People Speaking: 2

ˈCorny ˎJokes

ˈMy ˋ- wife’s | gone to the West ˋIndies.
/maɪ waɪfs gɒn tə ðə west ɪndiz /  [1]

/ʤəmeɪkə?/  [2]

ˋˏNo. ˈShe | went of her ˏown ac`cord.
/nəʊ. ʃi went əv ər əʊn əkɔːd /    [3]

ˋ-Who was that `lady | I ˋsaw you with ˈlast ˎnight?
/huː wz ðat leɪdi aɪ sɔː ju wɪð lɑːs naɪt?/   [4]

ˋThat was no ˏlady. ˋThat | was my ˋwife.
/ðat wz nəʊ leɪdi. ðat wz maɪ waɪf./   [5]

And ˈthese, | ˏladies, | are the famous ˋfalls. If you can ˈstop ˋtalking for a ˏmoment, | you’ll be able to ˋˏhear | their ˋˏmighty ˋroar.  

and ðiːz, leɪdiz, ə ðə feɪməs fɔːlz. ɪf ju kn stɒp tɔːkɪŋ fər ə məʊmənt, jul bi eɪbl tə hɪə ðeə maɪti rɔː. [6]

In the first line wife’s has a Fall-to-Mid climax tone and Jamaica has an interrogative Fall-Rise. Of course the joke is that his questioner is taken by the man to be asking “Did you make (ie compel) her?” The first syllable wouldn't sound exactly like /ʤə/; but /ʤu/, which is what a speaker might really say, isn't very different from it because /ʤ/ is one of the six consonant phonemes of English that are characteristically made with some rounding of the lips: the other five are / ʧ, ʃ, ʒ, r / and /w/.

You may have observed that lady is repeated in the very next sentence apparently breaking our rule that accented words are not immediately re-accented that we have given at Accentuation, Item 1 Section 8 Intonation and Prosody on this website, but please remember that at its subsection 12 it explains about semantic re-focusing which is what we find here.

The first use of the word lady here shows it used to refer politely to a female person but the second sense here can be one of two further possibilities. One of these suggests the sense “not just any female person but a uniquely important etc one for the speaker". The other sense could signify — and herein lies the joke — “a well brought up female of repectable manners and / or morals”. Hence the possibility of re-accentuation because the semantic focus has shifted.

In the first half of the line I've shown lady as accentually ambiguous because classifiable as a split Fall-Rise tone with only one accent — what O’Connor and Arnold mightve shown as ˋˊ That was no ˳lady. In the second half I show That as a climax tone in a separate unit by inserting a vertical bar. (Their use of the notation ˋˊ for a Fall-Rise tone wd only be justifiable in their didactic context: in our situation it wouldnt work. See Gimson's comment quoted at this website §8.4.26.) It could have been made less ambiguous by the speaker if he'd used a Fall-Rise climax tone on wife (ˋˏwife).

Regarding the word last in the first line of this exchange, firstly I don't think any / t / is audible but fascinatingly the speaker had a very slight slip of the tongue by which she contaminated the /s/ with the dentality of the /ð/ at the end of the previous word producing a dual articulation [θ/s]. As to whether one is most faithfully representing what is heard for was by /wəz/ or by /wz/ it is very often quite difficult to decide. My policy is to use /wz/ unless a schwa is clearly present.

Joke # 3 of course purports to be declaimed by some tourist guide. This brief monologue illustrates clearly that I avoid using the vertical bar unless the normal punctuation would involve ambiguity. For example the two final words, although so closely linked grammatically, are tonologically very distinct forming two separate intonation units. There’d be no gain by inserting a bar between them nevertheless. On the contrary the word their previous to them is not treated by the speaker as a tail to the tone it follows so the bar makes this fact explicit.

Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.
/ ˋ-weɪtə ðeəz ə ˋflaɪ ɪn maɪ suːp./

Then perhaps you’d prefer a red wine, sir.
/ˈðen pəˈhæps | jud prɪfɜːr ə ˎred waɪn sə./

We might have expected ˊWaiter or more ingratiatingly ˋˏWaiter. ˋWaiter might have sounded a bit brusque. Our diner seems to be compromising.

The waiter sounds suitably measured and judicious and, of course ridiculously, implies that the fly is red meat. Actually, there was a minute falling movement on the final word (sir) but it was too weak to be worth marking.

Why do you always answer me by asking another question?
/ˈwaɪ dju ɔːlweɪz ˈɑːnsə mi baɪ ˈɑːskɪŋ ənʌðə ˎkwestʃən./

The male frend sounds a bit prim judging by his measured rhythm. If he'd used a Rise climax it mightve sounded humouring or like one of a series in an official interrogation.

The textbook rule-of-thumb description of the diphthong /eɪ/ is "longer than /ɪ/" but here we find it very short which reminds us that all segments are pretty variable in length. The diphthongal movement, if present at all, is pretty mimimal making it almost identical with the alternative form /`ɔːlwɪz/. The /ɔː/ is pretty short too.

Do I? / ˈduː ˏaɪ./  The word  “Do” here is uttered so quickly that it’s not really feasible to insist whether its tone is a Fall or an Alt. Our transcription is more tonetic than tonological becoz, if not as a Fall-Rise, it cd be represented as an Alt-Rise / ˈ ˏduː aɪ /  That is to say that the pronoun isnt accented.

Am I the first man who’s ever kissed you?  

/ˈæm aɪ | ðə ˈfɜːst ˈmæn | huz ˈevə ˎkɪst ju./

Of course, you are, darling.  You boys all ask the same silly questions.
/əv ˋkɔːs ju ɑː dɑːlɪŋ.   ˈju ˈbɔɪz | ˈɔːl ˈɑːsk | ðə ˈseɪm ˈsɪli ˎkwestʃənz./

The first two slowish level climax tones tend to sound declamatory. She has two such tones as well but her tempo throughout makes her sound brisk and matter-of-fact.