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19/07/2014Perceptions of Pitches#479
13/07/2014Consonant Duplications#478
02/07/2014A Bucketful of Phonemes#477
23/06/2014Beginning of Term PS27#475
16/06/2014Beverley S. Collins 1938-2014#474
11/06/2014Welsh Place-Names#473
04/06/2014Scottish Place-Names concluded#472
30/05/2014The Holy Oral Method#471
28/05/2014Some Intonational Ambiguities#470
22/05/2014Pronunciations of Scottish Place-Names#469
06/05/2014Ash Keepers and Changers#468
04/05/2014English Phonetics in the 20th Century (ii)#467
29/04/2014More on Weakforms (xiii) HE#466
25/04/2014BBC English from People Speaking #465
23/04/2014English Phonetics in the 20th Century (i) #464
21/04/2014Intonation/Accentuation Points#463
18/04/2014Festschrift for Professor Hyun Bok Lee#462
01/03/2014Alan Cruttenden's Gimson 8th Edition#461

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Blog 479

The 19th of July 2014

Perceptions of Pitches

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    2.     Select "view page info"

    3.     Click "Media"

    4. Highlight the line saying: ""

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

5.    Click the button "Save as ..."

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

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

Blog 478

The 13th of July 2014

Consonant Duplications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 477

The 2nd of July 2014

A Bucketful of Phonemes

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

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

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

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

The dialog goes like this:

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

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

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

||  She said /wᴧn/ not /wʌŋ/

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

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

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

Blog 476

The 28th of June 2014


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

Fact is

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 475

The 23rd of June 2014

Beginning of Term PS27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said /rɪəlɪ/ rather than /-li/.

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

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

  2. She simplified the /ʤ/ to /ʒ/.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 474

The 16th of June 2014

Beverley S. Collins 1938-2014

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

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

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

Blog 473

The 11th of June 2014

Welsh Place-Names

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 472

The 4th of June 2014

Scottish Place-Names concluded

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

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

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

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

Blog 471

The 30th of May 2014

The Holy Oral Method

The Holy Oral Method
/ðə ˈhəʊli ˈɔrl ˎmeθəd/

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

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

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

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

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

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

 should be entirely verbal.
ʃd bi ɪnˈtɑli ˎvɜbl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 470

The 28th of May 2014

Some Intonational Ambiguities

I’ve been listening to a recording with Tag Questions that Tami Date asked about recently. He introduced them saying:

I don’t know how you would react to the following, but I found a pattern practice section in an ESL book (O.U.P.), with a mixed bag of responses to the same tag question with a rise:
A (teacher): Today we’re going to learn something about the life of He Zheng /hɜ ʒᴧŋ/. Who can tell me anything about him?
B (student): He was a famous sailor, wasn’t he?
A: That’s right, Jack. He was a navy admiral and explorer... He grew up to be one of the most famous sailors in history. He sailed more than 50,000 kilometers and visited over 30 countries...
He was an amazing explorer, wasn’t he?

[A pattern practice section followed with repetitions of this identical question and various  responses to it.]

Tami concluded:
I would be happier as a former non-native teacher if the tag questions had been said with a fall … Aside from the intonation, I presume there will be body language involved in the interaction as well.

Like Tami, I found these tag questions slightly disquieting. Certainly such questions are a notoriously difficult area for the teacher of spoken English. A particular problem, it seems to me, with these interrogative ones is that the pitch patterns have such problematic effects on what they signify. If the fall that Tami wdve preferred to hear had been used, there wdve been very little room for ambiguity. The student putting the first interrogative tag question, if he’d said the tag on a falling tone, whatever its range, (understanding by ‘fall’ a pitch movement to or in the speaker’s bottom range) wdve shown that he was confidently expecting assent. The greater the extent of the fall the more positive, hence here more confident, the effect. More emphatic than a simple fall wdve been a rising-falling tone.

If a speaker uses a rising tone, the extent of its rise (which can be extremely wide, more so than falling tones) markedly affects the message perceived. In a not very precisely identifiable stretch in the middle of the speaker’s range the effect turns into ambiguity between the two extremes of initially mere mild enquiring to latterly positive pressing for a response.

With the higher (and typically also faster) strongly interrogative type, it’d often be feasible to equally reasonably punctuate the tag as a separate sentence, like this: “He was a famous sailor. Wasn’t he?” This means that such a type of rising tag addition could very well be perceived as a separate interrogative sentence so that a lissener might perceive it as either an instance of tagging along or not. In this first of two cases we’re considering a definite rhythmic break (a kind of very brief pause) did occur between statement and question thus increasing the preference for interpretation of the sequence as two sentences. This type may be slightly more likely to suggest, to someone hearing the exchange, that the speaker has received an impression that the silent person he is addressing has reacted negatively to the assertion that he, the speaker has made.  The claim “He was a famous sailor” can very well have been perceived as distinctly rejected tho completely non-verbally. In such a situation the speaker, on perceiving the, of course, unexpected objection would react by saying something such as  “Oh, so he really wasn’t? (Please explain to me why.)”. Otherwise briefly a fall-rise tone cdve been used: “(`ˏOh!) `Wasnt ˏhe”.

This is where Tami’s reference to ‘body language’ is very apt. A variety of gestures or postures or, most usually, combinations of them are available from shoulder shrugging to nose wrinkling with or without degrees of mild staring or intense glaring. The eyes, the eyebrows and the mouth, the most mobile parts of the face, are very frequently involved in such signalling. So is, usually simultaneously, the whole head. As it happens, the immediate impression that I personally got from only hearing the recording under discussion was indeed that some kind of inaudible objection was involved.

As to the following part of the lesson, the repeated similar sequence “He was an amazing explorer, wasn’t he?” made on me a perhaps slightly less positive impression but still of the same kind. The effect it produced was perhaps a little more ambiguous than the first such question. I certainly felt that in the context of the speaker having said to his pupils “He was a navy admiral and explorer…” etc, unless he’s hinting that he’s not sure they’ve been paying attention or wonders if he’s been understood, I’d expect his choice of intonation to be something of a fairly low rise indicating the desire to elicit confirmation rather than information and consequently to be moderate in its movement range. Otherwise the switch to a fall wd seem appropriate.

Of course I comment as an elderly Brit and it may be that the habitual intonational habits of some younger American speakers may have included a development in these sorts of contexts that parallels the rise in popularity of the use of the so-called ‘upspeak’ or ‘checking’ tone that strikes me as so alien compared with what I’m personally used to.

Blog 469

The 22nd of May 2014

Pronunciations of Scottish Place-Names

Our Blog 467 began an account of the third volume of reprints entitled English Phonetics in the 20th Century by dealing with its forty pages of the LJ (A Lloyd James) BBC “Recommendations to Announcers Regarding the Pronunciation” of ‘Doubtful’ (general) Words and its seventy pages of English Place-Names.’’ Continuing from these we now look at the thirty-eight pages containing about 800 Scottish Place-Names. We find that the large numbers of Celtic-derived items these contain seem to make for many more departures from ordinary spelling patterns than do place-names in England.

In considering this list we shall take the opportunity to compare some of LJ’s entries with the publications of his two successors in this field. The first of these was by the late G M ('Elizabeth') Miller who headed the BBC Pronunciation Unit set up in 1939 to replace the Committee of which LJ had been secretary. She edited the 171-page BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names published by OUP in 1971 the year she retired. Incident·ly your faithfull bloggist advised her on behalf of the OUP on its preparation and also enjoyed carrying out the reading of its proofs. Her longest-serving successor Graham Pointon, who was at the helm of the Unit for twenty-three years, in 1983 produced a revised edition of it extended by more than a hundred pages. Unfortunately OUP have not seen fit to republish this valuable work now for three decades. This has been a great pity because it had far more names than the general pronunciation dictionaries cou·d spare the space for. It’s to be hoped that some more enlightened regime at the Beeb and/or OUP may realise how very worthwhile wd be the production of an updated edition of the book.

For the LJ 1932 booklet of Scottish place-names fourteen correspondents were consulted in addition to the twenty members of the regular committee. The sometimes oddly exprest advice from LJ to the BBC’s mostly London-based announcing staff was in certain respects less than realistic. One imagines that he was influenced by an inclination to avoid criticism from the predominantly phonetically unsophisticated committee members etc consulted and his far from tolerant Scottish employer John Reith. I’m referring to remarks like “The Scottish pronunciation of English always differentiates between w and wh…” and “It must be remembered that r is invariably pronounced in Scotland”. In my observation both of these expressions are more applicable to aspiration rather than performance, certn·ly as regards the latter. Most curiously the transcriptions displayed “the symbols [eː] and [oː], representing the sounds largely used in Scotland in place of the Southern English diphthongs [ei] and [ou]”. One wonders what, if anything at all, he can’ve possibly expected his London announcers to do about words transcribed with these.

The most striking diff·rence from English names is due to the circumstance many of the Scottish ones involve a phoneme not even present in the speech of most people in England. This is of course the voiceless velar fricative /x/ which is very often the value of the digraph <ch> in Scottish words. It’s best known from the word loch. The declared policy of the three chief pronouncing dictionaries, to give first for any word its most frequently used form, is currently only properly implemented for the word loch by the CEPD which gives \lɒk\ first. LPD and ODP unrealisticly give \lɒx\ first. From 1917, when Daniel Jones first publisht his EPD, he gave \lɒx\ first. He hadnt reconsidered that judgment until at his final major revision in 1956 he “got real” and actually did put \lɒk\ first. The OED (online)  pronunciation for loch has been unchanged (understandably, taking into account the stupendous amount of data they have to cope with) since Bradley delt with the word (no dou·t in consultation with his Scottish senior co-editor Murray) in 1903. It gives /lɒx/ without any variants! However, for Lochinvar, an item introduced in 1976, it gives a more up-to-date /lɒkɪnˈvɑː(r)/. Other 1976 entries are Lochlann (Scandinavia) as /ˈlɒxlæn/, Loch Fyne (type of fishing boat) as /lɒx faɪn/ with no stress marking supplied and Loch Ness with no pronunciation at all.

Evidence that [x] is a sound most English-speakers with no Celtic background are not at home with is reflected in the fact that LPD3 and CEPD18 give first \bɑk\ for the name of the German composers called Bach. Most of us are familiar with the markedly Scottish or Irish exclamation Och more or less equivalent to Oh. Many know [x] from one or two well-known Scottish names such as that of the Glasgow Sauchiehall /sɒxi`hɔl/ street or of the town Pitlochry /pɪt`lɒxri/. Some have heard of names like Rannoch /`ranəx/ or even Auchtermuchty /ɒxtər`mᴧxtɪ/. It’s known that quite a few people other than just seafarers tend to lissen to the BBC weather forecasts. They may hear any day Ardnamurchan Point (the most westerly spot on the island of Great Britain) which LJ gave as \ɑːdnəˈmərxən\. It’s heard today only as /ˈɑdnə(ˈ)mɜkən/ from most forecasters. Unfortunately, as LJ’s lists extensively revealed, the Scottish /x/ isnt only spelt <ch> and the spelling <ch> at times represents other sounds. The other chief spelling for /x/ is <gh> as we see in Brough /brɒx/, Redheugh /red`hjux/ and Drumsheugh /drᴧm`ʃ(j)ux/. Unhelpfully, the spelling <ch> may also stand for /k/ as in /`baŋkəri/ Banchory, /kɪl`katən/ Kilchattan, /lə`maŋkə/ Lamancha, /`mɜkɪstən/ Merchiston, /rɒθi`mɜkəs/ Rothiemurchus, /abə`kɔldə/ Aberchallder and /abə`kɜdə/ Aberchirder. These last two ‘Elizabeth’ Miller, a Scot herself by the way, repeated in 1971 but evidently Pointon’s researches led him in 1983 to convert them from /k/ to /x/. LJ’s /`baŋkəri/ Banchory with only /k/ was given an alternant with /x/ in 1971. No alternant has been given for the equally unguessable /bən`kru/ for Bunchrew. For the <ch>of Ballachulish /balə`hulɪʃ/ only /h/ has been given. The name Buchan only had /x/ given: non-Scots almost always say /`bᴧkən/ for it. A common name LJ didnt include was Buchanan for which CEPD and LPD rightly give /bju`kanən/ both adding the variant /bə`kanən/ with a comment by LPD, as in Miller 1971, that the latter is “normal Scottish usage”.

The LJ list contains no word beginning <ch> with the value /x/ though it did have Acharacle /ə`xarəkl/, with /x/ beginning its accented syllable, which must’ve been rather intimidating for London announcers to face. He gave Champany as /`ʧampəni/ and Chryston as /`kraɪstən/.

Except for OED quotes which are given as shown in its text, versions between forward slashes are to be taken as strictly phonemic representations of current GB pronunciations. They're given in a transcription which makes no use of lengthmarks. They're not quoted as in the LJ original text in order to avoid certain possible misinterpretations. Back slashes \-\ have been used to enclose transcriptions that are not necessarily strictly phonemic.

(To be continued)

Blog 468

The 6th of May 2014

Ash Keepers and Changers

Many English-speakers have accents very close to General British in most respects except that their type of English pronunciation didnt undergo, roundabout the late eighteenth century, the change in a hundred or so common words from an ‘ash’ type vowel to a pref·rence for a so-called ‘broad’ /ɑ/ that (the very most general ie classic) GB has in words like ‘pass’. These were words in which an earlier ‘ash’ /æ/ either immediately preceded one of the voiceless fricatives /f, θ, s / or /ð/ or a preconsonantal /n/ (within the same syllable).

Apart from the retention of word-final and preconsonantal /r/, this is perhaps the most striking feature of General American types of accent distinguishing them from the classic General British type. This is also a chief characteristic of what Cruttenden 2014 in his Chapter 7 on ‘Standard and regional accents’ categorises as ‘GNE’ ie ‘General Northern English’ (ie of England) a slightly regional General British type of accent. This has been effectively represented since 1990 in all editions of the Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary identified  by a “Non-RP” (equivalent to ‘not most general GB’) indicator (from 2000 “§”), in his words "Pronunciations widespread in England among educated speakers, but .. judged to fall outside RP...". This equivalent term RP to General British he still retained in 2008 in the most recent third edition of his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (p. xix) Cruttenden in his 2014 edition of Gimson's Pronunciation of English has now replaced it with 'General British'. Roach and his fellow editors of the CEPD (Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary) have referred to the term 'RP' since 1997 as 'archaic'. In 2011 in their 18th edition they repeat the comment that, other than with certain placenames "words are given only in the standard [sic] accents chosen for British and American English". They had always exhibited such a policy until in 2006, in the 17th edition, they strayed from their past policy in certain words including one and nothing which suddenly appear with alternate versions that replace /ʌ/ with /ɒ/. (They didnt treat any of our 'ash-keeping' words similarly.)  One and nothing etc continued with their new alternants in the 2011 edition we've mentioned but this time with a worryingly crude comment  deplored in our Blog 419.

In groups of words such as those in the lists we give below there are something like twice as many basic (non-compound) words which show agreement between the ash-keeping and ash-changing varieties as display contrast. On the other hand, when we consider words from the point of view of occurrence in non-specialist daily use, we find that GB items that exhibit the ‘ash-type to pass-type’ change are so common that stretches of speech of a minute or so by any speaker will almost always contain one or more of them. Often listeners to unfamiliar broadcasters will be unaware that the speakers arent classic (most-general-type) GB users until, only after a minute or so or less, it’s noticed that they have an ‘ash-keeping’ type of pronunciation.

Below we list the ash-changed (to /ɑ/) common words of General British in relation to ash-keeping United States varieties conveniently termed (ordinary) General American:

GA /æf/ corresponds to GB /ɑf/ in: after, (after)math, autograph, behalf, calf (plurals GA /kævz/ GB /kɑvz/), cenotaph, chaff, craft, crafty, daft, draft, draught, epitaph, giraffe, graph, half /hɑf/ (plurals GA /hævz/ GB /hɑvz/), laugh, monograph, photograph, raft, rafter, shaft, staff, telegraph. Cf the verbs ‘calve’ GA /kæv/ and ‘halve’ GA /hæv/.

Contrast ‘ash’ for both varieties in: affable, baffle, daffodil, gaffe, gaffer, graphic, graphite, Jaffa,  photographic, raffle, snaffle, riffraff, naphtha, scaffolding, Stafford, traffic.

GA /æθ/ corresponds to GB /ɑθ/ in: aftermath, bath, lath, path. Contrast ‘ash’ in both for: Bathsheba, Bathurst, bathysphere, Catherine, hath, mathematics, math(s), osteopath, pathological, polymath, psychopath, Strathclyde,  Kath,  Kathleen.

GA /æð/ corresponds to GB /ɑð /in: baths, lather, paths, rather. Both have ‘ash’ in blather and gather and /ɑ/ in father. (It’s noticeable with quite a few Scottish speakers who have very nearly entirely GB accents that they prefer /ɑ/ in the word ‘gather’. Much less often Scots speakers may be encountered with /ɑ/ in one or two other words such as ‘aspect’ and ‘asthma’. Another such word is ‘mass’ which was also formerly similarly favoured by some Roman Catholics in England).

GA /æs/ corresponds to GB /ɑs/ in: alabaster, aghast, ask, ass (as term of contempt only), bask, basket, bastard, blast, brass, broadcast, casket, casque, cast, caste, caster, castle, castor, clasp, class, contrast, dastardly, disaster, fasten, flabbergast, flask, forecast, gasp, ghastly, glass, grasp, grass, hasp, impasse, last, mask, masque, mast, master, nasty, outcast, outlast, overcast, pass, past, pastime, pastor, pasture, rascal, repast, steadfast, vast.

Names with GB /ɑ/ include: Aldermaston, Belfast, Castleford, Damascus, Glastonbury, Grasmere, Grassington, Madras, Newcastle, Plaistow, Prendergast. The widely known British trade term (equivalent to US Band-Aid) Elastoplast is GB /ɪ`lastəplɑst/ evidently because its final element is an abbreviation of the word 'plaster'. Also /ɪ`lastəplast, ɪ`lɑstəplɑst/.

GA /ænd/ corresponds to GB /ɑnd/ in: Alexander, Alexandra Alexandria, Alexandrine, command, commando, countermand, demand, Flanders, reprimand, slander and some other names including Sanders and Sandra.

Both have ‘ash’ in: Amanda, Andrew, android, band, bandy, bland, brand, candid, Candida, candle, candour, candy, Cassandra, coriander, dander, dandy, expand, gander, Gandhi, germander, gerrymander, gland, grand, hand, land, Mandalay, Mandy, meander, Menander, oleander, pander, panda, philander, Randall, Randolph, random, salamander, Samarcand, sand, sandwich, sandal, Sandy, Scandinavian, shandy, stand, Tandy, vandal.

GA /ænt/ corresponds to GB /ɑnt/ in: advantage, aren’t (when ‘am not’), can’t, chant, chantry, enchant, disenchant, grant, implant, plainchant, plant, shan’t, slant, vantage(-point). Cf aunt.

Contrast ‘ash’ in both GA and GB for: adamantine, ant, anti-, antic, antler, Antrim, Atlantic, banter, Bantry, Blanton, cant, Canterbury, cantilever, canto, commandant, corybantic, descant, elephantine, extant, fantasy, frantic, gallant, gallivant, gantry, gigantic, hierophant, Infanta, Levant, mantle, mantra, pant, panties, pantomime, pantry, pedantic, Plantagenet, plantain, plantation, rant, recant, romantic, Santa, scanty, shanty, sycophantic, tantamount.

GA /æns/ corresponds to GB /ɑns/ in: advance, answer, chance, chancel, chancellor, dance, enhance, glance, lance, prance, trance and names including France, Frances, Francis and Vance.

Both GA and GB usually have ‘ash’ in: askance, ancestor, cancel, cancer, circumstance, expanse, fancy, finance, manse, rancid, romance, stance, sycophancy, trans- and numerous derivatives.

GA /ænʃ/ corresponds to GB /ɑːnʃ/ in avalanche, blanch, Blanche, branch, ranch, tranche.

From the point of view of their historical origins, altho the pre-fricative /ɑ/ words exhibit what was perfectly possibly a phonetic gradual developmental process, the existence of the /an/ versus /ɑn/ groupings is praps more likely t’ve  come about from adoption of one rather than the other of pairs of original French loanwords all of which exhibit earlier spellings with ‘aun’ alongside ‘an’ which suggests that the /ɑ/ type may’ve simply been preferred to the ‘daunt, flaunt, gaunt, haunt, saunter, taunt, vaunt’ type most of which have early 'an' variants. Historically speaking the ‘chance’ type finally settled into their present distribution only in the earlier nineteenth century. John Walker’s Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language in 1791, praps rather conservatively, showed /ɑ/ before /n/ only in ‘-mand’ compounds and ‘aunt, chandler, salamander’ and ‘prance’ but /æ/ in ‘advance, advantage, chance, dance, lance, slander, plant, slant’ etc.

Many of the ash-changed items listed above have ‘unchanged’ alternative pronunciations. For more detailed information than is given above, see §3.1 of the main ‘home page’ division of this website. That article may be of particular interest to very advanced users of English as an additional language. Cruttenden 2014 is in full Gimson’s Pronunciation of English by Alan Cruttenden.

Blog 467

The 4th of May 2014

English Phonetics in the 20th Century (ii)

The third volume of this monumental set of reprints lists BBC “Recommendations to Announcers Regarding the Pronunciation” of seven groups of words. Here’s a list of them with the number of pages for each entry: English Doubtful Words 40, English Place-Names 70, Scottish Place-Names 38, Welsh Place-Names 32, Northern-Irish Place-Names 12, Foreign Place-Names 51 and British Family Names 92. It was too gratifying to LJ’s (Lloyd James’s) BBC boss John (later Lord) Reith to have secured the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges as the Committee’s chairman for LJ to dare suggest getting rid of him. Bridges flattered himself that he was an authority on the English language. This inevitably made him an acute embarrassment to LJ and prob·bly to most of the other committee members. C. T. Onions, the OED editor, served on the BBC Advisory Committee from 1930 to 1934. He exprest to LJ in 1932 his dismay at their ‘insufficiently rigorous procedure’ and indicated that he me·nt to bow out ‘silently without giving you any trouble’. He later revealed his disillusionment with Reith’s committee saying ‘It is odd that in no other department than language ... would the distinguished amateur be tolerated according to Asa Briggs’s The Golden Age of Wireless (1965).

The inclusions in the first booklet on words of “doubtful pronunciation” had all “caused difficulty to announcers” or “given rise to criticism from listeners”. Plenty of the recommendations regarding them have long ago needed to be withdrawn. Some, even so, survive into the twenty-first century eg /ˈɔːld ˈlæŋ ˈsain/ for Auld lang syne, a pedantic interference unfortunately included in the OBG (the 2006 Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation) tho people usually these days say 'Old Lang Zyne' assimilating the initial /s/ of the Scottish word 'syne' (for 'since') to the last (voiced) consonant of the Scottish version of 'long' in a way that irritates a few intolerant Scottish people. Others now of advanced obsolescence or completely obsolete included /əˈkaustik/ acoustic, /anˈtʃouvi/ anchovy, /ˈberit/ beret, /broˈʃuə/ brochure, /kaiˈrɔpədi/ chiropody, /ˈkʌmbət/ combat, /ˈkᴧndit/ conduit, /kouˈinsidəntli/ coincidentally, /ˈdekəd/ decade, /diˈkɔːrəs/ decorous, /ˈdispjuːtəbl/ disputable, /etiˈket/ etiquette, /ˈfɔːkən/ falcon, /ˈfɔred/ forehead, /ˈfjuːzilidʒ/ fuselage, /ˈpiːʤərətɪv/ pejorative, /inˈhiərənt/ inherent, /iˈrefjuːtəbl/ irrefutable, /ˈproufiːl/ profile, /ˈpristain/ pristine, /ˈrestəroŋ/ restaurant, /ʃiː/ ski, /səˈnɔːrəs/ sonorous, /spontəˈniːiti/ spontaneity and /ˈziːbrə/ zebra.

A notable oddity of the LJ phonetic transcriptions of English words is the inclusion of all the r’s of the orthography never actually he·rd until decades afterwards from any BBC announcer and even then from very few indeed of the numerous official voices featuring in BBC broadcasts. The explanation given was the quaintly ambitious-sounding “.. this booklet is intended not only for South-Eastern speakers but for the whole English-speaking world..” LJ remarked at page 7 oddly “Announcers are not required to use Northern English”. He sed this by way of pointing out that Newcastle was recommended to be pronounced /ˈnjuːkɑːsl/ tho, adding with continued ponderous jocularity, “if he happens to be a native of the place and pronounces it in the native way, he will be forgiven”! “He” because there were, of course, no women announcers until decades later!

The placenames are full of spellings people continue preserving centuries after they’ve become absurdly inappropriate as any guide to how they now say them. Althorp, the ancestral home of the late Princess Diana is a famous example. Announcers were enjoined to pronounce it as /ˈɔːltrəp/ and that edict held until “In 2000 the estate released a press statement saying that henceforth it would be known as awl-thorp” whereupon the BBC “changed our recommendation accordingly” as was noted in the OBG. This was partly prompted by complaints in the press at the patent absurdity of the Spencer family’s saying it one way and spelling it another. In many cases the BBC sanctioned two spellings as for instance with Barnoldswick with a first recommendation /bɑːrˈnouldzwik/ and the alternative /ˈbɑːrlik/. Extreme cases were Slaithwaite with its three alternatives to /ˈsleiθweit/ namely /ˈslæθweit, ˈslouit & ˈslauit/ and Uttoxeter with /ᴧtˈɔksitər, juˈtɔksitər,ˈᴧksitər, ˈᴧkstər & ˈᴧtʃitər/.

Only half-a-dozen (uncompounded) non-proper words in the English language have the letter combination gh representing the sound /f/ but in this very limited list about three times as many of the entries have that feature. One name /ˈbəːrfəm/, which actually has at times had the spelling Burgham, here appears only as Burpham bizarrely spelling its /f/ not with gh but, as if it were derived from Greek, with ph. Philleigh /ˈfili/ even has ph initially in a non-Greek-derived word. Only one word has /θ/ for its gh: Keighley /ˈkiːθli/. Other curiosities include such items as as Ardingly, Bellingly and Chiddingly which look as if one might treat them like the adverbs with unstrest final syllables but they turn out to be strest /ɑːrdiŋˈlai, beliŋˈlai & tʃɪdɪŋˈlai/.  Strange too is Irlams o’ th’ Height required to be /ˈəːrləmz o ˈðait/ in which the initial aitch of Height was forbidden to be sounded in an amazing apparent rare concession to some local sensitivities. His phonetic symbol /o/ represents rather allophonicly the pronunciation of an /ou/ so speeded up that it lost its diphthongality, as it was suggested cd happen at the first syllable of molest.

Besides orthographical freaks like Cholmondely for /ˈtʃᴧmli/ (on which see also our Blog 018),  Clapworthy for /ˈklæpəri/, Happisburgh for /ˈheizbərə/, Scafell for /ˈskɔːˈfel/, Wrotham for /ˈruːtəm/ and Wyrardisbury for /ˈreizbəri/ there are phonological freaks like /buːldʒ/ for Boulge and the doubly odd (orthographically and phonologically) Ebbw /ˈebu/ with its w representing a vowel (that of put ) and one which ends no English nouns in current inconspicuous GB at least. A large number of the greatest oddities are to be found where the linguistic and political borders with Wales and Scotland dont coincide and in the far southwest mainly in Cornwall. The other booklets must await a later blog.

Blog 466

The 29th of April 2014

More on Weakforms (xiii) HE

The pronoun he was included in 1885 by Henry Sweet in his Elementarbuch des Gesprochenen Englisch first-ever list of fifty weakforms he identified under the heading ‘gradation’. This referred to the alternation between phonemicly, as we shd say now, contrasted variant forms of a certain class of words reflecting their differing degrees of prominence. The more prominent variants he termed ‘strong forms’ and the less prominent (normally unaccentable) ones ‘weak forms’.

There was a certain discrepancy between Daniel Jones’s comments on he in his EPD’s ie English Pronouncing Dictionary’s editions from 1917 to 1963, and those of his Outline of English Phonetics from 1932 to 1956. In the former the entry always re·d “hiː (normal form), iː, hi , i (frequent weak forms)”. It must be remembered that Jones used /iː & i/” for what it has been more often preferred latterly to represent as /iː & ɪ/. In his Outline §487 he listed the same forms but added a cross reference to its section §472 which re·d “In the case of he and we, the strong forms hiː, wiː are commonly used in unstressed positions; weak forms hi,wi exist but are not often used”.

The fact is that the effects of occurrences of these alternating weakforms can’t be satisfactorily described so briefly. The selection of one or the other of them depends on matters like the degree of colloquiality and prosodic and segmental contexts. For example /hɪ/ used prepausally in eg /`ˏɪz hɪ/ Is he? now sounds extremely Conspicuous and/or oldfashioned GB. On the other hand /hɪ `ɪz/ for He is wd be much less conspicuous or pass unnoticed becoz an anticipative assimilation may convert the vowel of he to a value at least close to tho not exac·ly the same as that of the following is. And /hɪ `dᴧz/ for He `does, in which the he wd usually be of minimal length, tho no dou·t less common than [hi `dᴧz] wd sound more or less inconspicuous.

Within that Outline §472 which we have just quoted no mention occurs of the lengths of the /hiː, wiː/ strongforms but earlier in that paragraph, with regard to me and she, we find the comment “ ..the use of the strong forms miː, ʃiː (with vowel shortened owing to lack of stress) is also quite frequent in unstressed positions.” An example “she said so” is added remarking of it “though usually said with ʃi, may also be said with ʃiː, even when the word is quite unstressed”. These shortened prosodic variants were exactly comp·rable with what in the latter half of the twentieth century came about in the conversion of the earlier GB (RP) mainstream value for the final unstrest vowel of words like happy from /-ɪ/ to /-i/.

When Gimson in the first edition of his Introduction to the Pronunciation of English (1962) §10.04 came to list the “most common” words with strongform/weakform alternation he gave unaccented he as “/hɪ, iː, ɪ/ ([hi])”. This last doubly bracketed notation acknowledged the existence of an aitch-keeping weakform that had the close-vowel character of the strongform without the length that’s normally taken to be a characterising feature of its phoneme’s identity. What it failed to do was make clear exactly what its addition designated — whether [hi] was a norm or only a possible variant. The fact is that this type of close articulation with weak value is exhibited in a variety of circumstances in tokens of both the /i/ and /u/ ie the street and root vowels, notably word-finally and word-internally before vowels. Representations of this feature of GB phonology have produced a number of disharmonies between the transcriptions of various writers. The cat was thrown amongst the pigeons when the Longman publishing company put its great weight behind the practic·ly universal transfer, in the General British EFL sphere, from the Jonesian intrinsically length-marked vowels to the Gimsonian redundantly length-marked transcriptions of them in 1978.

My impression has been that, once trapped into the gen·ral lengthmark-keeping style, users much preferred the lengthmark-dropping /`hapi/ to the strictly phonemic /`hapiː/ becoz this latter version was perceived as a socially dubious — if not dialectal — variant pronunciation. This was not because of the phonemic identity of the final vowel but because of the prosodic value it suggested. (In forms of you, notably in an expression like Thank you, the version /`θaŋk jʊ/, at least when firmly spoken rather than muttered etc, has tended to parallel the development /`hapɪ→`hapi(:)/ in becoming CGB (socially conspicuous GB)/. Compare Cruttenden-Gimson 7 p. 268 with 8 p.275.)

I’m afraid I’m not happy with the new treatment in the Cruttenden-Gimson eighth edition of the vowel of the aitch-keeping variant of he \hi\ and the final vowel of \hapi\ happy as examples of an allophone of /ɪ/ rather than “an allophone of /iː/ conditioned by accent and position”. I perceive it as just that. So (in lengthmark-free phonemic transcription) hungry as /`hᴧngri/ and pedigree as /`pedəˌgri/ seem more satisfactory transcriptional solutions than resort to such a counter-intuitive expedient as accepting [i] as an allophone of /ɪ/.

PS: I use forward slashes /.. / around strictly phonemic transcriptions but backslashes \ ..\ around sequences not phonemic thruout.

Blog 465

The 25th of April 2014

BBC English from People Speaking

This blog is a continuation of our series to help advanced students study various aspects of the phonetics of conversational spoken English.

Please go to §4.1 in the main part of this website when you wish to access the sound file of this dialog.
The text is:
1. The English language has gone to the dogs these days on the BBC.
2.  I wouldn’t say that.
3. You used to be able to count on good English clearly spoken.
     Not now you can’t, though.
4.  There’s a slightly wider spectrum of accents as you’d expect.
     Fewer posh ones. More classless ones.
5.  Half of them sound downright uneducated.
6.  That sounds like prejudice to me.

This short dialog, of only 60 words, gives us plenty of things to discuss. It has a speaker expressing  sentiments that might be he·rd forty or fifty years ago from many middle-aged people and might be encountered even today from a few. Looking at our transcription you may notice that, unlike the usual one for General British pronunciation in EFL circles today, it omits the lengthmarks that regularly accompany the five original simple-vowel phonemes /iː, ɑː, ɔː, uː, ɜː/. Cruttenden’s latest eighth edition of the Gimson book has made a timely updating of that transcription by substituting /ɛː/ for the former /eə/ and /a/ for the previous /æ/. I rather deplore the retention of Jones’s lengthmarks by Gimson in his replacement for the original EPD transcription in 1978. The reasons he gave for this move were that it made for better legibility than the lengthmark-free versions and preserved a degree of continuity. This is perfec·ly true for the native speaker of English and the highly expert user of English as an additional language. For them it must make recognition of those phonemes much quicker and easier and so speed up reading of the transcription. However, this was at a very unfortunate cost to those learners who are less than fully aware of the actually very variable lengths that occur in English pronunciation. Learners will be no dou·t by far the largest number of those seeing and using the Gimsonian converted transcription for the EPD and almost the only users of the great variety of textbooks that very soon converted their transcriptions to the new style introduced by the justly most highly respected and admired authority of the day on the British pronunciation of the English language. However, the fact is that, to the learner, these lengthmarks convey, if anything, very false ideas of the realities concerning what lengths those five or six vowels may have in ord·nry spoken English whether conversational or formal. The fact is that they are truly regularly pronounced fully long only when occurring in the accented syllables of words uttered in their lexical or isolate pronunciations when any following sound occurring in their syllable is not /p, t, k, ʧ, f, θ, s / or/ ʃ/ and/or no further, weak syllable follows in the word in which they appear. Otherwise they may be of any length mainly according to the inclination of the speaker and indeed do vary very greatly.

The Gimson replacement transcription was not questioned or objected to at all much but in fact remarkably readily embraced in almost all quarters. However there was one sign of dissatisfaction with the misrepresentation of length in one very numerous set of words — those like happy which required under the new regime to be transcribed /hæpiː/ at the time when mainstream GB was increasingly observable as using [hapi] while the traditional (RP) /hæpɪ/ with its diff·rent final phoneme was rapidly becoming perceived as oldfashioned and/or socially conspicuous. This minor revolt came rather paradoxically from the source which had been at the forefront of those abandoning the old Jonesian transcription in favour of the new Gimsonian style. Its first steps were taken with the excuse (praps one might say disguise), in the Longman flagship EFL publication, its LDCE (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English 1978), in the form of a suggested space-saving common symbolisation to cover simultaneously British and American pronunciations of that final vowel of happy etc. In subsequent editions the device came to be explained in more than just that way. In 1990, twelve years later, when the LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) appeared, Wells remarked that he “judged it best to stick with the system which in recent years has at last provided a de facto standard in EFL work..”.  He, however, acknowledged making some minor deviations from it saying at its Introduction §3.4 (i) “The symbols i, u are used for iː, -ɪ, uː, -ʊ” in what he termed “positions of neutralization”. Whatever else, what this did do was remove numerous cases of glaringly inappropriate length marking which had characterised the unmodified adoption of the Gimson transcription.

The following is a strictly phonemic transcription with no lengthmarks accompanied by very approximate tone indications. The bracketing of the symbol /d/ at Turn 5 indicates uncertainty or ambiguity:

1 A  ði ˈɪŋlɪʃ ˏlaŋɡwɪʤ ⎪ əz ˈɡɒn tə ðə `dɒɡz ðiz ˏdeɪz⎪  ɒn ðə ˌbi bi ˏsi
2 B  ˈaɪ ⎪ wʊdn seɪ ˎˏ ðat
3 A  ju ˈ jus tə bi ˏ eɪbl ⎪ tə ˈkaʊnt ⎪ ɒn ˈɡʊd ˏ ɪŋɡlɪʃ ⎪  ˈklɪəli ˎspəʊkən ⎪⎪  ˈnɒt `naʊ ju ˏkɑnt ðəʊ
4 B  `ðəz ə slaɪtli waɪdə spektrəm əv `ˏaksnz ⎪ az jud ɪk`spekt ⎪⎪ `fjuə ˎpɒʃ ˏaksnz ⎪ ˈmɔ `klɑsləs wʌnz
5 A  `hɑf ˏɒv ðəm ⎪ saʊn(d) daʊnraɪt ʌnˊ`edjukeɪtɪd
6 B  ˈðat⎪ saʊnz laɪk ˊ`preʤudɪs ⎪⎪ tə ˎmi


Turn 1 has the contrastive accent one wou·d normally have expected to occur on these delayed to the following word — tho not with an effect that a liss·ner wd positively find strange. BBC in strict Gimsonian style wou·dve had to have the rhythm /ˌbiː biː ˈsiː/, which is the sole version given in CEPD (the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary) but current predominant usage is most usually what LPD supplies, tho only as an alternative, viz \ ˌbiː bi ˈsiː\. Our speaker here has the very normal three approximate lengths — respectively medium, short and long.

Turn 2 shows elision of the /t/ of the negative suffix -n’t which from any word so ending is very common even when a vowel is the next sound. (It’s not normal tho, in GB, at the end of a prososdic phrase). The vowel /a/ of that receives no lengthmark in the Gimsonian style but it’s very offen pronounced as long as any other vowel gets to be. Rather long here.

Turn 3 begins with two monosyllables both with the “long” vowel /u/ with perfec·ly normal very short values — the first from being unstressed, the second from occurring in a syllable closed by the voiceless consonant /s/. The next word, /biː/ which is lengthmarked in  Gimsonian is dou·tless as short as the speaker can make it. Another very short /u/ occurs in the you before can’t which word has an /ɑ/ of only medium length. We have at the very end of this turn at the word though a shortening of the diphthong so extreme that out of this context one might not recognise it at all and be inclined to transcribe it as [ʊ]. Not that people wd hear that as strange. The late Roger Kingdon preferred to transcribe many words such as follow with a final /ʊ/.

Turn 4 at its first word it has an accented schwa whose common existence I’m rather weary of pointing out yet agen in the face of repeated assertions by so many highly respected authors that such a thing doesnt exist in GB.  In its last phrase it has a quite short /ɔ/ at more and an only medium length /ɑ/ in classless. The version of accents, which occurs twice, we shd normally expect to see as /aksn(t)s/ but in fact we clearly hear something that rhymes with Saxons. Even tho it’s such an unusual idiosyncratic form of the word, this’d prob·bly pass unnoticed by most lisseners. I’ve noted the famous broadcaster Lord Melvin Bragg (whose speech reflects his Cumbrian upbringing to some extent but hardly in this respect) repeatedly pronounce the word science exactly as scions /saɪənz/ rhyming it with lions. Incident·ly the /n/ of accents is notably long both times. This suggests asking Gimsonian transcribers, completely reasonably if slightly mischievously, why the Gimsonian transcription shd not’ve included (comparably non-phonemic and redundant) lengthmarks on cert·n consonants.

Turn 5 has a hardly more than medium length /ɑ/ at half tho it’s markedly accented. It sh·d be noted that becoz the intonations supplied are tonetic rather than tonemic, the Rise tonemark is placed where the rising movement actually occurs. Had the notation been tonemic, the speaker’s choice, not of two simple tones but a single falling-rising complex tone wou·dve been indicated at the accented word half only, leaving the unaccented word of unmarked. The fact that the speaker used the strongform /ɒv/ of of didnt mean that he was accenting the word, but merely that he chose the slightly less rapid of the two alternative rhythms available to him. The faster one wou·dve been selected by choosing to use the weakform /əv/ of the word of. The tonemic notation `ˏhalf of them (or `´half of them), if ord·nry (non-phonetic) spelling had been used, wou·dnt’ve revealed which of the two possible speeds the speaker had selected.

Turn 6 has a slightly ‘detached’ ending. The speaker’s prosody suggests that his remark has ended at prejudice but the notably less vigorously uttered following words to me sound like a pensive afterthought.

In the main division of this Website at §5.5 the reader may see my 1975 article on 'The undesirability of colons in EFL transcription' first publisht in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association

Blog 464

The 23rd of April 2014

English Phonetics in the 20th Century (i)

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

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

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

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

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

Among his most frequent topics was his deploring of so-called “intrusive r”. This nineteenth-century term was unwisely adopted by Daniel Jones: A. J. Ellis had called it more sensibly “euphonic”. See the discussion on this website at Division 6 §8. Lloyd James struggled to dissuade the BBC announcers under his supervision from using what is now so universally accepted as to cause surprise that it cou·d ever have been objected to. He acknowledged use of pronunciations like “sonatar in A” (page 117) to be an ‘ingrained’ habit and (at page 107) an “established feature of so-called Standard English” yet condemned them as “unseemly”(page 118) and “deplorably common” (page 183). He indulged his prejudices in other pronunciation matters as well. He never fully acquired the toleration and discretion and thoro·ly scientific outlook that characterised the mature writings of Daniel Jones, but he was a notable phonetic figure whose work deserved to have its availability restored. The editors provide excellent informative comment on him in their gen·ral introduction to the volume (pp1-8).

Blog 463

The 21st of April 2014

Intonation/Accentuation Points


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ˏm = lowish rise. ´m = highish rise.

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 462

The 18th of April 2014

Festschrift for Professor Hyun Bok Lee

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

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

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

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

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

Blog 461

The 1st of March 2014

Alan Cruttenden's Gimson 8th Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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