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23/04/2014English Phonetics in the 20th Century #464
21/04/2014Intonation/Accentuation Points#463
18/04/2014Festschrift for Professor Hyun Bok Lee#462
01/03/2014Alan Cruttenden's Gimson 8th Edition#461
13/08/2013Hangover Lodge#460
06/08/2013The last vowel of Elizabeth#459
29/07/2013Dictionaries A very short introduction#458
11/07/2013Welcome EP Tips.#457
28/06/2013More on Weakforms (xii).#456
26/06/2013GB goat and bolt Vowels.#455
19/06/2013Charting Vowels.#454
13/06/2013On Fall-Rise Tones.#453
10/06/2013On Beijing etc.#452
07/06/2013Another Idiosyncratic Pronunciation.#451

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Blog 464

The 23rd of April 2014

English Phonetics in the 20th Century

Last year, saw the publication by Routledge of a set of six large, weighty (about a kilogram each), solidly bound, handsome (and correspondingly expensive, suggest your library gets’m) volumes entitled ENGLISH PHONETICS: TWENTIETH CENTURY DEVELOPMENTS. Its editors were Beverley Collins, Inger Mees and Paul Carley. This set belonged to a series by Collins & Mees of which the previous item was a seven-volume set PHONETICS OF ENGLISH IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (2007) which also belonged to a uniformly styled valuable series begun with their DANIEL JONES: SELECTED WORKS of 2003. The present new set of these photographically reproduced copies of historic texts are labelled I to VI thus “I: J. A. Afzelius’s pronouncing dictionary, II: Arthur Lloyd James: Broadcasting and Spoken English, III: Arthur Lloyd James: Broadcast English, IV: English phonetics, V: Landmarks in the study of English intonation and VI: Phonetics of English as a foreign language. Except for items by two Continental precursors, they all consist of works with some degree of association with the Daniel Jones UCL school.

The first volume of this set is devoted entirely to republishing for the first time in over a century the truly pioneering but long forgotten lexicographical achievement, some years before anything of the kind from Jones, of the 1909 Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of Modern English by Jon Arvid Afzelius. He was a Swede who taught, and wrote textbooks on, English at the then Gothenburg Business Institute. The Collins-&-co prefatory notes observe that its 472 pages (smallish originally but reprinted at double size with improved clarity) with “around 24,000 headwords” were “by any standard a remarkably high total for a so-called concise dictionary” and “all the more notable for being the work of just one man.” I was unaware in the 1970s of even the existence of the Afzelius book so it was something of a coincidence that, when I came to compile my Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of 1972 for OUP my aim was that it shd be approximately half the size of the Jones EPD of the day and so it came, by something of a coincidence with the Afzelius, to contain about 24,000 entries (in my case each with at least one GB and one GA transcription).

Afzelius used an adaptation of Henry Sweet’s phonemic-equivalent ‘Broad Romic’ notation. He checked his impressions with the Oxford Dictionary, which by then was about half completed, as well as with the works of various other English phoneticians of the day. He curiously mentions no de·t to the Dane Otto Jespersen whose extensive contributions to the Dictionary of the English and Dano-Norwegian Languages by John Brynildsen (1902-07) constituted the most complete body of English pronunciations in modern phonetic transcriptions before Jones’s works and can hardly have not been known to Afzelius. He had in the 1880s belonged to the International Phonetic Association for some years during which Jespersen had been a leading figure. When one considers the immediate enthusiastic reception Jones’s EPD seemed to’ve received on its publication, it’s rather surprising, as the editors remark, that such a useful book wasnt immediately taken up by the EFL world beyond Sweden. The only dedicated complete pronunciation dictionaries of English available at the time had been the grossly out of date (little changed since 1791) Walker’s Pronouncing Dictionary and the 1836 enlargement of it by Benjamin H. Smarte who called his revision Walker Remodelled. They continued in print into the early twentieth century.

The second volume in this set contains reprints of three sep·rate short books by Arthur Lloyd James. The very short (47 pages) Speech Signals in Telephony came about as a training manual in the matter of “radio-telephonic speech” for members of the Royal Air Force in 1940. Among the people he thanked for their cooperation in his RAF work were Squadron-Leader D. B. Fry who was later to succeed Daniel Jones as University College London Department of Phonetics second Professor. Another was L-G’s son Flying Officer D. Lloyd James who was much later, as a BBC staff member, to invite me to broadcast on the BBC. While still at school aged about fourteen I came across in a public library, as my first-ever ecounter with English phonetics, a modest book of 176 pages Our Spoken Language in which Lloyd James gave first an explanation of the speech mechanism and then a concise and very readable description of (GB) English sounds and prosodies. Re-reading it now, despite admiring the clarity of its style, one’s bound to find its tone in places embarrassingly patronising. Of course its assumptions were for the most part simply those that had been typical of the middle classes since Victorian and earlier times.

The third part of this volume reprints the 1935 book entitled THE BROADCAST WORD in whose 207 pages were republished (with a joint Index etc) seven “talks, lectures and essays”. Their titles were: I. The Broadcast Word (pp 21-27). II. The B.B.C Advisory Committee on Spoken English (pp 29-73). III. Speech in the Modern World (pp 75-129). IV. Speech and Language in the World today (pp 131-150). V. Standards in Speech (pp 153-172). VI. On Reading Aloud, with Special Reference to the Bible and the Prayer-Book (pp 173-199). VII Some Thoughts about Minority Languages with special reference to Welsh. (pp 193-219).

Among his most frequent topics was his deploring of so-called “intrusive r”. This nineteenth-century term was unwisely adopted by Daniel Jones: A. J. Ellis had called it more sensibly “euphonic”. See the discussion in this website at Section 3 ¶8. Lloyd James struggled to dissuade the BBC announcers under his supervision from using what is now so universally accepted as to cause surprise that it cou·d ever have been objected to. He acknowledged use of pronunciations like “sonatar in A” (page 117) to be an ‘ingrained’ habit and (at page 107) an “established feature of so-called Standard English” yet condemned them as “unseemly”(page 118) and “deplorably common” (page 183). He indulged his prejudices in other pronunciation matters as well. He never acquired the toleration and discretion and thoro·ly scientific outlook that characterised the mature writings of Daniel Jones, but he was a notable phonetic figure whose work deserved to have its availability restored. The editors provide excellent informative comment on him in their gen·ral introduction to the volume (pp1-8).

Blog 463

The 21st of April 2014

Intonation/Accentuation Points


An old fre·nd of this Blog in Japan, Emeritus Professor Tami Date, recently enquired about a recording he heard from an audio CD that accompanies an American EFL textbook. Tho it wou·d be nice to, I don’t think you need to hear the items he’s talking about to follow the discussion and appreciate the points being made.

He as·t questions about the following items.
I’ve lissend to the recordings of them and I’ve added the intonations I perceived.
1 Do ˈyou ˈwatch │ TˏV?
2 Do ˈyou ˈlike ⎟ watching TˏV ⎟ in your ˈfree ˏtime?

Tami remarked:
It sounds like, after 'do', the pitch goes up on 'you' with prominence?  So the auditory impression that I get is that 'you' is contrasted with some other person.

I replied:
When you say “it sounds like, after 'do', the pitch goes up on 'you' ”, you’re right but the way that puts it is a bit ambiguous. So I’d’ve been happier if you’d said at ‘you’ or to (instead of on) ‘you’ ”. ‘Do’ has lowish pitch but ‘you’ is accented by having been given contrasting high pitch. There’s no movement upward during this word ‘you’ which in itself stays at a single level pitch. The fact that it’s higher, of course, me·nt that a rise in pitch had occurred. That it is accented does tend to suggest a contrast of some sort tho not at all necessarily strong or with reference to any specific person.

In some other situation a speaker could accent ‘you’ for a contrast with another person.
For example one might say:
ˈI’m ˈhaving a cup of `tea. Do ˈyou preˈfer ˎcoffee?
Tami added:
Most Japanese teachers like me would probably pronounce 'you' with a relatively low pitch till we get to the main verb or the adverb.
My reply was:
That’s just simply a perfectly okay alternative.
He also sed:
…[P]lease explain why the pronoun is apparently accented.
I replied:
A word is usually accented by a speaker merely to give it a bit more attention or prominence ― and that’s no big deal. Sometimes people even accent a word simply to make what they’re saying more lively in general ― what for many years I’ve been describing as using ‘animation stresses’.

A colleague James Kirchner commented that the prosody used wou·dnt sound natural in ord·n·ry conversation. I agreed and mentioned that I thaut the tempo is too slow in particular. Of course most learners wd be fairly well aware that such a style is partly adopted to be extra clear in order to help them to imitate it properly. In ord·n·ry conversation most naturally the first two words wd usually be replaced by the single contraction “D’you” which most often wou·dnt be accented as for instance like this:
D’you ˈwatch ˈT´V?
or, a little faster, not bothering to accent the T of TV:
D’you ˈwatch T´V?

And if a strong contrast between two persons was intended, as James suggested, the speaker wd be most likely to use a different intonation, usually a falling tone eg
Do `you watch TˏV?  or   `D’you watch TˏV?

Here are the questions with intonations marked as they’re to be he·rd on the recording:

1 Do ˈyou ˈwatch │ TˏV?
2 Do ˈyou ˈlike ⎟ watching TˏV ⎟ in your ˈfree ˏtime?
3 ˈDo you ˈgo to ˏclubs?
4 Do ˈyou enˈjoy ˏclubs?

5 Do ˈyou ˈeat ˎdinner ⎟ in ´restau[´]rants?
6 Do ˈyou ˈeat ˏout some[´]times?

7 Do ˈyou ˈever  ˈplay ˏsports ⎟ on ˏweekends?
8 Do ˈyou ˈplay a ˏsport ⎟ on ˏ[ˈ]weekends?
9 Do ˈyou ˈvisit ´relatives ˏoften?
10  Do you ˏoften ⏐ visit ´relatives?

For anyone who doesnt find that the simple intonation markings dont make things fully clear I offer detailed explanations below.

 In what follows I use “m” to stand for any syllable.

If the first word or words in a tone phrase aren’t marked they are to be taken as uttered on a lowish pitch.

ˈm = high (level) pitch.
Any subsequent ˈm in a tone phrase will indicate a step down to a slightly lower pitch as happens to     ‘watch’ in the first line

This vertical bar ⏐ signals (a change to) a new tone phrase within a sentence (so the next unmarked word will have lowish pitch).

ˏm = lowish rise. ´m = highish rise.

[´m] I’ve enclosed in square brackets extra tone movements that wdnt be classified as accents coz they merely smoothly renew a movement begun at an earlier really accented word eg the word ‘out’ in #6 which in itself doesnt move but does constitute the beginning of a rising tone ― as we gather from hearing the next syllable a little higher.

In 5 the notation in ´restau´rants? means that the speaker had a second higher rise on the last syllable that one wou·dnt classify as employing a diff·rent new tone but as either as renewing the rise begun earlier or constituting a complex single tone (a Rise-Climb in my terminology).

In 8 the notation ˏˈweekends conveys that the speaker didnt use a new tone but levelled out at the top

of her rise thus using a single complex tone (in my terminology a Rise-Alt)

My full system of tone marks is expounded at §8.3 and §8.5 on this website.

Blog 462

The 18th of April 2014

Festschrift for Professor Hyun Bok Lee

In December 2013 the remarkably successful English Phonetic Society of Japan publisht
A Festschrift for Emeritus Professor Hyun Bok Lee of Seoul National University
 on the occasion of his 77th Birthday’.
It’s an impressive 520-page volume with lots of photos, especially of course of the honoured recipient, even including of his meeting with ‘Her Majesty’ Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion in 1999 of his recei·t of the award of the (archaicly titled) high honour of Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Professor Lee has had close connections with Britain since he first came here in 1962 as a British Council Scholar and in due course proceeded to obtain a doctorate from University College London. I gather that Koreans regard 77th, 88th and 99th birthdays as occasions for special celebration. They even have a single word for the 77th ― ‘Heuisu’.

The first part of the book entitled ‘Congratulatory Addresses’ (running up to page 80!) is full of cordial messages and praise from a great variety of sources worldwide. Admiration for his teaching and publications knows no bounds. Among especially int·resting congratulations were at page 74 ‘to my eminent colleague and erstwhile fellow student’ from Emeritus Professor John Wells and also ‘greetings and congratulationsfrom (our fellow bloggist) John Maidment, another distinguished former faculty member of the University College London institute  now known as the Department of Speech, Hearing and Phonetic Sciences. Another close associate of that London Department, Professor Masaki Taniguchi of Kochi University Japan was characteristic·ly gen·rous in his praise, saying very comprehensively
You are one of the most wonderful phoneticians and scholars and human beings in the world!

The 440 pages of the latter section of the book are headed ‘Articles’. These are nearly 40 items of which the first 8 and the 10th are in English while the rest are mainly in Japanese tho they are all preceded by abstracts in English. I hope it will be helpful that I refer to the items chiefly by a series number followed by a page number. The very first 1/81 is the fruit of a collaboration of the dedicatee himself with the French scholar Jean Doublet. It’s titled 'Essential Esperanto' and concludes by saying that a “new boom for [Esperanto] is at hand”. The second 2/91 is by the very distinguisht senior American scholar John J. Ohala, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Berkley USA, entitled ‘Articulocentrism in phonology’ and cogently expresses regret at the “regrettable inertia within mainstream phonology to venture outside the articulatory level in the conceptualizations of what is, at the core, the essential nature of speech sounds.” The third 3/97 is by Professor John Esling of the Victoria University of Canada who holds the great honour of having been elected current President of the International Phonetic Association. Its title is ‘Reflections on laryngeal constriction, pitch, and larynx height’and reports on “a new model of how the pharyngeal/epiglottal articulator works, focusing on the compression of the epilaryngeal tube, massing of vibrating elements through the tube, and the sphinctering of the aryepiglottic folds”.

It wont be possible in the rest of this short blog to give full details of authorship etc of all the remaining articles but readers will at least be able to gather in brief what they contain. 8/137, by your present bloggist, involves the rare, praps first ever, illustration of a printed article with four-colour diagrams of languages’ vowel-systems! It’s an account of an H. B. Lee article on the Cardinal back vowels. 4/103 reports on an attem·t to find ‘some acoustic correlates which could discriminate contextually nasalised vowel characteristics from those of [a] normal sustained vowel’. 5/117 is on the phonetics of the behaviour of certain Korean mono-syllabic morphemes. 6/121 is in the field of ‘Hidden Markov Model’ speech synthesis. 7/129 is on ‘Ataxic Dysarthria in Japanese Patients’. 9/145 is on what it calls the ‘Vowel Change from /əʊ/ to /ɒʊ/. 10/159 by Professor Masaki Taniguchi of Kochi University and Professor Jane Setter of the UK University of Reading (that last word is not a common noun but the name of a city). It looks at “how the Haiku can be used to help” these learners “improve their speech rhythm or more specifically their mora-timing … as a pedagogic strategy”. 11/16 ‘explores the possibilities’ of training Japanese prospective teachers of English using Skype. 12/177 is devoted to ‘Allophonic differences of diphthongs in Scottish English’. 13/189 is on ‘Acquisition of Phonology in L2’ in elementary schools. Its abstract contains the touching remark it was hard to resist quoting “ the case of English schwa /ə/, the situation appears chaotic…” 14/201 is on ‘The Role of Length and Pitch in English Sentence Stress’. 15/211 is on ‘Phonetic Variation and Gestural Hiding’ (a term explained as exemplified by how ‘bestplayer’ becomes ‘besplayer’). 16/223 and 17/231 are both on the ‘Perception of Nuclear Tones by the Non-handicapped’. 18/239 is entitled ‘Perceptual Differences in the Tonic Syllable’. 19/253 is on the suprasegmental features of motherese with the finding that they ‘override language differences’. 20/267 describes use of an SD (secure digital card) device applied to the teaching of visually handicapped students. 21/277 is entitled ‘How Vowels Alternate’.

22/289 and 23/301, both by an old fr·end of mine Tsutomu Watanabe, are about tag questions in English with a variety of int·resting observations based on several corpora. 24/313 is on the loss of /h/ from the /hw/ sequence in British and American English. 25/323 is on the English tag type of question. 26/337 has a strange adjective in its title, ‘Templatic Phrasal Accentuation and Stress Shift in English,’ derived rather unorthodoxly from the noun ‘template’. 27/351 is a study on an aspect of American Sign Language. 28/363 investigates the ‘Optimum Speech Tempo of English’. 29/373 is on how sound-symbolic words, as it puts it, ‘act in different pitch types’. 30/385 is headed ‘English Education Approach for Nursing Students’. 31/395 is on ‘Pronunciation and the use of English-Japanese dictionaries’. Those in question are portable electronic ones offen within telephones. Pie charts and other kinds of charts are supplied lib·rally to display learners' responses to questionnaires. 32/409 also uses questionnaires in this case on ‘English Learning for Hearing-Impaired Students’ in Japan. 33/417 is about the FOOT and STRUT Vowels of the Birmingham Accent’. 34/431 is on ‘The perception of English intonation of Japanese Learners’. 35/441 is on ‘Juncture Compensation and Multiplicative Effects’. 36/455 is about ‘Acquiring the rhythm of spoken English…’. 37/465 is on matters of fluency. 38/479 is about ‘Word Memorization by the Auditory-Impaired.’ 38/487 is about ‘The Perception of English Sentence Stress’. Last but far from least is Article 39/501 about the ‘Qualification and Training…of Speech Therapists’. It's by Professor Masaki Tsudzuki the President of the English Phonetic Society of Japan to whom is owed a great de·t of thanks for his assembling and editing of this substantial volume.

Blog 461

The 1st of March 2014

Alan Cruttenden's Gimson 8th Edition

Portrait of Alan Cruttenden    Book Cover   Portrait of A.C. Gimson
Six years ago our Blog 108 enthusiastic·ly welcomed the new sev·nth edition of this unique book. Then we sed “Sensibly slimmed in its title to "Gimson’s Pronunciation of English revised by Alan Cruttenden", it’s really rather misleading to merely call it a revision”. Now also our description at that time “Better than ever re-casting, rewriting, amplification and extensive updating” applies as much as before to this yet again substantially re-worked eighth edition.

A change that'll catch the eye on many a page is that the principal variety of English pronunciation described is no longer referred to by the outdated Victorian expression ‘Received Pronunciation.’ This is explained as having now so far evolved that it's developed such a distinct new character as to call for a new title. The choice of this has been ‘General British’ (GB) which will be a familiar usage to our regular readers. Other notable modernising moves include revised correlation with the IPA Cardinal Vowel system by the change of symbol for the GB 'ash' vowel from / ӕ / to / a / and the decision that the 'square' phoneme, being judged to be no longer mainstream GB in diphthongal form, is now given monophthongal representation as /ɛː/.

Some of the most remarkable new developments are to be found other than in the pages of the book. In the extended Companion Website we're given a variety of audio illustrations of the kinds of things that it's really always needed, one might well say 'cried out for', since its first publication half a century ago. These've only now become fully feasible in the twenty-first century with the relatively recently arrived ubiquity of Internet access. Besides a set of reconstructions of how Old, Middle and Early Modern English will've sounded, using passages from the Bible, Chaucer and Shakespeare, there are 'real-life' illustrations of how English has changed during the past eighty years. These appear in the form of audio clips Cruttenden has selected and provided with comments, transcripts (in ordinary spelling) and transcriptions (in phonetic notation) exemplifying various types of General British etc. The range of speakers and topics includes royalty, newscasters, sports  personalities, literary and art critics, a science presenter, a war reporter, a film star, a politician and a television cook. The excerpts are of varied lengths from a few sentences to sev·ral minutes.

The book princip·ly contains an ample description of the segmental and prosodic features of General British English incorporating a rich collection of comparisons of GB with the phonetic features of other so-called 'standard' forms along with accounts of varieties heard in regions of Britain and of major areas overseas. These include 'Standard Scottish English', General American, London Regional English, so-called 'Estuary' English, the recent development Multicultural London English, General Northern English, and the Englishes of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Caribbean.

As in all later editions a very major proportion of the book has been directed at the learning and teaching of the language to those who dont have it as their mother tongue. Descriptions are included of types of reduced English such as those Cruttenden has named ‘Amalgam English', which mingles features of GA or GB and native languages, and also of types at a more extreme level of simplification he's called ‘International English’. Comparisons are even provided with the developments of the acquisition of their speech sounds by  English native-speaking infants.

There is a completely new fifty-item Selective Glossary. User friendliness has also been extended with more of the comfortably digested 'text boxes' introduced in the previous edition. They now have no borderlines but are presented in lightly ‘shadowed’ blocks. I think they'd look less sombre if they were lightly coloured. The formerly blank inside covers of the book now carry conveniently accessible basic information. Footnotes have now been banisht to the ends of chapters, tho this avoidance of a cluttered appearance will praps be a sacrifice of convenience that many may regret. Even the book’s external appearance is improved. It now has a tasteful simple coloured abstract design which is also put to background use at the home page of the Companion Website, just one of the many welcome features introduced by its new publishers Routledge.

Surely destined to become increasingly popular for its convenient use in computers and tablets is the 'eBook' version now available from the publisher (previously I had to get one from an Australian company). Its advertised price of £29 is no more than that of the paperback. As is seemingly inev·table these days, the hardback is prohib·tively priced for all but libr·ies at £100. In whatever form it may be used, this publication is more th·n ever obvi·sly the simply unrivalled single-volume-length description of English phonetics (not just British English, either) to be had.  Finally, a very welcome piece of news to mention is that the website
 is completely free of access. Not even a password is required.

I shd like to thank all the readers who’ve so kindly enquired about my well-being while I’ve been taking the past six months break from blogging in order to be free to devote myself to various other preoccupations. Some of these will be seen to have been relevant to the topic of this present blog. One or two others have had to do with other sections of this website. Another couple or so will shortly be appearing in print in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Blog 460

The 13th of August 2013

Hangover Lodge

This is the title of #24 of the dialogs of my book People Speaking for which with this present item I continue to, as was promised, provide further phonemic-tonetic transcriptions, with comments, for the use of advanced students of spoken English. In order to study them most effectively, readers are agen recommended to go to the #24's sound file at Section 4.1 of the main division of this website.  If possible, it's best to transfer the contents of the sound file into Audacity (the freeware audio facility) to be able to select convenient slices for repeated playback. Section 4.1 provides descriptions of the tones to be found in the avowedly broad ie 'unsu·ttle' tonetic transcription.

1. /ˌsəʊ ju ӕv `-klɑsɪz| frm ˈnaɪn | tə `-wᴧn | ˈsɪks ˈdeɪz | ə ˎwik /
2. /ˎ jes | ɪkˈsep fə ðə wik | wen ðɛz ən ˈɔl deɪ trɪp | tə ˎstrӕtfəd /
3. / ˈwɒt də ðeɪ ˈdu | wɪ ðə `rest əv ðə deɪ /
4. / `ˈjuʒ(l*)i | ðɛ ˈfri tə du wɒt ðeɪ `laɪk /
5. / ðə(r*)ə `lɒts əv | vɒləntri ӕk`tɪvətiz leɪd ˏɒn / 
6. / `ðeɪ kŋ ˈgəʊ fə `wɔks | ɪf ðə ˌweðəz ˏfaɪn /
7. / ɔ ˎʤᴧs sɪt ɪn | ð(ə*) ˏgraʊnz | ə (*ð)ə `hɒstl /
8. / ðə `siriəs ˏwᴧnz | raɪt `letəz ˎhəʊm /
9. / m̩ `prӕktɪs | fənetɪk trn̩`skrɪpʃn /
10. /ӕn(d*) ðə ˏfrɪvələs  ́wᴧnz /
11. /ðeɪ ˈkɒŋgrɪgeɪt `-naɪtli | ət ðə ˈred `haʊs / ɑ ˈləʊkl `pᴧb/
12. / ˈwɒʧu ˈkɔl `(ð*)ɪs pleɪs/
13. /ˈhӕnəʊvə `lɒʤ /
14. [ɦə ɦə] /aɪm nɒt səˎpraɪz | ɪf ˈɔl ˈðӕt | ˎbuzɪŋ | gəʊz ɒn ˏðɛ /

On this occasion no indications of vowel length are offerd such as appear redundantly in the common Gimson-style transcriptions of the main pronouncing dictionaries etc. The symbol /ɛ/ represents the phoneme more traditionally shown as /ɛə/ or /eə/ but which is now increasingly recognised as not typically diphthongal in current GB but most offen [ɛː]. The vertical bar ( | ) signals a break in the rhythmic flow which may be very slight indeed. The pitch, unless markt otherwise, drops after a bar to the lowish prehead value of the first syllable of any new utterance not markt otherwise.

At line 1 the aitch-dropping at the word 'have' is not unusual in informal conversation where, as here, the word is minimally strest in very fluent utterance. The Fall-Mid tones `- at 'classes' and 'one' indicate a restricted descent from the top third but on·y to the middle third of the speaker's ord·nry voice range.

In line 2 the elision of the final /t/ of 'except' is completely ord·nry before the following consonant.

At line 3 the form /wɪ/ of 'with' doesnt create the impression of its being a casual weakform becoz the mere simplification of the sequence of the two occurrences /-ð ð-/ by eliding the first of them sounds completely ord·nry. Before most other consonants that were beginning a following word, /wɪ/ wd prob·bly sound quite casual.

At line 4 the asterisked (l*) is used to indicate that a 'ghostly' (or even dou·tfully present) rather than really firmly articulated segment. In this case an /l/ appears to be used in 'usually'. The tone mark `ˈ at the word 'usually' is me·nt to convey a narrow fall confined to the uppermost third of the speaker's voice range. I call it a Fall-Alt. (More at my website main section 8.5.8).

At line 5, the asterisked letter, in this case (*r), at the first word 'there’re' is used with the same sort of meaning as in line 4.

At line 6 the assimilation of the weakform /kn/ of 'can' to /kŋ/ before the closely following /g/ in 'go' is completely ord·nry.

At line 7 the asterisks at the occurrences of the indefinite article 'the' and the word 'of' are also used as in line 4.

In line 8 the strest syllable of the word 'serious' is represented as having the vowel phoneme of words like 'street'. This p·onunciation is increasingly commonly he·rd from Gen·ral British speakers but the p·onouncing dictionaries are rather slow to catch up with the fact, currently on·y giving /ɪə/ for it.

At line 9 the syllabic /m/ with which it begins is converted from the normal syllabic /n/ which is a very common weakform of 'and' by a perfec·ly ord·nry assimilation to the bilabial consonant which begins the following word. Note the extra vigour of the humorously truculent 'explosive' (praps contemptuous) manner in which this word 'practise' is uttered. The syllabic /n/ in the prefix of 'transcription' is a variant pronunciation much less offen he·rd than /ӕ/ or /ɑ/ plus /n/ in this word.

At line 10 the use of the weakform /ӕn/ of 'and ', if that's what we have, wou·dnt sound in the least casual. The two rising tones neednt be taken as at all implying any pitch or rhythmic discontinuity between the two words, just a smooth transition from low to high.

At line 11 the form /ɑ/ of our is a weakform for most GB speakers but many have it as their only pronunciation for the word. Anything stronger such as /ɑʊə/ wd be inclined to sound unnaturally careful or formal.

At line 12, a much more usual stressing of this sentence wd be as ˈWhat d'you `call this place?' Which isn· to suggest that there's anything unnatural about the way she did say it, even in her use of /wɒʧu/ given the fluency and the informality of the occasion.

At line 13 she ovvisly thinks she's he·rd  /ˈhӕŋəʊvə `lɒʤ /. Or jokingly pretends so.

At line 14 the lack of the past-tense marker /d/ at the end of 'surprised ' isnt surprising. The two initial voiced-aitch symbols etc are used just to give some vague impression of the indistinct vocalising she produces.

Blog 459

The 6th of August 2013

The last vowel of Elizabeth

A reader in the south of Ireland has as·t about the p·ənunciation of the vow·l of the final syllable of 'Elizabeth'. He explained his uncert·nty saying "In RP/conservative RP, does the final syllable of Elizabeth have the KIT vowel or schwa? Being Irish, I have the  Weak Vowel Merger and am haltingly uncertain about which vowel is found in this word in those accents without the merger. I tried to find the answer on the internet but because it's a proper name it's very difficult to get information."

I sympathise deeply with that last comment. In the period from 1857 to 1882 when the members of the "Philological Society of London" were deliberating on what shd go into their "New English Dictionary on Historical Principles" which is now the great 'OED', they made one momentously important decision which was praps understandable at the time but was most unfortunate for posterity: they decided to omit all names of persons or places which hadnt come to have generic or non-proprietary values. This denied us the rich etymological and historical etc matter we might otherwise have today — tho the OED wdve ended as an even heftier collection than it now is.

The nearest thing to such provision we've had since is the excellent American 'Century Cyclopedia of Names' first publisht in 1880 (in a single volume) and reissued in three volumes in 1954. This did supply pronunciations and etymologies but not the kind of extended historical data we get from the OED. It's since not been revised or even reprinted but it did retail to me the usually accepted if not totally convincing opinion that Elizabeth originated from a variant of the Biblical name 'Elisheba' (for which it gave the pronunciation /i`lɪʃəbə/). Cruden's Concordance to the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible (1996) records 'Elisabeth' as occurring half a dozen times in the New Testament (and Elisheba once in Exodus). The Tudor Queen Elizabeth was named after her grandmother Elizabeth of York (1466–1503). In fact it's fairly clear that this Semitic word entered our language via French in the e·rly Middle English period.

This provenance means that it wdve been pritty cert·n to've initially been widely pronounced as [elisabet]. Anyway, that wd explain why there've been various originally hypocoristic versions developed like Bet, Betty, Lisbet, Betsy and at one time curiously Tettie. This last one was what Samuel Johnson's wife was called, so one gathers. It's now been abandoned praps partly coz it uncumf·tably resembles tetchy.

Unlike various other words ending with the spelling ethElizabeth (regardless of whether it's spelt with z or s) shows no earlier versions with /-ɪθ/. Excepting the OED, no publications before the twentieth century can be trusted for their representations of unstrest terminations. This was so even as regards Melville Bell. Henry Sweet very highly respected him but cou·dnt refrain from criticising him for his failure to resist his "artificial elocutionary habits" in that respect (Handbook of Phonetics 1877 fn p.111). So we turn, for the only reliable earlier evidence available, to the 1917 first edition of the Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary for information on the development of words ending with -eth. He recorded on·y /-əθ/ for Elizabeth.

Apart from the eight ordinal numerals, twentieth to ninetieth, all of which have EPD1 /-ɪɪθ (±-jɪθ)/ only, our suffix -eth for the most part ends little more than a few rare non-proper words. The ones with some currency include one well-known personal name, Kenneth, with EPD1 /-ɪθ/ only, and one well-known place name Lambeth with /-əθ/ only. Slightly less common items were Elspeth with /e, ɪ/, Hesketh with /ɪ, e & ə/, Lisbet with /ɪ, e/, Lisbeth with /ɪ, e, ə/, Nazareth with /ɪ, ə/, and shibboleth with on·y /e/. Besides these there exist in Britain three dozen or more minor place names of which EPD1 c·ntained hardly more than Merioneth with /ɪ, e & ə/ and Toxteth with /e, ə/.

Merging tendencies proceed, we see, from the later twentieth century onwards. We find increasing additional adoption of /ə/ or even preference for it over /ɪ/. Examples of this are now accessible in the latest editions of EPD (2011) and LPD (2008). In these, both Elizabeth and Lambeth are unchanged, and so is the first choice for shibboleth, yet nowadays both EPD and LPD add /ə & ɪ / for it. We find added /ə/ at all the ordinals (eg twentieth) and Kenneth. At Elspeth, Hesketh, Lisbet and Nazareth /ə/ is now at least preferred by both dictionaries. Merioneth shows very slight lack of agreement, EPD giving /ɪ, e ə/ but LPD /ə, ɪ, e/. So does Toxteth with EPD having /e, ə/ and LPD /ə, ɪ, e/. I myself can never remember hearing anything much diff·rent from these (except that I think /-iəθ/ is now more usual for the ordinals in GB these days) — and cert·n·y never anything but /-əθ/ in Elizabeth from any General British or other speakers of any age.

Blog 458

The 29th of July 2013

Dictionaries A very short introduction

Just publisht this past month, is this title by Lynda Mugglestone, Professor of the History of English at Pembroke College, Oxford. She's a lively, energetic character who no dou·t found it refreshing to write a short book. Her 360-page Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent was so densely packed with evidence for her (not exac·ly exciting) observations that I struggled to finish reading it. This present book is one of an OUP quite extensive series of 'very short introductions' ranging from Anaesthaesia to Agnosticism and Advertising in the A's alone. Her contribution to the series is still 160 pages long. If you go here you shou·d with any luck be to able see a lively YouTube two-and-a-half-minute ovvisly impromptu monolog in which the lady enthusiasticly describes her book, sitting cheerfully in a corner of a bookshop — and hardly stopping to draw breath.

Any phonetician ʃd register at once that she's a near-enuff GB speaker (with a few odd flickers of the North) and cert·nly can't be accused of having what most of the users of the term mean by an "Oxford" accent. As to the particular features of her articulatory performance, she's a good example of a not uncommon minor group of extreme labiodentalisers. This type is never mentioned in books that describe General British (GB is still called 'RP' chiefly by the old guard) typical/orthodox articulations. For many who have it, it's an inevitable consequence of their dentition, but for prob·bly about as many others it's simply habitual. It can offen be difficult or even impossible to decide in which of the two groups to place an individual speaker. I think she fairly clearly belongs in the latter one. We see strai·taway that she labiodentalises the tees of tend to, the dee of idiom, the ess of say, the ell of look, the arr of underestimate and the edh of at least one of the the's. Also there's the simply labiodentalised arr of re-think and the two arrs of "really, really" the first of which is initially plano-bilabialised (ie not-circulo-labialised, meaning not 'lip-rounded') as well as (presumably) labiodentalised. However, these things — not surprisingly —  have little or no effect on intelligibility. This is so for a number of other articulatory styles which are unorthodox in that they get no mentions in the textbooks for speakers looking for information on English articulations for purposes such as acquiring of an authentic pronunciation of English as an additional language. And reasonably so, because they simply arnt usually noticed at all by either native or non-native speakers.

As to the phonological int·rest of what one might term her good-tempered rant, for one thing she demonstrates forcefully another corroboration of my offen-harpt-on assertion that people do accent the GB schwa vowel when she twice sez emphaticly /`ðə dɪkʃnri/. Another phrase of note is "as though there's only one dictionary" which comes out as /əz `ðə ðəz əni ˎwᴧn dɪkʃn̩ri/. This has one weakform I dont particu·ly remember noticing before (tho it doesnt strike one as abnormal GB) namely /ðəʊ/ reduced to /ðə/. Also never recorded as GB in the lit·rature is her /əni/ for only which I was much more aware of. So, for once at least, the practicly universal and extremely frequent ell-less weakform of only (as I feel obliged to insist at ev·ry opportunity to counter the CEPD and ODP negligence and LPD refusal to reco·nise it as 'RP') was thus replaced by an even weaker form.

She has one or two striking turns of phrase etc as when she asks the lissener to consider, of  dictionaries, "Do they move from the beginning, from clay tablets, to our modern tablets". And when she mentions some dictionaries which used to have only hard words in them, she gives an example that might make your hair stand on end. It's "acersecomic" meaning 'one whose hair was never cut'. For a scholar whose chair is in the history of the language I found her pronunciation of the word as /əˈkɜːsə`kɒmɪk/ (like 'a curse a comic') a bit off. The word was evidently not borrowed directly from Greek because it shows the Greek kappa, as normally happened with Greek words borrowed into Latin, converted to 'c'. This, coming before 'e', was regularly 'softened' to /s/ as we see in ceramic, ceratite, hydrocephalic, triceratops etc. So its original seventeenth-century borrowers cd be sure to've expected/me·nt it to be pronounced /əˈsɜːsɪ`kɒmɪk/.

This has not been a review of the book but merely some impressions that it and its promotional concomitants have made on me. A further thing I noticed came in reading its first chapter — which I found enjoyable and was pleas·ntly provided for us to be able to sample the book in some detail. It was at the discussions about what dictionaries shou·d include. The question was as·t regarding pronunciations "Should the dictionary-maker use the International Phonetic Alphabet so that vaccine  is, for instance, transcribed as / ́vӕksin/, vaccinate as / ́vӕksineit/." (If any reader imagines that I might want to criticise the writer for having no question mark at the end of that sentence, I shd say that it's perfec·ly reas·nable to regard it as superfluous added to an expression that's already grammatically explicitly interrogative so I regard its presence as a matter of the writer's taste.) The next paragraph contained a parenthetic question "(is it ‘prevaricate or pre’varicate, for example?)". These items showed weaknesses regarding either proofreading or of IPA alphabet handling of sev·ral kinds. At the first pair a style of stressmark was used twice that the IPA abandoned in 1925; for the second pair two diff·rently curving single quotation-type marks were used in a way that neither has ever been authorised by the IPA. Additionally the two full transcriptions / ́vӕksin/ and / ́vӕksineit/ appear to be in mutually discordant styles neither of which has ever been used for the OED unless the first is to be taken to represent an American pronunciation. Finally, the remark "... the decision in British dictionaries for much of the 20th century to base information on an accent known as 'received pronunciation' served .. to exclude some 95% of the population" was to my mind disingenuous, tendentious and of questionable accuracy.

Blog 457

The 11th of July 2013

Welcome EP Tips.

Our thanks to John Maidment who's once agen putting all le·rners, teachers and other EAL (English-as-an-Additional-Language) users in his de·t by providing us with useful new sets of elegantly presented 'English Pronunciation Tips'. Our blogs, as you may've noticed, are aim·d at advanced le·rners, teachers and others who may be int·rested in English pronunciation and its hist·ry. Here we offer to our readers a few footnotes to some of John's enjoyable 'tips'

His first set offers helpful guidance on the letter sequence <al> pointing out  that, if it's "followed by the  consonant letters <f>, <v> or <m>, it's often the case that the <l> is silent and the vowel is pronounced ɑː". He gives first the examples "calf, calves, calve, half, halve, halves" (involving labiodental consonants) and then "balm, almond, calm, palm, psalm" (involving the bilabial nasal). Words of more than one syllable are not so likely to have the 'silent' ells (that rather unfortunately remain as reminders of their historical elision) because the labial consonant following the ell may not have belonged in the same syllable. So we see that the exotic plant (whose name begins with the Arabic definite article) alfalfa /ӕl`fӕlfə/ and the forename Alfred /`ӕlfrᵻd/ do have theirs sounded.

Our use of the symbol "ᵻ" at the unstrest syllable of this last example is not strictly-speaking authorised by the IPA but follows the precedent set in 1944 in the Kenyon-&-Knott PDAE (Pronouncing Dictionary of American English) which adopted it for a value that varied between [ɪ] and [ə] by a procedure  comparable to the formulation of the official IPA symbol [ɨ] which indicates a central vowel related to [i]. ODP (the 2001 Upton-et-al Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation) also employed it, as we do here, to indicate conveniently the possibility of either /ɪ/ or /ə/. It also happens that, where this type of variation exists, it's found that cert·n numbers of speakers habitually produce in such words a vowel quality intermediate between the two values.

John also sez "If the letter following the <al> sequence is <k>, again the <l> is silent, but the vowel is pronounced ɔː. Examples:chalk stalk talk walk". Agen the only exception seems to be a polysyllable viz alkaline. (Incident·ly, the immigrant fam·ly of the famous American scientist who discovered the Salk /sɔːk/ polio vaccine wou·dve been unlikely to've rhymed their name originally with talk.) The adjective balmy has no /l/. It means 'fragrant and/or soothing' and also has the informal sense 'stupid' in which it's also offen spelt barmy. Two other less common words, both of which gen·rally turn up in their plural forms, are the old-fashioned alms meaning gifts made to the poor (dwellings for such people used to be called 'almshouses') and qualms (misgivings). A very modern word is the name napalm / `neɪpɑːm/ for the ghastly bombs made from jellied petrol.

Another word in this 'silent-ell' group, but one which has /ӕ/ not /ɑː/ is, as John mentions, salmon. The similar name Salmond hasnt got the same origin but is a variant of the name Solomon. It got its /d/ in the way words like sound and astound acquired theirs when people were confused for some centuries about whether to use one or the other and finally plumped for the versions that, as was no dou·t not realised, didnt have d's in their Latin original forms. Various English dialects similarly have drownd instead of the standard form drown. The names Balmer, Chalmers and Balmforth have no /l/ but Balmoral, Dalmatian and Falmouth have.

I completely agree with John when he tells learners that almond has as its usual GB (Gen·ral British) pronunciation /`ɑːmənd/. John Wells's LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) is the pronouncing dictionary I find most indispensable if on·y becoz it usually lets you know if speakers in Britain have any other 'respectable' alternative pronunciations that are commonly used but more or less markedly perceived as regionalisms. These are identified by "§" in LPD. It happens that millions of Brits happen to say the word almond as /ӕlmənd/ or /ɑːlmənd/ as in fact most Americans do. The kind of calendar called an almanac /`ɔːlmənӕk/ varies similarly on both sides of the Atlantic.  My advice to teachers is — unless they have plenty of time to spare to have a little discussion about the matter that they feel their students wd enjoy — if it's any of these alternatives that they hear their students using, it's not worth wasting time 'correcting' them.

Some readers may remember my Blog 419 on the 'Baneful Boxes' a painful rash of which suddenly broke out in the latest edition of the CEPD (Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary). A typical one of these presumably sub-editors' feeble attempts to jazz the CEPD up with miscellaneous superfluous chatty notes in prominent 'boxes' was aimed at the word almond where they make the fatuous remark that "The pronunciation /ˈɑːlmənd/ is considered to be a case of spelling pronunciation." So what? Very many thousands of other English words have also undergone the same sort of development but the EPD has always up till the present on·y been a record of how words are pronounced not of anecdotes about the history of how they came to take their present forms or to embody hints about the dou·tfulness of their status. One can on·y hope the next edition of the CEPD has these tiresome intrusions removed.

Blog 456

The 28th of June 2013

More on Weakforms (xii).

get is capable in a relaxt colloquial GB style of having its vowel replaced by a schwa as Gimson noted in 1962 at page 243 of the first edition of his Introduction to the Pronunciation of English where he gave the example "Don't get lost /ˈdəʊnt gət ˈlɒst/."
This verb also happens to be one of a small number of GB monosyllabic high-frequency words ending in a short vowel followed by /t/ whose value for that /t/ when the word is strest before a following vocalic phoneme is becoming in recent decades very noticeably offen weaken·d to a voiced short tap [ɾ] or approximant [ɹ] articulation.
Bloggist John Maidment at the 24th of May 2012 sed that, tho we know it "in North American accents", he wondered how many of us know of a ".. home-grown British phenomenon that turns t into ɹ?.. The pop singer .. Cilla Black, who comes from Liverpool, is well-known .. for the phrase “a lorra .. laughs”.
John Wells commented "I think I was the first person to write about this phenomenon: Accents of English p. 370, 374 (vol. 2), where I call it the t-to-r rule. It’s certainly restricted to the environment of a preceding short vowel..."
I chimed in: "In respect of the dating of the earliest comments on the phenomenon of the weakening of intervocalic /t/ to [ɹ], it was well known to various nineteenth-century dialectologists. Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Grammar of 1905 at §205 had this comment: “The change of final t to r in monosyllables with short stem-vowel occurs sporadically in most parts of Eng[land] when the next word begins with a vowel, as \ger əm\ get them [etc]. It occurs far more frequently in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the north Midlands than elsewhere.
 I was surrounded by it growing up in Cardiff and my impression is that I hear it occasionally but increasingly from various GB and near-GB speakers among whom I’ve noted Lord Lamont and other N(ear)GB Scots and the BBC’s old-Marlburian Chief Economics Correspondent Hugh Pym."

going As we sed of doing, this participle has a relaxt-style variant form with accented schwa /ˈgəɪŋ/ probably to be regarded as 'U(pper-Class)GB' as ['gəɪŋ] and certn·ly so as ['gë̞ɪŋ].

gonna This entry is supplement·ry to our Blog 348.
This, as a spelling, appears in the OED first in its Supplement of 1933 with the description "colloq. (esp. U.S.) or vulgar pronunciation of going to" and supplies quotes from 1913 onwards in apparently only US writers. The only pronunciation OED gave, /ˈɡɒnə/, was misleading — for Brits at least. A satisfactory British account of its pronunciation had to wait till the first edition of the Wells LPD where the entry for the spelling first gave "(ˈ)gənə" with the bracketed stressmark indicating possible accentuation of the following syllable (despite Wells's insistence that GB schwa is unaccentable)  and next sed "There is no real RP strong form for this informal contraction of going to" followed by the very pertinent remark that "spelling pronunciations ˈgɒnə, ˈgᴧnə are sometimes used in reading". These came about because the British writers had adopted from American usage a spelling which reflected faithfully a cert·n US strongform pronunciation but not a GB one. Anyway, weakform pronunciations on both sides of the Atlantic have probably chiefly been /gənu/ before vocalic sounds (ie not consonantal ones whether of phonemes or [ʔ]). Lexicographers in gen·ral have been slow to take up such items. It wasnt in Webster 1961 and it's still not in the online Webster but in 1966 Random House had it as [`gɔnə]. A less frequent less compressed variant /`gəʊnə/ occurs, to some extent, at least among GB  speakers. This was to be noted eg on the 6th of Feb·ry 2013 from p.m. David  Cameron. This last form can't replace the full form of 'going to' in the sense 'make one's way to'.  GB speakers use /gənə ~ gənu/ only in the future-tense-forming sense not in the sense 'make one's way to'. 

good The problem with describing GB occurrences of this word is that a generation or two ago the form /gəd/ cou·dve been safely classified as, in mainstream GB, a weakform mostly confined to casually uttered items like /ˈgəd ˏmɔːnɪŋ/ Good morning. Nowadays /gəd/ seems t've largely replaced /gʊd/ among the non-elderly as the mainstream form — and not in this word alone.

goodbye As a farewell this is recorded by both CEPD and LPD as having a weakform produced by elision of its /d/ viz /ˈgʊˈbaɪ/ tho neither mentions the schwa version(s) /ˈgə(b)ˈbaɪ/.

got is a member of that small group of monosyllables, mentioned at 'get' above, when eg I've got to go becomes /aɪ(v) gɒd~r ə `gəʊ/. Those who use either of these (/d/ or /r/) variants in such cases dont ever make them firmly or anything but shortly and lightly articulated. Observed used by eg politician Christopher Patten.

have The three major (British) pronunciation dictionaries all fail to record any use of the aitchless weakform /ӕv/ of main-verb, not auxiliary, have which is perfectly common in both GB and GA mainly in informal styles, especially where it's preceded by the weakform /t/ of to eg within phrases like I shd like to have a look at it /aɪ ʃd ˈlaɪk t ӕv ə `lʊk ət ɪt/.
In relatively formal styles this /ӕv/ seems to be more common in American use than in British. Recent public-address examples to be heard have been "a reminder as to why we have /ӕf/ to remain vigilant" from Hilary Clinton

at the 8th of May 2012 and "choices they have /ӕv/ to make..." by Barack Obama at the 20th of May 2012. These were of course quite lightly spoken ie certnly not accentuated.
On the distribution of the have single-consonant weakform /v/, CEPD sez "the form /v/ is only used after vowels". However, in informal styles, items like /ˈv juː  ́siːn ɪt/ for Have you seen it? are perfectly common. LPD also sez "only used after a vowel" but adds "...or in very fast speech at the beginning of a sentence...". This is a frequently made type of remark where in truth velocity of utterance is quite irrelevant. It's only a matter of relaxt style regardless of tempo..

PS Thanks a lot to our fellow bloggist Kraut for coming up with exac·ly the right sound-clip of La Clinton for us.

Blog 455

The 26th of June 2013

GB goat and bolt Vowels.

Some of my statements in my Blog 430 on 'The GB goat vowel before co-syllabic /l/', which are typified in words like 'cold ' or 'bolt ', now seem to me to need re-consideration, in particular regarding Daniel Jones's comments on that "/ou/" diphthong. In the Pronunciation of English §166ff of 1950 (unchanged in the 1958 second edition) he remarked of it that "several varieties may be regarded as belonging to RP". Aiming at simplicity and conciseness in that more 'popular' account than he offered in his Outline of English Phonetics, he omitted to give any details of what they were — tho, as I propose here to make clear, we know what he must've me·nt from his other writings.

A noteworthy section of the Jones 1917 first edition of his English Pronouncing Dictionary was headed 'NOTES ON THE SOUNDS AND THE VARIATIONS OF THEIR VALUES'. In it at page xxii he had a long sentence beginning: "« ou » varies considerably, generally in the direction of being advanced towards the mixed position"  [Sweet's term 'mixed' he replaced in later editions with Palmer's 'central']. He continued the sentence with the words "also to some extent by partial unrounding of the first element". That last type with unrounded initial schwa Gimson observed (1962:128) "has in recent years become general". When Jones, in failing health, handed over the EPD editorship to him, Gimson in 1967 replaced the notation /ou/ in it with /əu/.

The third and final part of Jones's 1917 sentence on /ou/ variation, and the particul·y important one for this discussion, coming after a semi-colon was "with some the diphthong approaches «ɔu»(with cardinal«ɔ»), especially when followed by a “dark” «l»". This description was repeated in all subsequent editions until Jones's last major revision of EPD in 1956. In that edition he substituted a new wording at page xxxvi under a section with the heading 'Diaphonic Variants'. It sed "ou ‘average' value probably begins at about the point shown in Frontispiece. [This was exactly Mid and slightly more central than Near-Back — for which terms see diagrams below]. He continued "it is said with slight lip-rounding. There are many diaphonic variants, some advanced toward the central position, some with lips nearly unrounded at the beginning, some approaching a variety of « ɔu »". This wording, clearly grouping the last variety with other 'received' variants, remained until Gimson's revision of 1967. Those last few words contrasted clearly with Gimson's (1962:129) remarks "In modified London region speech...a more open 1st element is often heard before [ɫ], e.g. in dole, roll, cold." So unsurprisingly Gimson in that EPD edition made these changes at page xxxvi:
"ou ‘average' value probably begins in a mid-central position, without lip-rounding. Diaphonic variants include a more 'retracted' and rounded starting point, a monophthong of the type « ə: » and a more 'advanced' unrounded starting point. [Amended A.C.G.]"

 It's of int·rest to compare these successive accounts with Jones's comments in the editions of his Outline. In the 1914 first edition the diphthong ou is first referred to (in §450) briefly as 'the “long” sound of the letter o'. Then at §453 the comment is added that "...the tongue is not strictly in the standard [this pre-dated his 'cardinal' vowels] back position, but is advanced towards the mixed position". And §456 sed "Foreigners should avoid replacing ou by forms like ɔu ... which may be heard in London" with also a footnote saying that ɔu was used "in some forms of Cockney".

The 1922 second edition of the Outline was little more than a reprint of the first. The third — 18 years later, in 1932 — was "completely re-written" (taking the greatest leap forward in the book's whole history and shedding most of the elocutionisms of the previous versions). Of particular note, regarding our main theme, was its §404 which began "Some Southern English speakers use a subsidiary member of the ou-phoneme when dark l follows. This .. starts with a more retracted tongue-position than the ordinary ou; it is consequently a kind of ɔu ...[Such] speakers .. use a different diphthong in bowl boul, bolt boult from that which they use in bowling ˈbouliŋ, roll it, ˈroul it." This account was plainly confirmation of his new liberal disinclination to suggest that the [ɔʊ] type shd not be considered to be 'received' usage. It was repeated in the Outline in all its remaining editions up to its final ninth of 1960.

Altho in his Accents of English (1982:146) Wells only defined the 'goat' vowel in Gimsonian terms as a "diphthong with a mid central unrounded starting-point .. moving towards a somewhat closer and backer lightly rounded second element [ʊ]", his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (1990:xxii) included a diagram showing a "near-RP variant in cold" of the diphthong notated as ɒʊ whose fully Back blot-type indicator straddled the Near-Open line with its central dot slightly above that line. A note at §3.6 referred to "the use of the special allophone ɒʊ before l in the same syllable in some varieties of RP". The 2000 and 2008 editions bracketed the "near" of near-RP giving "(near-)RP" with its hesitation regarding its status. Also in Accents at page 313 we read a ref·rence to "... all kinds of London-flavoured accent, from broad Cockney to Near-RP" immediately preceding a paragraph beginning "The phonetic quality of /ɒʊ/ ranges from the common [ɒʊ ~ ɔo] type implied by the phonemic notation I use to a broad Cockney ... type ...". These diagrams indicate clearly that a lit·rally abs·lutely completely open variant is not to be understood when Wells uses, evidently as a 'broad' notation, [ɒʊ]. So, strictly speaking, he's not classifying fully open variants as 'near-RP' but only variants markedly less open than that and others presumably up to about as raised as midway between Near-Open and Open-Mid.

    This then brings us to the problem of what exact range of values Hannisdal 2006 was subsuming under [ɒʊ]. A website containing as much as possible of the recordings she used wd be a very welcome adjunct to one's reading of her work. When one notes her very emphatic insistence that "only two speakers [out of her 30 news presenters studied] do not have the [ɒʊ] allophone" one is bound to wonder exactly what she might've me·nt. I suspect her intention might've been better conveyed by using a notation like "the [ö̞ʊ/ɒ̝ʊ] type of diphthong". Had she done so, or better still let us hear her informants, I'dve been more completely happy in accepting from her the comment "a clear indication that this feature should be considered a part of modern non-regional RP". I do grow more and more inclined to dissent from Gimson's ignoring of Jones's description of these initially-more-back-than-central variants of the cold/bolt diphthong and only ascribing them to "modified London region speech".

This brings us around to the problem of the definition of 'RP'. The term General British which I first put forward as a replacement for 'RP' over forty years ago has recently begun to receive a little more acceptance in some quarters and will soon take another step in that direction. Anyway, I define it not really lit·rally as British pronunciation of total 'non-localisability' but as 'a kind of British speech in which the great majority of intelligent well-informed persons with no special phonetic training will perceive no regional characteristics'. By this definition various famous people are excluded. For example Etonian David Cameron is markedly London-area in ending a speech with the word soul starting so fully open as he sed it on the 23rd of January. You may hear him saying it at Kraut's English phonetic blog: Cameron's heart and sol [sic] of the 26th of January 2013.

Blog 454

The 19th of June 2013

Charting Vowels.

Another brilliant stimulating post from Geoff Lindsey has been his presentation of plotted cardinal vowel resonances given under the title The vowel space at the 27th of March along with his later invaluable additional "synthetic demonstrations". His IPA traditional quadrilateral "re-designed as a triangle for greater acoustic and linguistic coherence" presents a remarkably droll full circle of retreat from Daniel Jones's and the IPA's almost a century of using a quadrilateral.

What I mean when I say this is that most of the earlier charts of vowels were indeed (inverted) isosceles triangles curiously like Geoff's new presentation. Jones in 1914 in the first edition of his Outline of English Phonetics showed one as its Figure 9 commenting somewhat clumsily 'This triangle is known as the “Vowel Triangle”'. He was including this illustration by way of leading to his own preferred elaboration of it obtained by removing much of its bottommost section to produce a trapezium (ie with parallel top and bottom lines). The bottom line thus produced was about a third of the width of the top one. He'd actually already used this shape in 1909 in the first edition of his Pronunciation of English.

By the time of the 1922 second edition of his Outline he'd worked on experimental procedures, including x-ray photography of the tongue, which had led him to devise his set of 'cardinal' vowels and to completely abandon the previous 'symmetrical' diagram in favour of a trapezoid shape (ie with no parallel lines) that enabled him to establish "with very considerable accuracy the relative tongue-positions" of his proposed new set of 'cardinal' vowels. He decided, however, to forgo the greater "scientific accuracy" he claimed for "a diagram with curved sides" in favour of using inste·d a strai·t-sided version "more convenient for practical teaching". This diagram shape was maintained in all of the half dozen subsequent editions of the Outline yet in his least ev·ryday-didactic book of all, the 1950 Phoneme its Nature and Use, he chose to use for its eleven vowel diagrams only the "less acccurate" shape. And in his fundamentally re-written Pronunciation of English of 1950 he employed an even more simplified style which included the least precision-suggesting vowel indicators he'd ever used in the whole of his long career.

Geoff’s presentation prompts one to wonder what, if anything, he thinks shou·d be changed in any revised issue of the IPA Handbook. I have to admit that I was pritty relieved, when that excellent production finally appeared in 1999, to see that the traditional Jones quadrilateral was preserved. Altho, as G. O. Russell the American experimental phonetician Geoff aptly quotes put it with such pungent clarity, things like the Jones Cardinal Vowels diagrams set out to "represent acoustic fact in terms of physiological fantasy", it was very far from wild 'fantasy'.

Innumerable procedures employing the cardinal vowels concept have been very fruitful indeed for generations. As to the their intrinsic significance, I personally remember vividly  experiencing not exactly what I shd call disillusionment, but rather clarified realisation of what was involved. This was braut home to me when I came to ponder on Figures 34 and 35 of the Jones Outline  (reproduced below).

Vowel Diagrams

They convinced me that the precise shape of the diagram was not of all that great significance. The important thing was that we had an agreed framework in which we cou·d set out our auditory impressions and with the aid of (initially gramophone) recordings we had acquired "triangulation points" we cou·d usefully employ to convey and record reasonably precise impressions on paper not merely of single vowels but more importantly sets of vowels (and diphthongs). Thus single languages' vowel systems cou·d be effectively demonstrated and diff·rent languages cou·d very conveniently be compared. It's already been pointed out that there's a parallelism here with the way that ancient astronomers were able to produce practically valuable data on the behaviour of various astronomical phenomena despite the fact that they were misguided in some of their most fundamental factual assumptions. The masses of information that have been gathered by operating with the Jonesian Cardinal Vowels framework are very far from completely invalidated by the acknowledgement that a kind of 'fancy' constituted their ultimate basis.

I remember being pritty relieved in 1999 when the IPA Handbook finally appeared that it stated that the vowel "space can be stylized as the quadrilateral" which had been so long and so extensively used in the previous half century. I'm wond·ring now how far Geoff might be thinking that we shou·d "inject more realism" into our visual plottings of vowels to any degree and, if so, to what. I suppose as much is implied by his quote from Ladefoged that the International Phonetic Association still promulgates the “pre-Galilean view of the vowel space as a tongue space".

If he thinks the one he's shown us wd work better substituted for the traditional version, I'm afraid I feel it'd best first be submitted to some simplification for convenience sake. Lines on such a diagram help the eye take it in, so it'd be as well that it shd be given some. First at the top. Then one between ø and ɤ. And wd it be an unacceptable distortion to make the slight adjustment necessary to make the e—o line horizontal and thereby parallel with the top one. Or for that matter the ɛ—ɔ line. And shou·dnt we fill the gaps with more lines. An ɑ—a line wd also be desirable — and wou·d it really be a very significant disadvantage to adjust the a and ɑ positions to accommodate them into a horizontal line. And by then, in fact, wou·d we be left with something so very little unlike our existing quadrilateral that it might be best to stick with it after all.

Lastly, I'm afaid I find slightly repellent the inhuman quality of most of the syntheticly generated items, especially some of the higher ones. I wonder if their 'naturalness' cd be improved somehow. Or, rather, wou·dnt it be better to use human voices and particularly to have sets including female ones. And wou·dnt it also be desirable that they shd be heard not only on descending ones but on a variety of tones.

Blog 453

The 13th of June 2013

On Fall-Rise Tones.

What follows has been directly prompted by John Maidment's blog entitled "What no rise?" of the thirteenth of this month. I dont feel completely unable to sense the pleasure that various phonologists derive from making statements such as that 'when they refer to a fall-rise tone they mean a tone category which is often but not always realised by a falling and then rising pitch'. However, such statements strike me as unfortunately militating agenst the aims of practical teaching. I've felt a keen int·rest in English intonation for many years and I've tried to adopt an approach that might help students who have the fairly modest aim of producing intonations that sound natural and meaningful to other speakers of English. I feel that employment of the phonologists' more abstract categories of the type I've mentioned are likely to cause confusion and discouragement. I therefore seek to use tone representations that are on the whole as explicit as possible ie tonetic rather than tonemic.

I've no wish to downplay the considerable difficulties that are involved in specifying and recognising tone patterns. Actually I think it's an undou·ted fact that even fully experienced analysts of English intonation may have difficulties over agreeing on the nature of various patterns. Individuals may even come to diff·rent conclusions when re-analysing an item — praps even a recording of their own speech — after an interval of time.

I'd like to turn for a moment to the one ans·erable question Maidment's correspondent "Andrea" as·t namely whether the High-to-Mid tone is common in English. One thing I can say is that there are plenty to be seen in the transcriptions of unprescribed intonations used by a number of speakers of half an hour of speech of various kinds to be seen in my book People Speaking (OUP 1977) from which a selection is to be seen at Section 4.1 of this Website. My notations for them (usually `-) are described at that Website's Section 8.5.8. I cert·nly intended the dialogs etc of that book to be representative of ord·n·ry Gen·ral British speech.

I'm not in sympathy, then, with those who wish to talk about such things as "the fall rise that does not rise". The kinds of incomplete (high) fall that I like to refer to as 'Drops' are to my mind semanticly diff·rent from Fall-Rises, tho I admit to being hard put to define that diff·rence except by saying that, as a product of their "compressed" form, they're less emphatic.

As to the diff·rent semantic "feel" between (full) falls and fall-rises, some curious examples of their apparent lack of diff·rence seem to crop up at times. I have one particular set of examples especially in mind. They occurred in the texts and recordings published in the understandably rather forgotten book illustrating Halliday's curiously notationally over-complicated tho very inadequate account of (British) English tonology in his 1970 book called A Course in Spoken English: Intonation at its page 127. In the sixth and final paragraph of "Study Unit 35. Spontaneous monologue" its second and third lines were as follows:
//̠4 much more / fun than / going up the / M / 1 or the // 4 main / line from / King's / Cross // 1 no com/parison...  //4 ʌ there / is / one /drawback and /... 

Now the number '4' at the beginning of a tone phrase in this notation indicated that the subsequent underlined syllable is the location of a falling-rising complex tone ('1' indicated a tone falling to low) yet in the accompanying tape recording each time no rise element was audible to me. In the foregoing paragraphs of this unscripted monolog there were sev·ral other examples of the same discrepancy. Now what is so int·resting about these examples is that the speaker employs these simple falls in positions where no dou·t most speakers with the kind of ordinary sounding Gen·ral-British type of accent we hear from this spontaneous monologist wou·d be very much the most likely to employ fall-rise tones. I may add that I recognised the speaker's voice as that of a non phonetician who I'd met socially and found to be perfectly normal in his speech. It's very easy to see why these falls shou·d've been mistranscribed because I shd say that I consider that the speaker's use of falls in those situations can reasonably be described, in one sense at least, as idiosyncratic even tho they didnt sound so a·tall. What this may mean for the study of English tonology or may imply for the teaching of English intonation I'm far from sure.

Blog 452

The 10th of June 2013

On Beijing etc.

This is a set of comments originally directed at an audience of fellow teachers of English as an Additional Language but I imagine it'll be of intrest to most of the readers of this blog.

On Beijing with /ʒ/ and other suggested "mispronunciations", it really pains me to disagree with someone I respect as I do Karen Chung, but please let me explain why. In the first place, altho I've had some professional association with the BBC in the past, I'm cert·nly no official apologist for them. However, I don't think they deserve Karen's condemnation of them. She's very right about their resources: no other organisation in the world has devoted more intensive and constant care to getting things right in matters of pronunciation. For over sev·nty years they've had a regular small team of professional linguists working full-time on providing their broadcasters advice on how to say vast numbers of names and other words. They've built up a huge database which I believe, since they are a public body financed by British taxpayers, shou·d be some time soon made available to that public.

Anyway, I think on the whole they do a very good job and, if I ever disagree with their recommendations, it's usu·ly because of finding them to be too prescriptive rather than for their failure to insist on a "correct" pronunciation. They werent always as satisfact·ry but fortunately they've le·rnt quite a bit from past mistakes so they're now more tolerant about accepting pronunciations that've become gen·rally adopted — even when small numbers of people have, sometimes very stridently, objected to them.

People like ourselves are language experts and naturally disposed to notice, and at times even feel inclined to grumble at, imperfections in the gen·ral public's absorption of various forren expressions into their use. However, the great majority of even the better informed English speakers worldwide are not language experts and simply en masse adopt pronunciations that we're conscious of having originated as mistakes. Taking the long view and looking at the hist·ry of our language we must admit that our pronunciations and spellings have enshrined all sorts of things that were originally 'mistakes'.

If some people decided 'trauma' looked like a German word and decided to pronounce it accordingly, who's going to complain now if they hear it as /`trɔmə/ or /traʊmə/? How d'you think people say 'gigolo'? It looks Italian but we got it from French so we hear /`ʒɪgəloʊ/ and /`ʤɪgəloʊ/. If we were taking it from Italian now we'd be in trouble because they have it as /ʒigo`lɔ/ and it can be a devil's job to persuade English-speakers to stress polysyllabic words on their final syllable. One more example. Are the Brits 'incorrect' to stress 'garage' on its first syllable? If you think so, I wou·dnt tell them!   

When it comes to Beijing, I person·ly aim on·y to use the pronunciation /beɪ`ʤɪŋ/ tho, if I were forced to repeat it emphaticly strai·t after someone who'd immediately-prev·ously sed it as /beɪ`ʒɪŋ/, I'd prefer to say it their way if I thaut for one moment I might be perceived as pedanticly correcting their pronunciation of it. And agen, as a teacher of English, if one of my students said /beɪ`ʒɪŋ/ I'd consider that I'd be in danger of wasting class time to make any mention of it. The fact is that, in British usage at least, in recent decades the pronunciation /beɪ`ʒɪŋ/ has become almost universal. It's to be he·rd typicly from presenters of the most serious news programs in British broadcasting. The BBC's own comment on it sev·n years ago was a grudging admission that then it was "common but not correct". That was no veto. It plainly puts the ball in the broadcaster's court.

Regarding Mark Hancock's comment: “Most Brits pronounce 'Pinochet' as if it were French, rhyming with 'day' . Yes indeed, we'd hate to think anyone thought we imagined it was okay to pronounce the word 'ricochet' as */rɪkoʊ`ʧet/ and the name 'Pinochet' is also obviously of French origin, so why not? We're blissfully oblivious of what some Chileans may do with the word — so what? The BBC recommends it — on the basis of unspecified 'research'. And for Jenny Jenkins: Despite the fact that millions of football fans may know one aria from it, and altho some people have quite reasonably thaut it looked like a French word, Turandot is an item confined to the use of that tiny minority of the public that care for grand opera. It looks these days as if Brits in that last category have now largely accepted that it's not French and manage say something like the BBC recommendation of "/ˈtʊərandɒt/".

My quotations of BBC statements were taken from the OUP publication the "Oxford Guide to Pronunciation" which is extravagantly subtitled by their publicity merchants "The Essential Handbook of the Spoken Word". It is not at all the comprehensive work th't that suggests but it is an excellent anthology of items extracted from the BBC database mentioned above. Its authors were Lena Olausson whose name discloses her Swedish home country and Dr Catherine Sangster who recently joined the staff working on the Oxford Dictonary as its sli·etly quaintly termed 'Head of Pronunciations', an historic appointment on which we must congratulate her and the Oxford University Press for at last instituting a post for which there has long been an obvious need. She's British and a Leeds University alumna.
Readers may find more on 'garage' at Blog 334.

Blog 451

The 7th of June 2013

Another Idiosyncratic Pronunciation.

The surname name Boleyn as pronounced in a recent BBC television program presented by a Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford has been a puzzle for my fellow bloggist John Maidment. Once agen, rather than riding at excessive length on the back of your post on the matter, John, I offer you and others who may be int·rested a bit of discussion on the topic in a post of my own.

As that of a Queen of England, Anne Boleyn's name might've praps been presumed t've come down to modern times in a relatively undisputed spelling and pronunciation. Extensive and reliable records of the pronunciations of 'proper' names ie those denoting a particular person or place etc are harder to come by than those to which we apply the other grammatical technical term 'common'.  In the 70s and 80s of the nineteenth century, the (British) Philological Society, of which I've been a lowly member for sev·ral decades or so, in planning its ambitious New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (whose title was later to morph into the snappier Oxford English Dictionary) came to the momentous — and to my feeling most regrettable — decision to exclude from their coverage anything but 'common' words. By the time the OED had barely got underway an enterprising American publishing house had produced an excellent work, entitled The Century Dictionary of the English Language, in se·vral volumes which was followed fortunately by a stablemate The Century Cyclopedia of Names. This last in 1899 gave "Boleyn or Bullen" with the pronunciations /`bʊlɪn/ or /`bʊlen/ (the latter of which looks dubious).

In the twentieth century Daniel Jones, along with Hermann Michaelis, his co-author of their curiously arranged 'Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language' of 1913 (they awkwardly alphabetised its entries by their phonetic not their ord·nry spellings), gave for Boleyn /`bʊlɪn/ and /bʊ`liːn/. In 1917 Jones, in the first edition of his English Pronouncing Dictionary, added an extra alternative showing /`bʊlɪn, bʊ`lɪn & bʊ`liːn/. These were never changed by Gimson when he took over the EPD but only by Roach et al eighty years later in the 1997 so-called fifteenth edition of EPD which gave the sev·ral versions /bə`lɪn, bʊ-, bəʊ-;-`liːn; `bʊlɪn/. In 2011 in the re-chriss·ened 'Cambridge' EPD the last of these was withdrawn. (I'm only giving British usages. It remained as the first US entry in this now 'C'EPD). Wells's LPD has always listed three (British) forms /bə`lɪn,`bʊlɪn & bʊ`liːn/.

The name has also come down to us in the forms Bollen and Bollin the latter, at least, unsurprisingly pronounced by its owners as /`bɒlɪn/ as LPD testifies. Surely this is what accounts for Professor (Sir) Diarmaid  MacCulloch's choice of his unusual pronunciation of Boleyn. From a Cambridge PhD in Tudor history this pref·rence is not to be received without due respect but one wishes that he'd acknowledged and explained, so justified, using such an idiosyncratic version. Cert·nly it's a perfect possibility that Anne's name cou·dve come down to us gen·rally pronounced as /`bɒlɪn/ but it obviously hasnt done so which makes his choice seem so odd to the rest of us. By the way, MacCulloch's Gaelic-originated forename, as they so offen do, occurs in various spellings and pronunciations. I wasnt liss·ening hard for it but it may've been announced as /dɜːmɪd/. None of the usual sources lists it; CEPD has the nearest on offer with Diarmuid as /`deəmʊd/.

 Perhaps the most surprising thing about the name Boleyn is that no-one seems to pronounce it /bə`leɪn/. It was cert·n t've existed in that variant form in Anne's day. The comparable variant spellings of Allen as Alleyn and Alleyne now correspond to the forms /ӕ`leɪn & ӕ`liːn/ as LPD testifies. Shakespeare in one of his sonnets stresses 'barren' on its second syllable (the one beginning with 'When I doe count the clock that tels the time' #12 in the Oxford Original Spelling edition of his works at page 850 'When lofty trees I see barren of leaues') so we neednt be surprised to find that in other people's works in his day it's found in the spelling barraine. Boleyn comes ultimately from the French placename Boulogne. E. J. Dobson's massive English Pronunciation 1500-1700 Volume II §272 gives numerous examples of words with the same sorts of vowel variation as we see in Bullen alongside Boleyn ie of simple 'e' varying with dual 'ei' or 'ai' etc. Words like bargain, Britain, captain, certain, curtain, foreign (whose 'g' isnt found before the fifteenth century and was apparently a pedantic insertion by association with 'reign' where one did belong originally), fountain and villain have become the sort of 'grapho-phonemic misco·ordinations' that were the subject of our Blog 153. They show pronunciations persisting that are now mis-matched to the spellings we've kept. Compare also (cousin- etc) german and germane, Roman and Romaine (which at least survives as a surname) and travel and travail. Dozen in the fifteenth century cd be dosein, dosseyne etc. At villein OED gives the two pronunciations  /`vɪlən & `vɪleɪn/ saying "Both types of spelling [ie villain and villein] have been freely employed for this special sense [serf] of the word, and the tendency to use the form villein has increased in recent years". So has the latter pronunciation as well they might add.

In the same BBC Tudor series an enjoyable account of the life of the Bible translator William Tyndale presented by the polymathic (Lord) Melvin Bragg seemed to suggest some comparability with the above. Those who take the precaution of checking what might be the traditional pronunciation of Tyndale's name will find that CEPD and the Upton-et-al Oxford DP give only the counter-orthographical /tɪndl/ for the name but that LPD admits the subvariant /`tɪndeɪl/. The fact that sev·ral times Bragg slipped into this spelling-harmonious form suggests that he might well've adopted the counter-orthographical form after previously being inclined to take the name as pronounced otherwise — which wd've been perfectly understandable. Tyndale or Tindale isnt a very common name and the only possessor of it I've ever known is a long-time fr·end and ex-colleague who pronounces it /`tɪndeɪl/. One is inclined to wonder whether there's any evidence regarding what pronunciation the Bible translator himself used, not th·t that need be necess·rily of overwhelming importance in regard to one's personal decision on how one prefers to say it.