ at the beginning of line 2 sounds like an elision tho it cou·d possibly have been articulated without being audible. Curved brackets around any sound transcribed indicate that it’s so unclear that it’s guessed rather than he·rd. Successive Alts (upper level tones) are to be taken as slightly stepping downwards. The vowel of the word ‘far’ is quite long which is a common value of segments preceding a break.
The pronunciation of the word ‘vodka’ clearly has no
phoneme /d/ corresponding to its orthographic <d>. In fact it’s a
/t/ though not in the most characteristic realisation of that phoneme
(which has aspiration following it). Of course, that realisation isnt to
be expected here because we normally only get an ‘incomplete’ /t/
before a plosive consonant. Only /d/ and no variant form such as we
find here is recorded for the word ‘vodka’ in any of even the major
pronunciation dictionaries, yet this /t/ sounds hardly at·all unusual.
It’s obvi·sly the result of an anticipative asssimilation.
The final phoneme in line 2 is one that most dictionaries of GB still represent as /ɛə/. Diphthongal [ɛə] was its usual Victorian value very widely to be heard also in the earlier part of the twentieth century. Some older speakers such as the BBC television wildlife presenter David Attenborough (now 90) can still be he·rd to use it. However, by the second half of the century it was mainly only he·rd as a diphthong when strest and word final. We can hear that it was non-diphthongal [ɛː] even on a strest bi-directional (fall-rise) tone from this actor who was speaking in 1977.
3. ˈsɪtɪŋ ɪn maɪ ˏbɑθ | wəz ən ˈeldəli ˎʧaɪnəmən | wɒʃɪŋ ɪz ˎtəʊz |
The word ‘chinaman’ is no longer used to refer to a chinese person except quite disrespectfully. Here its use indicates the speaker’s irritation. The vowelled weakform /wəz/ is the normal form of ‘was’ before a following vowel. Before a consonant, as in for instance ‘He was cross’ /hi wz `krɒs/, the vowelless form is quite usual.
4. səʊ aɪ sed `haɪ | ˈɪn ˏɪŋglɪʃ | ən ˈhi sed haɪ ɪn ʧaɪ`niz |
The second prosodic phrase in line 4 has a humorous effect because its combination of Alt plus (Low) Rise is strongly associated with reassuring someone as typically in expressions like ‘Don’t worry’ or ‘As you’d expect’.
5. (ɪt) saʊn(z) (laɪk) ðə ˎseɪm. | ə `kɔs ˈaɪ ˈhad (ə) `rɪəˏlaɪz |
At this brisk pace it’s not surprising that certain sounds are utter·d unclearly or omitted altogether.
6. ðət ˈðiz ˏbɑθrʊmz | sɜv tu `bedrʊmz. | ənˈles ju `lɒk | ...
The break after ‘lock’ here is a marked rhetorical effect rather characteristic of socially conspicuous (aka ‘posh’) speech.
7. ðə ˎdɔr | ɒn ði ᴧðə `ˏsaɪd | ðə ˈʧap kən get `θru |
The word ‘chap’ is usable, like ‘fellow’, as an informal synonym for male person.
8. ə(n) ðə ˈneks `deɪ | ᴧnˏfɔʧənətli | ˈɑr ɪn ˎtɜprəˏtə |
The word ‘our’, is little used in the form its spelling suggests /aʊə(r)/ even when accented. GB speakers use /ɑ(r)/
or less offen /ɑə(r)/.
9. ˈsed ðət ðə ˈprezədənt | əv ði ˈaʊtə mɒŋˈgəʊliən |
10. ˈpiplz rɪˎpᴧblɪk | əd bin ɪnˈsᴧltɪd ɪn ɪz ˏbɑθ |
11. baɪ ə ˈdrᴧŋkən `nju(d) |
The last two words of line 11 are no dou·t utter·d with their rather
falsetto quality to reinforce the humorous suggestion of indignation.
The final /d/ of the word ‘nude’ is unusually articulated by not being
audibly released. Its alveolar closure is probably made by the speaker tho hardly detectable.