Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
|20/07/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (ix)||#040|
|14/07/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (viii)||#039|
|12/07/2007||OH! and Allegedly Unstressable Schwa!||#038|
|29/06/2007||Transcription Excercise 1||#036|
|28/06/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (vii)||#035|
|26/06/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (vi)||#034|
|24/06/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (v)||#033|
|15/06/2007||The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (iv)||#031|
Item 25 returns to the word yours
for which a graphic was given in LPD2 showing that over 60 percent of
respondents preferred it as /jɔːz/ though nearly 40 percent opted for
/jʊəz/. This was in a way surprising because I very much doubt if this
latter version is used so much, though one isn't surprised that a
number could prefer that it should be spoken in such a way because it's
more satisfying to many people to think of it as, in view of its
spelling, differentiated from the word yaws. [The 2008 results were 75%/25%.]
In the OED in 1921 Onions only gave /jʊəz/. Daniel Jones in the EPD from 1917 always gave first place to /jɔːz/ but gave other versions including two that Gimson retained in his 1977 EPD revision viz /jɔəz/ and /jʊəz/ prefixing the latter with rarely probably by mistake (not corrected even in 1991) because the other form was better entitled to such a description. The current EPD and ODP are in agreement with LPD.
Item 26 returns to the -less suffix asking whether the respondents prefer careless to end /-ləs/ or /-lɪs/ or if they can't decide between them because they feel that callous and Alice rhyme or if they prefer /-les/. I have heard individuals using this last form form but very rarely indeed (singing aside).
I haven't observed anyone consistently using a sound intermediate between /ə/ and /ɪ/ for the -less ending though such people may well exist and I myself have a few words, for example target, in which I don't really feel that I usually say either vowel. And of course one often hears a speaker utter a word like careless in non-deliberate speech with a sound that one can't safely assign to either phoneme.
Anyway, the thing that fascinated me about this and similar items was Daniel Jones's feeling about them. He never admitted the schwa versions of -less nor of various other similar endings into the EPD from 1917 to the 1956 so-called eleventh edition (the last for which he was responsible – there were truly only four) in which he gave his reasons for not doing so. It was because /-lɪs/, he thought, was "that most commonly employed by non-dialectal southern English speakers". He went on to add "It must be observed, however, that there do exist well-educated English people who speak in most respects with RP but who use the vowel << ə >> ... I have the impression that such speakers have had their speech influenced by contacts with people from northern or eastern parts of England ... and that these special features of their pronunciation cannot properly be regarded as coming within the limits of what should be included in this Dictionary." (p. xxix). Murray in the OED in 1888 had only given /-lɪs/.
When Gimson took over the EPD in 1967 he left things as they were until his extensive revision of 1977 when he added the schwa versions but still showed the /-lɪs/ ones first. This wasn't too surprising because they were his own habitual versions, though hardly any of his colleagues in the UCL Phonetics Department shared them, and they remained so till the 1991 edition. He did reverse the order of things with words like moderate which was again his own usage.
What rather amuses me is that my own reaction is the precise reverse of Jones's. I have the impression that, at least in people under retirement age, the use of/-lɪs/ is not mainstream General British but either a mild Londonism or markedly old-fashioned.
Item 23 is similar to 22 and first enquires how one prefers to say during. I'll be surprised if there're many responses in favour of /`dʊərɪŋ/ with the yod dropped. This is normal General American of course (see § 3.1.20a on this website) but in England it's an obvious regionalism confined to a few areas including parts of London and the Midlands – so far as I've noticed.
Secondly people are asked to say whether they prefer its first vowel to be /ɔː, ɜː/ or /ʊə/. All three of these versions are current and not regional. I expect most will plump for the last not least because it seems to be in best harmony with the spelling. [In the event 76% did.] It's what I have as a conscious target. Whether I and others are right in our impressions of what we actually do say is a tricky question. I suspect many of the ones who think they normally say /ʊə/ would turn out if observed carefully to often say /ɜː/. I very often hear /jɜːrə`pɪən/ for European from speakers on radio and tv. I wonder how such people'd respond to this question. I think what Wells is doing with his surveys is very worthwhile and interesting but one has to consider the results with in mind the kinds of prejudices that people tend to have. Most people probably have something of an exaggerated idea of the extent to which their pronunciations and their spellings match.
Item 24 on poor is a fascinating one for me because I can remember agonising about which pronunciation to show first in my CPD in 1972. I decided finally for to put /pʊə/ first and /pɔː/ second but somehow my second version disappeared in the printing except that it had been kept as an alternative for the following item which was poor-house! Proof correction can be a pretty unhappy business at times. Pity the harmless drudge who undertakes it. At the time, I was being more cautious than confident but I had the EPD in front of me as revised by Gimson and it only showed /ɔː/ as a third form giving second /pɔə/ which LPD probably rightly now omits altogether coz it's become so old-fashioned when it's not a regionalism. I've always said /pɔː/ myself and now completely appropriately LPD, EPD and ODP are all in agreement in showing /pɔː/ as the current predominating version. In this case we have a Wells brilliant LPD graphic which shows vividly the changing preferences of successive age groups (at p. 593 of LPD2).
Today's Wells blog refers to the fact that he sometimes wishes that Gimson hadn't adopted /əʊ/ for the vowel of words like boat. He doesn't question that it was a better representation of the GB ('RP' if you will) diphthong's quality than the /ou/ of the Jonesian EPD. Incidentally, I have often enjoyed as an EFL teacher demonstrating to students who were brought up, as it were, on that notation how appropriate the Gimson innovation was by beginning pronouncing the /ʊə/ centring diphthong – which is notationally the exact reverse of the closing one /əʊ/ – and saying it repeatedly with gradual reversing of the force with which its two elements were uttered while making no change in their qualities. The effect is, hopefully ie if performed effectively, an auditory experience comparable to certain kinds of optical illusion in which a pattern stared at may seem to change direction such as from rising to descending steps. There's a point where you don't know whether you think you're hearing the closing or the centring diphthong and then another when you recognise that the one has turned into the other.
Anyway, Wells mentions two "drawbacks" to Gimson's choice of symbol. First he says: The letter ə had hitherto been used only for the weak vowel and the less prominent element of centring diphthongs. It certainly can't be denied that practically every book that describes GB claims that /ə/ is never stressed. See Abercombie 1964:25 "confined to unstressed syllables" and even Cruttenden-Gimson 2008 at pp 95 & 154 "... /ə/ occurs only in unstressed syllables ..." It's true that it makes a very reasonable rule of thumb for learners to ban stressing of /ə/. However, the fact is that the vast majority of GB speakers have a small number of words in which they do have a stressed schwa. And there is nothing un-English about such a vowel: it's common in various accents.
For just LPD includes, explicitly not as a weakform, the pronunciation /ʤəst/. In EPD Jones had such an entry from 1956. LPD also has /məz/ as a form of Ms, the only one recommended by OBG. LPD lists the strongforms /bɪ'kəz/ and /bə'kəz/ of because tho it does dub them "irregular". Although LPD only lists, beside /mə'sjɜː/, /'mʊsjɜː/ and /'mʊsjə/ as initially stressable forms, I'm sure /'məsjə/ before a name isn't in the least unusual. I also regard /'hələʊ/ as a perfectly normal pronunciation of hullo, at least before a name. LPD also admits that "some speakers use stressed /ðə/ as a strong form, rather than the usual /ðiː/". I certainly would think it perfectly normal if, for instance, anyone who disliked the expression "Look it up in the dictionary" to say "I prefer to speak of looking words up in /ə/ dictionary rather than /ðə/ dictionary" if only because "/ðiː/ dictionary" could well suggest "the best etc" when that was not meant. There the indefinite article a similarly received stressing. LPD has a stress mark of sorts /(ˌ)dʌnəʊ/ at dunno (which I think can as easily be heard as / `dənəʊ/ ) and, though at gonna it calls it "contracted weakform", it shows it as /(')gənə/ and has similar treatment of the entry go.
There are plenty of other examples of GB stressed schwas. A most striking one came to my notice in the sixties when I'd first begun systematically noting the usages of radio and television newsreaders and presenters. I found that a very clear majority of them used the pronunciation /`θrəpəns/ for threepence — so much so that I felt I had to give that version first place when I came to compile my CPD (Concise Pronouncing Dictionary) which appeared in 1972 just after that word began being much less commonly he·rd when Britain had converted to a decimal currency. Among other items that I've been able to check from re-playing recordings etc have been the Queen clearly saying doesn't as /`dəznt/. King George V saying minutes as /`mənɪts/ was noted by Ida Ward in 1939 in her Phonetics of English (1972 edition p.220).
Many examples are to be noted among "re-stressings" of weakforms. In fact schwa weakforms are all strest at times by many speakers (with the exception of those of her). The list of the most important three dozen of them consists of those of a, am, an, and, are, as, at, but, can, could/nt, do, does/nt, for, from, gonna, had/nt, have/nt, has/nt, must/nt, nearly, saint, sir, shall, should/nt, the, was/nt, will, and would/nt. Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder in Brideshead Revisited sed "You dont want to spend the rest of your life with Kurt, / ́də ju/ ". I've come to suspect that people nowadays prefer that style to / ́duː ju/ in less formal situations.
of liquids and nasals around /ɪ/ produce many
occasional examples of its conversion to schwa including /`brəljənt/,
/`brətɪʃ/, /`ʧəldrən/, /`grənɪʤ/ (Greenwich),
/`mələtri/, /`məsnt/, /rə`məmbə/, /`səlvə/, /`wəlsn/ (Wilson), /`twəlv/. Words like ill, still, will etc regularly have
/ə/ for their vowel in most types of South African English.
All these examples have been given without any intention to attribute them solely to the very widespread drift to be heard in recent generations towards weakening or removing the traditional rounding of the /ʊ/ phoneme so that for very many younger speakers it has merged with their /ə/. It's been around a very long time in expressions like good and for goodness sake. I've also mainly refrained from giving items that might be said to be unaccented because they're spoken with merely animation stresses as with eg /`əv ˎkɔːs/ (Of course!) or /'ðə ˎfuːl/ (The fool!).
Finally, on the stressing of schwas, I again consciously haven't adduced as examples the fair number of French expressions in which many of us employ them including de rigueur, which LPD shows as \ (ˌ)də rɪ 'gɜː\, René, Renault, Renoir, première etc. By confusion, one supposes, with première, the word premier is quite often to be heard as /`prəmiə/ or /`prəmiɛə/ these days.
Twenty-Questions ie / `twenti kwesʧnz /
In his Phonetic Blog of Friday 6 July 2007 John Wells referred to the fact that in his LPD he mentions "the /ˈtweni/ form [of twenty] as a BrE possibility, but with a warning triangle [⚠] against it. Yet I am aware that some people who qualify generally as RP speakers do use it" and asks "Ought I to remove the warning triangle?"
He refers to similar elisions of /t/ in want to and trying to and three other items as usages that "Londoners" employ.
Elsewhere on this website at §3.1.22b I've remarked: In rapid counting /`tweni/ or indeed /twəni/ can be heard in casual GB speech but these simplifications of /-nt-/ have as counterparts in GB only the fairly markedly colloquial forms of going-to /gənə/ (before vowels /gənu/) and want-to /wɒnə/ (before vowels /wɒnu/) often written gonna and wanna.
My impression is that these are not exclusively Londonisms, nor regionalisms at all for that matter, but are widely used weakforms that are felt to be relatively casual in style. I think one can add /`traɪnə/ ie trying to (most usually in a disyllabic form eliding the middle vowel phoneme /ɪ/) to this small group. I know I've heard /gənə/ – and I don't think a strongform /`gəʊnə / would sound much less acceptable, by the way – at least from plenty of (GB) broadcasters not using scripts, but perhaps many speakers only use them when they feel that for them they constitute what I dubbed in my blog of the 28th of December "linguistic slumming" (ie conscious as opposed to inadvertent incorrectness). I notice LPD accepts /gənə/ as "informal" and at the spelling wanna also says "informal" with the further comment "not standard in Br E". Also I see that it has an entry wannabe with no triangle or qualification – quite rightly because that plainly is "linguistic slumming" as its spelling proclaims.
What should we say in reply to his question, then? Perhaps it would be reasonable to label it additionally as a "casual weakform" especially because one can easily imagine twenty-first, twenty-one etc being said with the weakform but it's surely much less likely that twentifold or twenty-twenty (vision) would ever be uttered quite so casually. The LPD "warning triangle" is clearly explained as meant to alert those who would not like to be considered incorrect. So if they're not so confident of their command of the usages that they aspire to employing as to ignore such triangles anyway, then surely they should continue to benefit from the caution he offers. So our advice is "Keep it!" Or, if he doesn't keep it on the first pair we've mentioned, we suggest he does so on the second.
I'm thinking of trying the experiment of offering some exercises in the transcription of short passages of conversational English that I may put up here from time to time and then a couple of weeks or so later provide a model version for those who've attempted the exercise to compare with their own effort. I propose to explain mistakes people make by inviting them to send me a copy of their effort by email. See "Send the author an email" at the bottom of my front homepage and click on it. Please note that their transcription must be made in the body of the email because I never open attachments from correspondents not already known to me. Also, I shall only be willing to look at what they send to me if they precisely comply with the accompanying instructions which will be as follows:Exactly copy onto your transcription the tone marks shown taking careful note of their indications of rhythms.
Don't leave any space between any tone mark and the syllable it precedes.
Transcribe only in the LPD segmental symbols (ie not copying any stress markings from LPD).
Use spaces between words exactly as in ordinary spelling (not LPD spacings).
Give the pronunciations you consider most suitable for EFL learners to adopt.
Give no alternatives whatsoever. Include the title.
Here's the first text:The 'NewˎMotorcar
If you'd like to hear a version to compare it with your transcription, go to §4.1.15.
For those who haven't got phonetic and tonetic symbols readily available to use LPD in (the body of) your email you need to have in your Unicode Character Palette Favourites the symbols listed below. MS Word and various other word processors nowadays make Unicode available.