Friday, 27 April 2012

not 'overlookt weakform'

In his blog no. 397 of the 23rd of April Jack Windsor Lewis mentions some weakform words that either are not recorded in the established pron dictionaries or are marked as not belonging to RP. This blog entry of his is a welcome widening of the concept of weakforms extending the usual and fairly narrow list of such words. One of these 'cast-outs' is the adverb only. According to Windsor Lewis's observation "a very large majority of educated English speakers worldwide frequently use ell-less weakforms of only." The examples he gives are two short extracts from the 1964 Paramount film about (Thomas) Becket. The first example is a sentence spoken by Donald Wolfit (at about 1:25:05), who plays the role of Bishop Folliot: "My only interest is for the church."
The second one is a section with John Gielgud as King Louis VII saying (at about 1:45:52): "In the meantime, however, we can only express our astonishment. No news has reached us of the Archbishop of Canterbury's presence [...]."
Listen, please.

credit: Paramount Pictures

credit: Paramount Pictures

 BTW: These are not the only ell-less onlys in this film.

Monday, 23 April 2012

curriculum vitae Danielis Johannis

I'm currently reading The Real Professor Higgins by Beverley Collins and Inger M Mees. It's a very, very fascinating book which I recommend unconditionally. Thanks, Bev and Inger!

credit: de Gruyter

Thursday, 19 April 2012

there + be reductions

Listen to this sound clip which is the beginning of a sentence said by a native speaker of General British (the clip is repeated twice); two words are to be heard:


The next section immediately following the one above sounds like this:


Four words are spoken in this 2nd clip.

Finally you can hear the whole sentence:


The rest of the sentence (i.e. the section after the first two snippets) is quite easy to grasp. Let's see if you can decode the beginning.

Thanks to John Maidment, who provided the sound clip.

Solution (in a very moderately narrow transcription): [ðɛwɒz̥təvbiːnəmiːtɪŋðɪsjɪətuː]

Hotel Babylon

I must admit I'm not very good (putting it mildly) at GB accents. Can you do me a favour and listen to this voice?

credit: Carnival Films

Now, can you tell me which area of the realm this lady comes from (or pretends to come from)?
I can provide you with subtitles in case you don't understand the torrent of sounds coming out of this beautiful mouth.

As I've been asked for subtitles, here they are:

Flipping paps have been following me everywhere.

I can't even powder me nose without someone jumping out from behind a bush. 

Depends on how much they pay me.

See what I mean? It's a nightmare. I haven't got lippy on me teeth, have I?

Oh, 'cause I hate it when they snap me looking like a minger.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Britain's Got Talent - accentwise

Some of you probably know the TV show 'Britain's got talent'.
Here's a tiny extract from one of the shows which was recorded in Edinburgh this year. It's a dialogue between a member of the jury, Simon Cowell (= SC), and one of the contestants, a 14-year-old girl by the name of Paige Turley (= PT). Try to understand what she says. Enjoy!

credit: ITV

If you are at a loss, let me know and I'll be happy to post subtitles!
Oh, by the way: She's going to sing 'Skinny Love' by Birdie.


SC: Tell me something about you, Paige, tell me something interesting about you.
PT: I'm currently still in school, but I love to sing. I'm always singing out of school.
SC: What do your parents think about you doing this?
PT: They are sure so proud.
PT: About three years ago I started singing.
SC: Right. OK. And what are you going to sing?
PT: I'm going to sing 'Skinny Love' by Birdie.

Scotland Rulez!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Patricia Hughes - no. 4 - deleted

Dear followers,

my blog entry entitled "Patricia Hughes - no. 4" has been erroneously deleted by me, for which I am very sorry. I can't restore it because I have no copy of it. Should anyone out there have made a copy, I'd be most glad to put it online again. 

Update: I've started to re-write the deleted blog entry!

A new version of the deleted entry is online now.  
I antedated it to the 7th of April.

Patricia Hughes - no. 5

Here's the second half:

AA. 1:28:4 [ðen aɪ reəlaɪz̥d̥ wɪð əpɔːlɪŋ klæ̝rɪti] 'then I realised with appalling clarity'

  1. The diphthong in 'realised' has a very open first element.
BB. 1:39:5 [əz̥ breːvli əz aɪ kʊd] 'as bravely as I could'.
  1. The /r/ in 'bravely' is an alveolar trill.
  2. The diphthong in 'bravely' is smoothed.
CC. 1:43:2 [ænd əv kɔːs evɾiwʌn] 'and, of course, everyone'.
  1. The /r/ in 'everyone' is a tap/flap.
DD. 2:14:0 [ænd ðɛə tə maɪ æpsluːt hɒrə] 'and there to my absolute horror'.
  1. The adjective 'absolute' is pronounced in quite a normal way here. You won't find this variant in either LPD3 or EPD18. CPD does include /æpsəlut/.
  2. PH pronounces a diphthong in 'there'.
EE. 2:44:1 [ænd sə lɒŋ əz ði] 'and so long as the'.
  1. Mark the weak-form /sə/ for 'so'. LPD3 makes mention of the variant without any further comments. EPD18 is more detailed about it and specifies its use by saying that it is used "only in casual speech before adjectives and adverbs (e.g. 'Not so bad' [...], 'Don't go so fast' [...].)". For a more detailed account of 'so' see here.

I hoped to have shown (as did JWL in his blog entry of the 3rd of April) what reductions, elisions etc. can occur in unhurried colloquial General British. It also tried to demonstrate how abundant in such features a single person's speech extract of less than 3 minutes can be.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Happy Easter!

A Happy Easter to all of you!

I do hope that all of you will find a nest for their eggs (or vice versa).

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Patricia Hughes - no. 4 (re-written)

Jack Windsor Lewis (= JWL) picked up on my blog entry (here) on Patricia Hughes (= PH) (JWL's blog to be found here) and made some interesting and detailed observations on her amusing story about an event related to her job with Auntie Beeb. I can't resist making some additional remarks:

A. 0:8:0 [æːnd juːd den ɡëʊ tə beˑd] ‘and you’d then go to bed’
  1. JWL comments on the word boundary between ‘you’d’ and ‘then’ by saying that it is “not uncommon” to change the initial fricative to a homorganic stop though less frequently than to change it to an approximant. I think it’s the relaxed speech style plus the weak-form character of the words involved plus a way of cutting articulatory corners, which make it easier to pronounce this consonant cluster.
  2. The vowel in ‘bed’ is slightly longer than I would’ve expected; it’s probably idionsycratic.
B. 0:9:5 [ɪn ðiː wɒʔ wəð̥en ðə læŋəm hëʊteɫ] ‘in the … what was then the Langham Hotel’
  1. PH uses /ðiː/ probably because she’s hesitating.
  2. The plosive in ‘what’ to me seems to be glottal.
  3. The fricative combination at the boundary of ‘was then’ is replaced by a weak voiceless dental fricative. If it’s not due to some problem with her tongue or denture, it may simply be a slip of the tongue. There are speakers, however, who sort of cut corners to avoid this rapid sequence of a voiced/unvoiced s-sound followed ba a voiced/unvoiced th-sound and simply pronounce a voiced/unvoiced s-sound, e.g.: Is this seat taken? /ɪzˑɪs siːt teɪkŋ/
  4. The diphthong in ‘hotel’, like the one in ‘go’ (see above), starts with a fairly centralised first vowel.
C. 0:12:1 [wɪʧs̩stɪɫ kɔːɫd ði [???] læŋəm hëʊteɫ] ‘which is still called the {indistinct} Langham Hotel’
  1. The ‘is’ has no initial vowel.
  2. The [i] of the definite article despite there being no initial vowel of the next word is most probably due to the indistinct syllable which starts with some kind of vowel.
D. 0:14:0 [ðæ̝t wəz̥ ɑː sliːpɪŋ kwɔːtə] ‘that was our sleeping quarter’
  1. The possessive determiner ‘our’ illustrates smoothing, which is quite common with this determiner.
E. 0:21:5 [wɪʧ jʊ wʊd bɪ riːdɪŋ jɔːseɫf] ‘which you would be reading yourself’
  1. Mark PH’s pronunciation of ‘yourself’ as /jɔːself/ and not as /jʊəself/.
F. 0:23:50 [wl ðæ̝t p̩hthɪkhələ mɔːnɪŋ] ‘well, that particular morning’
  1. As an exception, aspiration is indicated here. Mark the pronunciation of ‘particular’ with its yod having been dropped. LPD3 does not record such a variant, nor does EPD18. LPD3 marks the pronunciation /-tɪklə/ as incorrect.
  2. ‘well’ as an interjection is pronounced by PH as a weak-form. LPD3 calls this an “occasional” one. EPD18 makes no mention of a weak-form.
G. 0:25:7 [aɪ wəz wëʊkən baɪ ðə telɪfəʊn] ‘I was woken by the telephone’
  1. The pronunciation of ‘telephone’ with a medial /ɪ/ is the preferred variant in LPD3 and the only one offered by EPD18. JWL thinks that "[n]ot substituting /ə/ for /ɪ/ here is now praps [sic] a little bit "refained"-sounding."
H. 0:37:1 [ɪn fɪftiːn mɪnɪts frəm naː] ‘in fifteen minutes from now’
  1. In informal speech it’s quite normal to smoothe ‘now’.
I. 0:43:40 [wədəməɡəntə dhuː] ‘what am I going to do’
  1. The whole phrase is about 770 ms long; ‘what am I going to’ lasts about 500 ms.
  2. If you’re an advanced learner of English, you might want to say the phrase in less than 800 ms. Have a try!
J. 0:47:80 [nəʊ taɪm tə pʊdnɪ meɪkʌp ɒn] ‘no time to put any make-up on’
  1. JWL points to the reduction of ‘any’ in his blog; therefore I needn’t repeat it here.
  2. When you consult LPD3 you find this comment: “occasional weak form əni → ən‿ɪ”.
  3. EPD18 writes this: “In more rapid speech, and when preceded by an alveolar consonant, the first syllable may be reduced to syllabic /n̩/”.
K. 0:52:80 [aɪd rɪmembədtʊ] ‘I’d remembered to’
  1. Make sure you spot the /d/ in ‘I’d’ and, more importantly the past participle form of ‘remember’. The final /d/ of the latter word is not released but coalesces with the initial /t/ of the infinitival marker ‘to’. As a result, the hold stage is longer than if there had been only one stop.
L. 0:56:70 [neˑɡliʒeɪ] ‘negligée’
  1. This is an anglicised pronunciation of the French original /neɡliʒe/.
M. 1:00:0 [wɪʧ aɪ nɔːməli dɪdnt ʔevə duː] ‘which I normally didn’t ever do’
  1. The glottal stop is used here to place emphasis on ‘ever’.
N. 1:02:10 [aɪ rʌʃt̥daʊn ðə stɛːz] ‘I rushed down the stairs’
  1. Smoothing in ‘stairs’.
O. 1: [tɔː əkrɒs pɔːtlənd ple̝ɪs] ‘tore across Portland Place’
  1. JWL points to what, to my shame, had escaped my attention: PH does not insert a linking-r between ‘tore’ and ‘across’. The reasons may be threefold:
    1. JWL opines that it is a “a mark of people who feel some links are too inelegant for them to employ and tend to overdo the avoidances”.
    2. It may also be an attempt at avoiding to have two r-sounds too close together.
P. 1:10:0 [lʌkli wɪð əbaʊt ëʊ θriː ɔː fɔː mɪnɪts tə spɛː] ‘luckily with about, oh, three or four minutes to spare’
  1. Mark the weak-form of ‘luckily’.
  2. Mark also the monophthong in ‘spare’.
Q: 1:13:10 [gɒt ɪntð̥əstjuːdiəʊ] ‘got into the studio’
  1. The preposition is pronounced in a manner which results in a slightly complicated consonant cluster. The fricative displays progressive assimilation.
R. 1:26:50 [aɪd ɡëʊ hëʊm] ‘I’d go home’
  1. Make sure you spot the /d/ of the contraction ‘I’d’.
  2. There’s no need to draw your attention to the diphthonɡs, is there?

As we are about half way through the whole sound clip, I stop here. More to come soon.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Geoff Lindsey's Listening Quizzzz - no. 2

S12: "And of course, then I start working with somebody who can, you know, a repetiteur, hopefully someone ...". What I said about (Ambroise) Thomas applies - cum grano salis - to répétiteur as well. Hadn't I known this word, I wouldn't've recognised it. So, the two words are 'unfair' as regards their inclusion in a listening test geared to a non-specialist public. As to the pronunciation of this French loan, we must distinguish between those Americans who have a fair to good command of French (the acclaimed baritone Hampson must have learned both French and Italian or else he couldn't have embarked on such a career) and those who simply muddle through.

Knowing French one can either pronounce it 'the French way' and say /ʁepetitœːʁ/ or - and this is how Hampson chooses to pronounce it - give it an American English tinge. I write 'tinge' because it's not completely americanised. Listen to the final r-sound, which is a uvular fricative /ʁ/. But the vowel quality is non-French, nor is the initial r-sound..


Geoff writes: "Americans are relatively variable with the French ending -eur;" Indeed, they are, but so are Brits. The proof is in the listing!

amateur | ˈæmətə, ˈæmətʃʊə, -tʃə, -tjʊə; ˌæm ə ˈtɜː | ˈæmətʃʊr, -ətər, -ətjʊr
chauffeur | ˈʃəʊfə, ʃəʊˈfɜː, ʃə- | ʃoʊˈfɝː

coiffeur | kwɑːˈfɜː, kwɒ-, kwæ-, kwʌ- | kwɑːˈfɝː, kwɒ-, kwæ-, kwʌ-

colporteur | ˌkɒl pɔːˈtɜː, ˌkəʊl-; ˈkɒlˌpɔːtə, ˈkəʊl-, ˌ•ˈ•• | ˌkɑːl pɔːr ˈtɝː, -poʊr-; ˈkɑːlˌpɔːrt̬ ər, -ˌpoʊrt̬-

connoisseur | ˌkɒnəˈsɜː, -ɪ- | ˌkɑːnəˈsɝː, -ˈsʊər

entrepreneur | ˌɒntrəprəˈnɜː, ˌɒ̃tr-, -preˈ•, -ˈnjʊə | ˌɑːntrəprəˈnɝː, -pəˈ•, -ˈnʊər

grandeur | ˈɡrændʒə, ˈɡrændjʊə, ˈɡrɒ̃-, -djə |  ˈɡrændʒər, -ʊr

liqueur | lɪˈkjʊə, lə-, -ˈkjɔː, -ˈkjɜː | -ˈkɝː, -ˈkjʊr

raconteur | ˌrækɒnˈtɜː | -ɑːnˈtɝː, -ən-

répétiteur | riˌpetɪˈtɜː, rə-, -ˌ•ə-; ˌrepətiːˈ• | ˌreɪpeɪtɪˈtɝː, ˌ•pet-

saboteur | sæbəˈtɜː, ˈ••• | -ˈtɝː, -ˈtʊər

voyeur | (ˌ)vwaɪˈɜː, (ˌ)vɔɪ-; (ˌ)vwɑːˈjɜː; ˈvɔɪə, ˈvwɔɪ- | vwɑːˈjɝː

S14: Jack Windsor Lewis quite rightly points to the fact that medial /j/ in words like carrying, marrying etc. may be dropped by both GB and GA speakers. Here are a few examples of Brits saying 'long-playing, dying, tying, staying power':

sound clips taken from LPD3

S15: "This is not about lyric singing, this is about the declamation of a text." It's absolutely normal to voice the /s/ of the word this in a voiced environment and a relaxed speech style, as Hampson does at the very beginning of this sentence: /ðɪzɪz/. When he uses the pronoun a 2nd time, however, he says: /ðɪsɪz/. Native speakers are inconsistent at times without even noticing it! 


S16: "[...] "'n' it would be living life, moral or possible."

Geoff claims that the sentence snippet starts with 'that'. I'm afraid that I'm not convinced. Listen:
What I hear is /n̩ɪtwʊdbiː/ = "and it would be".

S23: "
The absolute nub of solving any production of Macbeth." It's a pity, Geoff doesn't draw attention to the 'weak-form'-pronunciation of absolute, which sounds something like [ˈæpsl̩ʷ]. Advanced learners of English should be prepared to encounter this variant. 


S25: "... realizing the futility of his life". Two things are worth being commented on. First, Hampson says /ði/ despite the consonantal beginning of futility and despite there being no pause in between the definite article and the noun. Second, he does not flap the second /t/ in futility


  • Don't worry if you didn't recognise words like repetiteur, Thomas, nub or similar words, if they are/were unknown to you. You shouldn't worry, because if the task is one of listening comprehension (and not one of world knowledge), such words should not be used.
  • Even for NSs it is at times very difficult if not impossible to understand reduced, elided words or phrases WITHOUT the cotext or context as a cue.
Here's an example:


Try to hear what's being said.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

'particular' Patricia

Here's the second part (starting from /k/) of the word particular as pronounced by Patricia Hughes.

First waveform and spectrogram, then the sound clip:


(see Sidney Wood's comment on my blog entry of the 4th of April.)

Geoff Lindsey's Listening Quizzzz

Geoff Lindsey's put up a listening quiz here lately that I recommend to you. Please take this quiz before you read my comments.

S2: Sound clip 2 is transliterated by Geoff Lindsey as "of the grandeur of feeling, of grandeur of action, of grandeur of ceremony". Geoff isn't sure about the consonant cluster in <grandeur>. I think it's // - listen to my extract. First, you hear the whole word, then the consonant cluster in isolation.


Geoff also maintains that Pountney says "of THE grandeur of feeling"; I have my doubts. I'd rather say that it should be "eh - of A grandeur of feeling". Listen to my clip. First you hear "eh - of a grandeur of feeling" then "eh - of a":


S4: The transliteration offered by Geoff is this: "’m very lucky here because I’ve worked quite a bit in Zurich." The bone of contention is the tense of 'work' in the sub-clause. Is it present perfect or present tense ("[...] 'cause I work quite a bit in Zurich")? I think it's impossible to decide purely from the sound clip. The last part of this clip is the section "...work_qui..." slowed down by 38%:


S9: The speaker now is Thomas Hampson, an American baritone. The sentence is: "And I don’t mean this as gratuitous praise, I really enjoy working with David." The difficult phrase here is 'gratuitous praise', not only because the adjective is of low frequency, but also because it's said with an American accent, which implies that Mr Hampson's pronunciation illustrates yod dropping and t-flapping. In other words he says [ɡrɘˈtuːət̬əs]. Additionally, the diphthong in 'praise' is slightly monophthongised. Listen for yourselves:


S11: "I don’t think that composers like Thomas, and certainly not Verdi, ever mean to set a play to music as it were." If you're not familiar with the name of the the composer (Ambroise) Thomas, you have no chance whatsoever to guess what Thomas Hampson is talking about. As a consequence I should say that in this particular instance the quiz is rather of the "The Weakest Link" type than an "ear-training" one. The same verdict applies to the word 'répétiteur' in clip no. 12.

We're about half way through the sound clips. Comments on the second half will be put online tomorrow.

picture credits: Christian Ammering and

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

to xxx (= aspirate) or not to xxx (= aspirate)

I'd like to come back to my blog entry of the 3rd of April in which I asked followers of my blog to tell me what they hear at the beginning of Patricia Hughes's pronunciation of the word particular. Three persons (my thanks to them!) responded. All of them (and yours truly, by the way) heard something like this: [phˈthɪkhlə]. Does this result mean there are syllabic voiceless plosives in English, or does it mean that aspiration can represent the peak of a syllable? Be that as it may, it underpins the statement made by Peter Roach in his book of 2009 entitled English Phonetics and Phonology, in which he writes on page 114: "In words like 'potato', 'tomato', canary', 'perhaps', 'today', the vowel in the first syllable may disappear; the aspiration of the initial plosive takes up the whole of the middle portion of the syllable [...]."

I'm aware of the fact that Jack Windsor Lewis is not convinced of this interpretation of the data. In his blog no. 171 of the 4th of April 2009 he describes his "feeling" for a "preference for categorising such items as containing voiceless schwa."

What you see here is the sound trace of Patricia Hughes's pronunciation of particular. My humble 'feeling' is that what follows the closure for /p/ is aspiration
rather than a voiceless schwa.

a quiz on letter-sound correspondences - no. 2

The letter often stands for /ks/. Sometimes it also represents /gz/. I'm sure you can come up with a few examples.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

to xxx or not to xxx - in particular


Could you, please, listen to this word and tell me what exactly it is that you hear before the vowel /ɪ/; concentrate especially on the transitions between sounds in the section spelled <part->. The word is <particular> as pronounced by Patricia Hughes. I will say no more, so that your judgment can be as unbiased as possible.

number of replies so far: 3

sent from my HTC

In an increasing number of cases I get emails with this phrase at the bottom of the text:
"Sent from my HTC".
I don't actually care which technical gadget the email was sent from; rather, I would prefer to have received the message from the sender's brain.

Monday, 2 April 2012

a quiz on letter-sound correspondences - no. 1

The letter <q> is usually followed by <u> and the resultant digraph <qu> is generally pronounced /kw/.
Can you think of the following exceptions:
  1. <qu> represents /k/ (without /w/)?
  2. <q> is not followed by <u> and also represents /k/?


    Sunday, 1 April 2012

    Patricia Hughes - no. 3

    You might want to listen to Patricia Hughes's voice again here before you continue reading this blog entry, which is a continuation of a previous one. In that blog entry I wrote in section 2.1 about some background knowledge helpful in appreciating some of her descriptions, and I promised to write about some of Patricia Hughes's pron features. These musings were reserved for section 2.2. Here they are now.

    2.2 Phonetic section

    1. [ɛ~æ] for the TRAP vowel:

    and (0:8, 0:16.5), passage (1:55.5) [ˈphɛ̞sɪʤ], absolute (2:12) [ˈɛ̞psluːt], actually (2:32.6)
    2. monophthongisation (or a very weak and short 2nd vowel):
    MOUTH -> [aː] in now (0:38.5)

    SQUARE -> [ɛːə] in stairs (1:03.5)
    FACE -> [eɪ] in place (1:06.5), bravely (1:39.8)
    3. weak-forms, contractions and deletions:
    which is still /wtʃstɪl/ called (0:12.5)
    in the /ɪnə/ next morninɡ (0:17.8)
    particular /pˈtɪkʊlə/ morning (0:24), particular corridor (1:47.1)
    what am I ɡoinɡ to /wətəməɡənə/ do (0:43.5)
    to put any /əni/ make-up on (0:48.5)
    put any /pʊtni/ clothes on (0:49)
    absolute [ˈɛ̞psluːt] horror (2:12)
    but I [b̩taɪ] feel (2:35.7)
    actually [ˈɛ̞ktʃlɪ] (2:32.6)
    There are more examples, but the ones here shall suffice.