Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
|01/03/2016||Discussion of People Speaking 36||#510|
|15/02/2016||Eating Choices People Speaking 36||#509|
|11/02/2016||Weakforms (xiv) him||#508|
|27/01/2016||Pronunciation Matters People Speaking 35||#507|
|19/12/2015||OED Gets Great New Features||#506|
|24/09/2015||Words with Changing Stresses||#504|
|23/08/2015||A Trifling Detail of Orthography PS 48||#503|
|07/08/2015||Variant Word Forms||#502|
|28/07/2015||Journalists under Fire PS 34||#501|
The People Speaking transcribed passages are offered for study to fairly advanced users of English as a for·ren language. Readers of these Blogs are reminded of the caution included at the introduction to·o them that they may contain from time to time experimental unorthodox spellings. These are usually better or more appropriate spellings which have been current variants up to the seventeenth century but subsequently became rejected in the first place by editors of printed matter. When publication of such matter became easier and cheaper to produce and hugely increased in quantity these editors found it much more convenient to them to prescribe to their typesetters a single spelling for every word. The choices made were not for many words always good ones but, being the only ones on offer, have become universally accepted as the only ‘correct’ ones. The variants I use here may often remind the advanced EFL student to be aware that a ‘correct’ spelling may suggest an incorrect pronunciation. Examples have occurred in our first sentences above. The word /`fɒrən/ was earlier often spelt with no <g>. This was inserted rather pointlessly as a reminder of its presumed original form. The word ‘to’ has /tu/ as its strongform and /tə/ as its usual weakform in GB. Its strongform /tu/ occurs unaccented but rhythmically strest at our wording ‘the intro`duction ˌto them’
You see that our text begins with the word transcribed /wɛ/. Those who mark vowel lengths in their transcriptions, wd show it as /wɛː/. Most transcribers of the General British accent (from 1926 widely called Received Pronunciation) in the first half of the last century and earlier rightly took this vowel to be diphthongal and accordingly transcribed it /ɛə/ or latterly simplified to /eə/. However, from the middle of the last century its diphthongal pronunciation cou·d be heard to be becoming less and less usual except when it was employed by some speakers at stressed word endings. The result was that phoneticians may now simply recommend a completely non-diphthongal pronunciation for the phoneme as the most suitable target for EFL users, notably among them the authors of the leading undergraduate textbook Practical Phonetics and Phonology by B. S. Collins and I. M. Mees. If you know John Wells’s 2006 book English Intonation, you’ll see that the intonation notation used here follows the same broad tradition as that book did but attempts to give less rudimentary indications of falls and rises and their compounds. On the other hand it takes it for granted that the climax (aka nuclear) tones are easily identifiable without underlining.
1. Where can I get a good meal here?
/ ˈwɛ | kən aɪ get ə ˈgʊd ˎmil hɪə/
2. That depends how much you’re willing to pay.
/ ˈðat | dɪpen(d)z ˈhaʊ ˈmᴧʧ | jɔ ˈwɪlɪn tə `peɪ/
Symbols in brackets indicate sounds that may not be present or audible. The word ‘willing’ usually ends with /ŋ/ but here assimilating anticipation of the alveolar articulation required for the following /t/ has caused the speaker to convert the final nasal of the word from velar to alveolar.
3. Naturally! But I mean not costing the earth. You know.
/ `naʧrəlɪ | bət aɪ ˏmin | ˈnɒt ˈkɒstɪŋ ði `ɜθ | ˈju ˏnəʊ /
The older longer form /naʧərəli/ with two schwas is nowadays much less usual. It’s not very unusual for a speaker who normally wd end such a word with /-i/ to use /-ɪ/ by way of producing the ‘paralinguistic’ expressive effect of briskness. The final /t/ of the word but is articulated very quickly so that the aspiration that characteristically accompanies a GB /t/ isn’t to be heard. This makes it, so to speak, half way to a /d/. GB speakers do this sort of thing mainly only with monosyllabic function words like ‘but’. GA speakers do it with all kinds of words and not necessarily so quickly so that it’s become so indistinguishable from a /d/ that that's how it's become represented in the Webster dictionaries. British pronunciation dictionaries have adopted [t̬] (with the IPA subscript voicing indicator ̬ ) for this American sound. GB often, at medium tempo in a few such words, converts the /t/ not into a /d/ but an /r/. It's better for the EFL speaker not to adopt this.
4. Well! There’re some very nice Italian places if you like your pasta.
/ `wel | ðɛ sm ˈveɪ ˈnaɪs | ɪ`taljən ˏpleɪsɪz | ɪf ju `laɪk jɔ `ˏpastə/
This speaker very colloquially not only omits the word ‘are’ (shortened to ‘re’ here) but also the final /r/ of ‘there’. And in the very next word omits the /r/ of ‘very’! Not so very uncommon a thing to do.
5. Good! How about more exotic still?
/ `ɡʊd | ˈhɑˈbɑʊt | mɔr əɡzɒtɪk ˎstɪl /
Here the two words ‘how’ and ‘about’ have in effect coalesced into a single word. Many words such as ‘hour’ containing the sequence /aʊ+ə/ smooth it out into a central variety of /ɑː/.
The word ‘exotic’ is in OED /ᵻɡˈzɒtɪk/, /ɛɡˈzɒtɪk/. The notation /ᵻ/ is non-committal about whether /ɪ/ or /ə/ is the more usual version.
6. Hmm. We’ve got one of the best Chinese places north of London. Called the Jumbo.
[ʔhᴧm] / wiv ˈɡɒt | wᴧn ə ðə ˈbest ʧaɪ`niz ˏpleɪsɪz | nɔθ əv `ˏlᴧndən | kɔld ðə `ˏʤᴧmbəʊ.
As it’s a phonemic transcription, I’ve shown the beginning of her turn with /h/ but it's no ordinary aspirate but more like gentle growl or throat clearing with some friction back enuff to be pharyngeal.
It’s very usual for the phrase one of the to contain the weakform /ə/ of its of.
7. Strange name! I’d’ve thought it was Indian or African with a name like that.
/ˏstreɪnʒ ˎneɪm | `aɪdəv θɔt ɪt (w)əz `ɪndiən | ɔ `afrɪkən | wɪð ə neɪm laɪk `ˈðat /
One wd usually expect the phrase ‘or African’ to contain a linking /r/ unless the speaker was making a slight pause between the two words. Its absence here feels like a sort of ghost of a pause. The notation / `ˈðat / indicates a fall but an incomplete one that only goes about half way down.
8. It’s a genuine Chinese name, apparently.
/ɪts ə `ˏʤenjuɪn | ʧaɪniz `neɪm | əˏparntli /
Many people say that you never get an /r/ before a consonant in GB. Here’s an example of a common type of word that contradicts them where a schwa has dropt out before the /n/ of apparently.
9. And you recommend it?
/and ju rekə`ˏmend ɪt / The conjunction and here by its strongform suggests very slight hesitation.
10. Absolutely. Simple setting but excellent cooking.
/ˏapsə`lutli | ˈsɪmpl ˎˏsetɪŋ | bət `ˏʔeksələnt ˎkʊkɪŋ /
This form of absolutely with /p/ instead of /b/ is a very common.The [ʔ] glottal stop strictly speaking has no ‘bizness’ in a phonemic transcription.
11. Haven’t you got any Indian restaurants?
/ ˈhavnt ju ˈɡɒt | eni `ɪndiən ˏrestrɒ̃z / This last word is commonly often naturalised to forms like /`restrɔnt/ etc.
12. Yes, indeed.. A few.. In fact.. Well.. You know the story about the Indian who wasnt
/ `jes ɪn`did | ə `ˏfju | ɪn ˈfakt | ˎˏwel | ju ˈnəʊ ðə ˈstɔri | abaʊt ði `ˏɪndiən | hu ˎwɒznt
exactly a success at his exams and gave his qualification as ‘BA Lucknow Failed’?
ɪɡˎzakli ə səkˎses ət ɪz ɪɡ`ˏzamz | ən ɡeɪv ɪz kwɒlfɪ`keɪʃn əz ˈbi ˈeɪ `ˏlᴧknɑʊ `ˏfeɪld /
13. Oh, yes. / ˈəʊ ˏ jes /.
14. Well. This place could be called ‘Good Food Guide:Failed’
/ `ˏwel | ˈðɪs ˈpleɪs | ˈkʊd ˈbi ˈkɔld | ˈɡʊd ˈfud ˎˏɡaɪd | ˎfeɪld /
15. You mean they were examined but didn’t get in.
/ ˈju ˈmin | ðeɪ wər ɪɡ`zamɪnd | bət dɪd n get ˎɪn /
16. No. They were actually in a year or two back, er but they’ve been dropped since.
/ `ˏnəʊ | ðeɪ wər ˈakʧli `ɪn | ə jɜr ɔ tu `ˏbak | ə bət ðeɪv bɪn ˎdrɒpt | ˎsɪns /
17. Why? / `waɪ /
18. Well… Don’t think it was the food. More likely disapproval of the decor, I imagine.
/ˏˈwel | `dəʊn θɪŋk ɪt wəz ðə `ˏfud | ˈmɔ ˈlaɪkli | ˈdɪsəˈpruvl | əv ðə `dekɔr | aɪ ɪˏmaʤən /
Speaking very colloquially, she drops the I that speakers usually begin such a sentence with and also drops the /t/ from the word don’t.
The pronoun him was included in 1885 by Henry Sweet in his Elementarbuch des Gesprochenen Englisch supplying the original list of sixty-five words he included under the heading ‘gradation’ giving ‘the most important weak forms ranged under the corresponding strong forms’
at pp 23 to 25. It is of course one of the most frequent words in the
English language. Altho its spelling begins with aitch, it is, from its
nature as an objective pronoun, relatively infrequently accented so
that its usual form is aitchless /ɪm/ unless used contrastively. The corresponding reflexive pronoun himself is even more regularly heard without initial /h/. The usual unselfconscious pronunciation of He’s hurt himself wd be /iz `hɜt mmself/. (Stressed /h/ begins the word immediately following He’s so that here pref·rence for DISSIMILATIVE ELISION of /h/ operates with the effect that the aitch is omitted from He’s. The word himself is usually unaccented and mostly has no aitch). Very occasionally in extremely casual style him may be reduced to /m/ as when I saw him in his house may be reduced to /aɪ sɔm ɪn ɪz haʊs/.
OED has an entry at ‘hisself’ saying ‘Probably a variant or alteration of another lexical item… Probably an alteration of himself pron., with substitution of his adj. for the first element, after myself pron. and thyself’. It gives the pronunciations Brit. /hɪzˈsɛlf/ , /hᵻˈsɛlf/ , U.S. /hɪzˈsɛlf/ , /hᵻˈsɛlf/ accompanied by an audio for only the second supplied British form. The transcription is /hᵻˈsɛlf/ whose second symbol barred small capital ᵻ ‘represents free variation between /ɪ/ and /ə/’. The speaker opts for the schwa variant which, as it happens, produces a version identical with the usual pronunciation of ‘herself’. Cruttenden, in the latest (2014) edition of his acknowledgedly classic revisions of Gimson’s Pronunciation of English at page 274 newly includes, besides the well known unaccented form of himself /ɪm`self/ a variant /ɪz`self/ the use of which he illustrates with ‘(he did it himself /hi dɪd ɪt ɪz`self/)’. One welcomes this realistic account of what may be taken to be a not uncommon variant. No dou·t similarly common is /ɪ`self/ a slightly further reduced form. I can imagine eyebrows raised by those who associate the spelling ‘hisself’ only with illiteracy. OED far from condemning it labels it as ‘Chiefly colloq. and regional in later use’.
This title of PS3 is given without any intonation marking because, like so many others of the titles of the People Speaking
passages, it involves something called a ‘play on words’ (or ‘pun’)
depending on the fact that there are two (if not more) possible
interpretations of it in order to make a very mild little joke.
Pronounced with accentuation only of the first word thus
/prəˈnᴧnsi`eɪʃn matəz/ it is a compound consisting of two nouns uttered
with normally no interruption of the rhythmic flow uniting them, the
meaning of which may be exprest as ‘things associated with
pronunciation’. The alternative interpretation spoken eg as
/prəˈnᴧnsi`ˏeɪʃn | `matəz/, with a slight interruption of its smooth
rhythmic continuity occurring after the Fall-Rise tone ending the first
word, is not a compound of two nouns but a noun followed by a
verb amounting to a short sentence meaning ‘pronunciation is
The transcription used for the most part follows the Gimson phonemic type that has been popular for representing GB (General British) pronunciation throughout the last three or more decades except that it dispenses with the length marks (which may be considered optional) and brings it more up to date by changing /æ/ to /a/ and /eə/ to /ɛ/. The style sounds rather less relaxed than in most conversations. This is hardly surprising when their topic is correctness of speech.
Occurrences of the vertical bar ‘|’ indicate at least very slight breaks in the smooth rhythmic flow of the utterance.
Sounds in brackets were, if articulated by the speaker at all, so weakly uttered as to be more or less inaudible.
Speaker-Turn 5 ends with a fairly unusual feature that can be
regarded as a rhetorical variant of the falling-rising type of complex
tone. I call it a Slump-Alt. After the Head tones ie the two
successive Falls on never and heard
the climax tone is a combination of a Slump (ie a low fall) and an Alt
(ie a an upper level tone). Its brisk dismissive effect ending on high
short level pitch is one of the indications of the fact that this
dialog is not an ordinary conversational exchange but an argument. This
type of complex tone occurs again at Turn 7 with the final word then
very weakly uttered.
In Turn 6 the response also contains falling-rising tones. The first
is a classic Fall-Rise in this case with the unaccented word have taking its (praps slightly more formal) full form rather than its weakform /əv/. The second, on the word north, is what we may call a Fall-Rise-Climb because its rising second element continues from her Low into her High range.
Turn 8 shows the speaker treating it isn’t as if it were a compound word whose second syllable begins with the /t/ of it as its being aspirated suggests. This is the completely normal way in which this phrase is pronounced as is also the phrase it is. The /t/ of the adverbial phrase at all very often receives the same treatment.
At Turn 10 note that the speaker says the phrase most of them so rapidly that she uses the very common extra-weak weakform of of with no /v/.
I’ve always been fortunate to have a good dictionary available to me. The earliest one was a copy my father bought, when I was about six years old, of the 1932 edition of the New English Dictionary edited by Earnest A. Baker (1869-1941) which had been first published in 1919. Baker, born in Bath and a UCL graduate, was a librarian and also a prolific writer whose works included a ten-volume History of the English Novel and the popular Cassell’s French Dictionary first published in 1920. He ended his career as the first Director of the University of London School of Librarianship. I still have that copy of his New English Dictionary. It was rather larger than the Concise Oxford English Dictionary of its day. It had quite good etymologies and a very effective simple system of indicating pronunciations in the long tradition of superscribing letters with disambiguating diacritics (dots, breves, macrons and a diaeresis) still commonly used especially in America.
For my sixteenth birthday I was given a copy the of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, a splendid work in two very large volumes, shorter only by comparison with the great Oxford English Dictionary whose first completed edition was issued in a set of thirteen hefty volumes in 1933. This set of the unabridged OED was my parents’ gift to me on my twenty-first birthday. These volumes were so heavy that when I moved into a home of my own I had a mahogany bookcase made to take them. The width I decided on for it left me with about nine inches free at the end of the deep shelf they occupied. I had nothing specific in mind for that extra space at the time but it turned out to be oddly prophetic. Twenty years later under the editorship of friendly Robert Burchfield, with whom I had stimulating discussions in the seventies, there began to appear a further four large major supplementary volumes (between 1971 and 1986). Curiously enough they turned out quite exactly to fill that remaining shelf space. The next versions of the OED I was to come by were on computer discs. Nowadays my almost daily resorting to its treasure house of now over 600,000 words has happily become really comfortable via the internet.
At one stage of the preparations for the digitising of the OED text I asked John Simpson (who became Chief Editor from 1993 to 2013) at his office in the OUP’s Oxford Walton Street premises whether it was intended that the new edition would incorporate access to Murray’s original, admittedly very complicated, phonetic transcriptions after they had been substituted with something more suitable. I could hardly say that I was surprised to hear that there were no such plans but my disappointment was subsequently somewhat mitigated when I found that at times entries did quote actual original Murray versions.
There were other far more important advances that I have been hoping would take place. Most desirable of all, I’ve been inclined to think, would be added ‘audio’ versions along with the phonetically transcribed pronunciations. This would be a massive undertaking but was beginning to look a bit more of an eventual possibility when from the earlier nineteen-nineties a growing number of EFL dictionaries were providing audio first from discs and finally in the present century online. (See my article ‘Phonetics in advanced learner's dictionaries’ ⁋⁋18-22 of section 5.10. on this website.) The Concise Oxford Dictionary had in some editions been accompanied by a disc and in the last year or so audio pronunciations had become a feature of a new online dictionary with the gratuitously confusing title of Oxford Dictionaries. It has concerned itself exclusively with current forms of the language and should surely be given some such title as declares that fact as did the presumably now abandoned 2001 ODP in its full designation The Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English.
I had been aware that for a year or two some words were from time to time appearing with audio pronunciations on a web page I only come across occasionally headed Oxford Dictionaries/Language Matters. They didn’t seem to have been extracted from any existing dictionary. Then only a week or two back I unexpectedly, suddenly, incredulously but delightedly actually came upon numbers of very generally distributed entries in OED3 online equipped with audio pronunciations. Their spoken versions may be heard by clicking on the right-pointing white triangle inside a dark blue square which precedes at least one of the corresponding phonetic transcriptions for each word.
Another welcome new feature is the provision of strips of eight dots indicating which frequency-of-occurrence band the word belongs to. The higher the frequency (in current use since 1970) the more of the bullets are coloured red from left to right like this: ••••••••
Neither of these features can be copied into a manuscript as yet at least. If you try to, you get useless bits of mainly unintelligible code. There are fully detailed explanations of the design of the occurrence bands.
Yet another feature that one has often regretted the unavailability of has now been very effectively introduced. It is the ‘Did you mean’ question, which one has been so pleased to profit from in Google, now capable (when a typo or misspelling has occurred) of replacing the old often irritating e.g. No dictionary entries found for ‘definately’ with the welcome
Did you mean:
It’s rather surprising to see no fanfares heralding the arrival of these excellent new features. No doubt some will appear soon.
Not long after my writing the above my attention was drawn by Petr Rösel to 300-plus words undated Release Note on the new audio prounciations from the OED 'Head of Pronunciations' Dr Catherine Sangster via http://public.oed.com/the-oed-today.
An old fr·end of this blog, Tami Date, has as·t about the intonation of B’s first sentence in the following exchange:
A: You know, you shouldn’t smoke so much.
B: You can talk! You used to be a heavy smoker yourself.
He remarks ‘I presume the fall-rise tonic goes on You?’ His suggestion/question is right: the likeliest idiomatic tone choice wou·d be a Fall-Rise.
While we’re about it, lets mention what intonation A is likely to use.
You know, you shouldn’t smoke so much. /ju noʊ, ju 'ʃʊdnt ⎥ `smoʊk soʊ mᴧʧ/
A’s first three words are unaccented so they constitute a ‘prehead’ ie they’ll all be spoken at the same neutral lowish pitch.
I’ve shown by the vertical bar (ie ‘|’) that I’ve inserted next that it’s quite likely that A will make (possibly but not necessarily) a more or less short break in the rhythmic flow here.
If he does, it may suggest a slight hesitation praps with the effect of making a careful choice of word to come next. That’d tend to suggest judiciousness soffening any possible impression of ‘hectoring’.
The word /smoʊk/ is the likeliest climax (aka nucleus) word. The final two words /soʊ mᴧʧ/ are most likely to (become a ‘tail’ ie) remain at the low pitch that the Fall tone has ended at (and carrying no accent of their own).
If the speaker had chosen to, he cou·d’ve accented /mᴧʧ/ as well with a Fall or Slump (aka ‘low fall’) but this wou·d’ve made it very emphatic.
B: `You can ˏtalk! `You used to be a `heavy `smoker your `(ˏ)self.
Yes, Tami. The usual choice on B’s reply wd be a complex Fall-Rise tone: /`ju kn ˏtɔk/ where the rise on /tɔk/ is to be understood as not accenting that word.
Some transcribers prefer to put both the Fall and the Rise symbols together eg as / `ˏ /
or less explicitly as / `´/. These are less helpful to a reader
but they are me·nt to make it clear that the rise is not accentual.
An alternative choice for the speaker wd be to put the climax on the word ‘talk’ like this / `ju kn ` ˏtɔk /.
A simple Fall with no Rise / `ju kn tɔk / wd be perf·cly possible, but more ‘cutting’ coz Rises have a soffening effect.
B’s further comment neednt necessarily have a Fall on ‘You’.
The word ‘heavy’ wd norm·ly have a Fall here.
But ‘smoker’ and ‘-self’ cou·d both have either Fall or Fall-Rise.
Tami added ‘What other similar expressions would you think of ?’
The best book to ans·er him that’s readily available — or should be— in any place where English is tau·t at intermediate or higher levels is the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
Go to the word ‘talk’ and look for its section headed ‘IDM>’ and you’ll find
Look who’s talking | you can / can’t talk | you’re a fine one to talk
explained as employed to tell somebody that they shd not criticise somebody else for something because they do the same things too’.
If you’re working in a university department of English, even better. With reasonable luck, they shou’d have available the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) online.
That wou·d give a patient enquirer at the entry for the verb ‘talk’:
“In various colloq. phrases stating or implying that someone is in no position to criticize another, exemplified by the types: you can’t talk!; (look, hark) who’s talking!; who am I to talk?; I should talk!”
And after this you get eight examples of the uses of such
expressions by great and not so great writers including Kipling and
Graham Pointon’s latest ‘Linguism’ blog posting ‘English under stress’ comments on the shifting stressings of various words. He now, rather surprisingly to me, thinks that ‘we can safely say that the battle for second syllable stress on contribute and distribute is now lost’. I can’t say for my part that I’ve ever felt any inclination to join those who say `contribute rather than con`tribute but I very much belong with the oldest generation. I also find it puzzling that no-one seems to want to stress the verb attribute in the same way. Graham records having recently heard, obvi·sly rather unexpectedly, contri`butory from a BBC Radio reporter, but charitably tends to account for it as influenced by fluster. I have this very day he·rd ‘contriˈbutory `factor’ from a reporter on BBC Radio 4’s early morning ‘Today’ programme discussing with presenter Sarah Montague the University of California neurologists’ achievement of enabling a paraplegic patient to walk sev·ral steps by ‘reconnecting brain signals’ to his legs. Roach & Co recorded contri`butory from their 1997 takeover of EPD. In his LPD Wells has included it since his 1990 first edition. OED3 has only /kənˈtrɪbjuːtərɪ/ with the rather heavily-vowelled post-tonic \juː\ in a usually weak syllable which LPD sections as ‘not RP’. This is copied from OED2 where it reflected Murray’s OED1 rather unsatisfactory treatment of what is now, I feel, best regarded as simply the /u/ phoneme in a weak syllable.
When Graham mentions kilometre, controversy, trajectory, aristocrat and exigency as having alternative pronunciations with first or second syllable stress, I’m reminded of being somewhat surprised at never actually having he·rd the stressing `trajectory. Neither apparently had Murray when he came to the word in OED1 in 1914. On the contrary, in his first EPD of 1917 Jones gave `trajectory priority. Nor had he changed his mind at his last EPD in 1963; and Gimson didnt depart from this in the EPD of 1977. However, Ramsaran justifiably gave priority to tra`jectory in the EPD of 1991. In its entry in OED2 in 1989 by its editors J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner the ordering ‘/trəˈdʒɛktərɪ/ /ˈtrædʒɪktərɪ/’ was given without comment. It’s perhaps surprising that the penult schwas wer·nt bracketed. Compare factory which is given in OED3 as ‘Brit. /ˈfakt(ə)ri/ , U.S. /ˈfækt(ə)ri/’. LPD3 has the variant with forestress `trajectory. Merriam-Webster online currently gives only the tra`jectory stressing with audio pronunciation, a very welcome facility. Sadly it no longer offers any phonetic transcriptions.
Of sev·ral three-syllable words discussed, on orchestra Graham notes the OED mention of Byron’s stressing the second syllable. Murray in 1903 did indeed say so in a one-line note at the end of its etymology. Graham also quotes a couple of dictionaries (not ones reco·nised by me) saying ‘a 1798 edition of Johnson’s dictionary stresses the first syllable, a later one edited by John Walker (1810) has second syllable stress’. Actually, Walker, knowing that various other authorities didnt agree with him, plumpt for the second syllable on the shaky ground that it had been long in Latin. Regarding the dictionaries mentioned, Walker had died in 1807 and Johnson had in 1784. Graham might also have quoted Murray’s 1885 remark on ‘balcony’ which, modernised to OED3’s choices of phonetic symbols, was ‘Till c1825 the pronunciation was regularly bælˈkəʊnɪ; but ˈbælkənɪ (once in Swift), ‘which,’ said Samuel Rogers, ‘makes me sick,’ is now established’. Poor sensitive Rogers!
A third trisyllable he interprets as having changed from se`cretive to `secretive in the same way. It may be rather more complicated than that. In its initial uses most of its associations may’ve been chiefly with the verb ‘secrete’ which, later at least, became a much less familiar term than the adjective ‘secret’. That adjective’s increasing familiarity may well have influenced speakers’ inclinations to match ‘secretive’ to it. No-one seems to’ve wanted to convert ‘ex`pletive’ to ‘*`expletive’.
Finally he discusses the two trisyllables ‘communal’ and ‘integral’ which he finds are ‘now commonly heard in the UK with second syllable stress’. OED3 in fact got to this word as recently as 2009 and showed confirmation of his observation saying sensibly ‘The stress appears to have been variable at least since the mid 19th century, but 19th- and 20th-century British and U.S. dictionaries vary as to which they give as the main or sole pronunciation’. OED gives these reasonable notations: ‘Brit. /ˈkɒmjᵿnl/, /kəˈmjuːnl/ , U.S. /kəˈmjun(ə)l/, /ˈkɑmjən(ə)l/’. The /ᵿ/ here is a cover symbol indicating variation between schwa and /ʊ/ with (unhelpfully) no commitment to saying which is considered the more usual. The /u:/ is not to be taken as anything but transcriber pref·rence with no necess·ry suggestion that the British length value differs from the American.
The Pointon comment on ‘integral’ is that it’s ‘going the other way: integral and communal are now commonly heard in the UK with second syllable stress ... Integral ... is simultaneously showing another, different, change: possibly by analogy with the word intricate, the /r/ is being shifted to the second syllable, leading to the pronunciation /ˈɪntrɪgəl/’. CEPD has no record of /ˈɪntrɪgəl/. The ever-inclusive LPD has had it since its 1990 first edition but awards it a warning triangle as not being an accepted usage. Metatheses of this sort have been pritty common in English over the years. A variety of other examples of the process may be seen at our Blog 232.
This is from my book People Speaking Passage 48: click here for the soundfile.
It has been accorded more than usually full length marking especially to provide examples of how vowel lengths vary. And to show what a difficult job it is to decide just what the relative length of any vowel is.
It’s obviously unscripted and spontaneous because of all the
hesitations, omissions, mistakes and non sequiturs. The speaker is
1.] ən wi kəd ˎmeɪnli `laŋwɪʤ tiʧɪŋ ˏðɛˑ |
and we could mainly language teaching there.
By an apparent ‘slip of the tongue’, I sed ‘cou·d’ rather than
‘did’. I used the common GB weakform of the word / `laŋɡwɪʤ / with its
medial / ɡ / elided. This variant of the word is not recorded in CEPD.
It is given in LPD3 but astonishingly quite unjustifiably ‘sectioned’ thus § as ‘not
2.] bət aɪ ˈmɪsˏɡaɪdli | ˈtʊk ˈɒn |
but I misguidedly took on
The word /mɪsgaɪdɪdli/ was ‘telescoped’ by a process of elision which
in the first place loses an /ɪ/ and additionally reduces the remaining
double /d/ to a single one in an articulation which was rather an accidental
stumble than a conscious articulation.
3.] ɜ ɜ ˎtɜmz ˎwɜˑk wɪ ði | ɜ | ðə lɑˑst jɜˑ ˏstjuˑdn̩ts
er a a term’s work with the er the last-year students
The elision of the final /ð/ of ‘with’ before a following /ð/ is very common.
4.] ˈɒn `draːɪdn ̩| and ɜˑ | ˈðeɪ | ˈðeɪ ˈwɜ
on Dryden. And er they they were
The /aɪ/ diphthong of ‘Dryden’ is distinctly long. Hence its internal full-length mark.
The fact that 'and' occurs in its strongform wd be classified as abnormal except that in fact its form indicates hesitation just as much as ‘er’ does.
5.] `sɒt əv ˏstjudn̩s | veɪ ˏnaɪs ˎˏstjudn̩s |
sort of students — very nice students
The word ‘sort’, instead of being clearly /sɔt/, is being uttered so casually and hurriedly
that it makes it seem that the different word ‘sot’ might be being used. Unlike the way the word ‘students’ was ‘fully’ articulated in line 3, it is here both times spoken less precisely with the elision of its second /t/. The weakform /veɪ/ of ‘very’ is fairly casual and a very common GB variant of the word.
6.] ðeɪ meɪd evri `pɒsəbl məˏsteɪk |
They made every possible mistake
The word ‘mistake’ never appeared in Jones’s own editions of his EPD
(up to 1963) with a variant having the schwa I used here. Nor does the
current CEPD but LPD acknowledged it from its 1990 first edition.
The position of the rise tonetic stress mark before the /s/ rather than
after it is counter-etymological but before the /t/ it wou·dve suggested aspiration that doesnt occur.
you could imagine. And of course
Both CEPD and LPD record the variant of ‘imagine’ with elision of its final /ɪ/, as here, or its replacement with a schwa.
8.] ði ɪ`nevətəbl̩ θɪŋ `hapm̩ |
the inevitable thing happened
It’s not often easy to decide whether a speaker begins the second ie
stressed syllable of the word ‘inevitable’ with its /n/ or after it,
even about one’s own speech. The dictionaries only give the obvious
second possibility. I feel that I begin it with the /n/ here and
usually do so. I don’t imagine myself ever saying /ɪn`ʔevɪtəbl̩/. The LPD
gives /`hapm̩/ as a variant of the word ‘happen’ such as I use here. My
elision of the final /d/ that wd normally mark the past tense here amounts to very casual style.
9.] we wen ðeɪ hat tə `raɪt |
whe .. when they had to write
It’s not in the least unusual to assimilate the /d/ of ‘had’ to the following /t/ in the sequence ‘had to’.
10.] abaʊt draɪdn̩z ˈʧif ˏwɜˑks |
about Dryden’s chief works
The diphthong in the first syllable of ‘Dryden’ is not even accorded half-length marking here.
11.] ən ˈwᴧn əv ðm̩ `ˏwɒz | ˏkɔˑld |
And one of them was, called
12.] ðə jɜˑr əv ˏwᴧndə | `anəs mɪˏrɑ·bələs |
the Year of Wonder, Annus Mirabilis
My intentional target pronunciation of ‘mirabilis’ is with /ɪ/ in
both of its last two syllables but, tho I don’t make any conscious
effort to avoid turning the first /ɪ/ into a schwa, I was
surprised to hear that I was being so casual as to have let it happen to the
final one too.
13.] ən kɔs | ɪnˈsted raɪtɪŋ wɪð `tʰu· ˏenz |
and of course, instead of writing with two n’s
Eliding the word ‘of’ from the phrase ‘of course’ is very casual.
Even more so was the omission of ‘it’ after the word ‘writing’ if we
regard it as a stylistic rather than accidental feature.. The
word ‘to’ is emphasised very clumsily giving its /t/ extremely
strong aspiration and making it sound rather like /tʃ/.
14.] ðeɪ rəʊt `eɪnəs mɪrɑˑbələs.
they wrote Anus Mirabilis.
The word ‘anus’ is the formal or medical term referring to that lower rear part of
the human body colloquially called one’s ‘bottom’ or ‘behind’ or less informally ‘buttocks’.
Departures by words from the lexical ‘shapes’ of their isolate occurrences to become variants that arise in the course of connected or continuous speech have long been referred to in terms of the alterations or reductions that they undergo chiefly by use of on·y the two terms ‘assimilation’ and ‘elision’. Henry Sweet in 1888 introduced the specific term ‘smoothing’ for the type of reduction he defined as ‘the levelling of the two elements of a diphthong under a monophthong’. In writing about these variants to be met with in uninterrupted speech, I came to feel the need of another term for types of reduction diff·rent from elisions. I introduced my proposal for such an expression at page 34 of my Guide to English Pronunciation of 1969. This book was reissued (in facsimile) in 2013 in the Routledge series Logos Studies in Language and Linguistics incorporated in a volume entitled ‘English Phonetics:Twentieth Century Developments’ under the editorship of the late Beverley Collins, Inger M. Mees and Paul Carley.
The wording I employed ‘what we shall call..compressions’ made it pritty evident that I was introducing the term as something new rather than taking over an existing usage. It offered wider coverage than Sweet’s ‘smoothing’ and was defined as essentially occurring ‘when a diphthong is reduced to a simple vowel or a vowel reduced to an approximant’. Examples given included any other reduced to /enj ᴧðə/, following reduced to /fɒlwɪŋ/ and railwayman reduced to /reɪlwɪmən/.
The present account has been prompted by reading a comment by Sidney Wood on a posting at the nine·th of July in ‘Kraut’s English Phonetic Blog’ in which ‘Kraut’ defined and illustrated five types of compression. Sidney as·t ‘Who uses [that term] today, Petr, or recently? I took a quick look at Gimson 1962, he seems to have preferred reduction. And that’s my own preference too. Wells 1982 has a brief paragraph where compression is phoneme omission generally (another form of reduction, his example lit’ry for literary)’.
The 1962 edition of Gimson doesnt seem very relevant to ‘today’ or ‘recently’ but, anyway, for something by way of ans·er to his queries I first suggest to Sidney that he looks at my Blog 406 of the 25th of June 2012 on ‘Smoothing and Compression’. Then he might like to look at the ‘panel’ headed ‘Compression’ at pages 173-4 of the 2008 edition of the invaluable Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, and also to its final page (922) where there is an explanation of his very extensive use of the IPA symbol [ ‿ ] for ‘Linking (absence of break)’ This, in Unicode terminology ‘combining breve below’, is glossed by Wells as indicating ‘possible compression (two syllables become one) etc of adjacent syllables’.
As to Sidney’s other question to Kraut ‘Could compression originally have been a prescriptive term? i.e. slow down, decompress and improve comprehension?’, I can assure him that, as far as I was concerned, the aim in introducing that term was simply and solely descriptive.
It was int·resting to see the ‘Kraut’ quotation from Notes on Spelling Reform of 1881 by W. R. Evans referring to ‘the expansion of simple vowels into diphthongs, and the compression of diphthongs into simple sounds…’ which must obviously be regarded as an en passant choice of expression rather than the quotation of an establisht usage. [All I can find on Evans, Petr, is this from the wonderf·ly useful MacMahon Analytical Index to the Publications of the International Phonetic Association: ‘[EVANS, W R: death, June 1888 < Phonetische Studien.] 1888.Dec.495/95 [Rev] VIËTOR, W [ed] (1888-89) Phonetische Studien. II Band. 1889.83-84 [Q & A (Q): degree of support for phonetic theories of EVANS, W. R.1899.91]
Patricia Ashby’s remarkably impressive recent book Understanding Phonetics (2011) may clearly be seen to be treating compression as an establisht term notably at its page 114:
The process known as compression often reduces the number of syllables in a particular word or phrase. Compression is effected by either deleting a vowel altogether (vowel elision), or by changing the class of the sound ... or by collapsing two vowels into one in a form of coalescence (meaning two adjacent sounds come together to form one diff·rent but related sound…’
John Wells’s recent (2014) Sounds Interesting: Observations on English and General Phonetics has half a dozen pages on the topic beginning at his page 40 with a section, 2.5, headed simply ‘compression’. Then he has ‘2.6’ on compression in hymnody, ‘2.7’ GOAT compression, ‘2.8’ analogical decompression and ‘2.9’ compression anomalies.
Let’s hope that these examples along with Kraut’s quotation from the current Maidment Speech Internet Dictionary convince Sidney that the term ‘compression’ is reasonably to be described as an expression in current use.
The transcription you see below uses a basic system of indicating how words are spoken known as ‘phonemic’
Other types which are more complicated becoz, inste·d of on·y
representing just the speaker’s basic ‘system’ of pronunciation they
include at least some details of how the words were pronounced, are
The particular set of phonemic symbols used below differs very slightly from the most popular British types, seen for example in the LPD (Longman Dictionary of Pronunciation) and the CEPD (Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary), in three respects which are, except the first, modernisations.
Firstly, it doesnt add colon lengthmarks to the ‘uncheckt’ vowels /i, ɑ, ɔ, u, ɜ, ɛ/. This pref·rence is motivated by the consideration that these vowels are so very frequently not long as eg in our first sentence where there's an occurrence of /i/ and two of /u/ all of which are quite short. Secondly, it adopts /a/ instead of /æ/ for the ash vowel. Thirdly, it accepts that the older diphthong /ɛə/ (though not sounding old-fashioned or conspicuous in all its variants) is no longer ‘mainstream’ GB (General British) usage and consequently adopts a monophthongal representation /ɛ/ for the phoneme. This is in accord with the latest (2014) edition of Alan Cruttenden’s Gimson’s Pronunciation of English except only in dispensing with length-colons.
This dialog was first publisht as an item in my book People Speaking.
Please click here on Item 34 to go to the sound file of it in Section 4 §1 of this website.
Slant brackets ( / ) enclose phonemic transcriptions of speech within which a vertical bar ( | ) indicates an interruption of the rhythmical flow. See Section 8 § 3 etc for information on the tone marks used.
1. /aɪ ˈdəʊnəʊ ˈhaʊ | ju kn ˈweɪst jə ˎtaɪm |
I don’t know how you can waste your time
ɒn ðiz `stjupɪd ˎnjuspeɪpəz/
on these stupid newspapers.
At /dəʊnəʊ/ it’d be inappropriate to leave a space between the transcriptions of the two words don’t and know because it can’t be sed that the elided /n/ has been lost from one of them rather than the other. The word your is so indistinctly uttered that /jʊ/ and /jə/ are equally feasible representations. The choice between them was made in favour of the commoner weakform of the word.
By the way:
It may come as a slight surprise to some readers to hear ‘newspaper’ pronounced with /s/ rather than /z/. William Craigie (1867–1957) the OED editor who came to the word in 1906 didnt seem t’ve been aware of such a form but Daniel Jones (1881-1967) in his EPD (English Pronouncing Dictionary) of 1917 recorded it as only heard with /s/. By 1963 he’d also heard it with /z/ but only ‘rarely’. J. C. Wells in 1990 recorded the /z/ form as a less usual variant. However, a decade later, after he’d seen various British volunteers’ reponses to a questionnaire which included the word, he gave the /z/ form priority. P. J. Roach in the CEPD hasnt followed suit in 2008. An understandable reluctance.
2. /ˈaɪ laɪk | tə bi `riznəˏblɪ | wel ɪn`fɔmd |
I like to be reasonably well informed
tə ˈkip `ᴧp | wɪð ˈwɒts ɡəʊɪŋ ˎɒn ɪn ðə wɜld /
to keep up with what’s going on in the world.
One example of how it may be seen that the intonation marks of this
(‘tono-phonemic’) transcription are ‘tonetic’ rather than ‘tonological’
is the fact that it shows explicitly that a low rising tone occurs on
the final syllable of the word /`riznəˏblɪ/. If it’d been tonological
the transcription wou·d’ve taken the form / `ˏriznəblɪ/ since, as the final
syllable is not accented, the pitch movement is to be analysed as a Fall-Rise complex tone
We notice that, as the disagreement becomes more ‘heated’, the
speakers both raise their voices not much in volume but strikingly in pitch.
Hers shoots up suddenly at “to keep up” but later at “Come, come” she
has dropt back down to something more normal. His goes above normal at
‘Well informed’ but comes back down to his more normal ‘key’ for ‘I
most certainly do’.
3. / ˈwel ɪnˏˈfɔmd | ɪts ɔl `laɪz | ɔl `rᴧbɪʃ/
Well informed? It’s all lies! All rubbish!
The tone mark /ˏ / by itself stands for a rise from low to mid but the combination /ˏˈ/ indicates a rise from low to high.
4. / `kᴧm ˎkᴧm | ju ˎdəʊnt `sɪərɪəsli min ˎˏðat/
Come, come. You don’t seriously mean that.
Her choice of the rather old-fashioned rhetorical expression ‘Come, come’ has the effect of a rather teasing response to his excitability. The tonemark at the final word stands for a forced guess at her target value rather than a detection of something clearly audible.
5. /aɪ məʊs ˎsɜtnli `ˏdu | njuspeɪpəz dɪ`ˏstɔt | ən `trɪvjəˏlaɪz |
I most certainly do. Newspapers distort and trivialise
ˈevri `sɪŋgl ˏθɪŋ | ðeɪ ˈleɪ ðɛ `hanz ɒn /
every single thing they lay their hands on.
Elisions like the loss of the /d/ from the word ‘hands’ are so
extremely common that one shou·dnt expect pronunciation dictionaries to
bother to record them.
6. /wl ˈðat | simz ə ˈveri ɪk | ˎstrim | vju tə ˏmi/
Well that seems a very extreme view to me.
When the word ‘well’ is used as an interjection it may take a weakform with its vowel omitted, a fact apparently first recorded in my Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of 1972 and confirmed in LPD.
7. /ˎɪts ðə ˈtruθ | ˈhəv ju ˈevə ˈhad | ˈpɜsnl ˎnɒlɪʤ | əv ˈeni
It’s the truth. Have you ever had personal knowledge of any
ˎmatr | ˈeni ˎɪnsədənt | rəˈpɔtɪd ɪn ðə ˎnjusˏpeɪpəz | ən ˈnɒt ˈfaʊnd |
matter, any incident reported in the newspapers and not found
ðeɪ gɒt ˎpraktɪkli | ˈevri ˎditeɪl ˏɒv ɪt | ˎrɒŋ /
they got practically every detail of it wrong.
The first intonation phrase here constitutes a complete sentence yet
ends with the word ‘truth’ on a level tone. This sounds more rhetorical
than conversational by using a sort of sudden change of gear as a trick
of emphasis. The speaker cd normally be expected to insert a rhythm
break after the word ‘matter’ but he utters the word so hurriedly that
he omits the schwa vowel reducing the word to one syllable. He makes
‘practically’ specially emphatic by having a rhetorical-sounding rhythm
break between it and the following word — with which it’s usually as
closely linked rhythmically as it is grammatically. The word ‘have’ is
one of a number of function words which, as here, break some people’s untenable
‘rule’ that GB schwa can’t be accented.
8. / bət rɪˈpɔtəz ˏwɜk | ᴧndə ˈgreɪt ˎpreʃə | ðɛ ˈkɒnstəntli ˈhavɪŋ | tə
but reporters work under great pressure. They’re constantly having to
mit ˎdedˏlaɪnz | ju `kɑnt ɪkspek | təʊtl ˎakjərəsi | ˎɔl ðə ˏtaɪm/
meet deadlines. You can’t expect total accuracy all the time.
The word ‘You’ is almost totally inaudible but at least the rhythm
suggests that she attempted a very weak articulation corresponding to