PhonetiBlog

Home

Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.

RSS feed for this siteRSS Feed

04/12/2014Foreign Place Names (ii)#491
11/11/2014SSB versus GB#490
15/10/2014PS - Pussy Car#489
14/10/2014English Accents#488
10/10/2014The Walsh Stratagem#487
25/09/2014Foreign Place-Names (i)#486
11/09/2014PS - Insomniac#485
08/09/2014Northern-Irish Place-Names#484
20/08/2014Clear Communication#483
13/08/2014Prime Minister v King#482
05/08/2014PS - Argument on Accents#481

Archive 48 2014-05-30 to 2014-07-30 (#480 to #471)
Archive 47 2014-03-01 to 2014-05-28 (#470 to #461)
Archive 46 2013-06-07 to 2013-08-13 (#460 to #451)
Archive 45 2013-03-26 to 2013-05-27 (#450 to #441)
Archive 44 2012-12-24 to 2013-03-20 (#440 to #431)
Archive 43 2012-09-22 to 2012-12-11 (#430 to #421)
Archive 42 2012-07-17 to 2012-09-17 (#420 to #411)
Archive 41 2012-05-14 to 2012-07-14 (#410 to #401)
Archive 40 2012-04-03 to 2012-05-09 (#400 to #391)
Archive 39 2012-01-06 to 2012-03-26 (#390 to #381)
Archive 38 2011-11-15 to 2012-01-03 (#380 to #371)
Archive 37 2011-08-29 to 2011-11-13 (#370 to #361)
Archive 36 2011-07-05 to 2011-08-28 (#360 to #351)
Archive 35 2011-05-12 to 2011-06-28 (#350 to #341)
Archive 34 2011-02-13 to 2011-04-20 (#340 to #331)
Archive 33 2010-12-24 to 2011-02-08 (#330 to #321)
Archive 32 2010-10-26 to 2010-12-19 (#320 to #311)
Archive 31 2010-09-23 to 2010-10-25 (#310 to #301)
Archive 30 2010-08-03 to 2010-09-22 (#300 to #291)
Archive 29 2010-06-27 to 2010-08-01 (#290 to #281)
Archive 28 2010-05-17 to 2010-06-25 (#280 to #271)
Archive 27 2010-04-16 to 2010-05-10 (#270 to #261)
Archive 26 2010-02-16 to 2010-04-13 (#260 to #251)
Archive 25 2009-12-25 to 2010-02-13 (#250 to #241)
Archive 24 2009-11-22 to 2009-12-23 (#240 to #231)
Archive 23 2009-10-06 to 2009-11-19 (#230 to #221)
Archive 22 2009-09-12 to 2009-10-05 (#220 to #211)
Archive 21 2009-08-04 to 2009-09-11 (#210 to #201)
Archive 20 2009-06-09 to 2009-07-26 (#200 to #191)
Archive 19 2009-05-07 to 2009-06-06 (#190 to #181)
Archive 18 2009-04-04 to 2009-05-05 (#180 to #171)
Archive 17 2009-02-23 to 2009-03-30 (#170 to #161)
Archive 16 2009-01-21 to 2009-02-07 (#160 to #151)
Archive 15 2008-12-03 to 2009-01-18 (#150 to #141)
Archive 14 2008-09-14 to 2008-12-01 (#140 to #131)
Archive 13 2008-08-08 to 2008-09-12 (#130 to #121)
Archive 12 2008-07-07 to 2008-08-02 (#120 to #111)
Archive 11 2008-06-10 to 2008-07-04 (#110 to #101)
Archive 10 2008-05-03 to 2008-06-07 (#100 to #091)
Archive 9 2008-03-30 to 2008-04-17 (#090 to #081)
Archive 8 2008-03-18 to 2008-03-28 (#080 to #071)
Archive 7 2008-01-20 to 2008-03-17 (#070 to #061)
Archive 6 2007-11-30 to 2008-01-14 (#060 to #051)
Archive 5 2007-07-22 to 2007-11-28 (#050 to #041)
Archive 4 2007-06-15 to 2007-07-20 (#040 to #031)
Archive 3 2007-02-23 to 2007-06-14 (#030 to #021)
Archive 2 2007-01-03 to 2007-02-21 (#020 to #011)
Archive 1 2006-11-01 to 2007-01-01 (#010 to #001)


Blog 491

The 4th of December 2014

Foreign Place Names (ii)

The sixth of the LJ (Lloyd James) booklets reprinted photographically in the Collins, Mees & Carley Volume III of the series English Phonetics: Twentieth Century Developments, as we mentioned in our Blog 486, had a particularly long and int∙resting Introduction. One rather extreme remark in it was “…even casual observers cannot fail to notice that there is something ‘wrong’ with the average Indian’s pronunciation of English .. the general laxity of the performance, the absence of crisp articulation of consonants, and above all the astonishing difference in rhythm.” Little cou∙d he have imagined that a couple of generations later millions of people in Britain wd daily be having conversations by telephone with speakers (occasionally, one has to admit, more fluent than comprehensible) talking to them on various business matters from the Indian subcontinent. Certain remarks of LJ’s prompted the volume’s editors to comment with no exaggeration that he “reaches a degree of complexity probably far beyond the understanding of the majority of his readers”. One word choice of his, strange even to most phoneticians, was his use of the Sanskritist term ‘cerebral’ rather than the IPA ‘retroflex in ref∙rence to “the Aryans in India”.

LJ very sensibly recommended announcers tackling exotic words to aim for versions “as near an approximation to the native version as it is possible to perform when using speech-sounds that are purely English” but added quite rightly that exception “has to be made in the case of some foreign sounds that appear to be now within the capacity of the average educated speaker of English, viz., nasalized vowels not necessarily French in quality, and the ch sound in ‘loch’.” He went beyond that, one might say, when he prescribed in certain places “r must be pronounced” eg at Brno [ˈbərnou] and Trnovo [ˈtərnouvou], and [ʒ] and [x] to begin syllables eg at Rio De Janeiro [ˈriːou də ʒəˈneirou] and  Jerez [xeˈreθ].

LJ’s speech sounded quite like Daniel Jones’s (he was born three years later than him in 1884) but he didnt always, it seems, concur with Jones on what pronunciations were predominant in their day. He appeared to regard as the usual vowel of more the actually fast-fading diphthong /ɔə/, a version Jones observed, in his Outline of English Phonetics, that he personally never used at all. Wells in LPD1 of 1990 didnt even include it with a label like ‘old-fashioned’. It wasnt removed from the EPD until 1997 but it coudnt be heard from any BBC newsreader after the middle of the twentieth century except as a regionalism.

Some pritty surprising items among the ‘native pronunciations’ LJ gave included the information that Accra which we say as /ə`krɑ/ was by its citizens  uttered as [ŋkraŋ]! He noted that our /beŋ`gɔl/ for Bengal has rather diff∙rent vowels from the [bᴧŋgɑːl] of its inhabitants. We used at least get the stress right in our old version of Cadiz /`keɪdɪz/ but now we say /kə`dɪz/ for what Spanish people say as [`kaðiθ]. Another rather perverse-seeming stressing is our /alkə`zɑ/ for Spanish speakers' Alcázar [al`kaθar]. We similarly persist in saying Anda`lusia for Andalu`cia. We now, as its citizens do, usually stress the second syllable of Se`ville but we used to call it /`sevɪl/ and, as the Wells LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) remarks, still “usually” talk of ˈSeville `oranges. Modern media have made us familiar with the famous Galapagos Islands so we no longer presume from its spelling that it is /galə`peɪgɒs/ but have learned to say /gə`lapəgɒs/. LJ gave only the native-like front-strest version of Helsinki but it’s the stressing Hel`sinki which LPD and CEPD (the renamed Cambridge EPD) agree on showing first. Rather surprisingly the word was absent from Jones’s 1937 EPD. Other strikingly diff∙rently strest items we have include /valpə`raɪzəʊ/ for “[balparaˈiso]” ie Valparaiso and /vladi`vɒstɒk/ Vladivostok for “[vlədʲivaˈstok]” (in which I’ve replaced his now superseded symbol for a palatalised [d] with the modern IPA equivalent).

One item before which announcers must’ve quailed is the name of a port in the north of Portugal Leixoes which LJ gives as [ləɪ`ʃõɪʃ] with the ‘modified spelling’ version ‘layshó(ng)ish’ (with an acute accent over the strest vowel). Neither LPD nor CEPD contains this item nor even did ODP in 2001 tho it boasted a ‘Lusitanian Portuguese’ consultant. By the way, in respect of  /`laɪənz/ for the French city Lyon which we mentioned previously, I notice BBCG (the Olausson & Sangster Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation) in 2006 sed “..we have not recommended it for fifty years”. However, BBCG noted /rimz/ for Reims as an “established Anglicization”. Unknown today is LJ’s /tɪə`rɑn/ which was always Jones’s either sole version (even in his EPD new fourth edition of 1937) or his first in all the editions he was responsible for. It’s not to be found at all in either EPD or LPD today. Unsurprisingly LJ gave /mə`ʤɔkə/ for Majorca as did EPD until 1997. LPD1 in 1990 gave /mə`jɔkə/ first but has also always listed the variant /mə`ʤɔkə/ which cd well be labelled “old-fashioned” tho such a comment doesnt figure much in LPD, a kind of omission, like explicit grading of the degrees of commonness of variants, that’s one of the few desirabilities absent from that best of all English pronouncing diction∙ries.


Blog 490

The 11th of November 2014

SSB versus GB

I heartily recommend all my readers to look regularly at the brilliant collection of blog postings by Dr Geoff Lindsey to be found at

http://englishspeechservices.com

In his series of them entitled SPEECH TALK he provides at least as much stimulating reading on English phonetic topics as you'll find anywhere online. Geoff has his little impulsive fads, foibles, and favoritisms, like all of us, and he sometimes 'lays it on a bit thick' but he’s always very well worth reading.

He recently (on the 23rd of October) indulged himself under the heading “GENERALITY” in a bit of rant against the term “GENERAL BRITISH” (pronunciation). This is the label I first adopted in 1972 to replace the term “Received” pronunciation. That expression had been revived and put into circulation from 1926 by Daniel Jones. Jones had grown up in the Victorian era and, tho he used the term he was proffering very apologetically, he unfortunately failed to realise that something quite different was needed to replace what had become an invidious token of Victorian insensitivity which so many were to perceive increasingly as odiously patronising and supercilious. I'm not gunna take on Geoff’s arguments using his own blogspace but do go and enjoy his three-and-a-half-thousand-word 'tirade' and its twenty-one entertaining audio clips and then come back here to see what I find I can say about them.

It was certnly very thautful and kind of Geoff to begin by saying, in refrence to the replacement of the term RP with GB in the new edition of the classic work Cruttenden's Gimson's Pronunciation of English, "Jack coined the term as part of a parallel treatment of British and American pronunciation, “General British” matching the very well established term General American. It was thanks to Jack that the 1974 Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary published “for the first time in any major EFL dictionary, its (100,000) entries [each] in American pronunciation as well as British” — so let’s also take the opportunity to salute the 40th anniversary of that landmark". That’s more than OUP themselves have done tho the anniversary shoudve been well worth their commemorating. It signalled their remarkable success in leading the way in that field and instituting a practice that was, with as little delay as cd be imagined, taken up universally by all publishers of such dictionaries! (The Jones EPD took another 23 years to incorporate GA but that wasnt a genral but solely a pronunciation dictionary).

Geoff bases his rejection of the term 'GB' on five grounds which in my opinion all owe more to preconception than logic. The first of these is his assertion that GB is “merely a name change”, that he finds “General British” a “straightforward replacement” for RP. In flatly contradicting that suggestion one merely has to point out that such a description applies precisely equally to his own preferred substitution “Standard Southern British”. He adds “I prefer to keep the term RP for the earlier accent, and to think of modern speech as something else”. The problem is that present GB, tho diffrent from RP has, as Cruttenden shows, evolved from that accent with no such thing as a sudden transition to a new identity.

His second point is a claim made that “Among academics, SSB (Standard Southern British) is the most established term for RP’s ''modern equivalent'', as it was described a generation ago by the Handbook of the International Phonetic Association”. This seems far too optimistic. The Handbook was published in 1999 only fifteen years ago. (The OED says that a generation is "generally considered to be about thirty years"). It is quite true that the term 'SSB' was the one that happened to be chosen by Professor Francis Nolan the individual named as taking "largely the responsibility" for some important earlier parts of the book's text. Nolan referred to SSB as "the modern equivalent of what has been called 'Received Pronunciation' (‘RP')". As to Geoff's claim that SSB has become "the most established term" among academics, it doesnt seem so to me. Looking back over the last ten years or so at thirty issues of the IPA's own Journal, I found one use of the term amid twenty other choices most often of 'RP'. Anyway, the International Phonetic Association has never been in the business of according official recognition to names for languages or varieties of them.

Geoff’s third objection to GB seems to be based on the fact that GA is more regionally general and that the number speaking GA is so much greater than for those who speak GB as to confer on GA a special superior status. Another neglect of logic. He sez much more under this heading than under his others. For his first point he had taken about a hundred words; for his second about 250. This third one took up about two thousand words which is more than half of all he sez in his 'diatribe'. He develops this theme with a variety of specious arguments whose details are too numerous for me to deal with just now. I’ll hope to find time to discuss some of them later.

His fourth point, this time delivered in 250-plus words, was that "Gen Am" is so much more 'socially general' ie that its speakers range thru a wider spectrum of socio-economic levels than GB. No question of that but it doesnt in any way preclude referring to GB as 'general' in a geographically distributional sense that no other British accent parallels.

His fifth and final reason for objecting to the term GB is that "GA is phonetically more general than RP-type descriptions have been". He writes another thousand words in this context. He first plays down the variabilities within GB. Admittedly they are far less striking than some within GA. They do include dark ells or neutral ones, high or low incidence of r-linking (extreme cases include items like withdraw(r)al), -ed and -es with /ɪ/ or /ə/, -ies with /ɪ/ or /ij/, /-ʒ/ or /-ʤ/ in words like refuge, /tj-/ or /ʧ-/ in words like tune. Anyway, once again his suggestions in this last section dont support a rejection of "GB" any more than the previous ones. However his discussion, tho misdirected in the minor way of an attack on the term 'GB', is very lively and intresting and well worth reading. He may be wrongheaded in certain ways but he writes brilliantly and with verve and I'd rather read what he has to say agenst my ideas than what many other people may say not disagreeing with me at all. Dont miss the witty effect of his hesitation dots before his very last word.
 

 






















Blog 489

The 15th of October 2014

PS - Pussy Car

This is one of the few monologs among the passages
assembled to make up my book People Speaking the
soundfiles for which you are recommended to access
at the ‘Home Page’ (ie main division) of this website
as the first item of its Section 4.

This is number 30. The speaker is the author.
The title was suggested by the colloquial word
‘pussycat’ a childish synonym for a cat.

ˈʤu ˏnəʊ, | aɪd ˈbin tə sʌm lɪtl ˎkɒnsət | .....….1
D’you know, I’d been to some concert
ɪn ɜ.. | ɪn ˈðæt lɪtl ˎsenɪt haʊs ɪn ˎkeɪmrɪʤ|…2
in er.. that little Senate House  in  Cambridge.
 ˎʧɑmɪŋ ˏbɪldɪŋ!……………………………...3
      Charming building!
 `enɪweɪ | wɪ wə ˈstandɪŋ ɒn ðə………………4
 Anyway we were standing on the
ˎpeɪvmənt aʊtsaɪd |ˏɑftəwədz | `ju ˏnəʊ |….....5
   pavement outside afterwards.. You know.
ˏʧatɪŋ | naɪs ˏbɑmi ˏlaɪt | sʌmər ˏivnɪŋ, |….…6
chatting. Nice balmy, light summer evening
ˈwən aɪ ˏnəʊtɪst | wəl aɪ wəz ˈakʧəli knˎvɪnst 7
when I noticed..wel I was actually convinced
ɪt wə ˈsʌm `kat pɜrɪŋ əweɪ.|………………..…8
it was some cat purring away…
səʊ aɪ ˈlʊkt əˏraʊnd |……………………...… 9
So I looked around…
ən ˏʌndəˏniθ | ðɪs bɪg ˏkɑ | wɪ wə………...... 10
   and underneath.. this big car .. we were
standɪŋ əlɒŋˏsaɪd | ˈðn | ˏsʌdni aɪ `rɪəlaɪzd |....11
standing alongside..then suddenly I realised!
ˈaɪ ˈfelt ˏsʌʧ ə `ful | ɪt wz ðə `kɑ | ˈtɪkɪŋ `əʊvə 12
I felt such a fool! It was the car .. ticking over,
ðə ˈlɔd ˈmɛz `bentli ɔ wətevr ɪt wɒz…………..13
The Lord Mayor’s Bentley or whatever it was.

The word ‘chatting’ in line 6 has especially strong aspiration of its initial consonant. This simply emphasises the choice of the word and at the same time increases liveliness. The words ‘actually convinced’ are articulated emphatic·ly, especially breathily and rather clumsily. This suggests a degree of amazement about the curiosity of the nature of what’s about to be the speaker’s reaction to the discov·ry we next hear about. In line 8 the /k/ of the word ‘cat’ also strongly aspirated, as the /ʧ/ of 'chatting' had been previously, here by its exclamatory manner suggests the feeling of surprise the speaker had experienced.

One of the things that a really careful examination like this of truly spontaneous ie completely unscripted types of speech makes one aware of  is the very large number of ‘weakforms’ (reductions from the ideal ‘lexical’ forms ie those listed in dictionaries) which very many words may take that it isnt feasible for even the large pronunciation-only dictionaries to attem·t to record. There’re sev·ral here in this fragment of about ninety words in hardly more than half-a-dozen short sentences. In line 2 the word 'Cambridge' receives a perfec·ly normal conversational pronunciation in which there’s no clear /b/. Don’t expect to find that variant in even such a complete work as the Wells LPD. The same goes for the word 'building' in line 3. It cou·dve been transcribed as /bɪldɪŋ/ or even /bldɪŋ/ for all one can hear. In line 5 the word 'pavement' might as well have been shown as /peɪbmənt/: the friction that the classic definition of the phoneme /v/ involves isnt to be heard. Line 7 begins with the word 'when' in a weakform you will find in LPD (but only there and labelled ‘occasional’). Line 8 begins with a weakform of 'was' that involves such a commonplace elision (of its final /s/) that it’d be a waste of space putting it in any dictionary.

In line 11 you’ll find the word 'then' weakened to /ðn/. Please remember that the notation ['] indicates an upper pitch and not necessarily an accent as it does in lexical notations. The word is definitely very weakly uttered here. The word   'suddenly' is shown as containing no /l/. This is quite common. The same thing happens all the time to the word 'certainly' where you can observe it more easily cz of the word’s great frequency. And the same elision is to be, and has for generations been, heard so very constantly from the great majority of GB speakers in the very high frequency word 'only' (nowadays at least whether or not it’s accented) that it strikes me as a bit of a scandal that it’s not recognised. LPD has had /əʊni/ in all three editions but has astonishingly never admitted it as ‘received’!


PS  A regular reader has emailed me saying:

In my graduate school class today, we practised your recent blog … May I ask a question on the one word, "was", which is transcribed as /wə/ in the following line?
ɪt wə ˈsʌm `kat pɜrɪŋ əweɪ…
We couldnt really decide whether there was elision of /z/ there”.
My reply was that, indeed, I as·t myself that selfsame question while I was writing the blog. I felt that it was a case where, if I set students the task of transcribing the piece, I wou·dnt want to penalise either showing ‘was’ with a /z/ or without one. Anyway, I decided that showing no /z/ was more challenging to thinking about the matter. A third possibility was to regard it as not an elision but an assimilation to /wəs `sᴧm/ but the timing didnt really seem prolonged enuff to register as “double” /s/. Then the clinching thing occurred to me which was that when I sed aloud to myself in succession the original and a pluralised version “They were some cats purring away”. I felt that they were identical and of course, the weakform of 'were' being /wə/, I was confident in deciding it was /wə/ in both cases.




Blog 488

The 14th of October 2014

English Accents

There’re going on for 400 million native speakers of English worldwide. Only the very least educated have any real difficulty in understanding each other despite the consid·rable diff·rences between their accents. People usually instantly notice a diff·rent accent from their own. Sometimes they're intrigued or impressed by it. Some kinds of forren accent are regarded as chic or charming, some as quaint or clumsy. There’s certainly a pecking order. European accents are at the upper end of the scale with French by tradition the most prestigious. Within Britain the markedly local accents of large industrial centres such as Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham and London have the least prestige. England’s rural accents gen·rally produce favourable reactions.

Speakers of Scottish varieties of English, although often credited with "trilling all their r's", in fact only relatively weakly articulate most of the r’s of the normal orthography and completely omit far more than is popularly supposed. Most forms of English have typically quite weak articulations corresponding to the <r> letter of the spelling when it stands for any sound at all. In London and much Southeastern English the r's that our spellings show immediately before consonants became so weak by the end of the eighteenth century they had for the most part all disappeared.

Presence versus absence of /r/ is the most pervasive diff·rence between GB and GA ie the most general kind of British English and the most general kind of American English. A speaker of GA can be expected (with optimism) to utter a sound corresponding to every <r> of English orthography whereas the speaker with a GB accent (formerly very widely called most unsatisfact·rily “Received Pronunciation”) will only utter about half the r’s of them. GA is spoken by about two-thirds of the US population: the other third live either in or near to the coastal east or in the 'Deep South'. In this last area "dropping" of /r /goes the furthest it does in the whole world. They don't even make use of the “linking” /r / which most English-speakers use most of the time in expressions like later on, pair of etc. The "r-keeping" type is also to be heard in southwestern England, in various non-metropolitan parts of west midland and northwestern England, in Ireland, in Scotland, in Canada (which in general falls into the GA category)  and in some Caribbean islands. The GB largely r-dropping pattern is to be found over most of England, in Australia and New Zealand, in much Caribbean English and in the mothertongue English of South Africa.

The other principal diff·rence besides r-keeping between GB and GA is one shared with most speakers of the more northerly parts of England. It can be called “ash-keeping”. The short front vowel, of words like hat, sometimes known as “ash” was, around the eighteenth century, replaced by speakers in most of southern England with a longer and more back type in two sets of words, the one pre-fricatively in words such as after, bath, pass and the other pre-nasally as in advance, demand, plant. The earlier identity with an ‘ash’ (in some or other contrastive value) in such words, besides being retained in the north of England, was also kept in most of the USA. It was not kept by most native English speakers below the equator, tho many Australians are ash-keepers for dance-type words only. Other small groups of words with pre-fricative vowels like off, cloth and cross have a longish vowel in GA but a shortish one in GB. This last type was characteristic of Victorian British English too but mainly died out in England by the 1920s. Other directions along which the mainstream accents of British and American English have diverged since the 19th century include the endings of words like dictionary, territory and matrimony which now have stronger late vowels in America. Most words like docile and fragile on the other hand have in American English maintained weaker-ending variants which have fallen out of use in GB since the Victorian era giving way to the stronger diphthong of /-aIl/. Americans alone have a marked pref·rence for end-stressing of French-derived words like beret, café, garage, plateau, salon etc.

Among the articulatorily weakest English sounds, are the approximants / l, j, w / and / h /. The last of these, has become worldwide the most notorious marker of poor education. It’s hopelessly uncouth to omit it from the beginning of a stressed syllable in all but a handful of words — basically hour, heir, honour and honest. In unstressed syllables its absence will usually pass unnoticed: the inclination to use it on every possible occasion eg in He helped him when he hurt himself would suggest extreme social anxiety. Nobody worth mentioning in England now uses an aitch in words like why and where though most Irish and Scottish people and many Americans do. On the other hand GA speakers usually drop any trace of a yod saying eg /tun, du & nu/ for tune, due and new etc. In England to do so would be, if noticed, probably taken by most of us as a mark of an East Anglian or other local accent.

About half of the people of England speak with some degree of northern accent. Northern GB has mainly only moderate diff·rences of pronunciation from southern usages. The most pervasive northern characteristic that contrasts strongly with the whole of the rest of the English-speaking world is the pref·rence for a clear vowel in unstressed prefixes that constitute closed syllables (ie end with a consonant sound) in words such as advise, contain, example, observe, success. Away from the north these tend to sound not forren but abnormally ‘careful’. Where the unstressed prefix ends with a vowel sound, northern usage is no diff·rent from that of the rest of the English-speaking world eg in words like apply, connect, effect, oblige, suppress etc.

No dou·t because Scotland was a sep·rate kingdom until the 17th century, most Scottish varieties of English display forms more sturdily independent of all the other varieties of English than one can find in any other area around the English-speaking world. Very strikingly they may incorporate no contrasts of vowel values in phrases like good food, Sam's psalms and ought not. The most firmly ‘Celtic’ people in Scotland, Ireland and Wales have the extra consonant velar fricative /x/ in the word /lɒx/ (spelt loch in Scotland and lough in Ireland) and heaps of their placenames.

PS   A valuable concise comment on this last suggestion of mine by Dan MacCarthy is something I'm very happy to share with readers:

...lough is homophonous with lock for all Irish people that I have ever encountered. For example, there's a placename near my homeplace called Loughane. The intervocalic consonant is /k/ and the final vowel is PALM and carries the stress. The same is true of all placenames beginning with Lough, as are the surnames McLoughlin, O'Loughlin, Loughnane, Loughman. Even old people pronounce these with /k/, even if they're native speakers of Irish.
To further emphasize how Anglicized lough is: this word has the LOT vowel, whereas the Irish word loch has the STRUT vowel. This means that there's never any chance of these being homophonous for an Irish person (note, however, that Ulster Irish loch and Ulster English lough do have the same vowel, because their loch vowel is more open/unrounded).


Blog 487

The 10th of October 2014

The Walsh Stratagem


The fully understandable enormous worldwide success OUP had with the two first editions of the Hornby Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (on which see my article PHONETICS IN ADVANCED LEARNER’S DICTIONARIES pp 75-82 of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association Volume 44 Number 1 of April 2014 — now available on this website in a slight revision as Item 10 of Section 5) set in motion in the later 1960s elaborate preparations at the Longman publishing house for an emulation of this ALD. The first plans for the treatment of the important matters of pronunciation were entrusted to Roger Kingdon who, amongst other things, was the leading authority of the day on the accentuations of English words, having written a whole book on that subject publisht in 1958 as The Groundwork of English Stress. He had been an outstanding member of Daniel Jones’s staff at UCL in the two years before the Second World War. In 1965 Kingdon supplied the pronunciations for Longman’s concise International Reader’s Dictionary (edited by Michael West). When he retired in his seventies from the long drawn out preparations for that ALD emulation, his work was continued at the Longman Materials Development Unit by Gordon Walsh a onetime postgraduate student at Leeds University Department of Phonetics (I’d be grateful for any bio data on Gordon any reader might be able to let me have). The new LDOCE, ie the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, finally appeared in 1978 with Paul Procter as Editor-in-Chief and Walsh as “Pronunciation Editor”. Acknowledgments were made in it for advice etc on its preparation from, among others, Kingdon and Gimson. (Incident·ly, it may have been noticed by various readers as curious as myself that there was something odd about the publishers’ use of 'LDOCE' as their abbreviation of the book’s title. Of course it’s customary, in adopting such abbreviations not to include the initial letter of a particle like of. The departure from normal practice in this case one guesses might’ve been because it provided a comf·tably speakable acronym made up of two rather than five syllables viz /`eldəʊs/.)

The nowadays-traditional Gimson phonetic transcription had only just (in the previous year of 1977) been introduced for the very first time into the Jones EPD. It was adopted in full for LDOCE except for Gordon Walsh’s rejection in word-final weak syllables of the use of the notations American /iː/ and British /ɪ/ in favour of /i/ for both. At page xix of the Guide to the Dictionary its section 6.4.3 contained the following explanation:
At the end of many words, a lot of RP speakers use /ɪ/ but many Americans use /iː/. We use the special symbol /i/ to represent this. Remember that if you are learning RP you should try to pronounce this symbol as /ɪ/, but if you are learning American English you should pronounce it as /iː/. For example:
        happy /ˈhæpi/: usually pronounced
            /ˈhæpɪ/ in RP but /ˈhæpiː/ in American
The same thing is true when many endings are added [eg to] happiness [and] fairyland.”

The fact was that the change in mainstream General British (aka ‘RP’) from ending words like happy with [ɪ] to preferring [i] was fully enough underway in those days for it to be problematic for non-native learners to continue to be recommended to use [ɪ]. This phonemically irregular but conveniently non-committtal lengthmark-free word-final /i/ was ostensibly offered as a space-saving avoidance by sep·rate display of American and British usages. At least part of the motivation cou·dve been to be able to avoid the glaringly unsuitable lengthmarks on GB representations like /hæpiː/. These wou·d strictly speaking have been completely unavoidable, if this Walsh device had not been adopted, because the chosen Gimson transcription prescribed an integral lengthmark for the symbolisation of all occurrences of the close-front phoneme /iː/ regardless of the actually very variable lengths with which it wou·d be normal for it to be heard. The problem of the perfectly correct transcription in Gimsonian style of the word pronunciation as /prəˌnᴧnsiːˈeɪʃən/ with its unfortunate suggestion of an unsuitably long value for its medial close-front vowel as /iː/ was similarly solved by use of the Walsh device. Despite the fact that the employment of this stratagem constituted an undeniable infringement of the accepted rules of phonemic transcription, it was immediately unhesitatingly adopted practic·ly universally by British writers who'd just all embraced Gimson’s replacement of Jones’s original symbol set. Among such writers were the leading phoneticians Roach (in 1985) and Wells (in 1990). They gave as their reason for the move their preferred treatment of the close vowels of word-final weak syllables as not positively assignable to either item of the phoneme pairs /iː & ɪ/ and /uː & ʊ/ but involving ‘neutralisation’ of opposition between them. This ‘explanation’ has always struck me as being very little if anything less of an excuse than Walsh’s claim that his essential justification for his ruse was its space-saving usefulness. While accepting that, in lexicographical and similar contexts, all occurrences of the happy final vowel are to be conveniently taken to entail the neutralisation of the /i~ɪ/ opposition, it’s another matter when it comes to transcription of unscripted speech.


Transcribers of GB speakers find that they gen·rally use [ij] or [i] to end the small number of words like jubilee and pedigree. In a lexicographical etc context I’d prefer to write / `ʤubəˌli & `pedəˌgri/. Those who employ a variety of the Gimson lengthmark-entailing transcription will usually write them as/ ˈʤuːbəliː & ˈpedəgriː/. In transcribing spontaneous speech one may come across the final vowel of a word like, for example many, as [i, ij, ɨ, ɪ, j] or even elided completely. A phrase like many a time may be uttered by a speaker whose normal target is [-i] with variations such as we show here:
[ `meni ə taɪm] when most simply uttered at a moderate pace
[ ´`menij ə taɪm] when spoken eg very emphaticly on a wide Climb-Fall tone
[ `menɨ  ə taɪm] spoken casually slowly and/or weakly
[ `menɨː taɪm] when schwa causes assimilation and amalgamation [ɪ→ɪː] with conversion to a long vowel
[ `menɪ taɪm] spoken with assimilation and amalgamation and subsequent reduction to a short simple [ɪ]
[ `menj ə taɪm] spoken so rapidly that no syllabicity is produced [ɨ →j].  



Blog 486

The 25th of September 2014

Foreign Place-Names (i)

Continuing our accounts of the series of newly republisht 1930s Lloyd James BBC BROADCAST ENGLISH booklets of ‘Recommendations to Announcers’ we come to the sixth which was devoted to ‘Some Foreign Place-Names’. This, at 70 pages, was one of the longest of them. It began with a sixteen-page Introduction which included the frank comment “There are few pedantries so tiresome as those that concern the so-called right pronunciation of foreign place-names”. His essential criterion was, he sed, intelligiblity. One point he made emphaticly was the fact that a specialist may be “reputed to know this language or that must not, of itself, be taken as evidence that he is competent to decide how words from these languages should be pronounced when taken into English”. He was particularly concerned to emphasise the importance of the rhythmic adaptations that forren words have to undergo.

In the following accounts, in order to avoid the praps confusing complexity of quoting five or more separate sets of symbols with their various interpretational conventions, I’ve given all except LJ ’s own original versions (which I’ve always supplied within his own square brackets) in the form of interpretations from the transcriptions in the booklet and the various dictionaries I make comparisons with. These interpretations appear between forward slashes /…/ and employ my preferred set of phonemic symbols which uses /a/ rather than /æ/, /ɛ/ rather than /eə/, does not incorporate (superfluous) lengthmarks and identifies tonic stresses with the tonetic upper-fall mark / `/. On the odd occasion I add my version after an LJ transcription which I feel may be particularly likely to be misinterpreted by a reader unfamiliar with its older style.

Especially intresting to us today are the indications of how the forms of forren words which we employ have changed since this booklet appeared 77 years ago. He took as a notable example the capital of Bulgaria which, he sed, “has for many years been known in this country as [səˈfaiə] with a rather more foreign version [səˈfiə] adding It has recently been suggested that the ‘correct’ pronunciation should be [ˈsɔfiə]”, ie /`sɒfiə/. The now usual pronunciation according to the Wells LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary 2008) is, in a judgment with which I concur, a fifth version not apparently even known to LJ viz /`səʊfiə/. Wells lists /`sɒfiə/ next. Then, after a semicolon, two further variants with the older post-initial tonic stresses, placing last that /sə`faɪə/ LJ had given as his first recommendation. The Roach-&-co Cambridge EPD in 2011 gave only the two front-strest versions but in the reverse order from Wells’s. The Upton ODP gave in 2001 a strikingly diffrent set of opinions, from CEPD in particular, not even mentioning any front-stressed variants, viz /sə(ʊ̶̵)`faɪə(r)/ and /sə(ʊ̶̵)`fiə(r)/ in which the [ʊ̶̵], ie barred ʊ symbol, was used to indicate that it was to be interpreted as recording both /ʊ/ and /ə/ as (equally) “acceptable”.

LJ observed that “By far the greater number of names in this booklet have no traditional English pronunciation” but, on the other hand, that many have “a traditional English pronunciation and indeed in many cases a spelling that is purely English and different from the native spelling”. He considered it desirable to “encourage their use where possible”. He gave a sample list of eight names that offered “no difficulty at the moment” while warning that changes involving reduced anglicisation were to be expected in various cases. He was more prophetic than he could know as regards Bombay which became officially converted, initially on its home ground, to Mumbai /mʊm`baɪ/ in 1996. In the same year Madras /mə`drɑs/ similarly became Chennai /`ʧenaɪ/.

Borderline cases he identified were the names of the French cities of Lyons and Marseilles. For the first of these Wells had / `liɒ̃, `liɒn; `laɪənz/ (The English-language family name Lyons received the seprate entry /`laɪənz/.) CEPD, after the non-forren name /`laɪənz/, sed French city /`li.ɔ̃ŋ, `li.ɒn; `laɪ.ənz/ and then “as if French /li`ɔ̃ŋ/ which one notes differs only from the first version by its transference of stress to the final syllable. The first version’s suggestion, by its addition of an italic /ŋ/, that a pronunciation with a final velar nasal is exacly as common as one without strikes me as very doutful. It seems to me that a clear final /ŋ/ in such a situation in almost any French loanword has become markedly old-fashioned-sounding  from educated British speakers. It’s quite surprising that, whereas a longer-latter-vowel variant /`li.ɔŋ/ is included, there is no inclusion of a shorter-vowel type /`li.ɒŋ/ which I shdve imagined to be the more usual of two such types so far as they still exist. The ODP gave simply /`liɒ̃/, also giving the “surname” its own entry. For Marseilles Wells gave first /mɑ`seɪ/ and second /mɑ`seɪlz/. Roach & co gave simply /mɑ`seɪ/, as did ODP.

LJ concluded this Introduction by quoting from the wise words in H. W. Fowler’s 1926 Dictionary of Modern English UsageDisplay of superior knowledge is as great a vulgarity as display of superior wealth… to say a French word in the middle of an English sentence is a feat demanding an acrobatic mouth…the greater its success as a tour de force, the greater its failure as a step in conversational progress…” and summed up with “it should be the aim of those who have to handle the spoken word to evoke neither admiration nor humiliation.”


Blog 485

The 11th of September 2014

PS - Insomniac


"PS" in our title refers to Passage 29 of my book People Speaking the soundfiles for which you are recommended to access at the ‘Home Page’ (ie main division) of this website as the first item of its Section 4.


Please remember that the intonation markings provided are very approximate. This notation is intended to elaborate upon, clarify and/or possibly overrule the prosodic suggestions carried by the ordinary punctuation marks. A vertical bar (|) indicates at least a very slight degree of discontinuity of the rhythmical flow. After any such bar, unmarked syllables are to be taken as uttered on a lowish pitch. They/it may be described as constituting a 'prehead'.  Brackets placed around sounds indicate that they are unclear or hardly if at all audible.

1. I don’t know what’s the matter with me.
   ˈaɪ ˈdəʊnəʊ | wɒts ðə `matə wɪð ˈmi.
   The final level tone at the end of this sentence is very weakly uttered such that it gives the effect of a sort of involuntary ‘tailing off’ rather than an accentuation. All negative function words ending with <-n't> like don’t and wouldn’t very frequently (tho not invariably) in ordinary GB conversation lose their /t/ if they don’t occur before a rhythmic break. See also the various other examples below.

    It’s only nine. (I) can hardly hold my head up.
    ɪts `ə(ʊ)ni ˏnaɪn. (I kn) ˈhɑdli həʊl m(aɪ) `hed ᴧp. 
The adverb only very often occurs, even when stressed, in a weakform from which its /l/ has been elided. [Weakforms are reduced versions which speakers may use of words whose full forms (their ‘strongforms’) they employ in ordinary conversation where no special pressure(s) etc may be present causing them to undergo reduction.] At the same time, occasionally, in a fairly casual style, only may have its initial diphthong converted to /ə/ or /ʊ/. Two further elisions that are very common, at least in casual styles, one of which is seen in the absence of /d/ from hold when an immediately following word begins with a consonant. The other is the complete omission of the pronoun “I” from the beginning of the last sentence. This isn’t terribly unusual in markedly colloquial speech.

2. You shouldn’t be so sleepy.
    ju `ʃʊdnt bi `səʊ ˏ∙slipi.

You weren’t all that late going to bed last night.
    ˈju ˎwɜnt ɔl `ðat leɪt gəʊɪŋ tə bed lɑs ˏnaɪt

The notation special [ˏ∙] is intended to convey the fact that this particular low(-beginning) rise tone extends further than the most usual low-to-mid range indicated by the simple tonemark [ˏ] tho still not suggesting a very high ending.
Loss of the /t/ of last before the /n/ of night is an extremely common type of elision.
The woman clearly isn’t sleepy because she doesn’t elide the final /t/ of shouldn’t. ☺︎

3. No. Not at all. Well before midnight.
   `nəʊ. nɒt ə`tɔl. ˎwel bɪfɔ `ˏmɪdnaɪt.
The negative-emphasising phrase <at all> is in GB usually, as here, spoken as /ə`tɔl/ ie with the /t/ aspirated indicating that it begins its syllable. This coalescence of the two words into one has not been recognised in the orthodox orthograpy.
    And I can’t go any earlier. I just don’t sleep if I do.
    (ə)n aɪ `kɑn gəʊ eni ˎˏɜliə. aɪ ʤəs ˈdəʊnt `slip | ɪf aɪ ˎˏdu.
The word ‘and’ is normally pronounced /ən/ with no /d/ despite what some textbooks have prescribed. The adverb ‘just’ has the common conversational weakform /ʤəst/ whose /t/ readily elides in close rhythmic association with a following consonant.

4. You weren’t exactly up with the lark, either, were you?
      ju ˎwɜnt ɪgˎzakli `ᴧp wɪ ðə `ˏlɑk, `aɪðə. `wɜ ju.
These three successive simple falling tones (as may be expected since the first is low) form a rising sequence (with the second tone higher than the first). They constitute a head to the Fall-Rise climax tone. Elision of the medial /t/ of ‘exactly’ is completely normal. So is the elision of /ð/ from ‘with’ in close rhythmic association with a following /ð/.

5. No. After eight. I just can’t understand it.
    `nəʊ. ˏɑftər `eɪt. (ə) ʤəs ˏkɑnt ᴧndə`stand `ɪt.
The indistinct sound before ‘just’ may be considered to be the not very common highly colloquial weakform /ə/ of the pronoun “I”. It is bizarrely abnormal for a speaker to accord a falling tone to the word ‘it’ in such a situation. The tone’s employment perhaps can be said to have been ‘delayed’ by the speaker’s yawning.

6. Well, you could ask the doctor to give you a tonic.
    `wel. ju `kʊd ɑsk ðə ˎdɒktə | tə gɪv ju ə `ˏtɒnɪk.
In terms of intonation, the whole of the sentence before the final word ‘tonic’ can be said to constitute a single falling head more than usually divided by the slight rhythmic break occurring after the word ‘doctor’. The effect is intermediate between a normally integrated head and a succession of two separate ones.

7. Well I wouldn’t want to do that.
    `wel aɪ wʊdn | wɒntə du ˈðat.
The sentence-final high level tone we get here seems perfectly natural-sounding except that it creates the effect that it was only half of the full sentence the speaker had been intending to complete with a further, final clause.

8. Why don’t you go out and get a bit of fresh air?
    `waɪ dəʊnt ju| ˈgəʊ ˈaʊt | n ˌget ə ˌbɪt əv ˌfreʃ ˎɛ.
    Take Fido with you.
    ˈteɪk `faɪdəʊ wɪð ju

9. Oh all right.
   (d)`əʊ ɔ ˈraɪt. There’s no normal /d/ phoneme beginning this sentence but one does hear it as beginning rather as if the speaker wanted to say something beginning with /d/ but stopped before he got going. The elision of the /l/ from the word 'alright', to quote it in its other common spelling, is frequent in GB conversation. The final level tone is a signal that the speaker hasn't finished.

    Perhaps I will.
   ˈpraps ˈaɪ ˎwɪl.
This pronunciation of ‘perhaps’ is a totally normal weakform. The speaker’s succession of three firmly accented monosyllables conveys an expression of resolve into which his selection of a monosyllabic form of the word ‘perhaps’ fits perfectly.

Do you think the actors improvised this on a given theme or did they read it word for word from a script? ☺



Blog 484

The 8th of September 2014

Northern-Irish Place-Names

Continuing our accounts of the Lloyd James BBC BROADCAST ENGLISH historic booklets of ‘Recommendations to Announcers’ we come to its fifth which was devoted to “an approximate account” of the pronunciations of “Some Northern-Irish Place-Names”. It appeared in 1935 based on the collections of a small Irish committee. Preliminary mention was made of the facts that rhoticity is relatively high (ie compared with GB most r’s of the traditional spelling are pronounced). Presumably for the benefit of the extremely few announcers then in Ireland, the closing diphthongs /ei/ and /ou/ “replaced in Ireland as in the other Celtic-speaking countries by /eː/ and /oː/” were so represented. We see that a phoneme /x/, often termed ‘marginal’ insofar as it cou·d be sed to belong to GB, figures repeatedly in consonantal representations corresponding variably to orthographic ‘ch’ and ‘gh’, tho chiefly the latter digraph, can often also reflect the loss of a sound no longer heard. Compare Armagh /ɑːrˈmɑː/, Donaghcloney /dɔnəˈkloːni/, and Omagh /ˈoːmə/ with Augher /ˈɒxər/, Cloughey /ˈklɒxi/, Cromlech /ˈkrᴧmləx/ and Donaghmore /dɔnəxˈmoːr/.

Castlereagh /kaslˈreː/ and six other entries beginning with the same English ‘castle’ element exemplify ‘ash-keeping’ ie not sharing in the GB eighteenth-century retraction before voiceless fricatives of its ‘ashes’ (ie of its front /a/s) to a lengthened back vowel, a development which became a defining characteristic of General British. Another example of this is seen in the form they give for Belfast viz /belˈfast/. This last, as a gen·ral recommendation to BBC announcers, has long been superseded. The BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names by G. M. Miller (on the publication of which in 1971 your bloggist was thanked by her for “accepting the arduous assignment of proof-reading in the course of which he offered much constructive criticism and valuable guidance on phonetic problems”), had the entry [belˈfɑst; ˈbelfɑst]. The most recent pronouncement from the BBC, coming 35 years later in 2006 in the Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation a generous anthology of 16,000 or so problem words selected by Lena Olausson and Catherine Sangster, was only “/ˈbɛlfɑːst/”.

The entry /ˈantrim/ makes one wonder if the majority Irish usage might’ve been better represented as /ˈantrəm/ for Antrim. Lloyd James’s transcriptions from time to time exhibited syllable divisions that seem to be more etymological than phonetic as we see at Ardoyne which he gave as /ɑːrdˈɔin/ rather than as one wd expect. and is to be found in for example the Wells LPD, \ɑːˈdɔɪn\. Some of these sev·ral hundred names appear at least to be entirely English-derived eg `Aldergrove, Coal`island, `Cookstown, Favour `Royal, `Holywood, `Springfield, `Sydenham, `Woodvale. But most of them plainly betoken Celtic origins. Some have a 'possibly English' look but are also probably Celtic as with Stormont/`stɔːmənt/. Many of them are by tradition spelt in ways that wdve made their pronunciations more transparent had their distinct elements received sep·rate punctuation (by use of hyphens or spaces) such as is the case particularly with Mosside whose two esses belong to diff·rent words /mɔsˈsaid/. Another example of this is to be seen at some of the fifty items which begin with Bally (a Celtic element meaning homestead, settlement or the like) tend to look puzzling in cases such as Ballyards which appears to end with ‘yards’ but to be /baliˈɑːrdz/ not /bal ˈjɑːrdz/. Because I’ve taken it for granted that anyone who’s brave enuff to read these blogs wont be put off by simple phonetic transcriptions I’ve so far hardly if at all mentioned the fact that these BBC recommendations have all been accompanied, for the benefit of that majority of announcers who’ve always been disinclined to have anything to do with phonetic symbols, with so-called “modified spelling” versions which “interfered as little as possible” with the original spelling (explained in half a dozen lines of the preliminaries and supplemented by numbers of “notes of explanation”). I think that system came near to breakdown where the ‘modified’ spelling, by simply repeating the original form, failed to make it clear that the pronunciation was not ‘plumb’ followed by ‘ridge’ but ‘plum’ followed by ‘bridge’ which was evident from the phonetic version /plᴧmˈbridʒ/ from the position of the stress mark. Similarly, the ‘modified’ version ‘portrush’ doesnt reveal whether the /t/ belongs in the first syllable or the second whereas the phonetic version identifies it clearly with the first /poːrtˈrᴧʃ/.
Lastly, a few rarities include a word-initial s with the value /z/ as in Sion Mills / ˈzaɪən `mɪlz/ and a zed letter internally between t and p in Poyntzpass /pointsˈpas/. Another strange spelling is as g appearing in Bignian given as /ˈbinjən/. Strikingly unusual spellings involving the letter a appear in the names Cultra /kəlˈtrɔː/, Larry Bane (Head) /lariˈbɔːn/ and Strabane /strəˈban/.


Blog 483

The 20th of August 2014

Clear Communication

This is the title of a curiously eccentric blogsite. It  precedes the following declaration, which is also all in capitals. Both are incorporated into blue sky at the top of a quite pleasant photo of an unspecified large city at dusk.

A PLACE TO FIND GOOD LINKS FOR YOUR PHONETICS KNOWLEDGE IF YOU ARE A TEFL, TESOL, ESL ETC TEACHER. GO STRAIGHT TO THE JOHN WELLS' BLOG AND DOWNLOAD THE FONTS FOR IPA TO THE COMPUTER YOU USE IF YOU'RE NOT SURE IF IT HAS THEM.

This is to be seen at: http://clearcommunication.blogspot.co.uk/

It rhapsodises on how wonderful John Wells is, recommending “Check out his blog for the first time on this entry 19-05-08; you won't be disappointed,” and saying of him, “I do whatever he says. He Is the great He Is. Enjoy”. (I very much sympathise with the enthusiasm for John’s great achievements tho that’s not quite how I’d put it.) There’s no proper accreditation of the site tho it has apparent USA connections including the evidently pseudonymous “John Whipple” a name presumably plucked from US history. There’s an oddly disconnected sprinkling of Italian dates. A variety of sites are recommended which constitute a quaint farrago of stuff among some good links for students of pronunciation including one (ultimately) to John Maidment’s valuable and stylishly presented SID ie Speech Internet Dictionary. All this is interleaved with a variety of adverts etc. It also curiously refers to being directed to my website by some words of Wells’s. It says of my Phonetiblog: “Watch out for the wacky spelling; the guy says he writes as HE pleases, but I've come across all HIS reduced spellings before. I think he should be proud of conformism on a level that minute. Not everyone's got it. Power to the pedant”. I’m sorry to say I can’t really make sense of these last three sentences. And, as to the attribution of wackiness, I’m reminded of the pot calling the kettle black.

As a matter of fact, I have to admit that I tend to be highly conscious of the form taken by ev·ry word I write and to frequently resent being expected to use so many illogical, inappropriate spellings. My urge to solve the problems I find by substituting more rational spellings for traditional ones on various occasions is curbed by a countervailing resolve not to employ any ‘improvements’ which might seriously militate agenst ‘CLEAR COMMUNICATION’ for the reader. This means that most of my spellings conform exac·ly to traditional usages, however much I may deplore some of them. I attem·t from time to time, to heighten consciousness of their features for my readers. I am by no means an advocate of  reform of the existing spelling. I dont think there’d ever now be agreement on reform of it. It may be that at some future date it might be replaced by IPA phonemics. My hope is that most of my readers will be sympathetic to my departures from unsuitable traditionalisms and stimulated to thinking about the processes etc involved. Just in case anyone might think what they’re seeing may on·y be a typo, I make use of a hopefully fairly unobtrusive little dot such as I’ve just used to draw attention to the fact that practic·ly ev·ry native English speaker in the whole world from a quite long time back has frequently used a form of the word ‘only’ which has no /l/ in it. The Cambridge and Oxford pronouncing dictionaries have never heard of this variant and even Wells only mentions it as not used by speakers of the sort of accent he generally records in his LPD. This is a pretty good example of the way people are so largely unaware of much that goes on when they speak. By the way, my blogs are not aimed at any user of the English language but on·y at those who are native speakers or (at least fairly) advanced learners.

Returning to the content of this odd website, among its very useful and/or int·resting items are a link to YouTube to a very worthwhile hour-long speech by the noted American author and teacher Judy Gilbert, the guiding light of the select ‘Supras' association of pronunciation teachers. Under a heading ‘Good Reads’ we are led to first an advert for ELTWorld. Next we find a heading “IPA Diacritics” which on being opened leads to nothing of the sort but to another advert, this time for an accent coach “Paul Meier Dialect Services. Accents and Dialects for Stage and Screen” with video demo. (He’s pritty good at his impressions). The following three items link to the superseded first edition of SID, my Phonetiblog and the Wells phonetic blog. Next ‘For your English Learners’ begins with a link to a company called “one.stop.english” and continues with very long list including various repeats beginning with numerous items like
        Fotobabble- make your pictures talk (Project Idea)
        Flash Animated Pronunciations -Univ. of Iowa English ("American"), German and Spanish
        EnglishCentral -best resource of 2011
        Phonetics Focus: Cambridge English Online
        BBC Pronunciation Videos with Alex Bellum
        Howjsay.com the Pronouncing Dictionary
An item 'Vowel Maps for 132 Languages' links to my corresponding Homepage article. And so on. In short it offers various quite worthwhile items for those with the patience to search for them among the advertising and other sometimes rubbishy items.


Blog 482

The 13th of August 2014

Prime Minister v King



The London-based online English-Teaching 'Pronunciation Studio' who recently featured the entertaining YouTube video excerpt from the sitcom Keeping Up Appearances (starring Patricia Routledge as the hilariously genteel Hyacinth Bucket: see our Blog 477) has now come up with another excerpt to which they've supplied subtitles with the usual EFL IPA symbols. This new piece is six times as long as the previous one and is again an excellent choice for students especially of GB (General British) English pronunciation. It's from an episode of the BBC drama series House of Cards. A comparison is suggested with the British Houses of Parliament and a children's game of building a castle of playing cards which provides a metaphor explained in the OED as describing "any... unsubstantial system..." In the present case it suggests morally unsound. The actors are the late Ian Richardson, admirable as the Machiavellian Prime Minister, and the excellent Michael Kitchen as the exasperated monarch .

Since it's to be expected that their conversational 'fencing' will be in a careful, formal, rather than an ordinary relaxed style of speech, it should be especially easy for students to handle. Yet, while being very realistic, it exemplifies quite a number of reductions and elisions that are completely normal even in such styles. It's to be found at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KD37E9a_z1o
It starts with a monolog conveying the thauts of the PM as he walks into and inside Buckingham Palace (accompanied by a sinister solo bass clarinet). I’ve divided the passage into numbered turns taken by the speakers. Where any of these turns involves more than a couple of phrases, I’ve labelled them (a), (b), (c) etc. Both of the principal speakers have GB pronunciation, the king paradoxically sounding less aristocratic than his prime minister whose speech is 'Conspicuous GB' chiefly by virtue of his voice quality and prosodies rather than his phoneme's characteristics. The transcriptions provided as subtitles are mainly quite satisfactory but the transcriber at times rejects the actual sounds used in favour of the potential assimilations etc described in textbooks. Advanced students of English pronunciation might like to consider some of the problems involved. I’ve added some rough indications of the intonations used, inserting “⋮” in places that call for clarification of a pitch transition. An arrow (→) in the text points from a transcription employed to one that might more exactly have been used. An italicised symbol indicates a sound represented by the transcriber but not in fact to be heard as such if at all.

1.|| (a) aɪ ˈdu: ɪn`dʒɔɪ ði:z vɪzɪts tə ðə ˏpælɪs | (b) ə ˎglɑ:s əv ˏʃeri→ɪ⋮ə lɪtl vɜ:bəl ˏfensɪŋ | (c) ə→ænd ə ˈbreɪsɪŋ ˈdəʊs⋮əv ˈheɪtrɪd əŋ→n kənˎtempt | (d) ˈməʊst ɪn`vɪgəreɪtɪŋ | (e) ænd tə `deɪ⋮ðeəz gəʊɪŋ→n tə bi ə lɪtl `ekstrə tri:t [ə] | (f) ˎnəʊ aɪ ˈwəʊnt ˎspɔɪl ɪt | ˈweɪt ən ˎsi:...[In (c) the first  'and' was not pronounced with a schwa, ie /ə/, and the second did not involve the assimilation shown. At 'going to' in (e) he said /gəʊntə/. In (f) the final /t/ of 'wait' is not released so it's followed by a syllabic /n/ not preceded by a schwa.
2 || ˈdu: gəʊ ɪn | mɪstə ˏɜ:kət
3 || `θæŋk ju
4 || praɪm ˏmɪnɪstə [The first /m/ is omitted.]
 5 || heləʊ [maɪkrə?] [This is not clear.]
6 || aɪm `ʃɔ: hi:z ˎɒntə sʌmθɪŋ
7 || wɒt dɪd i ˎseɪ [An aitch has been inserted by the transcriber.]
8 || `nʌθɪŋ | [dʒəs?] ðæt `smaɪl əv hɪz ju ˊnəʊ | `krɒkədaɪlz smaɪl laɪk ðæt [ No /z/ and no /ð/ ]
9 || ˈmɪsər ˎɜ:kət⋮ɪts ˈsʌm ˎwi:ks naʊ⋮sɪns ju: ˈhɪntɪd tə⋮ˈmi: ju wə ˈplænɪŋ tə ˈkɔ:l⋮ə dʒenərəl ɪ ˎlekʃən ['general' has no medial schwa & 'election' no /ɪ/ which is replaced by lengthening ('doubling') of the previous /l/]
10 || `jes sɜ:⋮aɪ bɪˈli:v ɪˎt ɪz [It’s completely normal for speakers to treat the phrase ‘it is’ as if it were a single word whose second syllable begins with (aspirated) /t/. Compare ‘at all’ as treated at Turn 18.]
11 || aɪd bi glæd əv `sʌm aɪdɪər əv ðə deɪtʃu hæv ɪm ˏmaɪnd
12 || (a) aɪm `ʃɔ: ju wʊd `jes | (b) ˈænd⋮əf→v ˈkɔ:s⋮ˈju: wɪl bi:⋮ðə ˈfɜ:s tə bi ɪn`fɔ:md | (c) ˈbʌt⋮ðər ə ˈsʌm ɪm ˌpɒndərəblz | (d) ən sʌm pɑ:liəmentəri bɪznɪs stɪl tə bi ɪˎnæktɪd
13 || ˈwɒt ˈbɪznɪs⋮ɪf aɪ meɪ ˏɑ:sk ||
14 (a) əf→v `kɔ:s ju meɪ sɜ:⋮jɔ: pə`rɒgətɪv | (b) wi: ə [ɑ — 'are' is praps a shortened realisation of the phoneme /ɑː/ ]  | wi: θɔ:t əbaʊt teɪkɪŋ ənʌðə lʊk ət ðə `sɪvɪl lɪst | (c) əmʌŋst ʌðə ´θɪŋz. [It was quite right to show that the first possible /r/ of prerogative has, as so often, been elided. 'Civil' has no second /ɪ/.]
15 || ɑ:ftər ə ˈfʊl ˈskeɪl rɪˏvju:⋮əʊnli ə ´jɪə→ɜːr əgəʊ [ 'Only', as so very often,  has no /l/. 'Year' is /jɜː/.]
16 || ˎm `jes ˈwi:⋮ˈθɔ:t əˈbaʊt⋮ˈhævɪŋ əˈnʌðə ˎlʊk
17 || aɪ trʌs jɔ: nɒt bi:ɪŋ vənˏdɪktɪv mɪstər ɜ:kət
18 || (a) nɒt ə`t ɔ:l sɜ: nɒt ə`t ɔ:l | (b) ˈfɑ: ˎbi: ɪt frəm ðɪs ˎgʌvənmənt tə `lɒp ə`nʌðə `mɪljən ɔ: `səʊ | (c) `ɒf ə dɪ`zɜ:vɪŋ `rɔɪl `fæmɪli ɒn ðə `spi:ʃəs `pri:tekst | (d) əv `beɪbiːz `stɑ:vɪŋ⋮ɪn ðə `stri:ts [At (b) 'government' as usual has no first /n/. At (c) 'family' has no /ɪ/. At (d) 'babies' ends with /-iːz/.]
19 || əʊ fə `gɒdz→t seɪk mæn | ˈðæt sɔ:t əv tʃi:p rɪmɑ:ks ʌnˏwɜ:ði əv ju | [The word 'God’s' is reduced to /gɒt/.]
20 || (a) aɪ ˈhɪə→hjɜː⋮juv bi:n ˈhævɪŋ⋮ˈsi:krɪt ˎtɔ:ks wɪð `ɒpəzɪʃn `ˏli:dəz | (b) ən ˈwʌn ɔ: ˈtu:⋮əv ðə les `trʌstwɜ:ði `ˏmembəz | (c) əv maɪ ˈəʊm→n ˎpɑ:ti | (d) ɪz ˈðɪs ˏtru:  [Compare Turn 15 with ‘year' as /jɜː/.]
21 || aɪ hæv ə `pɜ:fɪkt ˎraɪt | aɪ wəd rɪ`gɑ:d ɪ t əz maɪ `dʒu:ti | tu ɪnfɔ:m maɪself əv `ɔ:l `ʃeɪdz⋮əv pəlɪtɪkl ə`pɪnjən [the words 'it as' are slightly slurred into /tz/ with syllabic /z/]
22 || (a) ˎ jes⋮bət ˈðæt ˎraɪt `hɑ:dli→ɪ ɪk`stendz | (b) tə kənspaɪrɪŋ ɪn tʃelsi ˏrestrɔ:nts→ɔ̃:z | (c) an traɪɪŋ tu ˈɔ:gəˈnaɪz⋮ə `blʌdləs `ku: | (d) əˈgeɪnst ði ɪ→ə´`lektɪd ˈgʌvənmənt əv ðə ˎdeɪ⋮ˎdʌz ɪt [At (a) 'Hardly' ends with /ɪ/ and 'extends' has no /d/. At (b) 'restaurants' has no /nts/ but ends with a nasal /ɔː/and final /z/.]
23 || wel naʊ lʊk `hɪə⋮kɒnsəlteɪʃn dʌznt mi:n kən`spɪrəsi | əŋ `kwestʃənɪŋ ðə `gʌvən→mmənt→d ɪznt→d ə `krɪmɪnəl æk´tɪvɪtiː ´ɪz ɪt [ 'doesnt' has no final /t/ and 'isnt' has its final /t/ replaced by a /d/ ]
24 || (a) wi `nəʊ wɒtʃu(v) bɪ→iːn ˏʌp tuː | (b) ən ˈmaɪ ədˎvaɪs⋮ɒn ˈðæt lɪtl ˈventʃə⋮ɪz | (c) ˈpæk ɪt ˎɪn | (d) ɪt ˈwəʊnt ˎwɜ:k | ɪtəl ˈɔ:l ˈend ɪn ˎtɪəz. [At (a) the word  'been' is pronounced /biːn/ not /bɪn/ and the final word 'to' has a long vowel /tuː/.]
25 || (a) ɜ:kət ˈwɒt ə ju `fraɪtənd ɒv | (b) ˈɪf → v maɪ ˈvju:z ə ˏrɒŋ⋮ðeɪl bi `si:n tə bi rɒŋ ˏwəʊnt ðeɪ | (c) ən ɪf ðeə `nɒt rɒŋ⋮ðen ðeɪ `ʃʊd bi ˏhɜ:d | (d) ən ðen ju ʃəd `welkəm ðəm ´ʃʊdntʃu
26 || aɪ ˈʌndəˈstænd⋮jɔ: prəpeərɪŋ ə telə`vɪʒn prəʊgræm naʊ | ˈmeɪ aɪ si: ə ˈkɒpi əv ðə ˏtekst
27 || ˎnəʊ | ˈ(t)stɪl ɪn ˈprepəˏreɪʃn
28 || aɪ ʃʊd θɪŋk `veri ˏkeəfli⋮əbaʊt ɔ:l ˈðɪs⋮ɪf aɪ wə ´ju: sɜ:
29 || wel dʒu nəʊ⋮aɪ `hæv dʌn praɪm ˏmɪnɪstə | ə→æn aɪ ʃəl kənˈtɪnju tə `du: səʊ [ 'and' is /æn/ not /ən/.]
30 || (a) ˈwɒt aɪ wəd prɪˈfɜ:r əf ˏkɔ:s | (b) ɪz ðət id gɪv ʌp θɪŋkɪŋ ɔ:l təˎgeðə | (c) ˈkɪŋz⋮ɑ:nt sə`pəʊs tə θɪŋk | (d) ɪt wəz ə ˈgreɪt mɪ→əˎsteɪk⋮sendɪŋ ɪm tə ju:nɪ→əˎvɜ:sɪ→əti | (e) ən ˈletɪŋ ɪm ˈtɔ:k⋮tu ˈɔ:l ðəʊz ˎɑ:kɪteks ən fə`lɒsəfəz | (f) ən ˈkʌmli ˈjʌŋ blæk ˏæktɪ→əvɪsts At (c) the word 'mistake' has for first vowel /ə/ not /ɪ/. At 'university' its second and fourth vowels are /ə/ not /ɪ/.
31 || `θæŋk ju mɪs kɑ:ˏmaɪkəl
32 || `pleʒə praɪm ˎmɪnɪstə
33 || (a) hiz bɪkʌm ˈfɑ: tu: ˈfɒnd⋮əv ðə saʊnd əv hɪz əʊn ˎvɔɪs ['his' has no /h/] | (b) ðə ˈtrʌbl `ˏɪz⋮`ʌðə pi:pl si:m tu ˏlaɪk ɪt `tu: | (c) aɪ ˈdu: ˎheɪt kɒnfrənˏteɪʃnz | (d) ˈsʌmbədi⋮ˈɔ:lwɪz⋮ˈenz ˈʌp⋮getɪŋ ˎhɜ:t | (e) ˈtaɪm⋮fər ə ˈvɪzɪt tə ðə ˈhaʊs əv ˈwu:ndɪd `fi:lɪŋ... || wi ˈhæf→v⋮tə ki:p ɑ: `ɒpʃənz ˏəʊpən [ 'have' is not /hæf/ but /hæv/].

PS My comments to Kraut:

I’m afraid I havnt been able to resist amending my blogpost text where I’ve had second thauts prompted by Kraut’s ears managing to be a bit sharper than mine on a few occasions. But readers will find very few differences at all between our two transcriptions so long as they remember that my version chose to harmonise with the phonemic style of the original whereas Kraut’s is no doubt intrestingly more complicated than mine in that he elected to adopt an allophonic type of transcription containing extra details I didnt feel obliged to offer. We only truly disagree in one or two places such as at Turn 26 my opinion that his “prəperɪŋ” suggests too short a vowel at its middle syllable. At the same place the difference between his preference to show the diphthong [jʊə] where I perceived not even slight movement so preferred /jɔː/ is a very tiny contrast. Another very small point is that at Turn 8 his “`krɒkədaɪlsˑmaɪl” appears to suggest that the [s] belongs to the same syllable as [daɪl]. If so, it must be taken as suggesting that the [aɪl] preceding it must sound shortened, which is not so. There are similar cases such as our respective preferences at Turn 20 for two very slightly different interpretations, his for /hɪə/ and mine for /hjɜː/. And that’s practicly all.

PPS  At Turn  1(e)  the  word 'treat' occurs followed immediately by what sounds exactly like a schwa. Understandably, Kraut takes it that a word 'treater' has been used. On grounds of probability I preferred to take this to have either been a slip of the tung on the part of the speaker or a technical glitch. My opinion seems to be confirmed by reference to the original normally spelt subtitles which have been replaced by the phonetic ones. Similarly at Turn 33 (e) at the expression 'wounded feeling' I've left my transcription showing exactly what's to be heard but with the misgiving that a technical glitch occurred of an easily understandable type by which the final /s/ of the word 'feelings' was lost. Again the BBC original subtitles bear this out.


Blog 481

The 5th of August 2014

PS - Argument on Accents

1. Why have so many announcers
  / ˈwaɪ əv ˈsəʊ meni əˏnaʊnsəz |

got Northern accents these days?
    gɒt `nɔðən aksəns ðiz deɪz/

2. Very few of them have got even a slight
   /´veri ˎfju əv ðəm | əv gɒt ivn ə `slaɪt

 trace of Northern accent, in fact.
 treɪs əv nɔðən aksnt ɪn ˎˏfakt/

You’re probably thinking
/ ˈjɔ | prɒbəbli ˈˏθɪŋkɪŋ |

of some of the correspondents.
əv ˈsᴧm əv ðə kɒrə`spɒndəns/

3. Why have they got Northern accents, then?
    /waɪ əv `ðeɪ gɒt nɔðn aksns ðen/

4. Why not. If they’re the best informed people
   /ˈwaɪ ˎnɒt. ɪf ˈðɛ | ðə ˈbest ɪnˈfɔm ˎpipl |

on the topics they report on,
ɒn ðə `tɒpɪks ðeɪ rɪˈpɔt ɒn |

 that’s all that matters.
ˈðats | ɔl ðət ˎmatəz./

"PS" in our title refers, of course, to my book People Speaking the soundfiles for which you are recommended to access on the main Home Page of this website at the first item of its Section 4.

We notice in the first sentence that the speaker puts no stress on the normally information-bearing word accents. This has to be so because at this point it carries no new information. We can of course understand that it does so because we’re hearing the continuation of an already begun conversation and not the opening of a new one. We notice here at accents the very common elision of the medial /t/ from the heavy cluster /snts/.

The first word, very, uttered by the second speaker is given extra liveliness by having it take a high sharp rise in pitch, and extra emphasis by letting it be followed by a notably low falling tone. Similarly the falling tone on slight is quite high in relation to the speaker’s other pitch features.

The phrase You’re probably thinking I’ve notated with a vertical bar between its first two words to record the fact that there’s a break in the feeling of smoothness of the rhythm between them because the second word drops down to the lowish 'prehead' pitch at which the first completely unstressed syllable at the beginning of a new tone phrase is heard.

The word /kɒrə`spɒndəns/ is a good example of our last blog topic of movement of vowels from /ɪ/ to schwa. For an earlier gen·ration the second vowel of the word wou·d’ve been /ɪ/. At the end of the word the simplification of /nts/ is completely normal even tho it fails to distinguish correspondents from correspondence.

At thinking no clear pitch fall is to be heard on its first syllable so I’ve notated it as taking what I call an Alt-Rise rather than a Fall-Rise tone. It resembles a Fall-Rise but I see no reason to lump it together with that tone as many intonationists like to do. The two tones convey slightly diff·rent messages.

That speaker’s last tone-phrase, like so much of his style, suggests someone carefully and precisely making his case in an even possibly somewhat impatient argument rather than having a normally relaxed easy-going conversation in which he wou·dve been very likely to·ve elided eg the /v/ of of and cert·n other sounds earlier.

There’s a very unexceptional elision of the medial /d/ from the sequence informed people. In fact in a less brisk style it wou·dve been very likely to·ve been assimilated to a /b/ rather than elided. Both speakers thruout exhibit a style which is not that of a normally easy conversation. The other one also speaks in a way that declares that they’re having an agument when, in the choice of a self-assured 'airy' confident-sounding Alt (ie upper level) tone at report on, point-scoring is suggested. The same goes for the preceding almost excited Climb-Fall tone at the word topic.

This passage has plenty of examples that illustrate the warning one must give to students that there's abs·lutely no necess·ry one-to-one correspondence between grammatical and prosodic structures. In the first turn of speaking the words announcers and got are in the closest possible grammatical integration yet in the prosody the speaker employs they’re in sep·rate tone phrases as is he·rd from the discontinuity of rhythmical flow which has been marked in the transcription by the insertion between them of a vertical bar. On the other hand, in more than one place in the passage, a customary comma’s been inserted between grammatical phrases to mark their sep·rateness eg between accent and in fact in the middle of the next turn. Similarly, in the first line of Turn 3 there’s a customary comma between accent and then marking their complete grammatical separation. 





BlogRoll