Friday, 24 October 2014

Thought for the Day as a phonetic treasure trove ..

... well, at least sometimes.
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: wikipedia.org)
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.

video

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/.

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