Friday, 5 February 2016

Eau d'Ear

credit: Hancock McDonald

Sunday, 3 January 2016

New Page

I'd like to draw your attention to a new page I've added. It's to be found on the right-hand side of my blog.In the long run this page will replace six separate blog postings in January of 2015.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

season's greetings



credit: turnbacktogod.com

Season's greetings to all my blog followers and best wishes for 2016!


Monday, 21 December 2015

OED transcriptions - examples (1) - weakforms cont'd

Jack Windsor Lewis kindly informed me that the new OED stuff 'went live' on Dec 9, so one mustn't expect such a major technical upheaval to work smoothly right from the start.
As I wrote in my previous blog, it's a pity we aren't told anything about the speakers. All we get to know in the release notes on pronunciations, written by Catherine Sangster, Head of Pronunciations, is this:
A small number of actor-phoneticians were recruited, and came to our recording facilities in Oxford to read each transcription aloud. Besides having clear voices, suitable accents, and some experience behind the microphone, they needed to be able to read the IPA transcriptions.
I am inclined to think, however, that they are not (sufficiently) phonetically trained to pronounce weakforms in a natural way or to pronounce a schwa whenever the script requires them to.

6. for (prep.)


There's no soundfile for the GB variant and no transcription or soundfile for the GA version.

7. must (aux.)

 Listen to both versions:

video

For both vowels I'd use the IPA symbol /ʌ/. Why a schwa then in the OED? To answer the question one has to delve into the Uptonian universe of transcription sets. There's a short introduction into this alien galaxy in the Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation for Current English (~ ODP) written under the editorial baton of Clive Upton, William Kretschmar and Rafal Konopka. On its page xi one finds under the heading "Technical discussion: transcription sets" the announcements that
a) the transcriptions are "broadly phonetic", that
b) the "intention is always to indicate actual sounds to be produced" and that
c) two different sets "are appropriate to the BR [= General British] and AM [= General American] models used".
Here are the two sets as depicted in the ODP:

credit; Oxford University Press
credit: Oxford University Press

As you can see the GA set does not contain the STRUT vowel but only the mid-central schwa. In my humble opinion the representation of a spoken /ʌ/ by /ə/ is neither "broadly phonetic" nor does it "indicate actual sounds".

8. shall (aux.)





The GA transcriptions are missing.

9. to (prep.)




There's no soundfile for /tə/ either in GB or GA.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

OED transcriptions - examples (1) - weakforms

In the new "Key to pronunciation" the editors write:
While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word.
Here are some snippets to illustrate what they understand by "most common variants":

1, and (conj.):




2. of (prep.):




The strongform in General American is missing among the transcriptions; however, when you click the "U.S. /əv/", you hear the strongform.

3. him (pron.)




There's no soundfile for the General British weakform /ɪm/.

4. the (adj.)




There are two weakforms in GB, but only one in GA. When you click GB /ði:/ and /ði/, you hear the same soundfile (see waveform below):








5. from (prep.)




The GB weakform is missing; the pronunciation of the GA word contains the LOT vowel.

The addition of soundfiles seems to need some brushing up.

OED's new features

It was not until yesterday that I spotted a new feature in the online version of the OED: audio files are being added. Here's a snippet of the article on 'writer':

credit: OED

When you click the blue play icon you hear a native (?) speaker say the word. It's a pity we are not told anything about the linguistic background of the speaker(s).

Here's an example:

video


When you click the word "Pronunciation" in front of the icons, you are taken to an explanatory section. In there it says:
The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in Britain and the United States. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word. The keywords given in this key are to be understood as pronounced in such speech.
Where a word is associated with a particular part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.
 I'm curious to hear one of these "further pronunciations", but haven't found one yet.

What's also new is the frequency band. When you click the series of eight increasingly larger bullet points, you're taken to another explanatory section (http://public.oed.com/how-to-use-the-oed/key-to-frequency/), where the calculations of relative frequencies of words are explained.

_______
Postscriptum: I've just come across Jack Windsor Lewis's latest blog, in which he hails the new features of the OED. So he holds the ius primae mentionis.

Monday, 14 December 2015

determined to examine the landmine

Many a German pronounces the English word determine as /ˈdetəmaɪn/. They seem to be misled by words ending in <-mine>, e.g. undermine, landmine, coalmine, which end in /-maɪn/. There's another group of words, also ending in <-mine>, but pronounced as either /-miːn/ or /-mɪn/: amphetamine, antihistamine, chloramine, dopamine etc. And then we have words such as famine, examine or determine ending in /-mɪn/. So it's /diˈtɜːmɪn/ (or alternatively /dəˈtɜːmɪn, -mən/.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

ackshly English - pt.2

In the television series Doctor Foster, fairly at the beginning of episode 1, Emma Foster, who's just found a lipstick among the belongings of her husband Simon, asks: "Is this yours?" and he replies: "Yes, actually", to be transcribed as: /ðɪʃʊəz/ - /jes ækʃi/. In a later scene Simon says: "It was real actually." /ɪt wəz rɪəl ækʃli/. Listen:

video

In The Kennedys, a BBC sitcom, there are some more examples. Tony Kennedy asks his friend Tim, if he happens to know how to get hold of pasta not in a tin. To which Tim replies: "Actually, I do know someone who might have some pasta not in a tin."
In another episode Tony tells his wife Brenda that she's just ruined their car. "You have actually killed the car."
The first sample contains the weakform /ækʃi/ of the adverb, while the second sound track illustrates the strongform variant /ækʧʊəli/.

video

Monday, 16 November 2015

ackshly English

What is this post ackshly about? It's about the adverb actually.
It's not only an adverb but also a weakform word. The strongform pronunciation is usually /ˈækʧuəli/, or in a more traditional manner /ˈæktjuəli/.
To make your conversations in English sound more natural and relaxed, try some of these weakform variants:
  • /ˈækʧuli/, /ˈækʃuli/,
  • /ˈækʧəli/, /ˈækʃəli/,
  • /ˈækʧli/, /ˈækʃli/, /ˈækʃi/, /æʃli/.
 Here are a few sentences containing 'actually': Give them a try!
  1. It actually works.
  2. Prices have actually fallen. 
  3. She's actually glad about it.
  4. His story is actually true.
  5. D'you think ghosts actually exist?
  6. He actually believes his own crap.
  7. I've actually known him for quite a long time.
  8. It actually happened.
  9. You couldn't actually have seen him.
  10. I don't actually like whiskey.