Tuesday, 25 April 2017

From the listening post

Paul Carley, our phonetic listening post, has spotted an interesting weakform. On BBC Radio 4 of April 24 one of the presenters of the news and current affairs programme Today said: "And the time now is half past six". The preposition 'past' is pronounced with a schwa (sheva). Listen:
video
The speaker is Nick Robinson, a member of the team of regular Today presenters. I guess the weakform tends to be used only in such fairly tight-knit phrases as "x past y".
Thanks, Paul!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

An historic moment

The indefinite article of English is either <a> or <an> depending on whether the following word starts with a consonant or a vowel sound - so far so regular. But what do we make of book titles such as these?
How do you pronounce the phrase "an historical" or "an historic"? Should it be /ən ɪstɒrɪk(əl)/ or /ə hɪstɒrɪk(əl)/? Could one also say /ən hɪstɒrɪk(əl)/?
Well, Alex Rotatori has spotted an interesting spoken example of the latter version (though the indefinite article is used here in its strongform /æn/); it's taken from Theresa May's speech in the House of Commons announcing the delivery of the Brexit letter to His Excellency Mr Donald Tusk, president of the EU.
video


Is it something which occurs occasionally, even regularly, is it idiosyncratic or just a slip of the tongue/brain?

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Seven Sisters

"Seven Sisters Station" is an underground and overground station in an area of North London called  "Seven Sisters". This strange name seems to go back to seven elm trees that had been planted there in the 17th c.,
before they were finally replaced by a ring of hornbeam trees at the end of the 20th c., though not exactly at the same place.
The Independent published this photo of seven nuns making for an amusing appearance while they were waiting at Seven Sisters station.

credit: The Independent

PS: Should you be a lady heading for Cockfosters, a London suburb, and are unsure whether you are on the correct line, never ask the gentleman next to you: "Is this Cockfosters?" You might get an unexpected answer.
PPS: Others spring to mind: Bakerloo, Barking, Elephant and Castle, ... 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

An old dictionary

It was by mere chance that I stumbled across an eighteenth-century dictionary indicating stress though not pronunciation:
Thomas Dyche (17403), A new general English dictionary, (London). It's to be found at www.archive.org. Here's the title page of the 3rd edition:

Thomas Dyche


Next a sample page, which shows, among other words, the stress pattern for forthcoming.
 The final 20 or so pages contain a list of names of persons and places with their stress patterns. This list ranges from Aaron and Abaddon over Monserrat and Montanus to Zygaces and Zygantes.

We don't know much about Dyche; there is, however,  an interesting article on Dyche (and his co-author Pardon) written by D.T. Starnes and G.E. Noyes: "Thomas Dyche and William Pardon's A New English Dictionary (1735)" to be found in R.R.K. Hartmann, ed. (2003), Lexicography, vol. 2, pp. 15-28 (London, New York).

Sunday, 8 January 2017

weakforms: BUT

BUT can function as a
- conjunction: "He rushed to the post office, but it was already closed",
- preposition: "I can come any day but Wednesday",
- adverb: "We can but try and do our best" or
- noun: "I don't want to hear any buts from you".
BUT has one or more weakform pronunciations. What you find in the three pron dictionaries is this:

EPD18:
strong form:  bʌt
weak form:  bət
Note: Weak-form word. The strong form /bʌt/ is used contrastively (e.g. ifs and buts) and in sentence-final position (e.g. 'It's anything but'). The weak form is /bət/ (e.g. 'It's good but expensive' /ɪtsˌɡʊd.bət.ɪkˈspent.sɪv/).

LPD3:
but strong form bʌt, weak form bət

ODP:
but strong form bʌt, weak form bət

Jack Windsor Lewis's PhonetiBlog has an entry (no. 441), in which he lists additional weakform variants:
The conjunction, adverb and preposition etc but has only a single ordinary weakform /bət/. However, before a word beginning with a vowel, a form of but reduced to the consonantal cluster /pt-/ may sometimes occur in relaxt style where the original initial /b/ is devoiced to a /p/ which is merely an unreleased bilabial closure. Meanwhile the release of the /t/ is without aspiration [...].
Here are three excerpts from a TV film (credit: BBC4) on the famous lexicographer Samuel Johnson.

video
1. "/bət/ you can't, as it were, make decisions about which words should or should not be used." (speaker: Prof John Mullan, UCL)
video
2. "/bət/ in the course of his reading he found that - you know - some words had 20 or 30 or a hundred different applications [...]." (speaker: Henry Hitchings, author)
video

 3. "/bə i dʌz hæv/ the word retromingency, which means pissing backwards." In this excerpt I don't hear a /t/ at the end of "but".

Friday, 6 January 2017

Mr Right and Mrs Always Right

<Mrs> is a "title of courtesy prefixed to the surname of a married woman" as the OED (lemma: Mrs) tells us. The weakform pronunciation is ... ?
Well, the LPD indicates none nor do the EPD or the ODP. Jack Windsor Lewis in blog 528 lists these weakform variants: /mɪsz̩, mɪss̩/.
What about the strongform (variants)? Here's a quick overview:

GB pron
EPD18 /ˈmɪs.ɪz/
video

LDOCE /ˈmɪsɪz/
video

LPD3 /ˈmɪsɪz/
video

OALD8 /ˈmɪsɪz/
video

Oxf. Dict's online /ˈmɪsɪz/
video

OED3 /ˈmɪsᵻz/1
video


(The recording of "Mrs" on the EPD CD is distorted.)




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 1 The symbol /ᵻ/ represents free variation between /ɪ/ and /ə/.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

MMXVII = Annus Serenus?



A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2017 to All My Followers!