Friday, 29 July 2011

full-frame installation

Replacement windows are being installed in Kraut Castle. Access to my computer and the internet is a bit difficult at the moment.

Friday, 22 July 2011

another delay: 26th of August

I am not amused!
... and yet another delay: 30th of September 2012 (?)
Thank you, Hodder Education!

horse's hoe

Mind-boggling title of this post, innit?
My students have to take their oral exams in Spoken English (aka Phonetics) this week; they have to show how well they're able to pronounce an English text and a couple of sentences.
This is one of the test sentences:
- The so-called horseshoe crab is used to test the effectiveness of drugs.
The sentence is about linking, final obstruent devoicing, pre-fortis clipping, e-æ, etc.

What a few students came up with was /ðə səʊkɔːld hɔːsəz həʊ kræb …/.

Should any of these students read this post, let me tell them they shouldn't worry too much. Having pronounced it wrongly is a floccinaucity.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

dissimilative addition

In my blog posting of the 9th of July I wrote about non-eliding dissimilation.Today I would like to draw your attention to what I call dissimilative addition.

Dissimilation describes the result(s) of avoiding two similar or identical sounds to be in relatively close proximity in the chaine chaîne parlée. Basically there are various ways to achieve this:
  • We can try to avoid having a second similar sound to appear. Take the plural form <boys>.We write <the boys' clubs association> and regularly pronounce the noun <boys'> as /bɔɪz/. Thus we avoid a second /z/ to appear in close proximity to the first one. There is no dissimilation visible in the surface form of the word. (On the other hand, in <Charles'(s) car> we are free to choose between /ʧɑːlzɪz/ and /ʧɑːlz/.)
  • Take the ordinal number 6th, written <sixth> and pronounced as /sɪksθ/, but sometimes also as /sɪkst/. In both pronunciations we have a word-final cluster of three consonants, which is quite a mouthful. In /sɪksθ/ two fricatives abut which are are both voiceless and very similar as regards their place of articulation. To cut corners, some speakers use the form with the final /t/, thus making the two consonants less similar. There are still three consonants, none is elided, so I call it non-eliding dissimilation. (see my blog posting of the 9th of July)
  • Some speakers say <Febuary> for <February> or <libary> for <library>. One of the two r-sounds is deleted. This is what Jack Windsor Lewis terms dissimilative elision and what John Maidment calls dissimilatory elision. I already promised to write about this process in a future blog posting.
  • And there is another way to avoid having two similar/identical sounds to be too close together: Dissimilative addition.
By dissimilative addition a sound is inserted between two similar/identical sounds. The two sounds are 'pushed apart' from one another. I want to present three instances which illustrate dissimilative addition:
1. One /kɪs/, two */kɪs s/? No, we must say /kɪsɪz/. Otherwise, two identical sounds would be too close together. So an intervening sound is inserted. The same dissimilative process can be demonstrated with the genitival form <kiss'> and the 3rd person singular as in <he kisses>.
2. I /weɪt/, but I /weɪtɪd/. Again a sound is added to push two similar sounds apart.
3. As we all know, there are two variants of the indefinite article; one of them is used with a noun beginning with a consonant, the other one is placed before a noun with a vocalic onset. Thus we get <a cuckoo> and <an owl>.

credit: Nina Valetova
title: Assimilation and Dissimilation
BTW: According to OED the ending -ative goes back to Latin -ātīvus, which was added to verbs of the -āt-  stem. As dissimilation goes back to Latin dissimilāre, dissimilātiōnem, the ending -ātīvus (English -ative) seems to me the appropriate one.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Pierre Delattre † 11th July 1969

credit: John Ohala

Pierre Delattre was born in Roanne on the Loire on the 21st of October 1903. 
After having finished secondary school in France he emigrated to the US and enrolled at the University of Michigan, but at the same time studied at the Sorbonne where he obtained a certificate in phonetics.

In 1947 Delattre accepted a post at the University of Pennsylvania. When Bell had developed the sound spectrograph and Haskins Labs started speech synthesis experiments, Delattre joined Haskins Labs. In 1953 Delattre went to the University of Colorado where he created the Speech Synthesis Project. In 1964 he joined the University of California at Santa Barbara.

credit: John Ohala
Pierre Delattre died on the 11th of July 1969 after a game of tennis.

When I was a student I was particularly fascinated by an article which appeared in the International Review of Applied Linguistics for Language Teaching (= IRAL), vol. 2 on pages 71-97. Its title is "Comparing the vocalic features of English, German, Spanish and French."
Delattre's publications are too numerous to mention here. The interested reader is kindly referred to Valdman, A., ed (1972), Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics to the Memory of Pierre Delattre, (Mouton). On pages 21-30 all his publications are listed.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

non-eliding dissimilation

John Maidment maintains SID, which is short for Speech Internet Dictionary. This dictionary contains more than 600 entries with descriptions of technical terms used in phonetics, phonology and related disciplines. It can be found here. He also has a weblog. In one of his recent blog postings he announced several additions to the dictionary. Somehow the discussion among John's blog followers began to center around the term DISSIMILATION. One of the commentators drew the attention to DISSIMILATIVE ELISION and also asked for a word exemplifying synchronic (i.e. modern) dissimilation.

(APE = alveolar plosive elision)

The term 'dissimilation' (from Latin DIS- and SIMILIS) describes a change whereby a sound is replaced by another, less similar one. In the neighbourhood of the original sound there must be another sound either identical with the sound to be replaced or of the same type, e.g. of the same manner of articulation or of the same voicing degree.

When we look at modern English, examples of non-eliding dissimilation are rare to find. LPD lists 'sixth' with /sɪksθ/ and the dissimilated pronunciation /sɪkst/. In the non-dissimilated pron. we have one plosive and two fricatives: /s/ and /θ/. To make the pronunciation of the cluster easier, the th-sound is dissimilated to /t/. As a result we still have a combination of three c's, but now its plosive + fricative + plosive. As no sound is deleted, I call it non-eliding dissimilation. Another example, one could argue,  is /ɪɡˈzɑːmpl/ pronounced as /ɪkˈzɑːmpl/. Here it is not the manner of articulation of the two abutting consonants, but the voicing which is dissimilated. By this process one of the sounds becomes voiceless.

To illustrate dissimilation as an historical process the English word 'turtle' may be cited which seems to go back to Latin 'turtur'. Or: Old English 'þēofþ' was replaced by 'þēoft' during the 13th c., which became 'theft' in Modern English.

I 'll write about dissimilative elision in a future blog posting.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

chameleonic authors

Here are some titles of books and their authors. I collected them from various sources. These are nice examples to discuss matters such as assimilation, elision and compression.

1The Demand for Alcohol|Phyllis Glass
2Woman of Property|Iona Mansion
3The Troubles of Old Age| Gerry Attrick
4What Society Needs| Laura Nauder
5Shorter Skirts|Seymour Legge
6Dog's Delight|Nora Bone
7How He Got So Fat|Henrietta Lott
8One Minute to Get the Train|Willie Makitt
9At the South Pole|Anne Tarctic
10At the North Pole|I. C. Blast
11Swimming the Channel|Francis Near
12The Bullfighter|Matt Adore
13The Unknown Author|Anne Onymous
14A Cliff-Top Tragedy|Eileen Dover
15The Cause of Colds|Mike Robe
16The Escaping Sheep|Gay Topen
17The Rear View|Hugh Jarse
18Hole in My Bucket|Lee King
19Bubbles in the Bath|Win D. Bottom
20Out of the Lunch Box|Sam Widge
21Homosexuality|Ben Dover
22The One-Testicled Russian|Iva Bolokov
23The Visitor|Izzy Gone
24How to Write Big Books|Warren Piece
25School Truancy|Marcus Absent
26Shhh!|Danielle Soloud
27Stop Arguing|Xavier Breath
28The World's Deadliest Joke|Theophilus Punoval
29I Didn't Do It|Ivan Alibi
30How I Won the Marathon|Randy Holeway
31Wet Spots on the Wall|I. P. Freely
32Aches and Pains|Arthur Ritis

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

discrepancy between pitch traces and hearing impression

Inspired by JWL's comment to my two curves displayed in yesterday's blog post, I fed the sentence 'thirteen stairs we've got' into three different programmes (sorry for being old-fashioned in my spelling habits) in this order:
  1. Wasp (downloadable from the web pages of UCL (= University College London))
  2. SpeechAnalyzer (available from SIL Org.)
  3. Praat (most phoneticians are familiar with the name at least).
Here are the results:




After you've calculated the pitch in Praat you can extract the pitch and listen to it (the 'Hum-function').
Here it is, first the original sentence and then the 'hummed' version:


Sunday, 3 July 2011

Ever Decreasing Circles 2

Here's the solution to my posting of yesterday.

Ann says:


Here's Paul's comment:


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Ever Decreasing Circles

No, I'm not going to write about the oozlum bird again in this blog posting. It's rather the sitcom broadcast by BBC One in the late 80s.

credit: BBC and 2/entertain
The main characters are Martin Bryce (played by Richard Briers), his wife Ann (Penelope Wilton) and Paul Ryman (Peter Egan).
In the first episode Paul Ryman pays the Bryces a courtesy visit. During the conversation Martin leaves the room and goes upstairs to get some papers. One hears his footsteps and Ann says: "Thirteen steps stairs* we've got." After a while footsteps are heard again and Paul says: "Yes, it is thirteen."
Imagine you are the actor playing Paul and you have to say this sentence. How would you stress thirteen? By saying THIRteen or thirTEEN?
And what about Ann's "Thirteen steps stairs* [...]"?

*Sorry for the typo!