Friday, 29 October 2010

The Two Ronnies - four candles (3)

Here's the second section of Four Candles:
B: [ɡɒtni
ˈplʌɡz] {= got any plugs}?
C: [
plʌɡs] {= plugs}?
B: Yeah.
C: [wɒʔkaɪndəplʌɡs] {= what kind of plugs}?
B: A rubber one – [ˈbɑːfrʊm] {= bathroom}.
C (shows two different bath plugs): What size?
B: [ˈθɜːʔiːn] {= thirteen} amp.
C: It’s electric plug, electric bathroom plugs you call them in the trade. Electric bathroom … (inaudible). (puts one plug on the counter.)

Two things are worth mentioning here:
- th-fronting and
- glottal replacement.

TH-fronting is found widely in England; it's also a feature typical of the Cockney accent.
With th-fronting /θ, ð/ become /f, v/. In a blog entry of the 1st of November of 2006 John Wells reports on a short survey:
As we know, in England the dental fricatives /θ, ð/ are on their way out.One of our second-year BA Linguistics students, Sam Wood, reports some interesting findings about TH fronting in London. He carried out a small-scale Labov-style survey in three London department stores, and found that the use of [f] rather than [θ] in third (floor) correlated not, as expected, with the speaker’s social class, but rather with ethnicity. Salespeople categorized by their appearance as black (= of African descent, including West Indians) used [f] in 40% of cases, those judged to be white (= European) in 31%, east Asian (= Chinese etc) in 17%, and west Asian (= Indian etc) in 13%. The pronunciation [fɜːd] rather than [θɜːd] also correlated, much more highly, with (estimated) age: it was used 80% of the time by those judged to be up to 20 years old, but 33% or less by all older age groups. So in London the sound change seems to be being spearheaded by young blacks.
The fact that it was the blacks who came out as most likely to use TH fronting is all the more striking given that in Caribbean and African English the tendency is to replace dental fricatives not by labiodental fricatives but by alveolar plosives. 
Many German speakers tend to sibilation to [s, z] (as do the French) and they often get knotted tongues when it comes to pronouncing s-th-clusters.

Glottal replacement (or glottalling) is increasingly heard particularly in British English. Ronnie Corbett uses the glottal stop to replace the /t/ in what and Barker replaces it in thirteen. The glottal stop as an allophone of /t/ is found in syllable-final positions after vowels or sonorants.

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