Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Grimsvötn - the volcano that's no longer dormant

BBC news presenters and weather forecasters seem to be somewhat reluctant to pronounce the name of the Icelandic volcano Grimsvötn. I finally found a video clip here (I guess it won't be online for long), in which Susan Powell bravely pronounces the name three times. Here are the three sections:


To me it sounds like [ˈɡrɪmz̥vɜːdn̩].

PS: There seem to be temporary problems with videos - problems beyond my control.
PSS: There's another blog dealing with the 'anglicization' of the Icelandic volcano. Readers of this blog are kindly referred to it.

Friday, 6 May 2011

phonetics in Antarctica?

You will have discovered the map of the world on the right-hand side of my blog indicating by small green spots the places from which people interested in phonetic matters accessed my blog.  Every now and then I take a closer look at this map. Off the coast of Nigeria there's one green spot (see upper red arrow) about which I'm not quite sure which place it refers to. Is it St Helena?

The other green spot, which I'm very proud of, is the southernmost one. It's situated in Antarctica. Never in my life would I have expected polar bears to take an interest in phonetics.


Thursday, 5 May 2011

'our' pleasures

Every other semester I have a student in one of my phonetics classes who does not or cannot pronounce the [ɹ] in words such as rain, hearing, brain, tree, cry. Assuming that it's not some kind of partial tongue paralysis, which hints can be given to these students? Here is what I try to explain and demonstrate to them.

1. Try to growl like a dog. First, I demonstrate the way I want my student(s) to sound like. Here's your truly as a dog:
 As a next step I try to convince her/him to imitate me (I must admit I'm usually not very successful in my attempts):
<growl> + /eɪn/, /hɪə/ + <growl> + /ɪŋ/ etc.

2. In case this demonstration does not 'convince' the student I resort to this:
2.1 Start producing a very long [dːːːːːːːːːːd]; while you do this, slowly let your tongue tip slide along the hard palate back and forth to the /d/-position: [dːːːːːːːɹːːːːːːːd]
2.2 Do this several times and gradually increase the speed of this movement.
2.3 Watch your lips in a mirror while you say <read> and <heed>. Do you round your lips when you say the /r/ in <read>? If so - good! Make sure you round your lips in the following exercises as well. If not - do round your lips while you pronounce the /r/ because lip-rounding gives this sound a more English tinge.
2.4 Now practise the r-sound intervocalically: /uːruː, ɔːrɔː, ɑːrɑː, ɜːrɜː, iːriː, ɪrɪ, ere, æræ, …/

2.5 Next, practise saying proper words with /r/ in intervocalic position as in <marry, carry, Terry, Tory, Laurie, hurry, ...>.
2.6 /r/ as a singleton in initial position is next on the agenda: <rude, run, rattle, red, ...>.
2.7 /r/ in consonant clusters is pretty much the last stage of perfection: <brought, brain, prey, trough, try, crawl, grow, ...>.

Take yourself time. After several years of wrong usage your 'bwain' is used to giving the wrong orders and it needs time to reorganise itself. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

William Arthur Philip Louis - the royal wedding vows

I'd like to draw your attention to four points:
The Royal Channel
  1. /e/ in better, health, death
  2. /æ/ in Catherine
  3. /əʊ/ in hold, holy, troth (my thanks to John C Wells for this reference)
  4. there'to
The words are marked red below:

A: I, William Arthur Philip Louis,
W: I, William Arthur Philip Louis,
A: : take thee, Catherine Elizabeth
W: take thee, Catherine Elizabeth
A: to my wedded wife,
W: to my wedded wife,
A: to have and to hold from this day forward,
W: to have and to hold from this day forward,
A: for better, for worse;
W: for better, for worse;
A: for richer, for poorer;
W: for richer, for poorer;
A: in sickness and in health;
W: in sickness and in health;
A: to love and to cherish,
W: to love and to cherish,
A: till death us do part,
W: till death us do part,
A: according to God's holy law;
W: according to God's holy law;
A: and thereto I give thee my troth.
W: and thereto I give thee my troth.

The /e/ is more open when said by William than by the Archbishop:


Likewise, the Prince's ash vowel is more open than the one of Dr R Williams:


The diphthongs  in hold, holy and troth as pronounced by William with a more backward first vocalic element, so that they sound like [ɒʊ]:
Two of my blog followers made me re-listen to the diphthongs in hold, holy and troth as pronounced by the Archbishop and Prince William. And I must say that I see things differently now. Here are the sound clips for hold and holy:


The Archbishop does not back the diphthongs in either hold or holy. The vowel which William produces is more in the back of the mouth and it's more like a monophthong: [hɔld] and [hɔli] respectively.

What about the diphthong in troth?


The diphthongs of both speakers are inconspicous renderings of /əʊ/. There's a strange i-like sound at the end of troth when William pronounces the word.

Finally, the archbishop stresses thereto on the second syllable (which is what the LPD notes), whereas William stresses the first one (which is not listed in LPD):


As a rider to a comment by John Maidment to this blog entry I've added another sound clip. There is a pause in between 'thereto' and the rest of the clause in William's utterance as well, isn't there?

Sunday, 1 May 2011

new book on phonetics - publication date postponed

Hodder Education has postponed the publication of Patricia Ashby's new book on phonetics, which was due out on the 29th of April this year.The new expected publication date will be the 24th of June.