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 10/05/2013 Derby and Similar Words. #449 01/05/2013 More on Weakforms (xi). #448 27/04/2013 John Baldwin. #447 25/04/2013 A Comprehensive New Edition. #446 23/04/2013 The Wells Standard Lexical Vowel Sets. #445 23/04/2013 A Text-to-Speech Facility. #444 14/04/2013 A Notorious Estimate. #443 10/04/2013 IPA Transcription 1900. #442 26/03/2013 More on Weakforms (x). #441 20/03/2013 Dogs must be carried. #440 18/03/2013 A Brief Conversation. #439 11/03/2013 Accent Shift. #438 21/02/2013 The GB air/square phoneme. #437 17/02/2013 More on Weakforms (ix). #436 11/02/2013 Minimally Different Words. #435 03/02/2013 Accenting of a Compound Word. #434 27/01/2013 John L. M. Trim. #433 09/01/2013 Comparison of Transcriptions. #432 24/12/2012 More on Weakforms (viii). #431

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Derby and Similar Words.

Recently our fellow bloggist on linguistic matters, Graham Pointon, under the heading  Journalistic naïvety, or malice? remarked that the presenters of the 9 am BBC Radio 4 chat-type program they call 'Saturday Live', by name Sian /ʃɑːn/ Williams and Richard Coles, revealed that they had consulted a "professor of applied linguistics"... who told them that .. the Americans had it right, pronouncing “Derby” to rhyme with “herby”, we British being wrong to call it ‘darby’.

Graham commented "I do not believe that any professor of applied linguistics can possibly have said anything so crass. Presumably (s)he was asked which was correct, and .. had answered fully, saying that the older pronunciation was /ˈdɜːrbi/, but that the pronunciation had changed in Britain, while it had remained unchanged in the States, and I expect that (s)he went on to say that this didn’t make either of them wrong, but just different. Journalists are never happy with this, and invariably extrapolate that “older” means “more correct” ".

The academic questioned, one's inclined to imagine, must've requested that their name shd not be mentioned becoz of being embarrassed at having to give an ans·er to such a naïve question. If that ans·er was, as Graham suggested might be the case, saying that the older pronunciation was /ˈdɜːrbi/, it was too simple an explanation by a long way. The fact is that during the later Middle English period and even until about the middle of the eighteenth century many words with er had their spellings converted to ar. This obvi·sly reflected the fact that numbers of speakers had been changing the vowel to something much more open. Some old and new spellings survived simultaneously in competition. Only one pair has still not resolved the contest yet: we still have shard and sherd with the newer and earlier spellings and both with the same meaning, tho one rather than the other seems to be taking over in cert·n contexts. A pair which have developed strikingly diff·rent meanings (in ways too complicated to discuss here) are person and parson.

It's not very difficult to see why a number of cases have developed of the undesirable kind I labelled 'Grapho-Phonemic Mis-Co·ordinations' when I made them the subject of my earlier Blog 153. For various reasons, ranging from the sentimental to the legal, people have long been reluctant to change the spellings of their own names or those of the places in which they live, while yet not resisting joining in sound changes that had taken place. Many misco·ordinations of spellings with sounds have been the common consequences. Various placenames have reflected this phenomenon besides Derby, notably Berkshire and Hertford. Some more minor ones include Berkeley, Clerkenwell and Cherwell. People with the surname Bertie are listed in CEPD and LPD as most offen pronouncing it as /bɑːti/. Something apparently the same may be sed of owners of the surname Hervey. In some cases one spelling survives as a surname as with the second of each of the pairs hermitage and Armitage, merchant and Marchant, farmer and Fermor. In such cases, tho the new ar form with its value /ɑː/ occurs in one version, in the other the old er spelling persists but its sound has been subsequently regularised to what's become the much later value for er /ɜː/. In one case, there is a contrast of spelling tho no audible one, clerk and Clarke — that's to say in British usage tho there is an audible diff·rence in America. There the common noun has had its strest vowel regularised to /ɜː(r)/ as has the proper noun Berkeley.

Clerk is not quite the only common noun to have this kind of mismatch between spelling and sound: sergeant is another; and we may note the comparable heart, hearth and hearken by contrast with the more regular ear, clear, dear, fear, near, spear, year or early, earn, earth, dearth, heard, hearse, learn, search. Pairs of names of the same origin the latter of which doesnt preserve the older er spelling may be seen in Berkeley and Barclay, Bernard and Barnard, Kerr and Carr, Derbyshire and Darbishire, Derby and Darby, Gerard and Garrard, Gerald and Jarrold, Herd and Hurd, Herbert and Harbert, Herriot and Harriott, Hervey and Harvey, Gervase and Jarvis, Perks and Parks, Perkins and Parkins, Perrot and Parrot,  Perry and Parry, Verney and Varney etc.

In the same way as we've seen writers preferring to continue to use the older spelling long after they'd adopted the later pronunciation, as with Derby, we can detect the same thing happening from evidence provided by various poets' rhymes. For example, among many others we may note that Spenser rhymed convert with heart and that Shakespeare (in his Sonnet Number 17) rhymed deserts with parts and (in his Sonnet Number 72) desert with impart. Milton rhymed earth and hearth. We can see that Pope pronounced reserve as 'resarve' from his rhyming it with starve.

An odd survival is the form varsity which is a reduction of *univarsity a form of which there is no record in OED of past spellings of at the entry 'university'. This is regarded as only a slang or colloquial expression except in its use in the compound 'varsity match' for a sporting contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Two other forms that also survive only as slang or regional dialect and praps more in the US than over here are the variant larn of learn (to 'larn' someone is to teach them 'a thing or two') and the form varmint of vermin — the later of which has oddly acquired an excrescent final t. Also chiefly US is the regional interjection Massy! This derives from mercy via marcy. For the further development involved here compare hoss from horse and cuss from curse.

More on Weakforms (xi).

My brief definition of a weakform "an alternant form of a word so reduced in its articulation that it consists of a different set of phonemes" has to be understood to be synchronic so that it has to be co-existent with and to alternate with a current unreduced form at least in respect of an individual speaker's idiolect. Thus items like aboard from onboard derived from elisions in the far distant past are not appropriate for this series.

We de·lt with weakforms of any in Blog 436 but not with its compounds then. Here are some:

anybody The form /enibɒdi/ has alternants in which schwas replace the strong third vowel /ɒ/ giving /enibədi/ or the second vowel /i/ giving /enəbɒdi/ or both such replacements. Much less offen the second vowel may be elided giving /enbɒdi/ etc. These alternants are weakforms for speakers who use the first form in accented occurrences but any other than the last may be an individual speaker's regular form.

anyone The form /eniwᴧn/ is the usual GB form of this word when free from rhythmic pressure but in some rhythmic contexts as in eg anyone else it may easily take a weakform /eniwən/ or more casually /enwən/. The CEPD listing of an alternant /ˈen.i.wən/ without any qualifying comment on its use is prob·bly on a par with its other questionable admission of a regionally markt alternant /ˈen.i.wɒn/ for the word.

anything The strongform /eniθɪŋ/ has the weak alternants /enəθɪŋ/ and less commonly /enθɪŋ/.

anywhere In cert·n rhythmic situations the regular form /eniwɛː/ may give way to a form ending with schwa inste·d of its usual vowel eg as in anywhere else as /eniwər els/.

assembly As /əsemli/ this example may stand for various weakforms which arise from assimilations and elisions etc like the medial /b/ from the sequence /-mbl-/here. Such cases are at best borderline admissions to the category of weakform words and are mainly not included in the present listing.

been This has two GB weakforms /bin/ (ord·nrily recorded as such in transcriptions which alternate length-markt and not-so-markt versions of the street vowel) and, less offen, /bɪn/. For a minority of GB speakers and the majority of GA speakers /bɪn/ isnt a weakform but their usual form.

between I suspect that I'm not the on·y speaker who occasion·y in a relaxt moment uses the weakform 'tween' inst·ed of the more orthodox 'between' but it's the kind of thing that it's not easy to collect data on. See also our Blog 441.

but This has only one commom weakform /bət/ but it does have an occasional form /pt/ sentence initially before vowels as mentioned above in our Blog 441.

by had the whole of our Blog 422 devoted to it.

can was described in Blog 425.

certainly Like only, this is very, if not most, offen he·rd in the conversations of GB speakers without its orthographic /l/ tho people usually do have a strongform with the /l/. It is therefore usually /sɜːtn̩i/ with a syllabic /n/ which easily loozes its syllabicity in various rhythmic contexts.

clothes This has the common weakform /kləʊz/.

day This has no weakforms but its compounds are intended to be be de·lt with at 'Monday'.

did This has the casual weakforms /d, dəd/ and the rare type /dd/ eg in D'you get those yesterday?, What /dəd i/ did he say? and How /dd/ it go? Unlike CEPD (and unsurprisingly ODP), which give no weakforms for did, LPD has "occasional weakforms § dəd, d" and a cross-reference to a note at its entry "-'d". The sign "§" to suggest that it's regionally markt seems unjustified here.

directly This adverb, in the sense of 'immediately' has the casual form /drekli/. LPD records this, saying prob·bly justifiably, that it's "becoming old-fashioned".

do LPD surprisingly gives no weakform /du/ for this word but gives /dʊ/, before /də/, which prompts one to wonder where the EAL user is recommended to employ it relative to /də/. What /dʊ/ they say? for example wd seem to be, if clearly pronounced, inclined to sound a little old-fashioned and/or precious. An occasional minor form not listed is /dw/ which can occur in eg Do I have to? /dw aɪ haf ˏtuː/.

doing This has the occasional weakform /dwɪŋ/. Some speakers, including the Queen, have a conversational form /də.ɪŋ/ with an accented schwa. This is praps a good example of 'UGB'.

don't Like all -nt forms, this offen occurs with no final /t/ except before pause. Particu·ly in the collocation don't know the accented-schwa form /də nəʊ/ frequently occurs in conversational style, sometimes represented in writing as dunno, eg in the apologetic opening /aɪ də nəʊ baʊ ˏʧuː.../ I don't know about you... to be he·rd eg from the well-known broadcaster John Tusa.

everybody Rather surprisingly neither LPD nor CEPD  lists the weakform /evribədi/.

everyone Less surprisingly, neither LPD nor CEPD lists the weakform /evriwən/. This seems to be mainly limited to occurring unaccented immediately before an accented word such as in /evriwən els/ everyone else [evriwənels].

February Prob·bly most GB speakers have a trisyllabic strongform for this word but I'm not convinced it's /feb.ru(ə).ri/ as LPD and CEPD seem to suggest. It may well be /febr̩i/ but /febjəri/ is also common. Less so are /febjueri/ and /febjuəri /. All of these may be weakforms for speakers who may in self-conscious contexts opt for something like /febru.əri/.

for This extremely common preposition has, besides its usual /fɔː/, as LPD sez, for "some speakers" a prevocalic-only further strongform /fɒr/ used not quite as limitedly as LPD suggests ie only before her, him, it or us. For example it may occur in /fɒr ɪgˏzɑːmpl/ or in /fɒr ə ˏtaɪm... For a time... CEPD seems to regard this usage as too recessive to be worth including. The weakform /fə(r)/ may be accented eg in /fər ə ˎməʊmənt ət ˏliːst/ For a moment at least. It very offen loozes its vowel, its potential /r/ remaining, before vocalic sounds eg in /ɪn fr əˏpeni/ In for a penny...

John Baldwin.

It was sad to hear of the recent death of our colleague John Baldwin. He was born on the 3rd of  June in 1935 in east London at West Ham and died on the 14th of this month. He was a fine scholar and a modest, agreeable person who was, I'm sure, liked by everybody who met him. After obtaining an MA (on Russian consonant clusters) at the UCL (University College London) Department of Phonetics and, subsequently acquiring a doctorate, he became appointed to its staff on which he served for many years.

Besides Russian and German he was particu·ly int·rested in cert·n languages of southeastern Europe including Turkish. He was from 1966 a member of the International Phonetic Association for many years, during ten of which he served on its governing Council. He was a contributor to the Association's Journal, writing for it a number of reviews and articles including ones on such topics as the glottal stop in Turkish and ejectives in Georgian and most importantly a substantial two-part 'Formal Analysis of the Intonation of Modern Colloquial Russian'. He was also a great enthusiast for and expert on the folk music of the Balkans, for years performing in a band that specialised in it.

One of his last publications was an eight-page article contributed at my invitation for inclusion in a book which I edited in 1995, Studies in General and English Phonetics: Essays in Honour of Professor J. D. O'Connor, the lecturer, incidentally, who supervised John's MA thesis. It appeared in the section of that book entitled 'The Phonetics of Mother-tongue English'. He chose to call it, with characteristic modesty, A 'tenny' rate, but it was no lightweight piece of scholarship. Its subject was 'The process whereby a consonant or more than one consonant at the end of one word is transferred in connected speech to the beginning of the next word if it has a vowel onset'. This drew for its subject matter not a little from the kinds of observations that were to be a very important feature of the next remarkable stage of his career.

The nineteen fifties and sixties saw great acceleration in the spread of the use of first telephones and latterly sound recording equipment. By the end of that period inexpensive and easily operated compact cassette tape recorders had become widely available to the general public. All emergency services had become equipped with large drum tape recorders that were taking down ev·ry call to the '999' emergency services round the clock. Circumstances like these led to a rather sudden new impetus in a field that became known as 'forensic phonetics'. In the early sixties the late Dennis Fry, occupant of a UCL Chair of Experimental Phonetics, as John remarked, "was involved in a number of civil and criminal cases", but things were to develop very rapidly when, in the later sixties police and lawyers took to appealing to the UCL Department for help with criminal identification and other matters. John turned out to be the staff member willing to undertake that sort of work.

For the next twenty-five years he never lookt back. He was almost continuously in demand. He enjoyed driving himself to courts and legal chambers all over the country to a wide variety of criminal cases and other matters. In the course of these activities we used from time to time to meet up with each other. He described them in a fascinating book he called Forensic Phonetics publisht in 1990 along with Peter French who provided for insertion in it a twenty-page article on a division of the science into which John never himself felt inclined to set foot, viz Chapter 3, entitled 'Acoustic Phonetics'. Professor French is these days in demand worldwide and the leading practitioner in forensic phonetics in this country. In the so-called 'Home Page' major division of this website there is a copy, its Section 12 Item 6, of a review of John's book that I contributed to The Times newspaper. Readers may like to know that Section 6 of that 'Home Page' is devoted to my own experiences in the field. Baldwin, French and I were all founder members in 1991 of the International Association for Forensic Phonetics. In the years of his retirement John became the victim of an unfortunate increasingly debilitating condition. He'll be remembered with affection by all those who knew him.

A Comprehensive New Edition.

A welcome appearance earlier this year has been the arrival of a further-enlarged new (third) edition from Routledge of the Collins and Mees Practical Phonetics and Phonology. With thirty new pages it's now a hundred pages longer than its closest rival. It offers lots of very genuinely practical guidance on the pronunciation of British English but also a great deal more than just that. Even tho its main target is the user of English as an extra language, one can well imagine it functioning as at least an auxiliary initial text for a student of general phonetics or as a serious phonetic component of a course in any language. Students of the very numerously spoken languages Spanish, French, German, Italian, Polish and Japanese are especially lucky in being supplied with brief 'concise overviews' of the phonetic features of each language complete with vowel diagrams. These are included, of course, not only for the light they shine on the problems their native speakers have in acquiring spoken English but for the similar or identical problems that are experienced by numerous speakers of other languages. In addition the user will find many comments on diff·rent difficulties experienced by countless speakers of quite other languages than these six. They are presented along with very substantial samplings of the  uses of English worldwide.

The total numbers of speakers of one or two of the world's languages may be as many or more than those of English, but even so English is the most widespread form of truly international communication that has ever existed. The two most studied forms of English pronunciation — in my preferred designations General American and General British — are fortunately very comf·tably mutually intelligible and the latter is, of course, the principal target of the major, practical, part of this book tho American pronunciations are occasionally referred to and most of what is de·lt with wd be equally helpful to students of American English.

From its first edition of 2003 it has shown no hesitation in abandoning unsatisfactory traditional terminology, replacing the outdated 'Received Pronunciation' with its own much better term 'Non-Regional Pronunciation' (abbreviation NRP). Its list of phonemes very reasonably avoids the recessive diphthong /ɛə/ in favour of the simple vowel /ɛː/ also adopted in the most recent newly-devised pronunciation dictionary (the one brau·t out by OUP in 2001) and used in non-EFL OUP dictionaries starting in 1993. It'll soon be seen to be favoured in the most respected of all the descriptions of English pronunciation. Other innovations include the rejection of the Latinate terms 'regressive' and 'progressive' for which it uses the simpler more transparent terms 'leading' and 'lagging' for assimilations.

Its coverage of other varieties than the one being taught is remarkable for its non-trivial amounts of recorded examples. Its claim to be a practical course is well borne out by the liberal supplies of exercises it contains, including plenty of passages for phonemic transcription, tho I tend to wonder whether taking ev·ry one of the dozen of them from Alice in Wonderland shou·dnt be reconsidered in the future. The ten extra ones on its website are more varied if still mainly non-conversational. Phonemic transcriptions are prob·bly the surest way of alerting students to the importance of acquiring proficiency in using weakforms and contractions, topics which are very well explained in the text. The difficult choice of which weakforms to recommend has been judiciously kept to a minimum  tho I'm afraid I can't concur with excluding the word but from that minimum. Transcriptions are required to include marking of 'sentence stress' and 'intonation groups' but there are regrettably no exercises requiring intonations to be shown. Intonation is the one topic of the book that I shdve liked to see given more attention — altho it's at least as well treated here as in any of its rivals I know of.

A notable feature is the rich selection of excellent illustrations with as many as a hundred figures including vocal tract and mouth drawings, many outstandingly effective vowel diagrams, and maps of world Englishes and accent varieties etc. The accomp·nying CD has over three quarters of an hour of materials including twenty-five absorbing examples of accents ranging from an amusing sample of 'Traditional RP' to two dozen accent types from all around the world. These are each accompanied by a full text of what's spoken and descriptions of 'salient phonetic features'. There are also well over a hundred varied items labelled 'Activities'. There are even illustrations of how English sounded in past centuries, and some challenging items called Accent Detective Work.

The book is rounded off with ten substantial int·resting extracts, from works on various aspects of phonetics, by such authorities as Daniel Jones, John Wells, Peter Ladefoged and David Crystal, all followed by suggestions and questions. As well as its disc, the book has a valuable associated Website containing keys to the Activity Exercises and transcriptions that are in the book, additional exercises including the extra transcription passages on·y on the website, a version of the Glossary with a 'flashcard' facility that enables students to quiz themselves on their knowledge of its contents, concise audio files of native-speaker illustrations of the vowels and consonants of the six languages we mentioned and numbers of direct links to other websites containing further resources. This brief account doesn't do justice to the rich amounts of valu·ble materials contained in this surely unique book. It's also a very fine piece of book production with clear, well set out text. In spite of the difficulty for the printer of so much of it in phonetic symbols, I've scrutinised just about ev·ry page of it and on·y spotted one very minor misprint — and that's not in the printed book but the website. It even has a strikingly handsome cover. In view of all it offers, it seems pri·tty reasonably priced at £20.99 in paperback.

The Wells Standard Lexical Vowel Sets.

This blog is an offering in honour of John Wells on the occasion of his relinquishing his splendid series of blogs of the past seven years which have provided so much unfailingly well exprest erudition on phonetic matters that've so greatly contributed to the education of all of us who've been his grateful readers.

Nothing these days more frequently calls to mind the work of our justly most famous living British phonetician than a simple but ingenious and undeniably extremely useful device he invented in 1982. This was the special set of key words to facilitate his comparisons of the different varieties of spoken English which were the subject of his monumental three-volume account of Accents of English. It was a group of twenty-four words that he designated — seemingly somewhat optimisticly at the time — his "Standard" Lexical Sets of distinctive vowel keywords. His practice of always referring to them in upper-case form was rather startling at first and, for me personally, had the slightly brutal effect of feeling like the visual equivalent of being shouted at. However, it was important to make it fully clear that they wer·nt just any quoted words but items from a very special list — which has indeed become "Standard" to an extent that I'm sure he little imagined wd be the case.

I offen wonder how conscious very many of those who use them are of quite how he came to chooze these particular ones. I cert·nly see them widely used with little or no ref·rence to their provenance, leave alone explanation of how they came to be chosen for their phonetic structures. The answers're to be found at page 122 of Accents of English where, in the course of comparing General British and General American vowels, he introduced his idea of a "framework of standard lexical sets" which he had realised wd be valuable "not only for comparing RP and GenAm" but "also for describing the lexical incidence of vowels in all the many accents" he went on to describe.

He chose those keywords very carefully in such a way that "clarity" was maximised. That is, "whatever accent of English they are spoken in", they cd "hardly be mistaken for other words". Additionally, as far as possible they were chosen to "end in a voiceless alveolar or dental consonant". "Voiceless" in order to minimise "the likelihood of diphthongal glides obscuring a basic vowel quality". "Coronal" in order to minimise "the possible allophonic effect of the place of a following consonant". In cert·n cases, eg of TRAP and PALM, he departed from these rules when he cou·dnt find a word that he felt was suitable. At page 123 he gave the full list of twenty-four items: KIT, DRESS, TRAP, LOT, STRUT, FOOT, BATH, CLOTH, NURSE, FLEECE, FACE, PALM, THOUGHT, GOAT, GOOSE, PRICE, CHOICE, MOUTH, NEAR, SQUARE, START, NORTH, FORCE, CURE. When I as·t him why he chose to call them "standard" he cou·dnt remember but I imagine it might've been becoz they were initially applied to the two accents most widely regarded as "standard". They cert·nly provided a conveniently brief way of avoiding phonetic transcriptions or periphrases such as "the short i ".

I'm sure John thaut of them as perfectly appropriate for his purposes but little imagined how they'd be taken up — being remarkably widely and variously used including in manuals for the teaching of English pronunciation even to beginners. If he had envisaged that sort of use he might've given consideration to employing in some cases much commoner, simpler more frequently occurring words. For example, inste·d of the word fleece, which in the Thorndike Word Count scored less than ten occurrences per million words he might've considered equally suitable the word street which scored at least a hundred per million. Rather than kit with its ten per million he might've selected ship with its also more than a hundred per million. Rather than strut with its only six-per-million score he might've preferred shut. Anyway, any teacher wishing for such simplifications shd realise that the classic set is by its nature not sacrosanct so that adaptations of it are hardly open to objection. Likewise, any teacher who favoured a set that lent itself to pictorialisation cd use words like hat, box, bath, horse, cup, dice etc as reasonable substitutes for the items with those vowels.

PS I've been very helpfully reminded by Petr Rösel that three years ago John commented on his Lexical Sets in a blog which I must've forgotten. He sed then something a little like I've suggested "I sometimes think that a century from now my lexical sets will be the one thing I shall be remembered for". He also explained "standard" in a way that praps I subconsciously remembered, saying "I called them “standard” lexical sets because they were based on my two ‘reference’ accents of English, RP and GenAm". I can't imagine that I cou·dve missed that blog coz for sev·n years I've automaticly started ev·ry possible weekday with looking to see what John might've had to say.

A Text-to-Speech Facility.

I've been wond·ring if some readers might like to hear a little more about the Apple-Mac text-to-speech facility I mentioned the other day in my Blog 440. It provides synthetic voices to ree·d out any text one selects. To avail oneself of them one simply has to click on a toolbar item entitled 'Speak Selection'. The test sentences illustrating them demonstrate the distinct advantage of having the facility but, at the same time, how definitely limited is its capability of providing really natural-sounding delivery. It has sample sentences that can be reached by going thru the sequence 'Finder → System Preferences → System → Date & Time → Clock' and clicking on 'Announce the time → Customize Voice'. There you can set speed of utterance, volume and voice choice. You can chooze between five male and five female ones. One of the male ones is the default you get if you opt to 'Use System Voice'.

This default one may be sampled by clicking on 'Play' — when you hear it say / 'moʊst ˏpipl | rekᵻgˏnaɪz mi | baɪ maɪ vɔɪs /. This sounds impressively natural. However, at a normal pace it praps tends to sound just a little nerdy. They call it 'Alec'. Played slow it still sounds natural but for a drugged or drowsy or long-suffering person. Played fast it also sounds natural but of course hurried. I refrained from testing what my impressions might've been had I upped the volume from the degree of 2 in a series of ten.

For the quarter-hourly reminders of the time I'm pleased to receive I chooze normal-rate, lowish-volume announcements by the light female voice they call 'Vicki'. When I ask her to give me a sample of her speaking she sez / ɪzənt ɪt naɪs | tə hӕv ə kəmpjuwdə | ðӕt wɪl tɔk tə ˈjuw /. This is pretty respectable but I feel the schwa rather than a syllabic /n/ in the first word sounds a tiny bit unnatural. I notice with int·rest that the t of computer is cert·nly an American [d] whereas the non occurrence of rhoticity at its final -er sounds sort-of 'Atlantic' rather than General American. The very weak vowel value of the two occurrences of the preposition to is very natural sounding. So is the schwa for the indefinite article at a computer. On the contrary, the two-words sequence that will which wd normally combine to produce the contraction that'll /ðətl/ goes to the other extreme ie as / ðӕt wɪl /. The last tone — on the word you — sounds eccentricly like the moment in the stage or screen entertainment they call a 'musical' when a speaker suddenly bursts into song. This is because the naturally expected tone, after the previous fall, in this sort of phrase wd be a rise. And it's on·y the most whimsical or dreamy or inattentive or crazy speaker who'd be very likely to end a sentence — if they're not saying goodbye to you — on a high level tone.

The other voice options are not all demonstrated with the same sentence. Some use / aɪ ˈʃʊr ˈlaɪk biɪŋ | ɪnsaɪd ðɪs ˈfӕnsi kəmpjuwdər /. A dozy youngster called Junior sez / maɪ ˈfeɪvərᵻt ˎfuwd | ɪz ə pitsə / not as clearly as the others. A deep-voiced guy sounding faintly like Kissinger sez very unclearly something one has partly to guess at / ðᵻ sᴧm| əv ðᵻ skwɛrz | əv ðə lek [sic] əv ðə ˈraɪt traɪˏӕŋgl| ɪz ikwəl | tə ðə skwɛr | əv ðə haɪpɑtn̩uwz /. Finally 'Princess' sez in a convincing child voice / wen aɪ ˈgroʊ ˈᴧp| aɪm ˈgoʊɪŋ | tə ˎbij | ə saɪəntɪst /. There're actually fourteen more 'novelty' voices available including 'whisper, frog-in-the-throat, hysterical, deranged, pipe-organ, bad news, good news, bells, boing' and 'bubbles' — rather few of which I've investigated I'm afraid.

A Notorious Estimate.

It's rather odd to find oneself impelled to write about a matter which one feels in truth is not worth discussing at all on account of its being so trivial. I'm referring to the question of what proportion of the English-speaking population of "Britain" (praps one might better say of the United Kingdom ie England, Wales and Scotland) speaks "pure RP" — a form of words that I disespouse by my quotation marks. I refer to it not out of enthusiasm for the topic but from exasperation at the way it's seemed be taken ridiculously seriously in some quarters. The person who has innocently led to my irritation is the distinguisht dialectologist Professor Peter Trudgill. He is very prob·bly irritated in the same way as I am by seeing such a minor observation of his trotted out as if it were of prime significance. Indeed it must be highly disagreeable for him to find that, with all the admirable work he has done, he is famous more than anything else, at least among much of the phonetics community, for what he may well have originally considered essentially little more than an inconsequential aside. After all, in adapting his 1971 doctoral thesis for publication he didnt choose to include even any reference at all to the notorious "3%" which is the subject of this present 'rant'.

However that may be, his article 'Received Pronunciation: Sociolinguistic Aspects' of 2001 began:  "An often cited statistic has it that in Britain RP speakers constitute only 3% of the population. When this statistic first became commonplace in the sociolinguistics literature, it was not unusual for people to dispute it". It was disappointing that at this point he neither provided any details nor even cited any source of such criticisms. At any rate, he continued: "Perhaps, therefore, it will be as well to discuss where this statistic came from. The guilty party was myself. I popularised [sic] the 3% figure in Trudgill (1974)". Here again we find rather tantalisingly that, so far from his putting the statistic into circulation in that book — whose title was The social differentiation of English in Norwich — he made no reference of any sort whatever to it anywhere in its text. In making the above remark, he'd apparently had in mind Chapter 15 of his previous unpublisht work of 1971 from whose title the 1974 abbreviated version was unfortunately not differentiated.

However that may be, he continued to explain how his sociolinguistic dialect study of the city of Norwich, "some of the findings of which were presented in Trudgill (1974)", was based for the most part on interviews with a statisticly strictly random sample of fifty people taken from the population of that city. The article in which he made these remarks may be seen online here. Out of this sample he reported only one individual as judged to be an 'RP' speaker. He commented "In other words, the evidence [a slightly more suitable term might've been 'inference'] from my random sample was that the population of Norwich contained only 2% of RP speakers." In "considering to what extent [he] could generalise from this finding to Britain as a whole" he took a number of stated factors into careful consideration. "In the end, [he] decided that 3% was approximately correct" as an extrapolation from this by way of estimating the total number of "RP" speakers in "Britain" at the time.

Even if I accepted this conclusion it wd make no diff·rence to my impatience with the importance various people seem to've been attaching to it. I tend to find myself pondering uneasily on certain aspects of the investigation. It was described as based on fifty subjects selected on the basis of sixty interviews ten of which were carried out by a collaborator. One thing I can't help wondering is whether someone other than Trudgill might've disagreed with the judgment that the single individual in question fitted into the category of 'RP speaker'. An objection might've been raised in various ways —  possibly in categories other than the strictly segmental ones to which Trudgill almost exclusively devoted his thesis. There's not even any single mention of prosodic features anywhere in the whole of the printed book, altho it's a pleasure to acknowledge that the very condensed account of 'articulatory settings' is admirably covered in the relatively limited space accorded to it.

In his various writings he regularly insists, as for instance in an article of 2002, that "It takes only one non-RP feature for a speaker not to be RP". It's my impression that very many of my colleagues in the phonetic sphere have not at all been in confident agreement about assigning individual speakers to such a category. Any reader who cares to look at my Blog 360 will find clear evidence of far from total harmony in one area — namely between the most distinguisht lexicographers of 'RP'. Not that I'm complaining of their wasting their time devoting themselves to such matters.

What has struck me as rather remarkable is how ready various scholars have been to repeat the 3% comment tho no-one seems to have considered replicating the investigation. When I consider that this Trudgill estimate is the only one of its kind that I, at least, know of, I read with misgivings remarks like "Phoneticians in Britain generally agree that RP is spoken by about 3 per cent, possibly slightly more, of the population of Britain" and "usually estimated as being used by somewhere between 3–5% of the population" both by noted scholars. These suggest to me that indiff·rence may be being unwarrantably interpreted as approval.

Seeing extrapolation from a figure of one person in fifty in the present case to such percentages of 'RP' speakers in the whole of the Great Britain (unless one shd be saying the 'United Kingdom') population, what percentage might've been suggested if the number of 'RP' speakers had not been one but nil. Cou·d it've been that Britain contained something between one and minus two percent of 'RP' speakers?

But seriously, exactly how many speakers of it might exist and with what degree of "purity", is an absurd matter to focus attention upon in regard to the relatively least locally affiliated variety of UK English speech. The only truly significant consideration is not the numbers of individuals belonging to the group but the disproportionately large influence that this relatively small group undou·tedly has on the perceptions and practices of all other users of any significance in the British-English-speaking world. Indications of what very large numbers of speakers exist who may have "impurities" and yet function as virtual 'RP speakers' are readily available. Now that'd provide a really int·resting percentage if it were possible for someone to succeed in estimating it in a respectably credible way. We're reminded daily of this, if we can be bothered to entertain the thaut, when we — as so offen — switch on a loudspeaker and hear a not already known voice that may present us with an "impurity" but only after sometimes minutes of careful lissening out for such a thing. Until that moment is reached we are unaware whether the speaker is to be categorised as an 'RP' user or not.

IPA Transcription 1900.

The great British phonetician Henry Sweet was the scholar who at the age of forty publisht in 1885 the very first ever book on the phonetics of English specificly written for non-native-speaking users. He had already publisht a number of brilliant works notably on the history of English and including his epoch-making 1874 Handbook of Phonetics. His supreme achievements had been recognised by the decade-or-so-old Paris-based Association Internationale Phonétique (alias IPA) by their electing him their Honorary President. At the age of 55 (when Daniel Jones was 19) Sweet provided the Association's modest periodical Le Maître Phonétique (the precursor to the IPA's Journal) with the paragraph that we're indetted to Kraut for relaying to us in his blog of the fourth of April 2013.

Its 148 words in eighteen lines employed a selection of symbols that was very similar to those he'd used for that 1885 Elementarbuch des Gesprochenen Englisch. It was so well received that Oxford University Press had him follow it up in 1890 with a translation entitled A Primer of Spoken English. The 1900 transcription's editor's title for the paragraph was simply Anglais du Sud meaning Southern British English — an undesirably ambiguous term especially when some people, at least in those days, were given to using 'North Britain' to mean Scotland. (Sweet had been dead fourteen years by the time Jones started promoting the term 'received pronunciation' he'd taken up from A. J. Ellis).

We notice immediately that the slight diphthongality of the two closest vowels in their most characteristic realisations was taken into account by Sweet in his pref·rence to represent them not as /iː/ and /uː/ but as the glide-ending diphthongs /ij/ and /uw/. In Jones's opinion the diphthongal variant was not as typical as the simple one — hence his pref·rence for [iː] and [uː] with their length marks rather than glide symbols to represent these phonemes. Various Americans including Leonard Bloomfield favoured such final-glide representations.

Next we notice that, tho the ship /ʃɪp/ vowel is shown as /i/, there're quite a number of occurrences of an undotted [ı] used in unaccented syllables (of various values) eg in the before any vowels and also in all three unaccented syllables of encourages /ɪnkᴧrɪʤɪz/. Additionally, he used this [ı] where in today's most popular notation for General British pronunciations [i] wd be used in words like association /əˈsəʊsieɪʃn/, and study /stᴧdi/. This dotless [ı] had not, I believe, in fact been accorded recognition as an item of the Association's official alphabet at the time and has in fact never been so subsequently. He also used it to begin the diphthong we now show as /ɪə/.

We see that, in a manner that Jones was later to follow, he represented the most open of our GB rounded vowels, the phoneme of words like clock with the symbol /ɔ/ (unlike our now usual Gimsonian style /ɒ/) and the mid one of words like jaw with the same letter plus length sign as /ɔː/ — which our Gimsonian practice matches. It's rather int·resting that at the unaccented occurrences of the words or and your before following vowels in lines 1 and 9 he reveals his choice of the /ɒ/ phoneme. Neither of the two principal pronunciation dictionaries, the Wells LPD and the Roach-&-co CEPD, refers to the existence of this /ɒr/ weakform of or but I can't help wondering if it's still being used by numbers of people without its being noticed. I wonder how many people are aware of the existence of a similar weakform /fɒr/ of the preposition for. I'm not surprised that this isnt listed as a third weakform by CEPD. Jones's and Gimson's EPDs always listed /fɒr/ as an "occasional strong [sic] form before vowels" but it's not easy to estimate just how frequently it's used today. I use it — but then I'm very old. Anyway, I'm happy to find it noted in LPD tho I dont accept that it now only occurs before the four pronouns her, him, it and us. This is prob·bly not the place to go into the reasons why I regard /fɒr/ as better termed a 'weakform' than a 'strong form'. No dictionary has any record of any surviving use of a weakform /jɒr/ but I wonder how many people carry on using it today unnoticed: I sh·ll have to lissen to myself more carefully. We neednt dou·t that it was a usage of Henry Sweet's. Rather similarly one notices Sweet's pref·rence for what is now written in Gimsonian symbols as /ʧʊldrən/ for the plural of child. It's understandable that CEPD shd not bother to show this variant tho it was always included in the EPD of Jones's day but I'm glad to welcome LPD's inclusion of it. Indeed I regret LPD's omission of the other regularly included Jones variant with a syllabic /l/ in its first syllable which I fancy to be as frequently used as the /ʊ/ one.

These ar·nt the only usages Sweet displayed that've become oldfashioned. Few people use their /əʊ/ phoneme in the first syllable of phonetics today and, of course, since Gimson revised the Jones EPD we've mostly adopted his preferred notation rather than the /ou/ that Jones always used in it for that phoneme. Praps the most numerous diff·rences from Sweet's usages seen in this paragraph are our latterday pref·rences for /ə/ where he used [ı] to be seen at society, nationalities, utilising, foreign, possible, alphabet and system. Alongside these schwas, some of which didnt become predominant until the second half of the last century, it's int·resting to see that he'd already adopted one in the second syllable of representation. His dropping of the former schwa from between the /n/ and the /r/ of generally also seems rather modern for his day.

Sweet used a number of diff·rent sets of transcriptional symbols for English at various times. This was one of his last ones but not the last. Seven years later, for his book The Sounds of English, he employed yet another, rather more complicated, symbol set five years before he died in 1912. Anyway, this 1900 choice was evidently the Sweet transcription that Daniel Jones liked best. He adopted it unchanged for all his major books on English with the sole minor exceptions of [ij, ı, uw & ıə] giving [iː, i, e, ӕ, ɑː, ɒ, ɔː, ʊ, uː, ᴧ, əː, ə; ei, ou, ai, au, ɔi, iə, ɛə, ʊə]. A totally trivial diff·rence after 1927 was due to the fact that the IPA decided to replace its earlier official sign for 'primary stress'  [ ́] with the present [ˈ].

More on Weakforms (x).

Résumé

Many English words of two syllables and almost all longer ones will be found to be subject, under rhythmic pressure, to articulatory reduction or elision of one or more of their constituent phonemes. When this occurs to any word the result is the production of two or more forms of it diff·rent in phonemic composition. For any of the reduced forms the appropriate term is 'weakform'. For the single original (which might informally be called the 'unsqueezed') form the term 'strongform' is appropriate. The most generally known weakforms are those of the 'functor' type meaning those having important grammatical functions chiefly as determiners (such as the articles), pronouns, prepositions, connectives and verb inflections. Attention was originally concentrated on these owing to their importance for advanced students of English as an additional language because failure to properly operate them tends to produce effects of gross forren accent.

borrowing: Continuing our quasi-alphabetical account of weakform words, it may be mentioned that, as far back as our Blog 066, we de·lt with some of the variety of weakforms the word borrowing has. I was particu·ly reminded of them by hearing on BBC Radio 4 the admired broadcaster Evan Davies, the day after the Gover·ment's annual budget presentation, interviewing at length George Osborne our Etonian Chancellor of the Exchequer. [That archaic title which we retain for our gover·ments' finance ministers is a good example of weak·ning of an expression in which, even in normal unhurried enunciation, most of us who usually make ordin·ry r-links tend to lose one (along with its preceding schwa) by making it /ˈʧɑːnsl əv ði ɪksʧekə/ thereby saying something that is not audit·rily distinct from the non-existent *Chancel of the Exchequer]. They both time after time used the word borrowing with, as far as I managed to notice, never once giving it the form /bɒrəʊɪŋ/ — which is the first if not sole form you find for it in any dictionary. It varied between forms which included /bɒrwɪŋ, bɒr.rɪŋ/ and even /bɒrərɪŋ/.

area: Another item in this 'abc' group is the common yod-dropping weakform of area /ɛːrə/ which has increasingly come to my notice in the last couple of decades. It's particu·ly offen to be he·rd from weather forecasters.

being: The form, /biːɪŋ/, as for any verb ending with /-iː/ that has the present participial ending -ing added to it, is likely at times to become subject to the elision of the vowel of that ending, giving rise to a weakform /biːŋ/. This is far from a recent development: Kökeritz (1953 p191) remarked that monosyllabic "[biːn] seems to have been the regular form of being" for Shakespeare.

been: The word been was given in its OED3  2010 revision of the entry as "past participle been Brit. /biːn/, /bɪn/, U.S. /bin/, /bɪn/, /bɛn/". The two British forms are gen·rally listed in all ref·rence works. It seems that some speakers use both of the two forms alternating them not merely from indecisiveness but in a systematic strongform versus weakform relationship. The Jones EPD from 1917 remarked of the /bɪn/ form that "Some speakers use [it] as a weak form, others use it in all cases." LPD2008 followed suit. All seem agreed that /biːn/ preponderates in current General British usage.

before: Any word beginning with one of the prefixes be-, de-, re- etc may be in the transitional stage of weakening its traditional /bɪ-/ etc to the relatively recent conversion to /bə-/ in the speech of any individual speaker. This is completely outside our topic of weakforms and strongforms alternation as a prosodic process — something we mention here once for all.
As to a genuine weakform of before, in markedly relaxt enunciation a weakform /pfɔː/ may occasionally be he·rd in which the initial /b/ has become devoiced by pre· assimilation to the following /f/ which itself by post· assimilation has been converted to an at least partly bilabial [ɸ].

between: Those who nowadays use tween as a colloquialism, whatever may've been its earlier history— it appears in Shakespeare and Scott — surely perceive it as an informal weakform of between.

but: The conjunction, adverb and preposition etc but has only a single ordinary weakform /bət/. However, before a word beginning with a vowel, a form of but reduced to the consonantal cluster /pt-/ may sometimes occur in relaxt style where the original initial /b/ is devoiced to a /p/ which is merely an unreleased bilabial closure. Meanwhile the release of the /t/ is without aspiration: compare /st-/ etc.

Dogs must be carried.

In his blog "carrying dogs" of Friday, 15 March 2013 John Wells' referred to a Language Log "interesting posting by Mark Liberman" containing the remark "I've never figured out a really convincing explanation for why stressing "dogs" seems to encourage the interpretation "everyone must carry a dog", while stressing "carried" encourages the interpretation "if you have a dog, you must carry it". John then supplied three prosodic variant versions of this familiar cautionary notice “ ˏDogs | must be carried ”, “ ˏDogs | must be carried ” and “ Dogs must be carried ”. It's of course obvious that the absence of accentuation of 'carried' in the third version necessarily suggests that the topic of 'carrying' is to be taken for granted as already establisht in the situation. John added "If you say Dogs must be carried you encourage the interpretationyou can't use this facility unless you are carrying a dog”. But why?" I shd prefer a wording like 'suggest the impression' to 'encourage the interpretation' because no normally intelligent person is likely to misinterpret these words.

Anyway, I think the short ans·er is 'Coz we have a sense of humour'. I think we prob·bly all tend to hear such brief declarations in our mind's ears especially when we frequently meet them in stores and stations etc. And most of us, when repeatedly seeing such things, find that alternative prosodies pop into one's head without bidding. When such a prosody is that third Wells one it strikes us as rather amusingly absurd. That's all. This seemed so simple and obvious that I wrote to John suggesting that I shd've thaut him more likely to have saved using such an item till April the first. He assured me that he was making a 'serious point' and recommended me to look at his 'latest reply' which began:
"I think you're ALL missing the point". (He received twenty-seven comments most of which were quite long.) It turned out that he had in mind "a text-to-speech system designed to read notices aloud ... [with] an intonation component that would correctly place an intonation nucleus ... on “carried” in “Dogs must be carried” but on “Safety” in “Safety boots must be worn”. He indicated that he longed for "an ALGORITHM" for that purpose.

I havnt much pers·nal familiarity with such things but my Apple-Mac computer has a very welcome facility for having a voice read out for me any text I select. I tried him (an American male) and I thaut he did well. For 'Dogs must be carried' he sed very clearly [ˈdɔgz | mᴧs bi ˎkӕrid] and for 'Safety boots must be worn' he gave me [ˈseɪfti ˎbuts | mᴧs bi ˎwɔrn]. These both gave adequate emphasis to their topic words and also appropriately indicated the climactic elements of the comments by tonic accents. One of the most difficult things I imagine for designers of text-to-speech software is to build in recognition of when de-accentuation of re-occurring items is appropriate but it's something that seems to be being managed to a very reasonable extent. I habitually set my computer to murmur the time to me at ev·ry quarter of the hour. The obliging voice (American female this time), tells me from one to four and from six to eleven that eg [It's ˈone ˈforty ˎfive] but at 5.45 she always accents it [It's ˈfive | forty five]. Also I let my American guy read the following story: I ˈwanted to go up to the next ˏfloor of a department ˏstore, | and  I saw an escalator with a ˏsign | ˎsaying ˈDogs | must be ˎcarried on this escalator | but I didn't have a ˎdog,| so I had to ˈuse the stairs. These intonations also seemed very effective.

The standard in such things so far reached may be much less than John wishes to get from his desired algorithm but I've found my admittedly extremely slight sampling quite impressive. People who're lissening purely for the meaning of a text that's re·d for them arnt really likely to be all that much thrown by unidiomatic stressings. We can interpret meaning effectively enuff even with quite a few incompletely appropriate or ambiguous accentuations. Many songs have musical settings that go counter to the accentuations we shd expect if their words were ordinary speech and no-one ever seems to worry about the fact. Ambiguous accentuations are very common on the stage and even the screen. Especially in drama with archaic language, I sometimes find myself wondering whether an actor has really understood the text I'm hearing. Some bits of Shakespeare are now quite incomprehensible even to specialist scholars but still get declaimed. I have a feeling that offen much of what distinguishes a really good stage or screen performance from a mediocre one can be the effectiveness of the prosodies employed.

Regarding the tonetic notation I've used above, I shd think only [] shd need any explanation. I use it to indicate a high fall restricted in its movement to approximately the top third of the speaker's voice range.

A Brief Conversation.

Most of my readers will know that I use these blog posts from time to time to offer teachers of non-native-speaking students of British English at an advanced level pieces of dialog for phonetic analysis and/or spoken practice. I've chosen this time to use one of the shorter items from my book People Speaking which was publisht in 1977 by the Oxford University Press. The sound file corresponding to it can be accessed in the main part of this website at section 4.1 where it is Passage 23 entitled English Urban Winter. I recommend copying it into Audacity or the like.

It's a conversation between two acquaintances who happen to meet at a bus stop. Because I think to study both prosodic and phonemic features at once is less easy than dealing with them sep·rately, I offer for each line firstly a prosodic notation accompanying ordinary spelling and secondly a phonemic one. Both are what I classify as "coarse" types of transcription ie almost completely undetailed. Anyone familiar with the work of transcribing relatively spontaneous speech will know that on many occasions various items might've equally well been transcribed in an alternative way. To keep things simple no alternatives are supplied on this occasion. The recordings used for my book were a mixture of scripted and spontaneous speech. The excellent professional actors who performed most of it had been requested to make the scripted items such as the present dialog sound as natural as possible. I judged them very successful at doing so. I have on occasion challenged lisseners to see if they can tell which items were spontaneous from those that were scripted. It wasnt found easy.

1. ˈHulˏlo! ˈWhat d'you think of the weather?
This first word recalls the subject of our last blog. Not here but in other contexts 'hullo' exhibits English "alternate stress (or 'accent') preference". When used greeting a person by name, instead of being accented on its second syllable, as it normally is when used in isolation, it moves the accent to its first syllable as in Hullo, ˏTom. Here, anyway, it's used as a quite animated (witness the initial high pitch) cordial greeting that can also to some extent suggest by its rising tone that the speaker is prepared to open a conversation.
hᴧləʊ wɒt (ə) ju θɪŋk ə(v) ðə weðə
The very first syllable, that I've shown as /ᴧ/, is a good example of how really rather uncumftably similar to each other the General British phonemes /ӕ/ (phoneticly [a] these days) and /ᴧ/ have become. It wou·d've been difficult to decide which vowel she'd used if it'd been spontaneous but she was reading a text that sed 'hullo'. The word 'do' here has no /d/ and only at best a ghost of a vowel. Much the same goes for the weak, if present, /v/ of the 'of'. It's nothing unusual for people to use /ᴧ, ə/ or /e/ in the first syllable of 'hullo' but I'd recommend students to avoid the recessive minority form with /ӕ/. Of course with /e/ the corresponding spelling is Hello but, curiously enuff, the semantic and stylistic uses of all three are the same — making them in essence three diff·rent pronunciations of the 'same' word.

2. ˈI ˈdon't mind it.
Here we have one of the simplest types of head — two level tones with the usual small step down in pitch to the second accent. The high fall is just about the commonest of all climax tones.
aɪ dəʊn maɪnd ɪt
Here the /t/ of don't is completely elided. This is a perfec·ly common tho not invariable practice. Some speakers on some occasions wd use the /t/ of the orthographic form. Others sometimes use more extreme reductions: the /n/ might be converted to an /m/ or even dropt altogether producing what some wd call 'careless' speech.

3.ˈSnow | doesn't bother ˏme.
The pitch of 'snow' is rather low but not very low so it was a coin-toss decision to mark it as high and, weakly tho it's uttered, it is prominent so must be classified as accented. Some might like to describe it as in a lower 'key' from what follows. The vertical bar that we use to signify a dynamic change gives a hint of that.
snəʊ dᴧzn bɒðə miː
It's completely normal to elide the /t/ of 'doesnt' before a following plosive in fluent speech. The only position in which the final /t/s of words ending with -n't are not normally dropt in General British speech (tho they may well only survive in the form of glottal stops) is when an immediate break in rhythm follows.

4.And I've known it | plenty colder than ˏthis.
Since the word 'and' initiates a quite wide falling tone it must be classified as accented. And, since its vowel is clearly a schwa, it's another example of how misguided those who insist that GB schwa is never accented are. The vertical bar here doesnt indicate any more discontinuity of rhythm than to register a renewal of impetus produced by step up from the lower pitch of the previous second accent of the falling head. Falling tones are the most natural precursors to a fall-rise climax tone such as we have on the final word.
ən aɪv nəʊn ɪt plenti kəʊldə ðn̩ ðɪs
The word 'and' is the most frequently used word in the English language. It's relatively rarely found to occur with the /d/ of its spelling. This adverbial use of 'plenty' is classified as colloquial. Only the least elegant types of British speech drop the /t/ of 'plenty' by contrast with General American usage where it's not stigmatised. The /n/ of 'than' isnt very long but it's long enuff to make it unsuitable to suggest th·t that 'than' contains a schwa.

5. ˎYes, | but it's ˈno ˈfun | if you ˈlive | well out of ˏtown.
The fall-rise climax here is preceded by what I'm inclined to call a head of mixt tones rather than the more usual sequence of falling tones: the change at 'well' from level tones to a falling head-tone cou·d be sed to show a surge of vigor.
jes bət ɪts nəʊ fᴧn ɪf ju lɪv wel aʊt əv taʊn
The final /t/ of 'but' here is so swiftly and softly articulated that it's hardly classifiable as a plosive or necessarily to be described as a /t/ rather than a /d/.

6. I had to wait ˈhalf an ˈhour | for a bus this ˏmorning.
Our bar register·d a dynamic discontinuity becoz there was a very slight hiatus as the words 'for a' dropt below the upper level of their preceding word 'hour'. The climax tone on 'bus' took the pitch range down to the lowest level, the one that the following adverbial adjunct 'this morning' began on.
ə hӕt tə weɪt hɑːf ən ɑ: frə bᴧs ðəs mɔːnɪŋ
We cou·dnt transcribe the pronoun 'I' as /aɪ/ here. It was so rapidly articulated and vague in quality that a schwa was the only thing we can call it. There was a classic pre (ie anticipative) assimilation as the final /d/ of 'had' was fully converted into a /t/ before the /t/ of 'to'.
The diphthong 'aʊə' is very offen replaced in ordinary speech with a monophthong either /ɑə/ or as here /ɑː/. It's perfec·ly commonplace for 'for' to lose its vowel in combining with 'a'. It's not usually mentioned in textbooks that the word 'this' may take a schwa weakform in the combination this morning, but it's a well known fact.

7. And there's usually| one every | five or ˈten minutes.
There's something a little unusual about the fully falling pitch on the word 'usually' here: it's notable that it's spoken very quickly — otherwise it might well sound quite odd. You'd normally expect to hear it on a fall-rise if, as here, its dynamicly ie rhythmicly separated from the following words. She keeps up a vigorous delivery for the next few words in using two falls. Then she momentarily sounds slightly more relaxed with a level tone on 'ten' but she ups the vigour agen finally with a notably high fall on 'minutes'.
ən ðəz juʒli wᴧn evri faɪv ɔː ten mɪnɪts
All the words in this sentence are pronounced in some of their most usual forms for the context including the very common schwa weakform she uses at 'there’s'. The pronunciations given for 'usually' in the pronouncing dictionaries tend to suggest that it's normal to pronounce this word as four syllables which it's cert·nly not: it's normally two, as here, or three ie /juːʒəli/. There's a little more on this at my Blog 132.

8. ˎHard ˏˌlines!
If you want to express genuine sympathy with someone's misfortunes it's safer to avoid speaking too vigorously. That's what he does here keeping to low pitches and narrow pitch movements. On the first word he has a low fall (a comparatively narrow type) and on the second an exceptionally narrow rise. I call the tone I've shown for it the Rise-Bass coz it's a rise but unlike the usual Rise tone (which goes up from the Bass ie low range of the voice into the middle range) this goes up very little, its movement being limited to that Bass range. It's a fairly common tone in rhetorical speech (once a favourite with Winston Churchill and various preachers) but hardly one you'd go out of your way to have your students practise using.
hɑːd laɪnz
Both of these words were spoken with their most usual phonemes.

Accent Shift.

Accent Shift or rhythmical accent re-distribution within words, also known (and more usually so) as 'Stress Shift' was the subject of a recent query by one of my most perceptive correspondents. He as·t, "as it's usually thirteen in isolation but ˈthirteen books when uttered in this phrase, what about entire? Do people say ˈentire forest for example?" He added "There's no indication of stress shift in either LPD3 or EPD18".
It's exactly true that neither dictionary indicates completely explicitly that accent shift is not normal for words like entire but in fact both at more than one place do supply negative evidence ie contra-indication of its possibility. The EPD (Cambridge) English Pronouncing Dictionary does so by not providing an example of the word used in a stress-shifted context. The explanations of the design of the dictionary in its Introduction at p.xvi contain a twenty-five-line paragraph explaining the topic. This has some slightly cumbersome wording where it sez "when a word of several syllables has a stress near the end of the word, and is followed by another word with stress near its beginning, there is a tendency for the stress in the first word to move nearer the beginning if it contains a syllable there that is capable of receiving stress." Examples follow. It also has another, simpler and clearer form of explanation in its Glossary at page 574 that sez "The rhythm of English prefers patterns in which two stressed syllables do not come together. In order to avoid this, stress in some polysyllabic words may move to an earlier syllable when combined with another in a phrase eg..." Then follow good examples and the good news that "In this dictionary, words which change their stress in this way are shown with an example demonstrating the stress shift."

Wells's LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) tackles this problem by saying in its initial "Quick guide to the dictionary" at page xv that "Some words have different stress patterns according to whether they are being used alone or directly before a noun. (See the panel on 'Stress shift', p.784.) The symbol ◂ is used to show words which can behave in this way." At p.784 we find a large panel with about thirty lines of clear explanations illustrated by effective examples. The most important of the examples contrast the words 'fundamental and 'Japanese showing the stress structure of their occurrences in isolation in comparison with their altered stress values in the combinations 'fundamental mistake and 'Japanese language. (These tonetic stress marks of ours are very slightly different from the original versions in order to avoid any suggestions of low pitches and level pitches where they aren't appropriate.) The essential idea behind these stress patterns is that speakers instinctively choose to distance from each other the two strongest stresses in such units as these two-word phrases. It's one of the workings of the general basic tendency we have to alternate stresses as far as possible (with the corresponding weaker inclination to also alternate weak syllables as far as possible).

The OALD (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary) edition of 2010 at page R46 explained stress shift like this:
"When two words are put together in a phrase, the main stress in the first word may shift to the place of the secondary stress to avoid a clash between two stressed syllables near to each other. For instance, ˌafterˈnoon has the main stress on noon, but in the phrase ˌafternoon ˈtea the stress on noon is missing. ˌWell ˈknown has the main stress on known, but in the phrase well-known ˈactor the stress on known is missing."

A more precise if rather less easily digestible definition is to be found in Cruttenden's seventh edition of 'Gimson' at "Secondary Accent 10.3.4" thus: "When words have more than one syllable before or after the main accent, a general rhythmical pattern is often apparent, there being a tendency to alternate more prominent and less prominent syllables. Syllables made prominent in this way will retain a full vowel; additionally, syllables before the primary accent will often receive a secondary accent involving pitch prominence."

However, the real problem my correspondent was concerned with wasnt the above as he showed by indicating that he was familiar with the stress alternations we find with thirteen on its own and in the phrase 'thirteen books. He was wondering in effect whether he cou·d treat the first syllable of entire as strong. For this we may look to the dictionaries for help. Here's how the three major pronunciation dictionaries represent the word entire.
CEPD has "ɪn'taɪər, -'taɪ.ər, en- ." [Cf ˌenchi'lada, ˌener'getic; ˌenzy'mology, ˌembar'kation, empɔːriəm, endemic].
LPD has "ɪn ˈtaɪ ̮ə  en-, ən- , § ˌen-, § ˌɪn-". [Cf (ˌ)ӕn 'tiːk]
The ODP (Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation) has "ᵻn'tᴧɪə(r), ɛn'tᴧɪə(r)" The Merriam Webster Online notation "\in-ˈtī(-ə)r, ˈen-ˌ\" seems to cover the (lesser) possibility in GA (General American pronunciation) of a phrase strest the ˈentire world. [Its 1961 parent edition had ˈen- first.]

What has to be clear is that, when LPD assigns one of its stress-shift in-line arrowheads ◂ to an item, it's very offen not indicating a clearcut rule but only making a suggestion of the likelihood of the occurrence of shift. The decision to use the ◂ sign essentially depends on whether or not it's considered that the first syllable can carry full stress. Notice that ˌalˈright is recognised as regularly having two fully stressable syllables whereas alˈready is only to be regarded as possibly so operated. The alternative pronunciation is indicated by the not very obvious notation ˌ.- in which the low-stress sign ˌ is followed by an online dot which stands for the first syllable of the word already and is followed by a hyphen which signals that the word's representation is incomplete.
It may be thaut that one might well have accorded a secondary stress to already because it can offen be observed to exhibit stress-shift as in I've ˈalready seen it instead of I’ve alˈready seen it.
This use of ◂ wasnt originated by Wells but seemingly by Gordon Walsh the former Longman phonetics editor who also introduced the /hӕpi/ type of notation (with /i/ to represent its final vowel) apparently first in 1978 in their long-gestated but excellent LDCE (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English).

The GB air/square phoneme.

In descriptions of current General British pronunciation there're at the moment two competing accounts and thereby transcriptions of its air vocalic phoneme. The most gen·rally used of these continues to employ a traditional symbolisation reflecting its formerly virtually undisputed value as uniformly the diphthong [ɛə]. The other recognises that this phonemic unit can be sed to've evolved for very many speakers into the monophthongal long vowel [ɛː]. For the vowel phoneme in a word like fair most people — cert·nly a majority of younger ones — ord·n·rily use [ɛː] all the time. Others, mainly but by no means exclusively older people (with or without noticeably 'refined' accents), use both [ɛə] and [ɛː] mostly preferring the latter in closed syllables. All but the most elderly-sounding regularly use [ɛː] before /r/ in words like dairy but, in a word like fair, especially if it comes at the end of prosodic phrase etc, may also be found to use [ɛə] notably if it's strest. This can be observed by comparing the performances of air words accompanying the various dictionaries which in the last two or three decades have increasingly come to provide audio demonstrations from discs or internet sites notably the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (LPD), the Cambridge English Pronunciation Dictionary, the Oxford and Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionaries and the Collins and MacMillan English Dictionaries.

In the pronunciation dictionaries themselves we see that in his English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD), from its first edition in 1917 to his last in 1963, Jones always represented this phoneme by /ɛə/. When Gimson took the EPD over he continued that policy tho, at his major revision of 1977, making the minor departure of substituting /ɛə/ with /eə/. This was motivated simply from judging its simplicity pref·rable in a book consulted by a very wide public with no special phonetic int·rests. He never made such a change to his book An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English (IPE). Peter Roach and his colleagues, who have continued with revisions of the EPD for CUP, have not departed from Gimson's practice. The Wells LPD, first publisht in 1990, has maintained /eə/ for the phoneme in all its three editions. The Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (ODP 2001), by Clive Upton and colleagues, on the other hand has adopted the symbolisation /ɛː/ as has, from the same stable, the online third edition of the OED. Lesser Oxford dictionaries not particu·ly directed at users of English as an additional language had begun implementing this policy in 1993 with the New Shorter OED.

It seems that a century ago most GB speakers used a diphthong of the [ɛə] type in all situations. The describer of Victorian GB Laura Soames was a, praps unwarrantably, lone voice in 1891 indicating that in her opinion most speakers used what we now call a monophthongal allophone of the air diphthong in such words as dairy. However, Henry Sweet made no acknowledgment of her view. Nor did Daniel Jones who, surprisingly, in none of the editions of his famous Outline of English Phonetics from 1932 to 1956 sed anything about forms of /ɛə/ other than that it had "no phonemic variants differing to any marked extent from" [ɛə]. In his Pronunciation of English (1950:63) he made the terse remark "Occasionally one hears a monophthongal long ɛː (ðɛː, bɛː, skɛːs, stɛːz)". Gimson, in 1962 in the first edition of his IPE remarked that a "form of advanced RP uses a long pure vowel [ɛː] ... especially in a non-final syllable, e.g. careful, scarcely [ˈkɛːfɫ], [ˈskɛːslɪ]". Wells's 1982 Accents of English remarked on non "RP" varieties at his p.157 "In much English and southern-hemisphere speech and in Wales, the opposition exemplified by shed vs. shared is one of duration rather than quality..." and of "RP" itself "/ɛə/ often involves very little diphthongal movement." Additionally he remarked at its p.293 "a monophthongal /ɛə/ i.e. [ɛː], is perhaps a Near-RP northernism if in a stressed final syllable; in other environments, as careful [ˈkɛːfl], bearing [ˈbɛːrɪŋ], it carries no such connotations." A further major step onward in this evolution was to be seen in Alan Cruttenden's revision of the fifth edition of Gimson's book in 1994 when, commenting on variants of /ɛə/, he made clear his judgment that "Nowadays a long monophthong [ɛː] is a completely acceptable alternative".

In the course of providing advice to users of (British) English as an additional language, the present writer in 1969 in A Guide to English Pronunciation supplied a description of /ɛə/ as "Often narrowed to a long simple vowel before consonants and when unstressed". The present leading textbook in that field, Practical Phonetics and Phonology by Beverley Collins and Inger Mees, from its first edition in 2003 rejected the now increasingly out-of-date recommendation to non-native speakers of the diphthong in favour of the monophthong /ɛː/. With the unequivocal recognition of the predominance of this form over the recessive diphthong to appear in the forthcoming eighth edition of the universally acknowledged standard description of the General British accent of English, Alan Cruttenden's revision of the Gimson book, it'll be int·resting to consider what we may see when the next editions of the two major pronunciation dictionaries of GB appear.

Those who might like to read more on this topic than the above outline may care to look, on the main part of this website, at §5.1 which has more detail including especially bibliographic information not offered here. Readers are reminded that this account has been historical and not to be taken as expressing any lexicographical or didactic preferences.

More on Weakforms (ix).

am: Still dealing with our first alphabetical set of items, ie those beginning a, b and c, it's time something was sed about am ie the part of the verb (to) be. This word is unusual in belonging, along with has, is and will, to the very small group of verbal weakforms which commonly give up their syllabicity in being amalgamated with a word they follow. In the case of am this only means forming the contraction I'm /aɪm/. The fuller syllabic form /əm/ occurs chiefly only in inversions of sentence order as in eg the interrogative What am I to say? /ˏwɒt əm aɪ tə seɪ/ or the idiomatic So am I /ˈsəʊ əmaɪ/. In relaxed conversation the initial schwa may easily be dropt eg /ˈsəʊ maɪ/. Another example is Am I right? as /m aɪ ́raɪt/. Especially in the context of the speaker's just previously having used the unreduced form /aɪ/ of I, agen in very relaxt style, the form /əm/ may be used, eg in /aɪ θɪŋk əm ɔː ˏraɪt/ I think I'm alright. There's more on am at our Section 4 Item 7 ¶¶104-106. Not mentioned there is the possibility of accented Am I? /  ́əm aɪ /. Such occurrences are sometimes not believed in — especially by those who insist as a matter of faith on the non-existence of stressed occurrences of the GB phoneme /ə/. This is praps too relaxed a usage to be recommended for adoption by users of English as an additional language tho it'd be a waste of time to criticise them for using it.

an: At our didactic account of an (at §4.7 ¶28) it was not consider·d necessary to mention that in relaxt styles its weakform /n/ may completely lose its syllabicity as in /aɪ ˈhad n̯ aɪˏdɪə.../ I had an idea...
Blog 431 mentioned some recent anomalous uses that have developt of the strongform of an.

and: We de·lt with and in Blog 057 and agen at # 403 in the first of this series 'More on Weakforms'. However, we didnt mention at either of those places the occasional occurrences of it that are notable for being so reduced that it not only loozes its /d/ — which it on·y ever has in some of that fraction of its total occurrences when it's emphasised — and also at the same time not only its vowel but also its syllabicity. This happens very freq·ently in the expression so-and-so /səʊnsəʊ/ and, less offen, in markedly relaxt sequences such as  /ə ˈkat n̯ ə ˎdɒg/ a cat and a dog.

any: This brings us to any — which unsurprisingly didnt figure in Henry Sweet's historic 1885 first list of fifty-odd functor weakforms. It offen occurs in a weakform that has no more significance than the automatic assimilatory versions of and as /əm/ or /əŋ/. By that we mean that, when in fluent speech it closely precedes a word beginning with a vowel, its final /i/ may be desyllabised into a yod as eg when any old... may readily become /enj əʊld/. More notably, chiefly in fairly casual speech, its initial vowel may become a schwa or very offen be elided resulting in simple /n/ — syllabic or not. So eg Got any cash? may become /gɒt əni/ or /gɒt n̩i/ or /gɒt ni ˊkaʃ/. We'll see when we come to many that it behaves in the same sort of way.

are: Daniel Jones from the 1918 first edition of his Outline of English Phonetics had a note (in his 1956 and other late editions to be found at §488) regarding the reduction of are to unsyllabic /r/ giving the example /ðə ˈʃɒps rɔːl ʃᴧt/ the shops are all shut. This was thoro'ness rather than didactic necessity.

as: Neither of the two principal pronunciation dictionaries records any weakform for this word other than /əz/ but in fairly relaxt speech the form /z/ is not in the least unusual eg as in /əz ˈfɑː z aɪ ˏnəʊ.../ As far as I know...

Minimally Different Words.

My fellow bloggist Kraut has already called cordial attention to my old fr·end John Higgins's unusual little book he's called nauti(c)ly "Don't Ask the Admiral to Show you his Pinnace". John has devoted most of his life's work to linguistic matters with special involvement in their applications to the teaching of English to those who use it as an extra language. At the back of its attractive shiny star-studded cover he describes his book as "A light-hearted tour of minimal pairs and some of the problems they create for those who speak English or are trying to learn it."

Regarding the book's title, he has in mind the way for example Spanish learners of English may well be inclined to attempt to say the word 'pinnace'. That is, employing the vowel sound in its first syllable that they use in their corresponding word 'pinaza' (which, in point of fact, is where we got our word pinnace from) and arriving thereby at /piːnɪs/ ie penis. Ultimately, it seems, such little vessels were named from their being made of pinewood. It's the kind of small boat carried on board a ship for taking people ashore etc. The OED tells us that this word has been spelt 45 other ways in the past including in the sixteenth century as 'penisse'. By the way, it also tells us that at one time it was a slang word for a prostitute, a fact it illustrates with a quote from an early-eighteenth-century play by a cert·n T. Baker "Fine Lady's Airs iii. i. 26 My Dear, thou art but a whiffling sort of a Pinnace, I have been proffer'd lovely, large, First Rate Ladies for half the Mony". [Whifflers is a nice precise word we've sadly allowed to fall into disuse for those who clear the way for important persons thru a crowd by brandishing spears, swords or the like.]

Kraut sed that he particularly liked the item about a 'pole-vaulter', and so did I. It went like this: At an international athletics gathering, one participant on newly making the acquaintance of another asks him 'Are you a pole-vaulter?' and receives the reply 'No, I'm German, but how did you know my name?' This was very effective becoz the stresses, sounds and intonation that wd be employed wou·dve been exac·ly suitable also for the wrong presumption of the question as being 'Are you a Pole, Walter?' leaving only the v for w substitution typical of German speakers' English to distinguish the two versions.
This was so much better than the joke I mentioned in my Blog 063 which hinged on alleged misunderstanding of the question 'What's the bleeding time?' in a film where it was put by a senior doctor to trainees one of whom is supposed to've understood it as a swearing enquiry regarding the time of day. The joke fell completely flat for me coz the prosody was totally wrong. What they needed to do was have the question arranged to occur with a prosodically neutral effect such as wd be obtained by having the instructor say first quietly "Now the ˎbleeding ˏtime.." and then, being presumably not attended to properly, saying loudly "Who can tell me what's the bleeding time?" That wou·dve made the possibility of a misunderstanding reasonably conceivable instead of totally incredible. The intonation ˈWhat's the ˈbleeding time wd be the only kind that sounds in the least natural with 'bleeding' as a swearword intensifier becoz the tonic stress has to be on 'time'. By the way, 'bleeding' so used is the equivalent of 'bloody', the latter being middle class and the former lower class. Shaw's Eliza, if she'd been speaking proper Cockney, wdve sed 'No bleedin’ fear'. Saying 'Not bloody likely' praps accorded with her well known middle-class aspirations.

Minimal pair is a term much used by phoneticians referring to a couple of words exactly matching in pronunciation except at one sound. This book provides lots of mini-lessons in phonetics etc that are all good fun, illustrating entertainingly words like malapropism. Mrs Malaprop is quoted saying "Sure, if I reprehend anything in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs." [She gets wrong the words apprehend, vernacular, arrangement and epithets].
The book cert·nly has an agreeable 'linguistics without tears' function explaining amusingly various more and less serious terms including homographs, homophones, homonyms, phonemes outrageous rhymes and mondegreens. It strikes me as likely to make a very welcome small present for teenagers of any country learning English — not least becoz they can pick up from it a knowledge of a dozen of the nau·tiest English words — always an attraction for young students. I can imagine this taking its place on a lucky junior English learner's bookshelf alongside the Trim/Kneebone booklet English Pronunciation Illustrated just described in our Blog 433. (Illustrating the next edition of this book wd be a fine opportunity for a budding Kneebone. I can pass on any offer to do so to the author.) By the way, this jokey little book ends with yet another joke when the author refers to "my grandfather, Professor Henry Higgins".

The book (ISBN: 978-1-291-30237-0) is available internationally via Lulu.com. Price in UK is £5.50. There's an excellent review of it by John Maidment at http://blogjam.name/ in his blog of the 1st of Feb·ry.

Accenting of a Compound Word.

A member of an internet circle of pronunciation teachers to which I belong recently put this question to the rest of us: "In an ELT coursebook, stress is marked on the first element of 'forest fire' but I've checked around and some people seem to stress the second part. This combination is not included in Jones or Wells. Any preference?" My first reaction was to think that he'd been using an American book but he only quoted the two principal British pronouncing dictionaries the LPD (the Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) and the CEPD which in its Cambridge re-incarnation of the Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary is principally in the hands of Peter Roach. So, even with the provenance of the text book not stated, it seemed reasonable to presume that it was British. Since the majority of our members are teachers of American pronunciation I'd guess they'd wondered why he was worrying. I think most speakers of American English wd find that stressing normal. Not so the British. You may be able to guess why the lexicographers fight shy of giving them really full treatment — it'd probbly require so much extra space that it'd double the size of any of them. That would praps necessitate the issuing of them in two volumes. The current edition of EPD, excellent tho it is, is very considerably enlarged from what it was in Daniel Jones's or Gimson's day — taller and wider, with more pages and even in paperback heavier than the older hardback versions. Even so it's reduced in legibility partly because of the employment of more complicated types of transcription than were used in Jones's day and partly on account of the enthusiasm for displaying things that are a waste of space such as epenthetic sounds and obvious assimilations. Most of these comments apply to the LPD which, however, does benefit from a two-column layout that's somewhat more comfortable than EPD's three-column choice. The Oxford DP has not perfect but better legibility than either of these two but suffers from restricted coverage while yet being unwieldy.

The number of dictionaries which have followed the lead of Hornby's hugely successful OALD ie Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (for the third edition of which I was invited by him to contribute the pronunciations) are much better at including compounds but they still don't anything like fully meet the demand for information on them as our example seems to confirm below. This book in 1974 wd pop reasonably easily into a briefcase even in its hardback form. These days, magnificent tho it's become, it's more than twice that size and weight. It, as do even more frequently its rivals, includes lots of compounds without giving pronunciations or even stressings for them. Checking online some of the most likely sources of information on our 'forest fire' example  I found the following results.

At the OALD the expression is given as an illustration of use only, but with no definition or pronunciation or even stressing. So also for the Oxford American ALD. The Cambridge equivalent was even less informative. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English was the same. The MacMillan Dictionary had it as an illustration of use only. The Collins English Dictionary came out far the best with (ˈfɒrɪst faɪə) and "a large, uncontrolled fire in a forest or wooded area" plus nine modern illustrative sentences. Strangely, the transcription didnt include the predominant British stressing at all. Dictionary.com had a good concise definition plus nine lines of further information and eight cross references but no phonetic information of any kind. Merriam-Webster also had a definition but no phonetic information. Tim Bowyer at Howjsay hasnt got round to saying it yet. The Random House/American Heritage didnt seem to have it. Vocabulary.com had a good short definition but no transcription tho it did have a macho-sounding American male speaker with an Eastern accent saying [fɔ/ɒrəst faɪ.ᴧ] very clearly (if rather artificially) so with its the forestressing it was okay for its presumably American audience. The great Oxford English Dictionary has it with no definition except insofar as it has two quotations of its use, one from 1878 (with it hyphened) and the other from 1958. Finally, and not online in this case, the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation unsurprisingly had no entry for it.

When my colleague "checked around" it seemed to be that he was ready to accept the 'ruling' of the textbook but only with cert·n misgivings. He was quite right to have such dou·ts, I shd say, because I imagine I'dve been aware of it in all the accounts of such fires in broadcasts over many years if any number of British speakers had come up with the American stressing. Forestressing such a compound unifies its elements more than 'even' stressing does. It tends to happen among speakers who have high-frequency use of the word and they cert·nly have a lot of fires in California to talk about. Another reason why, it seems likely to me, Americans, much more offen than the British, tend to treat such compounds in this way is that considerable numbers of speakers of German and other forestress-preferring languages have settled there. You can see the German habit in their spellings: forest fire is Waldbrand in German.

One final point is that people without the appropriate phonetic training are very offen not reliable in their impressions of what might be the usual syllable that some other speaker ordinarily selects to receive tonic stress in saying a compound word. In a fair proportion of the occurrences of a compound like forest fire that one might hear from newsreaders etc, the contrast that wdve been evident between earlier and later stressing in most situations may be dissolved out completely in some others. For example a speaker whose usual habit is to employ a forestressed version of the word as forest fire will hear nothing contrary to their preferred stressing in a sentence such as In the present conditions | there is still a possiˏbility | of further forest fires. In the precontext to such a sentence forest fires will have been referred to but not at all necessarily by use of that very compound word itself. Untrained listeners are quite likely to assume that the speaker shares their stressing pref·rence not becoz they actually he·rd the stressing they favour but becoz the words were spoken exac·ly as they themselves wou·dve sed them. That is to say, deprived of any stressing feature becoz of relegation to the least important part of a sentence owing to their containing no new information.

John L. M. Trim.

It was sad to hear that John L. M. Trim had died on the 19th of this month at the age of 88. I liked him very much and have happy memories of his hospitality at Cambridge but others are far better equipt than I am to write about his life. I'm sure we shall hear in due course from John Wells who benefited so greatly from studying phonetics under his guidance at Cambridge. However, as something in the way of a small tribute, I'll try briefly to list his writings in the field of phonetics. They were a good deal less numerous than one cou·dve wisht but they are very far from deserving to be forgotten.

In the dozen years from 1950 he made about twenty contributions to the International Phonetic Association's journal which in those days still functioned with French as its editorial language and so became familiarly known as the "m.f." short for Le Maître Phonétique. His very first piece in it was a transcription of ten lines of verse by the German poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. He contributed seven more German items to its series of specimens called the Student Section, mainly of prose. His dozen other mf contributions included some penetrating reviews among which were his accounts of Preliminaries to Speech Analysis by Jakobson, Fant & Halle in 1952 (pp 37-40), Eugen Dieth's Vademecum der Phonetik in 1951 (pp 18-19), and Martinet's Économie des Changements Phonétiques in 1957 (pp 14-17). Besides these there was a single obituary in 1951 and a concise but valuable note on the phonemic status of German h, ç & x (p.41) also in that year. His final contribution, in 1959, was a stimulating, original article on 'Major and minor tone-groups in English' (pp 26-29).

This last item was considered so valuable by W. E. Jones and John Laver that they selected it for reprinting in their 1973 anthology of fundamental articles commended to postgraduate students entitled Phonetics in Linguistics. It was one of four in that book taken from the 'mf' and, tho the other three were converted to ord·n·ry spelling, Trim's had to be left in its original notation becoz its form so importantly exemplified its challenging theme. Trim appeared as co-author of another of the items in that book namely 'Vowel consonant and syllable — a phonological definition', originally publisht in Word in 1953 in collaboration with J. D. O'connor. In 1964 Trim was co-editor of and contributor to the volume In Honour of Daniel Jones in which he had a substantial article, at pp 374-383, on 'Tonetic Stress-Marks for German'.

Other articles of note included a lengthy one (of nine full pages) in 1961 in the British-Council-cum-OUP English Language Teaching journal Vol. XVI. No.1. It was a thoughtful discussion proposing the use of the expression English Standard Pronunciation (abbreviation E.S.P.) for what had up to then mainly been called RP, reserving RP for the distinctively public school accent. Like so many of us he felt that the term 'Received Pronunciation' was increasingly an embarrassment. The movement away from it continues year after year and an important further step away from it will be seen in the forthcoming eighth edition of Cruttenden's Gimson. Another Trim article was ‘The Synthesis of English Vowels’ written in collaboration with G. F. Arnold, P. Denes and J. D. O’Connor publisht in Language and Speech issue No 1 in 1958 (at pp 114-125).

Finally we must mention, tho very few people will need reminding about it, his brilliant little 96-page paperback book of pronunciation practice materials with highly entertaining humorous illustrations by the late Peter Kneebone, English Pronunciation Illustrated. Shockingly for a publication of Cambridge University Press, my copy has no date of printing or record of previous editions. Its early editions (from 1965) for a decade or so used the Jones EPD transcription of the day. After the 1978 watershed when Gimson turned the EPD over to his preferred 'multiliteral' transcription it followed suit. It has long been accompanied by recordings and is still in print. The book offered concise and simple but phonetically sophisticated advice pointing out its potential value even to speech therapists as well as language teachers and learners. It contained eleven pages of Word indexes remarkably both 'forward' and 'reverse', that is, listed respectively by their initial and final phonemes.

In 1956 he was specially thanked for his "excellent recommendations" by Daniel Jones who, half a dozen years after his final retirement in 1949 (then in his mid seventies) was labouring over final revisions of his most famous book. The Preface to that eighth edition of his Outline of English Phonetics, gratefully acknowledged his help mentioning that a definition that appeared at p.332 had been adopted exactly as suggested to him by Trim. It was:
A 'broad' transcription may be defined precisely as one which represents only the phonemes of a language, using for this purpose the minimum number of letter shapes of simplest Romanic form (consistently with the avoidance of undesirable digraphs for 'single sounds') together with such prosodic marks as may be necessary for the avoidance of lexical ambiguity.

Especially after transferring to Cambridge to set up a Department of Phonetics and subsequently to foster the new discipline of linguistics there, Trim's preoccupations besides teaching and administrative matters, turned most intensively to subjects in the area of Language Policy and Pedagogy, the title of one of the journals to which he contributed. One partial minor return to the old phonetic int·rests seemed to be evidenced in his 1987 publication 'Daniel Jones’ “classical” model of pronunciation training' in the volume Language Topics: Essays in honour of Michael Halliday. Anyhow, he ended his career becoming for many years an active extremely highly regarded leading figure in the fields of Language Policy etc in the European Community.

Comparison of Transcriptions.

Readers of the "Kraut" blog of 27 Dec 2012 will praps remember that I welcomed it as "Another splendidly stimulating post!" I askt if any other Kraut fans wd like to c·mpare their impressions of the 40 words fr·m one of our most justly admired news presenters (Fiona Bruce) with my own as I transcribed them in some detail. They were "Well, that's it from us. There's more on the BBC news channel including a fresh look at tomorrow's front pages. But now on BBC One it's time to join our news teams where you are. Bye-bye."
I'm minded to preface the following discussion with one of the concluding comments in his epoch-making book Phonetics (1943 p.152) by the late great American authority Kenneth Pike "The fact may be emphasised that no phonetic description, no matter how detailed, is complete". We shd also remember the wise words of Sidney Wood readers of phonetic blogs will've seen about the uncert·n qualities of recordings coming from the Web. Here are Kraut's transcriptions and comments followed by my own plus a few remarks by me.

1. [wə ðæts ɪt fm ˎʌs] (This section lasts roughly 600ms. Mark the relaxed weakform pronunciations of well and from. In contrast to JWL I do hear a voiced 'th' at the beginning of that.)
[wəl ats ɪt fm ˈᴧs |] At 'that's' I think he's prob·bly right to suggest that a tongue gesture corresponding to /ð/ was made but I expect he'll agree that a canonical /ð/ wasnt produced ie no friction was detectable. Any voicing was pretty weak and I'm surprised he doesnt detect a lateral. I think there is a tone on 'us' which is narrow and p·aps lower than I chose but I'm still sure there's no movement on it. Neither of us marked the /w/ of 'well' as underrounded.

2. [ðɛz ˎmɔː ʔɒn ə biˑbsi ˈnjʉz̥ ʧænl̩] (Note the weakform for the definite article the. I can't spot an eth in the. The whole phrase lasts about 1.38s.)
[ ðɛz ˎmɔː | ɒn ðə bibsi ˈnjʉz ʧanl ] The glottal closure before 'on' was very weak: something you cd almost say you sense rather than hear. Very weak tho it is, I seem to detect a light tongue gesture for a /ð/ which has no audible voicing or friction, so it's for me the next thing to absent altogether — which was what he plum·t for. I suppose I must've thaut it wasn· worth indicating a degree of length on the first vowel of 'BBC' but anyway diff·r·nt impressions of length like this are trivial. I didn· specify that the /z/ of 'news' was voiceless or that the /l/ was syllabic coz I'm afraid I simply took them to be automaticly so in the contexts — so there's no disagreement between us about the facts.

3. [ɪŋɣ̊lʉdɪŋ ə ˈfrɛʃ lɘk ɘth] (The /k/ in 'including' is a slightly voiced velar fricative; the vowel quality of look and at is difficult to determine because the vowel duration is extremely short. For my ears the vowels have a fairly half close character.)
[ɪŋxlʉdɪŋ ə ˈfrɛʃ ˈlək ət] I think his [ɣ] for the 'c' of including made a better choice than mine but of course there's not all that much to argue about between a devoiced voiced consonant and a voiceless one. I see we agreed that she has a schwa-type vowel rather than an /ʊ/ for 'look' but mine is the vaguer symbol and his the more precise. Kraut's marking aspirated /t/ at [ɘth] was something /sᴧnθɪn·/ I cou·dn make out.

4. [thˈmɒrz̥ frᴧnt ˎpeɪʤɪz] (For a news presenter it's a very relaxed pron of tomorrow's.)
[(ət) təˈmɒɾz frᴧnt ˎpeɪʤɪz] The first syllable of 'tomorrow’s' is extremely short but what follows the /t/ is to my ears weakly voiced rather than voiceless, hence my preference for schwa. I wou·dnt argue about the precise nature of the very weak /r/ of 'tomorrow'. I imagine we're both taking it for granted that the /z/ of 'pages' was unvoiced. He was explicit that the /z/ of  'tomorrow’s' was voiceless — I wasnt. Neither of us bothered to disclaim any intention that we me·nt the vowels [a, ӕ, ɒ, ᴧ] etc to be taken as used in their strictly cardinal values.

5. [bət ˏnã̟ʊ] (There's a low rise on now.)
[bət ˈnãʊ] If we wanted to be fussy we cd record the fact that she closes her lips immediately at the end of this 'now' which therefore we cd transcribe as [nã̟ʊp̚]. There's cert·nly a rise in pitch at 'But 'now' but I dont perceive it as on the word on 'now'.

6. [ʔɒ̃n ˊbibisi wᴧn] (with a high rise on BBC One)
[ɒn bibisi ˈwᴧn] I missed the [ʔ] before 'on' which I'm sure Kraut was justified in indicating. As he is also with the nasality of the vowel: it was too weak for me to've been anxious to record but I wou·dnt argue about its presence. And I agree this phrase has pitch ascent but I hear 'BBC' on a fairly level pitch not much above 'on'. 'One' [wᴧn] is distinctly higher but doesnt seem to me to itself move.

7. [ɪs ˈtaɪn tə ˈʤɔɪn ʔɑ ˈnjʉ siːmz̥ wɛ jʉ ɑ] (Mark the unusual change of the consonant, /t/ becoming /s/, in the sequence where news is followed by teams.) It was the alveolarising pre ·assimilation of the /m/ of 'time' to the following /t/ of 'to' that gladd·n·d the h·art of John Maidment for being an inter-word rather than intra-word example of this appar·ntly rather unusual phenomenon. It was a previous comment of John's that inspired Kraut to record this b·utifl example of relaxt speech as it'd modulated away from a necessarily very formal style. Notable as that was it was even more remarkable to find the other assimilation Kraut invited us to mark — that the initial plosive /t/ of 'teams' has surprisingly been converted to /s/ under the influence of the (subsequently elided) final /z/ of 'news'.
[ɪs ˈtaɪn tə ˈʤɔɪn | ɑ njʉ simz wɛ ˎ jʉ ɑ]. I seem to'v· overlookt another weak [ʔ] before 'our'.  I was wrong to take it for granted that the /z/ of 'seems' wd be voiceless here: there was good reason to show it so explicitly, as Kraut has done, coz it cd well've been assimilated to the following voiced consonant — which he made clear was not the case.

8. [bɐ ˈbaɪ] (The diphthong in bye has an almost whispery character.)
[ˈbɐ ˈbaɪh] Paps [ ˈbɐ ˈba̤ɪ ] wdve been more proper use of the IPA alphabet. Neither of us thaut to mention her paralinguistic  lip-spredding at 'channel' & '(BBC)1' /wᴧnː/. I felt that her very charming good-humoured smiling seemed to keep me rather specially cheerful while pondering over her linguistic performance.

More on Weakforms (viii).

In my attem·tedly alphabetic listing of weakforms (a term briefly definable as 'an articulatorily reduced word form constituting of a different set of phonemes from the word's full form') I mainly hav·nt yet gone beyond those beginning with one of the first three letters of the alphabet. We de·lt last with actually at Blog 428 and before that at 425 with can, come and bedroom etc, at 420 with because, at 422 with by, at 418 with able, almost, always, any, anybody and anyone, at 403 with and, and at 397 with only along with the importantly previously essentially unrecognised we're and nearly.

Something we've not mentioned much so far is the ease with which weakforms are produced by aphesis /afəsɪs/, the loss of a weak vowel that begins or constitutes the first syllable of a word. This is a familiar process from the history of the written language with well-known examples like the weakening of esquire to squire with the latter being establisht as an independent word. In fully relaxed styles this is perfec·ly common today among mainstream GB speakers giving, especially closely following vocalic sounds, items like it's ·bout time.., high ·bove the clouds, ·f you take my ·dvice, ·fraid so, the ·lectricity's off, I ·kspec(t) so, ·cording to my idea, go ·cross the road, try ·gain, it's not ·lowed (ie not allowed, sounding exactly as not loud ) also less casually /ɪts nɒt l̩aʊd/ (with syllabic /l/), years 'go etc.

We've mentioned almost and always as recognised to an extent by some pronunciation lexicographers. In fully relaxed styles their first element, the independent word all, can readily shed its consonant as for instance what we may represent informally as aw by myself, aw my life, aw the time, ·f aw· goes well, aw night long and very commonly aw right. Altho awtho exists, prob·bly the more usual weakforms of although are the two with post assimilation of its /ð/ to an ell viz /ɔːlləʊ/ and /ɔːləʊ/.

Finally, while we're still dealing with weakforms beginning mainly with  a, b and c, there's a peculiar change we may mention that has been catching one's attention increasingly in quite recent years. It concerns the pronunciation of an before chiefly the words historic and horrific. Both an and its alternating form a descend from the Old English word aan (meaning 'one') which by shortening produced the weakform an which in turn itself weakened to a in the context of a following consonant. These two ended having the strongforms /ӕn/ and /eɪ/ and the weakforms of them /ən/ and /ə/. By the Early Modern English period, when you used one of the few words like historic there were two natural possibilities. You used /ə/ if you selected its form sounding the initial aitch or otherwise you chose the form with the aitch 'silent' and then you employed the other weakform /ən/. I suspect that many speakers experience something of the feeling, which I share with them, that this slightly uncomfortable hiatus which the form /ə hɪstɒrɪk/ tends faintly to suggest something of a pedantic anxiety to sound 'correct'. Linguisticly less confident speakers, one suspects, first became aware that most speakers usually plum·t for the version with /ən/ and no aitch. However, being worried about dropping any aitch — the most heavily stigmatised ever of all features of English speech — they elected for /ən/ but kept the aitch. I've also encountered this recently with hereditary and harmonic.

All this has been leading me to remark on the curious further recent development of the last two or three decades that more and more speakers seem to be favouring the practice of originally only 'anxious' speakers who were inclined to make it clear not only that they're not dropping any aitch but highlighting the fact by using the word an in its strongform /ӕn/. It's begun to seem that one can't any longer hear of at least any historic or horrific happening without its being preceded by /ӕn/ even from a variety of mature speakers such as Channel Four's Jon Snow, Professor Diarmaid McCulloch and the BBC Television News Presenter Sian Williams.