Archive 14 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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01/12/2008Royalese Revisited#140
25/11/2008Royal Speech#139
10/11/2008Banking Words#138
14/10/2008Italian Words by English-Speakers#137
30/09/2008A Very Valuable Website#136
29/09/2008Lilias Armstrong b 29 Sept 1882#135
22/09/2008English Phonetics Practicals (iv)#134
21/09/2008English Phonetics Practical (iii)#133
20/09/2008English Phonetics Practicals (ii)#132
14/09/2008English Phonetics Practicals (i)#131

Blog 140

The 1st of December 2008

Royalese Revisited

Comments on The Queen's speech
 during her visit to the Prince's Trust Headquarters, 12 Nov 08

In the light of John Wells's blog of today it may interest readers that Petr Roesel has also been exchanging impressions of this speech with your present blogger. Here, with some slight omissions, are some observations he's made to me and remarks by me in reply
Praps I shd warn readers again that I spell as I please in relatively informal writings (and also punctuate in the same way)

work you’re doing    [jɔːə]  ?     or [jʊə] = /jʊə/; the V in <you’re> is very diff from the V in <doing>
more than thirty years ago     [əˈgɛ̈ʊ]    fairly fronted start Yes but only quite slightly more than “average”; I agree with you
core of what is done here     [hɪɐ]    very open central V [see below]
take on real responsibility    [reəl]    or [rɪəl]; 1st V in <real> has a distinctly darker quality than the 1st V in <responsibility>
responsibility for themselves    [ðəmˈselv̥z̥]    voiced fric hardly audible     Yes but completely normal; indeed
confidence and motivation    [mɛɨtɪˈvɛɪʃən]    mark the 1st diphthong [Yes; see Blog 139]
many thousands    [ˈθaʊzəndz]    palatal start of diphthong     common variant; cf eg David Cameron, Jon Snow etc; agreed
have been supported    [səˈpɔːtɪd]    /ɪ/ v slightly closer than “average”; yap
equipped to overcome    [ˈɛ̈ʊvəkʌm]    almost half-open, central start [ë/ɛ̈ʊ-]; I do hear a diphthong here, so [ɛ̈ʊ-]
achievements    [əˈtʃiːmənts]    slip of the tongue?
        If this were played back to her she wd almost certainly so consider it but how unusual it is in “running” speech one wonders. I’d say [-iːmmənt] wd usu pass unnoticed
        See my blog 139; no friction audible; the /m/ is not lengthened by her to any degree
reflect on the role    [rɛʊl]     Heard in isolation [rɛʊl] wd to most people probly sound like dialect for /raʊl/. She generally either slightly or considrably fronts the schwa element in her /əʊ/ but probably never makes it fully front
the success of individuals    [ɪndɪˈvɪdʒʊəlz̥]    j -> fric Yes /-ʤ-/ = normal; 
our son, approaches     [ɜˈprɛ̈ʊtʃəz]    [əˈprɛ̈ʊtʃɪz] is what I hear; I agree on the 2nd and 3rd vowels; 3rd vowel to me is more lowered
lives have been transformed    [ˈtrɑːnz̥ˈfɔːmd]    /ˈtrɑːnzˈfɔːmd/ The  /z/ - and the /d/ - are voiceless but not fortis. I agree with you;
no greater pleasure    [ˈplɛʃɜ]    slip of the tongue? No. Ditto. Would you personally devoice the yogh sound intervocalically? I'm sure I do so at least as often as not
has brought vision    [vɪz̥ən]    devoicing; same goes

Petr also questioned whether she used a /b/ rather than a /p/ in the word principles. I have to agree that it's at least a case neutralisation of the opposition. The /p/ in that word cd have very little of either voicing or aspiration and without either it becomes a /b/. It's often impossible to be able to decide whether a speaker's saying Barnstaple or Barnstable, one in England and the other in the USA and no doubt both of the same origin.

On the points that John Wells makes:
0:10 vital work you’re doing
jɔə [different from more. Perhaps she has lore and law different, as Daniel Jones did, and this is like her lore.]
It shdnt be taken by readers that John's referring to DJ's personal pronunciation. What he is saying is that DJ regarded as "received" the version /loə/, as he notated it in his EPD, for lore. He always gave such variants as "less frequent forms" and didnt use them himself. Theyve now become virtually obsolete in terms of genral usage,  tho a few people retain them very rarely in words like lore and a bit more often in items that formerly had /ʊə/ but have generally become /ɔː/ such as your, you're, poor etc. The diffrence from her more probly belongs to this last category
0:19 thirty years ago 
əˈgɛʊ fronted start [In Accents of English, p.294, I said “This [ɛʊ] type enjoyed some popularity among U-RP and even mainstream RP speakers born between the First and Second World Wars; but it is now widely considered ‘affected’, and has ceased to be fashionable among younger speakers”.]
This change to a markedly fronted [ɛ] began remarkably suddenly around the second decade of the last century (no hint of it in Sweet, Jespersen etc) and disappeared from younger and most other speakers equally suddenly around the fifties. Note remarks in my Blog 139 esp " probly never fully front". I shd say that a very slightly fronted schwa in /əʊ/ is still a pretty common variant among fairly smart speakers without sounding very markedly affected or old-fashioned.
0:36 motivation
same starting point, endpoint perhaps ɨ
1:14 approaches

0:23 what is done here
hɪɐ very open central vowel [In AofE, p. 281, I list this as a U-RP characteristic “at least in the duchess, officer and don stereotypes”. (But I fear younger readers will have no idea what I’m talking about.)]

With regard to this last parenthesis, I suspect there may be quite a few younger devotees of the thirties and forties English films that frequently pad out the tv schedules in the less popular hours will have some inkling of what he refers to. In any case readers shd note that very open central vowel is applicable to all three centring diphthongs (ɪə, ɛə,ʊə) as well as the schwa ending letter etc. I may be deceiving myself but I seem to remember that the alternative spellings of pukka and Poona as pukkah and Poonah were popular among some writers as a way of suggesting these rather elocutionarily extra open schwas. Also I suspect that those with the greatest enthusiasm for declaring the demise of the /ɛə/ diphthong are as much as anything reacting against the posh versions we've been noting the Queen slightly tending towards.

My remark in Blog 139 “Her final vowel /i/ not /ɪ/ in briefly will be possibly regarded by some as a modernism” was deliberately g’arded. I had better explain that this was because altho, as far as she is consistent, I imagine her target to be /ɪ/, it is to my mind quite certain that under particular circumstances she will actually employ /i/. These will be situations where assimilation occurs under the influence of certain rhythmically closely following sounds. This is not the case here but nevertheless it is observable that many speakers saying words like this one and easy etc tend to (as it were "remotely") harmonise the closeness of this final vowel with that of the foregoing syllable.

Deciding exactly what articulations people have used is no simple matter: I've not infrequently replayed a recording repeatedly and experienced the auditory equivalent of the optical illusion in which one sees eg a staircase as one moment descending and the next ascending when one knows that of course it hasnt moved at all. An example in this speech form is her version of (you're) doing which on repetition seems to change from /duːɪŋ/ to 
/dɜːɪŋ/ to /dɪ-ɪŋ/.

Blog 139

The 25th of November 2008

Royal Speech

In his blog of Thursday the 20th of November 2008 John Wells asked “What do others think?” in regard to his remark “Edward Aveyard draws my attention to a YouTube clip of the Queen. He thinks she drops a yod in duty at 1:40, and also has ʊə rather than ɔː in support at 0:42. I have to say I disagree: I hear ˈdjuːti, səˈpɔːt".
My comment is that I perfec’ly understand why his correspondent sez she drops a yod in duty. I hear no actual yod in the word myself. However, I doubt if she cn be sed to’ve uttered the word with exac’ly the quality of the /uː/ she’d use if she were to say the non-existent word dooty (as a rhyme with booty). Her value for the /uː/ in this duty is so far fronted that it might be suggested that in a way she incorporated the yod into it. I may say, tho, that I hear her version as a fairly unremarkable GB way to say duty. As to support I hear nothing remarkable about her version of it.

Wells adds
“Note also (pace Steve Bell) her perfectly ordinary MOUTH vowel in thousands at 0:40 and proud at 1:20”. Again I agree with him. When Mr Bell represents her as saying “Get ight of my sight” he is of course caricaturing her pronunciation rather as his drawings caricature her appearance. However, the Queen is no more consistent in articulations than most people are. I recommend anyone who thinks that she never uses pronunciations anything like Mr Bell’s caricatures to listen to the way she sez “motivation” in the same extract. It can hardly be said that she makes any difference between its first diphthong and its second. This apparent /ˌmeɪtɪ`veɪʃn/ cd possibly be sed to be an effect of anticipative remote vowel harmonisation. Nevertheless, as I pointed out on this website §3.7.II.4, her Christmas broadcast of 1983 had an early sentence beginning "I found it fascinating..." which sounded indistinguishable from " I find..." etc. This development was first recorded by the late Sinclair Eustace in the 1969 Maître Phonétique article referred to in my obituary on him to be seen on this website at §10.4.

The most remarkable pronunciation she uses in this extract is her complete omission of the /v/ from the word achievement. In this case it can no doubt be classified as a simple slip of the tongue she’d be very unlikely to repeat elsewhere. Yet I’m sure many people are capable of at least occasionally using, if not this one, less rare versions of the word as /ə`ʧiːbmənt/ or /ə`ʧiːmmənt/. She had no /d/ in thousands which is a perfectly commonplace variant tho unsurprisingly not acknowledged by any of the pronunciation dictionaries. Her final vowel /i/ not /ɪ/ in briefly will be possibly regarded by some as a modernism. The rather prominent and open schwas at the ends of care and better are by contrast with current mainstream GB usage relatively speaking regardable as traditionalisms.

Blog 138

The 10th of November 2008

Banking Words

The recent upheavals in the banking world first erupted in the USA so it’s unsurprising that the ominous expression sub-prime, formerly restricted to American banking jargon, has now more or less become ex jargon.

More striking, because of its confirming its transatlantic provenance by its pronunciation in this country, are lĕverage and its even more unattractive relative the odiously euphemistic de-lĕveraging. I havnt heard any British speaker attempt to say lēverage in the new banking sense and I wonder how many British folk who hear the term connect it with the word lever. This word lever is one of a couple of dozen or so items that display a contrast between General American and General British pronunciation solely in that GB has “long e” where GA has “short e”. They include items like epoch, methane, pedophile, predecessor etc. See on this site 3.1. §28b.

Another import from America wd seem to be boom and bust. Forms with elision of /r/ before /s/ seem to have more currency in the States than here. Besides using bust for burst they at least in rougher speech may use eg ass(hole) for arse(hole), cuss for curse,  hoss for horse and passel for parcel etc. My childhood memory is of calling sarsaparilla /saspə`relə/. 

People seem to like to acronymise items like bank names. They can’t do that with HSBC but they can’t resist semi-acronymising HBOS to /`eɪʧbɒs/.

The latest jargonism to begin figuring in at least media interviews is libor. This is by contrast plainly homegrown. /`laɪbɔː(r)/ is an acronym for the London inter-bank offered rate, “the basic rate of interest used in lending between banks on the London inter-bank market” (OED). No-one seems to be saying it as /`lɪbɔː(r)/. I suspect this is due largely to what I’ve labelled "inverse spelling influence". That is, people’s notional spelling for that wd be with a double b and the single b suggests a “long” vowel preceding. I expect no-one’s likely to opt for /`liːbɔː(r)/ because /iː/ wd suggest a rather exotic provenance. There is as it happens a Czech name with that pronunciation belonging to Libor Pešek an orchestral conductor.

The most phonetically interesting item in this group isnt jargon at all but the very common word borrowing which has undergone a surge of extra use in banking contexts. It’s long been commonly, no doubt chiefly, compressed from /bɒrəʊɪŋ/ to /bɒrəwɪŋ/, /bɒrʊwɪŋ/ and /bɒrwɪŋ/. LPD and EPD don’t give space to these last versions. ODP (the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation) lists borrowing as a separate headword with its British version as in EPD and LPD. Its American versions are given only ending /-rəwɪŋ/. This is perhaps more of a record of transcriptional preference than pronunciational difference.

More intriguing is the observation that some British speakers seem to be inserting an “intrusive” /r/ into the word. I’ve he’rd /bɒrʊrɪŋ/ and, more often, /bɒrərɪŋ/. Also I’ve noted /bɒrrɪŋ/ with the [r] long enough to produce an articulation which suggests an /r/ ending the first syllable and another beginning the second. That could be said to constitute a /w/ to /r/ assimilation. At times I’ve also he’rd /bɒrɪŋ/. These versions with elision of the /w/ element tend to sound, coming from sophisticated speakers, drolly like demotic speakers who cd be expected to use them because they have the base form /`bɒrə/ for borrow as they might also have /`wɪndə/ for window.


Blog 137

The 14th of October 2008

Italian Words by English-Speakers

I wonder what's come over John Wells. I re'd his blog of 14 October 2008 several times because I cdnt believe that he cd be making such a fuss about some poor woman on radio pronouncing the Italian word grigio as /`griːʤiəʊ/. I can hardly think of any more completely forgivable departure from the native Italian speaker's version of the word. John is usually very accommodating about such matters. His admirable LPD is full of entries that acknowledge without any complaint as "received" pronunciations all sorts of much more distortive treatments of Italian words.
Using /`griːʤiəʊ/ his broadcaster simply added a completely weak extra little bit of syllabicity Italians dont have. Every native speaker of English who doesnt speak Italian does this all the time in words that John very properly represents in LPD with his potential-compression sign (a little half-circle loop below the line) even often either completely or almost entirely eliminating the syllabicity that causes John such apparent irritation. Look at his excellent entries for adagio, Boccaccio, Borgia, capriccio, Machiavelli, tagliatelli etc. At Antonioni, Chianti and Giovanni he doesnt even suggest that any English speakers ordinarily ever do anything but convert the Italian yods in them into the corresponding vowels. (Giacuzzi is no problem that way because people spell it Jacuzzi).
However English speakers may be alleged to distort the pronunciations of Italian words it's futile to complain about thoroughly well established usages. The stressed vowels we all use in falsetto and Malta and, for many of us, Garibaldi are very different from the Italian. We all agree on the "misplaced" stressing of Lepanto, Otranto, orchestra and rococo; most do so on Capri, fantasia and sinfonia; very many of us can be heard using un-Italian stressings of Brindisi, Medici (tho not medico), Modena and Monaco.
    Perhaps most strikingly unacceptable to people who know anything of Italian are items like /`nɒki/ for gnocchi and /tӕgliə`teli/ for tagliatelli but quite sophisticated speakers use them in the way we all treat incognito. It'd be pretentious to use /ts/ for the zed in cadenza or extravaganza and certainly in influenza; likewise /dz/ in mezzo or Donizetti. I've never he'rd scenario with /ʃ/ tho it is usual for scena. A new entry in LPD3 is bruschetta which gets /ʃ/ from many people without the excuse we might claim for those who use it in maraschino that we borrowed it via French. Most of us have /z/ in Rossetti and many (including me) in risotto: conversely /s/ predominates with us in Assisi despite the Italian norm having /z/, and Lisa is probably more often he'rd as /liːsə/ than /liːzə/.
    I suppose the pronunciation I feel most uncomfortable about is /kwӕg`liːnəʊ/: I'm glad I've never yet had to say Quaglino that way but one can understand how it comes to be used. In America Capone is /kəpəʊn/ and so on tho the filmstar Don Ameche got round having his name "mispronounced" by converting its spelling from Amici. John shudders at the thaut of hearing of Lake Maggiore as /ˌmægiˈɔːreɪ /. I once knew a university Professor of Music who sed /ˈakiakə`ʧuərə/ for acciaccatura. Why worry?

PS 24 Oct: Nigel Greenwood comments on the above with the note: 

There are even dangers in trying to be too pedantic. When giving my callsign (FSZ) over the radio once, my attempt at a Hispanic "sierra" (with /-j-/) was interpreted as "zero".  R/t operators definitely expect a trisyllabic "sierra".

PPS 10 Nov: Oh dear! After all that, I actually misre'd what John wrote. He was lamenting /griːgiəʊ/ not /griːʤiəʊ/. I hang my he'd.

Blog 136

The 30th of September 2008

A Very Valuable Website

In my blog 108 of the 1st of July I welcomed the new seventh edition of the Gimson Introduction to the pronunciation of English as re-cast by Alan Cruttenden. It’s now very much a twenty-first-century production in a number of ways. All the originally freehand-drawn consonant articulation figures have now been digitalised and checked against the related frames of dynamic MRI scans of the mouth. The promised opportunity of seeing the moving scans ourselves on an associated website has now materialised and very impressive they are.

The newly available web address is /www. hodderplus. com/linguistics/. It’s fairly easy to access. You initially find you are required to enter boxes labelled "Username" and "Password". Of course you dont know what these shd be (yet, that is). However, you'll see below them an invitation to “Register for passwords” which takes you to a “Registration form” in which you enter some brief details regarding your identity and your interest in the book. With these completed you click on “Submit”. At this point you have to be patient because it may take a minute or more for them to be processed. After this wait I found I got completely free access (tho the content is copyrighted) with only having to enter, in my case at least, Linguistics as Username and Hodder as password (not case-sensitive).

    It’s well worth the trouble. First you get about twenty-five minutes of audio recording of Alan Cruttenden himself (tho you're not told who it is) reading from four sections of Chapter 11.6 of the book (pp 279 ff). The first section illustrates “intonational forms and meanings”, the second “intonational phrasing” and “primary accents and new information”, the third and  fourth are devoted to “the meanings of tones”. All very worth any serious advanced student's close attention.

    These are followed by fifteen fascinating video clips of movements of the tongue and lips in the articulation of short phrases of a few seconds each obtained by a fairly complicated MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanning procedure (normally used to image the heart as it beats) of which some explanation is provided. It's amazing how quickly our tongues execute our articulations.
Finally there follows a set of five audio files based on English Pronunciation Practice by A. C. Gimson and G. F. Arnold (University of London Press 1965) updated by Alan Cruttenden. As an “Introduction” pages 7 to 10 of that book are given, the lists of vowels and consonants being unchanged but the five pages on intonation much re-cast. None of these brief preliminary materials on these pages figure in the five recordings which follow.

 The first two recordings are a dozen minutes each of demonstrations of vowels and consonants in different segmental contexts spoken by Gimson, Arnold and Olive Tooley very clearly and, altho they are over forty years old,  of very good quality. The pronunciations sound very slightly dated in one or two places eg Mary has a clearly diphthongal /eə/, the happy vowel is often markedly [ɪ] (which some might not agree to be dated ).

The remaining three recordings are “Connected Texts” ie dialogues of five minutes or more each. They are given in both orthography and phonemic transcriptions with full indications of the intonations used. As well as these three, the texts are given of three further passages from English Pronunciation Practice that are not accompanied by recordings. The writing is typical of Gimson’s gently humorous style in such things.

The first recording In the Garden represents two male neighbours (spoken by Michael Ashby and Cruttenden) discussing their gardens over their common fence. The other two, Decorating the House and Shopping, are husband-and-wife exchanges (spoken by Jane Setter and Cruttenden) and slightly livelier tho of course inevitably realism has to some extent to be sacrificed for pedagogical effectiveness.

At the same website one can access 15 recordings in different "educated" accents of readings of a 600-word passage of prose (not conversational) to accompany the interesting book International English by Peter Trudgill and Jean Hannah. These are “RP”, Australian, NZ, S African, Welsh, Eastern & Western American, Canadian, Scottish, N & S Irish, W Indian, W African, Indian and Singapore.

Blog 135

The 29th of September 2008

Lilias Armstrong b 29 Sept 1882

Lilias Armstrong

Lilias Eveline Armstrong 

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Lilias Eveline Armstrong. She was the dauter of a Methodist minister in the Manchester area who crost the Pennines to study at Leeds University for a BA in French and Latin. She became a teacher of French at a school in the London suburb of East Ham remaining there for ten years during which she took evening courses in phonetics at University College. She made such a strong impression on Daniel Jones that in 1918 he appointed her to his staff there as his first full-time assistant.

She justified his great confidence in her abilities by producing first An English Phonetic Reader in 1923 and A Handbook of English Intonation in 1926 (with Ida Ward). In 1932 her Phonetics of French appeared, a book which rather deflated me when I re’d it — I’d thaut my French pronunciation had been pretty good till then but it had a lot to teach me. In 1934 appeared her Studies in French Intonation in collaboration with Hélène Coustenoble. On more exotic languages she produced in 1925 A Burmese Phonetic Reader and in 1934 The Phonetic Structure of Somali. In 1937 she had almost completed The Phonetic and Tonal Structure of Kikuyu (1940) when she succumbed to a stroke at the age of 55. Jones, who had by then promoted her to Reader, was deeply moved by her early death — she was only a year younger than himself. His handsome tribute to her in his Maître Phonétique obituary described her as ‘one of the finest phoneticians in the world’.

Like DJ’s, her speech was no doubt essentially formed in Victorian times. “Readers will notice the influence of the north” tho “not in any way extreme” she said in reference to usages of hers transcribed in her English Phonetic Reader. These today shd strike no-one as regional except perhaps for having /ɪ/ in horrible. Tho she transcribed /ðeɪ ə/ in #2 what she sed was indistinguishable from [ðɛə] and her /ɪ/ at the end of carry neutralises the /ɪ/ versus /i/ contrast, as does the /ɪ/ of jolliest and steadiest in #4. At more in #3, shown as /moə/, the diphthongisation is so slight as to hardly sound different from modern /ɔː/. It's interesting to compare her /u/ in situation in #3 and /ʊ/ genuine in #4 both of which first had /u/ in 1978 in the LDC, an innovation embraced by Wells in LPD and in subsequent pronouncing dictionaries

Our soundfile contains two further sentences not quoted from the book:
 #5 He never re'd the papers till the evening; partly because he hadnt time and partly because he so seldom found anything in them and
#6 Like most old people he was fond of talking about old days; and as he had known hosts of interesting and important men, had a tenacious memory, and spoke the most finisht English, it was always a pleasure to listen to his reminiscences.

The general effect strikes one now as quaintly genteel owing largely to her very precise rhythms and articulation but also partly to closeish /ӕ/ and /e/ (the latter notably before velars at least in dialect in #2) and most strikingly in her pronunciation of the numeral 5 which seems to approach [fӕɪv]. This now obsolete genteelism didnt, except as caricature, survive the first half of the twentieth century in England but accounts for the way people still use the spelling "refained" to refer to affected-genteel speech even tho the word is no longer heard seriously so pronounced. The actress Maggie Smith employed it in her performance of the title role in the film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie which was set in 1930s Edinburgh. You Tube has clips of it. 

  Our extract is from the intonation book. The transcription is very much what Gimson turned the EPD over to. The year after its printing the IPA changed the form of its authorised stress mark to vertical from that of an acute accent. The recording is of very poor quality but it was only ever issued on 78 rpm gramophone discs made in 1926 when an electrical process had only very recently replaced acoustic recording. 

Lilias Armstrong speaking 

Phonetic transcription

Blog 134

The 22nd of September 2008

English Phonetics Practicals (iv)

In my last blog I explained how I begin each session with the SCEP “Intonation and Stress” classes with work on the recognition of tones. The rest of the session I devote to having the participants read aloud — this time not connected dialogues but, in order to pack in as many prosodic problem features as possible, mainly one or two lines at a time. The kinds of things practised may concern simple points of intonation meaning or more often they deal with  accentuation matters. The greatest number of these relate to the specially important need, in order to produce truly idiomatic patterns, to conform to the English-language reluctance to re-accentuate expressions of re-occurring matter. See 8.1 on this site, especially §.12 for (apparent) exceptions to this rule. Various examples of the kinds of sentences I use are as follows.

Some essentially tonological items include:
(1) You can have tea, or coffee or wine. That’s all there is, I’m afraid.
(2) You can have tea, or coffee or wine. Or anything else you like.
It shd be made clear that a rising climax tone at the last word of the first sentence is more appropriate in (1) than in (2).

A more subtle and highly idiomatic intonational point is made with:
(3) Domingo won’t sing anywhere. He’s got a throat-infection.
where the word anywhere needs a simple fall.
(4) Domingo won’t sing anywhere. He insists on good acoustics.
Here the word anywhere needs a fall-rise with the implication that his refusal is not absolute given the appropriate circumstances.

Falls are needed as the (final word) climaxes of both sentences of: 
(5) Sheffield Wednesday 2, Leeds United 3. — ˋYou said they’d ˋdraw!
but at:
(6) Manchester United 2, ˋArsenal 2. —  I ˋˏthought it would be a ˳ draw.
the final word (a numeral of course in the first) will not be accented in either sentence because both final words constitute re-occurring matter (tho draw will probably most often take a non-accentual rise).

The final word boots is a literal repetition, so is unaccentable, in:
(7) I wanted a pair of brown boots but they only had black boots.
(8) I want new sandals but she doesn’t need the footware department.
Tonic stress must be indicated no later than need in (8) because the footware department is in effect implied in the speaker’s first words.

Another straightforward repetition occurs in:
(9) You’re due here at nine, not ten past nine. — My car broke down.
but the unwary are often inclined in:
(10) He gets up at five-thirty. — No! Six o’clock. Except at weekends.
to accent Six forgetting (or unaware) that clock must receive tonic stress.
(It’s equivalent to “precisely” here).
It’s typically English-language to accent only the prefix in the last word of:
(10) No parking is allowed here except for loading or unloading.
This witty example of Bolinger’s illustrates the same feature:
(11) You tried the export beer? — That beer wasn’t exported it was deported.

The second sentence at (9) above with its competely normal tonic on car, is typical of many that announce with highly idiomatic stressing happenings (often undesirable ones,  including dis/appearances. Others are eg:
(12) Your `house is on fire.
(13) The `dog’s got out again.
(14) Our `phone’s ringing.

Other idiomatic avoidances of the usual late placing of the tonic stress are:
(15) It makes my `blood boil.
(16) Cynthia was born with a silver `spoon in her mouth.
(17) He’s not the `ˏonly pebble on the ˳beach.

Further mixed examples in the form of well-known quotations are: 
(18) Phyˋˏsician, | heal thyˋself.
(19) Lincoln said “Governmentˈof the people,ˈfor the people,ˎby the people”.
(20) ˈWhen I was a ˏchild | I ˈspoke as a child, | I underˈstood as a child, | I ˋthought as a child;| but ˋwhen I became a ˈman | I ˈput aˋway childish things.

Blog 133

The 21st of September 2008

English Phonetics Practical (iii)

In my previous two blogs I de’lt with what I’d normally do in my SCEP first tutorial each morning entitled “Pronunciation”. Other tutors may differ quite a lot because they will be adapting their materials to the achievement levels of the groups they work with. For example I usually find my groups far too accomplished to be submitted to such basic exercises on phonetic segments as may be very appropriate for less advanced students. At the highest level there’s necessarily likely to be the least contrast with the second tutorial “Intonation and Stress” tho I always use completely different materials from the ones I prepare for my “Pronunciation” group. Just as I’d never ignore a serious prosodic problem with my “Pronunciation” group, I shd never ignore a serious one regarding articulation that might crop up in my “Intonation etc” sessions.

I regularly begin these with at least ten minutes of intensive exercises on the recognition of tones. I think this is a very important basic activity especially in view of the fact that eight of the nineteen core lectures are on the topic of intonation. These are essentially based on the account of the subject to be found in the long-out-of-print O’Connor-&-Arnold book Intonation of Colloquial English of 1973 which some teachers use in class for its exercises. Much the same notation is used in the 2006 valuable advanced textbook English Intonation by J. C. Wells. Any students who can’t reproduce aloud with some accuracy a tone-marked text will obviously not be getting the full benefit they shou’d from the lectures and their other reading involving intonation matters.

 I find that students vary very considerably in their ability to identify tones. As with my phonemic dictations with the earlier group this is very much individual testing and tuition. I give each student a sheet with a number of items which I get them to mark with the symbols for the tones I dictate to them. I usually say each item a number of times until I’ve seen what most of them have written. When someone marks the word (or phrase) with the wrong tone I regularly say the word for them with the correct tone in alternation with the incorrect one they’ve written.

At the beginning of the first of these sessions I tell them (hopefully reassuringly) that I shall only use one or other of five most basic tones: high and low falling (ˋm, ˎm), high and low rising (ˊm, ˏm) and high level (ˈm) which I demonstrate in turn. As well as the worksheets on which they’ll be asked to mark tones for me, I give them a reference sheet with names of tones and their symbols so that if they momentarily forget them they can instantly refresh their memory. I also tell them the (very broad) semantic value of each tone in rough and ready terms eg perhaps “animated-conclusive, unanimated-conclusive, interrogative, continuative, suspensive” but more usually various quasi-synonyms for these terms. At this first session on these matters, I give them to take away and study a version (on a single A4 sheet) of what I’ve said. This is headed The Recognition of English Tones: a copy of it is Item 8.3 on this website.

    I warn them that all the five tones shd be very easy to recognise if they're uttered very slowly but that the faster the speaker uses them the less easy is it to rely on only taking account of their “musical” values. They must, if in doubt, fall back on the fact that their subconscious minds can be relied on to recognise them from their semantic effects. I demonstrate this accordingly. At the first session of tone dictations I use mainly only monosyllabic words. As the daily practice continues I move on to single-stress words with unstressed syllables before or after the tonic or both before and after, ultimately graduating to phrases which have multiple tones.

Students may vary surprisingly in their ability to make these judgments. Sadly there’ll be the odd students from time to time who turn out to be “tone-deaf”. If so a fortnight may turn out to be too short for them to cope fully with the task. With such people it’s of course a purely psychological blockage that I’d expect to overcome in the space of a full term — or less time if they cd be taut one-to-one. No-one fails to operate the intonation system of their native language satisfactorily unless they have extremely defective hearing. It’s not at all very unusual for a person to be quite brilliant at all the other aspects of the work but to flounder when it comes to tone recognition. I dont attempt to badger them about it. After all, I have to bear in mind that too unbalanced an attempt at helping them in the course of teaching a group wd be unfair to their fellow students. At an extreme such a person may seem frozen into total inability to do anything in the way of marking tones on a text.

With the ones who merely don’t find it as easy as most do I urge them to memorise the advice given on the Recognition sheet they’ve been given which asks them to consider: Does the pitch of the (stressed) syllable begin low? If so it can only be the Rise. Does it sound positively interrogative? If so it can only be the High Rise (or “Climb” as I prefer to refer to it monosyllabically) Does it start high and sound positive/complete/final? If so it must be the (High) Fall. Is it final-sounding etc except for not starting high? If so then it must be the Low Fall (which I prefer to refer to monosyllabically as the “Slump”).  Does it sound cut off or incomplete in terms of a piece of conversation? If so it must be the Level Tone (the upper variety of which I call an Alt). Low level tones (I call them 'Basses') are extremely unusual. I usually use both descriptions any time I identify a tone. It can be disappointing sometimes that some students want to make a hasty wrong guess seeming reluctant to try to remember to put these few simple questions to themselves. Oddly enough, the favourite wrong guess is the Climb which shou'd be the easiest possible to eliminate partly because it's the least frequently occurring tone and partly because its interrogative effect is so distinctive. 

However, most start with little or no difficulty and usually make good progress over the two weeks. It’s possible without asking for more than the basic five tones to be assimilated to include recognition of combinations made from the simple tones (including “complex” ones like Fall-Rise) some of which may go beyond the limited styles embodied in O’Connor-&-Arnold-type texts. Thus items such as 'echoic' expressions (egˈDingˈdong or ˈBoing!), attention-calls (egˈYoo ˈhoo, ˈCoo ˈee, A`hoy, `Hey or `Whoa!) and farewells (eg ˈGoodˈnight or ˈByeˈbye ) can easily (and cheerfully) be assimilated into the practice. Cf Item 8.3.5 on this site. One or two simple rules can be introduced as practice continues eg that successive high tones descend. Attention often has to be drawn to the syllables of words that can't normally take accentuation because eg an item like Ocˋˏcasionally will often tempt marking of its rise on an inappropriate syllable.

Blog 132

The 20th of September 2008

English Phonetics Practicals (ii)

In my last blog I mentioned the conversational dialogues that I have the students read aloud. Here is an example of such a passage:

Hard to Please

1.    Do take something more.  That’s not enough to keep a bird alive.
2.    Well I won’t be having any meat. I’m a vegetarian, you know.
3.    Oh.  Well do have more vegetables.  More potatoes, would you like?
4.    Well, I don’t usually eat any potatoes, either. I’m on a diet, you see.
5.    I’m sure you don’t need to be. I only wish I was as slim as you are.
6.    Well, I’m not really overweight, of course, but I do it for my health’s sake.
7.    Oh!  Is this your own idea or are you following your doctor’s orders?
8.    I’m afraid I’ve never been in the habit of setting much store by doctors.
9.    Oh! Perhaps you’re like Prince Charles, into alternative medicine, then.
10.    I wouldn’t compare myself with him. I’m just sceptical about all such things.
11.    You will have a little drop of wine, though, won’t you? Red, white or rosé?
12.    Oh dear! I shan’t be having any at all. I never touch alcohol. Not of any sort.
13.    Oh well. Never mind. Can I get you a soft drink perhaps? Orange juice?
14.    No. It’s quite alright, really, thank you. I don’t care for anything like that.
15.    Perhaps you’d like your coffee now. It’s not instant. I grind the beans myself.
16.    I don’t take coffee, either, I’m afraid. Nothing at all with any caffeine in it.
17.    Ah! Now I do believe I could dig out some decaffeinated if that’d be okay.
18.    No. I’m afraid not. It doesn’t agree with me. I’ve got a very delicate stomach.
19.    Would you like a nice cup of tea, then? Or is there caffeine in that too?
20.    I’m sorry to be such a nuisance but I’d really like just a cup of boiled water.
21.    You remind me of an old aunt of mine. She drank nothing but hot water.
22.    Well it can’t do you any harm and I’m sure it’s very good for the digestion.
23a.    That’s just the sort of thing that she used to say.
23b.     I’m sure you’re perfectly right, but I’m afraid I shan’t be joining you.  
23c.    As a matter of fact I rather think that I could do with a fairly stiff brandy.

I always ask each member of the group in succession to take the next turn. (I never have a dialogue spoken between only two group members at a time. It wd leave all the others silent for too long.) I make no attempt to go out of my way to include any unusual vocabulary items. Thus attention is concentrated entirely on how the sentences are spoken. For students at a high level of achievement there'll be very few occasions when the choice of sounds for any particular word isnt known. Therefore the exact quality of the sounds produced is what receives primary attention. One of the most frequent problems is unsuitable use of the strongforms of weakform words. The mistake I find most shocking — which fortunately occurs only occasionally — is the expanding of contractions into full forms. Of course very many problems are due to the direct influence of the individual speaker’s native language. For instance many Japanese speakers with a good pronunciation in general will have persistent problems with our /l/ sound. The kinds of problem that occur are so diverse that it’s only feasible here to give a few examples as follows.

    At Turn 1 in the first sentence (if it's the first dialogue I hear them reading) it'll become clear at its last sound if the reader is one of the comparatively few who have a tendency to use a more highly rhotic pronunciation than in General British which is the ordinary target accent of the course. (This variety is more often referred to as “RP” by most of my colleagues, tho increasingly some of them alternate it with other terms). If so, I may refer to the matter but I explain that I don’t find it a big issue except that I warn them that, if that is their preference, I shall probably mention the fact if they happen to use r-sounds very inconsistently.
    From time to time certain features of sentence prosody may need to be de’lt with. The second sentence of Turn 1 involves something similar to a stress idiom. It’s not obvious, at least for many non-native speakers, that the stress climax should not in this sentence occur in its most usual position on the last content (non-function) word of the sentence but that in fact it normally occurs in this expression on the word bird with the following word treated only as the tail to its tone. This is so here presumably because we feel the wish to avoid accenting of an item which is in effect a re-occurrence.

    At Turn 2 the word won’t is the likeliest item to need attention. It’s remarkable how often students with a generally good pronunciation fall foul of this word. Only a minority fail to aim at the required /əʊ/ but many seem to have difficulty in making it properly diphthongal causing it to sound often at least halfway to want. At Turn 5 don’t is sometimes treated in a similar way.

    At Turn 3, I may perhaps with very advanced students refer to the not terribly important point that it’s normal in current usage to make only three syllables of /`veʤtəblz/.

    At Turn 4 a similar more worthwhile point may need to be made about usually which one often hears used in a form too much like /`juːʒuːəli/. The dictionaries are not very helpful on this word. They give it in first placing in a form that seems to recommend or at least sanction saying it as four syllables when in fact it’s normally spoken as three, when not two, in current usage (as my CPD clearly indicated as long ago as 1972). With LPD and ALD this is more or less an effect of having to “unpack” a rather complicated notation. ODP gives first an unusually careful or pedantic version with the diphthong /ʊə/ as its middle syllable. EPD almost fails to give the adverb the separate entry it needs: you only find one at the abbreviation usu. but at that entry it is given in a more helpfully easy-to-comprehend form than by the other main dictionaries.
    This Turn provides a quite tricky decision for students who’ve le’rnt the rule about re-occurrences not being re-accented (see on this site 8.1.2.) when they come to the word potatoes because this rule may here be overridden by the one that requires contrasting items (here in effect possibly a contrast with vegetables) to be accented (See 8.1.1). 

    At Turn 6 we have one of the fairly rare occasions where an elision (here of an /s/) can be said to be essential. Having a clear break between the final /s/ of health’s and the initial one of sake wd be too unnatural an interruption of fluency to be left uncommented on from an advanced student.

   At Turn 13 for orange juice sometimes /`ɒrɪn ʤuːs/ may crop up with students who havnt gathered that it’s abnormal not to keep both the final and initial affricates in such a sequence. 

   At Turn 18 it’s usually only weaker students who make the curiously common learner’s mistake of saying /ə`fred/.

    At Turn 21 it may be that someone is inclined to give an unsuitable accent to mine.

Blog 131

The 14th of September 2008

English Phonetics Practicals (i)

Any regular visitors to this series of blogs will've noticed that there were only a few of them last month. The reason for this was not that I was away on holiday. Actually I was enjoying myself rather more than I do on most of my ordinary holidays. This was because I was teaching under perfect (completely noise-free) conditions two blissfully small groups of very competent students (8 or 9 never normally more than 10, some quite young, others not nearly so) at SCEP ie the Summer Course in English Phonetics held annually at University College London. (The title “College” is misleading because by itself this institution is among the handful of the largest and most important universities in the UK.) It was at UCL where I laid the foundation to what I've le'rnt about phonetics sparked by contacts with Gimson, O'Connor and others beginning in the fifties. This year was the 19th successive one I've had the  pleasure of working on SCEP since my retirement from Leeds University.

    SCEP was begun by Daniel Jones, continued by Gimson, and expanded very considerably by John Wells who last year handed the torch over to Michael Ashby. This unique course extends over two packed weeks in which there are daily small-group tutorials, a morning sequence of excellent core lectures and afternoon supplementary ones catering for various special interests, extra ear-training etc. This is all accompanied by a rich collection of additional materials available to the participants when they go online.

The first of my daily classes was labelled “Pronunciation”. In this I normally begin with dictating to the students what my colleagues call "nonsense words" but what I prefer to refer to as 'synthetic English words'. This means that any of them could theoretically be an English word because they are explicitly constructed not to violate the constraints of English phonotactics even if as words they dont actually exist. Not only that. They’re designed to concisely test the participants’ ability to discriminate between various crucial contrasts of English phonology. Thus for example a number of the words contained syllables which involved one or other of the so-called “long” vowels which were in the event given the very short realisations they normally receive in pre-fortis and pre-enclitic situations. There're almost always some group members that these words bring face to face with the problem that they are misjudging which phoneme they are hearing because they are concentrating their attention only on its present length rather than its (more important for recognition) quality. For example the word /fliːptəʊ/ gets regularly transcribed by some of the participants as /flɪptəʊ/ and /ðuːpɪts/ as /ðʊpɪts/.

I like to have the students in a closely packed circle around me so that they can write what they think they’re hearing and show it to me at once individually. When any one of them has any sound wrong I repeat the word for them alternating the form of it I used with their wrong version for comparison. I repeat the words more or less as many times as they like. My synthetic words, besides sounds not occurring at all in the languages of most of them, such as /ɜː/ and /ð/, will include consonant sequences they may only encounter in English such as /gw, ʃr, str, θw/ etc.

 After “playing this game” for a ten minutes or so I change over to dictating pieces of ordinary conversational English that contain no unfamiliar words but draw attention particularly to how very familiar ones can take (to them) surprising forms in different phonetic contexts. One trusts that this exercise, by enhancing their consciousness of such forms, will help them decipher unexpectedly difficult sound sequences they may hear from any English-speaker. In such passages one introduces variant word forms that come about by assimilations, elisions and compressions etc that only specialist pronouncing dictionaries may reveal the existence of to any notable extent and then not exhaustively so. An example is the fact that the words only, alright and always lose their /l/ with great frequency in ordinary fluent conversation. Another is that a phrase like Latin American can frequently lose /ɪ/ from both words becoming /lӕtn əmerkən/. Similarly the word I’ll may constantly be heard as /ɑːl/ and temporarily as /temprəli/.

After these two exercises I then devote the main part of the session to having them read aloud in turn sentences from a variety of dialogues in everyday language. I usually ask each person to say their sentence at least twice and then ask the next one or two students to say the same sentence again before moving on. Lack of fluency can be pointed out and required to be remedied. If prosodic errors occur they wont be neglected but the passages arnt designed to contain any more than a minimum of difficulties of that sort.

It quite often happens that a sound used may be given a quality that’s so unsuitable that it’s not possible to judge which phoneme is intended. This means that it’s necessary to determine the speaker’s intention. With vowels I always make sure that they keep handy for instant reference a numbered list of simple very common keywords so that there’s no doubt or delay in their explaining their intentions. For consonants one can use their alphabetical names or occasionally ask questions such as “Is that the middle consonant in pleasure?” or “Are you aiming at the thick and thin sound or the this and that one?”

In the course of the two weeks working with them I give out three short passages of conversational dialogue (less than 100 words each) to be transcribed away from the class and then given in to me to be marked. If necessary we may discuss any problems these have involved in class but, anyway, they get them all back from me individually annotated. For more on transcription see Blogs 119 to 122.