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15/10/2014Pussy Car#489
14/10/2014English Accents in Brief#488
10/10/2014The Walsh Stratagem#487
25/09/2014Foreign Place-Names (i)#486
11/09/2014PS29 Insomniac#485
08/09/2014Some Northern-Irish Place-Names#484
13/08/2014Prime Minister v King#482
05/08/2014An Argument Northern Accents (PS28)#481
30/07/2014From KIT to Schwa#480
19/07/2014Perceptions of Pitches#479
13/07/2014Consonant Duplications#478
02/07/2014A Bucketful of Phonemes#477
23/06/2014Beginning of Term PS27#475
16/06/2014Beverley S. Collins 1938-2014#474
11/06/2014Welsh Place-Names#473
04/06/2014Scottish Place-Names concluded#472
30/05/2014The Holy Oral Method#471

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Blog 489

The 15th of October 2014

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’!

Blog 488

The 14th of October 2014

English Accents in Brief

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 ‘ash’ 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 café, crochet, 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 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 ‘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.

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 — to be available on this website in the near future) 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. 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

PS29 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

Some 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


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.


This is to be seen at:

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 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
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

An Argument Northern Accents (PS28)

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. 

Blog 480

The 30th of July 2014

From KIT to Schwa

A pervasive numerous change from 19th to 20th century English pronunciation was the steady onward march of the further weakening of weak non-word-final /ɪ/ to /ə/. A striking impression of its progress may be seen by comparing Daniel Jones’s quite Victorian ‘Received Pronunciation’ with some later twentieth-century revisions of his EPD ie English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917 to 1963) and especially with the outstanding later authority on British usages the John Wells LPD ie Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. A vivid example is supplied by the word which Jones showed in his 1917 EPD1 as /´indiˎvizi´biliti/. When we convert his original symbols into a more modern style of transcription we see /ˈɪndɪˈvɪzɪ`bɪlɪtɪ/. Of the seven KIT vowels of the Jones original representation of the word, we shall be concerned here with only the second, fourth and fifth which are the three unstressed or ‘weak’ non-word-final ones. Respectively they were originally (with a preceding consonant to help recognition) /dɪ, zɪ & lɪ/. In 1917 EPD1 gave for this word an alternant /zə/. In his EPD of 1956 he added a second alternant /-lə/ instead of /lɪ/. At my CPD ie Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of 1972 the sole version provided was /ˈɪndɪˈvɪzə`bɪlətɪ/. This was conveyed, for conciseness, by not according the word a separate listing but providing an entry for the suffix -ity which was given with the sole value of /-ətɪ/. This implied that /ɪ/ in the suffix -ity was by then considered to be possibly perceived as “slightly old-fashioned” (CPD p. xiv). Gimson, in his 1977 revision of EPD, kept the same Jonesian entry except for showing /-lətɪ/ as the norm and /lɪtɪ/ as “less common”. He retained Jones’s /-zə-/alternant. In 1990 in the first edition of his LPD ie Longman Pronouncing Dictionary Wells gave /ˈɪndɪˈvɪzə`bɪləti/ in complete agreement with my CPD as to the most usual versions of the three vowels under discussion. As alternants he added /-də-/ and /-lɪ-/. In the 1997 EPD 15th edition Roach et al gave /ˈɪndɪˈvɪzɪ`bɪləti/ restoring Jones’s /zɪ/ as norm and /zə/ and /lɪ/ as alternants. By its 18th edition of 2011, however, it was showing as the most usual pronunciation /ˈɪndɪˈvɪzə`bɪlətɪ/ thus concurring with LPD 1990 to 2008. For a comparison with American usages we may quote PDAE ie the Pronouncing Dictionary of American English by John S. Kenyon and Thomas A. Knott (1944) who gave /ˈɪndəˈvɪzə`bɪlətɪ/. Comparison with the Merriam-Webster dictionaries of the present generation shows agreement among them that such a judgment remains unchanged. This is in fact now the probable current norm also for General British speakers. (The Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English of 2001 has not been comparable with the other sources we’ve quoted because it adopted and used for all three of our vowels a barred symbol which had earlier been used in PDAE, tho very sparingly, to indicate occurrence of either /ɪ/ or /ə/ non-committally as to relative frequency of the alternants.)

Turning to words with exclusively /ɪ/ in word-final closed syllables in EPD1, we find many items that in General British usage have either alternately or even predominantly /ə/ today are recorded as so in LPD3 of 2008. This is strikingly apparent regarding the diminutive suffix -let whose very large number of occurrences now verge on sounding old-fashioned or Conspicuous GB (see p.81 etc of Cruttenden's Gimson's Pronunciation of English 2014) if heard prominently as /-lɪt/. Something similar may be sed of the way the suffix -ness has been converted from /-nɪs/ to /-nəs/ with only the alternant /bɪznɪs/ of business now remaining a commonly heard one. (The Irish name Guinness, is only pronounced /`gɪnɪs/ by GB speakers. Its latter syllable is not the suffix dating from Old English.) Transfer to schwa has occurred to many words ending with -ate eg agate, curate, palate, pirate, senate, separate (adj), moderate (adj). Besides pallet which is listed in LPD as predominantly ending /-ət/, other words ending with -llet include bullet, gullet, mallet, mullet, pullet, skillet, wallet which are all listed only with alternant /-ət/ and comet, fillet, millet, pellet which are shown with no GB alternants. It will be noticed that the last three of these, along with pallet and skillet have, unlike most of the others, front vowels in their preceding syllables. Among other words with alternant schwas in LPD are crotchet, gadget, gibbet, pigeon, prophet, sonnet, turret. With rare complete reversal of the EPD1 entry, LPD gave cushion, pollen and sullen only as /`kʊʃ(ə)n, `pɒlən/ and /`sᴧlən/. Shown with predominant schwa (or schwa alternant with final syllabic consonant) were Allen, Ellen, Helen, kitchen, lichen, pigeon and woollen. For the great majority of disyllabic words in GB ending with -et its vowel is /ɪ/ eg bucket, budget, jacket, market, pocket, ticket. This is in marked contrast with most speakers of the rest of the English-speaking world especially Ireland, America, South Africa and Australia. So also are GB words ending -ace, -ice, -id, -it, -in, -ine and -ive eg furnace, menace, palace, surface, Wallace, apprentice, hospice, notice, novice, poultice, precipice, acid, Euclid, horrid, orchid, pallid, timid, vivid, bandit, biscuit, circuit, digit, edit, habit, limit, orbit, rabbit, cabin, doctrine, engine, feminine, genuine, heroin, insulin, napkin, vermin, active, native, motive, positive.  

This account has mainly delt with disyllabic words only. Longer words shown in EPD1 with weak internal syllables with historic /ɪ/ have largely converted it to (a commonly elidable) schwa eg animal, cabinet, enemy, family, geometry, policy, remedy, secrecy, villages. Altho there are a small minority of General British speakers who use schwa in the grammatical terminations -ed, and -es it can fairly be said that such speakers are markedly atypical. GB also doesnt have schwa alternants of the enclitic pronouns it or him. The suffix -ess (if not accented) on many words is now either /-ɪs/ or /-əs/ or /-es/ or alternantly any of these eg countess; actress, mistress, seamstress; duchess.  The ending -est now commonly has alternant schwa whether or not as superlative suffix (tho the nouns `conquest `contest, `digest, `inquest & `protest all have only /-est/ in GB). The suffixes -age, -ic, -im, ing, -ish, -ist, -ive have generally retained /ɪ/ in English worldwide eg baggage, cabbage, damage, message, village, cartridge, college, epic, magic, mimic, panic, public, topic, maxim, pilgrim, victim, callings, during, railings, voting, finish, parish, polish, rubbish, selfish, artist, cyclist, fascist, typist, scientist.

It’d be possible to go on to treat many smaller groups of words, notably ones where /u/ or /ʊ/ have to some extent converted to schwa as with educate and regular but the tendency to move to schwa has now been reasonably adequately demonstrated. We see that General British was the world’s most conservative major variety in respect of retaining historic /ɪ/ at the beginning of the last century and that it still is so, but that by the end of the twentieth century it had become very much less so than it used to be.

Blog 479

The 19th of July 2014

Perceptions of Pitches

Recently my fellow phonetic bloggist “Kraut” and I, by co-incidence, posted simultaneously on much the same topic.

where his post was headed ‘People Speaking - Dialogue 27.1’which referred to my Blog 475 'Beginning of Term'.

His post was entirely devoted to the first line of the dialog which is the 27th item in my 91-page book with that title the main content of which is, as he reports, “53 dialogues and other texts of various length and difficulty”. Praps I may be permitted to clarify just a couple of matters. Those items were indeed largely recorded by four professional actors it’s true but a certain number were spoken by sev·ral people who were not professionals. Something like half of all of the items were re·d from scripts I had written specially for the purpose but the rest were unscripted. I think the actors were remarkably good at not sounding as if they were reading on the occasions when I as·t them to try to sound as spontaneous as possible. All the 53 items are available as soundfiles at §4.1 in this website and if anyone cared to take up my challenge to say which numbers were the ones that they think were scripted and which not, if they wished, I’d publish their name and score (out of 53) on this site.

The subject of my Blog 476 was even more restricted than Kraut’s discussion of the first line of that dialog. In fact it was entirely on the first word of that line. Praps I shd apologise for the fact that, in one or two places thruout the collection, some quite improper words are used but, especially if they turn out to have been scripted, I shd like them to be put down to failure to observe propriety from excess of zeal to achieve realism.

It was very kind of Kraut to supply the recording with the two traces — one of amplitude (loudness) the other of the pitch values. I didnt wish to include any such things in my book but it’s very instructive to see displays of that kind. In fact, when I’m analysing speech, I like to see amplitude displays all the time because they can eas·ly be obtained from the very useful freeware application called Audacity by inserting into it something like an mp3 version of the recording. I was sorry not to be able to make such things available direct from my soundfiles but if anyone has the facility to convert them into mp3s etc it’s easy to transfer them into Audacity by dragging them to the Audacity icon in the dock. That enables you to slice short stretches of the amplitude patterns for ad lib repetition which is an enormous help.

Pitch traces are not easy to interpret unless one has had some training in doing so. They can partly represent sounds many of which the human ear either can’t detect at all or give impressions that are misleading to the inexpert because of the inherent human predisposition to take in information that’s useful but to completely fail to notice what is actually heard but automaticly subconsciously rejected because perceived as not useful. We tend to subconsciously disregard sounds that a speaker’s vocal apparatus produces involuntarily and unconsciously. For example the speaker finishes speaking the word [maˑgrət] at the top of the righthand peak of the trace but his vocal cords continue to vibrate to a diminishing extent that the recording apparatus detects and displays as descending line but the human ear doesnt perceive. There is a danger that an untrained observer may be led into imagining that the speaker is producing a linguistic rising-falling tone. Similarly in the second display we briefly see the vocal cords ‘revving up’ to the first peak on the left before we hear the word ‘had’. In addition to all this there may sometimes be occurrences of the phenomena known as ‘artefacts’ in the pitch contours which are produced by only very slightly imperfect operation of the equipment used.


As one possible way to try to go about downloading your sound files using Firefox as browser under Windows as operating system, Kraut has recommended is this:

    1.    Right-click the box which contains the image for the sound file (which image you can see depends on the kind of audio program your browser uses for playing audio files).

    2.     Select "view page info"

    3.     Click "Media"

    4. Highlight the line saying: ""

    (xxx stands for the respective number of the sound file)

5.    Click the button "Save as ..."

The proper file name is shown as a default name.
Save it to a folder of your choice on your hard disk.
Once it's stored you can easily load it into Audacity.

He adds also "another possible and even simpler way is this:
If you know the text number (they range from 01 to 53), simply key the following address into the address bar:
"" (this will allow you to listen to and download text no. 3) and a new tab or window will open and the audio file is played.
You can then download it to your hard disk".

Blog 478

The 13th of July 2014

Consonant Duplications

A reader recently questions of which the first were:
We sometimes pronounce one consonant in an utterance, where in orthography we have two. For example, “prime minister” and “I want to learn”.
What is this phenomenon called?
And when transcribing spoken English, is it acceptable to put them as "pry minster" and "wanta" respectively?

To ans·er the second and simpler question first, it woudnt be accurate transcription if you included a sound not uttered by the person whose speech you’re representing. So it’s not merely ‘acceptable’ but necessary. Of course, he used unorthodox spellings to convey his meaning, I presume he was talking about phonetic or phonemic transcriptions. Using the latter, I shd write /praɪ`mɪnɪstə/ and /`wɒnə/. But we have to caution nonnative-speaking users of English that these versions of the expressions are gen·rally considered to be too casual and/or not dignified enuff for important or solem· remarks. In completely fluent ord·nary ev·ryday conversation they’re most likely to pass quite unnoticed in most contexts tho there are important exceptions. For example people dont usually say /wɒnə/ but /wɒnu/ before immediately following vowel sounds just as, of course, the unstrest and uncompounded preposition ‘to’ is /tə/ before consonants and /tu/ before vowels. I think most people wd regard /aɪ dəʊn *wɒnə / or /aɪ dəʊn *wɒnu/ as peculiar or unusually clumsy pronunciations if they’re used in isolation.

There’s no completely universally recognised term listed in all the dictionaries but in the most up-to-date reference books such as SID ie the Speech Internet Dictionary ( you’ll find the word is  ‘degemination’ illustrated like this:
Pronunciation ˌdiːdʒemɪˈneɪʃn
The change from a geminate (long) sound to the equivalent single (short) sound. An example from Finnish: ˈkirkko “church” (nominative), ˈkirkon (genitive). The process also occurs in English. An example is the pronunciation ˈpraɪ ˈmɪnɪstə instead of ˈpraɪm ˈmɪnɪstə.

Wiktionary gives it as an “inverse process of gemination, when a spoken long consonant is pronounced for an audibly shorter period.

Google was useful. It came up first with what was a second post of two by John Wells as follows:

Degemination: the follow-up
Kensuke Nanjo reminds me that Jack Windsor Lewis, in his article ‘Weakform words and contractions’, mentions the degemination that can occur with the word some:
When some occurs in a weakform immediately before a substantive beginning with /m/, there is very often DEGEMINATION of the two /m/s to only one and then OPEN SYLLABLE PREFERENCE prompts the insertion of a schwa vowel, eg /sə `mɔː/ Some more?

Then it gives John’s excellent initial account of the topic on the previous day:

“Geminated (double) consonants are quite common in English. They are never found within a morpheme, but arise across (i) morpheme boundaries and (ii) across word boundaries, wherever one element ends in a given consonant and the following element begins with the same consonant:
(i) meanness ˈmiːnnəs, guileless ˈɡaɪlləs, nighttime ˈnaɪttaɪm, midday ˌmɪdˈdeɪ
(ii) nice sort naɪs sɔːt, big girl bɪɡ ɡɜːl, bad dog bæd dɒɡ
Phonetically, geminated consonants are pronounced like ordinary ones but with extra duration. In the case of plosives, there is a single articulatory gesture but with a longer hold phase.
same man /seɪm mæn/ = [seɪmːæn], stop pushing /stɒp pʊʃɪŋ/ = [stɒpːʊʃɪŋ]
This much is covered by our textbooks. But what I don’t remember seeing much discussion of is degemination in English, the process whereby a geminate is simplified, i.e. two consonants are reduced to one...
Germanic affixes are not subject to degemination. So alongside the Latinate innumerable we have unnecessary with geminated /nn/ and cases like meanness, guileless in (i) above.

My reader's other question was:
In prime ‘minister, the stress is on the first syllable of the second word. Do we have consonantal lengthening here, as we do in words like unnamed, unnecessary.
In /praɪm `mɪnɪstə/ as in all geminations we have an articulatory posture, here [m], assumed and maintained so we have a consonant lengthened. It’s arguable that an impression of two distinct consonantal phonemes may be given but from the articulatory point of view we have one. My Blog 476 was mainly a discussion of this problem.

As for unnamed and unnecessary, a double-length /n/ wd be considered normal in non-casual speech styles but it has to be admitted, that if the length were reduced to that of a single /n/ in normally fluent speech, the fact wd most often be unnoticed even tho, in theory, the first word coud be sed to be converted to unaimed.

Matters of stress dont affect gemination. Nor do presence or absence spaces in the spellings of the sequences. So it hardly matters whether, for prime minister one writes /praɪm`mɪnɪstə/ or /praɪm `mɪnɪstə/ . It’s simply customarily convenient to follow the spacings used in traditional orthography, hyphens being treated as spaces. Aside from the ‘eccentric’ Wells syllabification system used in his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, spaces have hardly any special functions in phonological transcriptions whether phonemic or allophonic.

Other examples include the following:
lamppost’ carefully spoken /`lӕmppəʊst/ but for many speakers, at least in fluent utterance, it becomes /`lӕmpəʊst/. People who often use the word ‘fish shop’ may tend to say it as /`fɪʃɒp/. Among people connected with armies etc the word ‘sergeant-major’ /sɑʤənt`meɪʤə/ has often become /sɑnt → sɑn→sɑm `meɪʤə/ and finally /sɑ`meɪʤə/. The word ‘loneliness’ often becomes /`ləʊnninəs/ then /`ləʊninəs/. The word ‘probably’ often becomes /`prɒbbli/ and even /`prɒbli/  in fluent speech. The word ‘goalless’, which I hear fairly often from sports reporters in radio and television news programs, seem to me to usually say it not as /`gəʊl.ləs/ but as /`gəʊləs/.

Blog 477

The 2nd of July 2014

A Bucketful of Phonemes

Some of my readers may be amused to look at this:

It’s a very funny brief (one minute) YouTube video excerpt from a tv sketch involving the comicly genteel character Hyacinth Bucket. It’s a very nice choice for teaching transcription-from-speech to not very advanced students because she speaks abnormally carefully for the most part with very few of the assimilations that are common in unselfconscious conversation like /wᴧŋ/ inste∙d of /wᴧn/. Unfortunately the person who made the transcription must’ve done it in a hurry because there’re a dozen or so mistakes.

It’s a scene of two “ladies” having a cup of tea together from the sitcom series called 'Keeping Up Appearances' with subtitles “in IPA. Hyacinth Bucket is talking about her family heirloom”.

 “A great tool to practise your IPA and English pronunciation” say ‘Pronunciation Studio’ the presenters of five videos aimed at teaching British pronunciation of which this is one.

The dialog goes like this:

I thought we’d have the nicer china.
Oh! Thank you, Hyacinth.
They’re something of a family heirloom.
Oh, God. Don’t give me anything special.
You will be careful, won’t you, dear.
Biscuit? Well … Thank you.
I used to have six of these until one fell into the hands of my brother-in-law, Onslow, one Christmas. I could have killed him. Course, one can’t make a fuss on festive occasions but he certainly got the short end of the turkey, I can tell you.
Did they tell you what was wrong with your father?
Something mildly embarrassing. One of those minor geriatric complaints. I couldn’t catch the medical terminology.
 (109 words)

This little clip is subtitled "in IPA" with transcriptions of what the transcriber perceived as spoken.
/ˈaɪ ˈθɔːt wid həv ðə ˈnaɪsə ˈtʃaɪnə ||
The first word “I” shd not’ve been stressmarked
/həv/ very obvisly shdve been /hæv/.
əʊ ˈθæŋk ju ˈhaɪəsɪnθ || The word ‘Oh’ certnly shdve had a stressmark.
ðæts ˈsʌmθɪŋ əv ə ˈfæməli ˈeəluːm ||
The word given as /ðæts/ ie 'that’s' is a mistake for  /ðeə/ ie 'They’re'. 'family' was pronounced /ˈfæmli/ with no schwa.
əʊ ˈɡɒd | dəʊnt ˈɡɪv mi ˈeniθɪŋ ˈspeʃl̩ ||
The word 'don’t' shdve had a stressmark thus / ˈdəʊnt ɡɪv mi /
ˈsəʊ ju 'wɪl bi ˈkeəfəl | wəʊntʃu dɪə
“won't you” shdve had a stressmark /ˈwəʊntʃu/
'bɪskɪt | we[l].. θæŋk ju. The /l/ is inaudible.
Biscuit? Well … Thank you.
aɪ  'juːs tə hæv 'sɪks əv 'ðiːz
I used to have six of these
ən'tɪl 'wᴧn fel 'ɪntə ðə 'hænz əv maɪ
until one fell into the hands of my
maɪ ˈbrʌðər ˈɪn lɔ | 'ɒnzləʊ | ' wʌn ˈkrɪsməs
'brother-in-law, 'Onslow, one 'Christmas.
aɪ 'kʊdəv 'kɪld ɪm
I could have killed him.

/ ˈjuːs tə həv / obvisly shdve been /hæv/ and
/ maɪ ˈbrʌðər ˈɪn lɔː/ shdve been / mə ˈbrʌðər /etc
Both principal pronunciation dictionaries record the existence of the weakform /mə/ but they make it clear that they regard it as casual and unusual.
ˈaɪ 'kʊdəv || kɪld ɪm | The word ‘killed’ is very strongly stressed so surely shdve had a stressmark.
| əf ˈkɔːs | wʌŋ kɑːnt
She didnt speak any word ‘Of ’ at all.
The word 'course' shd not have had a stressmark.
Agen she sed /wᴧn/ not /wʌŋ/.
/bət i ˈsɜːtnli ˈɡɒt ðə ˈʃɔːt end əv ə../ is actually
what was sed and not /end əv ðə../
 but it was too fast to be very noticeable.
 /ɡɒt/ shdntve been stressed.
At  | ˈaɪ kən ˈtel ju | /tel/ was not stressed.
At 'couldn’t' in /ˈaɪ ˈkʊdnt kætʃ/
she sed / ˈkʊdn/ with no /t/ at-all.
This is extremely common if the word next after couldn’t or a similar contraction begins with a consonant.
Patricia Routledge’s facial expression at the end is hilariously funny.

||  She said /wᴧn/ not /wʌŋ/

The other three videos are unimpressive didactic materials except for ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ which is sung in an at least partly Americanised style with some pronunciations transcribed as if they’d been British eg [ɑːnsə] is shown when [ænsə] is heard, [sᴧmbədi] is shown when we get [sᴧmbɑdi], and [gɜːl] is given when you hear [gal]. Some of their versions show a [w] in the transcription that you dont hear in the song at eg flowers given as [flaʊwəz].

Mostly, the mistakes suggest that the writer gave transcriptions guessed to be what was most likely rather than than gathered from careful lissening.

My thanks go to Alex Rotatori for drawing my attention to this little gem.

Blog 476

The 28th of June 2014


One of my most faithful readers has written to me to ask how I come to have two ells in the transcription of the first word Hullo in my Blog 475. This was a very good question. He pointed out that there’s on·y one ell in the text of my original book from which this item is taken saying “In the PS transcription (p. 24) there's only one /l/ in both instances.” He’s absolutely right there. What’s more, at page 73 of People Speaking I agen transcribed the word still with only a single ell. I have to admit that it did cross my mind to comment on that topic when I began writing Blog 475. But I thaut I’d review the matter agen when I’d finished talking about the other things I felt I wanted to deal with first regarding the rest of that short dialog. When I came to the end of what I found I wanted to say about it, I realised that I’d written so much on things arising from the rest of the passage ie over 1,130 words (which is a bit longer than I normally allow myself for a single blog) so I decided not to add any comment.

Fact is

[Yes, I’ve left out the usual definite article ‘the’ before that first word but I happen to prefer to adopt a style for my blogs which is consciously more colloquial and less ‘careful’ than in the more formal ‘papers’ etc that constitute the materials in the ‘Home Page’ main division of this website. In the same way, I permit myself to change spellings to something I find less irritatingly inappropriate etc than the traditionally maintained way of the writing of various words. Sorry for this excessively long ‘aside’ but let's continue with that sentence: Fact is...]

that, tho undou·tedly the accepted phonemic structure of the word ‘hullo’ has, (despite its correct orthographic forms’ always containing two ells) a single ell, what we encounter in lissening to the way Jim sez ‘Hullo Margaret’, is a phonetic problem that I dodged when I originally did my two transcriptions of the phrase in my People Speaking book.

You hear that Jim sez the word in an emphatic manner which can be sed to, in a way, sort-of distort its phonetic form thus [ `hᴧlˏləʊ, mɑgrət ]. Our very reliable guide the Wells LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) gives us this: \ hə ˈləʊ \ first then \ (ˌ) hᴧ \ which means that insted of /ə/ the first vowel is, by fewer people at least, replaced with \ ᴧ \ which they may or may not stress. It must be remembered that pronouncing dictionaries only offer lexical ie isolate non-emphatic variant forms. Now Jim in our dialog makes the word ‘hullo’ part of an emphatic lively, enthusiastic, hearty or whatever such you may call it, greeting to show he’s very pleased to see her. So he produces the effect-at-least of a primary stress on the first syllable of the first word which takes it a long way from the emotion-free lexical form which is only recorded as potentially having a secondary stress on that first syllable as one of its lexical variants. An important simultaneous other way in which Jim emphasises his attitude is by his ‘paralinguistic’ lengthening of the ell.

Now if speakers emphasise an ell like the one in holy /`həʊli/ in saying in the (admittedly rather feeble euphemistic) oath Holy smoke!, they may say [`həʊlːi] considerably lengthening that ell which, however, still remains a single ell phonetically. But they may also say [`həʊlː.li] which is audibly diff·rent enuff for it to be heard to have its second syllable beginning with a separate further rhythmic pulse that clearly produces what we have surely to classify as an extra ell. Are we to say that the second ell is an extra phoneme. If not, what about the adverb corresponding to whole which is traditionally spelt wholly and always represented with the lexical spelling /`həʊlli/. At the same time we may note that, by another of the endless tiresome vagaries of our traditional spelling, we always only write the adverb corresponding to sole as solely.

Alright. Let’s look at what Jim sez: which is \`hᴧlˏləʊ, mɑgrət\ as I’ve shown it. Now, when I’d lissend repeatedly to the first syllable of Hullo, I was cert·n that it ended with an ell. On the other hand I was equally sure that the second syllable began with an ell. The question is have we got two /l/ phonemes here so that he may be sed to have changed the phonemic structure of the word. One other thing we shd do is to look closely at the tonetic structure of the phrase. It’s a Fall-Rise tone and, as I’ve sed, its Fall element seems to me to include an ell. What is more, the second syllable isnt just /əʊ/. It feels strange when I try to say it aloud with no /l/. Notice also that the word Margaret has not got a tone to itself but it’s incorporated into the tail of a rising tone. So, for what it’s worth, I’d be willing to say that there’s been a conversion from one to two ell phonemes here. Hence my re-considered, what I take to be phonemic, transcription, on this occasion at least, with two ells despite the word’s normal phonemic structure.

Blog 475

The 23rd of June 2014

Beginning of Term PS27

Jim:  Hullo, Margaret. Had a good holiday?
    `hᴧlˏləʊ, mɑgrət.  ˈhad ə gʊd ˏhɒlədɪ

If you look in the LPD or the CEPD ie the two major dictionaries that record the pronunciations of English words (aka the Longman & the Cambridge) you’ll see that, for the three words hallo, hello and hullo, they have entries with variants that wd seem properly to belong with one of the others’ spellings. What we have is a lexical item that behaves as a single word that’s capable of more than one pronunciation. This explains why, tho the two readers who recorded Passage 27 of PS (my book People Speaking, the soundfile for which you’ll find at Section 4.1 of the main division of this website) were both reading from a script that sed “Hullo”, one reader sed /hᴧləʊ/ but the other sed /haləʊ/. (Some PS items were re·d from scripts, others were unscripted.) Compare the way in which, with a script that contains the word either, one reader may say /aɪðə/ and another say /iðə/.

If you look up the word holiday, you’ll find that they give more than one form for it eg /`hɒlədeɪ/ and /`hɒlədi/. In fact prob·bly most speakers have both of these types using /`hɒlədeɪ/ when the word is most highlighted but /`hɒlədi/ when it’s less so eg in the phrase /`hɒlədi taɪm/ holiday time. This means that we cou·d reasonably classify it as a ‘gradation word’ ie one which has two or more forms, a strongform and at least one weakform used in diff·rent rhythmic contexts. They rightly list the version /`hɒlɪdeɪ/ in addition but that has become a minority form, as they indicate. This is part of a gen·ral move to relaxing word-internal weak /ɪ/ to /ə/ which has long been going on at diff·rent rates in all kinds of English.
The name Margaret is one of the many words, like every, several and different that it’d be quite abnormal to say as three syllables in everyday conversation.

Margaret: Hullo, Jim. Yes. Very nice, thanks.
    `haləʊ, ˏʤɪm. `jes. `veri naɪs ˏθaŋks.

Another change to General British pronunciation that happened relatively suddenly early in the latter half of the last century was the pref·rence for /i/ instead of /ɪ/ for weak word-endings as in items like happy. Fact is, tho, that the syllable may be so weakly uttered that it’s not possible to judge whether the speaker’s target value was /i/ or /ɪ/. Altho Margaret does seem to aim for /i/, it doesnt seem cert·n whether Jim’s clearly audible /`hɒlədɪ/ with final [ɪ] is aiming at /-ɪ/ or at /-eɪ/ but reducing the latter so much that it sounds as if he’s using his /ɪ/ phoneme. Many people reduce the word ballet from /baleɪ/ to /balɪ/ when its final syllable is being ‘squeezed’ eg when they say /`balɪ dɑnsə/ for ballet dancer.

You’re reminded that our intonation markings are very broad (ie coarse, imprecise) as is observable from the fact that the first Rise tone Jim used indicates a movement that begins on the second syllable of hullo fairly low and carries on to end above the middle of the speaker’s voice range whereas the same tonemark is used to convey at holiday a move from little if anything below the middle of the speaker’s range to something markedly higher.

Jim: ˈYou ˈwent | to the `Lake District, ˏdidnt you?
Margaret: `No. `Scotland.
Jim: ˈOh! ˎYes. `Not ˏlakes. `Lochs /lɒks/.

People who know something of cert·n forren languages including those of the ‘Celtic Fringe’ along the west of Britain might say /lɒxs/ with a voiceless velar fricative but most English speakers dont attempt to.

Jim: ˈWhat was /wəz/ the ˎweather like?
Margaret: Quite `good, ˏreally.
We ˈmanaged /manʒ/ | to go on some `trip or ˏother | every `day.

She said /rɪəlɪ/ rather than /-li/.

The transcription /manʒ/ of the way she sed managed may look rather strange but she only did three very ord·nary, commonplace things to it:

  1. She simplified managed  by eliding the /d/ which in a careful pronunciation wdve come in the middle of the heavy group /-ʤdt-/.

  2. She simplified the /ʤ/ to /ʒ/.

  3. She elided the medial weak vowel /ɪ/.

Jim:´`Did you.
We had ˈquite a lot of `rain | down `∙south.

The Climb-Fall tone, as I call it, ´` is typically rhythmically distinct from the sequence / ˈdɪ `ʤu  / by being more tight-knit.

The weakness of the quiet low-level initial ‘prehead’ that begins this tonal phrase causes Jim, rather unusually, to leave out the /h/ that he’d normally say at the beginning of the word had. He omits the indefinite article a between quite and lot too. Again something not very unusual. Schwa is our weakest vowel.

Speakers who wish to avoid the complete definiteness of a final Fall (from high to low) have two strategies available. One is to go back up again a little from the bottom pitch producing a Fall-Rise tone to slightly ‘cancel’ the full descent. The other is to avoid making a total fall by ending the descent early before it reaches the normal bottom level of an ord·nry Fall. This second one usually sounds less formal so it’s favoured by speakers who prefer to sound more relaxed. I call it a ‘Drop’ and my notation for it is a Fall sign with a middle-height dot close after like this / `·/. This tone / `· / here used at south cuts the falling movement short by ending it in the speaker’s middle pitch range.

Margaret: ˈHow did you enjoy `London
    / ˈhaʊ dɪʤu ɪnʤɔɪ `lᴧndn /

Her pronunciation of London came as quite a surprise to me after decades of warning my students, especially German-speakers, not to leave the schwas out of sequences like /ndən/ and /ntən/. I think it sounds a bit hasty. I can do it if London is squeezed as in /lᴧndn tə dəʊvə/ (London to Dover) but it can sound too ungracefully ‘swallowed’ in most situations.

Jim: It was great! /ˈɪt [ʔ] wəz ˎgreɪt/. Went to the ˈtheatre… `or `ˏsomething | ˈevery single `night.   /went ðə ˈθɪətə | ˎɔ `ˏsᴧmθɪŋ | ˈevri sɪŋgl `naɪt/.

We see he makes the very common change here of realising the / t / of it as not the more ordinary voiceless alveolar plosive [ t ] but the glottal plosive [ ʔ ]. On another occasion, being a little more emphatic, he mightve used both together which woudve been the halfway house between the two processes. We offen accompany strong voiceless plosives with such reinforcing glottal closures.

He elided the to of went to the which sounds a bit hasty or careless but not very unusual. If he’d sed both the / t / ending went and the one beginning to it woudve sounded over-careful.

Blog 474

The 16th of June 2014

Beverley S. Collins 1938-2014

“Bev” Collins died from a massive heart attack on the eleventh of June at the age of 75. He and I first met about forty years ago. We were amused to find that there were quite some parallels in our early lives. We were both born and bred in Cardiff, both getting our education at grammar schools. Mine was just west of the city centre, his was in the northern suburb where he lived. We both went on to graduate in English at Cardiff — “me in 1951 and him in 1960” to word it Cardiff colloquial style. We both began our teaching careers proper as Lecturers at Erith Technical College in northwest Kent. I left that college in 1957 and he arrived at it a few years later. To his amused surprise he found that he was following in the footsteps of another voluble guy from Cardiff, his new colleagues told him, who’d also kept dashing up to classes at University College Phonetics Department! Erith was on the south bank of the Thames within fairly easy reach of London. I’d left for Sweden to teach for its Folk University. He moved on from Erith to a college at Thurrock on the opposite bank of the Thames to minister chiefly to English teachers from West Africa. In 1969 he was appointed Lecturer in Phonetics at the English Department of the University of Lancaster. In 1970 I returned to England from work in various universities etc abroad to an appointment as Lecturer in Phonetics at Leeds University.

In 1973 he transferred from Lancaster to the Netherlands where, after two years at Utrecht Teacher Training Institute, he became a Lecturer specialising in phonetics in the Department of English at the University of Leiden, a position he held until he retired in 2003. In 1988 he received a doctorate from the Phonetics Institute of Utrecht University for a thesis on the early life of the most important British phonetician of the first half of the twentieth century. Who else but Daniel Jones? This was to be expanded, with the collaboration of his Leiden colleague Dr Inger Mees, into a magnificent 572-page full biography of Jones publisht in 1999 under the title (suggested by me!) of The Real Professor Higgins. Besides this masterpiece Bev wrote, almost always in collaboration with Inger, a remarkable series of publications. They included a fine account of The Phonetics of English and Dutch and, another masterpiece, the unchallengeably most complete book in its field of undergraduate-level introductions to the phonetics of British English, their Practical Phonetics and Phonology. Look at our Blog 446 above for a review of its third edition which came out last year — and for pictures of both authors. He wrote a lot more and travelled about lecturing and teaching in far more places than I can mention here.

Besides finding that we had had very similar early backgrounds we found that we had very similar outlooks. I never enjoyed working with anyone more than with Bev. When I got the go-ahead from the Department of English of the University of Murcia (headed by Professor Rafael Monroy-Casas) to run for them an annual series of Summer Courses in English Phonetics, for teachers of English from all over Spain, I immediately invited Bev to join me in organising it. Each year (except for one in which, for a change, we used the premises of Alicante University) from 1993 to 1999 we shared flats in the attractive very un-touristy cathedral city of Murcia. My wife Jane and his wife Sandra, both experienced EFL teachers, were able to help us broaden the curriculum. We hugely enjoyed the teaching and the companionship — very much in holiday high spirits. The students were a pleasure to work with. Some of them liked the course so much they came back for a second helping. Bev and I were finally to work side by side again from 2007 on the University College London Summer Course in English Phonetics for the last four years of my twenty from 1990 to 2010. I never met anyone more stimulating or amusing or just simply enjoyable to be with.

Blog 473

The 11th of June 2014

Welsh Place-Names

Continuing our accounts of the LJ’s (Lloyd James) BBC BROADCAST ENGLISH historic series of booklets of ‘Recommendations to Announcers’ we come to its fourth which is devoted to Wales. Tho it’s a country not much more than a quarter of the size of Scotland, there’re slightly more entries than the Scottish booklet had. Whereas on the place-names of Scotland LJ consulted, besides the twenty members of the regular committee, fourteen extra correspondents, for Welsh names he only acknowledged help from five extra advisers. This was of course because he was largely on home ground having had Welsh-speaking parents and received his schooling in South Wales at Llanelly.

This booklet departed from the procedure adopted in the others in that it supplied thru its alternative ‘modified spelling’ versions not just simply ‘self-explanatory’ representations of exac·ly the same pronunciations as had been given first using IPA symbols but also provided diff·rent, alternative ‘Anglo-Welsh’ pronunciations. For example at Llanelly he gives / ɬanˈeɬi / and follows it by not \ lhannˈelhi \ which wd stand for exactly the same pronunciation but \ lannélhi \ is used to indicate as ‘permissible’ an ‘Anglo-Welsh’ variant with an initial ordinary ell not the voiceless fricative variety used by Welsh speakers. He rather overstated things at times as when he said “..the Englishman who imagines that because the first ll can be pronounced as an English l the second can follow suit is breaking all the rules of the game; [lanˈeli] is a hideous pronunciation, possibly more in disfavour even than [θlənˈeθli] or [lənˈeθli], which at any rate do make some effort to get the Welsh sound.” Actually, these last two versions are perfectly acceptable today and probably were so in his day. No British dictionary sanctions / lanˈeli / even as an American variant. Merriam-Online with \ hla-ˈne-hlē \ first and then \ la-ˈne-lē \ is unrealisticly optimistic about the first and realisticly pessimistic about the second.

LJ failed to notice that monoglot English speakers in the quite large areas of Wales where Welsh was never spoken or at least English has been predominant for centuries, when attempting Welsh pronunciations of double ells, virtually never succeed in producing /ɬ/ without following it with an extra, ordinary, /l/. More on this topic is available at our Home Page §9.1 and Blogs 064 and 104. (I’m sorry to say that the BBC Wales Web addresses given in 104 have now become defunct for no reason I’ve been able to discover).

The spellings of place-names in Wales are a minefield of pitfalls for the unwary. At page 4 of the present booklet we find an LJ comment which is now surely very much out of date. “Announcers..have had regular instruction in Welsh pronunciation… They are required to know as much about the relation between spelling and pronunciation in Welsh as in French, German, Italian and Spanish; and Welshmen who are inclined to be critical of an announcer’s efforts would do well to remember that Welsh spelling is not as phonetic as it is sometimes imagined to be.” He demonstrates his point by asking “Why the w in Cwm represents a short vowel, while that in Pwll stands for a long vowel; why the y has two values in ynys and yet a third in rhyd; why the accent is on the second syllable in Caerhun and on the first syllable in Caerwys…” These were /kʊm, puɬ, `ᴧnɪs, rid, kaɪə`hin, kair`uɪs/. We may add the example of the word Eglwyswrw “\ eglʊɪs`ʊəru \” (as it was represented in Miller 1971) has the letter w which in English can only stand for a consonant but three times here stands for vowels.

The existing irregularities within Welsh include, besides its numerous vowel ambiguities, Llanllwchaiarn as /ɬanɬux`haɪarn/ which lacks the extra letter aitch that shou·d follow the existing one of its spelling. Such problems are added to by the numerous occurrences of place-name hybrids of various kinds as with eg Ebbw Vale, /ebu `veɪl/, Kenfig / `kenfɪg / Hill, Lampeter / `lampɪtə /, Llandilo \ ɬan`dəɪləʊ \ (“an English spelling” LJ p.10), Llandough /lan`dɒk/, Llandrindod / ɬanˈdrɪndɒd / Wells, Llangadock /ɬan`gadɒk/, Llangunnock /ɬan`gᴧnɒk/, Llanvetherine \ɬan`veθrɪn\, Llanyre \ɬan`iə\, Loughor /`lᴧxə/ Merthyr /`mɜθə/, Michaelston-y-Vedw /maɪklstən ə `vedu/, Trecastle \ tre`kasl \, Ogmore / `ɒgmɔ /, Pont Neath Vaughan, Pont Yates /jeɪts/, Pontypool / pɒntə`pul /, Port Eynon / `aɪnən /, Port Madoc / pɔt `madək / ( LJ’s \ pɒrt `madɒk \ is only common with Welsh speakers ), Prescelly / prə`seli /, Resolven / rə`zɒlvən / with its very un-Welsh / z /, Rhymney, / `rᴧmni /, Treorchy     / tri`ɔki /, `Wrexham / `reksm /  and so on.

Many irregularities are due to double-ell spellings with the value /l/ instead of /ɬ/ as in Abertillery / ˈabətɪ`lɛri /, Begelly / bɪ`geli /, Caerphilly /kə`fɪli/ (which also has un-Welsh ph for /f/), Kid`welly /kɪd`weli/, Killay /kɪ`leɪ/, Llandaff / `landəf /, Llandeloy /ɬandə`lɔɪ/, Llanellen / ɬan`elən /, Llandough / lan`dɒk /, Llanhilleth / lan`hɪləθ /, Penally / pə`nali /, Talley / `tali /. LJ’s Use of \ ɬanˈɪʃen \ for Llanishen wou·d’ve been pedantry then and, since the eruption in 1962 of the pressure group giving itself the title ‘The Welsh Language Society’, will as likely now be a political gesture. It’s now normally on the spot / lə`nɪʃn /. Llanfair Mathafarn /ɬanˈvaɪr ma`θafarn/ has a single f in the latter word used for /f/ when normal Welsh spelling has ff for that sound. The English language place-names Black`wood, Bri`dgend, Ferry`side, Holy`head and Welsh`pool, have irregular (as regards their spelling at least) late accents.

Some words are ambiguous by being possibly unitary or possibly compound judging from their spellings eg Gladestry /`gleɪdstri/, Grosmont /`grɒsmənt/, Kenfig /`kenfɪg/, Magor /`meɪgə/, Martletwy /mɑtl`twaɪ/. Some items may be either spelling pronunciations or possibly misprints like Caerphilly for which in 1971 LJ’s / kar`fɪli / was corrected to / kə`fɪli /, and Glamorgan / gla`mɔgən / to /glə`mɔgən/. One very minor item that LJ and his successors have failed to record is that the local educated version of Bridgend is /brɪ`ʤend/ whose second syllable begins with its /ʤ/ not its /e/. Strangers usually pronounce it as if it were spelt *Bridge `End. There’re many other items that cou·d be added to LJ’s list — even ten that he used as examples in his introductory notes.

Blog 472

The 4th of June 2014

Scottish Place-Names concluded

Reminder: The original LJ (Lloyd James) partly-Scottish old-style transcriptions are not copied exactly from his text but given here in a transcription (with no lengthmarks) of how they might be attempted by today’s announcers.

Section 3.8 of the ‘Home Page’ ie main division of this website on Stressing Irregularities in English Place Names pointed out that the regular pattern of the stresses in names consisting of two basic words was to take tonic stress on their first accentable syllable. It provided a list of about a hundred place-names as examples of departures from the regular pattern. It was to be seen that a high proportion of such names had originated in the Celtic ‘fringe’ areas of Britain ie Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Many of them contained initial elements such as Aber-, Inver-, Kil-, Strath- and Tre-. Quite a lot of longer names have their tonic syllables in the later position that’s more characteristic of phrases than unified single words. Here are some examples from the LJ list for Scotland: Auchinleck /ɒxɪn`lek/, Aviemore /avi`mɔ/, Ballantrae /balən`treɪ/, Culloden /kə`lɒdən/, Cumbernauld /kᴧmbə`nɔld/, Dunfermline /dᴧn`fɜmlɪn/, Gatehouse /geɪt`haʊs/, Kennethmont /ken`eθmənt/, Lochearnhead /lɒxˈɜn`hed/, Lossiemouth /lɒsi`maʊθ/, Maryhill /mɛri`hɪl/, Oldhamstocks /əʊld`hamstɒks/, Peterhead /pitə`hed/, Rosyth /rə`saɪθ/, Tobermory /təʊbə`mɔri/, Uphall /ᴧp`hɔl/ and Ythanbank /aɪθən`baŋk/. Many of the above wdve been much more convenient for the non-Scottish reader if they had simply had their main elements separated eg Old Ham `Stocks.

The largest Scottish city Glasgow appeared only as /`glɑsgəʊ/ which must’ve raised eyebrows amongst the London announcers because the most usual version of it in England in 1932 (pace Joners 1917 probably was and still is actually /`glɑzgəʊ/ which had been the normal form given to it by one of the BBC announcers who during the Second World War and long afterwards was one of the most famous of them. With an unusual, Swedish name (pronounced in completely Anglicised fashion as /ˈalvɑ lɪˎdel/), he was Alvar Lidell. The tyrannical Reith once heard him say /`glɑzgəʊ/ and sent for him. Lidell mentioned this in an interview which is a choice item in the BBC’s sound archives. Apparently Reith’s idea of a discussion about how the word might be most suitably pronounced in broadcasting was to fiercely hiss at him [`glɑsːːːgəʊ] at which he presumably fled in terror. The interviewer, on hearing this, askt “And have you said it like that ever since?” to which he received the emphatic reply “I certainly have”. Incident·ly both Glasgow and Edinburgh have districts called Calton which in the former is called /kɑltən/ and the latter /kɔltən/. Lamancha /may look Spanish to some of us but it isnt, it’s /lə`maŋkə/. On the other hand Portobello /pɔtəʊ`beləʊ/ looks very un-Scottish and so it is because it was named in commemoration of a famous naval victory at Panama in 1739.

For Lerwick there can be no dout that the <w> spelling corresponds to a spoken /w/ unlike the <w> of the northernmost town of England Berwick on Tweed, one of a dozen English Berwicks all pronounced /`berɪk/. Many a person familiar with one or more of that dozen must be inclined to imagine that Lerwick must be pronounced /`lerik*/. One such person acting in a recent minor tv murder drama set on the island of Shetland had obvi·sly made that mistaken assumption. The river name Avon we find given as /ɑn/ which contrasts strikingly with Stratford’s /`eɪvən/ and Devon’s /`avən/. A fourth variant has come into use in the form of an American trade name (presumably simply a euphonism) for a set of originally mainly cosmetic products purveyed famously since the 1920s by the door-to-door sales of “Avon /`eɪvɒn / ladies”. Compare §3.1 ¶16a on our home page. Another famous commodity the Dunlop tyre is /`dᴧnlɒp/ to most of us but Scottish people and places with the name are usually /dən`lɒp/. Other items that are the stuff of announcers’ nightmares abound among Scottish names such as Bilbster /`bɪlpstə/, Braal /brɔl/, Broughty /brɔti/, Buccleuch /bə`klu/, Cockburnspath/`kəʊbɜnzpɑθ/, Culzean /kə`leɪn/, Drumelzier /drᴧm`iljə/, Drumquhassle /drᴧm`hwasl/, Eigg /eg/, Forfar /`fɔfə/, Greenock /`grɪnək/, Grandtully /`grɑntli/, Haugh of Urr /hɑx əv ɜ(r)/, Irongray /aɪrən`greɪ/, Islay /aɪlə/, Kingussie /kɪŋ`jusi/, Kirkaldy, /kɜ`kɔdi/, Kirkudbright /kɜ`kubri/, Milngavie /mɪl`gaɪ/, Monzie /mɒn`i/, Oronsay /`ɒrənzeɪ/, Penicuik /`penikʊk/, Quoich /kɔɪx/, Rubislaw /`rubslɔ/, Ruthven /`rɪvən/ (but the two that arent in Angus are /`rᴧθvən/), /Teallach/`ʧaləx/, Sanquhar /saŋkə/, Tighnabruaich /taɪnə`bruəx/, Uyeasound /`juəsaʊnd/, Vaternish /`wɔtənɪʃ/, Whittingehame /`hwɪtɪnʤəm/ and Yetholm /`jetəm/.

Blog 471

The 30th of May 2014

The Holy Oral Method

The Holy Oral Method
/ðə ˈhəʊli ˈɔrl ˎmeθəd/

As with so many of the titles of the passages in my book People Speaking, I havnt been able to resist having a little fun-with-a-pun. If you havent already guessed what it is in this case, you may need to be reminded that there’s another word that can be and often is (when it’s not uttered more carefully as /həʊlli/) pronounced exactly like the word ‘holy’. That’s the word ‘wholly’ which of course means ‘entirely’.

Please go to §4.1 Item 26 in the main part of this website for the sound file of this dialog.

The phonemic transcription provided below is the kind that doesnt bother to include marks indicating the vowels /i, ɑ, ɔ, u, ɜ/ as long — along with, for those who’re very up-to-date, /ɛ/ instead of /eə/. My apologies to those who prefer to stick to the /eə/ you find in most dictionaries. In fact these five or six phonemes are only fairly often long and quite often very short — so it’s really a matter of personal pref·rence whether you feel it’s worth bothering to transcribe them with lengthmarks. If you havnt le·rnt the ‘rules’ for when these vowels need to be long or short, lengthmarks are as likely to be misleading as helpful. My personal pref·rence is to drop them. I do understand that some people like transcriptions that add lengthmarks coz it makes them stand out and therefore easier to read.

One of the things that you find when you lissen very carefully and repeatedly to recordings is that they sound full of ambiguities rather than 100% clear sets of unmistakeable phonemes, rhythms and pitches. I hardly ever lissen to more than a sentence or two without wishing to transcribe some of it to some extent diff·rently on a second examination. If you look at that printed book of mine (People Speaking OUP 1977) from which this dialog has been taken, you’ll see that it’s been transcribed in three different versions. The first is in a very simple phonemic transcription with no lengthmarks and, for indications of rhythms, only stress marks. The second version isnt in a phonetic transcription but in ordinary spelling with the addition of intonation marks. The third version doesnt show only phonemes but gives detailed prosodic and segmental information producing what’s called allophonic transcription. This third section also displays various further features like pauses and glottal stops. You may notice that, if you compare the transcriptions in two of the versions, from time to time you’ll find that they don’t match. If so, this is not likely to be coz one is right and the other wrong. It’s most likely to be coz I found it impossible to be sure which of two possible transcriptions was the better one or ie coz I felt I was hearing something as far as I cd judge simply half way between two values. This sort of dilemma particularly occurs when one’s attempting to judge pitch variations. Genuinely spontaneous speech is normally full of vaguenesses. When you come to think about it, this is on·y very natural coz not on all the topics we talk about have we got really clearcut ideas or opinions.

Let’s take examples from the first sentence of our present brief passage (of only 70 words in 22 seconds). Firstly, the word English seems to be moving upward very slightly but this is so unclear that I’ve preferred to mark it as level in pitch. As regards the word ‘should’, it seems dou·tful whether it has a vowel between its /ʃ/and the /d/. And if it has got a vowel it’s quite uncert·n whether it’s /ʊ/ or /ə/. The vowel sounds occurring between the /t/ and the /l/ of the word entirely cert·nly dont have the three distinct vowel qualities that you might get if the word were being uttered slowly and carefully as /ɪnˈtɑɪəli/. So one might praps best show it as /ɪnˈtɑəli/ but the schwa element is so weak I dont feel cert·n it wou·dnt be better shown as /ɪnˈtɑli/.

1. I think the first year of learning English
/ ˈaɪ ˈθɪŋk ⎥ ðə ˈfɜst ˈjɜr ⎥ əv ˈlɜnɪŋ ˈɪŋglɪʃ

 should be entirely verbal.
ʃd bi ɪnˈtɑli ˎvɜbl

2. No books at all?
ˈnəʊ ˈbʊks ⎥ ə`ˏtɔl

3. Not one. Just the teacher saying things
ˈnɒt ˎwᴧn. ˎʤᴧs ðə `tiʧə ˈseɪ.ɪŋ θɪŋz |

 and the class repeating them after him.
ən ðə ˈklɑs rə`pitɪŋ ˏðəm ˎɑftr ɪm

4. You’ll never sell us that idea.
jul ˎnevə ˎsel əs `ðat aɪˏdiə

5. I should have said that illustrations are all right.
aɪ `ʃʊd əv sed | ðət ɪlə`streɪʃnz ər ɔl ˏraɪt|

But no words in them.
bət ˈnəʊ ˎwɜdz ɪn ðm.

6. I’m afraid it wouldnt work, I can assure you.
aɪm əfreɪd ɪt `wʊdnt `ˏwɜk| aɪ kən ə`ʃɔ ju

7. For me it’s been an article of devout faith for years.
fə ˈmi | ɪts bin ən ˈɑtɪkl | əv dɪˈvaʊt ˈfeɪθ | fə ˎ jɜz