Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Guess who?

"My sense of my importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my sense of my own importance to myself is tremendous." Can you guess who is reported to have said this?

credit: Allan Warren

Sir Noël Peirce Coward
(1899 - 1973)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

malady 2

My computer is ill again. I'm afraid I have to admit him to the PC hospital tomorrow.
Update #1: The PC doctor says it may be the brain (aka harddisk). But he's still testing his hypothesis.
credit: www.mediorta.com
Update #2: The doctor says the brain's got to be first cloned and then replaced.
Update #3: My computer is expected to be released from hospital this afternoon (Tuesday).
Update #4: The convalescent is back home again. Cloning seems to have worked smoothly.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

a new book on North American English

Jørgen Staun, associate professor at Copenhagen University, has just published An Introduction to the Pronunciation of North American English. The publisher is University Press of Southern Denmark. The current list price is DKK 348,00 for a book with 311 pages.

Here's the table of contents of this "lærebog":



1    Introduction to American English

1.1  North American English dialects
1.2  The delimitation of a reference dialect of North American English
1.3  Summary of the main points

2    The phoneme and the phoneme inventory of North American English
2.1  Introduction
2.2  The phoneme and the linguistic hierarchy
2.3  Phonemes and allophones
2.4  The phoneme as an organising unit of sound structure
2.5  Establishing the phoneme inventory of NAERD
2.6  Summary

3    Obstruent consonants in American English
3.1  Articulatory, acoustic and auditory descriptions
3.2  The organs of speech and their three systems: articulatory, phonatory and respiratory
3.3  The Classification of the consonant system
3.4  Classes of obstruents in NAERD – stops
    3.4.1 Plosive versus affricate
    3.4.2 Strong versus weak
    3.4.3 Different kinds of release
    3.4.4 Summing up the manner and energy of stops
3.5  Individual stops
    3.5.1 The affricates
    3.5.2 The plosives
    3.5.3 Summing up the individual stops
3.6  Classes of obstruents in NAERD – fricatives
    3.6.1 Sibilant and non-sibilant fricatives
    3.6.2 Strong versus weak
    3.6.3 Summing up the manner and energy of fricatives
3.7  The individual fricatives
    3.7.1 Sibilants
    3.7.2 The non-sibilant fricatives
    3.7.3 Summing up the individual fricatives
3.8  Summarising the obstruent consonants of NAERD

4     Sonorant consonants in American English
4.1  Types of sonorant consonants
4.2  The individual sonorants
    4.2.1 The nasals
    4.2.2 The approximant /r/
    4.2.3 The approximants /j/ and /w/
    4.2.4 The lateral /l/
    4.2.5 Summing up the individual sonorants
    4.3  Syllabic consonants
    4.4  Summarising the sonorant consonants of NAERD

5    Vowels in American English
5.1  How to describe vowels
5.2  Subclasses of vowels
    5.2.1 Checked and free vowels
    5.2.2 Monophthongs and diphthongs
    5.2.3 Classification according to place and height
    5.2.4 Vowels before /r/
5.3  Ongoing vowel changes in American English
    5.3.1 The Northern Cities Shift
    5.3.2 The Southern Vowel Shift
    5.3.3 Summing up the vowel description
5.4  The individual vowels
    5.4.1 Subsystem A – checked vowels
    5.4.2 Subsystem B – free monophthongs
    5.4.3 Subsystem C – front-closing diphthongs
    5.4.4 Subsystem D – back-closing diphthongs
    5.4.5 Summing up the individual vowels
5.5  Vowels in unstressed syllables
    5.5.1 Unstressed syllables of content words
    5.5.2 Reduction in form words in connected speech
    5.5.3 Summing up vowels in unstressed syllables
5.6  Summarising the vowels of NAERD


6    Syllable structure in American English

6.1  Prosodic or suprasegmental phenomena
6.2  Introduction to syllable structure
6.3  The structure of the syllable
6.4  The sonority sequencing principle
6.5  Permissible onsets and codas in NAERD
    6.5.1 Onsets
    6.5.2 Codas
    6.5.3 The main points about the structure of onsets and codas
6.6  The syllabification of polysyllabic words
6.7  Summary of syllable structure

7    Word stress in American English
7.1  Introduction to word stress
7.2  Stress rules in non-compounds
    7.2.1 The root stress rule
    7.2.2 The antepenult rule
    7.2.3 The prefix rule
    7.2.4 The word class rule
    7.2.5 Secondary word stress
    7.2.6 Summary of word stress in non-compound words
7.3  Stress in compounds and compound-like combinations
    7.3.1 Stress in simple compounds
    7.3.2 Stress in simple compound-like combinations
    7.3.3 The stress of complex compounds
    7.3.4 The stress of compound-like combinations
    7.3.5 Summary of stress in compounds and compound-like combinations
7.4  Rhythm
    7.4.1 Types of rhythm
    7.4.2 The foot
    7.4.3 Main points about rhythm

8    Intonation in American English

8.1  The nature and function of intonation
8.2  What is represented between the two horizontal lines?
8.3  The tone group – structure and demarcation
    8.3.1 Structure
    8.3.2 Demarcation
8.4  The classification of nucleus types
    8.4.1 Simplex and complex nuclei
    8.4.2 The interpretation and transcription of simplex and complex nuclei
8.5  The use of the NAERD nuclei
    8.5.1 The unmarked nuclei in final tone groups
    8.5.2 The unmarked nucleus types in non-final tone groups
8.6  Some communicative implications of the nucleus types
8.7  Simplified transcription
8.8  The intonation of some characteristic syntactic constructions
    8.8.1 Tag questions
    8.8.2 Alternative questions/constructions and enumerations
    8.8.3 Relative clauses
    8.8.4 Sentence adverbials, dialogue mechanisms, comment clauses and vocatives
8.9  Summary of the main points


9    Variation and change
9.1  Types of inter-segment influence
9.2  Types of assimilation
    9.2.1 Phonetic parameter and direction
    9.2.2 Allophonic or phonemic assimilations
    9.2.3 Word-internal and word-external assimilations
9.3  Elision and Epenthesis
    9.3.1 Elision
    9.3.2 Epenthesis
    9.3.3 Summarising whole-segment processes
9.4  Diachronic change
    9.4.1 Combinatorial i-umlaut
    9.4.2 Combinatorial changes in American English
    9.4.3 System-dependent change: consonant shift and vowel shift
    9.4.4 System-dependent changes in North American English
    9.4.5 Closing remarks

10    Survey of American English dialects
10.1  Introduction
10.2  The main dialect areas
10.3  The North
    10.3.1 The northern area
    10.3.2 Diagnosing the North
    10.3.3 The vowel system of a northern speaker
10.4  The Midland and the West
    10.4.1 The area of the Midland and the West
    10.4.2 Diagnosing the West and the Midland
10.5  The South
    10.5.1 The southern area
    10.5.2 Diagnosing the South
    10.5.3 The vowel system of a southern speaker
10.6  The East
    10.6.1 The eastern area
    10.6.2 Diagnosing the East
    10.6.3 The vowel systems of eastern speakers
10.7  Canada
    10.7.1 The Canadian area
    10.7.2 Diagnosing Canadian English
    10.7.3 The vowel system of a Canadian speaker
10.8  Summing up North American dialects
    10.8.1 Three residual areas
    10.8.2 Summary of the North American English dialects


More on it after I've had time to take a look at the contents. What irritates me is the change between "American English" and "North American English" in the paragraph and section titles.
NAERD stands for North American English Reference Dialect.
Why does the author call it a dialect, not an accent?

distinguish bad manners from bed manners - #3

Imitating the qualities of English /e/ and /æ/ is a difficult task for Germans:
  1. /æ/ is non-existent in Standard German;
  2. General British (= GB) /æ/ differs from General American (= GA) /æ/;
  3. the quality of /e/ a German learner of General British should aim at is but one of many qualities which one can hear in the English-speaking world.
Here are some variants of /æ/:

Germans very frequently produce an /æ/ close to the New Zealand (and South African) variant.
As there's hardly any kinaesthetic/proprioceptive information available during the articulation of /æ/ (and many other vowels), it's vital to concentrate on listening for the correct vowel quality in order to become sensitive for it. To hit the right target is a matter of trial and error.
And - do not mix accents! If you've decided on GB you shouldn't say words like France, dance, grass with an /æ/.
And - do not forget that /æ/ is but a convenient label for a variety of actual pronunciations.
And - it's less important to memorise the transcription symbol than to memorise and automatise the proper pronunciation.
And  - practise, practise, practise until you are certain your listeners are able to distinguish whether you say "Flesh Gordon" or "Flash Gordon". It can be rather embarrassing if you don't hit the proper target. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're an honourable person, but you should search the Internet for the difference between the two expressions.)

    Tuesday, 23 November 2010

    distinguish bad manners from bed manners - #2

    If, as it seems, hearing the difference between /e/ and /æ/ is not a big problem for my German students of English (although they were not brilliant in this task and the words containing these vowels were pronounced by other persons), the problems must lie somewhere else.
    Let's look at some of the vowels of the two languages:

    The German vowels depicted here (in green) are:
    /e:/ as in Beet,
    /ɛ/ as in Bett,
    /ɛ:/ as in Ähre,
    /a/ as in Bann,
    /a:/ as in Bahn.
    In General British we have these vowels (in blue):
    /e/ as in bet,
    /æ/ as in bat,
    /ɑ:/ as in bard.

    1. English /æ/ does not exist in German; the nearest one is short or long /a:/ as in <Bann> and <Bahn>.
    2. German /ε/ lies between English /e/ and /æ/; there's no short /e/ in German, only a long /e:/ as in <Beet> and a long /ɛ:/ as in <Ähre>.
    3. German <Welle> and <wähle> are pronounced /ε/ and /ε:/ respectively, so there is no qualitative distinction.
    credit: mcargobe.wordpress.com
    There is a gap in Standard German where General British has the /æ/. Somehow the German brain 'pulls' the English /æ/ towards German /ε/. This tendency is reinforced by English loanwords such as fan, van, band, slapstick, hat trick, laptop, fantasy, manager, match, camping, establishment, action and many others. Germans are used to saying these with an /ε/ instead of an /æ/, which is perfectly all right within the realm of the German language. But when it comes to speaking General British you've got to pronounce them with an /æ/ - no extenuating circumstances are granted.
    When I try to talk my German students into using the /æ/ I sometimes can't avoid the impression that some of them have the feeling that they exaggerate the /æ/ - that some other person speaks through them - that I try to make a fool of them. Be it as it may - it's hard work to convince those doubting Thomases. And even when I finally manage to persuade (a few of) them it's still a long and winding and lonesome road till the /æ/ comes naturally out of their mouths.

    The quality of these vowels of German and English is a tricky thing. More on it later.

    Saturday, 20 November 2010


    My computer suffers from 'obstipation' at the moment, so there will be no postings for a while.
    I gave my computer a purgative medicine last night, and it seems to have had the desired effect.  
    It's Monday now and my computer seems to be in a stable health condition. 
    My computer is up and running again.

    Friday, 19 November 2010

    minimal pair sentences: /e/ and /æ/

    Here's a list of minimal pair sentences containing words contrasting /e/ and /æ/:
    (as at 19th November)
    'ear this!
    1. You can't say dad/dead on a gravestone.
    2. Charles confesses: I love Alan/Ellen.
    3. Will the man/men come?
    4. This pan/pen leaks.
    5. They bought a lot of jams/gems from the specialty shop.
    6. He was sanding/sending some furniture when I called.
    7. I like Barry's/berries best.
    8. I hope you will land/lend me a fish.
    9. We had Brad/bread for lunch.
    10. It's easy to get feta/fatter. (GB only)
    11. I can't find the kettle/cattle.
    12. The letter/latter might arrive tomorrow.
    13. Don't pet/pat that dog.
    14. Some ten/tan leather gloves were stolen.
    15. He's a very fleshy/flashy person.
    16. Benn/Ban on smoking ads.
    17. Mothers are worried about creche/crash kids.
    18. This is the latest Texas/taxes survival guide.
    19. Celebs are not opposed to the pleasures of the flesh/flash.
    20. We had bread/Brad for lunch.
    21. I hate nets/gnats over my bed.
    22. It was a lonely trek/track through the forest.
    23. The police have arrested a rebel/rabble leader.
    24. What about some celery/salary?
    25. It ends as an elegy/allergy. (GB only)
    26. They kept/capped the price.
    27. This melody/malady gives me a headache.
    28. It's a new pedal/paddle that you need.
    (as at 24th November)
    1. I formed a small bend/band.
    2. My wife sometimes gets into an expensive/expansive mood.
     (mess-mass, bet-bat, Ken-can, band-bend, fed-fad) BTW: This is a treasure trove for finding minimal pairs. Thank you, John Higgins!

      Thursday, 18 November 2010

      distinguish bad manners from bed manners

      No - this blog entry is not about bad bediquette such as hogging double duvets in a double bed. Bad bed manners can be a threat to an otherwise happy marriage, as the Daily Mail reported in March 2010. As I'm not a trained marriage counsellor I shall refrain from commenting on such marital problems.
      This entry, however, is about the vowels in bad and bed, had or head and similar words.The distinction between /e/ and /æ/ is notoriously difficult for German students of English to produce although it's rather easy to discriminate.
      I carried out a tiny experiment with 38 German students of English, who attended my phonetics classes in 2010, an experiment, in which I made them listen to eight minimal pair sentences of the type:
      I hope you will land/lend me a fish.
      They heard one member of such a pair of sentences only, but saw both on a piece of paper. They were supposed to tick the one they believed to have heard.
      Here are the sentences (the colour green marks the one they heard):
      1. You can't say dad/dead on a gravestone
      2. Charles confesses: I love Alan/Ellen
      3. Will the man/men come?
      4. This pan/pen leaks
      5. They bought a lot of jams/gems from the specialty shop
      6. He was sanding/sending some furniture when I called
      7. I like Barry's/berries best
      8. I hope you will land/lend me a fish
      And these are the results in per cent:
      1. 71/29
      2. 16/84
      3. 21/79
      4. 05/95
      5. 78/22
      6. 82/18
      7. 92/08
      8. 87/13
      BTW: It's a real eye-opener - sorry, ear-opener - to many a German student if such minimal pair sentences are used in an exercise: Student A reads out one of the two sentences and student B provides the appropriate answer. Here's an example:

      student A OOstudent B
      (a)Will the men come?OO I haven't invited them
      (b)Will the man come?OO He's on his way here
      So much for the auditory side of these two vowels. Articulatory aspects will be dealt with in a future blog entry.

      PS: The sentences were taken from H. Eckert & W. Barry (2005) and  J.D. Bowen (1975). I'm always on the lookout for more minimal pair sentences. I'd be most grateful if you would post some more here.

      Wednesday, 17 November 2010

      The Two Ronnies - four candles (7)

      B: Pumps.
      C: Pumps?
      B: Pumps.
      C: ‘and {= hand} pumps, foot pumps, c’mon?
      B: Foot pumps.
      C. Foot pumps. Foot pumps. Tries to find a foot pump. See a foot pump. Got to tidy up in here. Puts the pump on the counter. Here we are.
      B: No, pumps [fəjə] {= for your} feet. Brown pumps size nine.
      C: You [ɑːrævɪn] {= are having} me on. You are …
      B: I’m not! I’m not!
      C: … definitely 'avin' me on.
      B: No.
      C: Slams a pair of pumps on the counter.
      B: Washers.
      C: [wɒʔ] {= what}? Windscreen washers, car washers, dishwashers, floor washers, back scrubbers, lavatory cleaners, floor washers?
      B: Half-inch washers.
      C: Oh, tap washers, tap washers.
      B: Yeah.
      C: Snatches Ronnie B.’s shopping list. Look, I’ve had [əbaʊʔ] {= about} enough of this. Give us that list. Get it all [mɪself] {=myself} down here. What’s this? He tries to read the list.

      [wɒsæt]  {=what’s that}? Oh, that does it. That does … (gropes for words) … it. I’ve had just about enough o’ this. Mr. Jones! Please come out and serve this customer, please. Mr. Jones {= J} enters. I’ve just had about enough of this. Look what he’s got on there. Ronnie C. leaves the shop.
      J: Right. How many would do you like? One or two? Mr. J. removes a towel hanging over the label of a drawer. The label reads: “Bill hooks”. 

      To understand the pun on the label, recall that h-dropping is a typical feature of this accent. D'you need an additional hint?

      Tuesday, 16 November 2010

      Phonetic Transcription Editor (4)

      credit: www.photransedit.com
      Here's a short list of words starting with the letter <a> and the transcription suggestions (in General British; syllabic consonants are not displayed) made by the PhoTransEdit programme:
      aboard əˈbɔːd
      abode əˈbəʊd
      abolish əˈbɒlɪʃ
      abolition ˌæbəˈlɪʃən
      abomasum no transcription offered
      A-bomb ˈeɪbɒm
      abominable əˈbɒmɪnəbəl
      abominate əˈbɒmɪneɪt
      abomination əˌbɒmɪˈneɪʃən
      aboriginal ˌæbəˈrɪdʒənəl
      aboriginality ˌæbəˌrɪdʒəˈnæləti
      aborigine ˌæbəˈrɪdʒəni
      aborning no transcription offered
      abort əˈbɔːt
      abortifacient əˌbɔːtəˈfeɪʃənt
      abortion əˈbɔːʃən
      abortionist əˈbɔːʃənɪst

      The words were taken from LPD3. Conclusion: Not bad, but PhoTransEdit is not - and is not intended to be - a substitute for a solid pronunciation dictionary.

      Sunday, 14 November 2010

      stories in German

      credit: buelahman.wordpress.com
      "Erzähl mir keine Stories!" in the sense of 'don't tell me any lies' is a frequently heard saying in German. The usual pronunciation would be something like /ɛɐtsɛːl miːɐ kainə ʃtɔris/. So far so German. But – at least 70 per cent of my German students read the English sentence “his stories usually have a happy ending” in last week’s phonetics course by saying /stɔris/. 
      They all laughed, of course, when I reminded them of the German saying, and they laughed again when I tried to say the German sentence with an English accent: [ɛətsɛɪɫ mɪə khaɪnə stɔːriz]. I guess the memory trace of this little /ʃtɔri/ won’t last long in their minds, so I will have to refresh it and tell them another /stɔːri/.

      Saturday, 13 November 2010

      The Two Ronnies - four candles (6)

      C: Yes, next?
      B: [ˌɡɒniˈphɪiz] {= got any peas}?
      C: For Gawd' sake, why didn' you bleedin' tell me that while I’m up there then? Rants about B. I've got all this shop, but ain't got any help. Continues ranting. How many d'you want?
      B: No! Tins of [phe̝iz] {= peas}. Three tins of peas!
      C: [juːrævɪnmiɒn] {= you're havinɡ me on}, aren’t you, you’re 'avin' me on?
      B: I'm not!
      C: gets three tins of peas. Here we are. Right.

      The only new feature worth mentioning here is the replacement of /ŋ/ by /n/ as in bleedin’ or havin’. The audience laughs very loudly at times and Ronnie C walks away from the mike, which makes some of his precious words impossible to understand.

      Friday, 12 November 2010

      /deɪvɪd ætn̩brə/

      credit: National Portrait Gallery, London
      Inspired by the two blogs I mentioned in my blog entry of the 9th of November  I fetched the CDs of David Attenborough's Planet Earth from my cabinet yesterday and continued extracting the sound track and transcribing the text of the first three series for later analysis, something I had started in January this year. Extracting the sound track is a bit time-consuming; one can download the subtitles from the Internet, but the ones I found are not a hundred per cent precise.
      I can thoroughly recommend (without getting any royalties from BBC) this set of DVDs to anyone who's interested in nature and in Sir David's voice. The photograph of Sir David was presumably taken in 1969. The DVD box came out in 2006.

      Tuesday, 9 November 2010

      At The Burh

      Two blogs (one run by John C Wells, the other one by Jack Windsor Lewis) yesterday (the 8th of November) discussed the pronunciation style of Sir David Attenborough, Britain's best-known natural history film-maker. Sir David has a very clear diction, and his pronunciation undoubtedly represents the General British (= GB) type. Born in 1926 (and still going strong) he must have experienced (and probably been influenced by) quite a few changes of GB pronunciation from his youth to now.
      credit: telegraph.co.uk

      What I want to take a look at is the meaning of his surname 'Attenborough". It actually consists of three separate words: at - ten - borough. Atten is Middle English for 'at the' and the Old English word for borough was burȝ (with various spellings: burg, burh, ...). A burȝ was a fort or a fortified mansion, so 'atten burȝ' denotes someone who lives at the / near the fortified mansion.

      His pronunciation style displays interesting features which I will dwell upon in a future blog.

      Sunday, 7 November 2010

      an elevator controlled by Scottish English (2)

      On the 22nd of October I drew your attention to a video clip illustrating not only the advantages of modern technology but also Scottish English. Here's a transcript of this dialogue in the elevator (thanks to my informant on Scottish English who enlightened me on some peculiarities of Scottish English which my ears weren't able to disentangle).

      Iain Connell:     Where's the buttons?
      Robert Florence:    No, no they've installed voice recognition technology in this lift. I heard about ‘t.

      Iain Connell:     Voice recognition technology? In a lift? In Scotland? Ever tried voice recognition technology?
      Robert Florence:     Naw
      Iain Connell:     They don't do - Sco'ish accents
      Robert Florence:     Eleven
      Elevator:     Could you please repeat that?
      Iain Connell:     Eleven
      Robert Florence:     Eleven...Eleven
      Iain Connell:     Eleven
      Elevator:     Could you please repeat that?
      Robert Florence:     E-le-ven
      Iain Connell:     Whose idea was this? You need to try an American accent. Eleven…Eleven.
      Robert Florence:     That sounds Irish, no’ American
      Iain Connell:     No, doesnae. Eleven.
      Robert Florence:     Where in America's tha', Dublin?
      Elevator:     I'm sorry. Could you please repeat that?
      Robert Florence:     Try an English accent, right…Eleven…Eleven
      Iain Connell:     You fae the same part o' England as Dick Van Dyke!
      Robert Florence:     Let's hear yours then, smar’ arse.
      Elevator:     Please speak slowly and clearly
      Robert Florence:     Smart arse
      Iain Connell:     E-le-ven.
      Elevator:     I'm sorry. Could you please repeat that?
      Iain Connell:     Eleven. If you don't underston the lingo, away back hame yer ain country.
      Robert Florence:     Oh, s'tha talk nae is it? "Away back tae yer ain country"?
      Iain Connell:     Oh, don't start Mr Bleeding Heart – how can ye be racist tae a lift?
      Elevator:     Please speak slowly and clearly.
      Robert Florence:     Eleven…Eleven…Eleven…Eleven
      Iain Connell:     Ye'r jus' sayin' it the same way
      Robert Florence:     I'm gonnae keep sayin' it until it understons Sco'ish, a' right?
      Robert Florence:     Eleven…Eleven…Eleven…Eleven
      Iain Connell:     Oh, just take us anywhere, ye cow. Just open the doors.
      Elevator:     This is a voice-activated elevator. Please state which floor you would like to go to in a clear and calm manner.
      Iain Connell:     Calm? Calm? Where's tha’ comin' fae? Why's it tellin' people ‘e be calm?
      Robert Florence:     Because they knew they'd be sellin' this tae Sco'ish people who'd be goin' aff their nuts at it.
      Elevator:     You have not selected a floor.
      Robert Florence:     Aye, we hav -  ELEVEN!
      Elevator:     If you would like to get out of the elevator without selecting a floor, simply say "Open the doors please"
      Iain Connell:     Please? Please? Suck ma wullie.
      Robert Florence:     Maybe we should have said please.
      Iain Connell:     I'm no begging that fer nothin'.
      Robert Florence:     Open the doors please.
      Iain Connell:     Please..pathetic.
      Elevator:     Please remain calm.
      Robert Florence:     Oh fu……wud ye let me up tae that… get me up there…right, jus wait fer it tae speak…
      Elevator:     You have not selected a floor.

      Robert Florence:     Up yours, ye cow! You don't let us out these doors, I'm gonnae come tae America, I'm gonnae find whatever desperate actress gave yer voice, and I'm gonnae go tae the electric chair fer ye.
      Iain Connell:     Scotland, ye bastards.
      Robert Florence:     SCOTLAND!
      Iain Connell:    SCOTLAND!
      Robert Florence:     SCOOOOTLAND!
      Iain Connell:     FREEDOM!
      Robert Florence:     FREEDOM!
      Iain Connell:    FREEDOM!
      Doors open. People standing outside waiting.
      Iain Connell:     Goin' up?

      Friday, 5 November 2010

      The Two Ronnies - four candles (5)

      credit: amigos.org.uk
      B: [ˌɡɒniˈɛʊz̥] {= got any O’s}?
      C: [ɛʊz̥] {= hoes}?
      B: [ɛʊz̥].
      C: brings a hoe.
      B: No, [ɛʊz̥].
      C: [ɛʊz̥]! {= hose}. I thought you meant [ɛʊz̥] {= hoes}.
      B: [ɛʊz̥].
      C: [ɛʊz̥].
      B: mumbling something while he goes to fetch a hose. [ə ʔɛʊz] [ɪts ən ʔɛʊz ju ment ən ʔɛʊz]. Puts it on the counter. There.
      C: No, [ɛʊz̥].
      B: ˋ ˊ [ɛʊz̥]? What a … Oh, you mean pantyhose! Pantyhose.
      C: No, no, [ɛʊz̥] [ɛʊz̥]. [ɛʊz̥] for a gate. Mon repose. O’s. [ˈleʔər ɛʊz̥]  {= letter O's}.
      B: Letter O’s. [menidjuwɒn] {= how many do you want}?
      C: [tɘʉ] {= two}.

      B: [tɘʉ]. [rɔɪ] {= right}?

      The diphthong [ɛ̞ʊ] is interesting here.  The onset (i.e. the start of the diphthong) is much further forward than in General British. It starts at a fairly fronted and lowered [ɛ]. The diphthong in two starts in a very high, central position. Listen also to the fall-rise on ˋ ˊ [ɛʊz̥] signalling Ronnie C.'s extreme puzzlement shortly before he offers his customer a pantyhose.

      BTW: In my first blog entry (24th of Oct.) concerning this sketch I wrote: "The original title was Annie Finkhouse." Do you catch the pun? If not, I will give you a hint.

      Thursday, 4 November 2010

      her Marcia

      credit: http://etc.usf.edu/
      It’s one of my duties to take the minutes during oral exams, which  students have to sit who want to get a master's degree in either British or American Studies. In one of those exams the professor asked his candidate: “What is the /həˈmɑːʃə/ in Shakespeare’s Othello?” I must admit that I couldn’t recall all the dramatis personae of this Shakespearean drama at that moment and so was at a loss what to write down: “her Marcia”? Highly improbable because it wouldn't fit into the sentence structure of that question apart from the fact that it didn't make any sense. To my surprise the candidate gave the correct answer, and now I suddenly realised they were taking about the concept of hamartia.

      /hɑːmɑːˈtiːə/ is how I would have pronounced it, but I wanted to make sure if  /həˈmɑːʃə/ existed as an alternative. LPD3 keeps schtum; ODP proposes /həˈmɑːtɪə/; EPD lists /ˌhɑːmɑːˈtiːə/; Merriam-Webster Online has /ˌhä-ˌmär-ˈtē-ə/ (which is the MW way of transcribing /ˌhɑːˌmɑːrˈtiːə/.

      Hamartia or tragic flaw is not a concept that you discuss with your Significant Other every other day. In literary studies, however, it does pop up every now and again. I think I ought to take the professor aside and tell him how to pronounce the word.

      Tuesday, 2 November 2010

      The Two Ronnies - four candles (4)

      B: [ˌsɔː ˈtɪps] {= saw tips}.
      C: [ˌsɔː ˈtɪps] {= sore tips}. What d’you want? [ɔɪ̃ʔmər
      əsʌmɪŋlaɪʔðæʔ] {= Ointment or something like that}?
      B: No, saw tips [fər] {= for} [kʌvərn] {= covering} the [sɔːs] {= saws}. Tips.
      C: No, we haven’t got any. Coming …
      B. Oh!
      C: Coming in, but we haven’t got any.

      In this section we hear some r-sounds which may make you think it's a highly rhotic accent the two actors are speaking in. The only unambiguous case, it seems to me, is the r-sound in for in the phrase saw tips for covering the saws. The [r] in covering is in pre-consonantal position due to schwa deletion. In the phrase ointnent or something like that a schwa is inserted (at least I think I hear one after the [r]), so we get r-linking. If the accent was highly rhotic Ronnie Corbett would pronounce an r-sound in sore tips.

      Monday, 1 November 2010

      to /z/ or not to /z/

      credit: www.toonpool.com
      This blog entry is partially off-topic.
      A reader of my blog asked if the plural form of 'candles/handles' in the sketch by the Two Ronnies is really unvoiced, why it is and if it is a feature of "popular speech". John Maidment in his blog of the 30th of October also dealt with these plural forms used by the two characters in the sketch. Allow me to make some general remarks on English plural formation.

      Plural formation is done in English in various ways. Probably the most frequent type is the one which adds /s/, /z/ or /ɪz/ to the base word. The selection of the appropriate allomorph is phonologically conditioned, which means that the final phoneme of the base decides upon the selection of the plural allomorph. The word cat ends in a voiceless non-sibilant and hence takes /s/; the word dog ends in a voiced non-sibilant and so takes /z/; the word bus ends in a sibilant and becomes /bʌsɪz/. Sibilants are /s, z, ʃ, ʒ, ʧ, ʤ/. The late Peter Ladefoged in his A Course in Phonetics characterises sibilants thus: 

      They have more acoustic energy—that is, greater loudness—at a higher pitch than the other fricatives. (20014:150)
      When we look at wife-wives, thief-thieves we encounter a different type of conditioning. Here it's the appropriate allomorph of the base word which is selected by the plural allomorph /z/. This is an instance of phonological conditioning of the base (or 'stem' as some linguists like to call it).
      Next we have ox-oxen, child-children. It's the individual lexeme which triggers a particular plural allomorph: It is ox which calls for {-en}. This is called lexical conditioning. Child /ʧaɪld/ becomes child- /ʧɪld/ + -ren /rən/. On the one hand, again a particular lexeme (= child) selects a particular plural allomorph (= {/rən/}), on the other hand, the base changes its form as well due to the grammatical morpheme; so additionally we have grammatical conditioning of the base
      (1) When you want to shear a sheep, hold it properly
      (2) Tourists were led around like sheep.
      Sheep can be singular or plural without any visible changes to the word itself. Linguists call it zero affixation. Nouns that behave similarly are clergy, poultry, vermin, etc.
      I needn't write about singularia tantum or pluralia tantum, need I?