Sunday, 20 December 2015

OED's new features

It was not until yesterday that I spotted a new feature in the online version of the OED: audio files are being added. Here's a snippet of the article on 'writer':

credit: OED

When you click the blue play icon you hear a native (?) speaker say the word. It's a pity we are not told anything about the linguistic background of the speaker(s).

Here's an example:


When you click the word "Pronunciation" in front of the icons, you are taken to an explanatory section. In there it says:
The pronunciations given are those in use among educated urban speakers of standard English in Britain and the United States. While avoiding strongly regionally or socially marked forms, they are intended to include the most common variants for each word. The keywords given in this key are to be understood as pronounced in such speech.
Where a word is associated with a particular part of the English-speaking world, further pronunciations in the appropriate global variety of English are also given.
 I'm curious to hear one of these "further pronunciations", but haven't found one yet.

What's also new is the frequency band. When you click the series of eight increasingly larger bullet points, you're taken to another explanatory section (, where the calculations of relative frequencies of words are explained.

Postscriptum: I've just come across Jack Windsor Lewis's latest blog, in which he hails the new features of the OED. So he holds the ius primae mentionis.


  1. Peter, I'm surprised by the /ʌɪ/ transcription. I thought "educated urban speakers" had passed this stage of the great vowel vowel shift a couple of centuries ago, like the American example. I have a few recorded examples of rural Home Counties speakers (from the SED) born in the 1880s who still said [ʌi]. You might still hear it in the SW, I don't know. Do you know what's going on here?

    1. What's going on here? Clive Upton is the culprit, ie. pron advisor for OUP and author of the ODP. He believes to have spotted the recent Uptonian vowel shift.

    2. Yes, as Kraut's suggested, Upton adopted that symbol for PRICE some time ago. Both John Wells and Jack Windsor Lewis have expressed their displeasure with it:
      (See Blog 248)

    3. Thanks Petr. Frankly, I don't hear much difference in how these diphthongs start, especially when listening to the first syllables only. Both have high max F1 (680 and 690 respectively) for which [a] is more appropriate than [ʌ].

    4. And thanks Gassalasca, nice to feel their shadows so close. It's interesting that the reading quoted by Petr doesn't follow Upton's instructions.