Archive 13 of JWL Blog
Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
English Phonetics Practicals (ii)
In my last blog I mentioned the conversational dialogues that I have
the students read aloud. Here is an example of such a passage:
Hard to Please
1. Do take something more. That’s not enough to keep a bird alive.
2. Well I won’t be having any meat. I’m a vegetarian, you know.
3. Oh. Well do have more vegetables. More potatoes, would you like?
4. Well, I don’t usually eat any potatoes, either. I’m on a diet, you see.
5. I’m sure you don’t need to be. I only wish I was as slim as you are.
6. Well, I’m not really overweight, of course, but I do it for my health’s sake.
7. Oh! Is this your own idea or are you following your doctor’s orders?
8. I’m afraid I’ve never been in the habit of setting much store by doctors.
9. Oh! Perhaps you’re like Prince Charles, into alternative medicine, then.
10. I wouldn’t compare myself with him. I’m just sceptical about all such things.
11. You will have a little drop of wine, though, won’t you? Red, white or rosé?
12. Oh dear! I shan’t be having any at all. I never touch alcohol. Not of any sort.
13. Oh well. Never mind. Can I get you a soft drink perhaps? Orange juice?
14. No. It’s quite alright, really, thank you. I don’t care for anything like that.
15. Perhaps you’d like your coffee now. It’s not instant. I grind the beans myself.
16. I don’t take coffee, either, I’m afraid. Nothing at all with any caffeine in it.
17. Ah! Now I do believe I could dig out some decaffeinated if that’d be okay.
18. No. I’m afraid not. It doesn’t agree with me. I’ve got a very delicate stomach.
19. Would you like a nice cup of tea, then? Or is there caffeine in that too?
20. I’m sorry to be such a nuisance but I’d really like just a cup of boiled water.
21. You remind me of an old aunt of mine. She drank nothing but hot water.
22. Well it can’t do you any harm and I’m sure it’s very good for the digestion.
23a. That’s just the sort of thing that she used to say.
23b. I’m sure you’re perfectly right, but I’m afraid I shan’t be joining you.
23c. As a matter of fact I rather think that I could do with a fairly stiff brandy.
always ask each member of the group in succession to take the next
turn. (I never have a dialogue spoken between only two group members at
a time. It wd leave all the others silent for too long.) I make no
attempt to go out of my way to include any unusual vocabulary items.
Thus attention is concentrated entirely on how the sentences are
students at a high level of achievement there'll be very few occasions
when the choice of sounds for any particular word isnt known. Therefore
the exact quality of the sounds produced is what receives primary
attention. One of the most frequent problems is unsuitable
use of the strongforms of weakform words. The mistake I find most
shocking — which fortunately occurs only occasionally — is the
expanding of contractions into full forms. Of course very many problems
are due to the direct influence of the individual speaker’s native
language. For instance many Japanese speakers with a good pronunciation
in general will have persistent problems with our /l/ sound. The kinds
of problem that occur are so diverse that it’s only feasible here to
give a few examples as follows.
At Turn 1 in
the first sentence (if it's the first dialogue I hear them reading)
it'll become clear at its last sound if the reader is one of the
comparatively few who have a tendency to use a more highly rhotic
pronunciation than in General British which is the ordinary target
accent of the course. (This variety is more often referred to as “RP”
by most of my colleagues, tho increasingly some of them alternate it
with other terms). If so, I may refer to the matter but I explain that
I don’t find it a big issue except that I warn them that, if that is
their preference, I shall probably mention the fact if they happen to
use r-sounds very inconsistently.
From time to
time certain features of sentence prosody may need to be de’lt with.
The second sentence of Turn 1 involves something similar to a stress
idiom. It’s not obvious, at least for many non-native speakers, that
the stress climax should not in this sentence occur in its most usual
position on the last content (non-function) word of the sentence but
that in fact it normally occurs in this expression on the word bird
with the following word treated only as the tail to its tone. This is
so here presumably because we feel the wish to avoid accenting
of an item which is in effect a re-occurrence.
At Turn 2 the word won’t
is the likeliest item to need attention. It’s remarkable how often
students with a generally good pronunciation fall foul of this word.
Only a minority fail to aim at the required /əʊ/ but many seem to have
difficulty in making it properly diphthongal causing it to sound often
at least halfway to want. At Turn 5 don’t is sometimes treated in a similar way.
At Turn 3, I may perhaps with very advanced students refer to the
not terribly important point that it’s normal in current usage to make
only three syllables of /`veʤtəblz/.
At Turn 4 a similar more worthwhile point may need to be made about usually
which one often hears used in a form too much like /`juːʒuːəli/. The
dictionaries are not very helpful on this word. They give it in first
placing in a form that seems to recommend or at least sanction saying
it as four syllables when in fact it’s normally spoken as three,
when not two, in current usage (as my CPD clearly indicated as long ago
as 1972). With LPD and ALD this is more or less an effect of having to
“unpack” a rather complicated notation. ODP gives first an unusually
careful or pedantic version with the diphthong /ʊə/ as its middle
syllable. EPD almost fails to give the adverb the separate entry it
needs: you only find one at the abbreviation usu. but at that entry it is given in a more helpfully easy-to-comprehend form than by the other main dictionaries.
This Turn provides a quite tricky decision for students who’ve
le’rnt the rule about re-occurrences not being re-accented (see on
this site 8.1.2.) when they come to the word potatoes because this rule may here be overridden by the one that requires contrasting items (here in effect possibly a contrast with vegetables) to be accented (See 8.1.1).
At Turn 6 we have one of the fairly rare occasions where an
elision (here of an /s/) can be said to be essential. Having a clear
break between the final /s/ of health’s and the initial one of sake wd be too unnatural an interruption of fluency to be left uncommented on from an advanced student.
At Turn 13 for orange juice sometimes /`ɒrɪn ʤuːs/
may crop up with students who havnt gathered that it’s abnormal not to
keep both the final and initial affricates in such a sequence.
At Turn 18 it’s usually only weaker students who make the curiously common learner’s mistake of saying /ə`fred/.
At Turn 21 it may be that someone is inclined to give an unsuitable accent to mine.
English Phonetics Practicals (i)
Any regular visitors to this series of blogs will've noticed that
there were only a few of them last month. The reason for this was not
that I was away on holiday. Actually I was enjoying myself rather more
than I do on most of my ordinary holidays. This was because I was
teaching under perfect (completely noise-free) conditions two
blissfully small groups of very competent students (8 or 9 never normally more than 10, some quite young,
others not nearly so) at SCEP ie the Summer Course in English Phonetics held
annually at University College London. (The title “College” is
misleading because by itself this institution is among the handful of
the largest and most important universities in the UK.) It was at UCL
where I laid the foundation to what I've le'rnt about phonetics sparked
by contacts with Gimson, O'Connor and others beginning in the fifties.
This year was the 19th successive one I've had the pleasure of
working on SCEP since my retirement from Leeds University.
SCEP was begun by Daniel Jones, continued by Gimson, and expanded very considerably by John Wells who last year
handed the torch over to Michael Ashby. This unique course extends over
two packed weeks in which there are daily small-group tutorials, a
morning sequence of excellent core lectures and afternoon
supplementary ones catering for various special interests, extra
ear-training etc. This is all accompanied by a rich collection of
additional materials available to the participants when they go online.
of my daily classes was labelled “Pronunciation”. In this I normally
begin with dictating to the students what my colleagues call "nonsense
words" but what I prefer to refer to as 'synthetic English words'. This
means that any of them could theoretically be an English word because
they are explicitly constructed not to violate the constraints of
English phonotactics even if as words they dont actually exist. Not
only that. They’re designed to concisely test the participants’ ability
to discriminate between various crucial contrasts of English phonology.
Thus for example a number of the words contained syllables which involved one or
other of the so-called “long” vowels which were in the event given the
very short realisations they normally receive in pre-fortis and
pre-enclitic situations. There're almost always some group members that
these words bring face to face with the problem that they are
misjudging which phoneme they are hearing because they are
concentrating their attention only on its present length rather than its
(more important for recognition) quality. For example the word /fliːptəʊ/
gets regularly transcribed by some of the participants as /flɪptəʊ/ and
/ðuːpɪts/ as /ðʊpɪts/.
I like to have the students in a closely
packed circle around me so that they can write what they think they’re
hearing and show it to me at once individually. When any one of them
has any sound wrong I repeat the word for them alternating the form of
it I used with their wrong version for comparison. I repeat the words
more or less as many times as they like. My synthetic words, besides
sounds not occurring at all in the languages of most of them, such as
/ɜː/ and /ð/, will include consonant sequences they may only encounter
in English such as /gw, ʃr, str, θw/ etc.
this game” for a ten minutes or so I change over to dictating pieces of
ordinary conversational English that contain no unfamiliar words but
draw attention particularly to how very familiar ones can take (to them)
surprising forms in different phonetic contexts. One trusts that this
exercise, by enhancing their consciousness of such forms, will help
them decipher unexpectedly difficult sound sequences they may hear from
any English-speaker. In such passages one introduces variant word forms
that come about by assimilations, elisions and compressions etc that
only specialist pronouncing dictionaries may reveal the existence of to
any notable extent and then not exhaustively so. An example is the fact
that the words only, alright and always lose their /l/ with great frequency in ordinary fluent conversation. Another is that a phrase like Latin American can frequently lose /ɪ/ from both words becoming /lӕtn əmerkən/. Similarly the word I’ll may constantly be heard as /ɑːl/ and temporarily as /temprəli/.
these two exercises I then devote the main part of the session to
having them read aloud in turn sentences from a variety of dialogues in
everyday language. I usually ask each person to say their sentence at
least twice and then ask the next one or two students to say the same
sentence again before moving on. Lack of fluency can be pointed out and
required to be remedied. If prosodic errors occur they wont be
neglected but the passages arnt designed to contain any more than a
minimum of difficulties of that sort.
It quite often happens
that a sound used may be given a quality that’s so unsuitable that it’s
not possible to judge which phoneme is intended. This means that it’s
necessary to determine the speaker’s intention. With vowels I always
make sure that they keep handy for instant reference a numbered list of
simple very common keywords so that there’s no doubt or delay in their
explaining their intentions. For consonants one can use their
alphabetical names or occasionally ask questions such as “Is that the
middle consonant in pleasure?” or “Are you aiming at the thick and thin sound or the this and that one?”
the course of the two weeks working with them I give out three short
passages of conversational dialogue (less than 100 words each) to be
transcribed away from the class and then given in to me to be marked. If necessary we may discuss any problems these have
involved in class but, anyway, they get them all back from me individually
annotated. For more on transcription see Blogs 119 to 122.
Daniel Jones b 12th Sept 1881
There's not much to say about Jones today, the 127th
anniversary of his
birth, that I havent sed already on this website in the first of my
Legacy of Daniel Jones
at Section 2 Item 1 in the main site and also in my blog 052
the fortieth anniversary of his death at the fourth of December last
year (in blog Archive 6) but some readers might like to hear
the voice of the man who was such an important figure in the field of
phonetics in the first half of the last century. I've taken for this
purpose his reading of his introduction to his incredibly successful Phonetic Readings in English
plus the first two very brief 'anecdotes' that follow it. At
date I'm afraid the anecdotes, with texts unchanged since their first
publication half a century earlier in 1912, sound rather ridiculously
aimed at ten-year-olds. He made the recording at
the age of 82 just four years before he died. The book's main sales
were in Germany. Goodness knows how long it remained in print there if
it's not still so. It wd seem to've been so at least till the
end of the last century to judge from p.112 of the magnificent Jones
biography The Real
Professor Higgins by Beverley Collins and Inger Mees
(Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin, 1999).
Here's Jones's voice. The segmental phonemes are shown in the kind of transcription he eventually considered best for most purposes.
is Professor Daniel Jones speaking on the seventh of November 1963. I'm
going to read aloud a number of anecdotes. They're
published in a
book of mine called Phonetic
Readings in English published by Carl Winter
of Heidelberg, Germany.
ˈðis iz | prəˈfesə ˈdæniəl ˴dʒounz spiːkiŋ | on ðə ˈsevnθ əv nou➚vembə | ˈnaintiːn siksti ˴θriː.
aim ˈgouiŋ tə ˈriːd | ə➚laud | ə ˈnʌmbər əv ˈanik➘douts. | ðeə ˈpʌbliʃt | in ə `buk əv ➚main | koːld | fəuˈnetik ˈriːdiŋz | in ˴iŋgliʃ | pʌbliʃt bai ˈkaːl ➚vintə| əv ˴➚haidlbeəg| ˴dʒəːməni.
ˈnʌmbə ˴wʌn | ðə ˈdog in ðə ˴meindʒə. | ə ˈbad ˈtempəd ➚dog | ˈwʌn ➚dei | ˈfaund iz ➚wei | intu ə ➘meindʒə | ən ˈfaund it | sou ˈnais ən ➚kʌmftəbl | ðət hiː meid ʌp iz ➚maind | tə `stop ➘ðeə. | wenˈevə ðə ˈkatl keim ˈniə | tu ˈiːt ðeə ➚hei | hiː ➘grauld ən `baːkt at ðəm | tə ˈfraitn ðəm ➘oːf. | ˈwot ə ˈveri ˈselfiʃ ➘dog | ikskleimd wʌn əv ði ➘oksn | hiː `kaːnt iːt ðə hei himˈself | ənd iː ˈwount | let `ʌs ➚iːt | huː ➘kan.
ˈnʌmbə ˴tuː | ðə ˈtravlər ənd iz ˴dog. | ə ➚travlə | wəz ˈdʒʌst ˈgouiŋ | tə ˈstaːt on ə ➚dʒəːni | wen i ˈsoː iz ➘dog | ˈstandiŋ ət ðə ➚doː | ən `stretʃiŋ imself | ˈkʌm ə➘loŋ ju leizi ➘dog iː sed | ˈwot ə ju ˈweitiŋ `hiə foː | ðə dog ˈwagd iz ➘teil | ən ˈsed | ai wəz `ounli weitiŋ | fə `juː ➚maːstə.
The word 'anecdotes' could be said to be slightly mispronounced, no
doubt unintentionally, because he produces an unsuitably strong stress
on its final syllable.
can hear nothing particularly old-fashioned or socially conspicuous about his
pronunciation of [sɪkstɪ] in this rhythmic context. It's clear that the
two vowels are identical: in rhythmic contexts that highlighted the
latter vowel it might not be so.
The first syllables of November
are plainly diphthongal which is unsurprising in this very careful style.
The phrase number
a very lightly tapped linking /r/ as also does traveller and
in the title of the second anecdote. This again is pretty inconspicuous
today so we must remember that when writers refer to tapped /r/ being
very old-fashioned it's to be understood that they're thinking of quite
strong tapping. The whipcrack taps that could often be heard in the
enunciation of Noël Coward
were pretty obviously conscious affectations in his day.
Notice that /eə/ in they're and the last syllable of Heidelberg are barely
if at all diphthongal. I've never been happy with the Jones Outline paragraph
448 "The phoneme ɛə
may be regarded as consisting of a single member; there are no phonemic
variants differing to any marked extent from the above value."
The German words, we notice, are completely anglicised.
in the Manger
bad tempered dog one day found his way into a manger and found it so
nice and comfortable that he made up his mind to stop there. Whenever
the cattle came near to eat their hay, he growled and barked at them to
frighten them off. "What a very selfish dog!" exclaimed one of the
oxen! "He can't eat the hay himself, and he won't let us eat who can".
readers who may've wondered what it sounded like when they re'd
references to (old-fashioned or socially conspicuous) varieties of /ӕ/
which have "considerable constriction in the pharynx"
(Cruttenden/Gimson 2008 p.113) will hear a very marked example of such
an articulation here at the word bad.
It could almost be described as "bleated".
The word off
exhibits the very old-fashioned choice of the /ɔː/phoneme in
number of words in which /ɒ/ is now heard. (Cf
3.1.29d on this website.) Not only is
the choice of phoneme not the one normally made in the group of words
to which off
compared with GB speakers today the quality of the vowel is markedly
opener than the average now heard, as is that used at for in
anecdote Number 2.
Traveller and his Dog
traveller was just going to start on a journey when he saw his dog
standing at the door and stretching himself. "Come along, you lazy dog"
he said "What are you waiting here for?" The dog wagged his tail and
said "I was only waiting for you, Master".
The Rigidity of English Spelling
Today’s ideas in John Wells's blog Freeing up spelling
strike me as taking a somewhat new line from his past writings on the
topic. I find them agreeably in tune with the suggestions I’ve
recently been making in items on this website notably at my Blogs 102 Spelling Reform - Feasible or Futile? and 47 Spelling Reform. See also the warning about my spellings-in-them that precedes these blogs.
One of his suggestions was “Lets abolish the apostrophe, or at least make it optional”.
In my observation it’s very widely become treated as optional
already in practice except in contracted spellings like we’ll for we will but I think I’d rather keep it there than use we ll.
Spaces are such vague things especially in many people’s use of
keyboards. Anyway let’s stop sneering at grocers. The Times reported him as saying “It’s time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal (principle?) mark of being educated.” I agree and perhaps principl wd be allriet. I can see his point of having only its inste’d of it’s as well: we’ve traditionally got them the rong way round anyway. I dont care for i and u but I might get to like U for you.
I notice that the Spelling Society, of which John is President, no
longer advocates wholesale adoption of the system devised by its
predecessor the Simplified Spelling Society and set out in the book Nue
Speling by Walter Ripman and William Archer published in 1948 in its
6th edition revised by Daniel Jones and Harold Orton. It was an
excellent effort but has never had any real likelihood of being adopted.
I can’t help feeling that John’s admirable realistic address to them on the 25th of January 1986 English accents and their implications for spelling reform
mustv (I’m not sure I like that spelling and I wonder what John
wd think of it) done as much to damp down (undiscriminating) enthusiasm
for reform among many of their members as much as to encourage them in
It’s not going to be easy to persuade people along the lines that
John and I have advocated. It’s witness to people’s
unwarrantable veneration for orthography, however illogical, that they
tend to prefer to adopt a matching pronunciation for a bad spelling
rather than make an orthographical change (thereby carrying out slow
piecemeal reform). It wdve made good sense (and sound etymology) to
change /sɪzm/ from schism to *scism or *sism but, no, most people have now made it /skɪzm/. Its the same story with combat, forehead, nephew, often, retch etc etc.
Harking back to my remarks on the
futility of the BBC attempting to force broadcasters to toe the line on
all pronunciations, especially of French names, in my blog 124. On the
morning Today programme on September the 8th on Radio 4, within a
short time, regarding the same short news item, I heard the newsreader
(Rory Morrison), the presenter (Edward Stourton) and a correspondent
(Mark Mardell) say the French president’s name Sarkosi respectively as /`sɑːkəʊzi/, /sɑːkəʊ`zi/ and
/sɑː`kəʊzi/. They were all okay by me tho the last one is probably the
most comfortable for English-speakers and the second one — the
one that the Beeb are trying to force on them — is probably the
Unorthodox Derived Forms
John Wells in his last two blogs has raised questions about various derived forms. How Congolese got its l
is certainly a mystery but John’s explanation of Harrovian’s <v>
is clearly the right one. And this may well account too for Monrovia. The American president after whom it was named of course spelt his name Monroe but this surname was earlier Munro and has been spelt by some of its bearers as Munrow etc. The coiners may well have had such a spelling in mind.
It’s not too surprising that the christeners of the district above Oxford Street from Soho shdve rejected *Fitzroia in favour of Fitzrovia nor that there’s little use of any adjectivalisation of Waugh: *Waughan or *Waughian hardly roll sweetly off the tongue. The same may perhaps be said of Kittitian but*Kittsian doesnt seem too bad to one used to Keatsian so maybe the OED suggestion of an inclination to parallel with Haitian wasnt unreasonable. Euphonistic considerations have also no doubt been responsible for the rejection of *Shanghai-ese and *Lasso-ians.
As to tobacconist and Torontonian,
its worth remembering that a century ago a knowledge of Latin and
even of some Ancient Greek was extremely widespread among people of any
pretension to education. This wd mean that they were no doubt to some extent conscious of
the fact that, since any word ending with -o wd be almost certain to form derivatives which involved an n, there might well be a tendency to follow this analogy. Witness n-extensions (for non-nominative cases and other derivatives) in names like Apollo, Cato, Cicero, Dido, Juno, Nero, Pluto, Strabo, Varro etc and words such as bubo, harundo, homo, imago, ratio, testudo, vertigo etc. This may even have some relevance to the choice of forms of Balinese, Javanese and Sundanese. (In regard to Stowe alumni being called Stoics, that’s what OED past editors mightve called “sportive”).
PS There are various adjectives like Aberdonian, Bathonian, Dundonian and Scillonian besides the oddities Mexiconian, Grubstreetonian, grumbletonian and so on. Smilar is Erpenius the Latinisation of the name of the Dutch linguistic scholar Van Erpe, a practice so common in medieval and renaissance Europe.
PPS Pharaonic seems to be another example.
More Wells Coinages
In my blog 123 “Rhoticity” which was mainly about the
coining of linguistic terms I mentioned half a dozen of John
Wells’s coinages. One problem with suggesting that a word is
appearing for the first time is that one can’t be sure that it is
so merely because one can’t trace it earlier. I don’t think
for a moment that I’m the first writer to employ the word anglophonia but it’s not in OED3 nor does Google instance it earlier than my use of it in 2003 at p. 19 of Volume No 87 of The Phonetician “Shortly after another spell in anglophonia, this time teaching at the Summer Institute of Linguistics at Ann Arbor...”.
Similarly I have the habit of occasionally using in my private writings
the term "Hispanophone" and, as I never recall seeing it used by anyone
else and it's not to be found in OED3, to an extent it can be termed as
my coinage, but I doubt that it's never occurred to any other writer to
employ it. Thus I'm not quite sure what to say about Wells's (standard) lexical sets.
[PS There is one notable thing to be said about these that they are all
taken over en bloc for use in the key to the pronunciation of the
online and in-preparation third edition of the great Oxford English Dictionary.
Sadly Wells's set of symbols of LPD are not all used especially
regrettably the wrongheaded failure to use his and all other sensible
lexicographers' representation of the price diphthong.]
It seems likely that Wells re-invented smoothing rather
than consciously or subconsciously remembered it from reading Sweet
(who only used it in a couple of his least re’d books eg New English Grammar 1891 §720) as we see from his wording at its introduction at AE (Accents of English) p.238: We may refer to this monophthonging process as Smoothing”. Similarly his use of the phrases “Pre-R Breaking” and “Pre-Schwa Laxing”, like his term “D-tapping”, are
certainly coinages but the phonological term “breaking” was
in use by A. J. Ellis and others before him (in line with the German
grammarians’ brechung), just as “laxing” was no doubt used by others before Chomsky and Halle.
Anyway, I thaut I might mention some other (presumable) Wells coinages.
The one of his I hope to be forgiven for referring to as his happiest
one is “the happy vowel”
for the final-y vowel of vast numbers of English words for which he
wisely and hugely influentially (there’s three of them for you!)
accepted in his publications the LDC (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) innovation in its first edition of 1978 of representing these vowels with colon-free /i/.
The credit for introducing this usage in its Wellsian sense I’ve
always naturally attributed to that dictionary’s initial
specialist “pronunciation editor”, Gordon Walsh. Though I
had many conversations with him around that time I don’t actually
remember confirming the fact of it with him. Gordon was an excellent
phonetician who studied under Peter MacCarthy and my predecessor at the
Leeds Department of Phonetics, Beatrice Honikman, who I know thaut very
highly of him. In subsequent years I’ve unfortunately lost touch
with him since he left Longman but I’d be very pleased, if he or
a friend sees this, if he’d make contact. Anyway, it’s long
been my private conviction that he felt that his /i/ symbolisation was
a good way of representing the General British pronunciation of such
words avoiding both the unacceptable traditional representation /ɪ/ and
the misleading notation /iː/. It was on the part of the publishers
cautiously presented to the reader only as a device for economically
conveying simultaneously both the General American and the General
British usages in one symbol but by the second edition of LDC a decade
later in 1987, when the pronunciation editor had changed and the
pronunciation adviser was no longer Gimson but Wells, the
representation was not merely so glossed (see p.F53).
Perhaps a less than happy AE usage is the habitual hyphenation passim “traditional-dialect”
which strikes me as disturbingly irregular when it’s not
attributive. In any case I shall give the rest of these coinages of his
consonant singling: AE p.212 “(double /dd/ in ladder becomes single /d/, and likewise other doubled consonants)”
continental vowellism AE p.108 This chiefly involves giving to the spelling letters a, e, and i the values of PALM, FACE and FLEECE... (Compare Section 3 Item 7 III 4 on this main website.)
dealveolar (AE p. 58) “The
(optional) RP rule of Dealveolar Assimilation is potentially triggered
whenever a word ending in an alveolar stop occurs before a word
beginning with a bilabial or velar stop.”
‘disalesce’ (AE p. 58) is an obvious nonce creation to convey the reverse of coalesce. Its apologetic inverted commas acknowledge its unorthodox formation and perhaps incomplete seriousness.
glottalling (rather than glottalising) which occurs first at AE p.102: The current British trend towards general syllable-final glottalling ... constitutes a rule simplification.”
loan-phoneme AE p.190: “Even
in England /x/ can be said to hold a tenuous and marginal position in
the consonant system of educated speakers ... it is clearly a
shading (AE p. 534) was obviously introduced as a conscious coinage “... this is where what we may call Shading comes into play. This is the effect upon vowel timbre of the nature of a following consonant” .
vocalization to mean conversion (of a consonant) to a vowel (not in OED3) appears first at AE p. 20; cf p.295 “Vocalization of dark /l/ is occasionally met with in RP...”.
So we see that John was being over-modest when he referred to rhotic as "my own personal contribution to the English language" as if it were the only one.
Georgeayna's Cavendish patois
Georgiana Cavendish, duchess of Devonshire (1757–1806),
born on the 7th of June 1757, the eldest daughter of John Spencer, first
Earl Spencer, at the age of 17 married the duke in June 1774. She was
the subject in 1998 of an excellent biography by Amanda Foreman which
has now served as the basis of a film The Duchess
about to be released. The actress who plays the name part in it has
been much interviewed on BBC etc including on Radio 5 in a series called by what hints at a
Cockney version of “Daily Mail” but turns out to be
“Daily Mayo”, the interviewer’s name being Mayo.
In it that actress, Keira /kɪərə/ Knightley, is questioned about the pronunciation of the Duchess’s name Georgiana
when the interviewer remarks very understandably that, tho he was expecting /ʤɔːʤi`ɑːnə/,
“through the movie everyone says /ʤɔː`ʤeɪnə/”. She
replies “They do” and goes on to say “there was a
special thing called the ‘Cavendish drawl’ which we
haven’t really done in the film apart from the name ... I think
they did pronounce it /ʤɔː`ʒeɪnə/”. (Incident’ly, that
seems to lend support to my contention that people often don’t feel
conscious of any very significant difference between /ʒ/ and /dʒ/.
Compare the comments on Beijing etc in my blog 124 and the way many people say eg garage or management etc with indifferently /ʒ/ or /dʒ/.)
Just what the ‘Cavendish drawl’ amounted to isnt easy to
g’age but no doubt the alternative term ‘Cavendish
patois’ was nearer the mark. The form ‘George-ayna’
was probably quite widely current in the 18th century but perhaps
beginning to sound old-fashioned to most people by the time she married
the duke. There are many words that have exhibited a similar variation
between a more English-developed and a more Continental-influenced
treatment of such an ending. The OED has the entries “ana
(ˈeɪnə,ˈɑːnə), suffix and n.” and “Africana
(ӕfrɪˈkɑːnə, -eɪnə)”. The order of the pronunciations given for
the suffix no doubt no longer reflects accurately the current
predominating preference but in the USA, and probably also still here
by some who use the term, the organ stop vox humana may be heard with the non-Continentalised vowel as /vɒks hju`meɪnə/. Similar variations have occurred with names like Anastasia, Maria, Sabrina, Sophia etc.
The Foreman biography quotes various examples of the phenomenon called
variously ‘Cavendish drawl’ and ‘Devonshire
drawl’ both of which terms, even taking into account her mention of
“bal-cony, con-template” and “cowcumber”, are no
doubt less appropriate than the third one ‘Cavendish
patois’. In the OED Murray remarked in 1885 “Till c1825 the
pronunc. was regularly bælˈkəʊnɪ; but ˈbælkənɪ... , ‘which,’ said Samuel Rogers, ‘makes me
sick,’ is now established.” I’ve updated from
Murray’s symbols to the current OED3 style. OED dodgily gives the con`template
stressing in second place (as an allegedly current usage) even tho retaining Murray’s century-plus-old comment
that it “begins to have a flavour of age”. On cowcumber it gives his
1893 remark that such
a pronunciation was “still that recognized by Walker; but Smart
1836 says ‘no well-taught person, except of the old school, now
says cow-cumber ... although any other pronunciation ... would have been
pedantic some thirty years ago”. Other items of the patois Foreman quotes are yellow, gold and spoil presumably pronounced as /jӕlə, guːld/ and /spaɪl/ and a “baby-talk” style you pronounced with its yod dropped. (Compare OED’s quote from the 1713 Swift Journal to Stella I allow oo Six). Except for this last item, these were all probably merely old-fashioned. For example Wyld's History of Modern Colloquial English (1920/36 p. 239) sed of goold
that “It was a very usual though by no means the only
pronunciation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries among good
The “patois” may perhaps have been characterised
by particular rhythmic and/or melodic features but these can now hardly be
guessed at. As regards the above set of verbal usages reported at
Foreman 1999 pp 45/46, they seem all to have been noted from the letter to
her mother of the 12th of January 1784 (ie when she was sixteen and a half).
So they should perhaps best be interpreted as the slight over-reactions to
the speech habits of another grand family of a very inexperienced young woman
in an age when many usages were less settled than they are today.
My attention was drawn to this topic, as so often, by John Wells's
latest blog where he helpfully provides a link to the podcast of the
broadcast I've quoted from. He makes the comparison with the Victorian
/ɑː`meɪdə/ for armada which,
as he points out, Daniel Jones never got round to removing from
his EPD. Neither did Gimson or Ramsaran. Only when Roach and Setter
took over in 1997 was it removed tho who was still using it after about
1920 one wonders. It was only withdrawn from the Concise Oxford Dictionary
in 1976 in which it had remained until that time as the only
pronunciation recorded for the word: see on this website (at Section
11, Item 3, No 5) my letter that was printed in The Times
in 1977 which mentioned the fact. This to my profound regret much
irritated the then Chief Editor of Oxford Dictionaries, the great
lexicographer whom I so much admired, the late Robert Burchfield. I
had mentioned it as symptomatic of the minimal attention those dictionaries
paid to pronunciation matters. Such things seem a good deal better these days.
What to Excuse
John Wells’s phonetic blog of today is, as ever, thaut-provoking.
It turns out to be entirely about various transcriptions produced by
examination candidates of the first two words only of a passage that he
“dictated in a perfectly ordinary way, as ɪkˈskjuːz mi.”
I’m afraid I cdnt help wondering whether he aimed to repeat these
words on the same intonation pattern each time or only adhered to the
same stress pattern. [PS He's now told me that he stuck to a fall-rise on Excuse.] I’ve known occasions when I’ve felt
free to vary the intonation to help the candidates determine what was
being said. Anyway, one quite minor but potentially quite perplexing
point of transcription is possibly involved as we shall see.
Among the versions I was offered by the examinees were ɪˈkjus me, ɪˈkjʊz ˈmiː, ˈıkskjuz mi, and several cases of ɪkˈskjuːs mi.
The first two of these were quite seriously wrong both omitting the
pair of segments /sk/. The first, besides the omissions, had /s/ for
/z/ and in /e/ a seriously inappropriate final vowel.
The second, besides the omissions, had /ʊ/ instead of /uː/ and
a debatable vowel value in the second word. Taking it that the
examinees were required to make use of the LPD/EPD symbology, and that
the prosody fitted the O&A (O’Connor & Arnold)
terminology Fall-Rise, then strictly speaking one might well expect the
non-accentual rising-syllable vowel to be transcribed with a weak /i/
rather than strong coloned /iː/ tho this latter choice of course wd be a
very venial “error”. On the other hand if the
speaker’s prosody had been consistently what O&A wdve had to
represent as Exˈcuse ˏme,
then a student trained to use O&A notation would have been
justified as regarding “me” as accented and therefore
requiring segmental notation as a strong vowel by inclusion of an IPA
length mark. The problem wd be that the O&A notation never
had within its purview the existence of the complex tone which in my
preferred terminology I refer to as the Alt-Rise ie a very frequent one
employed on this common expression which I am accustomed to notate as Exˈˏcuse me. (A more emphatic variant cd be Exˋcuse ˋˏme. For “Alt” see on this main website Section 8 §3.) ː
In the third example ˈıkskjuz mi
the tonic syllable is grossly mistaken. Looking closely at the first
letter of this transcription one is tempted to wonder if with
meticulous precision the calligraphy is being shown in a way that might
represent a Turkish student slipping into their national graphetics in
a failed attempt at writing the IPA symbol ɪ — but that wd no
doubt be too extravagant a conceit to sustain belief. No doubt it's
just one of those graphological gremlins at work of the kind that wdnt
let me use the original Turkish dotless i of the Wells text on this page. [PS On the contrary I find that he was indeed meticulously recording the student's use of a dotless i!]
At the fourth ɪkˈskjuːs mi there is the common failure to observe “the s ~ z noun~verb alternation in use, abuse, excuse, refuse, house...”
The rest of this ten-line aside gives a concise summary of similar
types of s ~̴ z alternation which shd prove very useful to
many students whose attention is drawn to it.
It was rather surprising to hear that the students found it easier to
transcribe Synthetic English words than real existing ones. I think
I’ve always found it the other way round. [PS I now gather that his "nonsense words" were not English but "all vowels cardinal, many consonants exotic etc" so
my astonishment at hearing that the students perform better on
them is even greater tho I supose it cou'd be that more English
segments than international ones conduced to a higher total of
The title of this present blog (Canutism /kə`njuːtɪzm/) ties in with
the topic of my last one because that one was largely concerned with
coinages. This expression is in fact a personal usage I've long enjoyed
employing to refer (however unfairly to the monarch in question) to the
fact that many people delude themselves into believing that a single
authority's influence can be so great as to prevail over a wide popular
tide of development. I usually have in mind linguistic processes and
particularly trends in the pronunciation of individual words. This
blog, then, has been prompted by the blog of August the 14th by Graham
Pointon which began
It’s been very noticeable
over the past week or so that almost all BBC broadcasters, from
whatever department, are now saying ‘bay-jing’ for the
Chinese capital. It’s been confirmed today by “a BBC
employee” that a directive has been sent out by senior management
that everyone must toe this line. Graham went on to refer to a 1974 booklet called BBC Pronunciation Policy and Practice, which, he said, laid
down that all BBC staff newsreaders and presenters must follow the
recommendations of the Pronunciation Unit adding his questionable opinion that a similar
instruction now would do no harm whatsoever.
After grumbles about the arcane Byzantine convolutions of control
within the Beeb he closed with the unsurprising remark that a former Controller
of Editorial Policy referred to pronunciation as a “can of
worms” that he wanted nothing to do with, although all he would
need to do would be to accept the recommendations of the Unit —
they are all very good linguists, and spend their lives researching the
pronunciations which journalists often dismiss in two seconds flat. (Good!)
Perhaps a start could be made by standardising the French
President’s name: there is still a lot of disagreement between
the second-syllable and third-syllable stressers.
My opinion is in direct contrast with that of my good friend Graham. I
feel that the function of the truly invaluable BBC Pronunciation Unit
entirely consultative and that no broadcaster of whatever standing shd
be prohibited from using any pronunciation of any word which he or she
feels is appropriate for the context in which it is to be heard —
or for that matter pressured to conform to a standard set up by others.
The more certainly the Beeb steer clear of any tendency to control
freakery the better. Attempting to force people to "toe the line"
against their will or better judgment is extremely ill-advised. More
detail on this matter can be seen in my review of
OBG (the Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation) on this website at Section 12 Item 11.
I believe this partly because I feel no advisor or group of advisors,
however well-equipped for such work, shd be deemed infallible in their
judgment. To take the example of Sarkozi I dont think it matters much
at all whether one sez /sɑː`kəʊzi/ or /sɑːkəʊ`ziː/. However, I do doubt if the
latter version is likely to feel very comfortable to most people and I
deplore the way it is given in OBG
as the BBC's sole recommendation, especially in the light of the
above-mentioned booklet on BBC Pronunciation Policy and Practice.
English speakers are likely to feel that such a word pronounced as
three strong syllables is too heavy: in fact I suspect very few will
simply adopt that recommendation. If they attempt to do so while having
the occasion to use the word repeatedly, they'll soon be
weakening the middle syllable to give /sɑːkə`ziː/ as is the common
pattern in English words of three syllables the last of which is strong
as with for example jamboree.
Again, I can't share Graham's evident satisfaction that a fatwa came
from on high at the Beeb (no name disclosed!) prohibiting the
probable majority version /ˈbeɪ`ʒɪŋ/ which OBG sez tiresomely is “not correct”. Will they be putting one out about Taj Mahal
shou'd that figure prominently in the news shortly? And one wonders
what the punishment was for infringement! LPD3 gives the /dʒ/ version
first and observes in deprecating language (“no
justification”) that it alone occurs in Chinese. EPD and ODP are
both sensibly non-committal regarding which variant is the predominant
John Wells has invited us to celebrate with him the "fortieth anniversary of the word rhotic",
which, he remarks, "is my own personal contribution to the English
language." While I shd not wish to be so churlish as to fail to
congratulate him on its 68,000 hits in Google and so on, I have to
confess that, tho I've often written about the topic it refers to,
I have regularly consciously avoided using the term in his sense. My
reasons for this, handy as it has proved in avoiding the clumsy term r-ful, have been twofold.
One has been the rather subjective purist feeling that it shd ideally be
kept as a term to describe language varieties that contain r-sounds as
opposed to ones that contain only l-sounds (lambdic, to coin a word) or like English have both (lambdic-rhotic). I dont think I cd reconcile myself to rhotiferous.
However, my main reason has been the feeling that, neat tho it might
be, it was too broad for my purposes. Accordingly I've always referred
to varieties of English, using instead his other coinage, as of higher
or lower rhoticity. This has
meant that I have referred to various kinds of southern United States
English as of lower rhoticity than any other type (alternatively hyporhotic), considered General
British and most east-of-England, eastern US and sub-equatorial accents
as of medium rhoticity (mesorhotic), and referred to Irish, Scottish and General
American etc as of high rhoticity (or polyrhotic).
"Cruttenden's Gimson" (2008 p. 90) remarks "some, particularly
Jamaicans, may be semi-rhotic (e.g. /r/ is present word-finally in hear but not preconsonantally in weird)". In fact semi-rhoticity is first mentioned in Wells's Accents of English p.570.
I notice that Wells's other 1968 coinage hyperrhotic
hasnt been taken up much. It seems to me that it cou'd well be welcomed as a
slightly less questionable expression to describe varieties that embody
analogical /r/ of the type that is very often called "intrusive". Such terminology I
find rather uncomfortably lends itself to being pounced upon gleefully by purists as a value
Wells's influence, especially in his prodigious Accents of English, has had notable effects on the currency of a variety of other terms including his revival of Henry Sweet's 1988 History of English Sounds use of smoothing
which Sweet defined as "the levelling of the two elements of a diphthong
under a monophthong". Others of Wells's often taken up terms have
included TH fronting, glottalling, diphthong shift and pre-fortis clipping. I've never really cared in this last case for the clipping metaphor rather than the more usual terms shortening or reduction and I've not understood why he hasnt employed the conveniently parallel term pre-enclitic (shortening) which I've found quite useful.
Two items first employed by the present writer wdntve acquired the
familiarity they now have if they hadnt appeared in his works. One of
these is the term compression introduced in 1969 in my Guide to English Pronunciation
(Scandinavian Universities Press) where at p. 35 it said "A compression
occurs when a diphthong is reduced to a simple vowel or a vowel reduced
to an approximant..."
The other is yod dropping, which I first used in my 1971 article The American and British accents of English in English Language Teaching (pp 238-48), and which, like rhotic, has now appeared in the OED which has the entry at yod n(oun)2:
1982 J. C. WELLS Accents of
English I. ii. 163 ... GenAm reflects more widespread Yod Dropping than RP and most
other British accents.