Wednesday, 29 October 2014


I wrote a blog post on smoothing here and here. I'd like to add another post on this topic. The BBC presenter Shari Vahl on the 28th of this month in the BBC Radio 4 programme You & Yours said:

Shari Vahl (credit: RadioTimes)
In 2015 the Care Act will merge health and social care in the biggest reform of its kind in sixty years.
Paul Carley believes he can hear a difference between the two versions of the word care. He writes (on Facebook):
The first 'care' has the [ɛə] variant (though not by any means the most extensive off-glide), the second has the [ɛː] variant.
I listend to the two words myself several times: I can convince myself to hear an offglide in the first version, but then after a while I am certain it's a monophthongal [ɛː] just like in the second version. This is not unusual if and when the differences (should they exist) are so minute and if it's a sound track most likely compressed in quality for the purposes of the internet.

Listen for yourselves (you're going to hear Care1 and care2 in a row, first at normal speed and then slowed down by 30 per cent):


Even slowing down the playback speed doesn't convince me thoroughly.
Next I looked at the spectrograms:
care1 (= Care Act)

Not much of a difference, is there?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

When's Chewsday in LPD and EPD?

credit: burnspetfood

I checked various editions of both EPD and LDP to see when the pronunciation of Tuesday as /ʧuːzdeɪ, -dɪ/ was first 'licensed' by the respective (and respectable) author(s).

LPD1 (1990) has it as a second entry indicating it's a "variant derived by rule" (p. xxviii).
EPD14 (1977) does not show it as a variant but EPD15 of 1997 does1.

Go on chewing then!

1 Thanks to Jack Windsor Lewis for checking!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Jon Arvid Afzelius, Engelsk Uttalsordbok, (1909)


This is to inform the phonetic community that Jon Arvid Afzelius's dictionary "A concise pronouncing dictionary of English" ("Engelsk Uttalsordbok" is the Swedish title) is now available online as a pdf version. Go to this site and click "Klicka här för att ladda ner filen".

order, please!

Paul Carley spotted yet another interesting phonetic feature. It illustrates nicely that phonetic processes have to operate in a certain order to lead to a particular result.

Kamal Ahmed (credit: BBC)
First, listen to how the BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed pronounces the word 'strength' in this sentence (repetitions of words and hesitation sounds are omitted):
[...] we are less worried about the strength of European banks than we were earlier.
Does he say /streŋkθ/? - No, he doesn't
It's rather /strentθ/. The /t/ is particularly difficult to hear, so I slowed it down by 30 per cent for the last two snippets.

Now which processes are needed in which order to make the change from /streŋkθ/ to /strentθ/ plausible?
1. Delete the /k/.
2. By regressive assimilation the /ŋ/ becomes /n/ due to /θ/.
3. An epenthetic /t/, which is dental, is inserted surrounded by dental /n/ and /θ/.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

How to pronounce 'population'

LPD3 offers this pronunciation for the GB version of population:

EPD18 has this entry:

Both dictionaries have a yod as onset of the second syllable. Now listen to Bishop Richard Harries and General Sir Nicholas P Carter using this word without yod.
Bishop Harries says this
[...] up to 60% of the population

and this:
[...] 15% of the population at the time

General Carter, head of the British Army, says:
[...] but I'm absolutely confident that the majority of the population in central Helmand will be secured by Afghan forces.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Thought for the Day (pt.1) as a phonetic treasure trove ..

... well, at least sometimes.

Part 1

Here is the text of the Thought for the Day broadcast on the 10th of October, 2014 by BBC Radio 4.
The plague that swept through Europe in the middle of the 14th century may have killed some 200 million people, up to 60% of the population. Even as late as the 17th century the great plague in London was responsible for 100,000 deaths, 15% of the population at the time. Indeed for most of human history it was assumed that plague, along with pestilence, war and famine was just one of the things we were stuck with. Now, however, we take it for granted that epidemics, like the Ebola outbreak, which has so far killed nearly 4000 people, can and should be controlled. With the advent of scientific medicine in the 20th century we work on the assumption that we can eventually discover the cause of a particular disease and find a cure for it, and that with proper public health measures we can in the meantime control its spread. There could be no bigger contrast between the attitude of almost every previous age and our own. We believe the responsibility is ours. The ball’s in our court. It’s not predetermined, it’s not fated. It’s down to us. We can do something about it.

There was a time when this line of thought seemed a threat to a religious view of life - at least to some people. They believed that the more it was our responsibility, the less it was God’s and vice versa, as though we were two actors competing for the same stage. But that is not how it is. The Bible is clear from the start that we human beings have been given real responsibility. Indeed that is what it means to be created. It is to be given a life of our own, to make something of, and a world to help shape. What’s so different about our time with its scientific medicine and the ability to take safeguarding measures on an international scale is our larger capacity, our greater responsibility.

And some reported words of Jesus seem particularly salutary:
Where someone has been given much, he said, much will be expected of him; and the more he has entrusted to him the more will be demanded of him.

From a Christian point of view God not only holds the world in existence, he works in and through human beings at all levels, especially those who seek to respond to human need. And I think especially of that woman doctor in Nigeria, Ameyo Adadevoh, and her small staff team at an ordinary family clinic whose quick thinking managed to stop Ebola spreading from a patient they had diagnosed, so far limiting deaths in Nigeria to only 7. Four of the dead are health workers, sadly including Dr Adadevoh herself. Our choices, at both a political and personal level, literally make all the difference.
Bishop Richard Harries (credit:
The speaker is Bishop Richard Harries.
He was born in 1936, educated at Wellington College, Berks. He went to Sandhurst and after having been transferred to the reserve of officers he read theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge. Further details on his military and church career can be found in the internet.

The speech I'm going to write about seems to have been scripted.

I intend to write several blog posts on this speech because it illustrates several interesting features of (written-to-be-)spoken English. Some - though not all - of these features are recommendable for EFL learners to incorporate into their pronunciation habits.

For this first blog post I've highlighted the word "plague", which appears three times in the text. First, you hear each variant embedded in a short phrase and then the word in isolation.


It's interesting to note the variation in the articulation of the consonant /l/ and the qualities of the following diphthong. Moreover, the Bishop does not audibly release the word-final /g/.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

unetymological r-liaison / intrusive r / epenthetic r

In my blog post of the 1st of October this year I drew your attention to two of the many finds made by Paul Carley. They were about epenthetic r or intrusive r or unetymological r-liaison. There's a nice, succinct description of this phenomenon in the 3rd ed. of Practical Phonetics and Phonology by Collins and Mees on p. 124.
As the authors rightly state, the /r/ pops up mostly after word-final /ɑː ɔː ə/ and after diphthongs ending in schwa. The majority of cases involves the vowels /ɔː, ə/, less often is the /r/ heard after words ending in /ɑː/.
Our reliable phonetic phenomena spotter and rapporteur Paul has recently come up with two examples of unetymological r-liaison after a PALM vowel (i.e. /ɑː/):

1. "[...]to do the cha cha ch /r/ isn't it."


2."It's a 7-foot grand piano made by Yamaha/r/ * uhm It's'n amazing piano."


This second snippet seems to be less straightforward because I hear the /r/ and next a /z/ followed by a very brief hesitation sound and then, finally, the "it's'n" is uttered.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

weakform of something

In LPD3 the pron of something as /sʌmɪŋ/ is described as casual; EPD18 doesn't indicate any weakform for it. Paul Carley with his truffel-spotting ears discovered a recent sample of this weakform. It was used by the philosopher etc. Raymond C. Tallis

in a BBC Radio 4 speech titled "The Waiting".
Here's the phrase: "Indeed, a story could be described as something that is withheld."


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

progressive/perseverative assimilation

Here are two snippets of a BBC Radio 4 interview with a 93-year-old gentleman by the name of Bob Lowe1. The general topic is loneliness.
credit: BBC
Listen closely to how Mr Lowe pronounces the phrases " [...] and I know all those [...]" and "[...] and in that way [...]". Can you spot the progressive assimilations?



Answers to my questions will be added at a later time although I don't think you need them or do you?

And there's another sample of perseverative assimilation to be heard in the sentence "Nearly all those stories are given to us by other journalists" uttered by Ian Hislop1 in a speech on the malpractice of journalists - the so-called Leveson inquiry.


1My thanks to Paul Carley for digging up these samples.