Archive 41 of JWL Blog


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13/07/2012Specimen of English with Intonation.#409
12/07/2012A Statue of Venus.#408
09/07/2012A Specimen of British English#407
25/06/2012Smoothing and Compression#406
18/06/2012A Transcription from Alex.#405
24/05/2012Adumbration of Gradation.#404
19/05/2012Weakforms (i) "and".#403
16/05/2012New Dialog for Reading Aloud.#402
14/05/2012Function-Word Weakforms.#401
09/05/2012Defining the Term Weakform.#400

Blog 409

The 13th of July 2012

Specimen of English with Intonation.

Readers may remember that introducing Peter Roach's Specimen of British English in our Blog 407 I sed "The specimens have generally continued to re-use with little or no re-consideration the same ... [Aesop] fable..." . I had in mind the fact that, altho exactly 100 years ago the IPA suggested that choice, it's rather out of date to think there's been in recent decades any JIPA editorial policy prescribing the use of any particular reading passage of any required length. I made this point in Blog 262 where I drew attention to the article in JIPA Volume 36 Number 2 by David Deterding /`detədɪŋ/ which listed “many shortcomings” of the passage for English. He advocated a new type with minimised repetitions of words, sets of mimimal pairs and monophthongs in contexts facilitating their measurement etc. I suggest also passages with at least one occurrence of every English phoneme etc. Besides the Roach specimen JIPA has included since 1999 five other excellent specimens of English — American of South Michigan, Australian, Liverpool, New Zealand and Tyneside but, like it, none of them has a passage of more than eight lines or anything much of the additions Deterding and I suggest. I also proposed that the new version shd be accompanied by prosodic (mainly intonation) notation and include at least exclamations, commands, contradictions, question-word, yes/no, alternative and tag questions, hesitations, vocatives and leave-takings. Here's an example of what I me·nt.

1.   ˈwᴧn ˏdeɪ, ðə ˈnɔθ ˈwɪnd | ən ðə ˏsᴧn | wə ˈhӕvɪŋ ən ˎɑgjəmənt.
2.   `ˏ ju | kɑnt bi `hɑf əz strɒŋ əz `aɪ ˏӕm | θə wɪnd wəz ˏseɪɪŋ.
3.    `əʊ jes aɪ ˏӕm, rɪʤɔɪnd ði ᴧðə hʌridli.
4.    ˈʤᴧst ˏðen | ə `trӕvlər əpɪəd.
5.    ˈwɒt ə ˈfaɪn ˎkləʊk, ɪkskleɪmd ðə wɪnd.
6.    `jes. ɪ`t ɪz ˏnaɪs, `ɪzn ɪt? ӕdɪd ɪz frend. ˈɪz ɪt ́wɔm.
7.    `əʊ! lᴧg`ʒʊərjəsli səʊ! ӕnd .. ɜ .. ɪt kəd ˈsɒlv jɔ dɪ`spjut —
8.    ɪf jud grɑnt mi ðӕt `ˏpleʒə.
9.    ́wɒt dɪd ju seɪ | ðeɪ ˏkɔrəst.
10.     aɪ sə`ʤest, ˏʤentlmən, | ðət ðɪs `veri `ˏgɑmənt |
11.    kən prə`ˏvaɪd | ðə dəˈsɪʒn ju rɪˎkwaɪə.
12.    ˈwɒt dju `min? snӕpt ðə wɪnd.
13.    maɪ aɪ`dɪər `ˏɪz | kntɪnjud ðə streɪnʤə ˏkɑmli, |
14.    ðət wɪ`ʧevər əv ju kən meɪk mi teɪk ɪt ɒf `ˏsunəst
15.    ˈhil bi ˈrekəgnaɪzd əz ðə ˎstrɒŋgə.
16.    ˈɔl ˏraɪt sed ðə wɪnd | ʃəl ˈaɪ traɪ fɜst | ɔ wɪl ˎ ju?
17.    `ju stɑt rəplaɪd ɪz kmpӕnjən.
18.    ðen ðə ˈwɪnd ˈblu | ˈӕbsəlutli ˎˏfjʊərjəsli |
19.    bət ðə `ˏweɪfeərə | ˈəʊnli ˈrӕpt ɪz ˈmӕntl | ˈtaɪtər əˎraʊnd ɪm.
20.    ˈӕt ˈlɑst | hi ˈsɪmpli hӕd tə | ˈgɪv ˈᴧp | ðə ˎstrᴧgl.
21.    ˏðen | ˈəʊld ˈsɒl | ˈʃɒn ˈaʊt | ˈrɪəli ˎpaʊəfli.
22.    ɪ`ˏmiʤətli | ðə ˈpɔ ˈfeləʊ| wəz ˈfɔst tə ˈteɪk ðə θɪŋ ˎɒf.
23.    `ðeər i saɪd. ˈðӕt ˎsetlz ðə mӕtə.
24.   `wel. aɪ səˈpəʊz aɪd ˈbetə bi ˈgetɪŋ əˎlɒŋ. ˈgʊd ˏbaɪ, ðen.

The text in ordinary spelling is as follows:

1.    One day, the North Wind and the Sun were having an argument.
2.    “You can’t be half as strong as I am” the Wind was saying.
3.    “Oh yes I am,” rejoined the other hurriedly.
4.    Just then a traveller appeared.
5.    “What a fine cloak!” exclaimed the Wind.
6.   “Yes, it is nice, isn’t it?” added his friend. “Is it warm?”
7.    “Oh! Luxuriously so! And ... er... it could solve your dispute –
8.     if you’d grant me that pleasure.”
9.    “What did you say?” they chorused.
10.    “I suggest, gentlemen, that this very garment
11.    can provide the decision you require.”
12.     “What d’you mean?” snapped the Wind.
13.    “My idea is,” continued the stranger calmly,
14.    “that, whichever of you can make me take it off soonest,
15.     he’ll be recognised as the stronger.”
16.    “All right.” answered the Wind, “Shall I try first or will you?”
17.     “You start” replied his companion.
18.     Then the Wind blew absolutely furiously
19.     but the wayfarer only wrapped his mantle tighter around him.
20.     At last he simply had to give up the struggle.
21.     Then old Sol shone out really powerfully.
22.     Immediately the poor fellow was forced to take the thing off.
23.     “There!” he sighed. “That settles the matter.”
24.    “Well! I suppose I’d better be getting along. Goodbye, then!”


Blog 408

The 12th of July 2012

A Statue of Venus.

"Kraut"’s blog of the sev·nth of July announced his delite at coming across an int·resting word completely new to him namely callipygous. He found it in Aldous Huxley's moving 1928 novel Point Counter Point and I commend his blog to readers for the fascinating picture he supplies of a statue of a shapely young woman looking over her shoulder while raising her skirt in order apparently to admire what OED tells us is sometimes 'colloquially and humorously' called her 'posterior'. He also provides a jolly quotation from the novel. Here.

I remember well the similar pleasure it gave me in nineteen-forty-six when I re·d Huxley's amusing 1923 novel Antic Hay coming upon this same appealing new word. Very new it was too because the OED lists its first ever appearance as in that 1923 book. OED also has, besides Kraut's 1928 quote, a nice one at the adverb callipygously from Huxley's 1939 peculiar novel After Many a Summer: Young ladies stretching, writhing, callipygously stooping to tie their sandals. This can't be thaut to be a particu·ly remarkable coinage by Huxley (1894-1963) becoz it's essentially merely a transliteration of the corresponding Greek word καλλίπῡγος. As an old Etonian he wd no dou·t've studied Ancient Greek and wou·dn've needed the hint of the OED's macron over the upsilon to decide how to pronounce the word. But I, being no Greek scholar, didnt know how to say it. I was looking forward to introducing it into conversations with cert·n fr·ends so I had to make my mind up. In the absence of any help — it wasnt in my Oxford Dictionary — I plumpt for /kə`lɪpɪgəs/. Calligrapher had that rhythm but that wasnt reliable corroboration any more than callithumpian, a fanciful American invention I commend to Kraut.

Anyway, I took comfort in the analogy of Callimachus and especially Gallipoli ('beautiful city') which I knew began with that very same first element. In the event I hadnt made a lucky choice. The OED didnt catch up with our word till Burchfield braut out the first of his four massive supplementary volumes in 1972. That, to my surprise, gave first /kælɪˈpɪdʒəs/ and only secondly /-ˈpaɪɡəs/. These are shown here in OED2 1989 style of transcription, the OED revision not having yet got to this item to the point where US versions are included. It reminds one of the way only a limited minority of speakers use the "irregular" variant /ə`nӕləʤəs/ of analogous. CEPD and ODP dont acknowledge its existence. Wells admits it to LPD.

I didnt seem to notice till much later that the OED did have in a slightly more adapted form with the same meaning callipygian. This was one of the first words tackled by Henry Bradley, Murray's first new co-editor appointed in 1888, but anyway that coud·n've provided any pronunciational analogy. OED seems to have no idea when callipygian popped up during the 18th century as a translation of the name of the famous Roman first-century statue of Venus, now in a Naples museum, that Kraut showed us. Later I noticed that the OED had steatopygous, first known to be used by Charles Darwin when describing how a Hottentot woman's bottom "projects in a wonderful manner". Bradley again, now at 1916, put /stiːəˈtɒpɪɡəs/ before /stiːətəʊˈpaɪɡəs/. (OED3 transliterations of Bradley's original NED phonetics.). We sadly seem t've allowed the attractive word platypigous for 'broad-bottomed' to lapse into obsoletion.

Next I decided to try and lissen for what audible 'opinions' might be offered online. From we hear it spoken by a (US) female as /ˌkæləˈpaɪgəs/ with what sounds to me like some enthusiasm, the tonic falling-tone syllable beginning markedly high and held fairly long. Merriam-Webster, also a female, was distinctly more matter-of-fact with a more mid-height beginning to her tonic fall. She had the same usual GA version /ˌkæləˈpaɪgəs/. A macho-sounding male for Collins (British) sez not quite the given (ˌkælɪˈpaɪɡəs) but something more like the variant /ˌkæliˈpaɪɡəs/ with medial /i/ not the /ɪ/ of their transcription. has no transcription but a US-sounding male says /ˈkæləˎpɪʤəs/ only. Last of the available sound versions was the familiar refined General British tones of Tim Bowyer at Howjsay giving us solely /kӕlɪ`paɪʤəs/. Forvo, despite its motto "All the words in the world pronounced" didnt have it. Both LPD and CEPD give us no online sound but agree in transcribing the word only as /kӕlɪˈpaɪgəs/ The Free Online Dictionary gives transcriptions for callipygous and callipygian but only gives a pronunciation for the latter. The Oxford ALD, the Cambridge ALD and Longman DCE perfectly reasonably dont include this word which is neither common not very useful. In conclusion, if I were an active pronunciation lexicographer at this moment I shd not think /kə`lɪpɪgəs/ a clearly enough establisht form to merit inclusion at all in my pronunciation dictionary and my entry for the word wd be this
    GB /kælᵻ`paɪɡəs, ˃-dʒəs/ GA /kælə`paɪgəs, ˃-dʒəs/ meaning by /ᵻ/ that both /ɪ/ and /ə/ are fully current.
    My sign ˃ indicates that the following (part of the) transcription is a subvariant ie much less common than a co-variant form of the word which is what it wou·d be understood to be otherwise.

Blog 407

The 9th of July 2012

A Specimen of British English

In 1999 the International Phonetic Association publisht its adm·rable new Handbook. This contained twenty-nine specimens immeasurably better managed than the ones in most of its earlier publications. Their number has since been more than doubled by new ones appearing year after year in the pages of the Association's Journal. The specimens have generally continued to re-use with little or no re-consideration the same brief version of the Aesop fable of the North Wind and the Sun. This runs to about 130 words in the English version discusst below. The new feature that has incomp·rably enhanced the value of these twenty-first-century specimens has been the accompanying sound file in each case. These are available for download, to members of the Association etc, from CUP and JIPA websites.

The first issue of the new Handbook contained only a single specimen of English. It was of a Californian variety transcribed by the presiding genius of the whole enterprise the late greatly missed Peter Ladefoged. Several years after that we were fortunate to have a phonetician of the authority of Peter Roach to furnish us with a specimen of the best known variety of British English. His contribution appeared in 2004 at page 239 of Volume 34 Number 2 of the Association’s JournalBritish English: Received Pronunciation’. He declared that he had chosen to illustrate ‘the present-day version of the accent that has been used as the standard in phoneticians’ description of the pronunciation of British English for centuries’. He continued ‘The definition of this accent is a matter of heated debate and frequent controversy...’ and, after very cursory mentions of the works of Jones and Wells, immediately demonstrated the aptness of his remark in that one felt impelled to question his use of the wordsthe standard and ‘centuries’, the latter in regard to an accent that can hardly be considered to·ve even begun to be properly identified before the time of A. J. Ellis and Henry Sweet whose relevant work dates no earlier than the last two or three decades of the nineteenth century.

 He continued his provocative statements by saying The number of native speakers of this accent who originate in Ireland, Scotland and Wales is very small ... and it is therefore a misnomer to call it an accent of BRITISH English." There is no argument that this accent, referred to praps least unsuitably as ‘General British English’, can hardly be associated with any significant number of Irish speakers even from the UK’s Northern Ireland. But one knows of numbers of people who’ve spent their speech-formative years in especially Scotland and to a lesser extent in Wales who have no perceptible Welsh or Scottish accent and very many more who have only the slightest of Scottish or Welsh features — offen such as might well be imperceptible to non-specialist liss·ners.

He went on to claim that the great majority of native speakers of this accent...’ have been ‘educated at private schools’. A difficult claim to substantiate but, if I may make a small point, I shd like to report that, regarding the official’ BBC announcers he usually designates as particularly suitable exemplars of the accent, in the latter sixties and seventies I sent to many of them questionnaires asking for information that included their senior schooling. Admittedly to my surprise, the public-school respondents were in a clear minority. As to his claim that the majority of speakers live in, or originate from, the south-east of England’, surely that’s hardly a matter for dispute when one considers the fact that the southeast contains the most densely populated area in the country other than perhaps the northwest. Altho he remarked that his own preference is for the name BBC PRONUNCIATION or BBC ACCENT ... given the continuing popularity of the name Received Pronunciation, this has been used for the description ...’ of the accent of the speaker transcribed in his present article. It’s true that ‘Received Pronunciation’ has never been a more popular term than it is now in the ‘tabloid’ newspaper world but it’s equally true that it’s never been so unpopular among phoneticians.

 After that introductory half page, the next four pages are devoted mainly to a summary of the character of the accent’s segmental phonemes including the provision of three cardinal-vowel diagrams. The specimen is provided in two transcriptions, one phonemic and the other allophonic, both accompanied by stress markings, but ‘intonation is not transcribed’. The reasons for this are mentioned in the section of on·y twenty lines devoted to Prosodic Features". At the very end of the article, general-only references are supplied in respect of the three major pronunciation dictionaries, of Ladefoged, of Cruttenden's Gimson and, except on a single brief specific point, of Pike.

The recorded quality of the specimen is very satisfactory and clearly but not artificially spoken by the subject who is described as a professional lecturer in the English department of a foreign university’. She was born in 1953 and privately educated. The date of the recording is not stated. Both her generation and her sociological background may be surmised from the specimen. The diagrammed value for the /æ/ phoneme shows a rather surprisingly raised quality compared with the presumably pre-middle-age average pictured in Roach 2009 §2.3 but, altho no suggestion is made that there's any intention of correlation with the illustrative recording, it matches quite well with speaker’s slightly old-fashioned-sounding usage at eg the word wrapped. In addition to this, her /əʊ/ strikes one as a slightly more fronted value than the type represented in the diagram accompanying the previous description of the accent. These features suggest a rather more sociologically conspicuous (‘posh’ many wd say) sound than is most usual for her generation today. These small matters dont mean that this specimen can fairly be described as anything but an excellent example of contemp·ry usage.

I suppose one reason why ‘intonation is not transcribed’ is because the passage that contributors seem to be expected to persist in using is merely spoken prose. It’s thereby almost entirely unsuitable as a vehicle for demonstrating any worthwhile variety of a language’s prosodic features. Even so, anyone who might like to see a tonetic broad (ie not tonological or detailed) transcription may care to look at the following.

ðə ˈnɔːθ ˈwɪnd | ən nə ˏsᴧn | wə dɪ`spjutɪŋ wɪʧ wəz ðə ˎstrɒŋgə | wen ə `trævlə keɪm əlɒŋ | ˏ ræpt ɪn ə ˏwɔːm `kləʊk || ðeɪ əˈgriːd | θət ðə ˈwᴧn | hu ˈfɜːs səkˎsiːdɪd | ɪn meɪkɪŋ ðə trævlə teɪk ɪz ˎkləʊk ˏɒf | ʃʊd ˈbi kənˈsɪdəd | ˏstrɒŋgə ðən ði `ᴧðə. || ˈðen ðə ˈnɔːθ wɪnd ˈbluː | əz ˈhɑːd əz i ˎkʊd | bət ðə ˈmɔː hi ˈbluː | ðə ˈmɔː ˈkləʊsli | dɪd ðə trævlə ˈfəʊld hɪz ˈkləʊk əˈraʊnd hɪm | ˈənd ət ˈlɑːst | ðə nɔːθ wɪnd geɪv `ᴧp ði ətemt. || ˈðen | ðə sᴧn ˈʃɒn aʊt ˎwɔːmli | ænd ə`miːdjətli | ðə trævlə tʊk ɒf ɪz ˎkləʊk.| n səʊ ðə ˈnɔːθ ˈwɪn | wəz əˈblaɪʒ | ˈtu kənˎfes | ðət ðə ˎsᴧn | ˈwəz zə ˎstrɒŋgər əv ðə tuː.

The work referred to above by Peter Roach is his English Phonetics and Phonology Fourth edition 2009 Cambridge University Press.

PS There is some rather unavoidable overlapping here with our Blogs 114, 144 & 148 which some readers may also care to look at.

Blog 406

The 25th of June 2012

Smoothing and Compression

The term 'smoothing' was intoduced into the the vocabulary of phonetics by the great nineteenth century scholar Henry Sweet who, in 1888 in his A history of English sounds (p.22), used it for 'the levelling of the two elements of a diphthong under a monophthong'. It was not taken up for such phenomena by Daniel Jones or A. C. Gimson. I tend to wonder whether they had a slight feeling that to employ such an everyday expression was not appropriate for the nomenclature of a science. I have to confess to something of a reaction of that sort myself. Sequences like /aɪə/ and /aʊə/, Jones pointed out, because they were not single syllables, were strictly not properly termable as 'triphthongs'. In the first edition of his Outline of English Phonetics (1918 §107) he instanced the Italian word buoi as containing a true triphthong. Even so he chose to use the term for these English disyllabic sequences "for want of a better name" (Outline 1956 §233 8th edn ).

He never included in that work a diagram illustrating the 'trajectories' of the tongue in making /aɪə/ and /aʊə/. His colleague Ida Ward in her Phonetics of English (1929 Fig 28 p.107) first did so and was followed by Gimson (See Cruttenden-Gimson 2008 Fig.29) with a wise simplification showing a single [aː] for the result of the monophthongisation of an /aɪə/. Inste'd of a pair of, to most people indistinguishable, variants one fully front (Cardinal 4) and the other only slightly less front, he gave the latter only. Gimson avoided the term triphthong. He simply headed his account of them "Diphthong + [ə]" (§811). Neither LPD nor CEPD has ever included such a diagram.

Wells's Accents of English (1982) had a good deal to say about reductions of vowel sequences at both the phonetic and phonemic levels especially at the four-page section beginning at §3.2.9 of his Volume 1 p.238. There he made the comment "We may refer to this monophthonging process as Smoothing". This wording seems to suggest unawareness of Sweet's earlier use of the term. In his Volume 2 he discusst 'Variability in mainstream RP' [ie General British] usage in §4.1.4. p.286 where he listed seven principal processes involved in the production of allegro and "special-context" variants. One of these, number (v), he labelled 'compression' (while number (vi) was 'smoothing'). Compression was applied essentially to reductions of words or phrases where a syllable is lost. Examples of this occur where eg any other is converted from /eni ᴧðə/ to /enjᴧðə/, following from /fɒləʊɪŋ/ to /fɒlwɪŋ/ and hours ago from /aʊəz əgəʊ/ to /ɑːzəgəʊ/ etc.

These examples were taken not from his Accents but from page 35 of my Guide to English Pronunciation in which I introduced what I believe was the first use of that term compression for a specific phonetic phenomenon. This book was publisht in 1969 thirteen years earlier than Accents and review·d by Wells in English Studies 52, 4, August 1971. It was a pleasure to see this term taken up by such a distinguisht scholar. It was used agen in his Volume 2 at the very end of §4.2.8 at page 321 (an occurrence not listed in its index). Ever since the publication of the first edition of the superb Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary it has featured as an important classificatory term in preference to 'smoothing' — a word that appeared in the first edition nowhere else than as parenthetic gloss for 'compression'.

Blog 405

The 18th of June 2012

A Transcription from Alex.

On the 9th of June 2012 Alex Rotatori produced a narrative passage in mainly-phonemic transcription entitled

ə dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː

I presume it was offered to people with a pretty advanced knowledge of English pronunciation largely for discussion of the aptness of the various transcriptional choices but he didnt mention his aims.
1.    ðə dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː əz bɪn ə mʌltinæʃnəl seləbreɪʃn̩ mɑːkɪŋ ðə sɪkstjəθ ænəvɜːʃri əv ði əkseʃn̩ əv kwiːn əlɪzəbəθ ðə sekən tə ðə θrəʊnz əv sevŋ̩ kʌntriz.
2.    ðə fɜːs meɪdʒər ɪvent ə ðə dʒuːbəliː seləbreɪʃn̩z wəz ðə dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː pædʒənt, ə kævl̩keɪd  held əʔ wɪnzə kɑːsl̩ tə seləbreɪt ðə kwiːnz vɪzɪts tuː (ən tɔːz ɒv) əʊvə tuː hʌndrəd ən fɪfti kʌntriz ən hə pæʃn̩ fə hɔːsɪz.
3.    ðə ʃəʊ fiːtʃəd faɪv hʌndrəd ən fɪfti hɔːsɪz əm wʌn θaʊzn m̩ wʌn hʌndrəd pəfɔːməz frəm əraʊn ðə wɜːld.
4.    ðen, ɒn ðə θɜːd əv dʒuːn, ðə rɪvə temz dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː pædʒənt wəz held.
5.    ɪʔ wəz ə mærətaɪm pəreɪd əv wʌn θaʊzm̩ bəʊts frəm əraʊn ðə kɒmənwelθ – ðə lɑːdʒəs flətɪlə siːn ɒn  ðə rɪvər ɪn θriː hʌndrəd ən fɪfti jɪəz.
6.  hevi reɪn stɑːtɪd dʒɜːrɪŋ ði ɪvent, ən ðə kəmemərətɪv ɛːfɔːs flaɪ-pɑːst əʔ ði end wəz kænsl̩d dʒuː tə veri bæd vɪzəbɪləti.
7.    ði ɪvent wəz ətendɪd baɪ vɛːriəs ɡʌvnə dʒenrəlz frəm ðə kɒmənwelθ relmz ʌðə ðn̩ ðə juːkeɪ.
8.    ðə naɪt ɑːftə ðə temz rɪvə pædʒənt, prɪnts fɪlɪp, ðə kwiːnz hʌzbənd, fel ɪl wɪð ə blædər ɪnfekʃn̩ ən wəz teɪkən tə hɒspɪtl̩.
9.    ðɪs ment ðət i wəz ʌneɪbl̩ tu ətend ðə rimeɪndər əv ðə dʒuːbəliː ɪvents.
10.  membəz ə ðə rɔːl fæmli əm praɪ mɪnəstəz frəm ðə kɒmənwelθ relmz ətendɪd vɛːriəs ɪvents ɒn ðə fɔːθ ən fɪfθ ə dʒuːn.
11.  ə rəsepʃn̩ wəz held əʔ bʌkɪŋəm pæləs bɪfɔː ðə dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː kɒntsət ɒn mʌndeɪ, ən ə sɜːvɪs ə θænksɡɪvɪŋ tʊk pleɪs ɒn tʃuːzdi əʔ sm̩ pɔːlz kəθiːdrəl, ɔːlsəʊ ətendɪd baɪ tuː θaʊzn̩d ʌðə ɡess.
12.   ðə laɪtɪŋ ə θaʊzn̩dz ə biːkənz əkrɒs ðə kɒmənwelθ tʊk pleɪs ɒn dʒuːn ðə fɔːθ.
13.   ðə nʌmbər əv biːkənz wəz ərɪdʒnəli set əʔ tuː θaʊzn̩ twelv bəʔ baɪ ðə kləʊzɪŋ deɪt fə redʒɪstreɪʃn̩z, əprɒksɪməʔli fɔː θaʊzn̩d əd bɪn səbmɪtɪd ɪn ðə junaɪtɪd kɪŋdəm ələʊn.
14.   ðə fɜːs biːkən ə ðə dʒuːbɪliː wəz lɪt ɪn tɒŋə, baɪ tɒŋən ɡɜːl skaʊts əm bɔɪ skaʊts juːzɪŋ kəʊkənʌʔ  ʃiːθ tɔːtʃɪz.
15.  ʌðə neɪʃn̩z ɪŋkluːdɪŋ kenjə, ɒstreɪliə, njuː ziːlənd, ɪndiə, ʃrɪ læŋkə, ən sevrəl kærəbɪən steɪts tʊk   pɑːt ɪn ðə biːkən laɪtɪŋ.
16.    ðə wɜːldz məʊs riməʊʔ biːkən wəz lɪt ɪn ðə saʊθ əʔlæntɪk.
17.    ðə kwiːn ɔːlsəʊ lɪt ə biːkən aʊʔsaɪd bʌkɪŋəm pæləs ɒn tjuːzdi əʔ ten θɜːti piː em, baɪ ɪnsɜːtɪŋ ə lɑːdʒ, speʃli meɪd, dɑːmənd-kʌʔ krɪstl̩ ɪntu ə riseptəkl̩.
18.    ðə laɪtɪŋ prəsiːdɪd əntɪl ðə faɪnl̩ biːkən wəz lɪt ɪŋ kænədə eɪt aəz leɪtə.

Some comments:
¶1. My first reaction was to the choice of  / 'dɑːmənd /, not even / 'daːmənd /,  for the transcription of diamond. I'm not suggesting th·t that's a non-GB pronunciation, tho some might take it to represent a UGB form rather than mainstream. I suspect that it was the CEPD discussion of the admittedly complex topic of 'triphthongs' that led Alex into this rather unusual choice — at least from the EFL point of view. If this were aimed any but particularly expert students I'd be suggesting avoiding any such reduction and using /aɪə/. CEPD18 at p.viii makes the perfectly unquestionable but for students perhaps potentially rather dismaying remark that "the name ‘Ireland’, which is traditionally transcribed /'aɪə.lənd/, frequently has an initial syllable which sounds virtually indistinguishable from /ɑː /, with just a small movement towards /ɪ/ and then towards /ə/ at the end."
LPD3 has obviously inspired Alex to venture to use /ʃ/ in anniversary, a variant that CEPD doesnt vouch for. Such a form cert·nly exists but I wou·dnt be commending it to EFL users — tho I confess to sometimes feeling /`mɪʒrəbl/. Similarly I'd recommend /biːn/ inste·d of /bɪn/. If we'd had intonation markt we'd've known where he was putting the accent on the word jubilee. I he·rd the Queen say jubi`lee the other day. That's my pref·rence too but both of the big two (EPD & LPD) regard early stress as preponderant — probbly c·rec·ly.
¶2. Intonations w·d've been instructive for students by demonstrating the desirable de-accentuation of the two words preceding pageant. Even stressing-group boundaries might've been of some use   as I've illustrated in some modifications of the original punctuation. The weakform without /v/ of of brings to mind the topic of whether the transcriber is displaying a (slightly) formal style or representing a (somewhat) conversational one. For a monologue as here the former seems rather more appropriate and therefore counter-indicates the v-less forms in general. If the transcriber had in mind maximum simplicity, then my advice wd've been to include the /v/s and also to use /t/ for all occurrences of that phoneme rather than giving allophonic glottal plosives [ʔ]. Similarly, I shd advise all syllabic consonants to be given without syllabicity markers unless a rare case shd occur of the need to avoid ambiguity. The sequence /vɪzɪts tuː| ən tɔːz ɒv | ... / is a nice example of three weakform words of which only one is permissible in its weakform. The style here is markedly unconversational, by the way.
¶3. So is /hʌndrəd ən fɪfti/ with a vowelled /ən/. At / temz dɑːmənd dʒuːbəliː pædʒənt wəz held / the same style is maintained and only one of the six words rates a tonic stress.
¶4. Again /hʌndrəd ən fɪfti/ with a vowelled /ən/ tends to sound formal.
¶5. /dʒɜːrɪŋ/ is a less common form than either /dʒʊərɪŋ/ or /dʒɔːrɪŋ/.
¶6. The word 'realms' is rather high flown, unlike the aircraft.☺
¶7etc. If simplicity were an aim, I'd recommend  /prɪns/ rather than / prɪnts/ to teachers tho I dont suggest that they sound in the least significantly different. For the same reason I'd recommend /rɔɪəl/(¶10), /kɒnsət/ and /gests/ (both in ¶11). 
¶12. / tuː θaʊzn̩ twelv / one supposes was a typo for / tuː θaʊzn̩ ən twelv/.
¶.14 /dʒuːbɪliː/ is very slightly more old-fashioned than /dʒuːbəliː/.
¶.17 /ɔːsəʊ/, if not a typo, is too casual even for LPD which does countenance /ɔːweɪz/.
¶ 18 /aəz/ is fine tho /aʊ.əz/ wd be 'easier' and  / ɑːz / very commonly he·rd.

Blog 404

The 24th of May 2012

Adumbration of Gradation.

Recently our fellow phonetical bloggist 'Kraut' delved into Alexander J. Ellis's vast set of five volumes entitled On early [sic] English pronunciation (EEP) to draw our attention to some parts of that work that are particu·ly int·resting in relation to our discussion of 'gradation'. This term was first applied by Henry Sweet to the essentially systematic alternation of full and reduced pronunciations of words which he referred to as 'strong' and 'weak' forms of them. In a long section of the fourth volume of his EEP Ellis sed that what followed from his page 1090 was an attempt to 'determine as precisely as possible the phonetic elements of received English pronunciation'. At pp 1166-67 near the end of eight pages headed "Unaccented Syllables" we find a page or so with the subheading 'Unemphatic Words'. This is explained as about words which have 'clear forms and obscure forms, and these forms are assumed pretty much at the pleasure of the speaker' [my italics]. He then provides a list of words most of which — but def·nitly not all — co-incide with what we now call 'weakform words'.

He describes his list as the 46 (an apparently arbitrary number presumably chosen for convenience) most frequently found by a cert·n D. Nasmith, a writer on language learning, as occurring in unspecified numbers of books 'of exceedingly different character'. Thirty items of this list coincided with those of Sweet's list of fifty items which thus had twenty items not treated by Ellis. It's likely that the Nasmith texts didnt have much informal or spoken content if only because there are no contracted forms in Ellis's list. By contrast Sweet had (what today we spell as) let's, they're and there's. Ellis did have cannot, which was one of seven items he recorded as not subject to change from 'clear' to 'obscure'.

Comparing the two lists, one can readily agree with Kraut's comment that they very much suggest "what we would nowadays term strongforms and weakforms". However, it's not possible to equate them precisely. It's hard to resist the notion that Ellis was feeling his way to something like Gradation proper but cou'dnt put his finger on the exact concept. Sweet's list differed notably from Ellis's in that his examples can generally be seen to've been transcribed with what were, in ev·rything but name, phonemic symbols. Ellis's were in large measure transcribed in what we shd now equate with allophonic symbols. For example, the alternants of the article the receive eight representations from Ellis but from Sweet on·y three. For were Ellis had six but Sweet on·y two. Accounts of weakforms from different writers can differ slightly in the total numbers of items they include but none has ever seemed likely to contain the word which which appears surprisingly in Ellis's list.

Most significantly, Sweet's account of how the strongforms and weakforms were distributed sed specificly that "strong forms ... often occur unstressed". This was  in sharp contrast with Ellis's "pleasure of the speaker". Sweet's list had an, are, at, had, has, him, is, must, some, such, than and others evidently not chosen on grounds of presumed frequency but included on account of their predictable regular variation in response to such things as rhythmic features of the phrases in which they occurred. Sweet, unlike Ellis, had spent a good deal of time in identifying the departures from native speakers' usages made by non-native users of English notably when preparing his books on the teaching of English. Ellis was never particularly devoted to such topics so accordingly less likely to have chanced to notice what a remarkable phenomenon his work was foreshadowing. There can be little dou·t that it's Sweet alone who fully deserves the credit for being the first scholar to recognise the existence of this notable kind of 'gradation' that we have in current spoken English.

Blog 403

The 19th of May 2012

Weakforms (i) "and".

The 2001 Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation's treatment of and is comfortable in that its weakforms are accorded a separate entry, on a new line each for GB and GA, from its strongform but it's minimal in that only (ə)n(d) is the account given of both of them. This is typical of its meagre attention to EFL needs despite the claim at its page viii that It is intended for use ... by learners of the language. In its 2017 reincarnation as a Routledge publication the entry is unchanged. By contrast, the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary and the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary both offer the careful coverage of this word that's appropriate for one of the half dozen most frequently used in the language.

LPD lists four weakforms conveyed by \ ənd, ən \ where the italicisation of the schwas signifies that they are "sometimes optionally omitted". EPD gives six \ ənd, ən, nd, n, m, ŋ \. I think they neednt've  bothered with their last two. They're simply common assimilations. I dont completely like the setting out of the variants in either case. The body of the dictionary for each word evidently presents alternants in order of their presumed frequency. It'd've been surely better to follow the same procedure here but they've both begun their lists with the least frequent versions. For my Concise Pronouncing Dictionary, of course avoiding relatively unusual forms, I felt it adequate to give only two weakforms /ən & n/ adding a note that /n/ was usual after /t, d/ and fricatives. LPD and EPD both give explanatory glosses, EPD including example phrases and LPD by making appropriate cross-references etc. I particul·ly liked a comment in LPD that needed saying and wont be likely to be found anywhere else: "The presence or absence of d in the weak form is not sensitive to phonetic context: the choice depends upon the fact that the weak form ənd is slightly more formal than ən." This is very pertinent for the EFL audience because it's a clear statement of the true current usage. (I might well've left out the "slightly"). The Henry Sweet Primer of Spoken English suggestion (1890 p.14) that normal usage was /ən/ "before consonants" and /ənd/ "before vowels", if ever true, was not confirmed by Jones — tho his Outline of English Phonetics example phrases all seemed to be conforming to such a rule. No dou·t this highly suspect generalisation was at one time accepted as gospel by many a teacher. I've seen it repeated in the odd fairly recent textbook. It's good to have such a clear contrary statement in LPD.

In spite of the ample space available to the 'big three PDs' to be comprehensive, all of them have failed to record the variant form  / ən / for and. It doesnt sound the least unusual eg in beginnings like /`ən əˎnᴧðə θɪŋ.../ And another thing... Of course the imaginary sentence "We havent got a black-and-white one but we can arrange for you to have a blackened white one" is ridiculously far fetched but it praps memorably highlights the abnormality of the use of /ənd/ inste·d of /ən/ in ordinary conversation. /wi `havŋ gɒt ə blak ən `waɪt ˏwᴧn | bət wi kən ə`reɪnʤ fə ju tə hav ə `blakənd `waɪt ˏwᴧn/. This reminds me of the comic movie scene set in a Cambridge smart tailor's establishment where a very serious sales assistant offers a student to have the excessively new looking jeans he's buying 'professionally torn' in their workshop. Anyway, there's plenty more on this topic at our Blog 057.

 PS  "Kraut’s" blog of 20 July 2013 on "/æn/ as a weakform"ən-as-weakform.html
supplied useful exemplifcation of my point about /ən/. My cordial thanks to him.

Not so usual, but at any rate occasional, is the strongform variant /an/ as in She `wants to `have her ˏcake `and eat it | `an `it ɪt/ and in /`an ə`nᴧðə θɪŋ.../ And another thing...

Blog 402

The 16th of May 2012

New Dialog for Reading Aloud.

One of Life’s Losers

1.      I’m going to go out for a stroll. Can you spare the time to come too?
2.      I’m sorry. I’d like to very much but I just can’t at the moment.
3.      Pity! I’m sure you’d enjoy it no end. What’s the problem?
4.      The truth is I can’t find my silly old glasses, as a matter of fact.
5.      Don’t let it worry you. I’ll help you look for them. They can’t be far.
6.      Oh no. You mustn’t do that. You just go along and enjoy your walk.
7.      No, no. Where d’you last remember seeing them? Come on. Tell me.
8.      It doesn’t matter. I’m bound to come across the stupid things shortly.
9.      Just sit down and think very quietly where it was you last had them.
10.    They can’t be far away. I had them at breakfast, I’m quite certain.
11.     My little jaunt can easily wait a few minutes. We’ll track them down.
12.    Ah! I’ve got them. Here they are. On the sideboard. Behind the vase.
13.    Splendid! Let’s go, then, shall we? Or is there another difficulty?
14.    Yes. I still can’t come; for a reason I expect will make you rather cross.
15.    Whatever’s that, for heaven’s sake? Why don’t you tell me? Come on.
16.    You see, I don’t exactly know what I’ve done with my house keys.
17.    Oh, lord! Have you looked in your handbag? That’s where they’ll be.
18.    Yes, I have. More than once. But they’re not there, I’m sorry to say.
19.    I can’t think why you don’t hang yours up in the kitchen as I do.
20.    You always say that. Don’t suggest that you never forget things.
21.    Of course I do. But at least I try to be methodical about such matters.
22.    Just a minute! That’s a relief. They’re in a pocket of this anorak.
23.     Let’s get along, then. Got any idea what’s happened to the dog’s lead?
24.    I don’t know where it is. Isn’t it on the hook inside the garage door?
25.    Ah yes. It is. Where’s Bella? Don’t say we’ve lost her too!
26.    She’d never let us lose her if there’s any chance of walkies!
27.    No. She’s certainly knows when we’re getting ready to go out.
28.    There she is. Waiting for us patiently at the back door.
29.    Now isn’t she a clever girl! And good-tempered and beautiful too.
30.    Yes indeed. She’s got such a sweet, patient nature, hasn’t she!
31.    Come on, then. Let’s not keep her waiting a moment longer.
32.    Quite right. But listen! I think I hear the phone going…
33.    Another sales call from India, no doubt. Forget it.
34.    Where’s my walking stick. Oh, dear! It’s starting to rain.

This time I've added a transcription of one of many possible conversational-style readings.

        ˈwᴧn əv ˈlaɪfs ˎluːzəz

1.    ˈaɪŋ gənə gəʊ ˈaʊt fər ə `strəʊl. kən ˈjuː spɛə ðə taɪm tə kᴧm  ́tuː?
2.    aɪm `ˏsɒri. aɪd `laɪk ˏtu ˈveri `mᴧʧ bət aɪ ʤᴧs `kɑːnt ət ðə ˏməʊmənt.
3.    `pɪti! aɪm `ʃɔː jud ɪn`ʤɔɪ ˏɪt ˈnəʊ `end. ˈwɒts ðə `prɒbləm?
4.    ðə `truθ `ˏɪz|aɪ ˈkɑːn faɪm maɪ sɪli əʊl `glɑːsɪz, əz ə  mӕtr ə ˏfӕkt.
5.    `dəʊn  let ɪt ˏwᴧri ju. ˈɑːl help ju `lʊk fə ðm. ðeɪ `kɑːm bi `ˏfɑː.
6.     `əʊ, `nəʊ. ju `mᴧsn du ˏðӕt. ˈju ʤᴧs| ˈgəʊ əˈlɒŋ| ən ɪnˈʤɔɪ jə ˎwɔːk.
7.     ˈweə ʤu lɑːs rɪmembə `siːɪŋ ðm? `kᴧm ˏɒn. `tel mi.
8.    ɪ `dᴧzm ˏmӕtə|. aɪm `baʊn tə kᴧm əkrɒs ðə ðə stjuːpɪd θɪŋz ˏʃɔːtli.
9.    ʤᴧs ˈsɪt ˈdaʊn|ən `θɪŋk veri `ˏkwaɪətli| ˈweər ɪt ˈwɒz| ju ˈlɑːst `hӕd ðm.
10.    ðeɪ `kɑːm  bi `fɑːr ə`ˏweɪ. aɪ `hӕd ðəm ət `ˏbrekfəst|, aɪŋ kwaɪt `sɜːtn.
11.    ˈmaɪ lɪtl ˏʤɔːnt |kən `iːzli weɪt ə fjuː ˏmɪnɪts. `wiːl trӕk ðm ˏdaʊn.
12.    `ɑː! aɪv `gɒt ðm. `hɪə ðeɪ ˏɑː. ˈɒn ðə `saɪdbɔːd. bɪhaɪnd ðə `vɑːz.
13.    `splendɪd! ˈlets ˎgəʊ, ðen, ˏʃӕl wi. ɔːr ˈɪz ðeər  ə`nᴧðə dɪfklti?
14.    `jes. aɪ `stɪl kɑːn ˏkᴧm|; fər ə ˈriːzn| aɪ kspekt l meɪk ju rɑːðə `krɒs.
15.    wɒtˈevəz `ðӕt, fə hevn seɪk? waɪ dəʊntʃu `tel mi? kə`mɒn.
16.    ju siː, I `dəʊn ɪgzӕkli `ˏnəʊ| wɒt aɪv dᴧn wð maɪ `haʊs kiːz.
17.    `əʊ, ˎlɔːd! ˈhӕv ju ˏlʊkt ɪn jə `hӕmbӕg? `ðӕts weə ðeɪl `ˏbiː.
18.    `jes, aɪ `hӕv. `mɔː ðn `wᴧns. bət ðeə `nɒt `ðeər, aɪn sɒri tə ˏseɪ.
19.    aɪ `kɑːnt `ˏθɪŋk | waɪ ju dəʊnt hӕŋ `jɔːz ᴧp ɪn ðə kɪʧɪn əz `aɪ du.
20.    juː `ɔːwɪz seɪ  ˏðӕt. `dəʊnt səʤest ðət `juː nevə fəˏget θɪŋz.
21.    əv `kɔːs aɪ du. bət ət liːst aɪ `ˏtraɪ| tə biː mə`θɒdɪkl əbaʊt səʧ mӕtəz.
22.    ˈʤᴧst ə ˏmɪnɪt! `ðӕts ə rəˏliːf. ðeər ˈɪn ə ˈpɒkɪt əv ðɪs ˎӕnərӕk.
23.    ˈlets get ə`lɒŋ, ðen. ˈgɒt ni aɪdɪə wɒts hӕpm| tə ðə ˈdɒg’s  ́liːd?
24.    `aɪ dəʊnnəʊ weər ɪˏtɪz. ˈɪznɪt ɒn ðə  ́hʊk |ˈɪnsaɪd ðə gӕrɑːʤ  ́dɔː?
25.    ˈɑː ˎ jes. ɪ`tɪz. ˈweəz `belə? `dəʊn seɪ wiv lɒst `ˏhɜː, `ˏtuː!
26.    ʃid nevə `let əs luːz ər ɪf ðeəz eni ʧɑːns əv `ˏwɔːkiz!
27.    ˎnəʊ. ʃi `sɜːtni nəʊz wen weə getɪŋ redi tə gəʊ `ˏaʊt.
28.    `ðeə ʃi ˏɪz. ˈweɪtɪŋ fr əs ˈpeɪʃntli | ət ðə ˈbӕk ˎdɔː
29.    naʊ `ɪznt ʃi ə klevə gɜːl! ən ˈgʊd-ˈtempəd ən ˎbjuːtəfl ˎtuː.
30.    ˈjes ɪnˎdiːd. ʃiz gɒt ˈsᴧʧ ə ˈswiːt ˎneɪʧə, ˎhӕznt ʃi!
31.    ˈkᴧm ˏɒn, ðen. ˈlets nɒt kiːp ə weɪtɪŋ |ə ˈməʊmənt ˎlɒŋgə.
32.    ˈkwaɪt ˎraɪt. bət `ˏlɪsn! aɪ ˈθɪŋk aɪ hɪə ðə `fəʊn gəʊɪŋ…
33.    ənᴧðə `seɪlz kɔːl frəm `ɪndjə, nəʊ daʊt. ˈfəˎget ɪt.
34.    ˈweəz maɪ ˎwɔːkɪŋstɪk ... `əʊ, ˎdɪə! ˈɪts ˈstɑːtɪŋ tə ˎreɪn.

Blog 401

The 14th of May 2012

Function-Word Weakforms.

It follows on from what was sed in my last blog that I regard the customarily accepted senses in which the terms 'weakform' and 'strongform' have come to be used about a cert·n small group of words as logicly unsatisfactory and thereby essentially misnomers. If we define the term 'weakform' satisfactorily, it follows that weakforms (and their primary strongforms) must be recognised as not occurring in just a few dozen words but as a very large category of the words of the language. However, teachers of spoken English, beginning with Henry Sweet, understandably focused their attention on the very limited set of weakforms that so extremely frequently caused non-native speakers to sound unidiomatic. This set of (mainly) function words was unique by reason of the fact that each member of the group existed in two or more forms which were not only of diff·rent phonemic composition but were obliged to be selected between on grammatical, rhythmical and/or stylistic grounds. It follows that they are being inappropriately — because indequately — designated when they are referred to as merely 'weakforms' and not 'function-word weakforms'. When dictionaries enter second or further alternant pronunciations of any words, these are in most cases equally entitled to be termed weakforms as are the EFL-teacher-focused very limited sub-group of the ones with grammatical and other restrictions on their application. That is, they are articulatorily weakened, phonemicly distinct versions of the primary forms which are the lexicographers' headwords.

I turn now to some more neglected function-word weakforms that call for discussion besides the ones we've referred to earlier in this thread. Hardly if at all less universally and constantly to be encountered than any of the previous ones is the weakform /ɑːl/ of the contraction I'll. For this agen it's almost beyond belief that none of the three specialist pronunciation dictionaries has any trace of it. And I'm not talking about any new development: it was included in my 1972 Concise Pronouncing Dictionary from which on principle I excluded any usage I considered at all unusual. What's notable in this context, I find, is the comparison that, by contrast with I'll, when I hear students attempting the contraction I'm misguidedly giving it some degree of the compression of its /aɪ/, I'm struck by how very uncharacteristic of GB such pronunciations sound.

If I start looking for a record of a weakform I automaticly begin with LPD becoz Wells has taken the subject more ser·ously than anyone else. In his enthusiasm he sometimes declares a weakform of a word to be non-existent when I find it seems not at all unusual. The contraction they're is one case in point. He records a US weakform but sez flatly "There is no RP weakform". I'm sure /ðə(r)/ doesnt sound in the least unusual in eg They're all right; and I'm equally confident that racegoers commonly turn  the /eə/ of They're off!  into /e/ or /ə/. Not that I intend to suggest that its use is at all limited to hurried speech.

    Another striking absence from LPD, which is usually so good on these things, is the very common informal but not highly colloquial reduction to the weakform /sətəv/ of the adverbial filler sort-of. Admittedly very colloquial are the weakforms of the two coinciding contractions, one of which is of it is and the other of it has, namely /s/. One finds "S'OK" in a Joanna Trollope novel. This and "S'not" for It's not are extremely casual but not taboo or all that extremely unusual among GB speakers.

Finally in this group I offer a couple of items that readers may find for diff·rent reasons rather surprising. The first is the observation that GB speakers do occasionally use a yodless weakform of the word new. I've noticed this on various occasions for the name New York and from speakers who've seemed to me highly unlikely to've produced it as an effect of any American influence. Anyone who has access to one of my favr·it sources of quotations, the (DVD of the) 1981 ITV television serial Brideshead Revisited may hear Diana Quick, in the part of a member of an aristocratic family, say the name twice in the same scene —  once with and once without the usual yod. Very lastly here, I wish to put it on record that I have very offen noted GB speakers use the fairly casual weakform of able that I shall represent as /eɪwl/ tho quite offen I've he·rd it as a single syllable so rapidly articulated that the /w/ and the /l/ are blended into a single phone as [eɪɫ̹].

Blog 400

The 9th of May 2012

Defining the Term Weakform.

I referred in Blog 399 to the fact that Jones never provided his readers with a proper definition of the term 'weak form' in the sense in which he used it. For that matter neither did Sweet, the originator of that particular usage. Nor have any of their successors including Gimson, Wells, Roach, Collins & Mees etc. This is not surprising since their, on the whole, didactic purposes for using the term were most acceptably and conveniently served by the explanational strategy of exemplification rather than the complexity involved in precise definition. Nevertheless, the unavailabilty of a satisfactory definition tends to give rise to various undesirable awkwardnesses. For example Wells in LPD3 refers to the "-day" suffix being used "in a strong form — weak form relationship".

The fact of the matter is that it's simply impossible to frame a satisfactory definition of a weakform if one attempts to limit the statement to function-type words or excludes items which cannot be accented. A weakform is a weakened form derived solely in terms of diminution of its articulatory 'strength' from a word with a primary form which is referred to as its corresponding 'strongform'. Hence a full definitional formulation has to be something like the following: Certain words in a language or language variety may have two or more alternant forms of different phonematic composition one of which is the primary form from which any other alternant is derived by such reduction of its articulation as results in alteration to the set of phonemes of which it consists. It has to be understood that this definition is, very strictly speaking, only applicable to the usages of one individual speaker at a time. Speakers must have a prior corresponding strongform in each case before any forms they use may be termed weakforms. For example, for an individual who only uses the form /rɪli/ for really, it can't be described as a weakform. For a person who has a primary form /rɪəli/ but may reduce it to /rɪli/ the latter is a weakform. Of necessity there are words that are borderline or dou·tful cases. For example, is here as /hjɜː/ to be considered as a weakform of /hɪə/? Is /mɪsɪz/ (Mrs) a weakform of /mɪstrɪs/ (mistress)? It cert·nly is historic·ly. Also there are many cases where a common word may occur in an alternant form modified by assimilation, elision or compression that doesnt take that form regularly enuff to make its inclusion in any special list of function-word-type weakforms a cert·nty. One example of this is the variant /wɪ/ of with which has apparently been a weakform in past times but in current non-casual GB occurring, as it does, only before a word beginning with /ð/, need only be classified as undergoing an elision of that ð/ in such cases.

There can be little dou·t that Sweet's awareness of the topic was heightened by his hearing many of his Continental non-native-speaking contacts coping very well with pronouncing the English vocabulary in general but falling foul fairly frequently of the idiomatic handling of English grammatical-function words. At any rate, of the 51 words he listed with their weakforms only one of them, Saint, was not a function word. Jones in the 1918 first edition of his Outline of English Phonetics listed 42 weakform words. His 1932 third edition extended the list and by his last 1956 eighth edition he gave 60 or more items including three non-function ones. Gimson (1962) had only 48 in his list of core items recommended to be targets for the EFL user aiming at a native-like performance but added illustrations of twenty others mainly limited to what he rather unsatisfactorily termed "very rapid speech".

Most writers on the subject have repeated Jones's assertion that "Weak forms occur only in unstressed positions...". This may be effective pedagogy but it is not logically sound. For example a word like Wednesday has, for speakers who citationally say it as /`wenzdeɪ/ very often a weakform /`wenzdi/ which they use in situations where the word is under some degree of rhythmic pressure such as in /wenzdi `mɔːnɪŋ/ Wednesday morning. The expression going to has a very common articulatorily weakened (and changed in phoneme content thereby) variant form /`gənə/, which is very offen stressed. As a conversational tense former this is, one supposes, arguably a grammatical-function word. (To be continued in Blog 401.)