Sunday, 7 December 2014

GA and GB prons in monolingual EFL dictionaries

Recently a thought crossed my mind (yes, this happens occasionally): When did general monolingual dictionaries intended for learners of English as an additional language include transcriptions of both main reference accents - General British (aka RP) AND General American? I walked to our departmental library shelves to find an answer.
One of the widely used dictionaries is The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English of which you see the dust jacket of the 2nd edition.

Neither the first nor second edition contain American English pronunciations. The first edition indicating them is the third of 1974. In the acknowledgment section written by the editor A S Hornby
A S Hornby (credit: OUP)
we read that it was Jack Windsor Lewis,
Jack Windsor Lewis
at that time lecturer at the University of Leeds, who provided the transcriptions. That American English pronunciations were included is revealed in the section on "Pronunciation and stress" (pp. xii-xv). The letter r, which is almost always sounded in GA as it is a hyperrhotic accent, is not indicated in the transcriptions if it would be the only difference between GB and GA. Dictionary users who intend to speak GA are expected to add the /r/; in other words, when they look up the word form, they will find /fɔm/ only and are expected to adopt the pronunciation /fɔrm/ (I'm using the symbols proposed in the 3rd edition). Though it saves printing space it's a bit infelicitous in a dictionary intended for learners.
Matters become even less felicitous with words such as curry and furry. For curry we find /kʌrɪ US: kɜɪ/ - the reader must transform this to /kɜrɪ/ - , but in the case of furry the learner is told to pronounce it /fɜrɪ/.Don't get me wrong! There's logic in this. All I'm saying is that it is less comfy than what we are used to these days. Maybe Jack can tell us more about the editorial motives behind this policy.

Any changes in the fourth edition? More on this topic in a future post.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Monday, 24 November 2014

Ms Eleanor Maier (was 'uneasy listening') #4

Listen to the word smoking in this extract from Ms Maier's talk about the new verb to vape. She says:
[...] adopted both to circumvent smoking bans [...]

 In a narrow transcription the diphthong would look something like this: [ɛ̝ʉ]

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Ms Eleanor Maier (was 'uneasy listening') #3

"Throughout 2014 electronic devices which have enabled people to inhale smokeless nicotine vapour have become increasingly widespread [...]"

Ms Maier uses the less frequent pronunciation /'iːlektrɒnɪk/ for electronic.


In the case of nicotine the schwa is voiceless and reduced to a very faint hissing sound between the aspirations of /k/ and /t/ (see rectangle):


The phrase have become is actually [hæv̥kʌm]:


Friday, 21 November 2014

Uneasy listening #2

The very first word of Ms Maier's talk is this:


It sounds like [θræʊt], doesn't it? What I did next was to start with the first 30 ms of the word and then add 30 ms each time till the end of the word (30, 60, 90, ... 300, 330, 360 ms). Listen to this:


Here's the first word followed by the next one. Can you decode what she wants to say?


The problem of understanding this phrase (and many others in her speech) lies in the fact that she compresses a disyllabic word to a monosyllable. What may make things even more complicated is the fact that this compression happens at the very beginning of her speech when the listener's ears and brain have not become attuned to her dropping-one's-syllables style.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Uneasy listening

No, I'm not referring to the Finnish band HIM. It's rather about this lady's style of enunciation:


Ms Eleanor Maier - a senior editor of the OED and no doubt a lover of language - addresses a world-wide audience including many non-native speakers of British English. Has it never occurred to her or to the other OUP staff responsible for this video clip that this speech is difficult to understand, distracts listeners from the contents because they are forced to concentrate on guessing where all the syllables have gone that she dropped? You may judge me as being too harsh in my verdict, but I think she should take a few elocution lessons before she produces another video clip addressed to a world-wide audience.

I'm going to look into her enunciation in a later post.

I forgot to mention that it was Alex Rotatori who drew my attention to this clip. Sorry for my negligence!

Monday, 17 November 2014

listening comprehension - top down or bottom up - #2

Sidney Wood - one of my blog followers - commented on my previous post on listening comprehension by saying that the extract sounds like [ɘˈləðə]. What follows is the section (highlighted in the waveform in dark grey) which for my ears corresponds to [ɘˈləðə]:


What you see below is the waveform of the snippet in my previous post:

The latter includes the verb 'have'.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

ejectives again

On the 26th of December 2011 I wrote a blog post on ejectives in English. I've come across another sample recently. BBC Radio 4 announced an analysis of the impact of the Scottish referendum to be broadcast on the 18th of November 2014. In this announcement one could hear the voice of a lady (probably Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws) using the verb 'think' twice. The first version is the one with the ejective k-sound.


Saturday, 15 November 2014

listening comprehension - top down or bottom up - #1

Try to understand this snippet (text is repeated once):


Here is the whole sentence: