Archive 10 of JWL Blog


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

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07/06/2008A C GIMSON born 7 June 1917#100
30/05/2008Pronunciations of SOME, CAN'T etc#099
27/05/2008MARRIED but HAPPY /-i/#098
22/05/2008Divorce and Settee etc#097
21/05/2008Contextual Variation etc#096
19/05/2008Changing Usages#095
17/05/2008Public Address on a Train#094
15/05/2008Studying Varieties of English#093
13/05/2008Vowels in the Three Pron. Dicts#092
03/05/2008Hello! Again#091

Blog 100

The 7th of June 2008

A C GIMSON born 7 June 1917

Portrait of ACG

 7 June 1917 — 22 April 1985

The twentieth century produced three towering figures in the field of the phonetics of British English. Indisputably the first half of the century was dominated by the influence of Daniel Jones. See Section 2 §1 on this site. Tho he was much less exclusively concerned with English than either of the others his work eclipsed the brilliant beginning of a fully mature scientific approach that had been made by Henry Sweet in the previous century.

The second of these figures was the man born 91 years ago today who burst into celebrity in 1962 with the publication of his over-modestly titled volume An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English. This was instantly universally recognised as having replaced the works of Jones as the most authoritative and complete account of its subject. He used to insist to me that he'd written it in two years but it was plainly the outcome of deliberations that had continued for more than 15 years. I don't propose to discuss it here. All I shd wish to say is that its value is witnessed to by the fact that it is still in print 46 years later. I have to admit that, when approached by its publishers after his death for my opinion on what should be its future, I advised that it shd continue to be published unaltered. This advice was of course not taken and I have had to eat my words when I've contemplated the splendid revisions of it that have been accomplished by Alan Cruttenden.
    In the version of that book which I have to hand there are eleven Gimson publications listed. I therefore take this opportunity of adding to that list below another sixteen items that those interested in Gimson's writings may be glad to have information on not readily available elsewhere. Besides this I may refer readers to Section 7 §1 on this site which deals with his contributions to the publications of the International Phonetic Association.
    The third figure I was referring to is of course John Wells, on whom see Section 2 §3 on this site, and by whom an obituary on Gimson (originally of 22 Dec 92) was placed on the Web at 12 Oct 2001. In it he referred to the fact that Gimson was much loved by all his colleagues and students. This may seem to have been very strongly expressed but I can personally vouch for its aptness.
    He was indeed a lovable person, a character of great warmth and generosity and wonderful company for those who were privileged to enjoy his friendship. He was a delightful raconteur and (by such a contrast with Jones) had a keen sense of humour. To very briefly illustrate this and for those who may be curious to hear what his voice sounded like I append here a very short extract (a minute and a quarter) from his introductory address to the 1977 First Leeds University International Conference on the Teaching of Spoken English. 

Here's a rough transcription of some of it:

ðe ˈwɒz ə ˈtaim | wen ðə ˈbrɪtɪʃ ˈkaʊnsl [ʌː] — ðə ˈbrɪtɪʃ | ən ði əˋˏmerɪkənz| n ðə brɪtɪʃ ˋtuː (ʌnd ðɪ ɔːspɪsɪz ə ðə brɪtɪʃ ˏkaʊnsl) juːs tə miːt ði| əˈmerɪkənz|ɪn sʌm əˈgrɪəbl ˋpleɪs ɪn ðə ˏwɜːld| ӕn| tə tɔːk əbaʊt ðə ˋ·fjuːʧə| əv ði ɪŋlɪʃ ˎlӕŋgwɪʤ. ӕn (ɒn) ˈwʌn əˈkeɪʒn | wi met ɪn ˋ·rəʊm| ən ði əˋmerɪkənz| səʊ ˋraɪtlɪ sed| wɪr ɪn ˋ·rəʊm| wi ʃəd siː ðə ˋpəʊp. səʊ ˈwiː ˈwent| tə siː ðə ˋpəʊp. wi hӕd n ɔːdjəns wɪ ðə ˏpəʊp| ən ˈhiː ˈgeɪv əs| ə ˈhɑːf ən ɑːz ˈtɔːk| ɒn əplaɪd lɪŋˋgwɪstɪks — ӕnd ə — wɪʧ wəz ˈverɪ ˋbreɪv əv ɪm — ɪn ˎfrenʃ — ɪkˋstriːmli gʊd ˏfrenʃ| ən i (ɔːl geɪv) geɪv əs ˋɔːl ə ˎˏmedl. ən wi wər ɔːl verɪ ˋpliːzd abaʊt ˏðɪs — (ən) ˈwʌn ðə θɪŋz i bəˋˏliːvd ɪn — ˈkwaɪt əˈpɑːt| frm ði | ɔːdnrɪ ˎkrɪstjən bəˏliːfs| wɪʧ i ɒbvəslɪ ˋ·hӕz| ʌm ðiː ə — ɜm —  ˈwʌn ðə θɪŋz i bəˋˏliːvd ɪn |wəz ði ˋɪŋglɪʃ ˋˏlӕŋwɪʤ| wəd ɪn ˈsʌm ˈweɪ | ˈiːvn ˎaʊt. ӕnd ðət wɪd ˋɔːl spiːk ðə seim lӕŋwɪʤ ɪn ði ˏend| (ðəz) ˎnəʊ dɪfklti əv kəmjuːnɪˎkeɪʃn.

Articles etc:

(1948) ‘Notes on a West Norwegian Dialect’ Le Maître Phonétique no. 90 pp 20-22 [c 700 words]
(1949) ‘Implications of the Phonemic/Chronemic Grouping of English Vowels’Acta Linguistica, v 1945-49 [c 3, 000 words]
(1956) ‘The Linguistic Relevance of Stress’ in English’ Zeitschrift für Phonetik  vol 9  [c 4, 500 words]
(1958) ‘The Synthesis of English Vowels’ with G F Arnold, P Denes, J D O’Connor & J L M Trim Language and Speech 1,114-25
(1962) ‘The Transmission of Language’  Supplement I to The Use of English by     Randolph Quirk.  Longman:  London     [c 20, 000 words]
(1962) Appendix to the Gymnastique phonétique franco-anglaise by André J L     Gallet
(1964) Contribution in The Pitcairnese Language by A S C Ross et al The Language Library. Routledge pp 121-135  [c 2, 000 words]
(1965) English Pronunciation Practice with G F Arnold. Univ. of London Press [pp 79]
(1970) ‘British English Pronunciation - standards and evolution’
 Praxis  vol. 17 [c 2, 500 words]
(1976) ‘Phonetics and the compilation of dictionaries’ The Incorporated Linguist  
 [c 5, 500 words]
(1977) ‘Dictionaries and Contemporary English Pronunciation’ in W. Kühlwein &  A. Raasch (eds) Kongressberichte der 7. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für             Angewandte Linguistik - Trier 1976, Band I: Norm und Varietät Hochschulverlag: Stuttgart
 (1978) ‘The pronunciation of English: its international intelligibility’ The Teaching of English in Japan  Eichosha Publishing Company Tokyo [c 2, 200 words.]
(1979) ‘English RP:ancient or modern?’ Praxis vol. 2 

(1979) ‘The Pronunciation of British English’ in the Collins Dictionary of the English Language  ed Patrick Hanks. [c 4, 000 words] 

(1981) Pronunciation in EFL Dictionaries Applied Linguistics II 250-262
(1982) ‘Spoken English as a World Language: its Intelligibility and Acceptability’ in Colloque d’Avril sur l'Anglais Oral  eds M Cling & J Humbley [c 3, 500 words]

Blog 099

The 30th of May 2008

Pronunciations of SOME, CAN'T etc

In his blog of Wensday the 28th of May, John Wells responded to the Buenos Aires teacher Paula Viera's request for his comments on the pronunciation of the word some. She got very good value in his extensive reply.

If I were asked for such an account verbally by one of my students my first recommendation wd take the form of enquiring whether they had studied carefully what the Advanced Learner's Dictionary had to say about the word. No serious teacher of EFL shd fail to be familiar with this book and it shd in my opinion be consulted first before such an enquiry.

Certainly I endorse everything that he had to say to her. Two points he made as briefly as possible saying that he wd ignore them in the remainder of his long discussion. This was very sensible because neither was vital tho both were likely to have been of interest to some of his readers. Also, the mention of the fact that the pronunciation /sm/ with no schwa at all but only a syllabic consonant might help to bring home to students who didnt realise  fully what a major contrast there is between the weakforms of some and its strongform. One of the problems with representing some with no schwa is that it's sometimes very difficult even for experts to decide whether schwa is present or not. But one thing that can be said is that some definitely regularly has the schwa if the closely following segment is a vowel. On the other hand the schwa-less form /sm/ is always a natural form in ordinarily fluent conversation when the immediately following segment is (almost) any consonant. One shd perhaps give the warning that when the next consonant is in fact another /m/ the form of elision called degemination very frequently occurs eg in phrases like some more. This, at least as often as not, becomes /sə mɔː/ so that one might say that in losing its /m/ some regains its schwa.

Having said all that, I have to admit that in a few cases some people (including myself) who feel very conscious of normally distinguishing /sʌm/ and /səm/ even so find themselves weakening some in expressions like I've got some left. Lastly may I refer readers to my "cautionary" example of the danger of over anxiousness to be sure to use weakform some on the part of some of my students. They fell into a little trap I set them by reading aloud Father's bringing home some missionary for dinner in a way that could only have been appropriate for a speaker who was a cannibal.  See on this site §§ 7.2.10 and 7.6.6.

I shd like also to comment on John Maidment's "Linguism" of Sunday 11 May 08  on "The mysteries of alveolar plosive elision" where he says:
"The [t] may be elided in words like can't, shouldn't, hasn't...
I shd rather say that this is perfectly acceptable in ordinary conversational British usage in all situations but one. That one is when a vowel precedes the n't and silence follows it. So I shd say /ju `kɑːn seɪ ˏðӕt, ʤɒn. ju ˈsɪmpli ˎkɑːnt/. Thus final /dəʊn/ and /wəʊn/ are also not "permissible" (if rhyming properly with bone). Perhaps  Maidment's indicating [t] is avoiding saying /t/ so that he's accepting [kɑːnʔ] ie can't where there is an (unreleased) glottal plosive after the /n/. This wd have to be transcribed purely phonemically as /kɑːnt/. If that's so, perhaps he's overlooking the possibility of being misunderstood by many people. And then again there's probably quite a division among observers on whether the [kɑːnʔ] version is an accepted form in the kind of General British pronunciation I imagine we're both thinking of.

Blog 098

The 27th of May 2008


One of my correspondents has written to say:
I'm wondering about the pronunciation of 'marry' and 'married' ... I've often noted that in the pronunciation of my father and people of his generation in Pontypridd the final vowel of 'marry' is the FLEECE vowel, while the final vowel of 'married' is the KIT vowel... Do you think there is any tendency [in General British usage] for the adjective 'married' to reflect the older pronunciation of words ending in <y>, or at least for this word to be lagging behind in the move over to the FLEECE vowel?
    Altho, when investigating for my (never fully published) book Glamorgan Spoken English (1964) I didnt consider Pontypridd speakers in detail, I knew plenty of them and never myself noted such a regular /mari ~ marɪd/ alternation. However, I had the impression that the pattern did occur sporadically among a minority of "Cymric" speakers — which was the term I used to distinguish those whose accent was obviously influenced by Welsh as opposed to those from the more anciently English-speaking area around Cardiff (or the Gower — with which I didnt deal at all). I recall vividly a speaker, a Britton Ferry originary, who I noticed it in very clearly.
    However, his question about GB seems to accept the assumption made by Wells but challenged by me that a weak /i/ in words like happy was never "received" until the twentieth century: see my article HappYland Reconnoitred at Item 3.2. §§12-14 on this site. I should suggest that alternants of the type /marid ~ marɪd/ have been around for a very long time in GB tho certainly the latter type was clearly predominant in Victorian times. So it's not a question of lagging behind in a relatively recent universal move.
    In my opinion the overdue recognition of weak /i/ in happy etc  was in effect clinched by its Pronunciation Editor Gordon Walsh when he introduced the notation /i/ into the 1978 first edition of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English from which it spread to become the general practice it now is. I believe its acceptance arose out the increasing awareness of observers that there was spreading use for the final happy vowel among young GB speakers (initially perhaps most notable amongst the products of fashionable girls' schools) not weak /i/ but rhythmically strong /iː/. That was truly a new development in GB (though not unfamiliar in various regional accents including peripheral ones of northern England) and came about I shd think as aspiration to "clear speech" — something which has no doubt triggered a number of recent innovations. 

In observing people's practice one needs to remember that weak word-final sounds are particularly prone to wide variation under the influence not only of following segmental sounds but also of prosodic choices of the speaker. One who ordinarily employs a completely weak final /i/ may on occasion use a fully strong /iː/ as a consequence of selecting eg a (fairly stretcht) Climb-Fall-Rise tone before a following vowel as in a phrase like ˊˋˏmany ˳of them [ˊˋmeniː ˏɒv ðm]. At the other extreme a -y may even undergo compression so that it is no longer a vowel but an approximant eg in ˋmany of them / `menj əv ðm/.  

GB speakers have sub-varieties in which one group regularly favours final /ɪ/ in practically all circumstances, another usually only has /i/ and a third has /i/ in happy but /ɪ/ in policies etc. The well-regarded Radio 4 newsreaders Harriet Cass and Charlotte Greene belong in this last category. I place myself in the second category but, probably like most people, I only use /ɪ/ in some words eg in the middle of Derbyshire. So you can see what a headache such things are for pronunciation lexicographers.


Blog 097

The 22nd of May 2008

Divorce and Settee etc

Today's Wells blog replies to two further questions from a teacher of phonetics in Buenos Aires, a city where I found a remarkable amount of interest in British English pronunciation. She first asked whether it was possible that the happy (final) vowel was possible in the first syllable of the word divorce. His reply was the right one  [as far as I know such a pron is not found. Their prefix vowel can only be ɪ or ə] in terms of the variety of English they both had in mind but it may interest some readers to know that such a pronunciation is by no means non-existent in the English-speaking world. It was very familiar to me in the monoglot English-speaking town (Cardiff) in which I grew up. Also there is a suggestion that such a usage was possibly widely current at one time. The OED has de- among the earliest (14th and 15th century) spellings of the word.

The other word she enquired about was settee asking whether there was a possible syllabification set.ˈiː, rather than my se.ˈtiː. The former is actually the syllabification given in EPD. Although it might seem to improve the phonotactics, I think it is wrong. Why? Because the t is strongly aspirated, which it would not be if it were syllable-final.  This is perfectly justified comment. Reference is strictly to the Roach era EPD: both Jones and Gimson always had the right version in their editions of EPD.
Wells continues the explanation citing the word mistake.
 We do not say it as mɪs.ˈteɪk, i.e. with an aspirated t. Despite its etymology, it must be mɪ.ˈsteɪk, since the t is unaspirated, just as in stake; because in English t is unaspirated after s in the same syllable...This analysis goes back to A. C. Gimson, who as editor of the [1977] 14th edition of EPD corrected the syllabification of mistake (as shown by the location of the stress mark) given in earlier editions. As evidence he took the study by Niels Davidsen-Nielsen, ‘Syllabification in English words with medial sp, st, sk’, published in the Journal of Phonetics (1974), 2, 15-45.

 This is not entirely right as will be seen from a quotation from my 1972 Concise Pronouncing Dictionary at p. xix on Syllable Boundaries. Besides identifying which syllables receive stress, the stress marks also offer information on the relationships of syllables to each other. In particular, it should be noted that, although it has been suggested that a word like astray should be divided into its two syllables by a stress mark placed as in əs`treɪ, ... I have preferred to place the mark as in ə`streɪ. This is because ... the s in such a cluster has the ... auditory effect of reducing or eliminating aspiration of a voiceless plosive it precedes. I continued to expound my reasons for taking a step not previously taken in British pronunciation lexicography by comparison of mistake and mistime etc. I should add that in their 1944 Pronouncing Dictionary of American  English J. S. Kenyon and T. A. Knott had already adopted such a policy.

Blog 096

The 21st of May 2008

Contextual Variation etc

 The lexical pronunciation of a word is the one we expect to find shown in a dictionary. It's the fullest or slowest form which the word can be given without its sounding too carefully, pedantically or artificially pronounced. It's the form of the word used when it's quoted as a single item for its own sake without attempt to indicate separately the syllables of which it may consist as in the "syllabic" pronunciation which may be heard when one is helping someone spell or understand a very unfamiliar word. For this reason it is also sometimes known as the citation form of the word.

In connected speech words undergo many variations from their lexical forms. These are mainly due to the tendencies (i) to conform to the basic trochaic rhythm of English (ii) to make only the minimum number of articulatory movements necessary to be understood ie economy of effort. They consist of three main types (i) assimilations (ii) elisions and what we shall call (iii) compressions.
 These are all terms of phonemic analysis which imply that a change takes place in the phoneme content of a word, not adjustments of adjacent phonemes which retain their identities as particular phonemes.

An assimilation occurs when in connected speech (or a compound word in its lexical form) a sound at the (beginning or) end of one word is converted to some other phoneme owing to the influence of an adjacent word. There are two types: (i) anticipatory (often less transparently termed “regressive”) or simply pre assimilation eg when does she is pronounced /dʌʒ ʃi/, have to as /hӕf tu/, soon goes as /suːŋ gəʊz/ (ii) progressive or post assimilation as when would you is pronounced /wʊʤju/ or get yours as /geʧɔːz/ he advanced as /hi ɪdvɑːnst/.
An elision occurs when a phoneme is omitted. Eg when next time is pronounced /ˈneks `taɪm/ or mother-of-pearl /ˈmʌðr əv `pɜːl/ or another one /ə`nʌð wʌn/ or go away /gəʊ `weɪ/ or visiting /`vɪztɪŋ/.

A compression occurs when a diphthong is reduced to a simple vowel or a vowel reduced to an approximant as when a speaker for any other says /en`jʌðə/, for unite says /jə`naɪt/ instead of /ju`naɪt/, for value says /`vælju / instead of /`væljuː/, for personify says /pə`sɒnɪfaɪ/ instead of /pɜː`sɒnɪfaɪ/, for following says /`fɒlwɪŋ/ instead of /`fɒləʊɪŋ/, for an hour ago says /ən `ɑːr əgəʊ/ instead of /ən `aʊər əgəʊ/, for idiot says /`ɪdjət/ instead of /`ɪdiət/, for they're off says /ðer `ɒf/ instead of /ðeər `ɒf/ or for annual says /`ænjwəl/, /ænjəl/ or /ænjul/ instead of /`ænjuəl/. Of course for many speakers some of these are not compressions but normal lexical forms (historically speaking arrived at by compression) as with today for most speakers the forms /`ɑːgjʊbli/ arguably /`væljubl/ valuable, /`reɪlwɪmən/ railwayman.

Homophonic Ambiguities
    It is either invariably or at least very frequently impossible to hear in normal ordinary speech if a person is saying art student or arts student, phonetic seminar or phonetics seminar, mincemeat or minced meat, reached over or reached Dover, Julia said so or Julius said so, new studio or news studio, Lilley and Skinner or Lilian Skinner, Miss de Morgan or Mr Morgan or missed her Morgan, we lost Ann or we lost Dan or we lost Stan, they seem tired or they seemed tired, you look great or you looked great, if they lag behind they deserve to get lost or if they lagged behind they deserved to get lost, Bill scored or Bill's scored, who spoiled it or who's spoiled it, if the weather was suitable or if the weather were suitable, his eye seemed black or his eyes seemed black, the boy soldiers or the boy's soldiers, do Smiths stock them or does Smith stock them, they'll summon someone or they'll summons someone, Joan saw it or Jones saw it, not till eight or not till late, next door or next store, sports shirt or sport shirt, horse dealer or horse stealer.

    In spite of the great frequency of such ambiguities spoken language contains such a great redundancy of clues to meaning that, so far from their ever causing difficulty, the speaker who has not been trained to observe them is quite oblivious of them and often incredulous when they are mentioned. For students of theoretical phonetics the study of these phenomena is of the greatest interest.

 The above paragraphs were very slightly adapted from my Guide to English Pronunciation of 1969. Especially of note is the fact that they include the first occurrence in print of my proposed institutionalised use as an analytical term of the word "compression" which was to become a notable item in the descriptive repertoire of J. C. Wells.

Blog 095

The 19th of May 2008

Changing Usages

I've just had an interesting email from Jim Joyce who's had a long interest in changing pronunciation. He describes his experience of several years in a Catholic seminary of reading aloud at mealtimes to his colleagues. Each student he says took his turn to read a part of the Bible and then several pages from a biography...or suchlike.  If he mispronounced a word, the Rector would ping a bell and tell him to 'Read that sentence again'. He might make a few attempts before he would be told the correct pronunciation.  A  poor reader might spend several days at the lectern before he was relieved. We were expected to prepare for about 30 minutes reading. Many of us had a copy of the BBC pamphlet 'Broadcast English: Recommendations to Announcers regarding certain words of doubtful pronunciation'. (2nd Edition 1932) I still have my copy, and shout corrections at today's newsreaders.
I suspect quite a few of us relieve our irritation by growling etc at newsreaders and others who similarly offend our susceptibilities but I think offenders in such forgivable matters shd be treated with as much charity as we can muster. We mustn't allow ourselves to be self-indulgent about such things. Languages are inevitably always changing or we should all now be speaking as King Alfred did a millennium ago.

In my opinion John Reith showed poor judgment in various ways including looking among poets, playwrights and actors for advice on his instructions to his announcers. Fortunately he also agreed to be counselled by a couple of scholars with appropriate qualifications who however acquiesced in his wish to order his announcers to observe "unity of pronunciation...with respect to doubtful words", a policy doomed to lead to trouble in time.

What sort of trouble can be seen when we note what the 1932 booklet enjoined announcers to do about stressing longer words, the topic that Jim's email particularly referred to. They were required to stress only the first syllable of applicable, comparable, controversy, despicable, disciplinary, formidable, necessarily, metallurgy, pejorative & temporarily; and only ones later than first in anchovy, brochure, etiquette, quandary, secretive & vagary. In each case people now either dont use the version Reith prescribed at all or another stressing is widely preferred. I think Jim would find it hugely interesting to see the evidence that Professor John Wells has collected on people's changing usages which are so vividly presented in diagrammatic form in the pages of his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary just out in its third edition.

Blog 094

The 17th of May 2008

Public Address on a Train

At the 14th of May John Wells blogged, with an accompanying sound file, on a  query from our good friend Masaki Taniguchi about the intonation of "Good afternoon, ladies & gentlemen" uttered over a railway public address system.
It reminded me of the remark of Gimson's in Leeds in 1977 People have accused O’Connor & Arnold of being over-complex although their system is so simplified that we can’t use it with native speakers because native English speakers use tunes which don’t occur in the O’Connor and Arnold system I quoted at §8.4.26 on this site. Certainly there are many puzzling things about English intonation that yet have to be teased out.  
Anyway, he said Masaki wondered whether to analyse this as a high head accent on good followed by a low-rise nuclear accent on af-.
'Good /afternoon ladies and gentlemen |
He commented  We expect to lose the accent on -noon before a following accented syllable, but not otherwise...What causes the stress shift?
In my opinion, there isn’t one. The correct analysis is
¯Good ˌafter/noon, ladies and gentlemen |
I  agree that there is an accent in the expected place on noon but I shd prefer to describe differently some of the other things that happen. I'm not in favour of the suggestion that there is first a high prehead and then a low level head because I don't feel there's any prehead at all but that Good might as well be considered as accented as Masaki suggests yet not that we have a level tone but what is in effect a high fall tone actually realised by a combination of the level pitch on the very briefly uttered Good and completed by the leap down to the low pitch at after.

In truth I'm not in favour of designating anything as a high prehead at all. I don't see any gain in having a special sign for such things. They can probably only be conclusively identified by reference to non-pitch features anyway. Low level heads are similarly hardly worth taking any account of being not profitably distinguishable from (low) preheads. Kinds of tone with no actual movement on the first syllable of two or more are perfectly common: they are the usual pattern of ascending tones but not of descending ones. It's completely understandable that we dont find them in didactic books like O'Connor & Arnold 1973 and Wells 2007.
The notation indicating a low rising tone on noon doesn't square with the fact that it and the syllables which follow are not rising. In fact, the syllable noon and the sequence ladies and gentlemen that actually sounds roughly like [lei ʒenəm] are admitted to be all levelled out. This is a good example of how one can't easily identify confidently what is going on in much natural spontaneous English tone production with reference only to the framework set out in the kind of didactic book I've mentioned. Neither of these books attempts to exemplify remote speech which has its own system different from that of conversation and characterised by frequency of level climax tones. They omit any reference to level climax (nuclear) tones as in ˈGoodˈbye, ˈYoo ˈhoo etc.
I shd notate this as ˋGood afterˈnoon, ladies and gentlemen.

The question may be asked why are these patterns used here rather than more ordinary ones. My suggestion is that the expected falling movement entirely on the word Good is cut short before it can get underway along with the immediate transition to the low pitch on the first syllable of afternoon constitute an expression of vigour. The levelling out  into successive same upper level pitches produces a sequence which probably also contributes to conveying an attitude of authoritativeness, self-confidence, freedom from worry etc along with the other primary connotation of the speaker's perception of remoteness from his hearers.
In 1970 I contributed an article to Le Maître Phonétique on The Tonal System of Remote Speech. I don't feel it's suitable to be revived as it stands but I hope to revise it some day. 

Blog 093

The 15th of May 2008

Studying Varieties of English

The Wells blog of 15 May 08 begins with this quote

I teach English at a teacher training college in Rotterdam where we train teachers for further education in all the mainstream school subjects. My particular responsibility is phonetics, British culture and to some extent the history of the language — all fascinating stuff — and it is a privilege to work with young ambitious students.
The Dutch have always been at the forefront as foreign learners of English and RP has been the standard here for many years. This is now coming under pressure from GA (among others) and we are slowly being faced with the fact that we shall have to let RP go, that is if we want any of our students to graduate.

No students of English for whom it is  not their native language who are worth their salt will want to know about only one form of English and close their minds to all other kinds. The only matter meriting discussion is how much time shd be spent on studying one variety rather than another. That will depend on the individual's circumstances. Any teachers who penalise students for speaking or writing using items from a non-prescribed variety are unlikely to be doing their students a good service. A teacher of pronunciation will naturally basically teach his or her native accent and non-native speakers will usually use the accent they were originally grounded in but any teacher shd know something at least in outline about other world Englishes and shd have a reasonably clear idea of what are the main differences between the two most important (British and American) varieties. This was the thinking behind my producing my Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of British and American English in 1972 and for the first time introducing American pronunciations into the Advanced Learner's Dictionary in 1974, a procedure that one has since seen become general in the field of pronouncing dictionaries.

 It's my opinion that any teacher who has classes that mix students grounded in the two accents shd be able to read aloud using either accent. A good teacher is comparable with a good actor. Actors are often required to operate in more than one accent. So should teachers when it is appropriate. It's far better to demonstrate to students the desirable way to pronounce something in the accent they aim at rather than some other. When I was teaching classes practising English prosody (rhythm etc) at the University of Oslo I sometimes had small groups which contained a couple or so of students who had had grounding in American accents. I found it easier for those students to perceive the correction I was demonstrating to them if it differed minimally from the way they had spoken the sentence.

 If a student's only "error" consists of pronouncing some word in the accent they are not to be presumed to be aiming at it shd normally be ignored or, with advanced students, made the subject of a discussion of how the two varieties differ. At worst it shd be regarded as only the most venial of sins. On the other hand, I shd think it very unwise for any authorities to demand of their staff that they should teach using a variety of English in which they are not maximally comfortable to speak spontaneously.

Any oral examinations of students' English that were devised in such a way as to lead to  students' failure to graduate solely because their accent was American rather than British — or vice versa — would in my opinion be an abomination.  

     By the way, an admirable book for facilitating the aims I have mentioned above is Practical Phonetics and Phonology by Beverley Collins and Inger Mees which has just appeared (from Routledge) in a second edition. 

Blog 092

The 13th of May 2008

Vowels in the Three Pron. Dicts

The current issue, Volume 38 Number 1 of April 2008, of the Journal of the International Phonetic Association contains a four-page review by David Deterding of English pronunciation models: A changing scene edited by Katarzyna Dziubalska-Kołaczyk and Joanna Przedlacka, a book which arose out of two "linguistic meetings" in Poland at Poznań. A number of topics are reported as rather hotly disputed but the one I shd like to mention now is the debate over the relative merits of "the three best-known pronunciation dictionaries" in which it is said that "Clive Upton, Lawrence Davis & Charles Houck note that pronunciation is always changing and that the role of a dictionary is to reflect this change rather than be a pawn [sic] of the English language teaching industry, and they argue that the Oxford dictionary of pronunciation for current English offers a more accurate representation of modern RP pronunciation largely because of its adoption of updated symbols for words such as flat, fair and fine."

The lack of common sense involved in such a claim is astounding. All three dictionaries are in complete agreement how to represent consonants and word stress values and all employ vowel symbols recommended by the International Phonetic Association. For the dialectologist and the historian of the language the IPA cardinal vowels system of conveying vowel qualities is an invaluable tool. To anyone who is not such a specialist it is of no consequence whatsoever. I shd wager that at least 99% of those who use these dictionaries have never even heard of the IPA cardinal vowels leave alone undergone the rigorous ear training that would enable them to fully appreciate the nature of the system.

 No-one learns the values of vowels from a dictionary. They either acquire them at their mother's knee or in the first hours of the learning of English as a foreign language. Exactly how they are represented in a phonetic notation is, from the point of view uttering them, of minimal importance. The vital matter is that all the phonemes of English shd be represented in exactly the same way every time they occur as is unfortunately so completely untrue of our traditional orthography.

What is of value to those who consult a variety of works, whether as an EFL or as a native-speaking user of English, is to be free of the irritation of finding distracting differences in the systems of notation in moving from one book to various others — a situation that was very much the case before the early eighties of the last century when the power of certain publishers, beneficially, virtually imposed on the majority of others conformity to the system finally decided upon by A. C. Gimson for his 1977 revision of the Daniel Jones English Pronouncing Dictionary. J. C. Wells in his first edition in 1990 of his Longman Pronunciation Dictionary wisely decided to accept this lead and P. J. Roach et al sensibly fell in line when they took over the EPD in 1997.

No well-informed person wd claim that in dialectological terms the notation /ӕ/ wd any longer better represent the most locally neutral value of the phoneme for which Upton has adopted /a/ but for all but a minute number of dictionary users it is a pointless change. It is even possible to say that it has disadvantages as I have suggested in my JIPA article IPA vowel symbols for British English in dictionaries (§5.1 on this site). Again, as that article points out, tho a good case can be made for preferring /ɛː/ to /eə/ it's far from unchallengeable. As to /ʌɪ/ for fine, price etc, so far from updating to current usage, it goes against all other authorities’ opinions none of which regard this diphthong as beginning further back than /aʊ/ which is the only inference to be taken from such a choice of notation.

Blog 091

The 3rd of May 2008

Hello! Again

Responding to a query concerning "Hello" from Alan Cruttenden, John Wells in his blog of 28 April 2008 asked "How do we spell and pronounce this greeting?"

I should say there's a certain amount of regionality in the distribution of its pronunciations. At Cardiff, where I lived to the age of 18, I felt the /e/, /a/ and to some extent /ʌ/ versions to be alien. Since then I have picked up the /e/ version and found myself using it as an alternant form especially when phoning or being emphatic but I've never felt /a/ to be anything but alien to me personally. I do hear it from various people but as much the least common usage.
As I mentioned in my blog of 12/07/2007 "Oh! And that allegedly unstressable schwa!", I ... regard /`hələʊ/ as a perfectly ordinary GB pronunciation of hullo, at least before a name.
 I certainly do say /`heləʊ/ in isolation at times at least and especially briskly, perfunctorily or impatiently as when I’m not getting a response on the phone.
I find the etymology of these expressions rather mystifying. 
    Compare German hallo /ha`loː/ Castilian Spanish hola /`ola/ Colombian Spanish hala /`ala/.
Looking at OED etc one finds: Hello gives 1892 (Kipling) first, only /hə`ləʊ/ & sez "variant of Hallo".
( MWO ie Webster Online sez variant of hollo and adds 2nd /he`ləʊ/.)
OED at hallo(a) [Dickens 1840] sez later form of hollo.
["Also written hullo(a, hillo(a, hello, from obscurity of the first syllable."]
OED Hullo 1857 [Hughes: Tom Brown] Halloa 1781 [Fanny Burney]
(həluː) halloo ["Goes with HALLOO v.; it may be a varied form of HOLLO int. and n., suited to a prolonged cry intended to be heard at a distance."] 

One wonders if the promotion of the telephone by anglophone speakers spre’d the English usage to other languages. Albert Dauzat’s 1938 Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Française gave "allô appel téléphonique déformation volontaire d’allons ..." and  (to translate) “mistakenly associated with English hullo” isnt completely convincing to me. It smacks too much of the well-known resentment among some less linguistically savvy French folk that English overtook French as the premier international language. A. M. Weekley's "the whole group is mainly natural interjection" is one of his less rewarding comments (A Concise Etymological Dictionary of Modern English 1924). It'd be interesting to see what range of languages had a lateral as the central consonant in such expressions.

I was pleased to see that John Wells had found out for us that the originators of the Lucida fonts themselves call them /`luːsɪdə/ especially because that's what I've been calling them myself. I wish at the same time he'd thaut to ask about Lucida Grande how the second term is pronounced by them (not to mention how Bigelow sounds!). I have taken it to be Spanish-style I suppose because, besides Latin, Lucida could be Spanish and say /`grandeɪ/ but others might be inclined to give it a French value or, even if they take it to be actually Spanish, treat it as most folk do in Rio Grande as /grӕnd/.

Incidentally, in his discussion JCW remarked There are no other English words ending -ida that might provide an analogy, except perhaps in a learned singular of such zoological taxonomic terms as Psittacidae, Vespidae, Ovidae, all with antepenultimate stress. He had omitted to mention the fact that lucida itself occurs in camera lucida, the correlative of the better known camera obscura, and seemed to overlook arachnida, asafoetida and coloquintida not to mention olla podrida.

I've often thaut how thaut`less it is of people who publish highly ambiguous neologisms etc dont think to tell people how they wish them to be pronounced. The most scandalous example of this is to be seen in the Journal of the International Phonetic Association where all sorts of strange names occur and hardly ever with any information on how they are pronounced by their owners. At least the list of the members of its council shd surely be accompanied by transcriptions. It never has been: tho, for this publication above all, it shd be reasonable to presume that its readers shd be capable of interpreting transcriptions. It was positively ridiculous when it was Le Maître Phonétique and everything was in transcription except for names including those of contributors. I may say that I was one of the very few who did transcribe my name when contributing.

Perhaps I shd mention again to readers that in blogging, as in a personal diary, I take the view that I may spell as I please and I hope they dont find it upsetting. It will certainly be inconsistent but then I view consistency as one of the meanest of virtues.