Archive 8 of JWL Blog

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28/03/2008A New Edition of LPD#080
27/03/2008HENRY CECIL WYLD#079
26/03/2008London Transport#078
25/03/2008A Few Brief Notes#077
23/03/2008Problem Guest#076
22/03/2008Reigning Cats and Dogs#075
21/03/2008Churchill and Shaw#074
20/03/2008Corny Jokes 2#073
19/03/2008Corny Jokes 1#072
18/03/2008Remarks 4#071

Blog 080

The 28th of March 2008

A New Edition of LPD

Today is notable for all those interested in the phonetics of English because it is the day of publication of the third edition of the  J. C. Wells Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. It's got 3,000 additional headwords including al Qaeda, Aung San Suu Kyi, sudoku, Sarkozy and Wikipedia. It now comes with its own CD-ROM which provides both British and American pronunciations of all its headwords to those who have the necessary Microsoft company's software to enable their playback.
It has new Preference Poll Results for a selection of British and American items. The 30 British ones were largely unsurprising. For me the least expected reactions were the cases where a form was favoured that sharply contradicted the spelling. I was amazed that where surely all dictionaries are agreed on excluding mischievious from correct contemporary orthographic usage, as many as 20% expressed approval of the pronunciation /mɪsˈtʃiːviəs/. It was strange that 61% favoured the "inappropriate" form /ˈdɪpθɒŋ/ of diphthong; similarly 83% preferred /ˈlɪkərɪʃ/ for the word they no doubt all spell with no "sh" and 16% favoured pronouncing H beginning with the sound /h/. I suppose a lot of people aren't conscious of the spelling of H as aitch.

It was much less surprising that 89% preferred to utter dissect with a pronunciation that suggests they're thinking of it as "disect" because that's clearly what people largely do. What are mainly somewhat less lingually athletic versions were favoured not very surprisingly for ap`plicable (85%), la`mentable (72%) neces`sarily (68%), ki`lometer (63%), con`tribute (59%) and im`pious (53%) tho elec`toral got only 17% approval. It was surprising that even 17% seem to have wanted to stress the latter syllable of debris (suggesting American influence one supposes). It was no surprise that a big majority were for forestressing tinnitus (82%) or adult (84%) or that most (60%) wanted hurricane to match its spelling closely or that most (88%) like to rhyme via with fire or again that most (81%) didnt want to begin egotistic with an egg but it was surprising that even a modest number wanted to have careless end with /-lɪs/ — mainly Londoners one guesses. Finally the very old-fashioned version of were rhyming with where hardly got any votes (6%) and I suspect that poor was lucky to get 26% claiming they preferred it to be /pʊə/ rather than /pɔː/. They're probably irrational homophone haters.

I wonder what items you'd like to be in the next poll. I shd like it to contain climate, private, restaurant with /-ɔːnt/, only with no /l/, government, hospital with /-ɪdl/,  necessarily with/-ær-/ and meteorological amongst others.


Blog 079

The 27th of March 2008

HENRY CECIL WYLD

On this day 138 years ago Henry Cecil Wyld (1870-1945) was born in London to well-to-do parents of Scottish extraction. After only a year at Charterhouse public school and three years of private education at Lausanne he studied at universities at Bonn, Heidelberg and ultimately Oxford where he came under the influence of Henry Sweet. He produced an excellent one-volume dictionary of English with its remarkably  full attention to pronunciation. Its inclusion of everyday usages was said to have been a notable influence on Harold Palmer and A. S. Hornby, the principal progenitors of the vastly successful and much imitated Advanced Learner's Dictionary.


I was a grand-pupil of Wyld's via E. C. Llewellyn sometime university professor of English at Cardiff. Another pupil of his was Harold Orton the distinguisht dialectologist. He obviously, at one time at least, had a considerable influence on Daniel Jones who arrived at the unfortunate but now increasingly famous term "Received Pronunciation" as much thru his influence as thru that of A. J. Ellis. Wyld's most important work was on the history of the pronunciation of English notably in the form of his History of Modern Colloquial English (1936). To quote from his account of what G. P. Krapp (1925) called "eye-dialect" he said in 1921 “As a rule, when a comic writer departs from ordinary spelling in depicting the speech of one of his characters, he intends to suggest a pronunciation which is out of the ordinary, though there is always the possibility that he is deceiving himself; as when a writer at the present time attempts to express the pronunciation of a vulgar person by writing 'orf' for off, 'wen' for when, 'chewsdy' for Tuesday, thereby expressing nothing different from the normal pronunciation”. 

Personally I was quite surprised to read that Wyld thaut chewsday"normal" in the earlier twentieth century and not sure he was right: I think it wdve then had far more critics than now when, since the advent of modern permissiveness, so many more of us are far more tolerant. It would be much harder to enrol people now in a Society for Pure English than it was then. Wyld was an incredible linguistic snob and an enthusiastic adherent of that body founded in 1913 but defunct by 1946. [Snob in general in fact: he's been quoted as saying 'No gentleman goes on a bus'!] I was quite surprised that the Wells LPD 2007 questionnaire showed 54% of his respondents actually preferring that tune shd be pronounced /ʧuːn/ leave alone tolerating it. He'll now no doubt remove the "not RP" § sign from that and Tuesday. [PS This happened with LPD3 of 2008] I tend to wonder if the people who feel they dont like the /ʧ/ forms are reacting against those critics of such versions who are so anxious not to be accused of saying /ʧuːn/ that they say tune not as [tçuːn] but avoiding the normal aspiration that makes it quite similar to /ʧuːn/ and producing something very precious-sounding half way to dune.


Blog 078

The 26th of March 2008

London Transport

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

People Speaking # 7  London Transport
You know, believe it or not,
jə nəʊ, bəˈliːv ɪt | ɔː ˏnɒt [1]

you got a funny kind of resemblance
ju gɒt ə ˈfᴧni kaɪnd əv rɪˏzembləns | [2]

to a bloke I once knew in Shoreditch.
tu ə `bləʊk aɪ wᴧns ˏnjuː | ɪn `ʃɔːdɪʧ. [3]

Well actually he lived in Aldgate
wel `ˏ ӕkʧəli | i lɪvd ɪn `ɔːlgeɪt. [4]

I was staying with a cousin in Camden Town.
ˈaɪ wə ˈsteɪŋ|wɪð ə `kᴧzn| ɪn kӕmdən `taʊn. [5]

His old Mum was still living at the Angel.
ɪz ˈəʊld ˈmᴧm | wə stɪl lɪvɪŋ ət ði `eɪnʤl. [6]

All the buses passed right by the door.
ɔːl ðə ˎbᴧsɪz pɑːst ˈraɪt | baɪ ðə ˎdɔː. [7]

You could get a 38, 581,
ju kə(d) ged ə ˈθɜːtiˏeɪt| ˈfaɪv eɪt ˏwᴧn| [8]

30, 38A...
ˊθɜːti| ˈθɜːti eɪt ˏeɪ | [9]

Take her down the Essex Road
teɪk ə daʊn ði ˈesɪks ˏrəʊd | [10]

to Dalston Junction next to no time.
tə ˈdɔːlstən ˏʤᴧŋʃn| ˈneks tə `nəʊ taɪm. [11]

I very much admired the way this actor produced a delicately suggested effect of Cockney voice quality while keeping all his sound segments within General British possibilities.

The omissions of the /d/ from Aldgate and the /k/ from Junction, the /ɪ/ from staying and the /z/ from was in line 8 are all completely normal GB.
That last one dissolved the was/were contrast! As for the /d/ of could in line 8 it's probably not there but it's one of the many things about which I find myself not sure.

The first word of all is a weakform of you that's perfectly ordinary too but EFL users shd note that it's not employed clause-finally in polite usage.

Nor is there anything odd about my showing get as /ged/ in line 8: it's not so much that it can be said to be indisputably either /t/ or /d/ but that here the distinction between them is neutralised.

Note that isolated numbers above 100 are spoken in pairs of digits or less often as eg "five-eighty-one". "Five hundred and eighty one" wd sound elaborate or pompous etc.

This little monologue comes from Harold Pinter's play The Caretaker.


Blog 077

The 25th of March 2008

A Few Brief Notes

Looking back over some of the recent Wellsian blogs I found very interesting his comparisons of German and English compound stress. Something he didn't mention I shd like to have him comment on was how much more often "Germanic" American English compound stress seems to me to be. I offer 250 or so examples of this at my article on the General American and General British pronunciations of English Item 3.1 §§6 c, d & e on this site.

Even the most major dictionaries on both sides of the Atlantic overlook this topic regrettably: the best I know of is the American Random House Dictionary. It sometimes seems to me that some Americans can give forestress to almost any sort of compound.

As to his inclination to "fret about anomalous tonicity", I've tried to give my reasons at Accentuation why I think ten percent or more of cases where anomalies are or seem to be occurring can be expected and explained.

On his discussion of veterinary I might add that my CPD (OUP 1979) gave it as `vetrɪnərɪ £ `vetnrɪ  `vetrnərɪ
I didnt really doubt that my first British variant was predominant among native speakers but if one isnt 200% sure in a dedicated EFL dictionary one gives priority to the easiest to learn which is usually the most spelling-hugging.

Lastly here are some dictionaries on Asia for more than a century (See our Abbreviations section on this site):
1885 OED Murray `eɪʃ(i)ən˚ [ ˚ means only so, no alternatives given]
1913 Michaelis & Jones ˈeiʃə˚
1914 Funk & Wagnalls (American, two large volumes) ˈeiʃə˚
1917 EPD1 ˈeiʃə˚
1926 Palmer, Martin & Blandford ˈeiʃə˚
1937 EPD4 (reset) ˈeiʃə˚
1944 EPD ˈeiʃə rarely ˈeiʒə
1944 Kenyon & Knott ˈeʒə prevails in US, ˈeʃə in Engd.
1956EPD11 (reset) ˈeiʃə rarely ˈeiʒə
1967 EPD13 (Gimson reset) ˈeiʃə rarely ˈeiʒə
1972 CPD `eɪʃə $ £ `eɪʒə etc
1977 EPD ‘14’ (reset) ˈeɪʃə [ˈeɪʒə]
1990 LPD1 ˈeɪʃə ˈeɪʒə || (ie Am) ˈeɪʒə ˈeɪʃə
1995 CID ˈeɪʒə(n)˚ Cambridge International Dictionary Pronunciation Editor Roach
1997 EPD15 (Roach) ˈeɪ.ʃə, -ʒə US ˈeɪ.ʒə, -ʃə
2000 LPD2 ˈeɪʒə ˈeɪʃə British Poll 1998 ʃ 49% ʒ 51%]
2001 ODP BR ˈeɪʃə(r), ˈeɪʒə(r) AM ˈeɪʒə ...
No doubt Wells had a suspicion that ʒ might be tending to prevail — hence his inclusion of the word in his Poll. My observations convince me he was right. It now clearly predominates. Though on most occasions I personally still cheerfully say /`eɪʃə/. There is no need — as many popular writers are eager so often to claim about such changes — to conclude that /`eɪʒə/'s preponderance is due to American influence: that version has been the chief one in the north of England for generations.

Stop press: The Wells 2007 poll percentage preference for Asia has just been published and it was an unsurprising increase (64%) in favour of /ʒ/.


Blog 076

The 23rd of March 2008

Problem Guest

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

People Speaking

5 Problem Guest

/ˈprɒbləm ˎɡest/

Miss Jones is coming to lunch tomorrow. What am I to give her to eat?    1
/ˈmɪs ˎdʒəʊnz ɪz kʌmɪŋ tə lʌntʃ təˏmɒrəʊ. `-wɒt əm aɪ tə ɡɪv ə tu ˎiːt?/

What does she like?                                                                            2
/ˈwɒ(t) dəz ʃi ˋlaɪk?/

That’s not the question, really. She has all these dreadful allergies.          3
/(ðӕ)ts nɒt ðə `kwestʃən ˎˏrɪəli. ʃi æz ɔːl ðiːz ˏdredfl `ælədʒiz./

So I’m terrified of giving her something that’ll bring her out in spots.      4
/səʊ aɪm `terəfaɪd | əv ɡɪvɪŋ hɜː ˏsʌmθɪŋ | ðətl ˈbrɪŋ ər aʊt ɪn `spɒts./

What can she eat?                                                                              5
/wɒt ˋkæn ʃi iːt?/

Well, I imagine steak doesn’t disagree with her.                                    6
/`ˏwel | aɪ mædʒɪn `steɪk dʌznt dɪsəˏɡriː wɪð hə.

But I believe she comes out in a rash if she touches onions.                    7
 bət aɪ bəˈliːv | ʃi ˈkʌmz aʊt ɪn ə `ræʃ ɪf ʃi tʌtʃɪz `ˏʌnjənz./

For goodness sake! Ring up her house and ask them.                                8
/fə ˈɡʊdnəs `seɪk. ˈrɪŋ ʌp ə `haʊs ən `ɑːsk ðəm./

There're some interesting elisions in this text the product of the readers’ successfully adopting a natural quite brisk tempo. At a slower more deliberate pace these omissions no doubt wdntve happened. The first is the probably complete loss of the /t/ normally present at the end of the word “What” that  begins line 2. The second is at the word “That's” at the start of line 3 which begins with such a realistically blurred casual articulation that it might equally have been “It's”. In the same line there's complete loss of /h/ from the word “has”. At this brisk pace it sounds perfectly natural but if slower wd sound like an uneducated person's usage.

This is a notable contrast with General American pronunciation habits where there is no sanction against omitting /h/ from have, has or had as main verbs (non-auxiliaries) — a fact I've not noticed recorded in any description of American English phonetics.

Aphesis /`æfəsɪs/, the loss of the initial sound of a word, is a well known linguistic process seen in the replacement of esquire by squire etc. This happens to the word imagine very frequently when I precedes it but is of doubtfully acceptable usage in most other contexts and understandably not taken notice of by the pronouncing dictionaries. 

It's often rightly remarked that there's not just one GB (or "RP") but a number of similar varieties. Among the distinguishing characteristics of these different varieties are their treatments of words ending in -y and corresponding plurals in -ies. Older and/or posher people tend to end such words using /ɪ/; younger and/or less socially conspicuous people tend to favour /i/. This latter group took over the mainstream from the former during the middle of the twentieth century. Another "halfway" group favours /ɪ/ for -ies but /i/ (or rarely /iː/) for -y. A still relatively small group favours the rhythmically strong /iː/: it was their increasing emergence that strengthened the hand of those who advocated recognising rhythmically weak /i/ in dictionaries from about 1978 onwards — something which became fully accepted only when John Wells in effect welcomed it into his LPD in 1990. It had previously been very common for centuries but unrecorded by most phonetic observers. See my article at 3.2 on this website.

The varieties can't be ascribed to distinct social or regional or even age groupings within GB. The split between one type and another can be heard even within the same family. Perhaps the most famous pair of brothers in British broadcasting are called Dimbleby. They went to the same senior school. One is only six years older than the other and regularly ends his name with /-ɪ/: the other doesn't.

The motive for sound change is very often the aspiration towards "clear speech". This development was obviously in that category: it was much in evidence in posh girls' schools. People may vacillate and fudge of course but our female speaker in this piece clearly favours the more modern style. She hasn't got a clear /ɪ/ at  “really” or “allergies”, tho she did have one at “holiday” in People Speaking 3 (but see what we said about that.)




Blog 075

The 22nd of March 2008

Reigning Cats and Dogs

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

3 Reigning Cats and Dogs  

/ˈreɪnɪŋ ˈkæts n ˎdɒɡz./

Do you know, Jean’s Aunt Winifred just ˋnever goes on ˏholiday.
/də ˈjuː ˏnəʊ, ˈdʒiːnz | ɑːnt ˋˏwɪnɪfrɪd | dʒəst ˋnevə ɡəʊz ɒn ˏhɒlədɪ./
Simply because she can’t take her cat with her.
/ ˋ-sɪmpli bɪkəz ʃi ˏkɑːnt teɪk hə ˋkæt wɪð hɜː./
My old Uncle Ralph won’t come to England because he won’t be parted from that great hound of his.
/ˈmaɪ | əʊld ˋ-ʌŋkl ˋ-rælf ˏwəʊnt kʌm tu ˋɪŋɡlənd bɪkəz hi ˏwəʊnt bi ˏpɑːtɪd | frm ˈðæt ɡreɪt ˋhaʊnd əv hɪz./
How terrible to live lives dominated by animals.
/ˈhaʊ ˎterəbl | tə ˈlɪv ˎlaɪvz ˋˏdɒmɪneɪtɪd | baɪ ˎænəmlz./
They seem to like it though.
/ðeɪ ˈsiːm | tə ˊˋlaɪk ˌɪt ˏðəʊ./

Notice that some of the medial vowels, eg in “holiday, Winifred, dominated” and “animals” are so short and/or “mumbled” we really can only guess at them.
It's very likely that the openness of the final vowel of “holiday” is due to a prosodic process (the adoption of a fairly "clipped" style) rather than preference for /-i/. If you listen to the same speaker say “Many happy” at Remarks # 9 her final-y sounds are there much more /iː/-like. Likewise her “Germany” at People Speaking # 22. The weakest sounds like /i/ and /ə/ are particularly likely to vary according to the style of delivery of the speaker so one shd never decide on what a person's normal quality for such sounds is unless one's listened to a fair number of instances.

It's often difficult to decide what tones constitute a head and which are classifiable as climaxes (or "nuclear" tones. Prescriptive textbooks tend to simplify recognition of them (tho Crystal 1969 pp 225 etc for all its complexity isnt very satisfying on the topic) and hardly recognise ones with mixed or complex tones at'all. There's certainly much ambiguity: even so, a sequence like our second sentence seems rhythmically and semantically to constitute a mixed head plus Fall climax. Likewise with our “bɪkəz hi ˏwəʊnt bi ˏpɑːtɪd | frm ˈðæt ɡreɪt ˋhaʊnd əv hɪz./ Fortunately we can  leave such problems to the theorists because they have little practical relevance. Much the same goes for worrying whether our last sentence has two climax tones or one: I favour “one” but I havent actually notated it as the Climb-Fall-Bass-Rise tone I consider it to be as a gesture towards of ease of reading of the tones.





Blog 074

The 21st of March 2008

Churchill and Shaw

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

People Speaking 

4 Churchill and Shaw

/ˈtʃɜːtʃɪl ən ˎ ʃɔː./
Shaw once wrote to Churchill:
/ˋˏʃɔː ˈwʌns ˈrəʊt | tə ˋˏtʃɜːtʃɪl./
“Here are two tickets for the first night of my new ˎplay.
/ˏhɪər | ə ˈtuː ˏtɪkɪts | fə ðə ˈfɜːst ˏnaɪt | əv ˌmaɪ ˌnjuː ˋpleɪ./
One for yourself and one for a friend – if you have one.”
/ˈwʌn | fə jəˏself | ən ˈwʌn | fər ə ˋfrend |ʔˋɪf ju ˋˏhæv wʌn./
Churchill replied:
/ ˋtʃɜːtʃɪl rɪˋˏplaɪd: /
“Dear Bernard, I’m sorry, but a previous engagement prevents me from accepting your kind offer.
/dɪə ˋbɜːnəd | aɪm ˋˏsɒri | bət ə ˈpriːviəs ɪŋˎˏɡeɪdʒmənt | prɪˈvents ˈmi | frəm əˋˏkseptɪŋ | jɔː ˈkaɪnd ˎɒfə./
However, I shall come to the second night — if there is one.”
/haʊˊˋevə | aɪ ʃəl ˈkʌm | tə ðə ˋsekənd naɪt — ɪf ðeər ˏɪz wʌn./

The first consonant of "first night" is no doubt contaminated by preceding dental fricative beginning the previous word so that what we hear for "first" might equally well have been have been "thirst".

Perhaps I shd remind readers ("if there are some!") that, unlike some transcribers, I make full use of the normal punctuation only supplementing it when it isn't adequate etc. Thus in our first line I avoid the needless clutter of a vertical bar after the first word because it's obvious that the second word begins a new unit. If this second word had been unmarked for pitch I shdve been obliged to insert the bar to avoid the suggestion that it was incorporated in the tail of the foregoing Fall-Rise. 

Another point this line illustrates is that not all High tones are equally high: the Fall-Rise on the last word is distinctly less high than the one on the first. The words "my new" are spoken on two low level tones of which the second is slightly higher than the first so we can term it as a Bass head: successive High tones step down and successive Low tones step upwards. Another item we meet for the first time in this passage is the Slump-Rise climax tone. It's often difficult to decide whether to regard such a descending-ascending sequence as Slump-Rise or Fall-Rise as in this case. Most writers don't offer themselves choice.

    The Alt-plus-Rise pattern repeated here on "two tickets" and "first night" has quite a patronising effect: Alts are regularly associated with the unemotional calmness of a person in complete and confident control of things; Rises are regularly associated with attitudes like encouragement — even as here to a person who wdnt welcome any. The glottal plosive we've shown at the beginning of "if you have one" is of course not part of our segmental transcription, which is strictly phonemic, but a prosodic item. We shan't indicate all such possibilities but this seems a more vigorous one than most — many being quite weak.

 The word "However" shows from our reader (a distinguished actor himself ) a restrained but very effective little piece of character acting. Churchill was very famous for his old-fashioned very oratorical style of speech-making in which he very often employed deliberately delivered ascending-descending tones one of which is the Climb-Fall we have here. By his choice of simple Rise (not Fall-Rise as we might expect and heard from Shaw) he is also being patronising back to Shaw by sounding encouraging. A very great deal of the difference between a mediocre and an excellent spoken performance must surely reside very much in the prosodic choices made by the speaker.


Blog 073

The 20th of March 2008

Corny Jokes 2

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

Corny Jokes 4, 5 & 6

4.    Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.
/ ˋ-weɪtə ðeəz ə ˋflaɪ ɪn maɪ suːp./
Then perhaps you’d prefer a red wine, sir.
 /ˈðen pəˈhæps | jud prɪfɜːr ə ˎred waɪn sə./

We might have expected ˊWaiter or more ingratiatingly ˋˏWaiter. ˋWaiter might have sounded a bit brusque. Our diner seems to be compromising.

The waiter sounds suitably measured and judicious and, of course ridiculously, implies that the  fly is red meat. Actually, there was a minute falling movement on the final word (sir) but it was too weak to be worth marking.

5.    Why do you always answer me by asking another question?
/ˈwaɪ dju ɔːlweɪz ˈɑːnsə mi baɪ ˈɑːskɪŋ ənʌðə ˎkwestʃən./
Do I?
    /ˈduː ˏaɪ./

This male fr'end sounds a bit prim judging by his measured rhythm. If he'd  used a Rise climax it mightve sounded humouring or like one of a series in an official interrogation.

The textbook rule-of-thumb description of the diphthong /eɪ/ is "longer than /ɪ/" but here we find it very short which reminds us that all segments are pretty variable in length. The diphthongal movement, if present at all, is pretty mimimal making it almost identical with the alternative form /`ɔːlwɪz/. The /ɔː/ is pretty short too.

6.    Am I the first man who’s ever kissed you?
/ˈæm aɪ | ðə ˈfɜːst ˈmæn | huz ˈevə ˎkɪst ju./
Of course, you are, darling. You boys all ask the same silly questions.
   /əv ˋkɔːs ju ɑː dɑːlɪŋ. ˈju ˈbɔɪz | ˈɔːl ˈɑːsk | ðə ˈseɪm ˈsɪli ˎkwestʃənz./

The first two slowish level climax tones tend to sound declamatory. She has two such tones as well but her tempo throughout makes her sound brisk and matter-of-fact.

My thanks to Petr Roesel for supplying the very accurate segmental transcriptions and texts from my sound files.


Blog 072

The 19th of March 2008

Corny Jokes 1

If you wish to hear the sound file that accompanies this item, please look at People Speaking i.e. item 4.1 on this site, where you will find these texts & commentries repeated.

ˈCorny ˎJokes

1      ˈMy ˋ-wife’s | gone to the West ˋIndies.

        Jaˋˏmaica?

       ˋˏNo. ˈShe | went of her ˏown ac`cord.

2  ˋ-Who was that `lady | I ˋsaw you with ˈlast ˎnight?

        ˋThat was no ˏlady. ˋThat | was my ˋwife.

3       And ˈthese, | ˏladies, | are the famous ˋfalls. If you can ˈstop ˋtalking for a ˏmoment, | you’ll be able to ˋˏhear | their ˋˏmighty ˋroar.

kɔːni ʤəʊks

1     maɪ waɪfs gɒn tə ðə west ɪndiz.   

        ʤəmeɪkə?

        nəʊ. ʃi went əv ər əʊn əkɔːd

2     huː wz ðӕt leɪdi aɪ sɔː ju wɪð lɑːs naɪt?

        ðӕt wz nəʊ leɪdi. ðӕt wz maɪ waɪf.

3     ӕnd ðiːz, leɪdiz, ə ðə feɪməs fɔːlz. ɪf ju kn

        stɒp tɔːkɪŋ fər ə məʊmənt, jul bi eɪbl tə hɪə ðeə

        maɪti rɔː.

In the first line wife’s has a Fall-Mid climax tone and  Jamaica has an interrogative Fall-Rise. Of course the joke is that his questioner is taken by the man to be asking “Did you make (ie compel) her?” The first syllable wouldn't sound exactly like /ʤə/; but /ʤu/, which is what a speaker might really say, isn't very different from it because /ʤ/ is one of the six consonant phonemes of English that are characteristically made with some rounding of the lips: the other five are / ʧ, ʃ, ʒ, r / and /w/.

You may have observed that lady is repeated in the very next sentence apparently breaking our rule that accented words are not immediately re-accented that we have given at Accentuation, Item 1 Section 8 Intonation and Prosody on this website, but please remember that at its subsection 12 it explains about semantic re-focusing which is what we find here.

The first use of the word lady here shows it used to refer politely to a female person but the second sense here can be one of two further possibilities. One of these suggests the sense “not just any female person but a uniquely important etc one for the speaker". The other sense could signify — and herein lies the joke — “a well brought up female of repectable manners and / or morals”. Hence the possibility of re-accentuation because the semantic focus has shifted. 

In the first half of the line I've shown lady as accentually ambiguous because classifiable as a split Fall-Rise tone with only one accent — what O’Connor and Arnold mightve shown as ˋˊThat was no ˳lady. In the second half I show That as a climax tone in a separate unit by inserting a vertical bar. (Their use of the notation ˋˊ for a Fall-Rise tone wd only be justifiable in their didactic context: in our situation it wouldnt work. See Gimson's comment quoted at this website §8.4.26.) It could have been made less ambiguous by the speaker if he'd used a Fall-Rise climax tone on wife (ˋˏwife). 

Regarding the word last in the first line of this exchange, firstly I don't think any /t / is audible but fascinatingly the speaker had a very slight slip of the tongue by which she contaminated the /s/ with the dentality of the /ð/ at the end of the previous word producing a dual articulation [θ/s]. As to whether one is most faithfully representing what is heard for was by /wəz/ or by /wz/ it is very often quite difficult to decide. My policy is to use /wz/ unless a schwa is clearly present.

Joke # 3 of course purports to be  declaimed by some tourist guide. This brief monologue illustrates clearly that I avoid using the vertical bar unless the normal punctuation would involve ambiguity. For example the two final words, although so closely linked grammatically, are tonologically very distinct forming two separate intonation units. There’d be no gain by inserting a bar between them nevertheless. On the contrary the word there previous to them is not treated by the speaker as a tail to the tone it follows so the bar makes this fact explicit.


Blog 071

The 18th of March 2008

Remarks 4

People Speaking contains in Remarks three more items: # 8 begins at a typical prehead pitch about intermediate between really low and the mid range. The word always is the only accent in the brief head: it's a descending tone from a moderately high pitch to a lower one not fully low so we mark it as a Fall-Mid. The climax tone might more often in such a sentence been heard as a Rise: in fact a low ascending pitch movement somewhat stretched and, especially if uttered with a soft type of voice quality, would have sounded very encouraging and sympathetic. However, this speaker plainly doesnt want to sound emphatic or deeply concerned but rather airily making light of the situation so he makes no discernible movement (the less movement the less emotion) on his climax tone which we could perhaps show as a Mid (tone) but seems more or less high enough to be marked as an Alt.

As so often with spontaneous speech the # 8 second sentence is tonally slightly ambiguous. We've shown the climax as a Rise-Bass tone but might have equally well (or better?) marked it as ˈTake | no ˌnotice using our rarely occurring Bass climax toneBy the way, the name Fall is really shorthand for Fall-Bass just as Rise is for Rise-Mid and Climb and Slump are handier names for Mid-Alt and Mid-Bass avoiding the clumsiness of  these more precise two-term names. 

The Rise-Bass on the other hand indicates a narrow movement upwards within the bottom-third pitchband that we call "Low". All EFL tonological accounts familiar to me ignore the contrast between our Rise and Rise-Bass to their detriment. There's a world of semantic difference between these two ascending tones. For example “ˏˌYes” uttered on a Rise-Bass compared with its use on a normally wide Rise as “ˏYes" is at least half way to saying “No"! 

Our Rise-Bass in this particular case is the kind of tonal utterance which by sounding in its pitch ambiguous in fact exactly conveys the speaker's relatively ambiguous attitude.

Our Remark # 9 isnt conversation or remote speech (ie not calling out from a distance) but another register we can call Declamation. Its first word Many is uttered on a wide Climb tone instead of the Alt that a textbook prescription might suggest and in doing so makes it appropriately extra lively (the more pitch movemnt the more animation). There's only a minimum drop of pitch between the next two accented words but a more marked one before the final word. This makes the sentence two intonation units the first of which climaxes on an Alt. The second unit has no head, only a prehead.

Our last Remark # 10 perhaps has something of declamation about it too as we see in the dramatic intonational break after the word decided. The speaker mightve made a pause but she didnt need to because the intonation she chose fulfilled her intention without it. There's perhaps a hint too of initial remoteness (of projecting her voice) partly because her choice of climax tone is a Fall-Mid of quite a high variety. Her second unit doesnt receive a Fall climax tone perhaps because she doesnt need the word to sound contrastive and there's enough high pitch provided by the Alt head tone for the unit not to sound dispirited. Any unit with no high pitch in it (ie not going above Low) tends to sound gloomy or lifeless.


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