Archive 3 of JWL Blog
Readers who need explanations of any of the abbreviations used may find them at Section 1 of the Home Page.
The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (iii)
The 12th item in this series has another int'resting problem for me
because I tend to feel that `protester
and pro`tester are different
words in a way. The more traditional pro`tester
with its agent suffix added to a verb suggests to me simply an
individual person who's making a protest. The more recent coinage `protester suggests a person
taking part in a formal, organised or at least collective protest, a
joiner in a group activity. It also smacks of trendiness for me so I
don't prefer it; but simply saying that I prefer the other one hardly
satisfies my feeling that it's not the sort of question that I 'm
happy to be asked. So I'll pass on this one.
Item 13 / `hʌrɪkən/ or / `hʌrɪkeɪn/ gives me the feeling that people
adopt the latter version are being (too?) influenced by the spelling
rather than the oral tradition so I do prefer the weaker ending. I
haven't much occasion to hear normal ie non-media people using the term
so I don't feel strongly about it but I can confess, as someone who
lives near and often visits Harrogate, that I'm prejudiced against the
version of that word as / `hӕrəʊgeɪt/ rather than / `hӕrəgət/ though I
so with some shame because I feel no-one should disparage the
unselfconscious pronunciation choices of anyone else.
Item 14 ēgotist versus ĕgotist is an easy decision for me
because my normal regular habit is to use the latter form: so that is
preference in action. However, I don't think I do so out of a decision
based on any aesthetic or scientific principle so to that extent I
don't have a preference, I suppose. The corresponding choice between
the basic word as ĕgo or ēgo
goes for me in the opposite direction: I usually say ēgoist I
believe because I rather shrink from a feeling of a ridiculous
association with the irrelevant and trivial-sounding word egg and also perhaps it tends to
sound ridiculous because of a vague association with made-up words
like the name of the game leggo.
Incident'ly, isn't it curious that the word egotist shd exist alongside
egoist! Wherever did that t
come from? Bradley in 1891 in the OED called it "intrusive t" which
said nothing. However, Murray in 1884 had offered a kind of
"The t is purely connective
in Fr., doubtless in imitation of the mute t in words like ballot, which is sounded in ballotage" (in reference to the
curious word agiotage). Yes,
and like the one in "Y a-t-il" no doubt. He also speculated
int'restingly when he came in 1912 to the mysterious inserted -n- in tobacconist, "perh. suggested by
such words as Platonist, with
etymological n." Don't words
lead you in odd directions!
John Wells says in his blog today:
"English seems to have a rule barring
the compression of [i, u] to [j, w] when followed by a strong vowel,
though it is fine before a weak vowel.
Hence we can compress radiant to two syllables,
['reɪdiənt] > ['reɪdjənt] but can’t really do the same with radiate
['reɪdieɪt]. We can reduce mutual
but not bivouac.
At least, that’s the rule I’ve
been teaching people for many years.
It also explains why sierra, fiesta, Bianca, Kyoto,
which are all disyllables in the original language, get expanded to
three syllables in English. Spanish ['sjerra] becomes English [si'erə],
As far as I know this "rule" was invented by John: I've no recollection
of any such formulation by any previous writer. However, I find his
impressions in this matter are rather different from my own. I find
that I'm perfectly happy saying [`reɪdjəʊ] and [`reɪdjeɪt] as two
syllables and when I do so it doesn't sound to me as if I'm at all
different in this respect from most other people who have roughly the
sort of accent that I and John have. That's not to say that I feel that
the three-syllable versions sound strange to me or that I don't ever
use them myself at least in a slightly more deliberate or leisurely
kind of enunciation. Probably the key to this problem lies in the
concept of strong versus weak vowels. I feel that for many people /əʊ/
and /eɪ/ are not necessarily strong vowels or can vary between being
strong and weak. I'm reminded of the way Roger Kingdon considered that
all strong vowels tended to have weakforms (ie with different phonemic
identities), specifying notably that /iː, eɪ/ and /aɪ/ could convert to
/ɪ/ and that /uː/ and /əʊ/ could become /ʊ/. He so insisted that /əʊ/
could be weak that he even preferred to show it in certain books where
his transcriptions indicated that it was in some positions so little
different if at all from /ʊ/ that he preferred to offer that kind of
symbolisation to EFL learners as a target in many words. Such learners
he suggested "tend to use vowels that are too strong for unstressed
syllables" (see p.14 of Kingdon's 1969 revision of Harold Palmer's A Grammar of Spoken English). He
even transcribed differentially fellow
and feloe as respectively
/`felu/ and /`felou/ in the (uncredited) pronunciations he contributed
to Michael West's An International
Reader's Dictionary of 1965 (Longman). I can't say that I feel
exactly as Roger did about such matters but he was no mean phonetician
(Daniel Jones employed him to teach phonetics at UCL) and his views,
though extreme, are worthy of consideration.
Finally John's comment that "why sierra, fiesta, Bianca, Kyoto,
which are all disyllables in the original language, get expanded to
three syllables in English" is explained by his rule, while no doubt
having some truth in it, should be considered in the light of the fact
that the spelling in almost all such cases (Kyoto is a rare exception) suggests
for English-speakers not an approximant but a syllabic vowel sound. To
give but one relevant example, the Italian words Giovanni and adagio contain a syllable that
could be comfortably imitated by any English-speaker because it occurs
in an item like the name Joe.
Even so, people seem to usually attempt those words as the
quadrisyllables /ʤiːə`vɑːni/ and /ə`dɑːʤiəʊ/.
Questions of Intonation
I hear from Tamikazu Date
that he's puzzled by the following from what he quotes as English
Language Services, Collier Macmillan 1967: 48:
"(1) A: Is this a book?
B: Yes. It's a
(2) A: Is this a chair?
B: Yes. That's
(3) Have you have heard from John?
B: Yes. I've
heard from John.
(4) A: Are you going to see a
B: Yes. I'm
going to see the doctor."
According to Stress and
Intonation Part 2 , with respect to the the responses:
Yes. It's a book.
Yes. That's a chair.
Yes. I've heard from John.
Yes. I'm going to see the doctor.
'It's', 'that's, 'I've' and
'I'm' are all said with the High Fall, while 'book', 'chair', 'John'
with the High Rise.
Does that mean the parts with
the High Falls receive the nucleus?
As so often with such queries, I
have to point out that some of the dificulties lie in the assumptions
of the question.
It's not always straightforward to decide whether we've got a nucleus
or not. I prefer the word "climax" to "nucleus" for such things and
perhaps my preferred choice of terminology here can help to make things
clearer because you can easily grant that one can have major and minor
climaxes and even situations where whether one has a climax or not can
be in doubt. I may here refer to my Website remarks abour Accentuation
(§7.1.10) where I point out that speakers often use what I have long
called "animation stresses" which are not necessarily used to
accentuate the word on which they are placed. So these initial Falls
needn't be viewed as climactic (or, if you like, nuclear tones) and the
fact that one of them occurs on the very rarely accentuated word "it"
seems to confirm this.
These comments seem to answer Tami's
next question too:
Is it possible for the nucleus to occur on pronoun subjects in
such non-contrastive contexts as above?
If so, they seem to be unusual
cases of nucleus placement.
I mainly agree when he adds
I think that the Fall + The High Rise would be more normal as in:
\Yes. It's a /book.
\Yes. That's a /chair.
\Yes. I've heard from /John.
\Yes. I'm going to see the
but I have quite a problem with
accepting as more ordinary, usual or commonplace the use of a really
high rise in such situations. In fact, tho' such a usage is entirely possible, it would to my mind
strongly suggest a marked interrogative flavour so that the effect
would be of the speaker meaning "Yes, but why ever are you asking me
that?" Alternativ'ly, it might strike one as an example of the use of the Pacific Rim checking tone.
The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (ii)
For his 11th item John Wells asks us
to say whether we stress omega
on its first syllable or its second and to identify the vowel of the
second. His LPD and most other reference books represent Brits as
giving the word forestress (thus what I like to call "globalising" it)
and Americans as looking at it more analytically – in a way
treating it as the two-word phrase it originally was – and
favouring a selection of vowels for that second syllable.
Oddly enough I appear to be the only person in
existence who's happy to call it /`ɒmɪgə/. Admittedly it's one of many
words over which I vacillate and I can't remember when I picked up the
habit of thinking of it with that vowel. It would've no doubt been at a
time when it was pretty exclusively a bookword for me and I no doubt
simply jumped to the conclusion, in my ignorance, that that was an
acceptable version. I think we all have such items in our vocabulary.
Only an hour or two ago I heard the distinguished scientist Lord Robert
Winston say ve`hemently. And
a couple of days ago I heard a Frenchman interviewed on the BBC say
something was /`detəmaɪnd/ when he meant /dɪ`tɜːmɪnd/. I never cease to
be surprised that so many highly fluent excellent speakers of EFL often
seem to have guessed how a word is pronounced early on and never
disabused themselves of the delusion even though subsequently they've
constantly heard it differently and correctly pronounced by other
speakers. I expect it has something to do with the very large numbers
of English words which do have various legitimate alternatives.
I've come across many examples of such xenophonisms
(my coinage). In a piece of Advice to the Learner I included in my Concise Pronouncing Dictionary in
1972 I recommended reading a page or two of the text (233 pages) at
something like one a day: "You will no doubt get a number of 'shocks'.
Most [EFL] teachers are only too familiar with the painful experience
of hearing learners mispronounce words they are supposed to have
learnt in the first few months of their English studies ... You will
come across many things it would never have occurred to you to look up.
Did you know, for instance, that the regularly spelt plural form of house is irregular phonetically? Do
you know what might be unexpected about the pronunciations of bedroom and rectangle? Are you absolutely
certain that you know the right vowels for all of pretty, said, broad, bury, tongue, worse,
break, height, pear or were?
Should you omit the h in human? Does use have s or z?"
The LPD Pron Pref Survey 2007 (i)
It's very interesting to see that John
Wells (blog Friday 11 May)
has been asking volunteers again to say what their preferences are
regarding the pronunciations of certain words of debatable or divided
usage now that he's revealed that he's preparing a very welcome third
edition of his Longman Pronunciation
Dictionary. His questions are
aimed at native speakers of British English specified as having lived
between the ages of 4 and 14 in England, Wales, Scotland, the Isle of
Man or the Channel Isles except that he leaves an entry blank for other
people to fill in. (I confess to being mildly surprised at "4 to14".
It's my impression that children's speech can be a clean wiped slate by
any change of linguistic surroundings up to about twelve and that for
most people something survives of their earlier influences after about
eighteen but I claim no expertise whatsoever in such matters.) The
blank entry has one wondering what sort of thing he expects to see in
it. His blog commenter answered at Saturday 19 May got some useful
clarification about the blank entry.
This time, so far at least, he's only
asking for opinions on about
thirty items – a third of the number he asked about on the two previous
occasions. I hope he'll come up with a supplementary list or two
because there are so many items one wd like to get people's impressions
on. It's quite tempting to guess what the results will be.
His first item asks whether people
prefer an aitch to be uttered
saying the name of the letter H. This item was to me a surprising
inclusion because I'll be amazed if more than about five percent of the
kind of volunteer he's likely to get will vote for /h/ unless their
background is Irish.
His second is dissect which is a very
fascinating one in terms of
its history. My guess is that his respondents'll mainly go for /dɪ-/
rather than /daɪ-/ which is my preference too but the history of the
word offers sympathy to /daɪ-/ choosers. The spelling certainly
/dɪ-/ but apparently does so by a sort of historical accident due to
its importation from the French after they had (on phonetic rather than
historical grounds) given it a double s
because a single one suggested
to them a pronunciation with /z/ rather than their normal one with /s/.
Perhaps the relatively recent British tendency increasingly to prefer
/daɪ-/ has been due to the analogy of items like dichromic, digraph,
dithematic etc but mainly of chemical terms like dioxide and
For his third he's chosen adult.
Wisely he's always given each item in the context of a sentence thus
making sure that its surroundings
don't prompt a particular version from the respondent. Here the context
is "for children and adults". A different context such as "in adult
education" might have slightly inclined respondents to stress its first
syllable from a kind of rhythmic preference when ordinarily they
would've more usually stressed its second. I personally vacillate with
this word in just such a way.
His fourth, question, concerns the two
words accept and except and
here he has a curious situation. He'd no doubt best like to know how
each respondent says each of the two words ie whether they begin /ək-/
or /ɪk/ or possibly /ek-/ or /æk-/ in each case but he's puzzlingly
settled for asking only whether they distinguish them. (I don't suppose
anyone wd be likely to say they began except
with /æk-/, tho I've a number of times heard accept begun with /ek-/ ). It'll be
interesting to see what he makes of the responses he gets.
I think I usually say (what I like the
idea of saying) /ək`sept/ for
the first and /ɪk`sept/ or /ək`sept/ for the second but I know I'm not
consistent. I think these days most people in England don't
differentiate them and the majority seem to me to say /ɪk`sept/ for
both. I seem to've noticed that that's so increasingly in recent years
and to feel we're going in that respect in the same direction as
they've gone in Australia.
With his fifth item debris it'll be
interesting to see what quantity
of respondents have picked up the American habit of endstressing it.
I should think.
The sixth item, on the suffix -shire,
reminds me of the request "Have
you stopped beating your wife – answer only yes or no" because very
many people vary in their use of this suffix. In my observation
practically everybody says /-ʃə/ for Cheshire
and probably Yorkshire
but a small minority have /-ʃiə/ for various southern counties and very
many, not only in Scotland, say /-ʃaɪə/ for various Scottish
The seventh item, liquorice, is a
fascinating one for me. I certainly
ended it with /-ɪʃ/ as a child in Cardiff (where I went to very unsmart
schools) a usage with a curious history. In the 17th and 18th centuries
the OED apparently accepts it as unexceptionable but labels it
dialectal for the 19th. It seems to've come about by a confusion
essentially with a respectable but now obsolete word lickerish (coming
from Old French and cognate with lecherous)
which meant something like
The eighth item has personal undertones
for me too because for
decades I've been a sufferer from a mild tinnitus (in my right ear
only, and able to be ignored and largely forgotten about) consequent
upon attacks of the unpleasant complaint known as Ménière's disease.
When Murray came to deal with it in the OED in 1912 he only knew it as
/tɪ`naɪtəs/ and OED2 in1989, as so often, failed to catch
with the fact that most people now make it /`tɪnɪtəs/ despite the fact
that the second vowel had been long in Latin (according to Lewis &
Short). We were largely no longer a nation of Latin learners by the end
of the twentieth century!
The ninth item is contribute which I
don't recall ever hearing
stressed `contribute before
the nineteen sixties or seventies though
now that seems about as common as my habitual con`tribute. This new
development was unknown to Daniel Jones and was first recognised in the
EPD by Gimson in 1967. It's been commented that by the rules in Chomsky
and Halle's 1968 The Sound Pattern
of English `contribute
is the more
regular stressing. Compare `compensate,
`constitute, `contemplate, `prosecute etc.
The tenth item is /`dɪfθɒŋ/ versus
/`dɪpθɒŋ/. The sequence /-fθ-/ is
very uncommon in English and seemingly only occurs in a few Greek
scientific loanwords like diptheria and ophthalmic.
The term naphtha was
Craigie in the OED in 1907 as alternately pronounced /`næpθə/ in
educated usage. The learnèd now rare phthisis
is given first as
/`θaɪsɪs/ in the OED and the even rarer (hardly current) phthisic was
apparently pronounced /`tɪzɪk/. Thus English speakers don't seem
comfortable with /-fθ-/ so it'll be interesting to learn what the Wells
respondents have to say. I guess they'll go for /-fθ-/. I do, I'm
afraid, but then I'm a very self-conscious speaker as no doubt they
Another Mystifying Pronunciation
Working through notes I've made over
some decades comparing British and
American pronunciations I've just come to the word lilac. Checking on its current
American forms, I find that MWO
(Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary) lists three current
pronunciations: `laɪˌlɑk, `laɪˌlæk and `laɪlək [ No. MWO don't show it in IPA. These are
So the one they give first can hardly be a direct phonetic development
given its spelling.
Turning to the MWO etymology – and converting into IPA my
their transliterations – we find "obsolete French (now lilas), from Arabic [liːlak],
from Persian [nilak] ... from Sanskrit".
Well this, with the usual development of Middle
English [iː] to /aɪ/,
explains the second MWO form but what about the one they suggest most
educated Americans use? It took the OED to help us guess how that came
about. In its historical sequence of the spellings the word has
received it says that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they
found "(now chiefly dialectal or U.S.) laylock".
Certainly this type of pronunciation is still to be heard from quite a
few unsophisticated speakers in modern Britain.
Turning to the OED etymology under "other forms" it
gives "Turkish leilaq (whence
possibly the early
17th c. lelacke, modern laylock." Looking back at what the
great Edward Artin judged to be current American pronunciational usage
in the unabridged Webster's Third
New International Dictionary
in 1961, I see he listed the three variants in the opposite order. Also
their etymologists quoted an Arabic form "laylak". Anyway it's not all
plain sailing. Henry Bradley the 1903 OED
editor makes no reference to the fact that, since Turkish has no uvular
sounds, it looks odd that the letter q
is used in the translation from Arabic script that his quotation must
have involved. (It wasn't till 1928 that Atatürk decreed that the Turks
switch to the Latin alphabet and then with of course no need of that
letter.) It may be that the scribe responsible was identifying a
/k/ in the vicinity of an [a] that was specially [ɑ]-like with the
Arabic value of q. The old
IPA Principles booklet refers to an [ɑ]-like [a] before an [l] at p.35.
If such a back quality were heard by people who tried to represent it
with the English alphabet, their writing the syllable as "lock" would
seem quite understandable.
However that may be, the spelling "laylock" occurred in The British Magazine in 1763,
the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes called them "lalocks" in 1860 and the
Cambridge graduate and novelist Sir Walter Besant used "laylock" in
So it's quite clear that in predominant American usage the standard
spelling and customary pronunciation of this word have diverse origins.
Spelling versus pronunciation
used the word "versus" in this heading very advisedly because it tends
to worry me when spelling and sounds are at loggerheads with each other
as you may recall from my blog of the 8th of February. The matter
that's been troubling me recently has been the startling discrepancy
between /ʧӕŋgɪ`raɪ/ ie the way most news media people are
the name of the Zimbabwean leader of the opposition and the spelling
Tsvangirai. Ladefoged and Maddieson at page 171 of The Sounds of the World's Languages
remarked that the Shona language has so-called 'whistling fricatives' in which
there is extreme lip rounding combined with a laminal alveolar
gesture. I've been assured by Catherine Sangster of the BBC
Pronunciation Unit that people at the Zimbabwe High Commission and
World Service broadcasters they have consulted are agreed that English
"ch" as in church is the best possible approximation to the sound that
Shona speakers produce corresponding to the initial cluster "tsv" that they
spell the word with. However, those letters, though no doubt taken from
the International Phonetic Association's romanic-based alphabet — the
orthography for Shona devised early in the last century having
seemingly been based on it — don't succeed in conveying anything
the extreme lip rounding involved and presumably correctly indicate a
labiodental element in the articulation not a usual feature of English
/ʧ/. Spelling the name in an English context with initial "ch" is
supposes not acceptable but perhaps it would be better if we permitted
ourselves the anglicisation of slipping an h
in and making it Tshvangirai which might have the advantage of a
compromise which would make looking it up and writing it down a little
In his blog a week ago on Friday the
second of March John Wells
commented on the way the automated train announcement he heard at a
railway station used intonations he notated for us as
'train at platform \/three |
is the four/teen | forty-/two | to \Woking.
This was too unnatural to be really acceptable, as he said, "[b]ut
unfortunately speech engineers tend not to consult phoneticians".
As a Mac user I'm able to have my computer read text aloud for me, and
I knew that Apple (employing British phoneticians to help with some of
the research, I believe) had a while ago put some effort into making
their system at least do better than most railway stations and airport
pre-recorded announcements, so I was interested to hear how that
sentence came out. It was something like what I like to notate as this
The ˈtrain | at platform ↘three
(i)s | the ˈfourteen forty-two to `Woking.
This was pretty satisfactorily clear and natural-sounding to me – praps
even too much so for the very formal context.
The most interesting tone employed was what I have been accustomed to
call a Drop ie a movement from a high to a mid pitch. Those who
remember O'Connor-&-Arnold's Intonation
of Colloquial English will
recall that they represented such a pitch movement by a raised
downward-pointing arrow something like the one from Unicode I've put in
front of "three" above hoping some browsers may be able to show it.
It's a very common tone, practically the semantic equivalent of the
full falling-rising tone John has shown above, and very common in both
British and American speech — probably more so in the latter.
Other interesting features were the weakening (1) of "is" to /z/
complete that it was almost lost, and (2) of the very American-sounding
conversion of the / t / of "to" to [t̬] a sort of soft/tapped /d/.
The Gettysburg address
John Wells in his blog of today says
in reference to the end of the
but there are other ways of saying the phrase that can achieve
both effects simultaneously and that's what happens more often
than not in five recordings of speakers available on the Web viz (1)
Jeff Daniels (2) Sam Waterston (3) Jim Getty (4) Johnny Cash and
(5) "Britton Rea". Getty and (5) alone give no pitch prominence
to of. Waterston gives it
high pitch while using its weakform (the only case of a weakform on any
of the prepositions). On by
three have falling tones and two level pitches. On for two have falling tones and two
have upper level pitches with accentual effect by not linking
rhythmically with the following the; the fourth (3) gives it prehead
treatment. The first people
has falls for three of the speakers, a level tone by (5) and a vague
narrow rise from Cash. The second people has falls (of different
ranges) from all except Cash who has another narrow rise. The third people has falls from all (mostly
wide) except Cash again who gives it an accentless tail value.
when I was a schoolboy my
history teacher ... thought there ought to be a repeated accenting of
the word people ...
of the 'people, | by the 'people, | for
'of the people, | 'by the people, |
'for the people, |
(1) ˈof the | ˎ people, | ˈby the
ˋˋpeople, | ˈfor
(2) ˈof the ˎ people, | ˈby | the ˎ
people, | ˈfor | the ˎpeople,
(3) of the ˋpeople, | ˋby the ˋpeople, |
for the ˋpeople,
(4) ˋof the ˏˌ people, | ˋby the ˏˌ
people, | ˋfor the people,
(5) of the ˈpeople, | ˋby the ˎ people, |
ˎ for the
My advice to the EFL advanced user is to go each time for
stressing the preposition and not people
to get the best shot at an idiomatic native-English-speaker-type
effect. After all, people
is clearly 'given information' where it's to be taken for
granted that democracy is preferred to tyranny etc.
For access to the recordings see
Wikipedia entry on the Gettysburg
Address which at "External Links" refers to actors Sam
Waterston, Jeff Daniels; musician Johnny Cash; actor Jim Getty. Also at "Lincoln's Gettysburg Address" the "Britton" recording
can be accessed.
W. H. Auden Again
It's possible that the odd reader of
my transcription in my last blog
The Unknown Citizen
realised that it wasn't the
first time I'd published a transcription of that same poem because I
did so in
1970 at pp 11-12 in the last but one issue of Le
Phonétique before its transmogrification
into the Journal of the
a glance at the previous version would show at once that I've no
more represented it as spoken in the same way this time
have re'd it aloud in identical fashion. This time I had in mind how
Auden himself wdve spoken it. His speech was very peculiar in at least
one way. He in general shared the characteristics of the other members
of his class and upbringing. He described himself as upper middle class
and had an accent to match ie resembling that of many of his university
and public-school friends such as Stephen Spender – what one might call
"patrician" or "posh". However, he decided to live in America and
became a naturalised United States citizen and thereupon made a curious
single concession to US speech patterns by changing his previous "Broad
A" pronunciations of words like bath
to the so-called "Flat A". Only one example of such a word occurs in
our poem viz advantages. As
to advertisement, I doubt if
he wdve Americanised that to adver`tisement,
but I guess he might well have used the stressing `research in Producer Research because he no
doubt, with his satirical ironic intentions, invented that title and High-Grade Living regarding them as
typically American. The /d/ I show in hospital
is extremely common in British speech – I didn't wish to suggest it was
consciously adopted. Same goes for the version of necessary
I've shown. By the way, at the phrase 'our eugenists say' the sequence
/-ɪs seɪ/ represents an elision which was a deliberate representation
of what I regard as its normal articulation.