Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year!

I wish all my followers a

Happy and Healthy 2012

Monday, 26 December 2011

ejectives in English

In his webblog of the 8th of December, 2011, John Wells wrote about ejectives in English. Our attention was drawn to an interview given by the snooker player Judd Trump who pronounced the words think and back with a word-final ejective [kʼ]. I also heard a [] in walk and an ejective [pʼ] in keep. Here are several extracts from the interview.

1. think

2. think
3. back
4. back
5. back

6. walk
7. keep

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas

With the aid of the Hubble Space Telescope astronomers discovered this bipolar star-forming region in the Milky Way galaxy, called Sharpless 2-106. It looks like an angel spreading her wings. The nebula lies about 2,000 light-years from us, and it measures several light-years in length. It is heated by a young star, IRS 4 (= Infrared Source 4). The two lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central star. This hot gas creates the 'wings' of the angel.

I wish all my followers a Happy and Peaceful Christmas Season!

Friday, 23 December 2011

a quick riddle

Find the right words for these two pictures and you have a minimal pair.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Waiting for God or: the impacts come closer - subtitles

credit: BBC

I'm watching the situation comedy 'Waiting for God' with Stephanie Cole (as Diana Trent) and Graham Crowden (as Tom Ballard). The story plays in a retirement home in England.
The series was transmitted between 1990 and 1994. It comprises 47 episodes, so it will take me a while to watch them all. It's the black humour, the witty repartees and double entendres which make me laugh. Here's a first taster from series 2, episode 1. The numbers are time stamps to be used with an *.avi file of the episode so that you will have subtitles to go with it

There's one utterance marked red which I didn't quite get. The utterance marked red could be clarified thanks to Jack Windsor Lewis

00:00:52,757 --> 00:01:00,120
VICAR: Man that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.

00:01:01,357 --> 00:01:11,045
He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.

00:01:13,007 --> 00:01:23,528
In the midst of life we are in death: Of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, oh Lord, who for our sins …

00:01:24,019 --> 00:01:26,476
<i>Watch alarm beeps</i>

00:01:26,956 --> 00:01:30,523
HARVEY: I have to go. It's an important meeting.

00:01:31,399 --> 00:01:31,702
TOM: What did he say?

00:01:32,666 --> 00:01:38,727
DIANA: He says if he doesn't shut up and show a bit of respect, we are quite at liberty to beat him to a pulp, and bung him in on top of old Sid here.

00:01:39,974 --> 00:01:41,190
Carry on.

00:01:42,773 --> 00:01:44,270
HARVEY: I'll see you back at the ranch.

00:01:45,354 --> 00:01:49,319
Come on Jane. JANE: Harvey! HARVEY: He's not a resident anymore.

00:01:50,825 --> 00:01:54,297
Your job is with the living. And with me. JANE: Yes, Harvey.

00:02:01,410 --> 00:02:04,738
DIANA: Have you forgotten the words? VICAR: Certainly not. DIANA: Well, get on with it then.

00:02:05,622 --> 00:02:07,542
<i>Mobile phone rings</i>

00:02:07,542 --> 00:02:12,158
VICAR: Shut not thy merciful ears to our prayer; but spare us, LORD, most holy, …

00:02:12,158 --> 00:02:14,420
DIANA: What a farce. Poor old Sid.

00:02:15,090 --> 00:02:16,745
Where's his family. It's as if he'd never existed.

00:02:17,356 --> 00:02:18,312
TOM: Diana! DIANA: Mmmh?

00:02:18,312 --> 00:02:23,598
TOM: It's not Sid. DIANA: What? TOM: It's not Sidney, it's Harry Palmer.

00:02:25,358 --> 00:02:26,472
DIANA: Are you sure? TOM: Mmh – mmh!

00:02:27,478 --> 00:02:29,407
DIANA: Oh, I couldn't stand Harry Palmer.

00:02:32,006 --> 00:02:32,972
VICAR: Are you staying?

00:02:33,880 --> 00:02:37,845
TOM: Oh yes. I didn't mind old Harry. VICAR: Harry?

00:02:37,845 --> 00:02:39,170
TOM: Harry Palmer.

00:02:39,170 --> 00:02:45,204
VICAR: The name of the deceased is Esme Walters; Harry Palmer was this morning.

00:02:46,188 --> 00:02:50,406
TOM: Oh! Oh dear! I didn't know this lady.

00:02:51,292 --> 00:02:53,484
VICAR: Are you staying then? TOM: Oh, yes.

00:02:55,494 --> 00:03:00,584
How do you do, Miss Walters? I am sorry we didn't meet before this.

00:03:01,742 --> 00:03:00,584
Never too late to make a new friend. Do continue.

00:03:07,079 --> 00:03:12,249
VICAR: Like as a father pitieth his own children even so is the lord merciful unto them that fear him.

00:03:12,896 --> 00:03:17,252
For he knoweth whereof we are made and he remembereth that we are but dust.

00:03:19,880 --> 00:03:20,914
TOM: Poor old Harry.

00:03:21,954 --> 00:03:24,465
DIANA: Another green bottle falls off the wall.

00:03:25,166 --> 00:03:27,516
TOM: Yes, into the hole in the bottle bank.

00:03:28,321 --> 00:03:29,922
DIANA: Little chance of recycling.

00:03:30,517 --> 00:03:33,068
TOM: Oh, Harry will be recycled. He was a Buddhist.

00:03:33,739 --> 00:03:35,382
DIANA: Since when? TOM: Since Wednesday.

00:03:36,621 --> 00:03:38,287
He joined the whole lot just in case.

00:03:38,939 --> 00:03:42,472
Buddhists, catholics, Greek orthodox, even the Hare Krishnas dropped in.

00:03:42,964 --> 00:03:45,213
DIANA: Bet he hated them. All that chanting.

00:03:45,648 --> 00:03:47,693
TOM: Right! Push off, he said.

00:03:48,812 --> 00:03:54,143
In fact, that was the last thing he said as one of the silly sods tripped over his life support lead.

00:03:55,605 --> 00:03:58,173
DIANA: Is that true? TOM: No.

00:03:59,759 --> 00:04:02,928
DIANA: Pity, it has a certain glorious irony to it.

00:04:03,552 --> 00:04:05,045
TOM: Ah, Harry was a good man.

00:04:05,908 --> 00:04:08,725
He'll probably return as a humble peasant toiling in the fields.

00:04:09,146 --> 00:04:09,349

00:04:09,897 --> 00:04:16,646
TOM: Well, that's what they reckon is the last step before nirvana, a simple uncomplicated peasant.

00:04:17,021 --> 00:04:17,680
DIANA: Bollocks.

00:04:21,483 --> 00:04:27,248
That idea was invented by the rich bastards to keep the simple peasants happy in their rotten soggy fields.

00:04:28,222 --> 00:04:30,042
Believe me, I've been in a paddy.

00:04:30,236 --> 00:04:31,196
TOM: You're always in a paddy.

00:04:32,704 --> 00:04:34,827
DIANA: A rice paddy, you dingaling.

00:04:35,641 --> 00:04:39,462
If being a simple peasant is the top notch on the wheel of life, you can stuff it.

00:04:40,628 --> 00:04:42,275
TOM: Diana, you have no soul.

00:04:43,010 --> 00:04:45,641
DIANA: Tom, souls don't exist.

00:04:45,857 --> 00:04:48,036
TOM: That's only your opinion and you should keep it to yourself.

00:04:48,036 --> 00:04:52,261
DIANA: Rubbish, that's my holy mission in life, to blow raspberries at other holy missions.

00:04:52,832 --> 00:04:55,049
TOM: But has it ever occurred to you, you might be wrong.

00:04:55,049 --> 00:04:59,412
DIANA: Why should it? It never occurs to any of them, except possibly the Church of England.

00:05:01,087 --> 00:05:07,077
Poor old souls. They don't even know which way is up, never mind whether god's black, white, or green with three heads.

00:05:07,077 --> 00:05:10,232
TOM: Oh, come on Diana! Stop it. You must not blaspheme.

00:05:11,540 --> 00:05:12,923
You'll be struck by a lightning bolt.

00:05:14,328 --> 00:05:16,645
In fact, I think I'll stand over here.

00:05:18,088 --> 00:05:20,216
Never too sure about the old divine accuracy.

00:05:20,251 --> 00:05:22,519
DIANA: Oh, don't be so daft. It doesn't happen. Look!

00:05:26,657 --> 00:05:28,280
Come on God! You heard me.

00:05:28,769 --> 00:05:34,881
I don't believe in you, so how about a quick belt of the old megavolt frizzle frazzle.

00:05:34,881 --> 00:05:37,634
TOM: Diana, for God’s sake, I mean for your sake!

00:05:37,634 --> 00:05:42,874
Take no notice, God. She's old, she's senile, she's quite gaga.

00:05:43,564 --> 00:05:45,722
DIANA: Oh, no, I'm bloody not. TOM: Oh, yes, she is.

00:05:45,722 --> 00:05:47,790
DIANA: Oh, no, I'm not. TOM: Oh, yes, she is.

00:05:47,790 --> 00:05:49,180
DIANA: Am not. TOM: Is.

00:05:49,621 --> 00:05:52,815
DIANA: Come on, you big bully. Blow me away!

00:05:52,815 --> 00:05:54,970
TOM: She's drunk. DIANA: You don't exist.

00:05:54,970 --> 00:05:58,027
TOM: She had a terrible childhood. She's just kidding.

00:05:58,027 --> 00:05:59,634
DIANA: No, I'm not. TOM: Yes, she is.

00:05:59,634 --> 00:06:01,128
DIANA: No, I'm not. TOM: Yes, she is.

00:06:01,128 --> 00:06:03,620
DIANA: No, I'm not, and no returns.

00:06:14,263 --> 00:06:15,427
JANE: Who’re you shouting at?

00:06:16,137 --> 00:06:20,637
DIANA: What? Oh, no one in particular. Just having a bit of a shout.

00:06:21,287 --> 00:06:22,921
TOM: She was yelling at God again.

00:06:23,492 --> 00:06:26,506
JANE: Oh, you don't have to shout to be heard by God, Diana.

00:06:27,273 --> 00:06:30,600
God is omnipresent and he's all around us.

00:06:31,890 --> 00:06:33,540
DIANA: Well, God is a nosey so-and-so.

00:06:33,540 --> 00:06:35,769
JANE: Oh, Diana!

00:06:36,411 --> 00:06:40,333
DIANA: Look, what do you want, Jane, or did you just drop in for a bit of a light simpering?

00:06:40,799 --> 00:06:45,193
TOM: Don't you be rude to Jane. She is the way she is, there's no need to make it worse for her.

00:06:45,193 --> 00:06:46,087
JANE: Thank you, Tom.
(to be continued)

Monday, 19 December 2011

more on innovative Molly Stevens

I'd like to continue my observations on the pronunciation of Molly Stevens in her interview with Jim Al-Khalili broadcast by BBC on the 15th of November.
/ɑː/ -> /æ/
There are a few words illustrating the replacement of /ɑː/ by /æ/, e.g. /fæst/ (2:38), /pæst/ (18:58), /ʧæns/ (19:50), /gr
ænts/ (15:02 and 25:05);
2. non-prevocalic /r/
The /r/ is pronounced in words like were (as in were developing (6:15), were screaming (6:24), were pretty stunned (9:45)), sure (at 14:30 and in oh, sure, sure (17:40)), more (in more nervous (22:27)), far (as in gone so far (25:33));
3. intrusive /r/
South East Asia/r/ and ... (15:43), to analyse the data/r/ in ... (17:48), I saw/r/ a picture on the screen (19:03);
4. /t/-tapping/flapping
Molly Stevens's behaviour is inconsistent (she needn't be consistent): She taps the /t/ in betting (10:03) but not in meeting; there's a tap in better than I can possibly hope for (25:35) but not in a lot of research money (22:24), nor in a lot of our innovation (25:50). At 12:49 she probably says "a load of ideas around" which sounds almost like "a lot of ideas" with a tap in lot;
5. relaxed pronunciations
The word actually is one of her favourites - it appears quite often ranging from /ækʃli/ to /ækʃi/. Here are some more:
- /æpslutli/ (19:27) for absolutely
- /prɒpli/ (23:07) for properly
- /taɪps ə piːpl/ (27:02) for types of people
- /bikəz/ (25:59) or /bikəs/ (15:05, 15:49) for because.

Does anyone happen to know where and how Molly Stevens spent her speech-forming years?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

CEPD18 - preface and introduction

The new, i.e. eighteenth, edition of the CEPD (= Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary) is out now. The editors are Peter Roach, Jane Setter and John Esling.

In the editors' preface we are informed that one of the major devlopments for the CEPD (from the 17th edition onward) is the electronic version (in the form of a CD-ROM), which allows users to listen to "both British and American spoken pronunciations for every word in the dictionary" (iii). If we take "word" to mean "headword", this is true. But there is a major technical snag which excludes a not inconsiderable number of potential users - customers, if you like, from this development. I'm going to come back to this when I peruse the CD-ROM.

The editors also mention what they call "a new study aid" (iii): It comprises six short essays of about 1.5 pages each written by R. Cauldwell, J. Jenkins, J. Windsor Lewis, J. Marks, C. Sangster and L. Shockey.

"Above all," the editors write, "the aim of the dictionary is to include information which is relevant to the needs of contemporary users and which is presented in the clearest possible way" (iii). The lives of editors must be really hard: They've got to foresee the needs of potential users, and they must make sure that the users are neither dead nor in a state of suspended life because otherwise the latter wouldn't qualify as "contemporary users".

The introduction (vi-xix) in its first section tries to answer three questions:
  • Why do we need pronunciation dictionaries?
 As there is no biunique relation between letter and sound in English, a dictionary that concentrates on the sound-letter relations is of great help. This, of course, applies to words borrowed from other languages as well.
  • Can I use the dictionary if I don't know anything about phonetics?
 The editors do not answer this question with a plain and clear "yes". Rather, the reader is told that the pronunciation information is based in the IPA symbol set and that these symbols are explained on the inside front cover.
  • What is the CD-ROM for? 
All words and transcriptions of the printed version "are also included on the CD-ROM" (vi). One can listen to a pronunciation either in British or American English, and in case you can connect a microphone to your computer you can also record your own voice. Additionally you can search for any combination of IPA symbols or Roman letters.

Section 2 deals with the sounds of English. The two accents which the dictionary is based on are termed "BBC pronunciation" (or synonymously BBC English or BBC accent) and "General American" (or GA for short). Next the vowels and consonants of both accents are described in greater detail (vii-xii).

Section 3 describes how the CEPD is organized. The question is taken up again which types of pronuncation are represented. As with the other two pronunciation dictionaries, we find two models - a "more broadly based and accessible model accent for British English" (xii) it's (infelicitously) called "BBC English" (xii) and a type of American English which is "frequently heard from professional voices on national network news and information programmes" (xii) termed "General American" (xii).

We are informed that for common words a pronunciation is proposed which is "typical of a more casual, informal style of speaking, and a more careful pronunciation for uncommon words" (xiii). For me the word laryngeal is quite common, but is it common for a car mechanic as well?

More on CEPD18 in a later blog entry.

      Sunday, 11 December 2011

      the pronunciation database of the Hessischer Rundfunk

      Not only does Auntie Beeb nurture a database to be consulted for words of doubtful pronunciation but also the German Public Broadcasting Corporation (ARD = Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) houses a similar database. It is run under the baton of Roland Heinemann of the Hessischer Rundfunk. There are some sample entries to be seen and heard here.


      The pronunciations are transcribed using the IPA set of symbols, and there's also a sound file for each entry. The database containing more than 230,000 entries can be accessed online by any TV or radio editorial office affiliated with the ARD.

      Saturday, 10 December 2011

      University Challenge & Alte Pinakothek

       In his blog entry of the 5th of December John Maidment informs us that, while he was watching the BBC quiz show University Challenge, the quizmaster, Jeremy Paxman, asked this question: "In which European city is the art museum known as the ['aɫteɪ 'pi:nə'kotek]?" A member of the Balliol College team replied: "[ˈmjuːnɪɕ]."

      The proof of the aarghing is in the listening:

      credit: BBC2

      Be informed that, as a consequence of this pronunciation zenith, John Maidment founded the Honourable Society of Aarghicians. The date and venue of the inaugural meeting will be announced in due time.

      Friday, 9 December 2011

      young phonetic professionals

      One of the questions in my latest in-class test was: "What does a shaded cell in the table of pulmonic consonants indicate?" Here are two elucidating answers:
      1. "The shading signals that this sound can't be produced by humans." (Your pet should give it a try.)
      2. "It means that the articulation is judged to be impossible. Some of the cells are shaded because we don't speak them." (How true!)
      The second group of students were given this question: "What does an empty cell in the table of pulmonic consonants indicate?"
      1. "An empty cell means that it is not possible to produce. Such sounds physiologically in any language. "(Huh?)
      2. "The shaded cells signify that its [sic] impossible to pronounce/voice it, whereas the white gaps show that it is possible to show, but there hasn't been found a way yet. (Maybe it was not found yet.)" (Oh my - those gaps!)
      3. "The empty cells signals [sic] phonemes (sounds) which are physically impossible to produce or phonemes which are not found yet." (Track - Rover!)
      4. "There are some empty cells because not every sound can be produced in every place and every manner. Apart from that there are more sounds in general but they do not exist in every language."
      I'm depressed, desperate, hopeless, on the verge of insanity. Om! ॐ

      Wednesday, 7 December 2011

      CEPD 18th edition

      The Postmaster General today delivered the 18th edition of the Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary. It's the version with CD-ROM I've got. I'm looking forward to giving the dictionary and the CD a close look (and a sharp ear).

      Should your mind boggle about the spectrogram on the cover: It's the word 'Cambridge' as pronounced by one of the authors of the dictionary. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new or am I?

      Monday, 5 December 2011

      innovative Molly

      Jack Windsor Lewis's blog is always a treasure trove of information; one should not miss the chance to 'forage' around in it. In his blog no. 374 he points to a fairly unique pronunciation of the word innovative by Molly Stevens, Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine at Imperial College London.
      credit: BBC
      It occurred in an interview she gave on the 15th of November to Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics, who frequently hosts BBC productions about science such as the series "The Life Scientific".

      The whole interview is 29 mins long. At about 13:15 Prof. Stevens says: "You know, you can really be incredibly innovative, I think, and bounce a lot of ideas [...]". The languages of biology and medicine are full of polysyllabic terms of Latin and Greek origin with stress patterns which seem to defy logic. No wonder, one muddles them up at times so that innovative and Altzheimer's are stressed where they are normally not stressed. Moreover, we have alternative, conservative, definitive, derivative, discriminative, imaginative, infinitive with stress on the 2nd syllable and emanative, nominative or privative with stress on the 1st syllable (but also /praɪˈveɪtɪv/).

      Here's the short extract from the interview:


      Of course, this lapsus linguae of hers does not depreciate the importance of her research.