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 ears spotted a recent sample of this weakform. It was used by the philosopher etc. Raymond C. Tallis

credit: www.3quarksdaily.com
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?

I've added a longer snippet of Bob Lowe's enunciation:

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

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


I'm sorry if I'm boring you with my repeated analysis of Canon Tilby's radio broadcast. Today I'd like to look at her use of r-liaison (aka linking r). (I won't go into unetymological r-liaison/intrusive r.) Canon Tilby is a speaker of GB - an accent of low rhoticity.

We find three possibilities in her address. A word ends in the letter <r> and
  1. the following word begins with a glottal stop plus vowel; no /r/ is pronounced;
  2. the following word begins with a vowel; no /r/ is pronounced though the two words are linked;
  3. the following word begins with a vowel; the /r/ is sounded.
ad 1) "[...] a strong sense of their ʔown desirability [...]."


ad 2) "The undercover journalist was working fo(r) a Sunday paper [...]."


ad 3) "[...] a psychic space where desire and fear play themselves out [...]."


In total there are 12 phrases in her address in which r-liaison would be possible. Out of these eight phrases contain a word-initial glottal stop (= case 1). Case 2 appears only once and proper r-linking (case 3) is to be heard three times. The large number of glottal stops, which prevent r-liaison, is probably due to the fairly formal speech style unless it's a general habit of hers.

Monday, 6 October 2014

an infelicitous implosion

There are roughly 200 English words ending in the letter sequence <-sion> - from abrasion to vision. This ending is pronounced either /-ʒ(ə)n/ or /-ʃ(ə)n/. Is there a rule behind this? Look at this list:

abrasion - accession
adhesion - aggression
collision - aversion
conclusion - convulsion
decision - declension
elusion - emulsion
implosion - impression
infusion - intension
lesion - mission

The first word of a pair always has /-ʒ(ə)n/, the second always ends in /-ʃ(ə)n/. The rule is quite simple (at least theoretically): If the letter preceding the <-sion> represents a vowel, it's always ezh (or yoghurt if you prefer the latter term), a consonant letter (silent or not) leads to /-ʃ(ə)n/. (See also Jack Windsor Lewis's website, section 4.5).

Listen to Canon Tilby's way she pronounces the word implosion in this sentence:
"If when an invitation comes, you find yourself scheming your way to turning your fantasy into reality you run the risk of implosion."
 None of the big three pron dictionaries records a variant with esh.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

a classic case of degemination?

credit: blogjam.name
Degemination, as John Maidment describes it in his Speech Internet Dictionary (= SID), is the

"[...] change from a geminate (long) sound to the equivalent single (short) sound. [...] An example is the pronunciation ˈpraɪ ˈmɪnɪstə instead of ˈpraɪm ˈmɪnɪstə."
Consequently, a geminate is a
"sequence of two identical sounds."
Canon Tilby in her Thought for the Day of the 30th of September pronounces the following sentence:
credit: Christ Church, Oxford
"In Christian spirituality this is a classic case of failure to resist one of the universal temptations."
I highlighted the phrase in which a word-final /k/ and a word-initial one abut. Pronounced as a geminate plosive the hold stage would be longer than that of a singleton. Listen to the whole sentence and then to the phrase "classic case" in isolation. After this decide if it's an instance of degemination:


Is it an easy decision to make? BTW, the hold stage is ~94ms long. For comparison I've cut out other phrases containing a word-final /k/ pronounced by her (hold stage durations in parentheses):
1. public life (~48ms)


2. comic story (~95ms)


3. public interest (~38ms)


4. psychic space (~66ms)


5. risk of (~56ms)


The longest hold stage is that of the /k/ in comic stage. This and the auditory impression rather indicate degemination. What's your opinion?

Saturday, 4 October 2014

sound sequences - 1

I'd like to come back to the 'Thought for the Day" broadcast of the 30th of October. The speaker was the Diocesan Canon Angela Tilby (see also here). At one point she said:
He’s not, of course, the only one who’s lived to regret a moment of wild indiscretion.
Listen to the sentence and concetrate on the consonants at the word boundary between "course" and "the".


Does she say /kɔːs ði/ or is it /kɔːs si/?. I think it's the latter rather than the former.


Canon Tilby used the word 'only' three times in her address. Here are the three instances:
1. He’s not, of course, the only one who’s lived to regret a moment of wild indiscretion.


2. It is only when the opportunity appears to realise those unlived fantasies that we have to make a choice of whether to pursue them or resist.1


3. Not only does your private world collapse in a highly embarrassing way but your outer world is ruined too.


It's the weakform /əʊni/

1 Thanks to Alex Rotatori for the hint to this.

Friday, 3 October 2014

consonant cluster reduction #2

Paul Carley inspired me to write another blog entry on consonant clusters (the previous one is to be found here). How does one pronounce the plural form of month - /mʌnθs, mʌntθs, mʌnts, mʌnʔs, mʌns/ - or what?
Listen to this extract from the morning news of the 2nd of October on BBC 4 (Paul, our truffel-finder, spotted it; the speaker is the International Development Correspondent to the BBC, Mark Doyle):
If the disease [Ebola] continues at current rates a million people across the West African region could die within months."
 Here is the whole sentence plus repetitions of months:


How does Mr Doyle pronounce months?Which of the above-mentioned variants does he use. The choice is actually between /mʌnts, mʌnʔs, mʌns/.
Let's look at the waveform first:

/mʌ/ ~ 100 ms
/n/ ~ 74 ms
pause ~ 58 ms
1st aperiodic low volume signal section ~ 39 ms
2nd aperiodic higher volume signal section ~ 160 ms.
The pause section seems to represent the hold stage of an epenthetic /t/ in /mʌnts/.

Could the speaker also have said /mʌns/? In that case the waveform would have looked something like this

and sounded like this:

Not much of a difference, is it?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

FLEECE and KIT vowels

Cruttenden writes in his latest edition of GPE on p. 113 that a "short /i/, i.e. a vowel nearer in quality to the long /i:/, rather than /ɪ/ is now the norm in GB finally in words like lady, slopy, happy, donkey, prairie." True as it is, there are always speakers who do not comply with it.
Paul Carley, our phonetic tracker dog, (Paul, no insult intended!) has dug up some interesting examples which are worth being preserved1.
The speaker is the Diocesan Canon Angela Tilby from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.

credit: Christ Church, Oxford
In her Thought for the Day she uses "fantasy" once and "fantasies" twice:
1. "Most of us have Walter Mitty moments; flashes of fantasy in which we enjoy unlimited power, riches, success or sex."
2. "If when an invitation comes, you find yourself scheming your way to turning your fantasy into reality you run the risk of implosion."
3. "It's only when the opportunity appears to realise those unlived fantasies that we have to make a choice of whether to pursue them or resist."
4. "Being completely humiliated by the exposure of your own fantasies is a terrible ordeal but it is also a moment of opportunity."

You first hear the whole sentence, next the word in isolation and then the final syllable only.




What you clearly hear - at least this is what MY ears tell me - is that  fantasy1 and fantasies3 and fantasies4 rather display the quality of the KIT vowel in their final syllables, whereas fantasy2 is pronounced with the quality of FLEECE.

Paul has an explanation for the KIT vowel quality in fantasy1: "I think the cut out bit of fantasy 1 includes a bit of the following 'in', and that's why it sounds a bit like KIT."

In the case of fantasy2 the cotext of the word is slightly different. The next word ('into') also begins with a KIT vowel; however, there is a speech pause before it. So it seems more likely that the speaker has a FLEECE quality before and a KIT quality after the pause.

Canon Tilby's speech contains additional words with the happY vowel, e.g. society, desirability, story, Mitty, recently, only, really, opportunity, spirituality, respectability, highly, any, completely, integrity. But I won't examine these.

1 BBC Radio broadcasts are usually available online for seven days only.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

consonant cluster reduction

Here's another of Paul Carley's finds. 
 It's about word-final cluster reduction. You may be familiar with the phrase 'King George VI' and the problems that may arise at the phrasal end when it comes to pronouncing it. To make thinks worse, try to say 'King George VI's throne'. Don't hold me liable for any knots in your tongue. What do speakers do to avoid this? Well - they cut corners, i.e.they discreetly delete one of the post-vocalic consonants in /sɪksθ/. Which one?
On the 26th of September on BBC Radio 4 the speaker introduced the six o'clock news by saying:
It's six o'clock on Friday, the twenty-sixth of September. Good morning! [...]"
 Listen to my snippet!


Did you spot the glottal stop as well?