This is the title of #24 of the dialogs of my book People Speaking
for which with this present item I continue to, as was promised,
further phonemic-tonetic transcriptions, with comments, for the use
of advanced students of spoken English. If possible,
it’s best to transfer the contents of the sound file into Audacity (the
freeware audio facility) to be able to
select convenient slices for repeated playback. Section 4.1 provides
descriptions of the tones to be found in the avowedly broad ie
On this occasion no indications of vowel length are offer·d such as
appear redundantly in the common Gimson-style transcriptions of the
main pronouncing dictionaries etc. The symbol /ɛ/ represents the
phoneme more traditionally shown as /ɛə/ or /eə/ but which is now
increasingly recognised as not typically diphthongal in current GB but
most offen [ɛː]. The vertical bar ( | ) signals
a break in the rhythmic flow which will usually may be short or very slight indeed. The
pitch, unless markt otherwise, drops after a bar to the lowish prehead
value of the first syllable of any new utterance not markt otherwise.
At line 1 the aitch-dropping at the word 'have'
is not unusual in informal conversation where, as here, the word is
minimally strest in very fluent utterance. The Fall-Mid tones `- at 'classes' and 'one' indicate a restricted descent from the top third but on·y to the middle third of the speaker's ord·nry voice range.
In line 2 the elision of the final /t/ of 'except' is completely ord·nry before the following consonant.
At line 3 the form /wɪ/ of 'with'
doesnt create the impression of its being a casual weakform becoz the
mere simplification of the sequence of the two occurrences /-ð ð-/ by
eliding the first of them sounds completely ord·nry. Before most other
consonants that were beginning a following word, /wɪ/ wd prob·bly sound quite
At line 4 the bracketed (l) is used to indicate a
'ghostly' (or even dou·tfully present) rather than really firmly articulated segment. In this case an /l/
appears to be used in 'usually'. The tone mark `ˈ at the word 'usually'
is me·nt to convey a narrow fall in the uppermost third of the
speaker's voice ran. I call it a Fall-Alt. (More at my website main
At line 5, the asterisked letter, in this case (*r), at the first word 'there’re' is used with the same sort of meaning as in line 4.
At line 6 the assimilation of the weakform /kn/ of 'can' to /kŋ/ before the closely following /g/ in 'go' is completely ord·nry.
At line 7 the asterisks at the occurrences of the indefinite article 'the' and the word ‘of ’ are also used as in line 4.
In line 8 the strest syllable of the word 'serious' is represented as having the vowel phoneme of words like 'street'.
This p·onunciation is increasingly commonly he·rd from Gen·ral British
speakers but the p·onouncing dictionaries are rather slow to catch up
with the fact, currently on·y giving /ɪə/ for it.
At line 9 the syllabic /m/ with which it begins is converted from the normal syllabic /n/ which is a very common weakform of ‘and’
by a perfec·ly ord·nry assimilation to the bilabial consonant which
begins the following word. Note the extra vigour of the humorously
truculent 'explosive' (praps contemptuous) manner in which this word 'practise' is uttered. The syllabic /n/ in the prefix of 'transcription' is a variant pronunciation much less offen he·rd than /a/ or /ɑ/ plus /n/ in this word.
At line 10 the use of the weakform /an/ of 'and ',
if that's what we have, wou·dnt sound in the least casual. The two
rising tones neednt be taken as at all implying any
pitch or rhythmic discontinuity between the two words, just a smooth transition from low to high.
At line 11 the form /ɑ/ of our is
a weakform for most GB speakers but many have it as their only
pronunciation for the word. Anything stronger such as /ɑʊə/ wd be
inclined to sound unnaturally careful or formal.
At line 12, a much more usual stressing of this sentence wd be as ˈWhat d'you `call this place?’
Which isn· to suggest that there’s anything unnatural about the way she
did say it, even in her use of /wɒʧu/ given the fluency and the informality of the
At line 13 she ovvisly thinks she's he·rd /ˈhaŋəʊvə `lɒʤ /. Or jokingly pretends so.
At line 14 the lack of the past-tense marker /d/ at the end of 'surprised’ isnt surprising. The two initial voiced-aitch symbols etc are used just to
give some vague impression of the indistinct vocalising she produces.
A reader in the south of Ireland has as·t about the p·ənunciation of the vow·l of the final syllable of 'Elizabeth'. He explained his uncert·nty saying "In
RP/conservative RP, does the final syllable of Elizabeth have the KIT
vowel or schwa? Being Irish, I have the Weak Vowel Merger and am
haltingly uncertain about which vowel is found in this word in those
accents without the merger. I tried to find the answer on the internet
but because it's a proper name it's very difficult to get information."
I sympathise deeply with that last comment. In the period from 1857 to
1882 when the members of the "Philological Society of London" were
deliberating on what shd go into their "New English Dictionary on Historical Principles"
which is now the great 'OED', they made one momentously important
decision which was praps understandable at the time but was most
unfortunate for posterity: they decided to omit all names of persons or
places which hadnt come to have generic or non-proprietary values. This
denied us the rich etymological and historical etc matter we might
otherwise have today — tho the OED wdve ended as an even heftier
collection than it now is.
The nearest thing to such provision we've had since is the excellent American 'Century Cyclopedia of Names'
first publisht in 1880 (in a single volume) and reissued in three
volumes in 1954. This did supply pronunciations and etymologies but not
the kind of extended historical data we get from the OED. It's since
not been revised or even reprinted but it did retail to me the usually
accepted if not totally convincing opinion that Elizabeth originated from a variant of the Biblical name 'Elisheba' (for which it gave the pronunciation /i`lɪʃəbə/). Cruden'sConcordance to the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible (1996) records 'Elisabeth' as occurring half a dozen times in the New Testament (and Elisheba once in Exodus).
The Tudor Queen Elizabeth was named after her grandmother Elizabeth of
York (1466–1503). In fact it's fairly clear that this Semitic word
entered our language via French in the e·rly Middle English period.
This provenance means that it wdve been pritty cert·n to've initially
been widely pronounced as [elisabet]. Anyway, that wd explain why
there've been various originally hypocoristic versions developed like Bet, Betty, Lisbet, Betsy and at one time curiously Tettie.
This last one was what Samuel Johnson's wife was called, so one
gathers. It's now been abandoned praps partly coz it uncumf·tably
Unlike various other words ending with the spelling eth, Elizabeth
(regardless of whether it's spelt with z or s) shows no earlier
versions with /-ɪθ/. Excepting the OED, no publications before the
twentieth century can be trusted for their representations of unstrest
terminations. This was so even as regards Melville Bell. Henry Sweet very highly respected
him but cou·dnt refrain from criticising him for his failure to resist
his "artificial elocutionary habits" in that respect (Handbook of Phonetics 1877 fn p.111). So we turn, for the only reliable earlier evidence available, to the 1917 first edition of the Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary for information on the development of words ending with -eth. He recorded on·y /-əθ/ for Elizabeth.
Apart from the eight ordinal numerals, twentieth to ninetieth, all of which have EPD1 /-ɪɪθ (±-jɪθ)/ only, our suffix -eth
for the most part ends little more than a few rare non-proper words.
The ones with some currency include one well-known personal name, Kenneth, with EPD1 /-ɪθ/ only, and one well-known place name Lambeth with /-əθ/ only. Slightly less common items were Elspeth with /e, ɪ/, Hesketh with /ɪ, e & ə/, Lisbet with /ɪ, e/, Lisbeth with /ɪ, e, ə/, Nazareth with /ɪ, ə/, and shibboleth
with on·y /e/. Besides these there exist in Britain three dozen or more
minor place names of which EPD1 c·ntained hardly more than Merioneth with /ɪ, e & ə/ and Toxteth with /e, ə/.
Merging tendencies proceed, we see, from the later twentieth
century onwards. We find increasing additional adoption of /ə/ or even
preference for it over /ɪ/. Examples of this are now accessible
in the latest editions of EPD (2011) and LPD (2008). In these, both Elizabeth and Lambeth are unchanged, and so is the first choice for shibboleth, yet nowadays both EPD and LPD add /ə & ɪ / for it. We find added /ə/ at all the ordinals (eg twentieth) and Kenneth. At Elspeth, Hesketh,Lisbet and Nazareth /ə/ is now at least preferred by both dictionaries. Merioneth shows very slight lack of agreement, EPD giving /ɪ, e ə/ but LPD /ə, ɪ, e/. So does Toxteth
with EPD having /e, ə/ and LPD /ə, ɪ, e/. I myself can never remember
hearing anything much diff·rent from these (except that I think /-iəθ/
is now more usual for the ordinals in GB these days) — and cert·n·y
never anything but
/-əθ/ in Elizabeth from any General British or other speakers of any age.
Just publisht this past month, is this title by Lynda Mugglestone,
Professor of the History of English at Pembroke College, Oxford. She's
a lively, energetic character who no dou·t found it refreshing to write
a short book. Her 360-page Talking Proper: The Rise of Accent
was so densely packed with evidence for her (not exac·ly exciting)
observations that I struggled to finish reading it. This present book
is one of an OUP quite extensive series of 'very short introductions'
ranging from Anaesthaesia to Agnosticism and Advertising in the A's alone. Her contribution to the series is still 160 pages long. If you go here
you shou·d with any luck be to able see a lively YouTube
two-and-a-half-minute ovvisly impromptu monolog in which the lady
enthusiasticly describes her book, sitting cheerfully in a corner of a
bookshop — and hardly stopping to draw breath.
Any phonetician ʃd register at once that she's a near-enuff GB speaker
(with a few odd flickers of the North) and cert·nly can't be accused of having what most of the users of the
term mean by an "Oxford" accent. As to the particular features of her
articulatory performance, she's a good example of a not uncommon minor
group of extreme labiodentalisers. This type is never mentioned in
books that describe General British (GB is still called 'RP' chiefly by
the old guard) typical/orthodox articulations. For many who have it,
it's an inevitable consequence of their dentition, but for prob·bly
about as many others it's simply habitual. It can offen be difficult or
even impossible to decide in which of the two groups to place an
individual speaker. I think she fairly clearly belongs in the latter
one. We see strai·taway that she labiodentalises the tees of tend to, the dee of idiom, the ess of say, the ell of look, the arr of underestimate and the edh of at least one of the the's. Also there's the simply labiodentalised arr of re-think and the two arrs of "really, really"
the first of which is initially plano-bilabialised (ie
not-circulo-labialised, meaning not 'lip-rounded') as well as (presumably)
labiodentalised. However, these things — not surprisingly — have
little or no effect on intelligibility. This is so for a number of
other articulatory styles which are unorthodox in that they get no
mentions in the textbooks for speakers looking for information on
English articulations for purposes such as acquiring of an authentic
pronunciation of English as an additional language. And reasonably so,
because they simply arnt usually noticed at all by either native or
As to the phonological int·rest of what one might term her
good-tempered rant, for one thing she demonstrates forcefully another
corroboration of my offen-harpt-on assertion that people do accent the
GB schwa vowel when she twice sez emphaticly /`ðə dɪkʃnri/. Another
phrase of note is "as though there's only one dictionary"
which comes out as /əz `ðə ðəz əni ˎwᴧn dɪkʃn̩ri/. This has one
weakform I dont particu·ly remember noticing before (tho it doesnt
strike one as abnormal GB) namely /ðəʊ/ reduced to /ðə/. Also never
recorded as GB in the lit·rature is her /əni/ for only which I was much more aware of. So, for once at least, the practicly universal and extremely frequent ell-less weakform of only (as
I feel obliged to insist at ev·ry opportunity to counter the CEPD and ODP
negligence and LPD (1 & 2 but not 3) refusal to reco·nise it as 'RP') was thus replaced
by an even weaker form.
She has one or two striking turns of phrase etc as when she asks the
lissener to consider, of dictionaries, "Do they move from the
beginning,from clay tablets, to our modern tablets". And when she
mentions some dictionaries which used to have only hard words in them,
she gives an example that might make your hair stand on end. It's "acersecomic" meaning 'one whose hair was never cut'. For a scholar whose chair is in the history of the language I found her pronunciation of the word as /əˈkɜːsə`kɒmɪk/ (like 'a curse a comic')
a bit off. The word was evidently not borrowed directly from Greek
because it shows the Greek kappa, as normally happened with Greek words
borrowed into Latin, converted to 'c'. This, coming before 'e', was
regularly 'softened' to /s/ as we see in ceramic, ceratite, hydrocephalic, triceratops etc. So its original seventeenth-century borrowers cd be sure to've expected/me·nt it to be pronounced /əˈsɜːsɪ`kɒmɪk/.
This has not been a review of the book but merely some impressions that
it and its promotional concomitants have made on me. A further thing I
noticed came in reading its first chapter — which I found enjoyable and
was pleas·ntly provided for us to be able to sample the book in some detail. It
was at the discussions about what dictionaries shou·d include. The
question was as·t regarding pronunciations "Should the dictionary-maker use the International Phonetic Alphabet so that vaccine is, for instance, transcribed as / ́vӕksin/, vaccinate as / ́vӕksineit/."
(If any reader imagines that I might want to criticise the writer for
having no question mark at the end of that sentence, I shd say that
it's perfec·ly reas·nable to regard it as superfluous added to an
expression that's already grammatically explicitly interrogative so I
presence as a matter of the writer's taste.) The next paragraph
contained a parenthetic question "(is it ‘prevaricate or pre’varicate, for example?)".
These items showed weaknesses regarding either proofreading or of IPA
alphabet handling of sev·ral kinds. At the first pair a style of
stressmark was used twice that the IPA abandoned in 1925; for the
second pair two diff·rently curving single quotation-type marks were
used in a way that neither has ever been authorised by the IPA.
Additionally the two full transcriptions / ́vӕksin/ and / ́vӕksineit/ appear to be in mutually discordant styles neither of
which has ever been used for the OED unless the first is to be taken to
represent an American pronunciation. Finally, the remark "... the decision in British dictionaries for much of the 20th century to base information on an accent known as 'receivedpronunciation'served .. to exclude some 95% of the population" was to my mind disingenuous, tendentious and of questionable accuracy.
Our thanks to John Maidment who's once agen putting all le·rners,
teachers and other EAL (English-as-an-Additional-Language) users in his
de·t by providing us with useful new sets of elegantly presented 'English Pronunciation Tips'.
Our blogs, as you may've noticed, are aim·d at advanced le·rners,
teachers and others who may be int·rested in English pronunciation and
its hist·ry. Here we offer to our readers a few footnotes to some of
John's enjoyable 'tips'
His first set offers helpful guidance on the letter sequence <al> pointing out that, if it's "followed
by the consonant letters <f>, <v> or <m>, it's
often the case that the <l> is silent and the vowel is pronounced
ɑː". He gives first the examples "calf, calves, calve, half, halve, halves" (involving labiodental consonants) and then "balm, almond, calm, palm, psalm"
(involving the bilabial nasal). Words of more than one syllable are not
so likely to have the 'silent' ells (that rather unfortunately remain
as reminders of their historical elision) because the labial consonant
following the ell may not have belonged in the same syllable. So we see
that the exotic plant (whose name begins with the Arabic definite
article) alfalfa /ӕl`fӕlfə/ and the forename Alfred /`ӕlfrᵻd/ do have theirs sounded.
Our use of the symbol "ᵻ" at the unstrest syllable of this last example
is not strictly-speaking authorised by the IPA but follows the
precedent set in 1944 in the Kenyon-&-Knott PDAE (Pronouncing Dictionary of American English)
which adopted it for a value that varied between [ɪ] and [ə] by a
procedure comparable to the formulation of the official IPA
symbol [ɨ] which indicates a central vowel related to [i]. ODP (the
2001 Upton-et-al Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation)
also employed it, as we do here, to indicate conveniently the
possibility of either /ɪ/ or /ə/. It also happens that, where this type
of variation exists, it's found that cert·n numbers of speakers
habitually produce in such words a vowel quality intermediate between
the two values.
John also sez "If the letter
following the <al> sequence is <k>, again the <l> is
silent, but the vowel is pronounced ɔː. Examples:chalk stalk talk walk". Agen the only exception seems to be a polysyllable viz alkaline.
(Incident·ly, the immigrant fam·ly of the famous American scientist who
discovered the Salk /sɔːk/ polio vaccine wou·dve been unlikely to've
rhymed their name originally withtalk.) The adjective balmy has no /l/. It means 'fragrant and/or soothing' and also has the informal sense 'stupid' in which it's also offen spelt barmy. Two other less common words, both of which gen·rally turn up in their plural forms, are the old-fashioned alms meaning gifts made to the poor (dwellings for such people used to be called 'almshouses') and qualms (misgivings). A very modern word is the name napalm / `neɪpɑːm/ for the ghastly bombs made from jellied petrol.
Another word in this 'silent-ell' group, but one which has /ӕ/ not /ɑː/ is, as John mentions, salmon. The similar name Salmond hasnt got the same origin but is a variant of the name Solomon. It got its /d/ in the way words like sound and astound
acquired theirs when people were confused for some centuries about
whether to use one or the other and finally plumped for the versions
that, as was no dou·t not realised, didnt have d's in their Latin
original forms. Various English dialects similarly have drownd instead of the standard form drown. The names Balmer, Chalmers and Balmforth have no /l/ but Balmoral, Dalmatian and Falmouth have.
I completely agree with John when he tells learners that almond has as its usual GB (Gen·ral British) pronunciation /`ɑːmənd/. John Wells's LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary)
is the pronouncing dictionary I find most indispensable if on·y becoz
it usually lets you know if speakers in Britain have any other
'respectable' alternative pronunciations that are commonly used but
more or less markedly perceived as regionalisms. These are identified
by "§" in LPD. It happens that millions of Brits happen to say the word almond as /ӕlmənd/ or /ɑːlmənd/ as in fact most Americans do. The kind of calendar called an almanac
/`ɔːlmənӕk/ varies similarly on both sides of the Atlantic. My
advice to teachers is — unless they have plenty of time to spare to
have a little discussion about the matter that they feel their students
wd enjoy — if it's any of these alternatives that they hear their
students using, it's not worth wasting time 'correcting' them.
Some readers may remember my Blog 419 on the 'Baneful Boxes' a painful rash of which suddenly broke out in the latest edition of the CEPD (Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary). A typical one of these presumably sub-editors'
feeble attempts to jazz the CEPD up with miscellaneous superfluous
chatty notes in prominent 'boxes' was aimed at the word almond where they make the fatuous remark that "The pronunciation /ˈɑːlmənd/ is considered to be a case of spelling pronunciation."
So what? Very many thousands of other English words have also undergone
the same sort of development but the EPD has always up till the present
on·y been a record of how words are pronounced not of anecdotes about
the history of how they came to take their present forms or to embody
hints about the dou·tfulness of their status. One can on·y hope the
next edition of the CEPD has these tiresome intrusions removed.
A very small number of GB monosyllabic high-frequency words ending in a short vowel followed by /t/ are inclined to take a weaken·d
value for that /t/ when the word comes before a following vocalic
phoneme. This is becoming in recent decades very noticeably offen
to a short voiced tap [ɾ] or even more often approximant [ɹ]
articulation. The handful of words subject to this tendency which I
prefer to refer to as ‘/t/ softening’ seem to be only but, get, got, put, that [rarely other than as /ðət/], and what.
Our fellow bloggist John Maidment at the 24th of May 2012 sed that, tho we know it"in North American accents",he wondered how many of us know of
a".. home-grown British phenomenon that turns t into ɹ?.. The pop
singer .. Cilla Black, who comes from Liverpool, is well-known .. for
the phrase “a lorra .. laughs”.
John Wells commented "I think I
was the first person to write about this phenomenon: Accents of English
p. 370, 374 (vol. 2), where I call it the t-to-r rule. It’s certainly
restricted to the environment of a preceding short vowel..."
I chimed in with "In respect of the dating of the earliest comments
on the phenomenon of the weakening of intervocalic /t/ to [ɹ], it was
well known to various nineteenth-century dialectologists. Joseph
Wright’s English Dialect Grammar of 1905 at §205 had this comment: “The change of final t to r in monosyllables with short stem-vowel occurs sporadically in most parts of Eng[land]
when the next word begins with a vowel, as \ger əm\ get them [etc]. It
occurs far more frequently in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the north
Midlands than elsewhere”.
I was surrounded by it growing up in
Cardiff (where it occurred wholesale on very many words) and my impression is that I hear it occasionally but
increasingly from various GB and near-GB speakers among whom I’ve noted
Lord Lamont and other N(ear)GB Scots and the BBC’s old-Marlburian Correspondent Hugh Pym."
going As we sed of doing,
this participle has a relaxt-style variant form with accented schwa
/ˈgəɪŋ/ probably to be regarded as 'Conspicuous (ie upper-class) GB' as ['gəɪŋ] and
certn·ly so as ['gë̞ɪŋ].
gonna This entry is supplement·ry to our Blog 348.
This, as a spelling, appears in the OED first in its Supplement of 1933 with the description "colloq. (esp. U.S.) or vulgar pronunciation of going to" and supplies quotes from 1913 onwards in apparently only US writers. The only pronunciation OED gave, /ˈɡɒnə/,
was misleading — for Brits at least. A satisfactory British account of
its pronunciation had to wait till the first edition of the Wells LPD
where the entry for the spelling first gave "(ˈ)gənə"
with the bracketed stressmark indicating possible accentuation of the
following syllable (despite Wells's insistence that
GB schwa is unaccentable) and next sed "There is no real RP strong form for this informal contraction ofgoing to" followed by the very pertinent remark that "spelling pronunciations ˈgɒnə, ˈgᴧnə are sometimes used in reading".
These came about because the British writers had adopted from
American usage a spelling which reflected faithfully a cert·n US
strongform pronunciation but not a GB one. Anyway, weakform pronunciations on both sides of the
Atlantic have probably chiefly been /gənu/ before vocalic sounds (ie
not consonantal ones whether of phonemes or [ʔ]). Lexicographers in
gen·ral have been slow to take up such items. It wasnt in Webster 1961
and it's still not in the online Webster but in 1966 Random House had
it as [`gɔnə].
A less frequent less compressed variant /`gəʊnə/ occurs,
to some extent, at least among GB speakers. This was to be noted
the 6th of Feb·ry 2013 from David Cameron. This last form
can't replace the full form of 'going to' in the sense 'make one's way
to'. GB speakers use /gənə ~ gənu/ only in the
future-tense-forming sense not in the sense 'make one's way to'.
good The problem with describing GB occurrences of this word is that a
generation or two ago the form /gəd/ cou·dve been safely classified as, in mainstream GB,
a weakform mostly confined to casually uttered items like /ˈgəd
ˏmɔːnɪŋ/ Good morning. Nowadays /gəd/ seems t've largely replaced /gʊd/
among the non-elderly as the mainstream form — as part of a general tendency to turn the vowel /ʊ/ into something nearer to a fully central vowel.
goodbye As a farewell this is recorded by both CEPD and LPD as having a
weakform produced by elision of its /d/ viz /ˈgʊˈbaɪ/ tho neither
mentions the schwa version(s) /ˈgə(b)ˈbaɪ/.
got is a member of that small group of monosyllables, mentioned at
'get' above, when eg I've got togo becomes /aɪ(v) gɒd~r ə `gəʊ/. Those
who use either of these (/d/ or /r/) variants in such cases dont ever
make them firmly or anything but shortly and lightly articulated. Observed used by eg politician Christopher Patten.
have The three major (British) pronunciation dictionaries all fail to
record any use of the aitchless weakform /av/ of main-verb, not auxiliary, have which is perfectly
common in both GB and GA mainly in informal styles, especially where it's
preceded by the weakform /t/ of to eg within phrases like I shd
like to have a look at it /aɪ ʃd ˈlaɪk t av ə `lʊk ət ɪt/. In relatively formal styles this /av/ seems to be more common in
American use than in British. Recent public-address examples to be heard have been "a
reminder as to why we have /af/ to remain vigilant" from Hilary Clinton