Archive 50 of JWL Blog


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11/07/2015English Phonetics from Spain (ii)#500
07/07/2015English Phonetics from Spain (i)#499
26/06/2015Take-Off of Pilot PS 33#498
16/06/2015GB not come by in England#497
25/05/2015Mooching and Mi(t)ching#496
02/05/2015Suburban Supershopping PS 32#495
24/03/2015Sounds Interesting#494
19/03/2015Weathermen PS 31#493
20/01/2015The Roach Heresy#492
04/12/2014Foreign Place Names (ii)#491

Blog 500

The 11th of July 2015

English Phonetics from Spain (ii)

Chapter 8.  Studies in the Intonation of English: A Critical Review by

Luisa Granato of the University of La Plata Argentina.

This is a forty-page description that has been carried out with remarkable thoro·ness and shd be of consid·rable int·rest to those who wish to read a comprehensive and up-to-date detailed account of the numerous diff·rent approaches that exist to the theoretical analysis of English intonation.

It has to be admitted that one fears that practical classroom teachers will find little that makes them any more enthusiastic about the topic. On the bright side of things one may reas·nably consider that purely pitch pattern matters in gen·ral present very few problems for the EFL teacher compared with matters of word and sentence accentuations. And see the next chapter for something more modest.

Chapter 9. Phonological Models of Intonational Description of English by
Eva Estebas Vilaplana
a lecturer at the Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia of Madrid who gained her PhD at University College London and impressively has sev·ral other degrees to her credit. It’s illustrated by drawings of pitch traces thautfully slightly stylised to bring out cert·n points being made tho praps not quite successfully printed for her. They are borrowed from her book published in 2009 Teach Yourself English Pronunciation.
This paper is an outstandingly clear excellent explanation of the two best known approaches to analysis of the structure of English intonation the American ‘Tobi’ ie Tone-&-Break-Indices system and the usual British system sometimes called the ‘Configurational’. Whatever virtues the former one may have, readers can hardly be left in any dou·t that the pedagogicly more effective is the latter.

Chapter 10. A systemic functional model of the intonation of clauses in English. This is by Paul Tench who in his retirement is an Associate Researcher at Cardiff University. He’s widely known for his well respected 1996 book The Intonation Systems of English and various other pedagogical publications in the phonetics field. His present paper has the ambitious aim of producing a complete inventory of intonational forms for clauses in English spoken discourse’, each system being ‘illustrated comprehensively with examples of transcriptions of all the options .. possible at the level of the clause’. Its approach is markedly Hallidayan.

He mentions a certain new phenomenon with touching enthusiasm when he sez of the ‘high rising terminal’ that it’s a ‘very clever device by which a speaker can provide major information and at the same time check the addressee’s understanding of the importance of it’. Some  people find rather wearing its constant use by especially younger female speakers in cert·n communities around the English-speaking world.

His examples are lively ones in ev·ryday language. The concluding summary with justified pride declares ‘We have now considered exactly 100 ways of intoning a single, simple, short, straightforward clause in English..’ and he sez with similar satisfaction at his final section that ‘the purpose of this chapter has been to show the vast potential of the three systems’ which he has exemplified ‘in a way never before attempted.

Chapter 11: Connected Speech: Pronunciation of words in context is by Sylvie Hanote of the University of Poitiers. She begins by giving the conventional listing of General British function words and then concentrates on the phenomena observable ‘when the phonetic substance of lexical units is incorporated in a continuum’. It’s rather puzzling that she shou·d present such an unremarkable expression as an unattributed quotation, presumably as stylistic device of emphasis. Going over much traversed ground she deals with assimilations, palatalisations, elisions, smoothings and linkings etc in a treatment involving over two dozen acoustic illustrations carried out using the popular Praat open-source software.

She is very far from right in her comment suggesting that elisions of medial schwas in words like medicine and comfortable are limited to what can properly be called ‘rapid’ rather than normally paced speech, at any rate from British speakers.
Altho her conclusions are gen·rally simply confirmatory of well-known existing observations, what is valuably distinctive in her work is the extent of the comparisons she makes with similar phenomena in the French language. Of the twenty-six publications cited in her References ten are French.

Chapter 12. British or American English? A study of four phonological variables in Cliff Richard’s Songs and Speech over a period of 50 years is by Erika A. Larsen & Inger M. Mees. The second author is the distinguisht Dutch scholar famous especially for her series of collaborations with the late Beverley Collins (whose advice regarding earlier versions of this paper is acknowledged) including the magnificent biography of Daniel Jones The Real Professor Higgins and the leading undergraduate-level textbook on British English pronunciation, Practical Phonetics and Phonology.

The present paper acknowledges the inspiration of the 1983 Trudgill article ‘Acts of conflicting identity: the sociolinguistics of British pop-song pronunciation’ which had suggested that from around 1964 onwards British singers, rather unsurprisingly in that post-Beatles era, generally began trying less hard to sound like Americans. Being ‘interested in discovering whether this change .. continued in the intervening years’ the authors ‘decided to carry out a case study’. Following the Trudgill model, they examined ‘the pronunciation of intervocalic /t/ as a type of /d/ in words like matter, ..the choice of the TRAP vowel in BATH words, ..the use of non-prevocalic /r/, ..monophthongisation of the PRICE vowel /aɪ/, .. replacement of the LOT vowel by PALM, .. and centralisation of the STRUT vowel /ᴧ/’.

They quote Trudgill’s unastonishing observation that ‘the vast majority of singers who use these forms when singing do not do so when speaking’ and his even more obvious conclusion that, in gen·ral at least, ‘there can be no doubt that British singers are indeed trying to modify their linguistic behaviour when they sing’.

The authors decided to examine the progress of a singer ‘whose normal speech’ was a British non-regional type and had ‘remained popular since the advent of modern pop music in the middle of the 20th century.’ They were so fortunate as to find a perfect subject in the astonishingly successful Cliff Richard for whom there were fortunately plenty of interviews available for comparison. They were thus very well placed ‘to find out whether’ .. he ‘modifies his pronunciation when he sings’ over a period of half a century.

There’s very little to quarrel with in this very painstaking account of its topic unless I except its reference to so-called ‘Estuary English’ as ‘this ‘new variety’ of British English’ when the term has been so completely rejected as such by serious scholars. Something of a disqualification on my part from saying anything regarding this singer is that I am intensely devoted to most non-pop types of music, including classical, jazz and flamenco, so that I’m afraid that I find Cliff Richard’s performances quite painfully insipid. Anyone without such a hangup will no dou·t greatly enjoy this elegantly scholarly essay.

Chapter 13. Recent Changes in English Phonetics and Phonology and their representation in Phonetic Notation is by Brian Mott the distinguisht doyen of English and Iberian linguistics of the University of Barcelona who has just published the second edition of his Chistabino (Aragonese) dictionary. His paper is, he observes, a critical survey rather than an attempt to present new data. He discusses ‘the principal changes that have taken place’ in GB  (ie General British English or as he refers to it ‘RP or SSB’) over the past fifty years or so and discusses the question of how far the ‘vowel shifts’ involved are or should be represented notationally in the leading pronunciation dictionaries’ namely the LPD ie Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, the CEPD ie Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary and the ODP ie Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English and in his own teaching materials.

He begins by presenting the revised form of his diagram of the GB monophthongal vowels that, as he sez, ‘I use with students’. It incorporates cert·n ‘adjustments’ he’s made in the light of recent scholarship. This is certn·ly the best form of it he has yet devised but students may be reassured to see that the most striking changes involved concern welcome improvements in realism resulting from increased boldness of the target shapes rather than any worrying changes of target values. For example, the new position (still represented on the diagram with [æ] as in LPD etc but unlike ODP) suggests that we may say that Spanish students saying the English name Anna neednt make its strest vowel much if anything diff·rent from the one they use in saying the first syllable of the Spanish name Ana.

Additionally he takes new note of the variant /ɪ, e & æ/ may exhibit before dark ells borrowing for the purpose a couple of excellent diagrams from the Collins and Mees Practical Phonetics & Phonology by way of illustration. I'm personally inclined to dou·t that average Spanish-speaking students need be at very great pains to imitate such authenticly southeastern but not completely universal British tendencies. Also he notes the increasing frontness of the GB highest back vowels /ʊ & u/ and muses on the possible future replacement of /u/ with /ʉ/. However, he wisely in his own new chart preserves its traditional style.

On the question of whether it’s time to convert the transcription of the vowel of square to a monophthongal representation yet ‘even though the diphthongal glide is often only slight’, he sees ‘no reason to transcribe’ it /ɛː/ ‘for the moment’. This is a good hint to Spanish speakers to be sure that they dont make too much of any schwa element they may attempt to produce in such words. Pronunciations of square-type words with no schwa element at all have for a some time now sounded totally unremarkable.

On the matter of schwa ‘taking over from /ɪ/ in many words like family /ˈfæməli/ ~ /ˈfæmɪli/ and mistake /məˈsteɪk/~/mɪˈsteɪk/ he expresses approval of the ODP ‘composite symbol [ᵻ]. This ODP  move unfortunately omits to make clear the coarser presentation of the facts ODP adopts. British latter vowel sounds of words like horrible and possible with the barred symbol indicating that ‘it is to be taken that’ both schwa and ɪ are ‘acceptable’ (ODP p.x) provides no warning that the latter version is so extremely unusual in many such words as to be arguably classifiable as a regionalism.

I completely agree with his remark that Luisa García Lecumberri and John Maidment were ‘jumping the gun’ when they opted in their English Transcription Course for /-ə/ instead of /-ɪ/ for the British past and plural endings -ed and -es.

On the contrary I’m afraid it tends to trouble me when I see a scholar of Mott’s distinction saying that Wells’s LPD ‘preference poll for tune .. for example, shows that 54% of British English speakers prefer the pronunciation /ʧuːn/..’ This unfortunately disregards the circumstance that the poll’s voters were self-selected and thereby far from a safe group on which to base generalisations about the British population leave alone their GB speakers.
Despite these niggles, I found his learnèd provocative article stimulating, enjoyable and very perceptive.

Chapter 14. Some Recent Changes and Developments in British English by David Levey of the University of Cádiz. His introductory paragraph has a footnote ‘When describing vowels I have used Wells keywords which are ‘intended to be unmistakable no matter what accent one says them in’. Great numbers of writers these days make use of the keywords that Wells devised ‘to facilitate comparisons of the many diff·rent varieties of spoken English’ but in gen·ral they dont offer any acceptable reason why they shd be doing so. I can’t help asking myself what it is exactly that Levey is suggesting by this quotation from the Wells masterpiece Accents of English. Surely, in the context in which he’s writing here their unmistakability is completely irrelevant. To be fair to Levey, I dont remember offhand any other user of the Wells vocalic lexical set giving any convincing reason why they’ve used them either.

The fact is that all writers on English pronunciation who use a phonetic notation, including of course above-all lexicographers, are duty bound to supply explanations of what any symbols they use stand for. What a boon it wdve been if there had been agreement in past centuries on a universal ‘golden’ set of keywords instead of endless totally diff·rent sets of elucidatory words in ev·ry book one opened. In actual fact that problem was, as it were by accident, solved by Wells when, with no such intention, he happened to concoct for his own very specialised and limited purpose that inestimably valuable precious ‘golden’ selection of words we all hardly realised we needed — even if they were, as he has candidly sed, ‘dreamt .. up over a weekend’. See my Blog 445.

The second remark I’m inclined to make about this paper arises from another of Levey’s footnotes. He sez ‘There is a certain disagreement as to where and from whom the epithet ‘Received Pronunciation’ originated. I refer him and his dou·ters to Section 5 of my article ‘British non-dialectal accents’ originally publisht in 1985 in the Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 33/3 which pointed out that A J Ellis repeatedly used the lower-case letters ‘rp’ glossing them as ‘received pronunciation or that of pronouncing dictionaries and educated people’. No-one before him used that combination repeatedly as he did in his five-volume work On Early English Pronunciation 1869-89. John Walker isnt on record as using ‘received’ about pronunciation more than the odd time leave alone in an ‘institutionalised’ set combination. See §7.3 on this website for (a revised version of) my article. It had been in private circulation even earlier than 1985 having been referred to by Wells in his Accents of English.

Levey covers his topic pritty adequately. One small omission at ‘H-dropping’ is lack of any mention of Lynda Mugglestone’s interminable account of it in her 360-page book Talking Proper (2003) where it is by far the principal topic. And a minor disagreement I have with Levey is with his apparent suggestion that current GB pronunciation of either with /i/ has been introduced under American influence. The only new information for me in this article lay in its accounts of matters I confess not to have felt deeply troubled at having hitherto not assimilated. These included comments by Manchester University researchers on the increasing preservation of aitches in the speech of the footballer David Beckham since his sojourns in the United States. Among other data I have not felt unduly embarrassed regarding my ignorance of have been the names of various comedians who’ve ‘got comic mileage· out of imitating the upper-class accent’.

PS  In  book notices  like  this one doesnt  usu·lly comment on the technical handling of the text but I'd like to express my admiration for how clearly and effectively the work (with its complications of spectrograms, vowel diagrams and charts etc) was printed by presumably a staff who were not necessarily English speaking. One oddity that I willynilly was kept noticing scores of times I wou·dnt know who was responsible for was that, except in single case, the authors were obviously all obliged to submit to insertion into their copy the perfectly logical but completely un-English-style abbreviation‘et alii’ instead of the normal ‘et al.’

Blog 499

The 7th of July 2015

English Phonetics from Spain (i)

Last year, 2014, saw the appearance of a substantial volume of over 400 pages published from the Universitat de València’s Institut Universitari de Llengües Modernes Applicades whose title, it will be noted, is Catalonian. It is Readings in English Phonetics and Phonology edited by Rafael Monroy-Casas, the doyen of English language studies at the University of Murcia, along with his colleague Immaculada de Jesús Arboleda-Guirao who previously collaborated with him on Systems for the Phonetic Transcription of English described at our Blog 364. The book’s three divisions are ‘segmental phonetics and phonology, suprasegmental aspects and new developments’. Its preliminary pages supply very welcome, tho in some cases rather inadequate, information on its contributors. The first nine pages of the text consist mainly of brief introductions by the senior editor to each of the papers. The book’s ‘aim’ is described as ‘fundamentally pedagogical’ intending ‘to provide students with reliable and up-to-date information on key issues’. The intention of this blog is to let readers know briefly what the book contains rather than to make any attem·t to ser·ously review it.

Chapter 1 The Status of yod in precentral (Gimson) position is by Luis Fernando Rodriguez of the University of Seville. The expression ‘precentral (Gimson) position’ makes for an extremely obscure title: exactly what is me·nt by it will be immediately understood by few, if any, readers. In the course of the paper the ‘status’ of yods in initial clusters such as a word like crew is discusst. This, it is suggested, is ‘usually mispronounced by Spanish students’ as /krju:/. From the year and a half (in total) that I spent teaching in Spain I dont recollect particularly noticing this but I suppose the numbers of words with the sequence wou·dnt be sufficient for such a thing to strike me.

It isnt satisfact·ry to say that items like this and /trju/ and /flju/ are 'not possible in English'. In fact certain regional varieties of English in Britain do exhibit such forms notably in parts of Wales. The remark that in GB (‘RP’) both /u:/ and /ju:/ seem [my italics] to coexist nowadays in such words as assume, lute, suitable and supermarket rather suggests an overlooking of the information on such matters to be had in the pronouncing dictionaries. My impression is that many younger people today wd be likely, on hearing yod-keeping in especially the last one of these words, to find it an occasion for mirth. The exception is assume, which in common with other words having such a latter element, is cert·ny predom·nantly heard with a yod.

Incident·ly, the term ‘yod dropping’ I adopted as ‘snappier’ than ‘yod deletion’ in an article publisht in (the journal) English Language Teaching in 1971 expecting frowns from colleagues who’d think it undignified. As it happened, it was taken up by Wells a decade later in his great Accents of English with the consequence that it’s since become the practically universal term for the phenomenon.

Chapter 2 ‘Syllabic Consonants vs Schwa in English’ by Immaculada de Jesús Arboleda-Guirau, the book’s co-editor, is an item whose ‘fundamentally pedagogical aim’ might perhaps be judged to be fairly limited but the procedures involved are carefully presented and commendably illustrated with pie charts and other diagrams. The main aim of the author had been ‘to study the production and perception of English syllabic consonants and schwa plus lateral/nasal in word final position at discourse level on a perceptual basis’ particularly in respect of rules devised by Rafael Monroy. ‘The corpus employed was the News Archives of .. the BBC Learning English website .. 1999-2008.’ Questionnaires were compiled and sent to participants by email along with the necessary sound files. The whole ambitious enterprise was, I’m afraid, too complicated to describe in detail here.

Chapter 3 ‘Fricatives Revisited’ by Silvia Barreiro-Bilbao of the Department of Modern and Foreign Languages of the Madrid-based Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia is a substantial instrumental disquisition. The ‘main core’ of her study was devoted to a program of comprehensive research on the ‘acoustic characterization of English fricatives in terms of place of articulation, voicing and, to a lesser extent, to manner of articulation — based on ‘the most significant, and recent, publications in the field’. As a ‘secondary goal’ she aimed to ‘point out those disputed areas in which more investigation is clearly necessary…’ Altho this remarkable state-of-the art paper is one of the hardest in the volume to which to assign ‘a fundamentally pedagogical aim’ of an EFL nature it has to be admired as indeed have her prodigious eight pages of References. Their dimensions cert·nly wou·dnt’ve disgraced a large book.

Chapter 4 ‘English Plosives: Beyond the [±voice] distinction’ is by Joaquin Romero of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili of Taragona, (whose doctorate is from the University of Connecticut) and Maria Riera who is a pre-doctoral student at Taragona. It sets out to provide ‘a more faithful description of the true nature’ of the plosives ‘than is presented in most current introductory manuals’ where the ‘oversimplified voiced/voiceless opposition’ is the order of the day. Among its major topics are Voicing, Phonemic vs phonetic descriptions, Flapping and Glottalization and (plosive) Deletion. Int·resting information is included on North American pronunciations. The authors are optimistic advocates of university students’ becoming familiar with narrow transcription as ‘a tool to help alleviate the problem of the inability of students to bridge the gap between the thoretical phonological description of the sound system and their own capacity to pronounce the language according to this description’.

Chapter 5 ‘Lexical Stress’ is by France’s celebrated authority on English phonetics Professor Emeritus Jean-Louis Duchet of the University of Poitiers. It aims to ‘formulate, and account for, the rules which determine word stress placement’ because ‘A word is recognized not only through its consonants and vowels but also through its stress pattern which plays a crucial role in its acoustic image and therefore its identification in the spoken chain’. Carrying on as it does the tradition of fine scholars like Roger Kingdon and Lionel Guierre, it is probably the most stimulating and practically satisfying paper in the whole volume.

Chapter 6 ‘Stress shift in English: the case of teen numbers’ by José Antonio Mompeán of the University of Murcia examined such numbers ‘in attributive position or as the first constituent of a compound’ using a corpus of spoken ‘RP’ English ‘gathered from newscasts available on the BBC World Service website’ for the period 1999 to 2009. His finding was that stress shift is the rule rather than the exception in compounds and noun phrases involving teen numbers. His corpus of about ‘250,000 words ranged thru 32 hours of audio material’ spoken by 258 newsreaders.

Chapter 7 ‘You got the beat: rhythm and timing’ by Robert Fuchs of the University of Münster offers discussions of various definitions of rhythmic syllables and feet and matters of syllable and stress timing. The very title of this chapter is puzzling as is not a little of its content. Readers may find it challengingly diff·rent from most discussions in the field of rhythm. His 2013 not commercially published PhD dissertation had been on ‘Speech Rhythm in Educated Indian English and British English’. His final int·resting if not exactly astounding conclusion is that ‘Southern British English is, on average, more stress-timed than other languages and other varieties of English’.

Blog 498

The 26th of June 2015

Take-Off of Pilot PS 33

/ ˈteɪk ˈɒf | ɒv ˎpaɪlət /

The preposition of is normally unstrest in conversational speech before a noun and consequently takes its weakform /əv/ but in such applications as an announcement it’s very often uttered, after  a degree of pause, in a more deliberate style involving use of its strongform /ɒv/.

1. Good morning ladies and gentlemen!  / ˈɡʊd ˈmɔnɪŋ leɪdɪz n ˏʤentlmən /

Even speakers who’d usually say /leɪdiz/ rather than /leɪdɪz/ might well, in such a routine expression uttered at fairly high speed, use final /-ɪz/ or something so unclear that it might be either. The /-ɪz/ variant is now becoming increasingly associated with older GB speakers.

2. This is Captain Ferguson speaking. / ðɪs ɪz ˈkaptɪn ˎfɜgəsn ˏspikɪŋ /

3. I should like to welcome you / aɪ ʃəd ˈlaɪk tə ˏwelkəm ju |

4. on behalf of British Airways    / ɒn bəˈhɑf əv brɪtɪʃ ˏɛweɪz /

The transcription /ɛ/ or usually /ɛː/ is nowadays mostly used for words like air in pref·rence to the traditional /ɛə/. Cert·nly the pronunciation of a word like airways as [`ɛəweɪz] rather than the usual [ɛːweɪz] tends to sound very old-fashioned (and socially conspicuous) nowadays because speakers who had [ɛə] as the isolate form of the phoneme had mostly adopted monophthongal allophones in such situations by the latter decades of the last century. The only notable diff·rence between GB /e/ and /ɛ(ː) / these days is that the latter is markedly longer. They’re not very likely to be confused becoz /e/ always occurs in syllables closed by a consonant. As they’re represented with perfectly distinct letters, only beginning learners are undou·tedly better off using the length colon. I prefer not to bother with it.
Dictionaries have usually shown behalf as begun with /bɪ-/ or /bi-/ but schwa is at least as often heard in most such words these days.

5. on board this Trident Three Jet. / ɒn ˈbɔd | ðɪs ˈˈtraɪdnt ˈθri ˎʤet /

The doubled high level pitch mark before trident indicates emphatic and/or high pitch for this speaker.

6. We shall be taking off almost immediately. / wi ʃl bi ˈteɪkɪŋ ˈɒf | ɔlməʊst ə`midjətli /

7. We shall be cruising at a height of about    / wi ʃl bi ˈˏkruzɪŋ  |  ət ə haɪt əv əbaʊt /

The usual descriptions of English intonation say a lot about the Fall-Rise but ignore the existence of the common similar tone in which the first element is not a descent but a level pitch so that it produces a distinctly different semantic effect. My name for this neglected tone is Alt-Rise. We have one here on the word cruising sounding rather more reassuring to the passengers than wdve been the case if a Fall-Rise had been used.
The five words / ət ə haɪt əv əbaʊt / are all unmarked for pitch becoz they constitute a fairly unusually long pretonal (toneless) set usually referred to as a ‘prehead’. There’s another six-syllable one at division 19 below. Such long ones are less common in conversational speech.

8. twenty thousand feet. We expect to arrive   / ˈtwenti ˈθaʊzn ˎfit |  wi ɪk`spek tu əraɪv /

At thousand and expect we hear elision of a final consonant common in clusters at the endings of words followed closely by others beginning with a consonant.

9. at London Heathrow / ət lᴧndən `hiθ ˏrəʊ /

10.  in about three hours. / ɪn əbaʊt ˈθri ˎɑəz /

The word hours has no a [ʊ] element ie is not /aʊəz/, but undergoes smoothing which results in a completely ord·n·ry version of the word.

11. at one p.m. local time / ət ˈwᴧn pi ˎem | ˎləʊkl taɪm /

12. Lunch will be ˎserved in ˏflight.   / lᴧnʧ | ˈwɪl ˈbi ˎsɜvd ɪn ˏflaɪt /

Another rather neglected tone in the literature is the Fall-to-Mid heard here on the word lunch. Instead of going to the bottom of the speaker’s voice range (as in the Fall tone) it stops midway down. Hence our ‘middle dot’.

13. The weather there so far this morning   / ðə `weðə ðɛ | səʊ fɑ ðɪs ˏmɔnɪŋ |
14. is slight rain or drizzle.  / ɪz | ˈslaɪt ˏreɪn | ɔ ˎdrɪzl /

15.  Please read the instructions    / ˈpliz| rid ði ɪnˏstrᴧkʃnz |

16. in the safety leaflet in the seat-pocket    / ɪn ðə ˎseɪfti ˏliflət | ɪn ðə ˎsit ˏpɒkɪt |

17. in front of you.   / ɪn ˎfrᴧnt əv ju /

18. There’s a life-jacket under your seat  / ðez ə ˈlaɪf ˏʤakɪt | ᴧndə jə ˎsit /

The words you, there’s and your take weakforms, the second not recognised even in the Wells LPD. This woud not be unusual as the speaker was repeating things he frequently used which wd be very familiar to most of his passengers.

19. Please fasten your seat-belt  / ˈpliz | fɑsn jɔ ˎsitˏbelt /

20. and do not smoke until the light   / an du ˈnɒt ˏsməʊk | ᴧntɪl ðə ˈlaɪt |

21. comes on to say you may do so. Thank you.   / kᴧmz ɒn tə seɪ ju meɪ ˎdu səʊ. ˈθaŋk ˈju /

In remote or pre-remote speech the speaker’s delivery tends to suggest some physical distance (about to occur or already occurring) between the speaker and the person(s) addressed. The captain’s final tone choice is one that we generally use in saying goodbye: a high level pitch followed by another rather nearer to a mid pitch. This little monolog was, of course, jotted down on a flight in the bad old days of smoking in airplanes.

Some OED definitions relevant to noting that I was agen unable to resist 'a play on words'.
take off: To imitate or counterfeit, esp. by way of mockery; to mimic, caricature, burlesque, parody; to make a mock of.  aeronaut: Of a pilot, plane, etc. to perform the operations involved in beginning flight.

PS The letters PS before the number 33 refer to my book People Speaking item #33 where its sound file may be heard. If possible it shou·d be copied and put into Audacity for convenient study.

Blog 497

The 16th of June 2015

GB not come by in England

I’m an admirer of Peter Roach’s gen·rous devotion of so much of of his time on his blog dedicated to helping the work of the editor(s) of various phonetics articles in Jimmy Wales’s deservedly very successful Wikipedia. Peter has recently (6/9/2015) sed, under the heading “RP - beyond England?”, this:
Someone has just posted a question on the Talk page of the Wikipedia article on Received Pronunciation. Here it is:
The article seems to imply that RP is only used in England, or even specific to Southern England (though it discusses variant forms in Northern England), but I think accents very similar to RP are not unknown in Scotland and Wales among the upper social classes. (I do not know much about Ireland, but the 'Anglo-Irish' classes, in both North and South, in general seem to use RP.) In Scotland it is notorious that the aristocracy speak with an 'English' accent, supposedly as a result of an education in English boarding schools, but the practice seems to be somewhat more widespread, extending at least into sections of the 'upper middle' classes. Maybe someone with more knowledge of the subject could cover this?”

Peter added:
I have come across this question, in various forms, many times and it is not easy to know how to reply. On the one hand, there is a belief that there are British people who, though born and brought up in Scotland, Wales or Ireland, are speakers of RP (as traditionally described and as spoken in the south of England). If there are such people, I think they are very rare. On the other hand, some writers have suggested that there are accents that can be called "Scottish RP", "Welsh RP" and so on - accents which display some characteristics of the regional accent implied by the name but are otherwise similar to English RP. This just seems wrong to me - an accent either is, or is not, RP…Not that I like calling ANY accent RP!

As to “RP”, the fact is that what A J Ellis from time to time called ‘rp’ and Daniel Jones in 1926 decided to finally formally label ‘RP’ was something noted in the 17th century and increasingly cultivated during the 18th. From notably 1773 there was a move to record in dictionaries what were the pronunciations understood to be those current among the social élite. The purveyors of this information were not only Londoners but included Irish and Scottish lexicographers the best known of whom was Thomas Sheridan, a Dubliner who was famous for his Lectures on Elocution and his two-volume dictionary with very full attention to pronunciations. In the 19th century the most famous phoneticians included Alexander Melville Bell who, besides his groundbreaking Visible Speech wrote manuals on public speaking and, though braut up in Edinburgh used and promoted, as had his father, the GB of his day. John Walker had prefaced his famous 1791 Critical Pronouncing Dictionary with advice for Irish, Scottish, foreign and London people on the avoidance of their common “erroneous” pronunciations. Fortunately, the description of people who have less fashionable features in their speech as committing ‘errors’ is now universally regarded as preposterous.

Tho I dont suggest that the topic is of no interest whatsoever, I’m afraid I’m astonisht, at the attaching of any importance a·tall to whether or not anyone is a 100 percent speaker of GB or any other accent, a matter that strikes me as of total triviality. The most significant thing about the General British accent, as readers can see I prefer to term it rather than ‘Received Pronunciation’, is its enormous influence on all other varieties of British English.

I referred in my Blog 443 to how Peter Trudgill, originally for a simply practical reason of convenience, adopted a perhaps questionable procedure of eliminating speakers he found to have any degree of “RP” admixture in their speech. This was for the purposes of some dialect research he was conducting. It was quite tangentially, rather than having set out in the first place with the figure as a goal, that he arrived at his notoriously dubious estimate of 3 percent of UK speakers as using unmixt ‘RP’. This has been treated in various quarters with a seriousness quite beyond what no dou·t he or any of us wou·dve imagined likely.

In the twentieth and the present century there’ve been plenty of examples of speakers in public life who show no, or only very inconspicuous, traces of influence of Scottish or other non-GB youthful backgrounds. One thinks of ‘Ming’ Campbell, Alastair Darling, Michael Gove, (Lord) Norman Lamont, Neil MacGregor, Andrew Marr, (Lord) Harry Woolf. (Tony Blair was mainly educated in Scotland.) Fee-paying schools of Edinburgh and Glasgow seem to be particularly associated with GB speakers. With Welsh backgrounds there have been Arthur Lloyd James, Dylan Thomas, John Wing, Huw Weldon, Michael Howard, Rowan Williams, Jeremy Bowen and John Humphrys. An example of a virtual GB speaker is Huw Edwards whose Welsh background is evident almost solely from his prosodies.

I can’t recall any Irish GB speakers who were not mainly educated in Britain but it was notably the view of Henry Sweet when he publisht his phonetic disquisition The Elementary Sounds of English in 1881, the year in which incident·ly Daniel Jones was born, that there was a "class-dialect more than a local dialect" which was "the language of the educated all over Great Britain".

The speakers quoted above I happen to have noticed via the media can only be some proportion of the total. I hope there are enuff of them that meet his criterion for falling within his category of ‘RP’ speaker to persuade Peter to reconsider thinking in terms of “If there are such people” and to allow that at least they may not be ‘very rare’ birds.

Blog 496

The 25th of May 2015

Mooching and Mi(t)ching

My fr·end, colleague and fellow-bloggist John Maidment has for years maintained a wide-ranging series of disquisitions on some of which I’m quite off·en, as now, disposed to comment. At the sev·nth of May he began a posting by saying it’s gənə be ‘a tangled tale, which connects blackberries, a jazz singer, smoke and hares and rabbits’. He continued ‘To me the word mooch (muːtʃ) means to loaf about in a bored manner’. Being a conscientious phonetician he ensures that the reader has available the information that the word’s vowel is /u/ as in root. This is not an expression I myself actively use. I tend to wonder whether he gen·rally uses the verb more by itself or in a phrase such as ‘mooch about’ which I’d feel to be a bit less alien.

Continuing, he says ‘The word can also mean ‘to scrounge’, ‘to sponge off people’and that he assumes ‘this is the meaning intended in the song Minnie the Moocher by the US jazzman Cab Calloway’. The words of the song, which I’ve heard him use and checked online, dont really seem to me to support that conjecture. The OED has ‘hoochie mama. A young woman; esp. one who is promiscuous or who dresses or behaves in a sexually provocative or overtly seductive manner’. Dancing of that order was apparently Minnie’s profession. The lyrics tell us that ‘She was a lowdown hoochie coocher’, She was the roughest, toughest frail, But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale’. This awful rubbish became amazingly popular when Calloway, in singing it onstage, wou·d invite his audiences to echo his nonsensical ‘scat’ phrases, amusing them by making the ‘words’ for them to imitate of increasing difficulty so that their attempts at producing them created general mirth. His band received an entry in the hefty New Grove Dictionary of Jazz chiefly attributable, one supposes, to the fact that he gave employment to some genuinely talented musicians. His personal perfomances made true jazz lovers cringe.

It was the end of a Lord Mayor’s procession indeed when he took up the residency following that of Duke Elington at New York’s famous Harlem Cotton Club. (Wictionary mentions the proverb "After the Lord Mayor's show comes the dust-cart" or "donkey- cart", or "shit-cart"). Ellington, the greatest of all jazz composer-bandleaders, had in his repertoire for over forty years a number he called The Mooche. The best versions he recorded in 1927 or so with the participation of his sadly short-lived incomparable trumpeter Bubber Miley. It suggests a slouching, loping, shuffling sort of gait. Wentworth and Flexner’s 1963 Dictionary of American Slang has ‘to saunter’ but no record of a noun in Duke’s sense.

John continued ‘A third meaning is ‘to play truant’ and this appears to be connected to a now rare word mitch’. My first reaction to this was rather incredulous: the two vowels are so very diff·rent. But he’s in respected company. The OED speculates along such lines. At any rate, in the same way that John tells us he feels at home with mooch, I feel totally at home with mitch. It was the normal word in my Cardiff childood for ‘play truant’. ‘Truant’ was an expression that I imagine I first came across from perusing a ‘comic paper’ detailing the adventures of a public school boy named Billy Bunter. I was pleased to see the comment by John’s reader Kevin Flynn telling us that the word is alive in the Cardiff sense at Plymouth as well as in South Wales.

The word ‘mi(t)ch’ is well known among Shakespearian scholars for cropping up in Hamlet in the phrase ‘miching malicho’. OED’s ‘taken to be generally suggestive of dark deeds, mystery, or intrigue’ is a suggestion of the current editors. I’d prefer to say more simply ‘skulking evildoer’. Neither the original editor Bradley, who idiosyncraticly entered the phrase as if it were a single word in 1904 despite not even hyphenating it, nor Burchfield in 1976 originated that OED remark. Accompanied by the comment ‘its pronunciation [Uptonianly transcribed as (malˈetʃo)] does not account for the forms in the early editions’ (in ref·rence no dou·t to sightings before the 1623 First Folio like ‘mallico’. I expect the pronunciation to’ve been /ma`lɪʧou/ or something of the sort. The Spanish original ‘malhecho’ I take to be able to mean ‘wickedly constituted (person)’. Some producers of the play have accepted the pronunciation with /k/ but my guess is that the ‘-co’ versions were mistakes: I’m confident that Will wdve relisht coining a phrase with the double chiming of the sequences /m—tʃ/.

Finally, when John continued with ‘The next twist in the path involves the word meuse (mjuːs or mjuːz), OED: A gap in a fence or hedge through which hares, rabbits, etc., pass…’ I felt unable to accept the idea of any connection between these such phonetically diff·rent items from ‘mooch’. Nor have I, in regard to his last remark, ever associated mitching with skipping school in order to go blackb·rying. Or noticed anywhere any use of the word ‘mooch’ to mean ‘a blackberry’ as EDD reported from a Glo·ster source and a Devon one.

Blog 495

The 2nd of May 2015

Suburban Supershopping PS 32


1. / ˈhav ˈju ˈbin ˈraʊn | tə ðə nju ˎsupəˏmɑkɪt /
     Have you been round | to the new supermarket?
2. / ˈəʊ ˎ jɛs  | ˏɪznt ɪt ˎmɑvləs /
     Oh, yes! Isn’t it marvellous!
3. / ˈθaŋk ˎhev[ɱː] | nɒt tə hav tə ˈdraɡ ɔl ðə weɪ | ɪntə ˎtaʊn enɪ mɔ
     Thank heavens not to have to drag all the way into town any more!
4. / `wi us | tə gəʊ ˏəʊvə | tə ˈðat wᴧn | nɪə ði `ɛpɔt /
      We used to go over to that one near the airport.
5. / ˈəʊ ˎ jes | ɪts ˈkwaɪt ˎɡʊd | bət ɪt ˈsᴧʧ ə ˎweɪ /
     Oh, yes! It’s quite good. But it's such a way!
6. /ˏmaɪnʤu | ɪts ən `ɔfl njusns | ˈθredɪŋ jɔ ˈweɪ |
       Mind you, it’s an awful nuisance threading your way
     θru ɔl ðəʊz ˈhɑf fɪnɪʃt ˈrəʊdz | ɒn ðə ˈnju `haʊzɪŋ ɪˏsteɪt /
         through all those half-finished roads on the new housing estate.
7. /ˎ jɛs | `ðeɪ ʃd bi ˈprɒpəli ˎsaɪnpəʊstɪd | tə help ju faɪnd ðə weɪ `ɪn /
       Yes. They should be properly signposted to help you find the way in.
8. /ˎstɪl | aɪ ɪkˈspekt ɪtl bi ˈbetə | wen ðeɪ fɪnɪʃ `ˏbɪldɪŋ /
       Still, I expect it’ll be better when they finish building.
9. /ðə wəz ə `fɑm ˏðɛ| wen wi fɜst ˏkeɪm hjɜ /
      There was a farm there when we first came here.
10. /əʊ `jɛs | aɪ rɪ`membər ɪt
      Oh, yes! I remember it.
11. / ˈrɑðə ˈpɔ | ʧɔɪs əv `ˏʧizɪz |
       Rather a poor choice of cheeses.
12. / `wɛə/
13. / ˈɪn nə nju `supəmɑkɪt /
        In the new supermarket.
14. / `(h)əʊ ˎ jɛs | ən ˈnəʊ `səʊdə wɔtə | fə ˌsᴧm mɪ`stɪəriəs ˏrizn /
          Oh, yes! And no soda water for some mysterious reason.
15. / `∙stɪl | `hə | wᴧn `mᴧsn ˏɡrᴧmbl /  
           Still, one mustn’t grumble.   
16. / `[ʔ]əʊ ˎnəʊ /.
          Oh, no!


Turn 1  Note the completely ordinary elision of the /d/ of ‘round’ before a following consonant.
Turn 2  Notice that the word 'Yes' is transcribed not with /e/, which wd suggest a shorter sound         than we hear here. It seems better to represent it with the usually long monophthong of current     GB /ɛ/. This has recently for the most part replaced the formerly more usual diphthong [ɛə].         Note that our present transcription doesnt add the unnecessary length marks to any of the             usually rather long vowels /i, ɛ, ɑ, ɔ, u & ɜ/.
Turn 3  The word ‘heavens’ has no audible /s/and the /n/ has actually not the phonetic value [n]         but, under the assimilating influence of the preceding labiodental /v/, has become the                     labiodental nasal [ɱː]. The expected /z/ has been completely elided.
Turn 4  Note that the absence of any audible initial /j/ from the word ‘used’ in this context i.e. after     /wi/ is perfectly normal. As is the absence of any final /t/ of ‘used’.
Turn 9  The variant /hjɜ/ of ‘here’ and its homophone ‘hear’ during the middle of the last century     suffered a great drop in frequency in the words’ most prominent uses (they had somehow come     to sound old-fashioned in most situations). As a result Gimson removed it entirely from the         EPD in 1977. This was far too hasty. Unfortunately it has been similarly omitted from LPD and     CEPD but it is still quite often used in a more restricted set of situations such as we find here         and initially in various expressions like ‘Here we are’.
Turn 13  Most assimilations involve an anticipatory adoption of a characteristic of a later                     phoneme by an earlier one (what I like to call 'pre' assimilations) but at 'in the' here the                 change occurs to the later phoneme /ð/ which is converted to /n/ under the influence of the             previous /n/ at the end of the word 'in' (what I call a 'post' assimilation).
Turn 14  The exclamation [həʊ] presents a problem of assignment. Altho it’s common                         enough it’s most likely not to be regarded as an occurrence of the archaic                                         exclamation ‘Ho!’ but as a ‘breathy’ utterance of the  contemporary exclamation ‘Oh’.
Turn 15  The tone mark [ `∙] before ‘Still’ indicates a Fall only going from a high to a mid pitch.
    The sound between ‘Still’ and ‘one’ which I’ve represented as [`hə] is of course not a ‘word’             at-all but a (notably breathy) sigh which, as its force diminishes, creates an affect similar to a         falling tone.

Blog 494

The 24th of March 2015

Sounds Interesting

Book Cover

Like Peter Roach, who has since December 2014 been gen·rously charting for us the ups and downs of Wikipedia phonetics in a series of blog postings at with which I’ve on·y rather recently cau·t up, I’m an appreciative frequent user of Wikipedia. In its biographic article on John Wells, some of which is rather comicly clumsy, it does helpfully jog one’s memory with the following:
After retirement, Wells ran a regular blog on phonetic topics from March 2006 to April 2013. He announced the end of his blog on 22 April 2013 saying, “if I have nothing new to say, then the best plan is to stop talking.”
Of course we all knew that it was nonsense on his part to suggest that he had nothing new to say but th·t that remark was just modesty. I cert·nly found it something of a shock when John did decide to pack it in — partly I suppose from the amazing regularity with which he kept it up five days a week for seven years except when he was out of the country. I used to look for it daily first of all things online.

In a way, it cou·d be sed that John has returned the compliment coz he’s referred to me eight times in his text: at p.6 in his §1.8 diocese; at p.28 in §1.36 anglicised Welsh place names; at p.41 in §2.5 compression (what he didnt mention there was the fact that I introduced into the literature that term that he’s done so much to popularise in my recently reprinted 1969 Guide to English Pronunciation); at p. 49 in §2.13 gemination and degemination; at p.50 in §2.14 reductions in casual speech; at p.74 in §2.41 terraced attacks; at p.149 in §5.16 practicing (sic) wot I preach and at p.187 Welsh ll.

In fact John’s Blog was the direct reason for my opening up a website not least to be able to have a blog of my own. People quite offen, to my slight irritation, refer to my blog when they mean my website. Many of my posts were triggered by Wellsian topics of the day while he was still going.

Anyway, when it became known that he was going to produce a book based on his blogsite pronouncements, that was something to look forward to. It arrived from CUP at the 25th of September last year. No-one shd be disappointed. It’s of considerable dimensions: pages x+205. Hardback the now all too expectable stinging fifty quid, paperback a reasonable £15.99. It’s on the square-shaped side at roughly 25 by 17 cms quite like the Roach and Collins-&-Mees textbooks. Under its title ‘Sounds Interesting’ it has the gloss ‘Observations on English and General Phonetics’. It’s been, in the main nicely, printed by Cambridge University Press whose blurb writer’s remarks are thankfully restrained. The front cover has an essentially nondescript impression of a pair of spectacles and, to one’s relief, hardly the slightest hint of a tiresome distortion of an IPA symbol. Interspersed, are a dozen or so modest untitled drawings, each with some relevance to the text, including an aubergine, a goat, a (small) diplodocus, an albatross, a tortoise and two or three human beings. The artist’s surname is Davidson with a first name obvi·sly misprinted as ‘Lhinton’. PS I didnt ghess right there. In fact I liked the drawings so I  dropt the artist a line saying so... at the same time commenting on the literally peculiar spelling of his first name. As it turns out it, was quite intentional. He tells me that it was a whim of his parents to decide to make his name unique so that if he strayed away somehow he'd be easier to locate. Hence the silent aitch they inserted. Well why not? There've been loads of others in English spelling including in the better spelling of 'guess' that I just used. The OED records use of the spelling 'ghesse' for the word between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. It's quite a myst·ry how ghost got its perfec·ly pointless aitch. OED tries to blame Caxton. And there's a silent aitch possible at the hl in Alhambresque for which OED gives the second pronunciation. /ˌal(ə)mˈbrɛsk/. It's silent in Spanish Alhambra but the 'educated' English are so terrified of aitch dropping that they always put one into that Spanish name. And there's the name of Lhasa, capital of Tibet, south-western China.

    The text is divided into nearly 2,000 items in sections labelled 1. How do you say…? 2. English phonetics:theory and practice. 3. Teaching and examining. 4. Intonation. 5. Symbol shapes, fonts and spelling. 6. English accents. 7. English around the world. I was wondering what to say in brief about the book when I found that I agreed with and cou·dnt improve on the sentence by David Deterding on the back cover: “This delightful collection of fascinating anecdotes, keen observations about the ways things are pronounced and erudite reflections from his long and distinguished career as a phonetician will ensure that John Wells continues to be an inspiration not just for established linguists and students of phonetics but also for a wide range of readers with a general interest in language”. I shd on·y add that, tho it shou·d be okay for my usual readers, it might be at times tough going for anyone who hadnt got at least a moderate smattering of phonetics, as John cautions in his Preface. I was deli·ted to find numbers of things I'd somehow missed over the years. What a feast! Happy reading!

Blog 493

The 19th of March 2015

Weathermen PS 31

/`weðəmen/  People Speaking 31

1. /ˈhᴧˏləʊ. ˈhaʊ ˎɑ ju / Hullo. How are you?

2. /ˈaɪm `faɪn θaŋks|ˈhaʊ ə ˎ ju/ I’m fine, thanks. How are you?

3. /ˌɔlraɪt ˏrɪəli |bət ˌtu mᴧʧ tə ˈdu | an ˌtu lɪtl ˌtaɪm tə ˈdu ɪt ɪn |
            ˈaz -juʒuəl/.

Alright, really. But too much to do and too little time to do it in.
            As usual

The Bass (low and level) tones indicated are as much rhythmical as accentual. The two climactic Alts on the two occurrences of do are rather exceptional usages, as is the combination of Alt plus Mid in the final two-word phrase. Unlike all other climax tones, they are level not moving.

(There are other level climax tones used for totally different reasons in remote speech, ie where one or both of the speakers are out of normal earshot, eg ˈYoo ˈhoo.)

Anyway, the attitudes referred to here arose out of the boring nature of a repeated routine activity.
4. /ˎ je[ː]s | ɪts ˈɔlwɪz  ə ˎseɪm ˎɪzn̩ ɪt|. / Yes. It’s always the same. Isn’t it.
        /`ˈ stɪl | ˈaɪm ˈglad | wiv gɒt ðə ˎwɪntə bəhaɪnd əs/.
        Still. I’m glad we’ve got the winter behind us.

5./ ˎjes/. Yes! This word is ‘muttered’.
                So, if a final /s/ is there at all,
                it’s so weak it might as well  be a /z/.
 / ˈwɒt ə ˏrɒtn | `sprɪŋ ðɪs ɪz | ˈðɪs ˎreɪn | tsəʊ `kəʊld/
                What a rotten spring this is! This rain. It’s so cold!
6. /`je[ː]s | ɪts ˈprɪti| ˎmɪzrəbl/  Yes. It’s pretty miserable.
        ./ `an ɪts | gəʊɪn tə bi ivn `kəʊldə | əʊvə ðə wik`ˏend | əkɔdɪŋ tə ðə `teləˏvɪʒn/
          and it’s going to be even colder over the weekend according to the telivision.

7. / ˈhu wz ˎðat| ˈʤak `skɒt | aɪ səpəʊz. Who was that? Jack Scott, I suppose.

8. / `jes |ˈhaʊ dɪd ju ˎges | /  Yes. How did you guess?

9. /ˎɑ ˎwel | ɪts ə ˈɔ(l)weɪz betə weðə | wɪð bɑbr̩ edwədz ju ˏˌnə/

    Ah! Well! It’s always better weather with Barbara Edwards, you know.

The /l/ is bracketed becoz it’s barely audible. The /r/ at the end of Barbara is so short it cd equally well be shown as not syllabic.  The final word know has what I call a Rise-Bass tone ie a low rise that’s so narrow that it’s restricted to the bottom range of the speaker’s voice.

10 ˈn̩ɑ | ˈhᴧ ˈhᴧˈ hᴧ ˎhᴧ [These sounds of laughter are expressive but not words.]

Blog 492

The 20th of January 2015

The Roach Heresy

This is a reversion to the subject of my recent Blog 487 ‘The Walsh Stratagem’ which was about the consequences of the change of mainstream GB speakers’ target value in the middle of the last century fr·m [ɪ] to [i] for the final vowel of words like happy. I publisht a longish (over eight pages not including ref·rences) article entitled ‘HapppYland Reconnoitred’ in 1990 as a contribution to the ‘commemorative volume in honour of A. C. Gimson: Studies in the Pronunciation of English’ which was edited by Dr Susan Ramsaran who shortly afterwards transferred her allegiance from phonetics to theology. That article, very slietly revised, may be seen as Item 2 of Section 3 of the ‘Homepage’ main division of this website. At least it showed that the topic was far from a simple one. It was triggered mainly by a remark of Gimson’s at page 105 of the 1980 last edition he produced of his famous Introduction to the Pronunciation of English that “In final, unaccented positions as in city, Mary, lady, etc. /ɪ/ is increasingly replaced in the speech of the younger generations by a short variety of /iː/”. Over thirty years later that book is as invaluable as ever thanks to decades of adm·rable enlargement and development in the authoritative hands of Alan Cruttenden.

He makes a positive statement about the General British situation in the 2014 eighth edition of ‘Cruttenden’s Gimson’ at page 113 saying “A short /i/, i.e. a vowel nearer in quality to the long /iː/ rather than /ɪ/, is now the norm in GB finally in words like lady, .. donkey, prairie.” In his seventh edition at page 108 his opinion at that stage had been expressed cautiously saying that in final “unaccented positions e.g. in city, .. memory, coffee /ɪ/ is increasingly replaced by a short value of /iː/ by many speakers.” He had also added a comment on the fence-sitting position of ref·rence books saying “The latest editions of standard pronouncing dictionaries transcribe such words with [i] and thus avoid equating it with either /ɪ/ or /iː/.” In the new eighth edition he now joins them saying that, altho he prefers to treat it “as a word-final allophone of /ɪ/, it is nevertheless indicated in phonemic transcriptions, e.g. /`leɪdi/, and in the weak forms of he, she, we, me following the practice in the latest editions of the standard pronouncing dictionaries” (p.113). I sympathise with his not wanting to stay with disagreeable-looking strictly Gimsonian phonemic transcriptions like /`hapiː/ and /prəˈnᴧnsiː`eɪʃn/.

Altho Gordon Walsh, in 1978 Pronunciation Editor for the first edition of the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, cunningly passed off as an economy his device of showing of the final vowel of happy etc as \-i\ allegedly because it cd be interpreted by pronunciational Americanists as [i] and Anglicists as [ɪ], he knew perfectly well that /i/ was rapidly becoming the mainstream GB value of that final sound. And that showing it as /`hapiː/ too uncomf·tably falsely suggested a diff·rent value which belonged with the final syllable of words like /`pedɪgriː/.

Anyway, I tend to think of Roach and Wells as having adopted the Walsh Stratagem. Roach, in 1983 in the first edition of his excellent popular textbook English Phonetics and Phonology, comparing (p.66) the alternative transcriptions \iːziː, bɪziː\ and \iːzɪ, bɪzɪ\ remarked that “Few speakers of RP seem to feel satisfied with any of these”. This adoption of the Walsh move he admitted went “against standard phoneme theory” and (showing how 'guilty' he felt) again emphasised that his recommendation was “no longer a true phonemic transcription in the traditional sense”. My feeling was that it was the superfluous colons that were the real cause of dissatisfaction when all the time they didnt even need to have them in their transcriptions. I suspect that, if people hadnt got accustomed to constantly seeing the colons Gimson saddled them with, the colon-free alternative transcription /`izi/ wouldntve bothered them. They’dve been able to acknowledge in their transriptions the fact that filigree and pedigree etc ended with a diff·rent value at their final syllables from what was to be heard in symmetry and mimicry by recognising that the diff·rence between them was prosodic rather than vocalic-phonemic. This cdve been simply conveyed by transcribing them /`fɪlɪˌgri/ and /`pedəˌgri/ with secondary stress marks by contrast with /`sɪmətri/ and /`mɪmɪkri/ without them. This is exactly what plenty of Americans actually do. Compare the two types of transcription in the online OED at pedigree: “Brit. /ˈpɛdᵻɡriː/, U.S. /ˈpɛdəˌɡri/”  and look at how the online Merriam-Webster shows filigree:  \ˈfi-lə-ˌgrē\”.

Item 5 of Section 5 of our Homepage wd give you even more on the topic of 'The Undesirability of Length Marks in EFL Transcriptions'. The only effect I think the colons have on learners is to be (in danger at least of) giving them a completely exaggerated impression of how long the vowels usually are to which people attach colons using the "standard" transcription. Learners dont get their pronunciations of vowels from dictionaries: they copy what they hear in their lessons etc.

It doesnt necessarily follow that GB speakers who usually say /`beɪbi/ will pluralise it as /`beɪbiz/. They may well say /`beɪbɪz/ or, at least in situations of emphasis, say /`beɪˌbiz/. I remember hearing that last very clearly from Richard Burton in the original British performance of Under Milk Wood and wondering whether people wd  perceive it as a General British pronunciation or as an appropriately Welsh regionalism. Cruttenden has newly mentioned, in the 2014 edition of his Gimson revision p.114, his impression that “When words with final /i/ take the suffix /-z/.. the /i/ usually changes to /ɪ/, e.g. memories /`memərɪz/, hurries /`hᴧrɪz/ but some speakers may retain the /i/, e.g. /`meməriz/, /`hᴧriz/, or the vowel may be intermediate between the two…” If this last suggestion is valid, it must be the pritty rare occurrence of speakers  making a three-way choice between the three such close-to-each-other close-front values /i, ɨ & ɪ/.

Blog 491

The 4th of December 2014

Foreign Place Names (ii)

The sixth of the LJ (Lloyd James) booklets reprinted photographically in the Collins, Mees & Carley Volume III of the series English Phonetics: Twentieth Century Developments, as we mentioned in our Blog 486, had a particularly long and int∙resting Introduction. One rather extreme remark in it was “…even casual observers cannot fail to notice that there is something ‘wrong’ with the average Indian’s pronunciation of English .. the general laxity of the performance, the absence of crisp articulation of consonants, and above all the astonishing difference in rhythm.” Little cou∙d he have imagined that a couple of generations later millions of people in Britain wd daily be having conversations by telephone with speakers (occasionally, one has to admit, more fluent than comprehensible) talking to them on various business matters from the Indian subcontinent. Certain remarks of LJ’s prompted the volume’s editors to comment with no exaggeration that he “reaches a degree of complexity probably far beyond the understanding of the majority of his readers”. One word choice of his, strange even to most phoneticians, was his use of the Sanskritist term ‘cerebral’ rather than the IPA ‘retroflex in ref∙rence to “the Aryans in India”.

LJ very sensibly recommended announcers tackling exotic words to aim for versions “as near an approximation to the native version as it is possible to perform when using speech-sounds that are purely English” but added quite rightly that exception “has to be made in the case of some foreign sounds that appear to be now within the capacity of the average educated speaker of English, viz., nasalized vowels not necessarily French in quality, and the ch sound in ‘loch’.” He went beyond that, one might say, when he prescribed in certain places “r must be pronounced” eg at Brno [ˈbərnou] and Trnovo [ˈtərnouvou], and [ʒ] and [x] to begin syllables eg at Rio De Janeiro [ˈriːou də ʒəˈneirou] and  Jerez [xeˈreθ].

LJ’s speech sounded quite like Daniel Jones’s (he was born three years later than him in 1884) but he didnt always, it seems, concur with Jones on what pronunciations were predominant in their day. He appeared to regard as the usual vowel of more the actually fast-fading diphthong /ɔə/, a version Jones observed, in his Outline of English Phonetics, that he personally never used at all. Wells in LPD1 of 1990 didnt even include it with a label like ‘old-fashioned’. It wasnt removed from the EPD until 1997 but it coudnt be heard from any BBC newsreader after the middle of the twentieth century except as a regionalism.

Some pritty surprising items among the ‘native pronunciations’ LJ gave included the information that Accra which we say as /ə`krɑ/ was by its citizens  uttered as [ŋkraŋ]! He noted that our /beŋ`gɔl/ for Bengal has rather diff∙rent vowels from the [bᴧŋgɑːl] of its inhabitants. We used at least get the stress right in our old version of Cadiz /`keɪdɪz/ but now we say /kə`dɪz/ for what Spanish people say as [`kaðiθ]. Another rather perverse-seeming stressing is our /alkə`zɑ/ for Spanish speakers' Alcázar [al`kaθar]. We similarly persist in saying Anda`lusia for Andalu`cia. We now, as its citizens do, usually stress the second syllable of Se`ville but we used to call it /`sevɪl/ and, as the Wells LPD (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary) remarks, still “usually” talk of ˈSeville `oranges. Modern media have made us familiar with the famous Galapagos Islands so we no longer presume from its spelling that it is /galə`peɪgɒs/ but have learned to say /gə`lapəgɒs/. LJ gave only the native-like front-strest version of Helsinki but it’s the stressing Hel`sinki which LPD and CEPD (the renamed Cambridge EPD) agree on showing first. Rather surprisingly the word was absent from Jones’s 1937 EPD. Other strikingly diff∙rently strest items we have include /valpə`raɪzəʊ/ for “[balparaˈiso]” ie Valparaiso and /vladi`vɒstɒk/ Vladivostok for “[vlədʲivaˈstok]” (in which I’ve replaced his now superseded symbol for a palatalised [d] with the modern IPA equivalent).

One item before which announcers must’ve quailed is the name of a port in the north of Portugal Leixoes which LJ gives as [ləɪ`ʃõɪʃ] with the ‘modified spelling’ version ‘layshó(ng)ish’ (with an acute accent over the strest vowel). Neither LPD nor CEPD contains this item nor even did ODP in 2001 tho it boasted a ‘Lusitanian Portuguese’ consultant. By the way, in respect of  /`laɪənz/ for the French city Lyon which we mentioned previously, I notice BBCG (the Olausson & Sangster Oxford BBC Guide to Pronunciation) in 2006 sed “..we have not recommended it for fifty years”. However, BBCG noted /rimz/ for Reims as an “established Anglicization”. Unknown today is LJ’s /tɪə`rɑn/ which was always Jones’s either sole version (even in his EPD new fourth edition of 1937) or his first in all the editions he was responsible for. It’s not to be found at all in either EPD or LPD today. Unsurprisingly LJ gave /mə`ʤɔkə/ for Majorca as did EPD until 1997. LPD1 in 1990 gave /mə`jɔkə/ first but has also always listed the variant /mə`ʤɔkə/ which cd well be labelled “old-fashioned” tho such a comment doesnt figure much in LPD, a kind of omission, like explicit grading of the degrees of commonness of variants, that’s one of the few desirabilities absent from that best of all English pronouncing diction∙ries.