Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year

I wish you all a lot of health and phonetic inspiration!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

more in the bu'et?

This a continuation of an earlier blog posting on the description of glottal stop usages.

Eugene Howard Babbitt in his 1896 publication on The English pronunciation of the lower classes in New York and vicinity mentions the usage of the glottal stop in the New York accent on p. 8:

Jespersen in his book Fonetik of 1897-1899 makes this comment on p. 299:

 Joseph Wright in his 1905 English Dialect Grammar briefly mentions the fact that in some Scottish dialect areas intervocalic /t/ is replaced by the glottal catch:

In his Modern English grammar, vol. 1 (1909), Otto Jespersen writes this:

Jespersen distinguishes between glottal reinforcement and glottal replacement. Besides /t/, the two other voiceless stops are mentioned as well.

In 1913 William Grant publishes his Pronunciation of English in Scotland. On p. 30 we find this observation:

Not only are glottal reinforcement and replacement to be heard in connection with /p, t, k/ but also with /n, ŋ/.

I wonder if Dobson has anything to say on this topic in his monumental English pronunciation.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

stress minimal pairs - a subgroup

credit: Gary Allman

I think it was John Maidment who started the ball rolling when he put a posting online dealing with stress minimal pairs. I'd like to draw your attention to a subgroup, namely stress minimal pairs the members of which are semantically unrelated.

Consider /ˈtɔːment/ (= severe suffering) and /tɔːˈment/ (= to make someone suffer severely): They share the same
number and types of phonemes and they are semantically closely related. 

/ˈɪnsaɪt/ (= clear understanding) and /ɪnˈsaɪt/ (= encourage someone to do something) also share the same number and types of phonemes, but they are semantically unrelated (well, sort of). It this latter group I'm looking for. Here's a first list (some of the items may have identical stress):

  1. ˈessay (= writing) - esˈsay
  2. ˈforebear - forˈbear (vb)
  3. ˈforegoing - forˈgoing
  4. ˈincense - inˈcense
  5. ˈinsight - inˈcite
  6. ˈintern - inˈtern
  7. ˈtrusty - truˈstee
Any further examples are greatly /əˈpriːsieɪtəd/!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

a li'le bi' of bu'er

The IPA symbol (no. 113) for the glottal plosive is this: [ʔ] This isn't breaking news, is it?
But there have been other suggestions. 
A. M. Bell in his Visible Speech of 1867 describes the glottal "catch" (p. 60) like this:

 The symbol he uses looks like the Greek letter χ or two round brackets (see comments below). In his list of consonant symbols on p. 93 we find a sample word written <buʼer>:

Here Bell indicates the glottal plosive by an apostrophe.

A. J. Ellis in the 4th volume of his Early English pronunciation of 1875 quotes Bell's example on p. 1344, but he uses the semicolon [;] for the glottal stop:

Bell is once again mentioned in Sweet's Handbook of phonetics of 1877 on p. xvi and p. 7. He calls the sound "glottal catch" and uses the symbol [x] for it:

In the 5th edition of his Grundzüge der Phonetik of 1901 Eduard Sievers states on p. 278 that the glottal stop ("Kehlkopfverschluss", which Sievers also calls "Stosston"), for which he uses the symbol [ʾ], replaces an oral closure in some English accents:

Henry Sweet in his Sounds of English of 1908 uses the symbol [!] to indicate a glottal stop:

Daniel Jones in The Pronunciation of English (I have access to the 2nd ed. of 1914) uses the familiar glottal stop symbol (see p. xvi):

This blog posting is greatly indebted to Bjørn Ståhlhane Andrésen’s book Pre-glottalization in English Standard Pronunciation (Oslo, New York, 1968).

Monday, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas

I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Monday, 16 December 2013

ʧœːmən kœriwɜːst ɪn soːhoː

Off-topic posting:

credit: www.herman-ze-german.co.uk/

If you happen to be in London and you're into German worst - sorry: wurst - then you've got to pop into "Herman ze German". The menu can be found here.
They have two shops:
credit: www.herman-ze-german.co.uk/

19 Villiers Street and
33 Old Compton Street

BTW: I don't get any royalty payments for this blog post

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Cruttenden's new edition

credit: Routledge
The new eighth edition is due to come out in February of 2014. The accent described will no longer be RP, but General British (= GB). I'm looking forward to the justification for the change from RP to GB.
Here's the table of contents:
PART I: Speech and language
1. Communication
2. The production of speech
3. The sounds of speech
4. The description and classification of speech sounds
5. Sounds in language
PART II: The sounds of English
6. The historical background
7. Standard and regional accents
8. The English vowels
9. The English consonants
PART III: Words and connected speech
10. Words
11. Connected speech
12. Words in connected speech
13. Teaching the pronunciation of English

There will be a companion website at www.routledge.com/cw/cruttenden.

You can pre-order it now. The recommended retail price is ₤ 29.99.

Sunday, 24 November 2013


credit: http://www.4teachers.de/

While preparing a lecture on sound sequences in English words, I put up a list of 'illegal' initial consonant clusters, e.g. */pt_/. Words such as ptarmigan, pterodactyl or Ptolemy start with /t_/. I can't offer a word with initial /pt_/ or can you?
What about /ps_/? Yes, there a few:
and optionally though rare in

Thursday, 14 November 2013

reverse transcriptions

In my phonetics classes of this semester I asked my young professionals to convert phonemically transcribed words into their spellings, e.g. /ˈbʊlətɪn, kɑːm, tʃɪmpænˈziː, kənˈspɪrəsi/.

One of the 'trickier' ones was /kənˈdem/. A handful of students came up with this suggestion: condom. Greetings from Sigmund Freud?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

approximant, sonorant, resonant or what?

In my blog entry on open approximation - see here - I wrote that academics call sounds which are produced with open stricture either approximants, sonorants, resonants, glides, semi-vowels or even frictionless continuants.

A helluva lot of terms for this sound group, innit? Which one should be preferred?
Here's a brief random survey first.

Ashby, P. (2011), Understanding phonetics
Sounds which are produced with wide approximation are called approximants by the author. She points to the fact that phonologists distinguish sonorants (= vowels, approximants, nasals) from obstruents (= plosives, fricatives, affricates. The English sounds belonging to the group of approximants are [ɹ, w, j, l].

Ashby, M., Maidment, J. (2005), Introducing phonetic science
In their glossary of the book an approximant is described as a "consonant sound made with a constriction between two articulators which is not narrow enough to cause air turbulence" (190). On p. 57 approximants are equated with sonorants - "[...] approximants are sonorants [...]" - meaning that approximants are a subgroup of sonorants. Reference is made to "older terms" (59) for approximants: glides or frictionless continuants. English approximants are [ɹ, w, j, l].

Collins, B., Mees, I. (2013), Practical phonetics and phonology
The authors present a clear-cut, unambiguous division of the English consonant system on p. 52:

credit: Routledge

Cruttenden, A. (2008), Gimson's pronunciation of English
Cruttenden's classification of sounds according to their noise component due to the degree of constriction in the vocal tract leads to two classes of sound - obstruents (comprising plosives, fricatives and affricates) and sonorants (nasals, approximants and vowels).

Knight, R.-A. (2012), Phonetics - a coursebook
When the articulators are positioned in wide approximation we produce the English approximants /w, j, l, r/. Approximants together with nasals and vowels belong to the larger class of sonorants. Plosives, fricatives and affricates are subsumed under the category of obstruents.

Laver, J. (1994), Principles of phonetics
Sounds produced with open approximation during their medial phase are called resonants by Laver. They are divided into central resonants - comprising the approximants /j, w, r/ and the vowels (which Laver calls vocoids) - and the lateral resonant /l/.

Lodge, K. (2009), A critical introduction to phonetics
Sounds produced with the articulators too far apart for friction to occur are called approximants (Lodge also makes mention of the equivalent terms frictionless continuants and semi-vowels). This class of sounds encompasses [ɹ, w, j, l].

Roach, P. (2009), English phonetics and phonology
The sounds /m, n, ŋ, l, r, w, j/ are called continuants (p. 46), and are subdivided into the nasals /m, n, ŋ/ and the approximants /l, r, w, j/.

Windsor Lewis, J. (1969), A guide to English pronunciation
Here is Windsor Lewis's classification in diagrammatic form based on paragraph I, section 8 of the book:

What are we to make of all this?
The majority of phoneticians mentioned above prefer to use the term approximant for sounds produced with wide/open approximation. So I'm going to call [ɹ, w, j, l] approximants. (Kraut locutus, causa finita)

Saturday, 31 August 2013

there aren't many -crats

credit: Thomas Hawk
This semester's reading text in my phonetics course finals contained the word 'aristocrat'. Many of my young professionals trying to speak English placed the stress on either the first or second syllable and correctly used the ash vowel in the ultimate syllable. There were, however, quite a few who pronounced a schwa in the final syllable.
All the words ending in -crat have the ash vowel whether it is
  • aristocrat
  • autocrat
  • bureaucrat
  • democrat
  • Eurocrat
  • plutocrat or
  • technocrat
They are not the only ones ending in <-crat>:
  • cosmocrat
  • gerontocrat
  • ochlocrat
  • theocrat
  • phallocrat
  • ...

Thursday, 29 August 2013

count words

credit: Lupin
No, I don't want you to tot up words! Rather, this post is about words starting with the letter sequence <count->.
  • count
  • countenance
  • counter,-act, -bid,-...
  • countess
  • county
  • ...
They are all pronounced with an initial /kaʊnt/.
But in the case of
  • country and its derivatives
the pronunciation is /kʌntri/. This is so obvious that my regular readers might wonder (/wʌndə/) why I mention this at all. Well, many a German student of mine pronounces the word as /kaʊntri/.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The junction of /n/ and <-ction>

John Maidment's blog post of the 27th of August on the word-final letter sequence <-ction> inspired me to dig a tiny bit deeper. John writes in his blog post:
If the sound preceding the sequence is s, then the pronunciation is tʃn, as in combustion, digestion, question and the like. For other preceding consonants the pronunciation is ʃn, as in deception, invention, protection etc.
What happens when there is another consonant preceding <-ction>? The only consonant that seems to be possible in this position is /ŋ/ (= <n>). Here's an incomplete list of words with this sequence:
  1. conjunction
  2. distinction
  3. (dys/mal)function
  4. extinction
  5. junction
  6. sanction
  7. unction
Two pronunciations are likely to be heard: /ŋkʃ(ə)n/ or /ŋʃ(ə)n/. Occasionally an inserted  /t/ may be heard as, for example, in /dʒʌŋktʃ(ə)n/. Whether this is induced by spelling or something else, I don't know. German speakers of English are particularly 'fond' of the /t/, because in German the <t> is regularly pronounced in words such as 'Konjunktion' (= conjunction) /kɔnjuŋkˈtsjoːn/.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

phonetic scheme - segmental articulation - degree of stricture

Besides place of stricture we must take a closer look at the various degrees of stricture.
First, there is complete closure. Plosives (= stops) have a stricture of complete closure somewhere in the oral cavity; additionally the velum is raised to shut of the nasal passage. During this stage air is compressed behind the place of closure and when the articulators part quickly, a short puff of air is audible. There are sounds other than plosives which also require a complete closure (e.g. taps) about which we will talk later.

The second degree of stricture may be termed close approximation. The articulators are close to each other but there is a narrow opening through which the air has to force its way resulting in turbulent airflow - something we perceive as friction. Fricatives are formed like this.

The third degree of stricture is characterised by open approximation. The vocal tract is wide enough so that there is no audible friction. Some academics call them approximants, others sonorants, still others resonants. Sounds produced with open approximation will be dealt with in a separate blog entry, which will also dwell upon some additional aspects of segmental articulation.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

phonetic scheme - segmental articulation - place of stricture

When we describe the individual sound segments of English, we need to take various features into consideration. One of them is the place of stricture, i.e. the place within the vocal tract from the glottis to the lips or nose where there is some degree of narrowing or approximation between articulators. The degrees of stricture range from complete closure of the vocal tract and narrow stricture with resultant turbulent airflow to an opening of the vocal tract leading to laminar airflow.

A further distinction is appropriate here. Most English sounds have a single place of stricture, e.g. /p, f, j, r/. The name for such a place of stricture corresponds to the articulators involved in forming the stricture. Most of the places are named after the passive articulator. An articulator is called passive if neither its shape nor its position can be changed. The hard palate is such a passive articulator. The soft palate (or velum) is moveable, but I guess there aren't many people who do this voluntarily on a daily basis. Be that as it may, some phoneticians call the velum a passive articulator.

There's an English phoneme with a double place of articulation: /w/. Two strictures are required at the same time to articulate a proper /w/ - a labial and a velar stricture.

Besides single and double place of stricture there are also secondary strictures. The adjective 'secondary' points to the fact that one stricture is of lesser importance than another. Pronounce the word <zoo> and watch or feel what your lips do shortly before and while you pronounce the /z/. Your lips are rounded - [zw]. Try to say the same word with a neutral lip position for /z/. The word is still recognisable as <zoo>, but normally you round your lips. This is the reason why labialisation is of lesser importance than the alveolar stricture of /z/.

Palatalisation is the term for another secondary stricture involving an approximation between the tongue blade and the hard palate. It's indicated in IPA by a superscript j as in the transcriptions [ljiːf] and [ʌnjjən] of the words <leaf> and <onion>.

Velarisation involves a secondary stricture between the tongue back and the velum as in [ɫ].

Laryngealisation (or glottalisation, glottal reinforcement, pre-glottalisation) describes the fact that a glottal closure is formed just before the formation of a syllable-final or word-final voiceless stop. The pronunciation of <look> as [ʔk] is a case in point.

More on segmental articulation in a future blog entry when we talk about degrees of stricture.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

phonetic scheme - phonation

The second feature of my phonetic scheme is called phonation. Phonation describes the laryngeal actions of transporting various types of acoustic energy into the vocal tract. As far as English is concerned we can concentrate on two main types and a minor one.

The two chief types are voiced and voiceless phonation. The adjectives 'voiced' and 'voiceless' seem straightforward, but one has to be careful when applying them to sounds. A sound can be called voiced if the vocal folds vibrate during much or all of its articulation, e.g. vowels such as /æ, iː, ʊ/ and voiceless if the vocal folds are pulled apart (i.e. abducted = they cannot vibrate), e.g. for consonants such as /s, f, θ/. The distinction between /z/ and /s/ is clearly one of voicing: either the vocal folds vibrate (= /z/) or they don't (= /s/).

Is this the only difference between /s/ and /z/? And what about pairs such as /p-b, t-d, k-g, f-v/?

For /s/ the friction is stronger and the duration greater than for /z/ (the same goes for /f-v/). See the sound traces for the two words 'Sue' and 'zoo':

 For /p/ the closure is longer and the aspiration is usually stronger and longer than for /b/ (the same applies to /t-d, k-g/). And, last but not least, the muscular energy or tension needed to produce /p/ or /s/ seems to be greater than for /b/ or /z/. Occasionally there is no vocal fold vibration at all when you articulate /b/ or /z/, e.g. in words like 'lab' or 'lose'.
credit: jamingray

This is the reason why some phoneticians prefer the terms fortis (for /p, s/ etc.) and lenis (for /b, z/ etc.). So, when you try to make a distinction between word pairs such as 'feet-feed, lap-lab, loose-lose, tale-dale, peas-bees' and many others, don't concentrate too much on the vibrations of the vocal folds.(I can't dwell here on what you should focus on instead.)

The minor type of phonation is whisper phonation. /kə̣ṇ jʊ̣ hɪ̣ə̣ ṃị/.The dot is used as a diacritic to indicate whisper phonation.

Other types of phonation - breath phonation, creaky voice or falsetto - need not be discussed here.

The next blog entry in this series will deal with segmental articulation.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


There are a few English words starting with the letter sequence <kn>:
  • knack
  • knag
  • knap
  • knar
  • knead
  • knee
  • kneel
  • knife
  • knight
  • knicker
  • knickerbocker
  • knob
  • knot
  •  ...
The <k> is a silent letter in all these words. <kn> had been pronounced /kn/ in Old, Middle and Early Modern English times before it was reduced to /n/ (via /x/ and /h/) in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The only word I'm familiar with which has initial /kn/ is the word 'knesset'. The earliest quotation attested in the OED dates back to 1949. So the word seems to have entered the English language long after the change from /kn/ to /n/ had taken place.
Correction: In the meantime another word with initial /kn/ popped up in my mind: 'Knossos'.
Being a modern loanword, however, does not prevent it from being adapted to the usual sound restrictions:

credit: www.unilever.co.uk

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

phonetic scheme - initiation

This is the first of a series of blog entries dealing with what I call a 'phonetic scheme'. It is used to describe phonetic features of spoken English. The scheme is no invention of mine - I do not intend to reinvent the 'phonetic wheel' - but depends heavily on relevant books and articles - too many to be mentioned here. It is intended for teaching purposes and many details of this scheme will be familiar to you.
Here we go then!

Initiation = airstream mechanisms

Inhale, hold you breath, do not exhale and try to say: "Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can". Nothing happens. You can't pronounce a single regular speech sound as long as you hold your breath.
Now, inhale again and while you exhale say the two lines of the nursery rhyme again. Well? No problem at all under normal health conditions.
Next, exhale and then inhale and while you inhale try to say the two lines. Did you manage to do it? If not the whole two lines, you were probably able to pronounce at least a fraction of them. What did it feel like? Awkward, dinnit? Our articulatory organs are obviously not used to working properly while we breathe in.

This tiny self-experiment tried to demonstrate that air has to flow either into or (preferably) out of our body if and when we speak. Sound production is initiated by airflow, and this is the reason why this section is called initiation. If we exhale while we speak the airstream is termed egressive (derived from the Latin verb ēgredī, ēgredior, ēgrediēbar, ēgressus sum meaning ' to go out, leave, depart, exit'); otherwise it's an ingressive airstream (from Latin ingredī).

The normal way to recite the nursery rhyme is by exhaling the air out of the lungs - the airstream is pulmonic egressive (the Latin noun for lung is pulmō and the corresponding adjective is pulmōnārius 'of the lung'). If you try to say the rhyme while inhaling air it would be a pulmonic ingressive airstream. You may have heard someone say 'yuh' while inhaling air; another example is French 'oui'  said with a pulmonic ingressive airstream.

But the lungs are not the only starting (or end) point of the airstream. Take, for example, the expression "Tsk Tsk!" (or "Tut Tut!"), which is (are) the usual transliteration(s) of the tutting sound made to express disapproval. Try to make this sound and feel the airflow. It's ingressive, i.e. the air is sucked inwards but does not flow into the lungs (you can inhale and exhale while you make the sound). For the air to flow into the oral cavity, the back of the tongue must be sealed against the velum. This is the reason why this kind of airstream mechanism is called velaric.Other velaric ingressive sounds (aka clicks) are the 'kiss sound' (which is a bilabial click), the sound we make when we imitate the clip-clop of hooves (a postalveolar click) or the sound (a lateral click) to make horses speed up.

So far we've mentioned pulmonic egressive and ingressive and velaric ingressive airstream mechanisms. There's another one worth mentioning as a more or less infrequent variant of English sound production: the glottalic egressive airstream. Its use seems to be restricted to the English plosives /k, t, p/. Sound samples can be found here. Sounds articulated with a glottalic egressive airstream are called ejectives.

Airstream mechanisms other than the ones mentioned here are not relevant for English.

The next blog entry in this series will deal with phonation.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

pun for fun

I must confess I love puns. Here's one:

First courtier: "The Queen seems very grumpy this afternoon."
Second courtier: "Don't worry, she'll be fine when the strolling players arrive."
First Courtier: "Oh, so it's just pre-minstrel tension."

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

OED chief editor

credit: OED - Oxford University Press
OED announces the retirement of its chief editor John Simpson in October 2013. He's held this position since 1993. He had joined the OED staff in 1976. OED Online was launched under him in 2000. Michael Proffitt is to succeed him.

Monday, 22 July 2013

From plural to singular

credit: Colin_K
Many English nouns can be pluralised by adding <s>, e.g. cat+s, dog+s. Did you know there's an English word which changes from plural to singular by adding <s>? 

Here's my solution:

princes + s = princess

Saturday, 20 July 2013

/æn/ as a weakform

In his blog no. 403 Jack Windsor Lewis rightly points to the fact that one of the various weakforms of the conjunction 'and' is /æn/ - a variant not mentioned in any of the 'Big Three'. I stumbled across a sound sample yesterday which I'd like to put online as a kind of corroboration. There's a series broadcast by BBC IV called 'Some Vicars with Jokes" in which vicars, priests etc. around the UK crack their favourite jokes. In one of these broadcasts a vicar tells a joke about a minister delivering his final prayer. In this account there are two sentences beginning with 'and' a pause before them:
  1. And he said with his arms stretched to heaven ... /æn i sed/
  2. And he was stopped in his tracks ... /æn i wəs stɒpt/
Here are the sound tracks:
credit: BBC IV

My thanks go to BBC IV and Rev. Andy Kelso.

Friday, 19 July 2013

an English Kapellmeister

On the 18th of July Katie Derham presented a BBC Proms concert of Mahler's Fifth conducted by Jonathan Nott. In her introduction she talked about the musical career of Maestro Nott, who is musical director of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Nott built his career in Germany by joining "the traditional German career ladder known as the Kapellmeister system." All the 'Big Three' pronunciation dictionaries correctly place the stress on the second syllable, but Ms Derham deigned to place it on the first.

credit: BBC IV

Thursday, 18 July 2013

a certain age for marriage

Another of my assessment sentences contains the word <marriage>. I had always thought the word is so frequent that even German speakers of English having been taught the lingo in a German secondary school for 7 - 9 years should know how to pronounce it. Alas ...

Let's look at <-iage> and <-age> (with any preceding letter but <i>).

<-iage> has three pronunciations:
  1. /ɪdʒ/ as in marriage, carriage;
  2. /iɪdʒ/ as in foliage, verbiage;
  3. /iːɑːʒ/ as in triage (with /traɪɑːʒ, traɪɪdʒ, triːɪdʒ/ as variants.
<-age> also has three pronunciations:
  1. /ɪdʒ/ as in appendage, average, cleavage, cottage;
  2. /eɪdʒ/ as in  age, cage, page, rage, stage, wage;
  3. /ɑːʒ/ as in camouflage, collage, espionage, curettage.

Which brings me to an important hint:
There's an excellent website with pronunciation tips which has recently been relaunched by John Maidment.

There's a lot more to be found there on the relations between spelling and pronunciation in English.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Phonetic squeeze zones

I've treated myself to this book:
credit: cover design by Jane Bromham

The author of this book comprising more than 320 pages is Richard Cauldwell. The book intends to focus on the decoding of natural, spontaneous, informal and relaxed English speech and promises to give tips and hints on how to teach the perception of it. The book is divided into four parts comprising 30 chapters.

For me part 4 will be the most interesting one entitled "Teaching listening" with these chapters:
ch. 16: Issues in teaching listening
ch. 17: Goals and mindset
ch. 18: Vocal gymnastics in the classroom
ch. 19: Rebalancing listening comprehension
ch. 20: Hi-tech solutions and activities

More on this in a later blog entry.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

bargains galore!

It's pronunciation assessment time in my phonetics classes. My young professionals are supposed to read a text they had time to prepare for about a week and a few sentences they have about 3-5 minutes to familiarise themselves with before they enter the phonetic torture chamber.

One of these sentences contains the word 'bargain'. Many a student pronounces the word to rhyme with 'gain'. There aren't many English words ending in the letter sequence '-gain': again, against, bargain, gain, regain.

Again: both prons are used - /əɡen/ and /əɡeɪn/ - sometimes by one and the same speaker. LPD3 tells us that 80% of the GB informants preferred /əɡen/.

credit: LPD3 - headword again

Against: again both variants are possible.
Gain, regain: they have /eɪ/ only.
Bargain: for this word the GB prons are /bɑːɡɪn, bɑːɡən, bɑːɡn/
So, boys and girls, watch out!

Update: A few candidates pronounced 'bargain' as /bɑːdʒɪn/. Tsk - tsk - tsk

Friday, 12 July 2013

Obama's interest

While listening to a speech given by Barack Obama during the G8 summit meeting in 2012, I stumbled across his weakform pronunciation of the word 'interest' as /ˈɪntrs̩t/1. Intr'stingly, none of the 'Big Three'
lists this as a variant pronunciation.
Listen to two snippets and decide for yourselves if you can spot a schwa:



photo credit: SpreePiX
1Sorry for the misaligned syllabicity diacritic.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

binomials with weakform words: AND

There are, as we all know, some 40 odd English words which belong to a closed set, i.e. it is fairly unlikely that the set will be enlarged in the foreseeable future. I'm talking about determiners, primary and modal auxiliaries, conjunctions etc. These words (and many words which belong to the open set) have at least two pronunciations - a strongform and a weakform. In today's blog I want to concentrate on binomials which contain such a weakform word.
credit: www.liberalrev.com

Binomials (binomial pairs, Siamese twins or freezes are frequent alternative terms) are groupings of (often two or three) words the sequence of which may or may not be reversible (day and night vs. night and day as opposed to bag and baggage vs. *baggage and bag).

Here are a few sentences containing binomials with 'and'. I've transcribed them assuming a relaxed manner of pronunciation.

In its weakform usage, avoid pronouncing the /d/ in 'and'; so either use /ən/ or /n/ or assimilate the nasal to the neighbouring sound. The weakform /n/ is preferably used after fricatives or alveolar plosives (see J. Windsor Lewis1 (1972:7). LPD 3 contains an important comment on ‘and’: “The presence or absence of d in the weak form is not sensitive to phonetic context: the choice depends upon the fact that the weak form ənd is slightly more formal than ən.” The transcription(s) I indicated at the end of each sentence do not represent the only way to pronounce the respective set phrase and may not even be the most frequent one(s). But give them a try to make your enunciation sound less formal!

1.    I still see her every now and then. /naʊ ən ðen/
2.    I've been working on quite a few things here and there. [hɪr ən ðɛː]
3.    Truth must be repeated aɡain and aɡain. /əɡen ən əɡen/
4.    Medical science has proven time and again that great progress can occur. /taɪm ən əɡen/
5.    He was up and about again two days after the operation. /ʌp ən əbaʊt//ʌp m əbaʊt/
6.    He’s been walking up and down for 45 minutes. /ʌp ən daʊn//ʌp m daʊn/
7.    We are first and foremost a team of surgeons. /fɜːst n fɔːməʊst/
8.    The war may well just go on and on. /ɒn ən ɒn/
9.    I've had a terrible day - now I just want a little peace and quiet. /piːs n kwaɪət//piːs ŋ kwaɪət/
10.    He won it fair and square and picked up his seventh world title. [fɛr ən skwɛː]
11.    WashAndGo is an application that keeps your hard drive spick and span. /spɪk ən spæn//spɪk ŋ spæn/
12.    Let me get all my bits and pieces together. /bɪts n piːsəz/
13.    Top and tail the beans and halve them. /tɒp ən teɪl//tɒp m teɪl/
14.    He flies back and forth weekly between London and Paris. /bæk ən fɔːθ//bæk ŋ fɔːθ/
15.    I looked high and low for my dog but couldn’t find her. /haɪ ən ləʊ/
16.    It’s an award for the best up-and-coming actress. /ʌp ən kʌmɪŋ//ʌp m kʌmɪŋ/
17.    I like the free-and easy atmosphere of the pub. /friː ən iːzi/
18.    We talked about this and that. /ðɪs n ðæt/
19.    They’ve been dating off and on for ten years. /ɒf n ɒn/
20.    She threw her drunken husband out of the house, bag and baggage. /bæɡ ən bæɡɪʤ//bæɡ ŋ bæɡɪʤ/
21.    I think that by and large I have solved the problem. /baɪ ən lɑːʤ/
22.    Her confidence increased by leaps and bounds. /liːps n baʊndz/
23.    You’ll risk life and limb if you decide to go rock-climbing. /laɪf n lɪm/
24.    Education is not a pick and mix concept. /pɪk ən mɪks//pɪk ŋ mɪks/
25.    I want you to write a short essay on the pros and cons of capital punishment. /prəʊz n kɒnz/
26.    Some people just grin and bear it, while others smile and change it. [ɡrɪn ən bɛːr ɪt]

1 Windsor Lewis, J. (1972), A concise pronouncing dictionary of British and American English, (Oxford)