Index of All Blogs

Index of Words in blogs

Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.

RSS feed for this siteRSS Feed

26/01/2018PS47 Patience-Taxing Forms#542
04/01/2018Weakforms (xxiii) take, than, that, the, them, then, their, they’re, there#541
21/10/2017Your Nonagenarian Bloggist#540
04/09/2017People Speaking 46 An Unacceptable Gift#539
24/08/2017Weakforms (xxii) shall, shd, shdn't, shdn've, so, somebody, somehow, somewhat, something, sort-of, such, suppose, sure#538
12/07/2017People Speaking 45 The Festive Season#537
14/06/2017Weakforms (xxi) particularly, per, perhaps, probably, really#536
09/06/2017How Shakespeare Spoke#535
13/03/2017People Speaking 44 A la Australienne#534
24/02/2017Somethink Puzzling#533

Archive 54 01/02/2017 to 21/10/2017 (#531 to #540)
Archive 53 01/08/2016 to 30/01/2017 (#521 to #530)
Archive 52 09/03/2016 to 17/07/2016 (#511 to #520)
Archive 51 28/07/2015 to 01/03/2016 (#501 to #510)
Archive 50 04/12/2014 to 11/07/2015 (#491 to #500)
Archive 49 05/08/2014 to 11/11/2014 (#481 to #490)
Archive 48 30/05/2014 to 30/07/2014 (#471 to #480)
Archive 47 01/03/2014 to 28/05/2014 (#461 to #470)
Archive 46 07/06/2013 to 13/08/2013 (#451 to #460)
Archive 45 26/03/2013 to 27/05/2013 (#441 to #450)
Archive 44 24/12/2012 to 20/03/2013 (#431 to #440)
Archive 43 22/09/2012 to 11/12/2012 (#421 to #430)
Archive 42 17/07/2012 to 17/09/2012 (#411 to #420)
Archive 41 14/05/2012 to 14/07/2012 (#401 to #410)
Archive 40 03/04/2012 to 09/05/2012 (#391 to #400)
Archive 39 06/01/2012 to 26/03/2012 (#381 to #390)
Archive 38 15/11/2011 to 03/01/2012 (#371 to #380)
Archive 37 29/08/2011 to 13/11/2011 (#361 to #370)
Archive 36 05/07/2011 to 28/08/2011 (#351 to #360)
Archive 35 12/05/2011 to 28/06/2011 (#341 to #350)
Archive 34 13/02/2011 to 20/04/2011 (#331 to #340)
Archive 33 24/12/2010 to 08/02/2011 (#321 to #330)
Archive 32 26/10/2010 to 19/12/2010 (#311 to #320)
Archive 31 23/09/2010 to 25/10/2010 (#301 to #310)
Archive 30 03/08/2010 to 22/09/2010 (#291 to #300)
Archive 29 27/06/2010 to 01/08/2010 (#281 to #290)
Archive 28 17/05/2010 to 25/06/2010 (#271 to #280)
Archive 27 16/04/2010 to 10/05/2010 (#261 to #270)
Archive 26 16/02/2010 to 13/04/2010 (#251 to #260)
Archive 25 25/12/2009 to 13/02/2010 (#241 to #250)
Archive 24 22/11/2009 to 23/12/2009 (#231 to #240)
Archive 23 06/10/2009 to 19/11/2009 (#221 to #230)
Archive 22 12/09/2009 to 05/10/2009 (#211 to #220)
Archive 21 04/08/2009 to 11/09/2009 (#201 to #210)
Archive 20 09/06/2009 to 26/07/2009 (#191 to #200)
Archive 19 07/05/2009 to 06/06/2009 (#181 to #190)
Archive 18 04/04/2009 to 05/05/2009 (#171 to #180)
Archive 17 23/02/2009 to 30/03/2009 (#161 to #170)
Archive 16 21/01/2009 to 07/02/2009 (#151 to #160)
Archive 15 03/12/2008 to 18/01/2009 (#141 to #150)
Archive 14 14/09/2008 to 01/12/2008 (#131 to #140)
Archive 13 08/08/2008 to 12/09/2008 (#121 to #130)
Archive 12 07/07/2008 to 02/08/2008 (#111 to #120)
Archive 11 10/06/2008 to 04/07/2008 (#101 to #110)
Archive 10 03/05/2008 to 07/06/2008 (#091 to #100)
Archive 9 30/03/2008 to 17/04/2008 (#081 to #090)
Archive 8 18/03/2008 to 28/03/2008 (#071 to #080)
Archive 7 20/01/2008 to 17/03/2008 (#061 to #070)
Archive 6 30/11/2007 to 14/01/2008 (#051 to #060)
Archive 5 22/07/2007 to 28/11/2007 (#041 to #050)
Archive 4 15/06/2007 to 20/07/2007 (#031 to #040)
Archive 3 23/02/2007 to 14/06/2007 (#021 to #030)
Archive 2 03/01/2007 to 21/02/2007 (#011 to #020)
Archive 1 01/11/2006 to 01/01/2007 (#001 to #010)

Blog 542

The 26th of January 2018

PS47 Patience-Taxing Forms

Those who get no sound via Firefox or Google may get it via Safari or Opera

This entirely unscripted and very unself-conscious scrap of conversation serves well to illustrate why so very little indeed of my OUP book People Speaking cou·d consist of such material. Some of it was so sotto voce as possibly to be classified as muttering to oneself. The four speakers, all professional actors, had plainly quite forgotten that they’d agreed that the recording equipment shd be left on sometimes, between their readings, to record their spontaneous conversation.  
They often speak simultaneously or mumble or tail off into inaudibility. This style of speech must be classified as ‘very casual’. One of them even lets drop a very mild obscenity which the OED labels ‘chiefly coarse slang’ which is ‘considered as below the level of standard educated speech’. Consequently it’s the most diffic·lt of all the PS pieces to transcribe satisfactorily.

1./aɪ `hav ˎpoustɪt ˎmaɪn ɒf | `jes/  I have posted mine off, yes. [The /d/ of posted is phonemically             ambiguous here as also from the next speaker.].
2. /av ˈpəʊstɪt ˈmaɪ ᴧm | r(ɪ)kɔdɪd ˎdɪlɪvərɪ ʤə ˈsi/ I’ve posted my.. um recorded delivery, d’you             see. [The reduction /du ju →dju→dʒu/ʤu/ is very common in relaxed informal speech.]
3. oʊ ˈaɪ wəz `ɡoʊɪŋ tə du ˏðat | ən ˈðen aɪ ˈθɔt | ˌwel `tu / Oh I was going to do that and then I                 thought..Well too…[ This tailing off may or may not be due to an inaudible continuation.]
4. /aɪ wz biŋ a bɪt / I was being a bit [The weakform /biŋ/ simply drops the /ɪ/ from being.]
5. / ˈju ˎdɪdn ´dɪd ju/  You didnt, did you? [The t of didnt and other words ending with -nt is very                 often dropt if no rhythmic break intervenes even in quite formal speech.]
6. / bət ˈaɪ də nəʊ ˈhaʊ | tə ˈfɪl ɪt `ɪn / But I don’t know how to fill it in.
7 /əʊ aɪ `tel ju / Oh! I’ll tell you. [In fairly casual speech the /l/ of I’ll may well be dropt.]
8. /aɪ ˈrɪəli ˈθɪŋk | aɪ ˎnoʊ ˏnaʊ /  I really think I know now.
9. /´wʊʤu / Would you? [Compare the comment at #2.]
10 /ˎm / Mm…An ‘interjection...Expressing satisfaction, approval, or assent’.OED
11. / `oʊ | `br aɪ habm brɔt ɪt `wɪð mi/ [The word but drops its vowel and weakens its t to /r/.  
        The form /habm/ is due to anticipative assimilation to the /b/ of brought.
12. /ats `laɪz | aɪ θɪŋk ɪts `terbl/ That’s lies. I think it’s terrible. [Almost inaudible: no dou·t part of      a different conversation. Note weakforms of that with no /ð/ and terrible with no second vowel.
13. /fɪld ɪn ə ˈhoʊl | `ʃpil ɒn ðə ˏbak/ Filled in a whole spiel on the back. [Note the ʃːpil with                 an expressively drawn out esh of the contemptuously used German loanword ‘spiel’.
14. / `jes bət dɪdju krɒs `aʊt wɒt ðə wəz `prɪntɪd ðɛ /
        Yes but did you cross out what was printed there?
15. / əʊ `ʃɪt | nəʊ aɪ `dɪdnt/ Oh shit! No. I didnt. [Note its spoken faily quietly not shouted.]
16. /ðats `ðɛə | ˈʔaɪ ʔaɪ | kən`tɪnju wɒtev ɪt ɪz/ That’s there. I.. I.. continue whatever it is. [It's very         commonplace to omit the schwa (/ə/) from whatever but much less so the /r/ as well.
17. /aɪ ˈsɜtɪˈfaɪ| ðət ˈaɪ am ə self ɪmplɔɪd ˎpɜsn/ I certify that I am a self-employed person.
18. /aɪ ˈdɪdn ˈtraɪ | aɪ `dɪdnt | oʊ `blᴧdi ˎhel / I didn’t try.. I didn’t..Oh bloody hell!
        That final phrase was ‘Expressing annoyance, anger, or surprise…with intensifying                         adjective...The register of usage ranges from informal to impolite’.OED   


Blog 541

The 4th of January 2018

Weakforms (xxiii) take, than, that, the, them, then, their, they’re, there

This may be reduced from [teɪk͜ʔ] to [teɪʔ] eg in Take that tho strictly speaking not producing a weakform since there is no change of phoneme. But /ˈteɪp `maɪn/ for Take mine or [ˈteɪt̪ `ðat] for Take that may be so classified.
Grammatical monosyllables with initial /ð/
These usually omit it most of the time in babytalk: This is a sympathetic simplified style of articulation (and also grammar and vocabulary) directed chiefly to infants or pet animals in imitation of infant speech.
The full weakform /ðən/ is used if a vocalic sound immediately follows as in more than ever /ˈmɔ ðən `evə/ but most often, before consonants one hears /ðn̩/ as in more than that /`mɔ ðn̩ ðat/.
In completely casual styles all grammatical monosyllabic words beginning with /ð/ tend to display weakforms with their /ð/ elided.
In the case of than there may be reduction to only /n̩/ or even to /n/ in very casual styles eg worse than that may become /ˈwɜs n̩ `at/ and more than I need /ˈmɔ n aɪ `nid/.
Since it is a conjunction than is very rarely ‘stranded’ ie made to end a sentence by itself. An example of a stylisticly very awkward-sounding ellipsis of a word which would normally follow it would be We want something it’s not just as good as but better than. Only in such a context will than take its very rare strongform /ðan/.
While the demonstrative that /ðat/ invariably retains its vowel /a/, the conjunction that in ordinary informal unhesitant etc speech is normally /ðət/ eg I kow that that’s true is /aɪ ˈnəʊ ðət ˈðats `tru/.
While the demonstrative that as /at/ is quite common, in extremely casual speech even its /t/ may be elided leaving it only as /a/ eg as in / `as ˏraɪt / That’s right.
An example of a BBC tv newsreader heard moving to a ‘friendlier’ informal style occurred when the perfectly-GB speaker Sian Williams in the course of signing off a BBC1 News bulletin on the 1st of October 2012 spoke the expression That’s it for now as /ˈats ˈɪt fə ˎnaʊ/.
 An extreme weakening of the phrase `That’s the ˏboy may sometimes be seen represented with spellings like Attaboy classed by OED as ‘slang’.
As the definite article the is almost always closely preposed unstressed to a word. Before such a word it is either /ði/ if the word begins with a vocalic sound or /ðə/ if with a consonantal sound. When the word is stressed its /i/ is usually markedly long as in It’s ˈthe [iː] ˈmost `perfect one. Lengthening it may be often heard from a speaker who is hesitating over a choice of word, eg /ði[ː] `best ˏweɪ…/ The…best way…etc.
It can be hardly possible to say whether one has heard unaccented them uttered with or without a schwa unless a vocalic sound very closely follows the word. In such a situation it clearly is /ðəm/ eg in Try them all /ˈtraɪ ðəm `ɔl/ which spoken with normal fluency is not audibly different from Try the mall. Try them is most often /`traɪ ðm/: such a phrase uttered with a schwa tends to sound markedly deliberate as eg from a speaker whose patience is being tried.
In completely colloquial styles them is often replaced with /əm/ which sometimes may be seen represented in writing as ’em eg in eg To hell with ’em /tə `hel wɪð əm/.
The word ‘then’ was touched on in our Blog 012 when the sentence Then I’ll go `then, then was mentioned as easily possible with a schwa weakform for the first of the ‘thens’ but not for the last. The first and last of them say (with the kind of pleonasm commonplace in unscripted speech) ‘in that case’. The other means ‘at that time’. Sentence-final then meaning in that case never takes a weakform.
their and they’re
These have identical unweakened pronunciations and weakforms eg respectively as /ðɛr ˈɒn ðɛr `oʊn/ and /ðər ˈɒn ðər `oʊn/ They’re on their own. One cant confirm the LPD observation at its entry for they’re that ‘There is no RP weak form’.

'Each acquires a linking /r/ because in close rhythmic connection with a following vowel. In the typically excited exclamation of horse-racing devotees They’re off! instead of /ðɛr `ɒf/ ie [ðɛːr `ɒf] is more usually to be heard as [ðer `ɒf] ie /ðer `ɒf/ if not /ðər `ɒf/.
    In sequences like ‘their own’ or ‘they’re wrong’ the single /r/ involved (purely as regards audibility) isn’t more cert·nly assignable to either word. This potential confusion was clearly responsible for the fact that in a British transmission of the 23rd of December 2012 the television subtitling said that some unfortunate hospital patients had been left sitting in ‘the Rhône excrement’.
(Note: Such a word was for most speakers in the last century considered as containing the General British diphthong /ɛə/ but now seems to be increasingly regarded as more satisfactorily described as normally monophthongal [ɛː]. Accepting this view, I now normally write it as /ɛ/ with the economy of avoiding any length mark as unnecessary to distinguish it from /e/).
There has the common weakform /ðə/ eg as in There was one but there isn’t now. /ðə `wɒz ˏwᴧn | bət ðər ˈɪznt ˎnaʊ/ to which a reply might well be Isn’t there? /`ɪznt ˏðɛ/. The alternative posssibility /`ɪznt ˏðə/ seems to be tending to sound old-fashioned or conspicuous in such an exposed final position. This tendency is much less applicable to /ðə/ at its shortest as in eg /`ɪz ðə/ where the lengthening effect of carrying a tonal movement doesn’t occur.

Blog 540

The 21st of October 2017

Your Nonagenarian Bloggist

The English Phonetic Society of Japan occasionally devotes substantial parts of its Journal to Festschrifts. They so honored Professor John Wells in 2011 on the occasion of his seventieth birthday and retirement from the Chair of Phonetics at University College London. See our Blog 341. Another was dedicated in 2013 to the distinguished doyen of Korean phonetics Professor Hyun Bok Lee. See our Blog 462.

EPS President Masaki Tsuzuki in 2016 in Issue No. 21 of the Society's Journal similarly congratulated your bloggist on his reaching his 90th birthday last year in recognition of his having been a regular principal advisor to the Society ever since its founding in 1995. Joining him in their congratulations were Professor Hyun Bok Lee, Professor Masaki Taniguchi, Dr Kazuaki Ichizaki, Atsunori Kaniya, Professor Alessandro Rotatori, Professor John Esling, Dr Geoff Lindsey, Professor Carlos Gussenhoven, Professor Jane Setter, Marina Cantarutti, Professor Rafael Monroy, Associate Professor Karen Steffen Chung, Professor Emerita Gunnel Melchers, Professor Yoshio Ido, Dr Victor Pavón Vásqez, and Ayako Watanabe.

Along with the titles of the articles they have very kindly supplied for inclusion in 371 pages of the volume, are Professor David Crystal On saying ‘and correctly, Professor Alan Cruttenden A note on accent placement in idioms, Professor John Wells CPD in retrospect, Dr Patricia Ashby Written Intonation, Dr Michael Ashby Recognition where its due: some experiments in optical character recognition (OCR) for phonetic symbols, John A. Maidment Thomas Hallam: The Phonetician of the Peaks, Dr Inger M. Mees, Christina Høøck Osorno & Paul Carley Age-grading and stability in Cardiff: a real-time study spanning 34 years, Dr Tsutomu Akamatsu [h]/[ɦ] in intraword context in English, Professor Thorstein Fretheim East Norwegian falls and rises do not mean the same as English falls and rises, John Higgins English homographs and text-to-speech algorithms, Professor Michael K C MacMahon The Background to Richard Steads Phonetic Study of a Yorkshire Dialect (1877), Professor Mária Gósy Phrase-final lengthening in the speech of Hungarian learners of English, Graham Pointon The Anglicisation of Foreign Names, Professor Petr Rösel On Some of Jack Windsor Lewiss contributions to phonetic terminology, Sidney A. J. Wood A spectrographic study of sound changes in nineteenth century Kent, Professor Lucas van Buuren The indispensable science of embodied linguistic phonetics, Dr Brian Mott The syllable: a review and a look at some outstanding issues, Professor Peter French A Developmental History of Forensic Speaker Comparison in the UK, Professor Tamikazu Date A report on a pronunciation workshop in Nagoya 2016, Yuichi Todaka Improvement of Japanese College Students’ English Pronunciation Using English Central, Professor Masaki Taniguchi, Professor Hyun Bok Lee & Yusuke Shibata A comparison of Korean and English Rhythm, Kyoko Oga & Mamiko Orii-Akita ICT-Supported Pronunciation Training Program for English Teachers in Japan, Issei Wake & Mamiko Orii Using Critical Theory and American Literary Works to Improve University-Level English Presentation Skills through Active and Cooperative Learning Strategies, Kasuo Misono Why do vowels in English shift?, Hiroshi Miura The Differences of the Distribution and Quality of the [ɪu] Diphthong between Welsh and Cornish Accents of English.

Blog 539

The 4th of September 2017

People Speaking 46 An Unacceptable Gift

aɪ wz ˈwᴧns ˈrᴧŋ ˎᴧp | baɪ ə w- | ˈwᴧn əv ˈðoʊz | əm 1
I was once rung up by er one of those um
`dɑns stjudioʊz | ðət ˈdu ɪt baɪ | ðer `advəˏtaɪzɪŋ | 2
 dance studios that do it by— their advertising—
 baɪ ˈteləfoʊnɪŋ ˏnᴧmbəz | ət `randəm | 3
—by telephoning numbers at random.
ən ðə ˈleɪdi ət ði ˈᴧðər ˏend | sed | 4
And the lady at the other end said:
ɡʊd ˈɑftə ˎnun | ɪz ˈðɪs [u] | 5
‘Good afternoon. Is this [oo]’
ən ɡeɪvː| ˈmaɪ `nᴧmbə | 6
 and gave my number.
ˏ jes aɪ ˈsed | `wəl ʃi sed | 7
‘Yes’, I said. ‘Well’ she said
ˈjɔ`teləfoʊn ˏnᴧmbəz | bɪn əˏwɔdɪd | 8
‘Your telephone number’s been awarded
ə ˈfri `dɑnsɪŋ lesn |  ˈaɪ ˈsed | `madəm | 9
 a free dancing lesson’. I said, ‘Madam,
maɪ ˏteləfoʊn | ˈkɑnt `dɑns | 10
my telephone can’t dance’.
 ən `nᴧθɪŋ ˏdɔntɪd | ʃi ˈp[l]aʊd `ɒn | 11
And, nothing daunted, she ploughed on.
ʃi sed | ˈwʊd ju ˈlaɪk | 12
She said ‘Would you like
tu ə`veɪl jɔself ɒv ɪt | 13
to avail yourself of it?’
 ən ˈaɪ ˈsed | ə`las, madəm | 14
And I said ‘Alas, Madam,
maɪ ˈdɑnsɪŋ ˈdeɪz | ɑ ˈlɒŋ ˈsɪns ˎəʊvə | 15
my dancing days are long since over’.
`stɪl| ʃi wʊdn ɡɪv ˏᴧ [ː]p | ən sed | ˏbraɪtli| 16
Still she wouldn’t give up and said brightly
`wel | ɪz ðɛr ˈenɪbɒdi `els ət ðat ˎnᴧmbə | 17
‘Well is there anybody else at that number
hud `laɪk tu | əˎveɪl ðəmselvz əv ðɪs ˎɒfə | 18
who'd like to avail themselves of this offer
 ən ˈaɪ ˈsed | ˈmadəm | ðer ɪz ˈnəʊbədi ˏhɪə | 19
And I said ‘Madam, there is nobody here
bət ən ˈəʊld ˈman | ənd ɪz ˎmemriz | 20
but an old man and his memories’.
ənd ət `lɑst | ʃi ˈɡɒt ðə ˏpɔɪnt | ən raŋ `ɒf. 21
And at last she got the point and rang off.

The Wells LPD says of the pronunciation of their
 as having the ‘occasional’ weakform /ðə/ but here we
have another weakform /ðe/. Its strongform is /ðɛ/ ie [ðɛː].
In line 3  we see that the medial vowel of telephone is a schwa.
LPD 2008 gives /telɪfəʊn/ first but this seems to be tending to
sound either a little old-fashioned or socially conspicuous.
In line 5 the speaker has a sort of ‘slip of the tongue’ after  this.
In line 7 we see that well is accented even tho its vowel is a schwa.
This pronunciation is only recognised by LPD as an ‘occasional’
weakform but it doesnt seem very unusual here.
In line 11 the /l/ of  ploughed (which must be meant) seems inaudible.
In line 16 the vowel of up is so lengthened that it’s hardly if at all
diff·rent from that of carp or harp. And wouldnt has no /t/ tho that’s
quite normal for it when the next word begins with a consonant.
In line 20 the final syllable drops in volume so much that
one can’t be sure whether it’s /-iz/ or /-ɪz/.

Blog 538

The 24th of August 2017

Weakforms (xxii) shall, shd, shdn't, shdn've, so, somebody, somehow, somewhat, something, sort-of, such, suppose, sure

By way of informing students of English on what they may hear in native-speaker talk, on this website at §4.7.130, I mentioned that ‘In relaxed informal styles further weakening of shall to /ʃə/ may occur before some consonants eg Shall we go? as in /ʃə wi ˊgəʊ/.     Occasionally this /ʃə/ may even be accented as in /`ʃə wi ´gəʊ/. In such styles not only is the ell sometimes elided but so also is the schwa thus reducing shall to /ʃ/ as in the case of /ʃwi ˊgəʊ/. Also quite common is eg Shall I try /´ʃlaɪ traɪ/.
LPD gives as ‘occasional’ weakforms /ʃəd, ʃd & ʃt/. It’s rather surprising that /ʃəd/ should be given as ‘occasional’ because it's what seems to very frequently occur whenever should is unstrest. In any case, the relative occurrences of /ʊ & ə/ are quite difficult to judge especially in the habits of younger GB speakers among whom the distinction between the two vowels has been noticeably disappearing in the direction of schwa.
For /ʃd & ʃt/ the absence of aspiration at the /t/ makes the one hard to distinguish from the other.
An occurrence of the /d/ of /ʃd/ as the initial consonant of an accented syllable wd be possible if a reply to When did dinos die out?/ˈwen dɪd ˈdaɪnoʊz daɪ `aʊt/ were to be, as it easily might, How should I know? /haʊʃ `daɪnoʊ/. In occasional cases the /d/ of /ʃd/ may undergo assimilation to a following word as when I should go may become /`aɪ ʃd ˏɡoʊ/ and possibly also /`aɪ ʃɡˏɡoʊ/ and even very casually /`aɪ ʃˏɡoʊ/ which will then coincide with a casual version of I shall go.
 As with all words having the negative ending n’t, it’s extremely common for this to occur as /ʃʊdn/ with no final /t/ unless the word immediately precedes a silence or a break in the speaker’s rhythmic flow.
As so often, LPD has richer information than any of its rivals at this unusual type of entry. It gives /ʃʊd əv/ and ‘occasional weak form’ /ʃtəv/. It’d be reasonable to say that he /ʃtəv/ added /ʃdəv/. At any rate, the difference between these alternatives can often be impossible to hear as with eg I should have thought... /`aɪ ʃd əv ˏθɔt.../.
This word is surprisingly briefly delt with in LPD which only sez ‘There is an occasional’ weakform /sə/.’ As a conjunction in conversational usage it often takes its weakform in comparisons of the type eg This is not so nice as that one. I don't like so much sugar. They're not so very different. Compared with an·sering How d'you feel? with Not so good as /nɒt sə ˎɡʊd/, the alternative /ˈnɒt soʊ ˎɡʊd/ might tend to sound a bit more serious.
This weakform of so very commonly occurs beginning sentences especially in less formal contexts (tho it can never end sentences). It then usually means ‘for that reason, on that account, accordingly, consequently or therefore’. E.g. So then I left. So how was that? So there you are.
When it precedes a man’s forename sentence-initially it sometimes produces unfortunate ambiguities as to whether a titled person or not is being referred to especially in news broadcasts, eg So John has resigned may coincide auditorily with Sir John has resigned /sə ˈʤɒn əz riˎzaɪnd/.
A very casual occasional expression of farewell is So long /ˈsə ˈlɒŋ/ where it seems difficult to decide whether the so is accented or not.
Besides the usual form /`sᴧmbədi/ and the much less usual strongform /`sᴧmbɒdi/ (of which that usual form is of course a weakform) there are the casual weakforms /`sᴧmmədi, sᴧmədi & `sᴧmdi/ as in /ɑs sᴧmdi `els/ Ask somebody else.
This is sometimes /`sᴧmaʊ/ in informal speech.
This has the weakform /`sᴧmwən/ eg in /ɑs sᴧmwən `els/ Ask someone else. As Graham Pointon reminds me, there's also another weakform /`sᴧmmən/ with /w/ replaced by a second /m/. A further weakening produces a double elision to /`sᴧmn/ as when someone else becomes /sᴧmn `els./
This has the usually unnoticed weakform /`sᴧnθɪŋ/ and very casually occasionally /sᴧmɪŋ/.
OED has the spellings ‘sort of, o', a, sorter’, the last three of which all indicate the pronunciation /sɔtə/. Despite the ‘popular’ spelling  sorter’ that OED quotes with a final ‘r’ this expression can contain no /r/ unless it is a linking one. This may also sound /sɔdə/ and very often becomes /sətə/.
OED also has‘used adverbially: In a way or manner; to some extent or degree, somewhat; in some way, somehow. Hence passing into use as a parenthetic qualifier expressing hesitation, diffidence, or the like, on the speaker's part...
This is colloquially sometimes added to qualify a statement etc only as /`sɔt əv/ equivalent to ‘not exactly’. Cf kinda, lotta and cuppa.
Informally unstressed occurring immediately before a vowel this is often /səʧ/ eg as in /ˈnɒt səʧ ə ɡʊd aɪ`dɪə/ Not such a good idea.
The weakform /spoʊz/ is very commonly used after the pronoun I and sometimes with other subjects eg /dju spouz ɪts `ˏpɒsəbl/ D’you suppose it’s possible?
Some speakers have a weakform /ʃə/ of variable length to express  sorts of casual mostly rather cursory agreement, as Kraut has kindly reminded me.

Blog 537

The 12th of July 2017

People Speaking 45 The Festive Season


    1.    `krɪsməs əl bi ˈhɪə ˈsun | ˈwɒt ju ˈgɪvɪŋ | ᴧŋkl ˎalbət
    2.    ɜ ˈɜ | ˈwɒd əm `aɪ gɪvɪŋ ˏɪm
    3.    `[h]jes
    4.    `əʊ | ɜ | ˈɜ[b] | `aɪ səpəʊz iz `ɡɒ [ʔ]p plenti əv sɪ`ˏgɑz
    5.    [hj]es| hiz ɡɒt ˈɔl ðə ˈwᴧnz | i had frɪz `bɜθdeɪ
    6.    [i`eː]…ˈʃal wi ɡɪv ɪm sᴧmθɪŋ bɪ`twin əs dju ˏθɪŋk
    7.    ˈəʊˏkeɪ | ˈwɒt əˈbaʊt ə ˎpʊləʊvə
    8.    `raɪt. ´haz i ˈɡɒt ə ˈfeɪvrət `ˏkᴧlə
    9.    `u | aɪ də `nəʊ…| bət wi məs ˈget ɪt | ət sənt ˎmaɪklz |
             an ðen i kən ˈteɪk ɪt ˈbak | ən ˈʧeɪnʤ ɪt ɪf i ˎwɒnts tu
    10.    jud ˈbetə `tel ɪm i ˏkan | ɔr i ˈwəʊnt ˎnəʊ. hi ˈgeɪv ə`weɪ | ðat                 `red ˏwᴧn | ɑnt `eθl bɔt ɪm ˏðɛ
    11.    `əʊ [h]u.`evriwᴧn ət ˏɑ haʊs | əd bɪn `wᴧndrɪŋ |
                wɒt əd ˎhapm̩ ˏtu ɪt

Comments numbered by speaker turn:

  1. This omission of ‘are’ after ‘What’ is fairly normal in markedly informal speech.

  2. The difference between /t/ and /d/ is very reduced when they end words because then /t/ doesnt receive the aspiration it has word-initially. The /d/ replacing the normal /t/ here simply sounds informal.

  3. Speakers don·t on·y use words but also ‘noises’  to express themselves. The aitch-type noise before ‘yes’ is an example.

  4. The /t/ of ‘got’ has a simultaneous glottal stop. Another ‘noise’.

  5. The /j/ beginning ‘yes’ is here pronounced with ‘breathy noise’. A weakform of ‘for’ omitting its vowel coming together with a weakform of ‘his’ omitting its /h/  is quite a  usual combination.

  6. He draws out ‘yes’ thoughtfully and drops its final /s/ informally in a way you sometimes see spelt ‘yeah’.

The exclamation ‘Ooh’ expresses usually slight displeasure. The reduction of ‘don’t know’ to dunno’ is very informal./an/ with no /d/ is a very commom weakform of ‘and’ .

  1. Her extension of the exclamation ‘oh’ to what might be written as ‘oh-hoo’ is simply personal noise-making.

Text in ordin·ry spelling:

    1.  Christmas will be here soon.What are you giving Uncle                         Albert?
    2.    Er. Er. What am I giving him?
    3.    Yes.
    4.    Oh. Er. Er. I suppose he’s got plenty of cigars.
    5.    Yes. He’s got all the ones he had for his birthday.
    6.     Shall we give him something between us, d’you think?
    7.    Okay. What about a pullover?
    8.    Right. Has he got a favourite colour?
    9.    Ooh! I don’t know…but we must get it at St Michaels
            and then he can take it back and change it if he wants to.
    10.   You’d better tell him he can or he won’t know.
             He gave away that red one Aunt Ethel bought him there.
    11.    Oh! Everyone at our house had been wondering what had                         happened to it.

Blog 536

The 14th of June 2017

Weakforms (xxi) particularly, per, perhaps, probably, really

Only LPD 2008 ie the Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary deals with ‘weak forms’ really thoro’ly of the three pronunciation dictionaries of GB. When I quote pronunciations from LPD I dont necessarily reproduce its original symbols (or spaces). My use of forward slashes indicates positive phonemic transcription, backward ones are non-committal.

particular LPD was right to give its warning label ︎ for /pə`tɪklə/ becoz isolate, prominent, deliberate etc renditions of the word are truly ‘considered incorrect’ tho, in fact, if they’re at all casually uttered they’d be likely to pass unnoticed as does [pə`tɪkələ] a common instance of yod dropping. Cf [pə`tɪkklə] which was mentioned at Blog 391.

    particularly LPD sez ‘in casual speech sometimes also  /pə`tɪkjəli/ or /pə`tɪkəli/ or /pə`tɪkli/’ being paps a bit over cautious in saying ‘casual’.

per has the common weakform /pə/ as in The naval rum ration was one tot /pə/ person /pə/ day.

       perhaps LPD sez ‘informally also pər`aps’, on·y rarely \pr̩`aps\ with syllabic /r/ which·d tend to sound hesitant.

    /paps/, tho extremely common and not even really limited to casual use is not given in any of the pronunciation dictionaries. Cf our Blog 423 which also notes /pəʊgram, prəʊgam/ and even  /pəʊgam/.

    probably LPD sez ‘In casual speech sometimes \`prɒbli\. Especially if it isnt isolated, in ord·n·ry conversation it’s quite typicly so. Casually it’s \`pɒbli\ in running speech and sometimes \`prɒbəli\.and even occasionally \`pɒbəli\.

    real This word was the subject of an LPD preference poll which by 55% to 45%  favoured identity with ‘reel’ as \riːl\ but JCW disagreed giving /rɪəl/ in first place thus indicating it as in his opinion the more usual ‘RP’ version

        really gave an even more problematic result as the subject of another LPD preference poll: 80% of the (Remember: non-expert, self-selected British ie not excluding Scottish etc) participants sed it rhymed with neither freely nor frilly; 19% rhymed it with freely. I think a generation or so back this last version /`rili/ wdve been widely considered to be distinctly unfashionable but times seem t’ve been changing.
     Far more int·resting is that 80% feeling that it rhymed with neither freely nor frilly. Quite right! Becoz the predominant pronunciation is not exac·ly with the diphthong [ɪə] but with the long monophthong [ɪː] which cd on·y’ve been offered as an alternative choice to a set of participants who were phoneticly savvy. The version actually with the true diphthong now sounds completely old-fashioned and/or pedantic and/or conspicuously posh. I dont remember when I last heard it uttered like that. They rightly rejected [rɪli] coz spoken clearly and firmly it sounds rather ridiculous for ‘really’. However, uttered lightly in casual speech I guess [rɪli] offen occurs unnoticed. Compare the comments on nearly at our Blog 397.

     Saint: LPD deals well with the slightly complicated weakforms of this giving /sənt/ as the usual weakform and at the abbreviation St, explaining that /sən/ ‘tends to be restricted to cases where the following name begins with a consonant’. At  p. 769 it explicitly points out that in GB the strongform ‘is not customary when St is prefixed to a name’ (by contrast with its GA treatment).

    says is a word for which British poll preferences were collected for LPD. Only 16% of the participants favoured /seɪz/. Few if any of these are likely to’ve been GB speakers, I guess. None of the dictionaries makes any mention of the existence of the admittedly unusual weakform /s(ə)z/ sometimes heard especially in certain kinds of very informal narration eg ‘Right! says I’. The same goes for the rare form /s(ə)d/of said.

    serious has the occasional weakforms /`sɪriəs/ and /`sɪərəs/ homophonous respectively with Sirius and serous (the star and the adjective corresponding to serum).

    seriously has the weakforms /`sɪrəsli/  and /`sirəsli/ both  much commoner than the only version recorded in the reference books ie /`sɪəriəsli/. It is probably most often [`sɪːrəsli] with the quasi phoneme \ ɪː\. All these seem to be much more usual than that /`sɪəriəsli/ the only recognised version. 

Blog 535

The 9th of June 2017

How Shakespeare Spoke

Book cover

Wou·dn’ it be great if we had an audio recording of William Shakespeare speaking some of his own stuff. Our Blog 051 was about a written record of the actual words he spoke in giving evidence at a hearing in a court of law. But his own voice of course we can only guess about. He may well have kept some of his native Warwickshire features rather than conformed completely to the sophisticated London norms of the theatrical world he joined, tho he also, as one with no do·ut a pritty keen ear, may well’ve become something of a speech chameleon.

    However, David Crystal our ‘foremost writer..on the English language’ as Wikipedia justly describes him, has been working hard to give us the nearest thing. He’s been studying the evidence on the ways English sounded 400 years ago with concentrated attention to Shakespeare’s works. His efforts were crowned last year with the publication, after ten long years of preparation, of his weighty 700-page volume entitled The Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation

     For a century and a half scholars, actually first in the USA, have put a lot of thaut into working out what the sound of EModE (Early Modern English) was like. The earliest significant work on how Shakespeare sounded was the 1865 ‘Memorandum on English Pronunciation in the Elizabethan era’ written by the New Yorker Richard Grant White to accompany his edition of the plays. Since then, many publications on the subject far too numerous to detail here have appeared. Most notable among the earliest was On Early English Pronunciation with Especial Reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer (1869-74) by the great British polymath Alexander J. Ellis. Chief among the others were A Shakespeare Phonology (1906) by the German scholar Wilhelm Viëtor of the University of Marburg and Shakespeare’s Pronunciation (1953) by the Swedish author Helge Kökeritz who worked at various American universities including Yale whose University Press publisht his book. Also there was Shakespeare’s Works and Elizabethan Pronunciation by the Italian academic Fausto Cercignani of the University of Milan whose book was publisht by Oxford University Press in 1981.

    Crystal modestly declares that his book has ‘a single aim: to help those who wish to present Shakespeare using Early Modern English Pronunciation’. That he regularly refers to as ‘OP’ standing for ‘Original Pronunciation’. He gives OP versions determined by him of the over 20,000 diff·rent words occurring in the whole Shakespeare output of 36 plays, 154 Sonnets and other verse.                
    Some of the earliest performances in OP, not of whole plays but selected scenes, were given by Daniel Jones and members of his Department of Phonetics of UCL (University College London) as early as 1909. These were to lead in 1949 to a BBC radio program The Elizabethan Tongue in which actors trained by Jones performed ‘passages from the plays of Shakespeare in their original pronunciation’. An undergraduate at the time, I remember liss·ening to it with great fascination. As every·one is, I was struck by its effect of sounding like a curious mixture of British strongly regional accents chiefly West-country and North-country varieties with a few occasional suggestions of Irish speech.

    Crystal is optimistic about the problems for actors undertaking to use OP saying ‘They should find it learnable with no greater difficulty than they would experience in acquiring any other accent’ but also he acknowledges that it takes a ‘great deal of rehearsal time. It is not like the learning of a modern regional accent, where the actors have contemporary intuitions and everyday models to refer to. It requires a special kind of dialect coaching, which is not always available’.

    So it’s not surprising that productions are not very numerous. The London 1997 reconstruction of the Elizabethan Globe theatre after some years put on an OP Romeo and Juliet in 2004 and followed it the next year with a Troilus and Cressida. Since then there has been only a Henry V. Rather than here, there’ve been OP stagings at American universities including Yale, Kansas, Nevada, Houston Texas, Minneapolis and Baltimore.

     Before this dictionary Crystal had already published the books Shakespeare’s Words in 2002 (with his son Ben), Pronouncing Shakespeare in 2005 and Think on my Words: Exploring Shakespeare’s Language in 2008. He has also set up ‘Shakespeare’s Words’ a very valuable free website glossary and language companion explaining archaic meanings of words. A concise formal review by your bloggist of this Crystal Oxford Dictionary of Original Shakespearean Pronunciation is due shortly to appear in the Cambridge University Press publication the Journal of the International Phonetic Association.

Blog 534

The 13th of March 2017

People Speaking 44 A la Australienne

/ˈɑ ˈlɑ| ɒˈstreɪliˎen/ ie In the Australian style.

1.We had a Goanese steward, who was called Anis.
    /wi had ˈgoʊəˈniz `stjuəd | hu wəz kɔld `anɪs
2. And we had a couple of lovely Australian girls
    ən wi ad ə ˈkᴧpl ˈəv | `lᴧvli | əˈstreɪljən ˎɡɜlz |
3. in the cabin with me, who were…
    ɪn ðə kabɪn wɪð ˏmi | hu wə...
4. The original dumb blondes.
    ði ə`rɪʤənəl ˈdᴧm ˎblɒnz
            It’s completely ordinary to elide the /d/ of the sequence
            /-ndz/ in a word like blondes.
5. Except they weren’t blondes really. They made..
    ek sept ðeɪ ˎwɜnt ˎblɒnz ˏrɪəli | ðeɪ meɪd—
            Words like really are normally transcribed as /rɪəli/
            tho their /ɪə/ phoneme may be realised not as a diphthong
            as here with a long simple vowel [rɪːli]. It’s occasionally
            possible to hear this word pronounced with a perfectly short
            [ɪ] vowel so it’s possible to consider the version [rɪːli] as                 /rɪli/  phonemicly but with a lengthened /ɪ/.
6. (They) used to spend hours in the cabin with a bottle
             jus tə spend `ɑz ɪn ðə `kabɪn wɪð ə `bɒtl...
            In this sense of ‘used’ as ‘accustomed to’ it sounds very
            strange if a speaker shd say /juzd/ instead of the normal
            devoiced /jus(t)/. The 'smoothing' /ɑz/ is not unusual.
7. At any rate, they were the original sort of dumb blondes
    ət `eni reɪt | ðeɪ wə ði ə`rɪʤənl sət əv ˈdᴧm ˎblɒnz |
            It’s only in the adverbial expression ‘sort of’ that the
            word sort may be heard with its wowel reduced to /ə/.
8. And they insisted on calling him ‘Anus’
    ən ðeɪ ɪn`sɪstɪd ɒn kɔlɪŋ ɪm `eɪnəs.
9. And they obviously didn’t realise...
    ən ðeɪ ˈɒbvɪsli ˈdɪdnt ˎrɪlaɪz..
            It’s extremely common to replace the traditional form
            of the word obviously with such a weakform.
10. We used to have hysterics every time.
     `wi jus tə hav ɪ`sterɪks evri taɪm...
             It’s not uncommon to drop initial aitch of a second                               successive word beginning with a weak syllable.
11. Yes he could shamble in early morning with the tea.
    ˎjes i kəd ˈʃambl ˈɪn | ɜli ˎmɔnɪŋ | wɪð ðə ˎti |
12. And they used to say | Hullo Anis.
      ən ðeɪ ˈjus tə ˈseɪ | ˈhᴧˈloʊ ˏeɪ ˈnəs |
12. It made the day for us.
      ɪt `meɪd | ðə `deɪ | fər ˏᴧs.

 Our title meaning ‘in the Australian style’refers
        to the manner of pronunciation used by the
        Australian girls of the story.

  The English word anus /`eɪnəs/, sez the Oxford Advanced
        Learner’s Dictionary, is ‘The opening in a person’s bottom
        through which solid waste leaves the body’.

  The speaker is describing a voyage on board
a ship where
          a steward is a man who serves meals etc to
ship’s passengers.

   Goanese means coming from Goa, a state on the west coast
         of India which was formerly a Portuguese colony.

Our transcription gives only the words of the person describing
         her experience.

The story partly reflects the feature of the Australian accent that,
       like various other English accents,
for the final vowels of words         like tennis, office etc it has a schwa by contrast with General             British which has /ɪ/ for them.

Blog 533

The 24th of February 2017

Somethink Puzzling

I’ve long been puzzled by a unique feature of the four words anything, everything, nothing and something. In Joseph Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary of 1905 one finds that he recorded the pronunciation anythink as reported from places especially in the midland English counties Cheshire, Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. He had no entries for everythingk or somethingk but for nothingk, besides its incidence in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland and Staffordshire, he noted reports of its occurrence in Warwickshire, Kent, Wiltshire and Somerset.
    One of the few scholars to refer in the past to the devoicing of the final g of /-ŋɡ/ to /-ŋk/ was E. J. Dobson in Vol II of his English Pronunciation 1500-1700 (1968) at p.942 where he remarked ‘The unvoicing of final [ŋg] to [ŋk] … occurs sporadically in late OE…’ [OED gives an instance from the Will of Ælfhelm in D. Whitelock’s Anglo-Saxon Wills (1930) ‘Gif hwa æfre ænig þinc of þysum…’ It also mentions, at the noun thing, Old Dutch thing becoming Middle Dutch dinc and the same development in High German.] Dobson continued ‘it is regular in the North-west Midlands in ME and is a widespread vulgarism in ModE. The orthoepists, however, give no evidence of it.
    It’s true that there’s surprisingly no mention of the phenomenon in the works of the supreme orthoepist John Walker (1732-1807) nor in those of his principal successor B. H. Smart, (1787-1872) but that last comment of Dobson’s was contradicted by his ref·rence to the fact that Henry Cecil Wyld (1870-1945) in his History of Modern Colloqial English (1936 p.290) quoted the orthoepist James Elphinston (1721–1809 a London-based Scot) as saying ‘Among very vulgar speakers — not in London alone — we sometimes hear “nothingk” for ‘nothing at the present time’ and also ‘a common Londoner talks of anny think else or anny thing kelse’. It’s cert·nly a puzzling matter that, in modern times, altho this kind of seemingly ‘excrescent’ /k/ is never found anywhere in England on simple words, not even attached to the word ‘thing’, it’s to be he·rd fairly widely ending one or other of these four very common compound nouns anything, everything, nothing and something.
    It seems that in earlier times this very limited occurrence of such a phenomenon was not quite the whole story even in English. Wyld (1936) had a relevant quotation from a biography of the famous Cardinal Wolsey by his ‘gentleman-usher’ George Cavendish (1497 – c. 1562) under the title ‘Thomas Wolsey, Late Cardinall, his Lyffe and Deathe’ which came to be printed in 1641. In it the word hanging appeared as ‘hankyng’. Wyld (1936) also reported from A. J. Ellis’s monumental five-volume On Early English Pronunciation quotations of 1548 in her own handwriting by Queen Elizabeth containing ‘brinkinge of me up’ and ‘our brinkers up’.
    The mystery of the under-reporting of this phonological phenomenon thickens when we consider that some of the keenest observers of ‘received’ as also of less ‘accepted’ English speech, included most remarkably the Londoner Daniel Jones, who for example drew attention in The Pronunciation of English 1956 §247 to the insertion of an ‘intrusive’ /k/ after the /ŋ/ in the words length and strength, but nowhere referred to the existence of any /k/ after a word-final /ŋ/ despite his readiness to refer to other Cockneyisms.
    The large-scale Leeds University Survey of English Dialects (1962-1972) provided records of numerous informants saying the word anything with final /k/ (in response to its Questionnaire Book V item 8.16 and Book VII items 8.14 & 15) in over half the counties of England including besides the midland ones mentioned above, the more peripheral Durham, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex. This consideration makes it rather disappointing that, in the Survey’s magnificent 1978 Linguistic Atlas of England edited by Harold Orton, Stewart Sanderson and John Widdowson, we find Phonological Maps 242 and 243 of tongue and tongs showing the incidence of variants with and without /ɡ/ but no phonological map was included of anything which cd’ve shown the wide distribution of final /k/ variants of that word.
    Anyway, while I was continuing to bewail scholars’ neglect of these final-k forms, the current OED3 team suddenly came up last June (ie in 2016) with a brand-new OED entry headed anythink which reads “Forms of anything pron. and n. showing devoicing of /ŋɡ/ to /ŋk/ are attested sporadically from Old English onwards …. It is noteworthy that the early modern orthoepists make no mention of this development, which appears to have been first noticed (and condemned as a vulgarism) by the Scot Elphinston…They add the caution ‘Occasional occurrences of the forms anythink, any think (as also nothink, somethink, etc.) in standard English printed sources from the late 17th cent. to the early 19th cent. probably reflect the language of the typographer.’ OED’s quotations begin with the 1698 “L. Milbourne Notes [on] Dryden's Virgil 138 There was Pasturage enough, if anythink was wanting, it was Flocks and Herds to graze on ‘em.” Apparently the most famous writer to demonstrate the use of anythink was Charles Dickens from whom OED quotes his 1861 novel Great Expectations (at Chapter III. xix. p. 333) as containing ‘O dear old Pip, old chap,’ said Joe. ‘God knows as I forgive you, if I have anythink to forgive!’ In current spoken usage the phenomenon is occasionally to be heard twinkling in the speech of a rather curious variety of quite prominent speakers including Hampshire originary Chris Packham.

    [Further examples of ‘-think’ compounds in Old and Middle English quoted in OED are tr. Vitas Patrum in B. Assmann Angelsächsische Homilien u. Heiligenleben (1889) 196 Þa ne gefredde he naþinc þæs brynes for þam miclan luste, ?a1425 (?a1350) T. Castleford Chron. (1940) 21494 (MED), Dedeing me þink anens þin dedes, Þe to amende na þink þou spedes” and Seven Sleepers (Julius) (1994) 39 Us nan þingc on worulde fram Gode ne gehremme & sum þing(c), ðing, ME sum ðinc.]