People Speaking: 4

Churchill and Shaw

Shaw once wrote to Churchill:
/ˋˏʃɔː ˈwʌns ˈrəʊt | tə ˋˏtʃɜːtʃɪl. / [1]

“Here are two tickets for the first night of my new ˎplay.
/ˏhɪər | ə ˈtuː ˏtɪkɪts | fə ðə ˈfɜːst ˏnaɪt | əv ˌmaɪ ˌnju ˋpleɪ. / [2]

One for yourself and one for a friend – if you have one.”
/ˈwʌn | fə jəˏself | ən ˈwʌn | fər ə ˋfrend | ˋʔɪf ju ˋˏhæv wʌn. / [3]

Churchill replied:
/ ˋtʃɜːtʃɪl rɪˋˏplaɪd: / [4]

“Dear Bernard, I’m sorry, but a previous engagement prevents me from accepting your kind offer.
/dɪə ˋbɜːnəd | aɪm ˋˏsɒrɪ | bət ə ˈpriːviəs ɪŋˏɡeɪdʒmənt | prɪˋ-vents mi | frəm əˋ-kseptɪŋ | jɔː kaɪnd ˎɒfə./ [5]

However, I shall come to the second night — if there is one.”
/haʊˊˋevə | aɪ ʃəl ˈkʌm | tə ðə ˋsekənd naɪt — ɪf ðeər ˏɪz wʌn./ [6]

The first consonant of "first night" is no doubt contaminated by preceding dental fricative beginning the previous word so that what we hear for "first" might equally well have been have been "thirst".

Perhaps I shd remind readers ("if there are eni!") that, unlike some transcribers, I make full use of the normal punctuation only supplementing it when it isn't adequate etc. Thus in our first line I avoid the needless clutter of a vertical bar after the first word because it's obvious that the second word begins a new unit. If this second word had been unmarked for pitch I shdve been obliged to insert the bar to avoid the suggestion that it was incorporated in the tail of the foregoing Fall-Rise.

Another point this line illustrates is that not all High tones are equally high: the Fall-Rise on the last word is distinctly less high than the one on the first. The words "my new" are spoken on two low level tones of which the second is slightly higher than the first so we can term it as a Bass head: successive High tones step down and successive Low tones step upwards. Another item we meet for the first time in this passage is the Slump-Rise climax tone. It's often difficult to decide whether to regard such a descending-ascending sequence as Slump-Rise or Fall-Rise as in this case. Most writers don't offer themselves choice.

The Alt-plus-Rise pattern repeated here on "two tickets" and "first night" has quite a patronising effect: Alts are regularly associated with the unemotional calmness of a person in complete and confident control of things; Rises are regularly associated with attitudes like encouragement — even as here to a person who wdnt welcome any. The glottal plosive we've shown at the beginning of "if you have one" is of course not part of our segmental transcription, which is strictly phonemic, but a prosodic item. We shan't indicate all such possibilities but this seems a more vigorous one than most — many being quite weak.

The word "However" shows from our reader (a distinguished actor himself ) a restrained but very effective little piece of character acting. Churchill was very famous for his old-fashioned very oratorical style of speech-making in which he very often employed deliberately delivered ascending-descending tones one of which is the Climb-Fall we have here. By his choice of simple Rise (not Fall-Rise as we might expect and heard from Shaw) he is also being patronising back to Shaw by sounding encouraging. A very great deal of the difference between a mediocre and an excellent spoken performance must surely reside very much in the prosodic choices made by the speaker.