Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
|27/05/2013||English Urban Winter PS 23||#450|
|10/05/2013||Derby and Similar Words.||#449|
|01/05/2013||More on Weakforms (xi).||#448|
|25/04/2013||A Comprehensive New Edition.||#446|
|23/04/2013||The Wells Standard Lexical Vowel Sets.||#445|
|23/04/2013||A Text-to-Speech Facility.||#444|
|14/04/2013||A Notorious Estimate.||#443|
|10/04/2013||IPA Transcription 1900.||#442|
|26/03/2013||More on Weakforms (x).||#441|
Dialog 19 of my book People Speaking is 'The Rigours of the English Summer'.
Readers are recommended to go to the #19 sound file at Section 4.1 of the main division of this website. Ideally, if possible, transfer the contents of the sound-file onto Audacity (the free audio facility) to be able to select convenient slices for repeated playback.
1. Dreadful weather, isn't it?
/ˎdredfl ˎˏweðər ˎɪznt ɪt./
Notice that she expressively makes the initial affricate /dr/
distinctly longer than it usually is. Also that, tho this kind of
sequence of statement and tag question might well occur as two sep·rate
rhythm phrases, even with a slight degree of pause between them, here
they're smoothly linkt by the "optional" final /r/ used at the end of
The rather low pitches express her disgruntlement.
Please remember that our tone markings represent only very approximate, not at all precise, pitch values.
2.— Huh! Terrible! Can't remember such a rotten June.
[ˎhᴧh] `teːrəbl. ˈkɑnt rᵻ`membə səʧ ə rɒtn ʤuːn./
Conventionally writers gen·rally use wording such as 'oh' or 'ah' when the expressive noise a speaker makes isnt a normal phoneme-sequence word. Here for this breathy [hᴧh] no dou·t 'huh' does very well. In fact the lexicographicly recognised exclamation 'huh' is usually found in this sort of context expressing what OED calls "some suppressed feeling".
Altho this transcription is mainly phonemic we show various noteworthy length features as eg here where the /e/ of 'terrible' is so stretcht that the word becomes homophonous with 'tearable' /`tɛːrəbl/. We've shown the first vowel of 'remember' as not safely identifiable as either /ɪ/ or /ə/ by using the strictly-speaking unauthorised IPA symbol [ᵻ] for a vowel in between the two phonemes. Note that 'such' is used in a weakform which CEPD and LPD consider to be only 'occasional'. It's a relaxt-style feature.
This speaker turn ends with an exceptionally long low intonation tail. This sort of thing is mostly avoided so as not to sound too gloomy but, of course, it's completely suitable in this context.
3.— Nor can I.
/ˎnɔː kən ˎaɪ/.
4.— I feel sorry for all those poor devils
/ `aɪ fil ˏsɒri | fər ɔːl ðəʊz ˎpɔː ˏdevlz |
taking the only couple of weeks' holiday
teɪkɪn ði `əʊn(n)i kᴧpl ə wiks ˎhɒlədeɪ
Notice that the /ŋ/ of 'taking' has been converted to a dental [n̪] by assimilation to the following /ð/. It doesnt sound at all as if she's using the casual or upper-class-old-fashoned or regional version which has a normal clear /n/. A weakform appears at 'only' caused by omission of the /l/ of its strongform. This is int·resting as yet another piece of evidence agenst LPD's stubborn refusal to recognise this weakform as a non-regional usage and CEPD's sim·lar aloofness in its regard. It's also further evidence that weakforms can be accented (I'm not quite cert·n that its /n/ isnt actually very rapidly geminated) contrary to the frequent assertions of some authorities. Practicly all GB speakers use an ell-less weakform frequently but no-one uses it at the end of a rhythm phrase.
they have all the year
| ðeɪ hav `ɔːl ðə `ˏjɜː [jɪː]
The word 'year' here is utter·d with such a close monophthongal value that it's difficult to decide whether the speaker's target is /ɜː/ or an allophone of /ɪə/.
with rain like this all the time.
wɪd ˈreɪn | laɪk `ðɪs ɔːl lə taɪm.
The final consonant of the word 'with' here has no friction and doesnt sound exactly dental so it's not properly representable as either /ð/ or /d/ but we've shown it as the latter to reflect its slight abnormality.
At 'all the' we have a 'post' assimilation with the influence of the final /l/ of 'all' converting the canonical /ð/ of the definite article 'the' into an ell. This is a very common type of assimilation which didnt apparently receive acknowledgment in a textbook until the 2003 first edition of the Collins-Mees Practical Phonetics etc.
5.— Too true. Fancy dragging a clutch of bawling kids
́tuː ˎtruː. ́fӕnsi `drӕgɪŋ ə ˎklᴧʧ ə ˈbɔːlɪŋ ˎkɪdz
to some bleak seaside place only to be trapped
tə sᴧm ˈbˑlik ˈsisaɪd ˎpleɪs | əʊni tə bi `trӕpt |
Note the IPA half-long mark (ˑ) after the /b/ of 'bleak' and the absence of the full-length 'colon' at the /ˈsi/ of 'seaside'. There's another ell-less weakform at 'only to be trapped' — this time by the other speaker.
in some dingy boarding house.
ɪn sᴧm `-dɪnʤi| ˎbɔːdɪŋ haʊs.
The tone-sign `- before /'dɪnʤi/ indicates a fall from high restricted to ending mid.
6.—Hmm! That's why those awful holiday camps
[h`mː] ðats | waɪ ðəʊz `ɔːfl `hɒlədeɪ ˏkamps |
are so popular, no doubt.
ə səʊ `pɒpjələ nəʊ daʊt.
7.— Mm! However dragooned you are
[ ˈmˎm] haʊ ́`evə drə`guːnd ju ˏɑː|
at least there's bags of
ət ˈlist | ðəz ˈbaːgz | əv
indoor entertainment for the whole family.
`ɪndɔːr entəˏteɪnmənt | fə ðə həʊl `faːmli.
Note the emphatic Climb-Fall tone (moving from Mid to High to Low) at
'However'. Also later the (perfectly normal-sounding) withdrawal of the
'blanket' length colon at 'least' but the length colons added at 'bags'
and 'family'. Contrast these with short 'ashes' in 'fancy' and 'dragging'
Turn 5. These lengthened forms are as a rule completely accepted as
within the range of Gen·ral British usages but in fact such things are
markers of specificly southeastern affiliations. Cf our Blogs 144 and 360.
Recently our fellow bloggist on linguistic matters, Graham Pointon, under the heading
Journalistic naïvety, or malice?
remarked that the presenters of the 9 am BBC Radio 4 chat-type program
they call 'Saturday Live', by name Sian /ʃɑːn/ Williams and Richard
Coles, revealed that they had consulted a "professor of applied linguistics"... who told them that .. the Americans had it right, pronouncing “Derby” to rhyme with “herby”, we British being wrong to call it ‘darby’.
Graham commented "I do not believe that any professor of applied linguistics can possibly have said anything so crass. Presumably (s)he was asked which was correct, and .. had answered fully, saying that the older pronunciation was /ˈdɜːrbi/, but that the pronunciation had changed in Britain, while it had remained unchanged in the States, and I expect that (s)he went on to say that this didn’t make either of them wrong, but just different. Journalists are never happy with this, and invariably extrapolate that “older” means “more correct” ".
The academic questioned, one's inclined to imagine, must've requested that their name shd not be mentioned becoz of being embarrassed at having to give an ans·er to such a naïve question. If that ans·er was, as Graham suggested might be the case, saying that the older pronunciation was /ˈdɜːrbi/, it was too simple an explanation by a long way. The fact is that during the later Middle English period and even until about the middle of the eighteenth century many words with er had their spellings converted to ar. This obvi·sly reflected the fact that numbers of speakers had been changing the vowel to something much more open. Some old and new spellings survived simultaneously in competition. Only one pair has still not resolved the contest yet: we still have shard and sherd with the newer and earlier spellings and both with the same meaning, tho one rather than the other seems to be taking over in cert·n contexts. A pair which have developed strikingly diff·rent meanings (in ways too complicated to discuss here) are person and parson.
It's not very difficult to see why a number of cases have developed of the undesirable kind I labelled 'Grapho-Phonemic Mis-Co·ordinations' when I made them the subject of my earlier Blog 153. For various reasons, ranging from the sentimental to the legal, people have long been reluctant to change the spellings of their own names or those of the places in which they live, while yet not resisting joining in sound changes that had taken place. Many misco·ordinations of spellings with sounds have been the common consequences. Various placenames have reflected this phenomenon besides Derby, notably Berkshire and Hertford. Some more minor ones include Berkeley, Clerkenwell and Cherwell. People with the surname Bertie are listed in CEPD and LPD as most offen pronouncing it as /bɑːti/. Something apparently the same may be sed of owners of the surname Hervey. In some cases one spelling survives as a surname as with the second of each of the pairs hermitage and Armitage, merchant and Marchant, farmer and Fermor. In such cases, tho the new ar form with its value /ɑː/ occurs in one version, in the other the old er spelling persists but its sound has been subsequently regularised to what's become the much later value for er /ɜː/. In one case, there is a contrast of spelling tho no audible one, clerk and Clarke — that's to say in British usage tho there is an audible diff·rence in America. There the common noun has had its strest vowel regularised to /ɜː(r)/ as has the proper noun Berkeley.
Clerk is not quite the only common noun to have this kind of mismatch between spelling and sound: sergeant is another; and we may note the comparable heart, hearth and hearken by contrast with the more regular ear, clear, dear, fear, near, spear, year or early, earn, earth, dearth, heard, hearse, learn, search. Pairs of names of the same origin the latter of which doesnt preserve the older er spelling may be seen in Berkeley and Barclay, Bernard and Barnard, Kerr and Carr, Derbyshire and Darbishire, Derby and Darby, Gerard and Garrard, Gerald and Jarrold, Herd and Hurd, Herbert and Harbert, Herriot and Harriott, Hervey and Harvey, Gervase and Jarvis, Perks and Parks, Perkins and Parkins, Perrot and Parrot, Perry and Parry, Verney and Varney etc.
In the same way as we've seen writers preferring to continue to use the older spelling long after they'd adopted the later pronunciation, as with Derby, we can detect the same thing happening from evidence provided by various poets' rhymes. For example, among many others we may note that Spenser rhymed convert with heart and that Shakespeare (in his Sonnet Number 17) rhymed deserts with parts and (in his Sonnet Number 72) desert with impart. Milton rhymed earth and hearth. We can see that Pope pronounced reserve as 'resarve' from his rhyming it with starve.
An odd survival is the form varsity which is a reduction of *univarsity a form of which there is no record in OED of past spellings of at the entry 'university'. This is regarded as only a slang or colloquial expression except in its use in the compound 'varsity match' for a sporting contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Two other forms that also survive only as slang or regional dialect and praps more in the US than over here are the variant larn of learn (to 'larn' someone is to teach them 'a thing or two') and the form varmint of vermin — the later of which has oddly acquired an excrescent final t. Also chiefly US is the regional interjection Massy! This derives from mercy via marcy. For the further development involved here compare hoss from horse and cuss from curse.
My brief definition of a weakform "an alternant form of a word so reduced in its articulation that it consists of a different set of phonemes" has to be understood to be synchronic so that it has to be co-existent with and to alternate with a current unreduced form at least in respect of an individual speaker's idiolect. Thus items like aboard from onboard derived from elisions in the far distant past are not appropriate for this series.
We de·lt with weakforms of any in Blog 436 but not with its compounds then. Here are some:
anybody The form /`enibɒdi/ has alternants in which schwas replace the strong third vowel /ɒ/ giving /`enibədi/ or the second vowel /i/ giving /`enəbɒdi/ or both such replacements. Much less offen the second vowel may be elided giving /`enbɒdi/ etc. These alternants are weakforms for speakers who use the first form in accented occurrences but any other than the last may be an individual speaker's regular form.
anyone The form /`eniwᴧn/ is the usual GB form of this word when free from rhythmic pressure but in some rhythmic contexts as in eg anyone `else it may easily take a weakform /eniwən/ or more casually /enwən/. The CEPD listing of an alternant /ˈen.i.wən/ without any qualifying comment on its use is prob·bly on a par with its other questionable admission of a regionally markt alternant /ˈen.i.wɒn/ for the word.
anything The strongform /`eniθɪŋ/ has the weak alternants /`enəθɪŋ/ and less commonly /`enθɪŋ/.
anyway Besides the obvious variants /`enəweɪ/ and occasionally the schwa-elided /`enweɪ/ this word has the further developments from this last version /emweɪ, `ẽweɪ/ and the denasalised /`eweɪ/ which are not at all as unusual as people may imagine. There's a nice example to be found of the [ẽ] variant to be heard in the penultimate 25th episode of the famous 1967 BBCtv serial The Forsyte Saga fom the actor Peter Copley in his role of the vicar Hilary Forsyte still fortunately available on a DVD.
anywhere In cert·n rhythmic situations the regular form /`eniwɛː/ may give way to a form ending with schwa inste·d of its usual vowel eg as in anywhere else as /eniwər `els/.
assembly As /ə`semli/ this
example may stand for various weakforms which arise from assimilations
and elisions etc like the medial /b/ from the sequence /-mbl-/here.
Such cases are at best borderline admissions to the category of
weakform words and are mainly not included in the present listing.
been This has two GB weakforms /bin/ (ord·nrily recorded as such in transcriptions which alternate length-markt and not-so-markt versions of the street vowel) and, less offen, /bɪn/. For a minority of GB speakers and the majority of GA speakers /bɪn/ isnt a weakform but their usual form.
between I suspect that I'm not the on·y speaker who occasion·y in a relaxt moment uses the weakform 'tween' inst·ed of the more orthodox 'between' but it's the kind of thing that it's not easy to collect data on. See also our Blog 441.
but This has only one commom weakform /bət/ but it does have an occasional form /pt/ sentence initially before vowels as mentioned above in our Blog 441.
by had the whole of our Blog 422 devoted to it.
can was described in Blog 425.
certainly Like only,
this is very, if not most, offen he·rd in the conversations of GB
speakers without its orthographic /l/ tho people usually do have a
strongform with the /l/. It is therefore usually /`sɜːtn̩i/ with a
syllabic /n/ which easily loozes its syllabicity in various rhythmic
clothes This has the common weakform /kləʊz/.
day This has no weakforms but its compounds are intended to be be de·lt with at 'Monday'.
did This has the casual weakforms /d, dəd/ and the rare type /dd/ eg in D'you get those yesterday?, What /dəd i/ did he say? and How /dd/ it go? Unlike CEPD (and unsurprisingly ODP), which give no weakforms for did, LPD has "occasional weakforms § dəd, d" and a cross-reference to a note at its entry "-'d". The sign "§" to suggest that it's regionally markt seems unjustified here.
directly This adverb, in the sense of 'immediately' has the casual form /drekli/. LPD records this, saying prob·bly justifiably, that it's "becoming old-fashioned".
do LPD surprisingly gives no
weakform /du/ for this word but gives /dʊ/, before /də/, which prompts
one to wonder where the EAL user is recommended to employ it relative
to /də/. What /dʊ/ they say? for example wd seem to be, if clearly pronounced, inclined to sound a little
old-fashioned and/or precious. An occasional minor form not listed is
/dw/ which can occur in eg Do I have to? /dw aɪ `haf ˏtuː/.
doing This has the weakform /dwɪŋ/ in relaxt styles, eg /wə `nɒt dwɪŋ mʌʧ təˏnaɪt / We're not doing much tonight. Some speakers, including the Queen, have a conversational form /`də.ɪŋ/ with an accented schwa. This is praps a good example of 'UGB'.
don't Like all -nt forms, this offen occurs with no final /t/ except before pause. Particu·ly in the collocation don't know the accented-schwa form /`də nəʊ/ frequently occurs in conversational style, sometimes represented in writing as dunno, eg in the apologetic opening /aɪ `də nəʊ baʊ `ˏʧuː.../ I don't know about you... to be he·rd eg from the well-known broadcaster John Tusa.
everybody Rather surprisingly neither LPD nor CEPD lists the weakform /`evribədi/.
everyone Less surprisingly, neither LPD nor CEPD lists the weakform /`evriwən/. This seems to be mainly limited to occurring unaccented immediately before an accented word such as in /evriwən `els/ everyone else [evriwə`nels].
February Prob·bly most GB speakers have a trisyllabic strongform for this word but I'm not convinced it's /`feb.ru(ə).ri/ as LPD and CEPD seem to suggest. It may well be /`febr̩i/ but /`febjəri/ is also common. Less so are /`febjueri/ and /`febjuəri /. All of these may be weakforms for speakers who may in self-conscious contexts opt for something like /`febru.əri/.
for This extremely common preposition has, besides its usual /fɔː/, as LPD sez, for "some speakers" a prevocalic-only further strongform /fɒr/ used not quite as limitedly as LPD suggests ie only before her, him, it or us. Forsyte Saga 1967 has /fɒr/ by M. Mont in antepenult episode. For example it may occur in /`fɒr ɪg`ˏzɑːmpl/ or in /`fɒr ə ˏtaɪm... For a time... CEPD seems to regard this usage as too recessive to be worth including. The weakform /fə(r)/ may be accented eg in /`fər ə ˎməʊmənt ət ˏliːst/ For a moment at least. It very offen loozes its vowel, its potential /r/ remaining, before vocalic sounds eg in /`ɪn fr ə`ˏpeni/ In for a penny... An /r/-less version as in /`fɒ ðə ˎˏməʊmənt/ For the moment...
It was sad to hear of the recent death of our colleague John
Baldwin. He was born on the 3rd of June in 1935 in east London at
West Ham and died on the 14th of this month. He was a fine scholar and
a modest, agreeable person who was, I'm sure, liked by everybody who
met him. After obtaining an MA (on Russian consonant clusters) at the
UCL (University College London) Department of Phonetics and,
subsequently acquiring a doctorate, he became appointed to its staff on
which he served for many years.
Besides Russian and German he was particu·ly int·rested in cert·n languages of southeastern Europe including Turkish. He was from 1966 a member of the International Phonetic Association for many years, during ten of which he served on its governing Council. He was a contributor to the Association's Journal, writing for it a number of reviews and articles including ones on such topics as the glottal stop in Turkish and ejectives in Georgian and most importantly a substantial two-part 'Formal Analysis of the Intonation of Modern Colloquial Russian'. He was also a great enthusiast for and expert on the folk music of the Balkans, for years performing in a band that specialised in it.
One of his last publications was an eight-page article contributed at my invitation for inclusion in a book which I edited in 1995, Studies in General and English Phonetics: Essays in Honour of Professor J. D. O'Connor, the lecturer, incidentally, who supervised John's MA thesis. It appeared in the section of that book entitled 'The Phonetics of Mother-tongue English'. He chose to call it, with characteristic modesty, A 'tenny' rate, but it was no lightweight piece of scholarship. Its subject was 'The process whereby a consonant or more than one consonant at the end of one word is transferred in connected speech to the beginning of the next word if it has a vowel onset'. This drew for its subject matter not a little from the kinds of observations that were to be a very important feature of the next remarkable stage of his career.
The nineteen fifties and sixties saw great acceleration in the spread of the use of first telephones and latterly sound recording equipment. By the end of that period inexpensive and easily operated compact cassette tape recorders had become widely available to the general public. All emergency services had become equipped with large drum tape recorders that were taking down ev·ry call to the '999' emergency services round the clock. Circumstances like these led to a rather sudden new impetus in a field that became known as 'forensic phonetics'. In the early sixties the late Dennis Fry, occupant of a UCL Chair of Experimental Phonetics, as John remarked, "was involved in a number of civil and criminal cases", but things were to develop very rapidly when, in the later sixties police and lawyers took to appealing to the UCL Department for help with criminal identification and other matters. John turned out to be the staff member willing to undertake that sort of work.
For the next twenty-five years he never lookt back. He was almost continuously in demand. He enjoyed driving himself to courts and legal chambers all over the country to a wide variety of criminal cases and other matters. In the course of these activities we used from time to time to meet up with each other. He described them in a fascinating book he called Forensic Phonetics publisht in 1990 along with Peter French who provided for insertion in it a twenty-page article on a division of the science into which John never himself felt inclined to set foot, viz Chapter 3, entitled 'Acoustic Phonetics'. Professor French is these days in demand worldwide and the leading practitioner in forensic phonetics in this country. In the so-called 'Home Page' major division of this website there is a copy, its Section 12 Item 6, of a review of John's book that I contributed to The Times newspaper. Readers may like to know that Section 6 of that 'Home Page' is devoted to my own experiences in the field. Baldwin, French and I were all founder members in 1991 of the International Association for Forensic Phonetics. In the years of his retirement John became the victim of an unfortunate increasingly debilitating condition. He'll be remembered with affection by all those who knew him.
A welcome appearance earlier this year has been the arrival of a
further-enlarged new (third) edition from Routledge of the Collins and
Mees Practical Phonetics and Phonology.
With thirty new pages it's now a hundred pages longer than its closest
rival. It offers lots of very genuinely practical guidance on the
pronunciation of British English but also a great deal more than just
that. Even tho its main target is the user of English as an extra
language, one can well imagine it functioning as at least an
auxiliary initial text for a student of general phonetics or as a
serious phonetic component of a course in any language. Students of the
very numerously spoken languages Spanish, French, German, Italian,
Polish and Japanese are especially lucky in being supplied with brief
'concise overviews' of the phonetic features of each language complete
with vowel diagrams. These are included, of course, not only for the
they shine on the problems their native speakers have in acquiring
spoken English but for the similar or identical problems that are
experienced by numerous speakers of other languages. In addition the
user will find many comments on diff·rent
difficulties experienced by countless speakers of quite other languages
than these six. They are presented along with very substantial
samplings of the
uses of English worldwide.
The total numbers of speakers of one or two of the world's languages may be as many or more than those of English, but even so English is the most widespread form of truly international communication that has ever existed. The two most studied forms of English pronunciation — in my preferred designations General American and General British — are fortunately very comf·tably mutually intelligible and the latter is, of course, the principal target of the major, practical, part of this book tho American pronunciations are occasionally referred to and most of what is de·lt with wd be equally helpful to students of American English.
From its first edition of 2003 it has shown no hesitation in abandoning unsatisfactory traditional terminology, replacing the outdated 'Received Pronunciation' with its own much better term 'Non-Regional Pronunciation' (abbreviation NRP). Its list of phonemes very reasonably avoids the recessive diphthong /ɛə/ in favour of the simple vowel /ɛː/ also adopted in the most recent newly-devised pronunciation dictionary (the one brau·t out by OUP in 2001) and used in non-EFL OUP dictionaries starting in 1993. It'll soon be seen to be favoured in the most respected of all the descriptions of English pronunciation. Other innovations include the rejection of the Latinate terms 'regressive' and 'progressive' for which it uses the simpler more transparent terms 'leading' and 'lagging' for assimilations.
Its coverage of other varieties than the one being taught is remarkable for its non-trivial amounts of recorded examples. Its claim to be a practical course is well borne out by the liberal supplies of exercises it contains, including plenty of passages for phonemic transcription, tho I tend to wonder whether taking ev·ry one of the dozen of them from Alice in Wonderland shou·dnt be reconsidered in the future. The ten extra ones on its website are more varied if still mainly non-conversational. Phonemic transcriptions are prob·bly the surest way of alerting students to the importance of acquiring proficiency in using weakforms and contractions, topics which are very well explained in the text. The difficult choice of which weakforms to recommend has been judiciously kept to a minimum tho I'm afraid I can't concur with excluding the word but from that minimum. Transcriptions are required to include marking of 'sentence stress' and 'intonation groups' but there are regrettably no exercises requiring intonations to be shown. Intonation is the one topic of the book that I shdve liked to see given more attention — altho it's at least as well treated here as in any of its rivals I know of.
A notable feature is the rich selection of excellent illustrations with as many as a hundred figures including vocal tract and mouth drawings, many outstandingly effective vowel diagrams, and maps of world Englishes and accent varieties etc. The accomp·nying CD has over three quarters of an hour of materials including twenty-five absorbing examples of accents ranging from an amusing sample of 'Traditional RP' to two dozen accent types from all around the world. These are each accompanied by a full text of what's spoken and descriptions of 'salient phonetic features'. There are also well over a hundred varied items labelled 'Activities'. There are even illustrations of how English sounded in past centuries, and some challenging items called Accent Detective Work.
The book is rounded off with ten substantial int·resting extracts, from
works on various aspects of phonetics, by such authorities as Daniel
Jones, John Wells, Peter Ladefoged and David Crystal, all followed by
suggestions and questions. As well as its disc, the book has a valuable
associated Website containing keys to the Activity Exercises and transcriptions that are
in the book, additional exercises including the extra transcription
passages on·y on the website, a version of the Glossary with a
'flashcard' facility that enables students to quiz themselves on their
knowledge of its contents, concise audio files of native-speaker
illustrations of the vowels and consonants of the six languages we
mentioned and numbers of direct links to other websites containing
further resources. This brief account doesn't do justice to the rich
amounts of valu·ble materials contained in this surely unique book.
It's also a very fine piece of book production with clear, well set out
text. In spite of the difficulty for the printer of so much of it in
phonetic symbols, I've scrutinised just about ev·ry page of it and on·y
spotted one very minor misprint — and that's not in the printed book but the website. It even has a strikingly handsome
cover. In view of all it offers, it seems pri·tty reasonably priced at
£20.99 in paperback.
I've been wond·ring if some readers might like to hear a little more
about the Apple-Mac text-to-speech facility I mentioned the other day
in my Blog 440. It provides synthetic voices to ree·d out any text one
selects. To avail oneself of them one simply has to click on a toolbar item
entitled 'Speak Selection'. The test sentences illustrating them
demonstrate the distinct advantage of having the facility but, at the
same time, how definitely limited is its capability of providing really
natural-sounding delivery. It has sample sentences that can be reached
by going thru the sequence 'Finder → System Preferences → System → Date
& Time → Clock' and clicking on 'Announce the time → Customize
Voice'. There you can set speed of utterance, volume and voice choice.
You can chooze between five male and five female ones. One of the male
ones is the default you get if you opt to 'Use System Voice'.
This default one may be sampled by clicking on 'Play' — when you hear it say / 'moʊst `ˏpipl | `rekᵻgˏnaɪz mi | baɪ maɪ `vɔɪs /. This sounds impressively natural. However, at a normal pace it praps tends to sound just a little nerdy. They call it 'Alec'. Played slow it still sounds natural but for a drugged or drowsy or long-suffering person. Played fast it also sounds natural but of course hurried. I refrained from testing what my impressions might've been had I upped the volume from the degree of 2 in a series of ten.
For the quarter-hourly reminders of the time I'm pleased to receive I chooze normal-rate, lowish-volume announcements by the light female voice they call 'Vicki'. When I ask her to give me a sample of her speaking she sez / ɪzənt ɪt `naɪs | tə hӕv ə kəm`pjuwdə | ðӕt wɪl `tɔk tə ˈjuw /. This is pretty respectable but I feel the schwa rather than a syllabic /n/ in the first word sounds a tiny bit unnatural. I notice with int·rest that the t of computer is cert·nly an American [d] whereas the non occurrence of rhoticity at its final -er sounds sort-of 'Atlantic' rather than General American. The very weak vowel value of the two occurrences of the preposition to is very natural sounding. So is the schwa for the indefinite article at a computer. On the contrary, the two-words sequence that will which wd normally combine to produce the contraction that'll /ðətl/ goes to the other extreme ie as / ðӕt wɪl /. The last tone — on the word you — sounds eccentricly like the moment in the stage or screen entertainment they call a 'musical' when a speaker suddenly bursts into song. This is because the naturally expected tone, after the previous fall, in this sort of phrase wd be a rise. And it's on·y the most whimsical or dreamy or inattentive or crazy speaker who'd be very likely to end a sentence — if they're not saying goodbye to you — on a high level tone.
The other voice options are not all demonstrated with the same sentence. Some use / aɪ ˈʃʊr ˈlaɪk `biɪŋ | ɪnsaɪd ðɪs ˈfӕnsi kəm`pjuwdər /. A dozy youngster called Junior sez / maɪ ˈfeɪvərᵻt ˎfuwd | ɪz ə `pitsə / not as clearly as the others. A deep-voiced guy sounding faintly like Kissinger sez very unclearly something one has partly to guess at / ðᵻ `sᴧm| əv ðᵻ `skwɛrz | əv ðə `lek [sic] əv ðə ˈraɪt `traɪˏӕŋgl| ɪz `ikwəl | tə ðə skwɛr | əv ðə haɪ`pɑtn̩uwz /. Finally 'Princess' sez in a convincing child voice / wen aɪ ˈgroʊ ˈᴧp| aɪm ˈgoʊɪŋ | tə ˎbij | ə `saɪəntɪst /. There're actually fourteen more 'novelty' voices available including 'whisper, frog-in-the-throat, hysterical, deranged, pipe-organ, bad news, good news, bells, boing' and 'bubbles' — rather few of which I've investigated I'm afraid.
It's rather odd to find oneself impelled to write about a matter which one feels in truth is not worth discussing at all on account of its being so trivial. I'm referring to the question of what proportion of the English-speaking population of "Britain" (praps one might better say of the United Kingdom ie England, Wales and Scotland) speaks "pure RP" — a form of words that I disespouse by my quotation marks. I refer to it not out of enthusiasm for the topic but from exasperation at the way it's seemed be taken ridiculously seriously in some quarters. The person who has innocently led to my irritation is the distinguisht dialectologist Professor Peter Trudgill. He is very prob·bly irritated in the same way as I am by seeing such a minor observation of his trotted out as if it were of prime significance. Indeed it must be highly disagreeable for him to find that, with all the admirable work he has done, he is famous more than anything else, at least among much of the phonetics community, for what he may well have originally considered essentially little more than an inconsequential aside. After all, in adapting his 1971 doctoral thesis for publication he didnt choose to include even any reference at all to the notorious "3%" which is the subject of this present 'rant'.
However that may be, his article 'Received Pronunciation: Sociolinguistic Aspects' of 2001 began: "An often cited statistic has it that in Britain RP speakers constitute only 3% of the population. When this statistic first became commonplace in the sociolinguistics literature, it was not unusual for people to dispute it". It was disappointing that at this point he neither provided any details nor even cited any source of such criticisms. At any rate, he continued: "Perhaps, therefore, it will be as well to discuss where this statistic came from. The guilty party was myself. I popularised [sic] the 3% figure in Trudgill (1974)". Here again we find rather tantalisingly that, so far from his putting the statistic into circulation in that book — whose title was The social differentiation of English in Norwich — he made no reference of any sort whatever to it anywhere in its text. In making the above remark, he'd apparently had in mind Chapter 15 of his previous unpublisht work of 1971 from whose title the 1974 abbreviated version was unfortunately not differentiated.
However that may be, he continued to explain how his sociolinguistic dialect study of the city of Norwich, "some of the findings of which were presented in Trudgill (1974)", was based for the most part on interviews with a statisticly strictly random sample of fifty people taken from the population of that city. The article in which he made these remarks may be seen online here. Out of this sample he reported only one individual as judged to be an 'RP' speaker. He commented "In other words, the evidence [a slightly more suitable term might've been 'inference'] from my random sample was that the population of Norwich contained only 2% of RP speakers." In "considering to what extent [he] could generalise from this finding to Britain as a whole" he took a number of stated factors into careful consideration. "In the end, [he] decided that 3% was approximately correct" as an extrapolation from this by way of estimating the total number of "RP" speakers in "Britain" at the time.
Even if I accepted this conclusion it wd make no diff·rence to my impatience with the importance various people seem to've been attaching to it. I tend to find myself pondering uneasily on certain aspects of the investigation. It was described as based on fifty subjects selected on the basis of sixty interviews ten of which were carried out by a collaborator. One thing I can't help wondering is whether someone other than Trudgill might've disagreed with the judgment that the single individual in question fitted into the category of 'RP speaker'. An objection might've been raised in various ways — possibly in categories other than the strictly segmental ones to which Trudgill almost exclusively devoted his thesis. There's not even any single mention of prosodic features anywhere in the whole of the printed book, altho it's a pleasure to acknowledge that the very condensed account of 'articulatory settings' is admirably covered in the relatively limited space accorded to it.
In his various writings he regularly insists, as for instance in an article of 2002, that "It takes only one non-RP feature for a speaker not to be RP".
It's my impression that very many of my colleagues in the phonetic
sphere have not at all been in confident agreement about assigning
individual speakers to such a category. Any reader who cares to look at
my Blog 360 will find clear evidence of far from total harmony in one
area — namely between the most distinguisht lexicographers of 'RP'. Not
that I'm complaining of their wasting their time devoting themselves to
What has struck me as rather remarkable is how ready various scholars have been to repeat the 3% comment tho no-one seems to have considered replicating the investigation. When I consider that this Trudgill estimate is the only one of its kind that I, at least, know of, I read with misgivings remarks like "Phoneticians in Britain generally agree that RP is spoken by about 3 per cent, possibly slightly more, of the population of Britain" and "usually estimated as being used by somewhere between 3–5% of the population" both by noted scholars. These suggest to me that indiff·rence may be being unwarrantably interpreted as approval.
Seeing extrapolation from a figure of one person in fifty in the
present case to such percentages of 'RP' speakers in the whole of the
Great Britain (unless one shd be saying the 'United Kingdom')
population, what percentage might've been suggested if the number of
'RP' speakers had not been one but nil. Cou·d it've been that Britain
contained something between one and minus two percent of 'RP' speakers?
But seriously, exactly how many speakers of it might exist and with what degree of "purity", is an absurd matter to focus attention upon in regard to the relatively least locally affiliated variety of UK English speech. The only truly significant consideration is not the numbers of individuals belonging to the group but the disproportionately large influence that this relatively small group undou·tedly has on the perceptions and practices of all other users of any significance in the British-English-speaking world. Indications of what very large numbers of speakers exist who may have "impurities" and yet function as virtual 'RP speakers' are readily available. Now that'd provide a really int·resting percentage if it were possible for someone to succeed in estimating it in a respectably credible way. We're reminded daily of this, if we can be bothered to entertain the thaut, when we — as so offen — switch on a loudspeaker and hear a not already known voice that may present us with an "impurity" but only after sometimes minutes of careful lissening out for such a thing. Until that moment is reached we are unaware whether the speaker is to be categorised as an 'RP' user or not.
The great British phonetician Henry Sweet was the scholar who at the
age of forty publisht in 1885 the very first ever book on the phonetics
of English specificly written for non-native-speaking users. He had
already publisht a number of brilliant works notably on the history of
English and including his epoch-making 1877 Handbook of Phonetics.
His supreme achievements had been recognised by the
Paris-based Association Internationale Phonétique (alias IPA) by their
electing him their Honorary President, a post which he held for the rest of his life. At the age of 55 (when Daniel
Jones was 19) Sweet provided the Association's modest periodical Le Maître Phonétique (the precursor to the IPA's Journal) with the paragraph that we're indetted to Kraut for relaying to us in his blog of the fourth of April 2013.
Its 148 words in eighteen lines employed a selection of symbols that was very similar to those he'd used for that 1885 Elementarbuch des Gesprochenen Englisch. That book was so well received that Oxford University Press had him follow it up in 1890 with a translation entitled A Primer of Spoken English. The 1900 transcription's editor's title for the paragraph was simply Anglais du Sud meaning Southern British English — an undesirably ambiguous term especially when some people, at least in those days, were given to using 'North Britain' to mean Scotland. (Sweet had been dead fourteen years by the time Jones started promoting the term 'received pronunciation' he'd taken up from A. J. Ellis).
We notice immediately that the slight diphthongality of the two closest vowels in their most characteristic realisations was taken into account by Sweet in his pref·rence to represent them not as /iː/ and /uː/ but as the glide-ending diphthongs /ij/ and /uw/. In Jones's opinion the diphthongal variant was not as typical as the simple one — hence his pref·rence for [iː] and [uː] with their length marks rather than glide symbols to represent these phonemes. Various Americans including Leonard Bloomfield favoured such final-glide representations.
Next we notice that, tho the ship /ʃɪp/ vowel is shown as /i/, there're quite a number of occurrences of an undotted [ı] used in unaccented syllables (of various values) eg in the before any vowels and also in all three unaccented syllables of encourages /ɪn`kᴧrɪʤɪz/. Additionally, he used this [ı] where in today's most popular notation for General British pronunciations [i] wd be used in words like association /əˈsəʊsi`eɪʃn/, and study /`stᴧdi/. This dotless [ı] had not, I believe, in fact been accorded recognition as an item of the Association's official alphabet at the time and has in fact never been so subsequently. He also used it to begin the diphthong we now show as /ɪə/.
We see that, in a manner that Jones was later to follow, he represented the most open of our GB rounded vowels, the phoneme of words like clock with the symbol /ɔ/ (unlike our now usual Gimsonian style /ɒ/) and the mid one of words like jaw with the same letter plus length sign as /ɔː/ — which our Gimsonian practice matches. It's rather int·resting that at the unaccented occurrences of the words or and your before following vowels in lines 1 and 9 he reveals his choice of the /ɒ/ phoneme. Neither of the two principal pronunciation dictionaries, the Wells LPD and the Roach-&-co CEPD, refers to the existence of this /ɒr/ weakform of or but I can't help wondering if it's still being used by numbers of people without its being noticed. I wonder how many people are aware of the existence of a similar weakform /fɒr/ of the preposition for. I'm not surprised that this isnt listed as a third weakform by CEPD. Jones's and Gimson's EPDs always listed /fɒr/ as an "occasional strong [sic] form before vowels" but it's not easy to estimate just how frequently it's used today. I use it — but then I'm very old. Anyway, I'm happy to find it noted in LPD tho I dont accept that it now only occurs before the four pronouns her, him, it and us. This is prob·bly not the place to go into the reasons why I regard /fɒr/ as better termed a 'weakform' than a 'strong form'. No dictionary has any record of any surviving use of a weakform /jɒr/ but I wonder how many people carry on using it today unnoticed: I sh·ll have to lissen to myself more carefully. We neednt dou·t that it was a usage of Henry Sweet's. Rather similarly one notices Sweet's pref·rence for what is now written in Gimsonian symbols as /ʧʊldrən/ for the plural of child. It's understandable that CEPD shd not bother to show this variant tho it was always included in the EPD of Jones's day but I'm glad to welcome LPD's inclusion of it. Indeed I regret LPD's omission of the other regularly included Jones variant with a syllabic /l/ in its first syllable which I fancy to be as frequently used as the /ʊ/ one.
These ar·nt the only usages Sweet displayed that've become oldfashioned. Few people use their /əʊ/ phoneme in the first syllable of phonetics today and, of course, since Gimson revised the Jones EPD we've mostly adopted his preferred notation rather than the /ou/ that Jones always used in it for that phoneme. Praps the most numerous diff·rences from Sweet's usages seen in this paragraph are our latterday pref·rences for /ə/ where he used [ı] to be seen at society, nationalities, utilising, foreign, possible, alphabet and system. Alongside these schwas, some of which didnt become predominant until the second half of the last century, it's int·resting to see that he'd already adopted one in the second syllable of representation. His dropping of the former schwa from between the /n/ and the /r/ of generally also seems rather modern for his day.
Sweet used a number of diff·rent sets of transcriptional symbols for English at various times. This was one of his last ones but not the last. Seven years later, for his book The Sounds of English, he employed yet another, rather more complicated, symbol set five years before he died in 1912. Anyway, this 1900 choice was evidently the Sweet transcription that Daniel Jones liked best. He adopted it unchanged for all his major books on English with the sole minor exceptions of [ij, ı, uw & ıə] giving [iː, i, e, , ɑː, ɒ, ɔː, ʊ, uː, ᴧ, əː, ə; ei, ou, ai, au, ɔi, iə, ɛə, ʊə]. A totally trivial diff·rence after 1927 was due to the fact that the IPA decided to replace its earlier official sign for 'primary stress' [ ́] with the present [ˈ].
Many English words of two
syllables and almost all longer ones will be found to be subject, under
rhythmic pressure, to articulatory reduction or elision of one or more
of their constituent phonemes. When this occurs to any word the result
is the production of two or more forms of it diff·rent in phonemic
composition. For any of the reduced forms the appropriate term is
'weakform'. For the single original (which might informally be called
the 'unsqueezed') form the term 'strongform' is appropriate. The most
generally known weakforms are those of the 'functor' type meaning those
having important grammatical functions chiefly as determiners (such as
the articles), pronouns, prepositions, connectives and verb
inflections. Attention was originally concentrated on these owing to
their importance for advanced students of English as an additional
language because failure to properly operate them tends to produce
effects of gross forren accent.
borrowing: Continuing our quasi-alphabetical account of weakform words, it may be mentioned that, as far back as our Blog 066, we de·lt with some of the variety of weakforms the word borrowing has. I was particu·ly reminded of them by hearing on BBC Radio 4 the admired broadcaster Evan Davies, the day after the Gover·ment's annual budget presentation, interviewing at length George Osborne our Etonian Chancellor of the Exchequer. [That archaic title which we retain for our gover·ments' finance ministers is a good example of weak·ning of an expression in which, even in normal unhurried enunciation, most of us who usually make ordin·ry r-links tend to lose one (along with its preceding schwa) by making it /ˈʧɑːnsl əv ði ɪks`ʧekə/ thereby saying something that is not audit·rily distinct from the non-existent *Chancel of the Exchequer]. They both time after time used the word borrowing with, as far as I managed to notice, never once giving it the form /`bɒrəʊɪŋ/ — which is the first if not sole form you find for it in any dictionary. It varied between forms which included /`bɒrwɪŋ, `bɒr.rɪŋ/ and even /`bɒrərɪŋ/.
area: Another item in this 'abc' group is the common yod-dropping weakform of area /ɛːrə/ which has increasingly come to my notice in the last couple of decades. It's particu·ly offen to be he·rd from weather forecasters.
being: The form, /`biːɪŋ/, as for any verb ending with /-iː/ that has the present participial ending -ing added to it, is likely at times to become subject to the elision of the vowel of that ending, giving rise to a weakform /biːŋ/. This is far from a recent development: Kökeritz (1953 p191) remarked that monosyllabic "[biːn] seems to have been the regular form of being" for Shakespeare.
been: The word been was given in its OED3 2010 revision of the entry as "past participle been Brit. /biːn/, /bɪn/, U.S. /bin/, /bɪn/, /bɛn/". The two British forms are gen·rally listed in all ref·rence works. It seems that some speakers use both of the two forms alternating them not merely from indecisiveness but in a systematic strongform versus weakform relationship. The Jones EPD from 1917 remarked of the /bɪn/ form that "Some speakers use [it] as a weak form, others use it in all cases." LPD2008 followed suit. All seem agreed that /biːn/ preponderates in current General British usage.
before: Any word beginning with one of the prefixes be-, de-, re- etc may be in the transitional stage of weakening its traditional /bɪ-/ etc to the relatively recent conversion to /bə-/ in the speech of any individual speaker. This is completely outside our topic of weakforms and strongforms alternation as a prosodic process — something we mention here once for all.
As to a genuine weakform of before, in markedly relaxt enunciation a weakform /pfɔː/ may occasionally be he·rd in which the initial /b/ has become devoiced by pre· assimilation to the following /f/ which itself by post· assimilation has been converted to an at least partly bilabial [ɸ].
between: Those who nowadays use tween as a colloquialism, whatever may've been its earlier history— it appears in Shakespeare and Scott — surely perceive it as an informal weakform of between.
but: The conjunction, adverb and preposition etc but has only a single ordinary weakform /bət/. However, before a word beginning with a vowel, a form of but reduced to the consonantal cluster /pt-/ may sometimes occur in relaxt style where the original initial /b/ is devoiced to a /p/ which is merely an unreleased bilabial closure. Meanwhile the release of the /t/ is without aspiration: compare /st-/ etc.