Archive 42 of JWL Blog


Index of All Blogs

Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.

RSS feed for this siteRSS Feed

08/09/2012Baneful Boxes.#419
07/09/2012Weakforms (iv).#418
29/08/2012A Fry-Hockney Dialog.#417
21/08/2012A Gold Medal Transcription.#416
15/08/2012Weakforms (iii).#415
09/08/2012IPA versus Respelling.#414
30/07/2012Long and Short Vowels.#413
23/07/2012Triphthongs and the EFL User.#412
17/07/2012Advanced Reading/Transcription.#411
14/07/2012Weakforms (ii) Strest Schwas in tags#410

Blog 419

The 8th of September 2012

Baneful Boxes.

A revision I'd been on·y dimly aware of till now in the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary was the apparent replacement of the nearly ninety excellent alphabeticly-inserted information panels of the previous edition by a set of over 200 mainly very brief new items. Each of these is set apart from the rest of the text by being enclosed in a colum·-width 'box' with a conspicuous coloured background seeming to suggest that it's regarded as of special importance. They occur on av·rage at about ev·ry fourth page. Wond·ring exac·ly what shou·d account for their prominent treatment, I began exam·ning them an· immediately smelt a rat.

Comparing the first 'box' I re·d with what it replaced from the previous edition, I found that it contained no new information but that a slight change had been made in the wording by introduction of the expression 'spelling pronunciation'. This was done in a manner that I shou·dnt've expected from anyone with anything like credible credentials in the science of phonetics. Extended examination confirmed the suspicion that whoever was respons·ble for these boxes didn· really understand the proper use of that term — which is of course not condemnatory. I found comp·rable remarks at Anthony, bruschetta, comptroller, falcon and forbade saying things like "may be considered" a spelling pronunciation. At often it sed "The pronunciation with /t/ is sometimes cited as an example of spelling pronunciation but there is no evidence that it is a recent introduction." In 1902 Murray in the OED observed that this form of the word was "now frequent in the south of England". Another insertion incapable of being accepted as by any of the accredited editors, sez "The pronunciation /ˈɑːlmənd/ is also heard in British pronunciation; it is considered to be a case of spelling pronunciation." In two short sentences in painfully prolix style it uses the word 'pronunciation' three times and ignores (as it does elsewhere) the EPD practice establisht since 1997 of describing the entries in terms of the editorially defined category 'BBC English'.

I remember being very pleased to gather that the EPD, a greatly respected work of scholarship of outstanding importance in the sphere of English phonetics, was being taken over by such a distinguisht publisher as the Cambridge University Press. I felt confident accordingly that its high standards of scholarly accuracy and meticulous presentation wd be maintained. Hitherto I've had no inclination to change my mind. However, this new content with its gratuitous additions of unsuitable even sometimes inane comment·ry seems more redolent of some popular anthology of 'curious and entertaining' pronunciations. Comments I regard as at least of very dou·tful aptness and/or accuracy, and at their worst egregious, occur also at the 'boxes' on aitch, asterisk, aunt, Birmingham, controversy, draw, either, expat, gelatine, genuine, harass, hereditary, law, loch, love, medicine, nuclear, off, ogle, outta etc.

Among specially striking blunders are the comment that forms of February with /j/ "in place [sic] of /r/" are described as "until recently stigmatized".  Jones, in the 1937 EPD, briefly mentioned that this was the custom of "most teachers", but evidently judged it best not to include any such remark in any subsequent edition. Another example of prolixity etc is the gratuitous wording at constable viz 'cannot yet be recommended as representative of the accent being described here' which is repeated at mongrel, none, nothing, once and one. EPD has always been very sparing of historical or sociological comment and has never to my knowledge indulged in prognostication. The overall impression of these tamperings with the EPD text is of the amazing haphazardness and irrationality in the choice of entries to be accorded 'box' prominence. There are many cases where two-line notes of the previous edition are elevated to box status for reasons that seem to be completely arbitrary. One can only hope that this very rash and ill considered deviation from good lexicographical practice will've been amended by the time of the next edition of this historic work.

Blog 418

The 7th of September 2012

Weakforms (iv).

Any EAL (ie English as an Additional Language aka EFL) advanced handbook on English pronunciation worth tuppence will provide its readers with a good deal of information on the 40-odd functor (ie function-word) weakforms that any fairly advanced user of English shd need to know something about. On the main division of this website, our Section 4.7 may be found to deal, for EAL users, with weakforms and contractions in greater detail than will be found anywhere else. There has been a single short book (R. Obendorfer Weak forms in present-day English 1998 Oslo: Novus Press) devoted solely to the subject of English "weak forms" but the EAL student in search of practical guidance will be likely to be very disappointed by it because its main preoccupation is with comparison of various high-level, not to say abstruse, theoretical grammatical analyses of the phenomenon. In the remaining items of this series we shall be dealing with a variety of miscellaneous mainly minor (speaking in terms of usefulness to any but fully advanced users) remaining weakform words. One thing they'll be seen to illustrate will be the difficulty of drawing a clear line between what constitutes a functor weakform and other kinds of weakforms. We shall take them, for convenience and as far as may be feasible, in alphabetical order. By their nature weakforms belong almost exclusively within the stream of speech rather than in isolation.

able: In rapidly articulated word groups only, a monosyllabic form occurs remarkably commonly. No dictionary recognises its existence. This is not surprising. Users of the most popular currently favoured, what we might call the 'Post-Gimson', transcription for General British pronunciation usually ackowledge the fact that it is not purely phonemic in minor ways, notably in the employment of the 'allophonic' symbols \i\ and \u\. Even so, their representations of pronunciations are essentially phonemic. The nearest one can get to transcribing this monosyllabic weakform with phonemic symbols is /eɪwl/. This is not satisfactory becoz the single phone that constitutes its syllable coda consists of a simultaneous combination with an ell of a [b̞] weakened by the absence of firm closure resulting from the limited raising of the active-articulator lower lip. This resembles a [w] but for lacking markt rounding. The ell is 'dark' ie somewhat pharyngalised [ɫ]. The result is [eɪβ͡ɫ ].

almost: This appears in EPD alone of the 'big three' pronunciation dictionaries in the alternant /ɔːlməst/ with its second syllable weakened to schwa from the diphthong /əʊ/. People who have this operate it as a functor weakform of sorts. Few use it in isolation. Like the next it may lose its /l/ as LPD sez. In extremely casual speech it may be reduced it to /ɔːməs/.

always: This has two common weakforms /`ɔːlwɪz/ and, one degree weaker, /`ɔːlwəz/ both given in EPD, LPD and ODP. Both occur with or without /l/s, a fact acknowledged only by LPD. Only in casual styles further reductions occur non-finally quite offen to forms like /`ɔːwɪz/ or /`ɔːwz̩/ and monosyllabic ones like /ɔːz/  with or without rounding of the /z/.

any: In sequences like Got any cash? this can be weaken·d to /əni/ or after some consonants lose its schwa with or without the /n/ being made syllabic. It can offen even do this when it's the first element of a compound word.

anybody: This has the common weakform /enəbədi/ in which both the medial /ɪ/ and the /ɒ/ are weakened to schwas giving /`enəbədi/. The first schwa may be elided.

anyone: This may weaken to /eniwən/ non-finally, eg in a phrase like 'anyone else', in which it may sometimes lose its medial vowel.

anyway: This offen receives extremely casual treatment. Like the monosyllabic form of able, its most casual but pretty common form can't be transcribed realisticly using only items from the set used to represent GB phonemicly. The /i/ can go completely and the /n/ can appear except for its ghostly nasality going into the /e/ so we get [`ẽɪ̃weɪ, `ẽweɪ] and even [`eɪweɪ] and [`eweɪ]. Dont look for those in any dictionary.

Blog 417

The 29th of August 2012

A Fry-Hockney Dialog.

On August the 23rd our fellow-bloggist Kraut gave a transcription into normal spelling of an "after-lunch chat between Stephen Fry and David Hockney". He invited his readers to "transcribe in General British the [conversation] between the two celebrities ... as if spoken in a relaxed ... style" promising to show his version shortly. I decided it might be int·resting to take part of it and transcribe it from the recording of the BBC Radio 4 broadcast he'd used which was then still available. I thaut it might provide an instructive brief demonstration of how people speak when their conversation is completely unrehearsed and unscripted.

When you read the JWL phonetic transcription that follows, please be aware that it's the type that is strictly called 'phonemic' ie it displays what phonemes the speakers are presumably selecting but contains no information of the precise sound qualities they are uttered with. It's given employing the most commonly used symbol set. This identifies sev·ral GB vowel phonemes simultaneously (and in consequence redundantly) in two ways — both by length marks and symbol shapes. The symbols are drawn from the International Phonetic Alphabet. Their function here is to convey which phoneme identities are involved. So one must not be surprised to see, for example, different transcriptions for the same word on different occasions even by the same speaker. Note in particular that it cannot be presumed that, because a vowel has a length mark, it must sound long. It can on some occasions be even as short as it's possible for it to be without being unrecognisable; on others it may be very long indeed.

As the speech being transcribed from the recording is spontaneous it must be expected to contain some slight imperfections eg slips of the tongue etc. These may produce versions that fall so short of speakers' targets for particular phonemes that they may be in sound quality midway between speakers' careful-speech targets for two or more different phonemes. In such situations the transcriber may accept being forced to make decisions between possible choices of symbol or may resort to non-phonemic (allophonic) ones. I chose the former procedure; Kraut turned out to favour the latter on this occasion. Moreover my transcription employs symbols strictly on the basis of what is actually heard rather than intended. The  intonation markings are very approximate and tonetic rather than tonological, notably at any fall-rise tone showing its two pitch movements exactly and only where they occur. The vertical bars signal where breaks occur in the rhythmic flow. These supplement the punctuation's signals of pitch movement discontinuities. Rhythmic breaks may be anything from very slight to very marked.

We give first Kraut's version from his text which he took down originally in ordinary spelling from his recording. Subsequently, with no further reference to the recording, he converted it to what one cd conjecture wd be likely phonetic values. JWL took the first hundred words of Kraut's original non-phonetic text and transcribed them as closely as possible as they were pronounced by their speakers on the recording.


1. SF: ɪts wʌndəfl tə θɪŋk əv hʌndədz əv θaʊznz əv piːpl aʊt ðɛː |
2.  ən ɪf wi bəʊθ sed ðə wɜːd | aɪ dən nəʊ | tɜːkwɔɪz | wɒts ɪn piːplz maɪndz
3. DH: jes | a miːn | ɪts ə lɪtl bɪt dɪfrənt frəm wɒts raɪzɪŋ ʌp ɪn ðeə hed |
4. a miːn wɪr ɔːl ɒn ɑːr əʊn | ɑːn wi |
5. SF: ɪt siːmz tə bi |
6. DH: | jes tɪz | rɪmembə | ɪt wəz dɒktə ɡɜːblz hu veri ɜːli ɒn | baɪ naɪntiːn           θɜːti θriː |
7. rɪəlaɪzd ðət reɪdiəʊ wʊdm bi ðæk ɡʊd fə prɒpəɡændə | fɪlm wʊb bi betə |
8. bikəz ɪn fɪlm evribɒdi sɔː ðə seɪm θɪŋ | ɒn ðə reɪdiəʊ ðeɪ dɪdnt |


[Items in brackets were omitted by Kraut as too unclear to transcribe.]
1. F: ɪts `wᴧndəfl | tə θɪŋk əv `hᴧndədz əv θaʊznz ə piːpl `aʊt ˏðɛː|
2. ən ɪf ˈwiː ˈbəʊθ | ˈseɪ ðə ˈwɜːd | ˈəm | ˈaɪ ˈdɜːnt ˈnəʊ | `tɜːkwaɪz | ˈwɒt ˈɪz | ɪn piːplz ˎmaɪnd.
3. H: ˎjӕs | ɑː ˈmiːn | ˈɪts | ɪts ə lɪdl bɪt `dɪfrənt.
 F?: sᴧmθɪŋz ˈ(b)raɪzɪŋ | ᴧp ɪn ðə `hed.
4.H: ɛː ˈmiːn | wɪr ɔːl ɒn ɑːr `əʊn | ˈɑːn ˈwi ...[Indecipherable]
5. F: `jes ɪt `siːmz tə ˏbiː.
6. H: `jes ɪt ˎɪz. [ jər `ɔːwɪz gedɪŋ bӕk tə ðӕt. dju]
7. ˈmemˈbər  ˈᴧ | ɪt  wəz ˈdɒktə ˎgəʊblz | u ˈveri ˈɜːli ˎɒn | ˈnaɪnˈtiːn | θɜːti ˎθriː |
8.ˈrɪəˈlaɪz ðət | ˈreɪdiəʊ wʊdn bi ðӕt `gʊd fə prɒpəˏgӕndə. `fɪlm | wʊd bi `betə |
9. bikəz ɪn `ˏfɪlm | evribɒdi sɔː ðə seɪm `θɪŋ. ɒn ˈreɪdiəʊ | ðeɪ ˎdɪdnt

Some comments by JWL in which "Pronunciation(s)" will be abbreviated to "pn(s)".

1. This pn of hundred with elision of the /r/ is unlikely to be included in any dictionary.
2. The pn of say was (presumably) so unclear Kraut took it for said.
The pn of dont rather surprisingly preserved its /t/. The pn of turquoise may well have had the normal target /-ɔɪz/ but it sounded more like /-aɪz/. No final /-z/ was he·rd at minds.
3. In using [a] for I, Kraut, in his diff·rent procedure from JWL's, uses the (non-phonemic) symbol [a] which is closer to the actual sound than JWL's /ɑː/ but not part of the speaker's system of targets. Similarly, Kraut consciously disregards the paralinguistic firm bilabial closure [b] before the word rising. An int·resting feature here is that it's not completely clear which of the two is speaking and there is some incoherence. The pn /ðə/ is a weakform of their. Pns of little with a medial consonant as much like a /d/ as a /t/ are very common in relaxed GB.
4. The pn of the pronoun I this time has an opener vowel nearer to [ɛ] so it's assigned to the phoneme /ɛː/ of GB. Rather un-GB elision of the /t/ of aren't before we here.
5. Fry seems notably more conventional and more consistent in his pn of Yes.
6. A second sequence here which Kraut treated as not clear enuff to transcribe seems to end with D'you. This begins the sentence continuing with the word remember which exhibits the very casual elision of its first syllable.
7. The German name Goebbels here has its oe spelling treated as if it were an English word, that's to say inste·d of the usual /ɜː/ it's given /əʊ/.
8. Kraut predicts more assimilations than JWL gives — finding fewer than we might've expected to see here. The elision of the /d/ of realised is perfec·ly normal here.
9. At this stage in the conversation Hockney's diction becomes firmer and less colloquial as he states his confident opinions rather than exchanges chat.

A version in ordinary spelling

1. F:  It’s wonderful to think of hundreds of thousands of people out there.
2. And if we both said the word — um — I don’t know — turquoise, what is in people’s minds?
3. H: Yes, I mean, it’s a little bit different ...
    F?: Something's rising up in their head.
4. H:  I mean we’re all on our own, aren’t we...[Laughter]
5. F:  It seems to be.
6. H: Yes, it is.
7. Remember, it was Dr Goebbels who very early on, 1933,
8. realised that radio wouldn’t be that good for propaganda. Film would be better
9. because in film everybody saw the same thing. On [the] uh radio they didn’t.

Blog 416

The 21st of August 2012

A Gold Medal Transcription.

A month ago our Blog 405 offered comments on some items of int·rest in a transcription supplied by Alex Rotatori at his "Phonetic Thoughts" which is the title at the head of his website homepage. He cautions the reader about a new transcription he's just made that, although all the pronunciations represented can be regarded as current 'RP' (= GB), they arnt all necessarily suitable for 'EFL' students to adopt. (The same goes for my 'experimental' spellings as the introduction to these blogs on my homepage points out.)

Alex is a leading teacher of EAL (English as an additional language) in Italy. He sounds exactly like a native speaker when he uses English. And, just as with any actual native speaker, as he suggests, some of his habitual usages are the predominant ones and others may not be. The following he offers as a passage for study. You're likely to benefit most not only by examining it but by reading it aloud to yourself.

ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni tə lʌndən twentitwelv

1.    ɒn fraɪdi ðə twenti-sevn̩tθ əv dʒulaɪ tuː θaʊzn̩d ən twelv, ən estɪmeɪtɪd fɔː bɪljəm piːpl̩ wɜːlwaɪd wl̩ wɒtʃ ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni tə ðə lʌndən twentitwelv əlɪmpɪk əm pærəlɪmpɪk ɡeɪmz. ǁ Some students may wonder why cert·n consonants are marked as syllabic with the small vertical stroke underneath them yet other transcribers dont follow this practice. There's no hard-and-fast rule about including these signs but it must be good not to omit them if ambiguity is thereby avoided. It's unfortunately impossible to find fonts of symbols that incorporate the stroke reliably centred underneath. Usually n̩ is fairly satisfactory but l̩ offen has it positioned unsuitably far to the left. It'd be good if Unicode or SIL issued separate versions of the letters with the strokes 'built in'. At 'worldwide' we see a common elision of the medial /d/.
2.     ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni ɪz ði əfɪʃl̩ stɑːt tə ði əlɪmpɪk ɡeɪmz. ɪts ɔːlsəʊ ən ɒpətʃuːnəti fə ðə həʊs neɪʃn̩ tə ʃəʊ ɒf ɔː ʃəʊkeɪs ɪts meni tælənts əŋ kwɒlətiz. ǁ His two-syllable version of the word 'opening' is the one most people use rather than /əʊpənɪŋ/ which can tend to sound fussy, formal and/or old-fashioned. Word-final /-st/ very offen loses its /t/ before a following consonant as with 'host' here. I'd say \'show ˏoff | or show`case...\ but not evryone wd use such a re-accenting avoidance in this case.
3.    sʌm pɑːts əv ðə serəməni ə prezn̩t ɪn ɔːl əlɪmpɪk əʊpnɪŋ serəməniz. ǁ It's important to notice that it'd sound quite strange if any of these last three words were accented. They've all been prominent in the immediately previous sentences so they wou·dnt normally be re-accented. Therefore the last accented word here has to be "all".
4.    (ðer əblɪɡətri əkɔːdɪŋ tə ði ɪntənæʃnəl əlɪmpɪk kəmɪti tʃɑːtə.) ǁ The first word in this sentence has been given a weakform which sounds completely natural to me. The dictionaries use diff·rent representations of the strongform of the word, /ðeə/ or Alex's choice /ðɛː/, but they don't seem to think its weakform /ðe/ or /ðɛ/ exists. Cf my Blog 401. 
5.     ʌðər æspekts əv ðə serəməni ə juniːk tə ðə həʊs neɪʃn̩, ənd ər ɪntendɪd tə reprizent wɒts speʃl̩ əbaʊʔ ðæʔ kʌntri. ǁ If this'd been conversation, not the 'spoken prose' which it actually is, the weakform of 'and' /ən/ wdve been more appropriate.
6.    meni æspekts əv ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni fə lʌndən twentitwelv ə biːɪŋ kept siːkrət ɔːr ʌndə ræps səʊ ðəʔ wil ɔːl bi səpraɪzd ən dilaɪtɪd ɒn ðə naɪt. ǁ It's very usual for the phoneme /t/ to take its allophone (variant) [ʔ] ie a 'glottal stop' before a /w/ but rather less usual for it to take that form before most other consonants as it did in the last sentence at the words 'about that'. Alex's personal preference is to depart from the normal indication /t/ of this phoneme to specify the allophone he uses for these particular t's. When people hear such /t/s they dont normally notice whether the sound is [t] or [ʔ] or both at once. It's cert·nly not necess·ry for any EAL user to aim at using any glottal stops and some of these stops some NS's use shd be positively avoided.
7.     wi nəʊ əbaʊt ʌðə diːteɪlz bɪkəz ði ɑːtɪstɪk dɪrektə dæni bɔɪl, ɒskə-wɪnɪŋ dɪrektər əv ðə haɪli əkleɪmd fɪlm slʌmdɒɡ mɪljənɛː, həz tɒʊl ðə pres əbaʊʔ ðəm. ǁ The EAL user wd be best advised to avoid re-accenting on its second occurrence the already accented word 'director'.
8.     wi nəʊ, frɪnstənts, ðəʔ ðə serəməni wl̩ stɑːʔ wɪð ðə saʊnd əv ðə lɑːdʒəs bel ɪn jʊərəp, weɪɪŋ twaɪs əz mʌtʃ əz bɪɡ ben. ǁ The striking thing in this sentence is the way it's been decided to transcribe the two-word sequence 'for instance' without a space. The sequence is cert·nly completely integrated rhythmicly: the weakform of the preposition 'for', in being speeded up, has had its vowel /ə/ squeezed out.
9.     wi nəʊ ðəʔ ði əlɪmpɪk steɪdiəm ɪn stræʔfəd, iːs lʌndən, wl̩ tɜːn ɪntə ə siːn wɪtʃ reprizents ðə brɪtɪʃ kʌntrisaɪd, taɪtl̩d ɡriːn əm plezn̩t, frəm ə pəʊəm baɪ wɪljəm bleɪk. ǁ The most strange-looking item in the whole of this description is the sequence 'into a scene'. I cou·d imagine saying this myself but I'd have to admit that it wd have to be classified as slipping into a very casual style — on no account to be commended to EAL users as a model. It breaks the 'rule' that the weakform of 'to' that we use before a vowel sound is /tu/ not /tə/. I've the impression that this rule seems to becoming increasingly broken of late but very far from gen·rally! Another /t/ elision at 'East London'.
10.     ðɪs siːn wl̩ fiːtʃə medəʊz, fɑːmjɑːd ænɪml̩z, ənd ə rɪvə reprizentɪŋ ðə temz. ɪtl̩ ɔːlsəʊ ɪŋkluːd ə replɪkər əv ðə ɡlæstəmbri tɔː. ɑːtɪfɪʃl̩ klaʊdz wl̩ reɪn ɒn ðɪs rʊərəl siːn əz fæmliz pleɪ krɪkɪt ən tʃɪldrən dɑːnts əraʊm meɪpɒʊlz. ǁ The least ordinary item here strikes me as being the /i/ for the second vowel of 'representing'. I think this has increasingly been pickt up by people originally from the more self-conscious type of speaker who has 'clear speech' as an ideal and tends to feel that the constituent preposition in the word's makeup is most 'clearly' hence 'properly' to be pronounced with /iː/ as its vowel. It's a new style, rather than def·nit·ly mainstream GB. The transcription is newly offered in LPD3 as one of the possibilities at this point in this word — the others are /ɪ, ə/, the only ones recorded by CEPD.
11.    əz menʃn̩d əbʌv, ðə serəməni wl̩ ɔːlsəʊ fiːtʃər æspekts ðət ər ə pɑːt əv ɔːl əlɪmpɪk əʊpnɪŋ serəməniz. ǁ Again, in this context the climactic word has to be 'all' with no other accented word after it.
12.     frɪɡzɑːmpl̩, ðə prezd̩n̩t əv ði ɪntənæʃnəl əlɪmpɪk kəmɪti wl̩ welkəm ðə hed əv steɪt əv ðə həʊs kʌntri, hə mædʒəsti ðə kwiːn, əʔ ði entrənts əv ði əlɪmpɪk steɪdiəm. ǁ For people like myself who dont have 'epenthetic' (inserted) t's of this sort it looks strange to see /entrənts/ which suggests the plural of 'entrant' when the word in question is 'entrance' but I never seem to notice any difference.  In fact, it wasnt until I saw his transcriptions I le·rnt of Alex's use of them. For the EFL user there's no need either to cultivate them or, for that matter,  to avoid them. Readers who might find the two syllabics in 'president' rather unbelievable I refer to my blogs 171 and 239.
13.    neks, ðl̩ bi ə prəseʃn̩ əv ɔːl ði æθliːts u ə teɪkɪŋ pɑːt. ǁ If this were conversation, the word 'who', here appearing in a weakform /u/, wd usually simply be omitted.
14.     ðə tiːmz wl̩ entə ðə steɪdiəm ɪn ælfəbetɪkl̩ ɔːdə, ɪn ðə læŋɡwɪdʒ əv ðə həʊs kʌntri. ǁ Here I'd've expected /wəl entə/ or possibly /wl entə/ becoz time to make an /l/ syllabic suggests rather specially slow delivery to me.
15.     ðə tuː ɪksepʃn̩z tə ðɪs ruːl ə ðə ɡriːk tiːm, wɪtʃ, əkɔːdɪŋ tə trədɪʃn̩, liːdz ðə pəreɪd, ən ðə həʊs neɪʃn̩z tiːm, (ɪn tuː θaʊzn̩d ən twelv, ðə brɪtɪʃ tiːm ɔː 'tiːm dʒiːbiː' əz ðe kɔːld), wɪtʃ entəz lɑːst. ǁ The phrase 'as they're called' uses agen an 'unorthodox' weakform /ðe/ (or /ðɛ/) which I find completely acceptable, as at Sentence # 4.
16.     wen ɔːl ðə neɪʃn̩z tiːmz ər ɪnsaɪd ðə steɪdiəm, spiːtʃɪz wl̩ bi ɡɪvn̩ baɪ ðə tʃɛːr əv ðə lʌndən ɔːɡənaɪzɪŋ kəmɪti əv ði əlɪmpɪk əm pærəlɪmpɪk ɡeɪmz, səbæstjən kəʊ, ən ðə prezɪdənt əv ði ɪntənæʃnəl əlɪmpɪk kəmɪti ʒɑːk rɒxə. ǁ The last syllable of 'international' /-nəl/ here is exactly as I'd say it becoz a vowel follows. If one doesnt — ie before a break or consonant — I'd usually have no schwa but a syllabic /l/. It's a very slight diffference tho.
17.    ðeɪl ðen fɔːml̩i ɪnvaɪt ðə hed əv steɪt tu əfɪʃli diklɛː ðə ɡeɪmz əʊpən. ði əlɪmpɪk flæɡ wl̩ ðen bi kærɪd ɪntə ðə steɪdiəm ən lɪftɪd ɪntə ði ɛːr əz ði əlɪmpɪk hɪm ɪz pleɪd. ǁ Many slightly older speakers have the same /ɪ/ in the latter syllable of 'carried' as they have in 'lifted' just as Alex has. Younger speakers  increasingly say /kӕrid/ but the great majority of GB speakers have /lɪftɪd/. A small minority say /lɪftəd/ as GA speakers do — but not coz of American influence.
18.     ənʌðə fɪkst æspekt əv ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni ɪz ði əlɪmpɪk əʊθ. ǁ Notice that 'fixed' keeps its /t/ becoz a vowel follows. Some of us might drop the schwa in 'ceremony' but that likelihood's not to be compared with the one in 'opening' which is always dropt in conversational style.
19.    wʌn æθliːt, reprizentɪŋ ɔːl æθliːts, wl̩ stænd ɒn ðə rɒstrəm ænd, hɒʊldɪŋ ə kɔːnər əv ði ɪntənæʃnəl əlɪmpɪk kəmɪti flæɡ ɪn ðe left hænd ən reɪzɪŋ ðe raɪt, teɪk ði əʊθ, ɪm wɪtʃ ðeɪ vaʊ tə kəmpiːt əkɔːdɪŋ tə ðə ruːlz əv ə spɔːt əm wɪðaʊʔ teɪkɪŋ pəfɔːmənts-ɪnhɑːntsɪŋ drʌɡz.
ǁ Grammar rather than phonetics is likely to cause puzzlement here if the reader doesnt know that the writer avoids the clumsiness of saying  'his or her' twice by saying 'their' each time which word is used in the 'unorthodox' but certnly current weakform /ðe/. Compare Sentences ## 4 & 15.
20.    ðə klaɪmæks tə ði əʊpnɪŋ serəməni ɪz wen ði əlɪmpɪk fleɪm entəz ðə steɪdiəm.
ǁ 'Climax' is a good example of a word that has a 'strong' vowel in its second weak syllable even tho it's unstrest. EAL users shou·dnt imagine that all weak syllables must have weak vowels.
21.     æθliːts wl̩ pɑːs ðə fleɪm tə ðə faɪnl̩ tɔːtʃbɛːrə, hu wl̩ laɪʔ ðə kɔːldrən, mɑːkɪŋ ðə bɪɡɪnɪŋ əv ði əlɪmpɪk ɡeɪmz tuː θaʊzn̩d ən twelv. ǁ Note that, altho the original text sed 'athletes will pass' and 'who will light', even tho it's not conversation, Alex has preferred the less formal weakform /wl/ to the strongform /wɪl/ in each case. Had it been conversation the usual thing wdve been to use the even weaker weakform /l/.

Blog 415

The 15th of August 2012

Weakforms (iii).

Before going further with my account of weakforms I shd like to return to the theme of my Blog 399 with some additional explanation of why my approach to this topic shd be so out of line with previous writings on the subject. This fact is of course visible in my regular use of a solid spelling of this compound word. It was perfectly reasonable for the Bibliography of Cruttenden 2008, ie the seventh edition of Alan Cruttenden's re-working of Gimson's (Introduction to the) Pronunciation of English, in listing my article §4.7 from this website entitled 'Weakform words and contractions for the advanced EFL user' to show a bracketed 'sic' after my unorthodox, but I feel desirable, spelling of the word 'weakform'.

Altho it can't be sed that Sweet and Jones were completely wrong to refer to 'Strong and Weak Forms' it seems possible that it may not've been quite without significance that Sweet, the first to identify the most important types of weakforms, unlike Jones, shd've preferred to head his treatment of the subject with the term 'Gradation' as we noted in our Blog 404 'Adumbration of Gradation'. That blog gave evidence for crediting Sweet with being the first person to clearly recognise the character of this English phonological, grammatical and rhythmic system.

One may praps compare the combination 'strong and weak forms' with items like 'black and blue birds' where the sequence is perfectly acceptable grammatically but the sense is evidently better exprest by the form 'blackbirds and bluebirds'. In the same way, but with less orthographical explicitness — because the most usual spelling and stressing of 'public house' doesnt signal the fact that it's a compound noun — 'public and private houses' sounds strange when the first compound has its usual specific sense of 'pub'. It  requires to be exprest, admittedly with some awkwardness, as 'public houses and private houses'. The important differences between such pairs are very far from attributable merely to straightforward and simple contrasts of significance between the adjectival elements in each case.

The term weakform has become awkwardly insufficient and ambiguous for our purposes and so it seems that clarity of meaning will be better served by referring to contrasting strongforms as 'grammatical' or, more concisely, 'functor' weakforms' on the one hand and 'content' or 'non-functor' weakforms on the other. Finally, in reference to the identities of weakform words and contractions, it shd be noted that the latter have mainly come about historicly from the coalescence of weakforms with other words and are of course not themselves weakforms, tho they offen have (functor) weakforms of their own. See the mentions of a dozen or so of these on this website at Section 4.7 ¶¶ 20 & 21. Any modification of a functor weakform not an essential element of its structure but produced incidentally in the stream of speech such as a linking /r/ or an assimilation or elision isnt entitled to a place in any inventory of such functor weakforms.

Blog 414

The 9th of August 2012

IPA versus Respelling.

Graham Pointon·s latest blog (3 Aug 12) is on the subject of 'IPA versus Respelling' in the representation of English pronunciation in dictionaries. He asks "Is one of these better than the other?" He acknowledges that IPA has continued to be adopted widely but he disputes the claim made in an article in the current issue of the Henry Sweet Society's Journal that IPA is 'gaining the upper hand'. In support of his view he instances, as still not having gone over to IPA, the publishers Cassells, Chambers, Collins and Penguin. There happen to be two excellent dictionaries of English free online that both, to very good effect, use IPA only. One of them is in fact from Collins and the other from MacMillan. Another welcome facility online is "" (NB not "" which deals only with forren languages) that presents each word (spoken US-style only) with US and GB respellings and, at a repeat appearance a few lines later, provides after them an underlined instruction "Show IPA" which being clicked converts the transcription accordingly.

Graham quotes, not as his own, the opinion "that the IPA gives a consistent and accurate representation of the pronunciation, while a respelling does not". I'm surprised that he thaut it worth quoting such a crudely exprest view. My dissatisfaction with respelling representations is not that they are necessarily any less accurate or consistent than others but that they are so clumsy and haphazardly illogically based. I havnt any dou·t myself that IPA symbols are, used properly, a completely superior choice. Let's consider the set of forty-four phonemic symbols usually required for General British pronunciation.

For a start, all the simple sounds can be conveyed by single letters. Next, /θ/ and /ð/ dont have to be differentiated by unholy pairings of the letters 't' and 'h' whose proper applications lie elsewhere. Same goes for the single glyphs /ʃ & ʒ/ which are so much more satisfactory than 'sh' etc in avoiding various potentially misleading contiguities and other awkwardnessess occurring in traditional orthography. Digraphs like /sh & zh/ and /th & dh/ are especially objectionable when differentiation makes one italic and the other not or, worse still, one plain and the other underlined. With IPA you can have /ʧ & ʤ/ satisfyingly united if you so wish. How agreeable it is to have a symbol of its own for the discrete sound /ŋ/ inste·d of the clumsy and ambiguous /ng/. And what a confusing variety of tiresome combinations respellers resort to in distinguishing /ʊ, u, ᴧ & ə/  from one another! IPA also avoids various undesirable applications of the letters /r, h & w/ for uses uncomf·tably unconnected with their primary values.

If a pref·rence is felt for using the letter /y/ for the yod sound, it's something there can be little objection to at any rate in a solely English-dedicated symbol set. I agree with that sort of move by the editors of the new Oxford Advanced American Dictionary. I'm a longtime staunch supporter of the International Phonetic Association but I dont consider that we own our alphabet. And I'm not in sympathy with those who can't wait to 'update' the British English 'Gimson' set of symbolisations so many have employed in such agreeable concord these last thirty-odd years — even tho it was publishers' pressure rather than scholarly accord that braut the harmony about. So Graham's grumble that 'IPA transcriptions tend to become as fixed as any traditional orthography, even when the phonetic detail changes' doesnt worry me unduly. Geoff Lindsey's eagerness to have us adopt less happy IPA symbolisations like [ɵ, ɵw & ɑj] fill me with trepidation, brilliant tho I find his writings.

The fact that in IPA systems diphthongs are represented by pairs of symbols which have values in combinations that are relevant to the values they have when alone is also satisfying and le·rner-fr·endly to boot. Finally, turning from one IPA transcription to another that's slightly diff·rent involves handling fewer non-logical, arbitrary and thereby unpredictable diff·rences than moving between one respelling and another.

Among his arguments Graham complains that "for instance .. almost all the phonemes of French are articulatorily different from their apparent equivalent in English". This is a completely inevitable circumstance that respelling is no real cure for. He also remarks that "Respelling is often justified because it is easier to interpret by reference to traditional orthography, and also because it can be read by speakers of different accents, and so is less prescriptive than IPA". Even tho I largely grant him the first two of these, I still have to say that, when I read a transcription which shows English pronounced in a way that I dont care to use myself, I dont for one moment take it that I'm being prescribed or persuaded to change my personal practice. And I dont think it's reasonable to ascribe a prescriptive motive any time an editor decides not (or not any longer) to provide alternative vowels for a word like bath. Graham ends by saying "I don’t see the demise of respelling coming any time soon". Neither do I. But I expect IPA to be ever increasingly seen as the better vehicle for most transcriptional purposes.

Martin Barry's comment deploring what he described as 'the ludicrous process of learning and then unlearning, for students who learn English phonemic transcription, and then turn to, e.g., narrow transcription of English using IPA symbols' shows him too tender-hearted towards his students. I call what they have to do when required to practise some form of narrow transcription not 'unlearning' but extending their learning in a hopefully stimulating way.

Blog 413

The 30th of July 2012

Long and Short Vowels.

The other day a colleague circulated fellow phoneticians, especially teachers of English phonetics, asking for their opinions on whether present-day undialectal English really has long and short vowels (as opposed to vowels merely of different quality) or whether it just has vestiges of an older system which no longer functions. "Or do we simply SAY English has long and short vowels as a teaching aid?  If it's the latter, how useful is it?" She mentioned in particular GA and GB (General British). Starting with Victorian GB, the earliest really reliable authority, Henry Sweet, certainly considered that length was a definite feature of the three vowels of start, north and nurse. He regarded the street and tooth vowels as most properly classifiable as (narrow) diphthongs (transcribing them as \ij\ and \uw\). In transcribing them in EAL (aka EFL) contexts he regularly doubled their symbol to \aa\ and \əə\ but, rather eccentricly, always used simple \ɔ\ for the other even tho he annotated it as 'always long'.
Daniel Jones made his fullest description of the lengths of the GB vowels, beginning at §862 of his Outline of English Phonetics (1932) he warned that "The principles governing the length of sounds in English are very complex, and considerable differences may be observed in comparing the speech of one person with that of another". In his day there seems t've been little conception of what we shd now be disposed to classify as 'paralinguistic' lengthening, especially notable in the 'exceptional' word 'yes', as Jones remarkt at his §876. He observed that a French speaker employing the usual (short) length of the phoneme 'gives an effect of abruptness which is strange to English ears'.

Regarding GB, to maintain the idea that there are regular length differences between the set of English relative monophthongs in the five vowels of words street, start, north, tooth and nurse and the set of six that are ship, net, ash, spot, foot and shut presents certain problems. There's little need for discussion regarding the twelfth simple vowel, schwa, the second of china, because its domain is so overwhelmingly unstrest syllables. However, as Cruttenden's Gimson (2008 p.95) states clearly "In the other cases the opposition between the member of the pairs is a complex of quality and quantity; and of the two factors it is likely that quality carries the greater contrastive weight. Indeed. in the particular case of the cad/card opposition, both vowels may be equally long." I agree: I hear from some speakers an expression like Good afternoon spoken with such a a short [ɑ] that they cou'd be either GB or Northern speakers. He goes on to point out that /iː, uː & ɔː/ before voiceless consonants have approximately the same lengths as /ɪ, ʊ & ɒ/. He also mentions that vowel length before /m, n, ŋ, r & l/ is approximately half of that "before other voiced consonants and before voiceless consonants".

Even greater complexity is presented by the ash vowel. It seems never to have been suggested that it shou·d receive a length mark yet it is regularly more or less as long as any of the recognised long vowels in many words in various situations. At p. 92 (ibid) Cruttenden goes so far as to say of it "Length is dependent on individual speaker's usage, on the context and on the characteristic pronunciation of particular words". Even more complexities are mentioned at p.113 where phonemicly contrasting pairs of words are concerned. An example is when an ash precedes a nasal consonant such as when it's short in jam to eat versus the longer jam that traffic gets into. Some GB speakers have long ashes in words like scandal, standard, Stanley and even Anglia. Very many have long ash in bad even when it's not used paralinguisticly-emotively. Yet fewer wd have it in badly. Most such occurrences seem to be among people from the southeast.

The int·resting question to consider is why have all British EAL materials involving phonetic transcriptions in the last two dozen years exhibited unneeded length marks. The reason has to do with the fact that in 1977 Gimson converted the at-the-time undisputed authority on British pronunciation, the Daniel Jones EPD (English Pronouncing Dictionary), from an unsatisfactory transcription to one which employed distinctive letters for each of the phonemes. He had the choice before him of either abandoning or keeping the lengthmarks. He was far from unaware that there were, especially among very many establisht teachers, considerable objections to any changes. It's not unlikely in my opinion that this knowledge, and no dou·t the encouragement of his publishers, tipped his choice in the direction of retaining length marks. They were such a very significant element of the previous appearance of the EPD text. Keeping them enabled users braut up on the old transcription to see them at a glance and completely dispense with peering at the hated newfangled accompanying symbols if they so pleased. The justification was that, tho there was redundancy, the colons wd have a beneficial reinforcing effect, just as a gentleman may choose to hold up his trousers with simultaneously both a belt and braces.

In four or five decades of teaching pronunciation in various countries to students with many different language backgrounds, I have very few recollections of any trouble with the lengths of English vowels. At least, the chief cause of any excessive lengths I felt inclined to comment on cert·nly bore no relation to whether or not length marks were present in transcriptions. They were that people offen made a vowel unsuitably long when it occurred in a syllable closed by one of the voiceless consonants /p, t, k , ʧ, f, θ,  s & ʃ / or followed by an 'enclitic' (weak) further syllable as when they sed ceasing too like seizing.

Apart from that, I sometimes thaut some students made final /i/ in words like happy too long. When I began teaching that didnt matter because it was the universal custom to recommend the vowel we now show as /ɪ/. But from the sixties it was becoming clear that younger people were increasingly using a closer short vowel there, an allophone of the /iː/ phoneme —  a habit I personally already had. This me·nt that, to conform properly to the new transcription, happy wd have to be transcribed as /hӕpiː/. This I wou·dve hated because it suggested exac·ly what I was at pains to persuade students to avoid. The EPD continued to show an increasingly old-fashioned-looking /hӕpɪ/ until it was taken over by Peter Roach in 1997. In 1978 the new Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English had come out and its Pronunciation Editor, a fr·end of mine called Gordon Walsh, had hit on the excellent idea of using the spelling /hӕpi/ with no length mark and justifying the move by announcing that this final lengthmark-free /i/ was a cover symbol to stand for both the GB and the GA pronunciations. Eventually it was in effect acknowledged that it was really an allophonic intrusion into their phonemic system but it was so good not to have to be faced with the disagreeable final /-iː/ in such words. When Wells braut out his excellent Longman Pronunciation Dictionary in 1990 he seemed to embrace that house-style quite unapologetically. So we nowadays have a "/hӕpi/" consensus, even if the transcriptions are not rigorously phonemic. My own private opinion has long been that the lengthmarks are a fussy waste of space. I cert·nly made no use of them in the two dictionaries where I was able to choose the transcription.

Blog 412

The 23rd of July 2012

Triphthongs and the EFL User.

Altho he possessed a brilliant ear for discriminating sounds Daniel Jones seems t've had his blind spots, or rather shd we say deaf spots? One of these was paralinguistic sounds, another appeared to be the sociological associations of various pronunciations. This latter seemed to be evidenced by the way he failed to make any comment (tho its absence also cdve been attributable to caution) on the strong reactions of many people to the treatment by some speakers of words containing 'triphthongs' — or rather their shortened reflexes. He was very different in that respect from his colleague Arthur Lloyd James who at page 38 of The Broadcast Word (1935) refer·d to the fact that the pronunciations of fire as faa and wireless as waaliss "will appear an offensive affectation" in some quarters. Lloyd James was evidently at pains to discourage monophthong versions of these triphthong words in BBC announcers he trained, describing such forms rather quaintly as "not seemly" (at page 118).

It was very widely observable in the middle and latter twentieth century that monophthong — and to a lesser extent diphthong — pronunciations of such words were perceived as sociologically conspicuous in the sense of being markedly upper-class usages. As a result they tended to be avoided by any speakers who were inclined to take care not to be regarded as pretentious. This inhibited their spre·d on occasions when they might be especially prominent, but the more constant their use the less they were noticed. The pronominal adjective our, with its extremely high frequency, has been completely free from adverse reactions even towards the very many speakers who use the monophthong /ɑː/ as their sole form of it. Only a small minority of GB speakers have no weakform /ɑː/ of our. The homophonous very high-frequency noun hour when unstrest generally occurs as a monophthong but excites no noticeable adverse attention for doing so. The quasi-function-word adverb entirely tends to be used largely in non-tonic situations and more offen than most triphthong words takes a monophthong. Words like empire, bonfire, horsepower, sunflower etc, whose triphthongs occur only in weak syllables and so never ord·nrily bear tonic stress, much more frequently than other triphthong words, become weakened to diphthongs. Students are well advised to regularly use diphthongs in such words.

The earliest fairly full account of the GB triphthongs appeared in 1932 in Jones's Outline of English Phonetics. The classic treatment of the topic today is to be seen at §8.11 of CGP (Cruttenden's invaluable recasting of Gimson's Pronunciation of English 2008). At p.146 there's an excellent succinct summary of current GB developments thus: "The likely situation ... at the moment seems to be a levelling of [/aɪə & /aʊə/] to a single diphthong usually [aə], but not the further reduction to a monophthong..." For students the best advice shd therefore be to cert·nly aim for diphthongs (not monophthongs) at least in words in which the triphthong is in an unstrest syllable. For words in gen·ral, if they feel inclined to use any monophthongs at all they'd better be distinctly less than fully front and no further back than central (ie half way between front and back). Thus for the word diamond [daːmənd] is a safer target than [dɑːmənd] and indeed is the only diphthong form sanctioned by the dictionaries. But they shou·d remember that, besides the fact that some people regard monophthongs as "affected", they are becoming increasingly old-fashioned even to the ears of those with no such attitudes. Excellent examples of the occurrence of monophthongs can be he·rd in the classic but now very oldfashioned-sounding 1945 film Brief Encounter especially from the charming actress Celia Johnson. Those who have access to the Audio CD accompanying the Collins & Mees Practical Phonetics and Phonology (2008) will hear that the first track 'Traditional RP' has an old-Etonian interviewee pronouncing the word cowardly as [kaːdle] ie with a reduction of the /aʊə/ triphthong to a front-type monophthong (and a very open /ɪ/ as its final -y to boot).

To take comparative examples from the major pronunciation dictionaries, the transcriptions of tower are represented as conveying the following:
(i) CEPD \'taʊ.ə, taʊə\ indicates that the most usual form of the word has two syllables and that for its single-syllable variant the medial /ʊ/ is italicised to indicate that it may or may not be present.
(ii) LPD \'taʊ  ̮ə\  indicates that the word may be either a single syllable or two syllables and that the vowel indicated by the italicised medial /ʊ/, tho usually employed, is "sometimes" omitted.
(iii) ODP \'taʊə\ most simply, but least informatively, gives no suggestion that the /ʊ/ is ever absent.
Common tho monophthongal forms are among some GB speakers, the dictionaries — quite reasonably — really only recognise diphthongal variants in their transcriptions. At the pronominal adjective our LPD has a special note which recognises its monophthongal variants /ɑː/ and even /aː/ and observes that "some speakers use /ɑː/ as the weak form" — suggesting far too low a frequency for that practice than is the case. CEPD recognises /ɑː/ but not the (more disliked) variant /aː/ and has a thoro but rather complicated subsection of its Introduction headed 'Triphthongs' beginning at p.vii. LPD has a readable related information panel at "Compression" to be found at the word's alphabetical position. ODP, altho giving no recognition to any ordinary reductions of triphthongs, does recognise our, ours and ourselves etc as having weakforms with /ɑː/.

Reductions of triphthongs may be found for example in many common words including desirable, diagram, dialogue, diamond, giant, hire, iron, liable, piety, require, scientist, society, empire, entirely, violent, violin and coward, devour, dowry, flower, hour, our, powerful, scour, sour, tower and also, to a slight extent, orthographicly specified units like nowadays and even unspecified ones like now and again and try another. It seems possible that the objection or displeasure widely perceived with regard to the monophthongal — and to a lesser extent to the diphthongal — values has led to something of a strongform-weakform strategy being operated by many speakers who tend to prefer the full triphthong forms for the most prominent occurrences of any triphthong words after a fashion elsewhere largely limited to function words. Finally, the non-native speaker has to remember to guard agenst giving the middle element too much prominence so that eg fire sounds unsuitably like /faɪjə/ and therefore too heavily articulated or artificial.

Blog 411

The 17th of July 2012

Advanced Reading/Transcription.

Reading Passage adapted from The Bell by Iris Murdoch

1.    She announced, “I’m going to have a bath.”
2.    “Darling, you do that small thing!” said Noel.
3.    “I’ll bring you a drink in the bathroom. I suppose the sybaritic practice of
        bathing was forbidden at the convent.”...
4.    “Now tell me all about it,” said Noel, sitting on the edge of the bath. “Was it hell?”
5.    “It’s not too bad actually,” said Dora. “I’m only up here for the day, you know.
6.     I felt I needed a change. All the people are nice
        I haven’t seen any nuns yet, except one that lives outside.  
        But there’s a horrible feeling of being watched and organized.”
7.    “How’s dear old Paul?”
8.    “He’s fine. Well, he’s been beastly to me for two days, but I expect that’s my fault.”
9.    “There you go!” said Noel. “Why should everything be your fault?
10.    Some things are perhaps, but not every damn thing.
11.    The trouble with Paul is he’s jealous of your creative powers.
12.    As he can’t create anything himself he’s determined you shan’t”
13.    “Don’t be silly,” said Dora. “I haven’t any creative powers.
14.    And Paul’s terribly creative. Could you hold my glass and pass me the soap?”
15.    “Well, don’t let’s start on Paul,” said Noel. “But about those religious folk.
16.    Don’t let them give you a bad conscience.
17.    People like that adore having a sense of sin
18.    and living in an atmosphere of emotion and self-abasement.
19.    You must be a great catch. The penitent wife and so forth.
20.    But don’t give in to them.
21.    “You’re drinking my drink!” said Dora.
22.     “They may be nice,” said Noel, “but they’re thoroughly misguided.
23.     “You sound quite passionate!” said Dora. “Pass me the towel.”

The following transcription is a simple phonemic one with "rough" indications
 of intonation that are tonetic not tonological eg the rise of a Fall-Rise is shown
where it actually occurs even tho it doesnt accentuate the word where the speaker
 places it from a rhythmic preference not for semantic 'emphasis'. Intonation marks
 are inserted to add to, not replace, the indications given by the punctuation.

`ridɪŋ pӕsɪʤ. ə'dӕptɪd | frm ðə `bel | baɪ 'aɪrɪs ˎmɜdɒk

    She announced, “I’m going to have a bath.”
    ʃi ənaʊnst, aɪŋ gənə 'hӕv ə ˎbɑθ

    “Darling, you do that small thing!” said Noel. “I’ll bring you a drink in the bathroom.
    'dɑlɪŋ | ju `du ðӕt smɔl θɪŋ, sed nəʊəl. 'ɑl 'brɪŋ ju ə 'drɪŋk | ɪn ðə ˎbɑθrəm
     I suppose the sybaritic practice of bathing was forbidden at the convent.
    aɪ spəʊz ðə `sɪbərɪtɪk `prӕktɪs əv ˎˏbɑθɪŋ | wz fə`bɪdn ət ðə ˏkɒnvənt

    “Now tell me all about it,” said Noel, sitting on the edge of the bath. “Was it hell?”
    naʊ 'tel mi 'ɔl əˎbaʊt ɪt, sed nəʊəl, sɪtɪŋ ɒn ni eʤ ə ðə bɑːθ. 'wəz ɪt ́hel

    “It’s not too bad actually,” said Dora. “I’m only up here for the day, you know.
     ɪts 'nɒt 'tu `bӕd, ˏӕkʧəli, sed dɔrə. aɪm `əʊni ᴧp hɪə fə ðə `deɪ, ju nəʊ

     I felt I needed a change. All the people are nice. I haven’t seen any nuns yet,
    aɪ 'felt aɪ 'nidɪd ə ˎʧeɪnʤ. 'ɔl lə 'pipl ə ˎˏnaɪs. aɪ `hӕvn `sin eni ˏnᴧnz jet |

    except one that lives outside.
     ksep wᴧn ðət lɪvz aʊtˏsaɪd.

     But there’s a horrible feeling of being watched and organized.”
     bət ðeəz ə 'hɒrbl 'filɪŋ | əv biŋ `wɒʧt ən `ɔgənaɪzd.
    “How’s dear old Paul?”
    'haʊz 'diər əʊl ˎpɔl.

    hiz `faɪn. “He’s fine.

    Well, he’s been beastly to me for two days, but I expect that’s my fault.”
     ˎwel, hiz bin `bistli tu mi fə tu ˏdeɪz | bət aɪ kˈspekt 'ðӕts ˎmaɪ fɒlt.

    “There you go!” said Noel. “Why should everything be your fault?
    'ðeə ju 'gəʊ | sed ˏnəʊəl. 'waɪ ʃəd 'evrəθɪŋ | bi ˎ jɔ fɔlt.

     Some things are perhaps, but not every damn thing.
     `sᴧm ˏθɪŋz `ɑː pəhӕps | bət `nɒt `evri dӕm ˏθɪŋ.

     The trouble with Paul is he’s jealous of your creative powers.
    ðə `trᴧbl wɪð `pɔl ˏɪz | hiz `ˏʤeləs | əv jɔ kri`eɪtɪv pɑəz.

     As he can’t create anything himself he’s determined you shan’t”
     ӕz i `kɑn krieɪt `enəθɪŋ ɪm`ˏself  | hiz dɪ`ˏtɜmɪnd `ju ʃɑnt

    “Don’t be silly,” said Dora. “I haven’t any creative powers. And Paul’s terribly
     `dəʊmp bi ˎsɪli, sed dɔrə. aɪ hӕvnt `eni krieɪtv pɑəz. ən ˈpɔlz `terəbli

    creative. Could you hold my glass and pass me the soap?”
    krieɪtɪv. 'kʊʤu | ˈhəʊl maɪ 'glɑːs | n pɑs mi ðə ˏsəʊp.

    “Well, don’t let’s start on Paul,” said Noel. “But about those religious folk.
    ˎwel, `dəʊnt lets stɑt ɒn ˎˏpɔl | sed ˏnəʊəl. bət ə'baʊt 'ðəʊz rəˎlɪʤəs fəʊk.

    Don’t let them give you a bad conscience. People like that adore having a sense of sin
    'dəʊnt 'let ðm | 'gɪv ju ə 'bӕd ˎkɒnʃns. 'pipl laɪk 'ðӕt | ə`dɔ | 'hӕvɪŋ ə 'sens əv ˎsɪn |

    and living in an atmosphere | of emotion and self-abasement.
     ən 'lɪvɪŋ ɪn ən 'ӕtməsfɪər əv | ə'məʊʃn ən self əˎbeɪsmənt.

     You must be a great catch.
      ju mᴧs bi ə `greɪt kӕʧ.

     The penitent wife and so forth. But don’t give in to them.
      ðə 'penɪtənt ˎwaɪf n səʊ fɔθ. bət 'dəʊnt gɪv `ɪn tə ðm.

     “You’re drinking my drink!” said Dora.
        jɔ 'drɪŋkɪŋ `maɪ drɪŋk | sed dɔrə.

    “They may be nice,” said Noel, “but they’re thoroughly misguided.
        ðeɪ `meɪ bi `ˏnaɪs, | sed ˏnəʊəl, | bət ðeə 'θᴧrəli mɪsˎgaɪdɪd.

    “You sound quite passionate!” said Dora. “Pass me the towel.”
        ju saʊn 'kwaɪp ˎpӕʃnət, sed dɔrə. 'pɑs mi ðə ˎtaʊəl.

Blog 410

The 14th of July 2012

Weakforms (ii) Strest Schwas in tags

As we’ve pointed out, a weakform of a word is most suitably defined as something more or less like 'a form of the word reduced in articulation from its speaker's fullest form for it to one of a different phonemic composition'. Henry Sweet first drew attention in 1885 to the fact that the alternations of the forms of a fairly small group of mainly function-type words were responsible for an important element of the rhythmic character of spoken English. It's commonly claimed in various textbooks etc that no ('functor' ie function-word) weakforms are ever accented. This is quite untrue of numbers of such weakforms. The next kinds of them we shall look at are all capable of being accented — sometimes at least.

There's one group of half a dozen or so which now fairly often occur accented in General British conversational usage in tagged phrases. They are forms of can, could, do, does, has, must, was  & would /k(ə)n, kəd, də, d(ə)z, həz, məs(t), w(ə)z & w(ə)d/. The first, fourth and last two can does, was & would regularly keep their schwas when vocalic sounds follow. ’

Would usually keeps its schwa and has always does so beginning tags. I noted an example of the first from Laura Cumming GB-speaker, art critic of The Observer from 1999, in a tv presentation saying ‘We can't see ourselves in mirrors, /`kən/ we?’. It's my impression, too, that things like ‘I s·pose we could. Could we?’ can offen occur these days as /aɪ spəʊz wi ˏkʊd.  ́kəd wi/ and even /...  ˏkəd.  ́kəd wi/ where a likely deliberating lengthened first 'could' cd be indistinguishable from the noun 'curd'.

One of the most frequently occurring strest schwa weakforms is / ́də/ in 'Do you?'. In Blog 038 I mentioned this and quoted the 1981 British Channel 4 television drama Brideshead Revisited with Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder saying ‘You ˎdont ˎmean to spend the rest of your life with `Kurt, / ˏ də ju/’. In another scene he sez Does he?’ as /́dəz i/. Similarly in the 1987 BBC tv production Fortunes of War the UGB speaker in the role Yaki sed ‘You dont... ́də  ju?’ As I sed in Blog 038 I suspect that consid·rable numbers of speakers are beginning to prefer this form to the traditional / ́duː ju/, in some contexts, as less formal. On the 17th of May 2012 in a plainly impromptu remark made in turning aside from the script of a news program the distinguisht (GB speaker) British Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow sed ‘It hasnt happend, /ˏhəz/ it?

Aside from such accented-tag examples, there are plenty of other occurrences of schwa weakforms accented. The spelling 'dunno', employed when a writer wishes to suggest a casual style of speaking, nevertheless neednt be taken as evidence that the form /`dənəʊ/ isnt frequently used in a perfectly serious manner. This and 'gonna' /`gənə, gənu/ which you can nowadays hear daily freely used by tv news presenters who're expected to be ready to spend part of any bulletin interviewing people impromptu. Oddly enuff, you neednt expect any text for reading aloud to contain 'gonna' or 'dunno' or even to see them much in tv subtitles.

In General British usage at least, the form /`sətəv/, ie 'sort-of', is extremely common particu·ly as a hesitation filler. It's not to be found in LPD, CEPD or ODP. Another common strest schwa occurrence is widely found in the phrase 'Come on' much used in urging on people and some other animals. It seems not uncommon to hear speakers accenting the 'to' schwa weakform these days. Recently I've he·rd someone as august as the respected senior broadcaster David Dimbleby refer to people liss·ning '/`tə/ these programs' and the dignified BBC Radio 4 Today presenter Justin Webb speaking of going "/`tə/ the ceremony". Finally, I mentioned in Blog 038 the Queen's having an accented schwa weakform (of 'doesnt') some time ago. In a recording of her I liss·nd to recently I noticed her using another one namely /`də.ɪŋ/ for 'doing'. I'm rather inclined to classify that as UGB (ie markedly upper-class), tho one never quite knows when one might find oneself letting it slip out from one's own decidedly not upper-class mouth.


I'm once again extremely grateful to our esteemed fellow-phonetic-bloggist "Kraut" for so kindly digging into the "Brideshead" dvd I quoted above and finding for us and presenting brilliantly the Jeremy Irons pronunciation in question at his blog of Wenzdy the eighteenth of July entitled 'stressed schwas'.