Friday 31 December 2010

happy new year

A Happy New Year
and Good Health to Everybody

phonetic symbol pleasures

credit: BBFC
One's mind sometimes goes astray. It then develops a life of its own - uncontrolled, unbridled, untamed:

Honi soît qui mal y pense!

Thursday 30 December 2010

early c20 /ɑː/ - part 3

The blurry picture is becoming clearer now thanks to the detailed remarks made by some of my readers!
The variation between /ɑː/ and /ɔː/ seems to be restricted predominantly to the letter sequence <-auNC-> in words most of which are of French origin. (N = nasal, C = consonant(s))
I put two tables online that list such words together with their pronunciations as indicated in the works consulted. The first table concentrates on present-day dictionaries, the second one's going to list reference works that were published in the late c18 and early c19. The accent indicated is General British only.
itemFrench origin1 EPD17 LPD3 ODP OED2 online
aunt+ɑːnt ɑːnt ɑːntɑːnt
craunch?-- -- --krɑːnʃ, krɔːnʃ
daunt+ dɔːntdɔːnt dɔːntdɔːnt
draunt--------drɑːnt, drænt
flaunt? -- flɔːnt--flɔːnt
gaunt? gɔːnt gɔːntgɔːntgɑːnt, gɔːnt
gauntlet+ˈgɔːntlət, -lɪt ˈgɔːntlɪt, -lətˈgɔːntlɪtˈgɔːntlɪt, ˈgɑːntlɪt
graunch-- -- --grɔːn(t)ʃgrɔːntʃ
haunch+hɔːntʃ hɔːntʃhɔːn(t)ʃhɔːntʃ, hɑːntʃ
haunt+hɔːnthɔːnthɔːnthɔːnt, hɑːnt
jaunce?-- -- --ʤɑːns, ʤɔːns
jaunder? -- ----ˈʤɑːndə(r)
jaundice+ˈʤɔːndɪs ˈʤɔːndɪsˈʤɔːndɪsˈʤɔːndɪs, ˈʤɑːndɪs
jaunt? ʤɔːnt ʤɔːntʤɔːntʤɔːnt, ʤɑːnt
launce+ -- --lɔːnslɑːns, læns
laund+ -- ----lɔːnd
laundry+ˈlɔːndriˈlɔːndriˈlɔːndriˈlɔːndrɪ, ˈlɑːndrɪ
maunch+ -- ----mɔːn(t)ʃ
maund? -- ----mɔːnd
maunge+ -- ----mɔːn(d)ʒ
naunt5+ -- ----nɑːnt
raunce+ -- ----rɔːns
raunch-- -- rɔːntʃrɔːn(t)ʃrɔːn(t)ʃ
staunch+stɔːntʃstɔːntʃ, stɑːntʃstɔːn(t)ʃstɑːnʃ, stænʃ, stɔːnʃ
1 ? = unclear etymology; + = French origin; -- = non-French origin;
2 transcriptions represent various editions of OED;
3 additional comment: "In RP formerly also lɑːntʃ";
4 additional comment: "formerly lɑːnʃ";
5 naunt is a variant of aunt.
The above is not a comprehensive list of <-auNC>-words - for obvious reasons. For example, I left out inflected forms and place names such aus Launceston or Taunton. But, I guess and hope, the list's fairly representative of what one can find in the reference books consulted.

The second table, to be put online later, will list what I found in the following works of reference:
  1. 1791: Walker, John, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language, (London)
  2. 1845: Beniowski, Bartłomiej (Major), The Anti-Absurd or Phrenotypic English Pronouncing & Orthographical Dictionary, (London)
  3. 1909: Afzelius, Jan Arvid, Engelsk Uttalsordbok, (Stockholm) (available to me only up to letter 'pa')
  4. 1913: Michaelis, Hermann & Jones, Daniel, A Phonetic Dictionary of the English Language, (Hannover, Berlin)
  5. 1926: Palmer, Harold, Martin, J. Victor & Blandford, F.G., A Dictionary of English Pronunciation with American Variants, (Cambridge)
  6. 1932: Wyld, Henry Cecil, The Universal Dictionary of the English Language, (London)

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Her Majesty's often

In his blog #322 Jack Windsor Lewis published his observations of the Queen's pronunciation of often in her Christmas broadcast of 2010 in which Her Majesty uses the adverb often twice (Jack - where's the third token?) by pronouncing it as /ɔːfən/ in
  •  "very often, they like each other too"
and /ɔːfn̩/ in
  • "Sportsmen and women often speak of the enormous pride".
I checked the Xmas addresses of 1957, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008 for all instances of often:
1957: /ɔːfn̩/
2005: /ɔːfn̩/, /ɔːfn̩/
2006: /ɔːfn̩/
2007: /ɔːfn̩/
2008: /ɔːfn̩/, /ɔːfn̩/
The Queen is very consistent in how she pronounces the adverb, and /ɔːfn̩/ as well as /ɔːfən/ suit her age.
Learners of English as a foreign language who have not yet reached the age of retirement should refrain from adopting this variant.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

OED and pooh as an interjection

credit: Mikey Mets
Pooh or poo according to OED is a slang term, originally a nursery term, for faeces or excrement. The 1989 edition transcribes it as /puː, puːh/. In the 3rd edition we find the puzzling "Brit." transcription /p(h)uː/. In all probability this is a typographical error. I sent an email to OUP to inform them about it.

Saturday 25 December 2010

phew ~ pooh

Mankind will considerably be advanced by the results of this study published in the scientific journal Polar Biology 27 (2003), pp. 56-58 with the title "Pressure produced when penguins pooh - calculations on avian defaecation".
credit: Polar Biology 27 (2003): 57

Thank you - Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow and Jozsef Gal from Bremen University for this article.

What's it got to do with phonetics? Not much to be honest.
To justify this blog entry I'm going to write about the pronunciations of 'phew'.

The most variegated entry on 'phew' is to be found in ...? (see below)

LPD 3:

[ʍ] = voiceless labial velar fricative
[ɸ] =  voiceless bilabial fricative

The first entry of 'phew' recorded in OED dates back to 1604 when the poet and playwright John Marsten published his play 'The Malcontent'. In 'acto primo, scena tertia' one of the characters, Giovanni Altofronto, says: "Phew, the Divell, let him possesse thee, [...]".

EPD 17:
"[...] that the speaker is hot"? 'Hot' like 'sexy' or like 'angry'? Or is the ambient temperature likely to make the speaker perspire?

Americans don't use the voiceless bilabial fricative in this expression?

OED 3 online:

The most variegated entry on 'phew' is to be found in ...? ... LPD.

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Xmas

Merry Christmas
to all my readers

       HO          .----.
          HO     .'   ,_ \
        _   HO  /__   ( \|
       / ( .   {___`'-.\{_}
       |  `|_  /6)6`'-._}
        \_.'_} |/_  _7 |
        {_.'|  |5-.'  /(
         |   \{\    /:'`}
          \   /.\__/ _.'`\
           \ ;  o ```     \
            ;  o       \   \_
            | o         \.'` }
            ;  o_       {__.'\
            \==[_]=======|/) |
             `;         .' /_/
             / `- /    /
            /    /\    \
           {`-._/  \ _.'`}
           ;-.__}   {__.'\
        __/   /       \_  \
       (  `  /        /   /
        '.__/        (__.'

Christmas compounds

credit: Osgood Co.
Before 'Christmas 'holidays start I do my 'Christmas 'shopping: I get some 'Christmas cards and buy some 'Christmas presents: On 'Christmas 'Eve I put them into 'Christmas 'stockings, so my beloved ones will find them on 'Christmas 'Day before we all have 'Christmas 'dinner, which includes some 'Christmas 'pudding. We might watch or listen to the Queen’s 'Christmas 'speech and sing some 'Christmas 'carols round the 'Christmas tree. Later we eat 'Christmas cake or might pull 'Christmas 'crackers. I no longer give out 'Christmas boxes. On the whole 'Christmas time means a lot of stress.

Is there a rule behind these stress assignments? None if you ask me! And you needn't worry actually; conversation will not collapse if you use the 'wrong' pattern. The whole story contains, I must admit, a highly unusual accumulation of Christmas compounds.
Most of the compounds and all of the stress marks were supplied by John C. Wells. See John's 'old' blog where you can find the original story.

Thursday 23 December 2010

early c20 /ɑː/ - part 2

First of all - thanks for the comments on my previous post.
If Dobson is right, then we've clarified the matter as far as the situation up to the c18 is concerned. But what about the c19 and (early?) c20? My query was stimulated by a comment made by the 7th Earl of Onslow in an interview with Melvyn Bragg for the BBC series Routes of English:
What I’d call it is a perfectly natural accent because that was the accent I was brought up with. It’s different slightly to my parents and it’s different to my grandparents. I mean, the only thing I can remember is instead of saying "weekend" they would always say: “come from a Saturday to Monday”. They never used the word “weekend”; it was considered rather awful. My parents would definitely say "larndry", "larnch", "harnch", "Cumton", "Cuventry", "Brumton", lengthen sounds in "orff" and "gorn" and shorten them like "gel". Now I say some of those but not as many as I can sometimes try to remember to if I try to be very snobbish.
Michael Onslow was born in 1936, his father William in 1913 and his grandfather Richard in 1876.
Here's the list of words again to which I've added 'haulm':
haulmhɔɔm, haam
haunchhɔɔnʃ, haanʃ
haunthɔɔnt, haant
launchlɔɔnʃ, laanʃ
laundrylɔɔndrĭ, laandrĭ
gauntletgɔɔntlĭt, gaantlĭt
jaundiceʤɔɔndĭs, ʤaandĭs
paunchpɔɔnʃ, paanʃ
It seems there's only scant evidence of this variation (a baronet and a squire's widow so far - both not on one of the lower steps of the social ladder, I guess).

Addendum: There's a post by Jack Windsor Lewis in his Phonetiblog #321 (= 'Words Like Launch') of Christmas Eve 2010. In this blog entry he gives some additional information on the topic.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

early c20 /ɑː/?

I'm currently looking for some evidence for the pronunciation of words such as 'laundry', 'launch', 'haunch' etc. with /ɑː/ instead of the now exclusively used /ɔː/. When did the former pronunciation fade out? Already in the c19? Early or mid-c20? Was the /ɑː/~/ɔː/ variation restricted to certain letter combinations? Was it associated with some particular social stratum (~upper class)?
Jon Arvid Afzelius in his Engelsk Uttalsordbok (Stockholm) of 1909 lists these items (randomly selected by me):

item Afzelius
haunch hɔɔnʃ, haanʃ
haunt hɔɔnt, haant
launch lɔɔnʃ, laanʃ
laundry lɔɔndrĭ, laandrĭ
gauntlet gɔɔntlĭt, gaantlĭt
jaundice ʤɔɔndĭs, ʤaandĭs
paunch pɔɔnʃ, paanʃ

But only /ɔː/ is indicated in 'daunt' or 'flaunt'. I don't have access to the first editions of either Ward's The Phonetics of English or Jones's An Outline of English Phonetics who may have mentioned this. If one of my gentle readers happens to have one of these and is inclined to check what they say about the variants, I would be very grateful. Also - could you point me to some other secondary sources that shed light on this matter?

Monday 20 December 2010

a short history of OED

credit: National Portrait Gallery
If you have access to the new OED3 online version and in case you're interested in the historical development of this magnum opus, look at
D'you know who this gentleman with a lot of facial hair is? I bet you do.

Sunday 19 December 2010

the various publication stages of the new OED3

I must admit that I fell into a 'trap' unintentionally set by the OED team (and it was Jack Windsor Lewis who freed me from it).The new OED online version represents various (temporal) stages of publication. Some pronunciations represent the 1989 version, others reflect the state of the art of the 3rd edition.

Here are two examples:

 Take a look at the beige area to the right of the entry. It tells you that the article on 'ingressive' represents the publication stage of 1989 in its online version of November 2010. When you click on "Previous version" you get this:

In the case of 'monophthong' the beige area reveals a publication stage of January 2010, which represents the 3rd edition:
Whether you like it or not, the present OED online version represents different 'gestation' stages. Words within the alphabet range M - R comply with the 2010 standards, words outside this section reflect the state of 1989. There are some minor exceptions to this, however. So you've got to eyeball the beige area.

Here's another example - perishability. The transcription for it is

if you look at the version representing the 3rd edition, but it's
if you click on the version representing the 2nd edition. The transcription symbols look much more agreeable in the new, third-edition style. However, although Clive Upton is pronunciation adviser, the symbols of OED3 are not a hundred per cent identical with what ODP offers. This is what 'perishability' looks like in ODP:
What immediatelly strikes one's eyes are the two symbols in the 2nd and 5th syllables which are different from what appears in OED3. ODP uses a small capital i (without dot) with bar, whereas OED3 prefers barred small i (with dot). It's not what I call uniformity.

There's a new blog entry by Jack Windsor Lewis on this topic here, which I strongly recommend to you. 
Jack Windsor Lewis
(It's got the running number 001, which should actually be 320). The item in question is titled "OED3 Phonetics".

Saturday 18 December 2010

bedtime without bats

Children's bedtime stories shouldn't have bad endings.
credit: Peter Harakaly

This was one of the sentences my German EFL students had to read out last week. As you may guess, what most of them said was
  1. bet time
  2. bat time
  3. bad time
  4. bed endings
  5. bet endings
  6. [ˈstɔrɪ ]
I then pronounced the two words 'bed' and 'bet' in isolation and asked them to describe the difference(s) they heard. They recognised the difference in vowel length (= pre-fortis clipping as the experts call it). I had them read the sentence again - with little success. Next, I pronounced 'bed' again accompanied by a long horizontal hand movement (roughly 3 feet) and 'bet' along with a much shorter movement of my hand. That seemed to help.
In a German context 'story' is normally pronounced [ʃtɔʀi] or [stɔʀi] as in 'Erzähl keine Stories!' (~ don't tell any (made up) stories!). British customs officers shouldn't let this version in.

credit: Peter Harakaly

Thursday 16 December 2010

"Brit." vowel symbols in OED

Here's the list of phonetic and letter symbols and model words for General British vowels, which OED labels "Brit.":
phonetic symbol letter symbol(s) model word(s)
ɪ ih pit
ee bean
i ee happy
ɨ ih roses, business
ɛ e pet
æ a pat
ʌ uh butter
ɑː ah barn, palm
ɒ o pot
ɔː or born
ʊ uh put
oo goose
jew articulate
 ə ə another (schwa)
əː er nurse
ay bay
ʌɪ eye buy
ɔɪ oy boy
ow mouth
əʊ oh goat
ɪə ear near
ɛə air pair
ʊə oor cure, jury
ɛ~ ah fin de siècle (nasalized)*
œ eur boeuf, coeur
y yew French du
e eh French bébé
œ~ uh French un (nasalized)*
ɑ~ oh French franc (nasalized)*
ɔ~ oh bon mot (nasalized)*
* placing the tilde beside the letter symbol instead of above it will not be the definitive way to indicate nasalisation in OED. Rumour has it that changes will be made in due time to conform to IPA conventions.
The same letter symbols are used for [ʌ] and [ʊ], and <oh> represents three sounds. Who needs these letter symbols anyway - cui bono? 

credit: Oxford University Press

BTW: There's a separate OUP webpage entitled 'Key to the pronunciation'; it lists different pronunciation descriptors than the ones I display above. Mine are taken from individual dictionary articles. The former seem to be codes for printers, e.g. {lm} for 'length mark' or {shti} for 'short i' (be careful when typing this code!) or {ope} for 'open e' meaning [ɛ].

Wednesday 15 December 2010

OED's new transcription system

In December Oxford University Press launched the newly designed online version of OED. The editorial board (one of its members is the pronunciation consultant Clive Upton) re-designed, among other things, the way the pronunciation of a word is displayed:

The screenshot shows the pronunciation of the word 'incomprehensibility'.
One of the new features is the fact that one can click on the pronunciation and a window pops up which displays the 'meanings' of the transcription symbols. Here's an example:
There are three columns. The left column contains the phonetic symbols; the center column displays a a letter or two intended to represent the sound and the right column indicates one or two model words.
What's missing, by the way, is the secondary stress on the 2nd syllable of 'incomprehensibility'.

I'm going to list all symbols for vowel sounds in a separate blog entry, and the consonants will follow in yet another post.

PS: See also Jack Windsor Lewis's blog #319.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

more on /v/ and /w/

Here are some phrases/sentences for you to practise:

  1. very wet weather
  2. what wonderful value
  3. that vamp of a woman
  4. she's very witty
  5. a vat of dry wine
  6. a woolly vest
  7. very well done
  8. a villain obsessed with wealth
  9. men as vain as women
  10. payments via wire transfer

approximant /w/

/w/ is a voiced labial velar approximant. It's the sound that most Brits who speak General British produce at the beginning of this sentence: "Woe gates here zoo den Laser roymen." (sorry for the weak joke)
Seen aerodynamically /w/ displays laminar airflow, so - in auditory terms - there's no audible friction. If I'm not mistaken, the term 'approximant' was first proposed by the late Peter Ladefoged in 1964 in his monograph A Phonetic Study of West African Languages, in which he writes on p. 24 (I quote from the second ed. of 1968):
"The term approximant is used here to describe a sound which belongs to the phonetic class vocoid or central resonant oral [...], and simultaneously to the phonological class consonant in that it occurs in the same phontactic patterns as stops, fricatives and nasals."

[w] is an approximant; others would call it a frictionless continuant. We need both lip-rounding (at least in careful speech) and a frictionless narrowing of tongue and velum to articulate the sound. That's why the sound is classified as labial velar. It's called 'voiced' because the vocal folds vibrate.

Q: What do you call snakes on your car windscreen?
A: Windscreen vipers.

1. The wurst is yet to come.
2. Wurst is best.

Sunday 12 December 2010

fricative /v/

To be called a fricative a sound segment must be articulated with such a narrow stricture (or close approximation or sufficiently small aperture of the articulators) as to cause turbulent airflow during the medial stage of its production. The auditory result of this turbulence is friction. So for a sound segment to become a fricative certain auditory/articulatory/aerodynamic conditions must be fulfilled. I need not go into most of  these details. This has most competently been done by J.C. Catford in his book Fundamental Problems in Phonetics (Edinburgh) of 1977.

To articulate a v-sound we need a passive and an active articulator: the passive articulator is represented by the lower edge of the upper front teeth; the active articulator is the lower lip. It can be the upper or the inner surface of the lower lip which is tightly pressed against the upper front teeth. It's my impression that for English speakers the contact is preferably made with the inner side of the lip. The pulmonic egressive airstream has to force its way through the tiny curvy gaps which exist between the teeth and the lip surface. (And, of course, the vocal chords must vibrate.)
German speakers who produce an English /v/ which is too similar to the /v/ in German words like Waldi, Wanne, Wasser, wo, wann should press the lower lip much harder against the upper teeth and exaggerate the resulting friction. Don't worry if you overdo it. It'll wear off.

There was an Old Man of the West,
Who wore a pale plum-coloured vest;
When they said, 'Does it fit?'
He replied, 'Not a bit!'
That uneasy Old Man of the West.

Saturday 11 December 2010

minimal pair sentences with /v/ and /w/

Here's a list of minimal pair sentences containing words contrasting /v/ and /w/:
(as at the 11th of December)
Listen carefully!

1. My friends had a lot of wines/vines in their basement.
2. His poetry is becoming worse/verse.
3. Her story was disturbed by a wail/veil.
4. A wiper/viper was used in the experiment.
5. The teacher used the wiser/visor of the two students.
6. You'll find it in the west/vest.

Friday 10 December 2010

some tongue twisters with /v/ and /w/

  1. Wild vines make fine vintage wines.
  2. Victor’s friend Vincent rinsed his vests in vinegar.
  3. Vivacious Vivian loved to voice vigorous verses vociferously.
  4. Stephen vainly viewed vast vales with vacant eyes.
  5. Vincent vowed vengeance very vehemently.
  6. Woollen vests for wailing wolves are worn in the vast woodlands. 
  7. For once, weary Wanda's woolgathering lost its vim and vigour.
  8. Which witch winds white weasel wool well?
  9. Very volatile vets visited several wives.
  10. Which is worse verse - Wendy's verse or Wayne's verse?

Thursday 9 December 2010

/v/ in German and English

Here are two waveforms that show the differences between German /v/ and English /v/ in the two phrases G<Wir-Gefühl> (~ feeling of togetherness) and E<veer left>:
 There's no friction superimposed over the voiced section at the beginning of the phrase <Wir-Gefühl>.
In the waveform for the English phrase the non-periodic superimpositions are clearly visible (and audible, of course).

Wednesday 8 December 2010

phonetic Volkswagens

The pronunciation of <Volkswagen> in English (e.g. /ˈvɒlksˌwæɡən/) is phonetically interesting as the word contains two consonants that prove difficult for German speakers of English: /v/ and /w/. 

These two sounds are a kind of shibboleth that blows many a German's cover:
  • "I like roast wheel with mushrooms."
  • "Hawthorne wrote The Minister's Black Whale."
  • "It's a collection of poetry and worse written by Shakespeare."
  • "The match was broadcast life."
  • "The Wicker of Wakefield is a novel by Oliver Goldsmith."
Many Germans use too weak a contact for their /v/, which then sounds like [ʋ]. Because of its labiodental place of articulation the [ʋ] reminds native speakers of /v/. On the other hand the weak friction and the slightly rounded or protruded lips remind them of a /w/. The [ʋ] may also be associated with a pronunciation error of /r/ typical of some (even famous) native speakers of English - the 'weak r':
  • [lɔːd mǝntgʌmǝʋɛh]
  • Woy Jenkins (aka Baron Jenkins of Hillhead)

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Advent wreath

credit: Christian Pfeiffer
<Wreath> is pronounced /riːθ/; the <w> is a silent letter: All word-initial digraphs <wr> are pronounced /r/ as in wrangle, wrap, wrath, wreck, wrestle, wriggle, wrist, writ, write, writhe, wrong, wry, etc. with Wroclaw as an exception because it may be pronounced /ˈvrɒtslɑːv/ or /ˈvrɒtslæv/
<Advent> is pronounced /ˈædvent/ or /ˈædv(ə)nt/. It's of Latin origin: advenīre as a verb meaning 'to arrive' and the Latin noun adventus 'arrival'.
What's in a wreath etymologically? OED tells us that it's derived from Old English wriþan 'to twist, coil'.
The plural <wreaths> is pronounced /riːðz/ or /riːθs/.

The history of the advent wreath, its spread from the Old to the New World is interesting but beyond the scope of this blog. Mary Jane Haemig, associate professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, published an article in 2005 on "The Origin and Spread of the Advent Wreath", Lutheran Quarterly 19,3: 332-343, in which she shows that the advent wreath became popular in 19th century Germany and entered the American Lutheran practice in the early 20th century.

Monday 6 December 2010

an astronomical anus?


A few days ago I talked to a colleague of mine about the solar system and its planets. One of these planets is Uranus. As I can't switch off the phonetic lobes of my brain, I immediately pondered on how (dangerously) close the pronunciation of this planet's name is to some words for less pleasant (?) objects or properties:
  • urinous
  • your anus
Let's see what the experts say (GB pronunciation considered only)!
  1. EPD
    1. Uranus /ˈjʊərᵊnəs, ˈjɔːrᵊnəs, jʊəˈreɪnəs, jəˈreɪnəs/
    2. urinous <not listed>
    3. your anus /jɔːr, jʊər, jər ˈeɪnəs/ (linking r assumed)
  1. LPD
    1. Uranus /ˈjʊər(ə)nəs, ˈjɔːr(ə)nəs, juəˈreɪnəs/
    2. urinous <not listed>
    3. your anus /jɔːr, jʊər ˈeɪnəs/ (linking r assumed)
  2. ODP
    1. Uranus /ˈjʊərənəs, ˈjʊərn̩əs, ˈjɔːrənəs, ˈjɔːrn̩əs, jʊ̵ˈreɪnəs/
    2. urinous /ˈjʊərɪ̵nəs, ˈjɔːrɪ̵nəs/
    3. your anus /jʊər, jɔːr, jər ˈeɪnəs/ (linking r assumed)

Saturday 4 December 2010


I read chapter 1 of An Introduction to the Pronunciation of North American English by Jørgen Staun. What strikes me is the fact that the author not only tries to avoid the term 'General American' but also fights his corner on calling this pronunciation variety a dialect and not an accent. This is how the author tries to justify his decision:
The frequent concurrence of lexical and pronunciation boundaries explains in part why there is no single non-regional standard American English pronunciation in North America comparable with Received Pronunciation (RP) in English English,which is the standard non-regional pronunciation in England. The existence of a non-regional standard pronunciation like RP in England has lead [sic] to the notion of accent, which refers to a typical and specifiable pronunciation of a language which is characteristic of a geographical region or a social group. Such a standard non-regional pronunciation is justifiable in England because - so supporters of this concept argue - RP is characteristic of a social group and because other accents than RP can be used with the standard grammar and lexicon. The absence of such a variety in North America explains why the term dialect, rather than accent, is used [...].(25)
Accent is the way someone pronounces a language. Everybody therefore has an accent.
Dialect encompasses not only the way someone pronounces a language but also the grammatical forms, syntactical structures and the vocabulary that are used in discourse. As the book is explicitly aimed at "undergraduate university students"(11) this distinction should not be diluted, blurred or abolished.

Staun rejects the term 'General American' as "an actually existing reference dialect, because it ignores such regional distinctions as those established most recently by ANAE [= Atlas of North American English] [...]" (27). He proposes the term 'North American English Reference Dialect' (= NAERD) and delimits it both negatively and positively:
  • the Northern Cities Shift,
  • the Southern Vowel Shift and
  • the split of the TRAP vowel in the East
are restricting features.
  • The Low Back Merger,
  • the use of the TRAP vowel in bath, staff, etc.,
  • rhoticity,
  • dark l in lose, lust, etc.,
  • flapping of /t/ and /d/,
  • yod-deletion
and a few other features characterise NAERD positively.

There are a few typos and technical imprecisions:
  • "homogenous" should be "homogeneous" (20);
  • "North American Continent" -> "North American continent" (20);
  • Hans Kurath's LANE was not published "in 1943" but in three volumes between 1939 and 1943 (22);
  • LANE did not only report "both lexical differences and variation in pronunciation" but included grammatical differences as well (22);
  • "the existence [...] has lead to the notion [...] -> "has led" (25);
  • Kenyon & Knott's Pronouncing Dictionary was not published in 1953 but in 1944 (26);
  • credit: Eric Johannson
  • the flap is "found when unstressed t and d occur between vowels or between an r and a vowel [...]" (31); I wonder how /t,d/ can be unstressed;
  • the term "English English" (25) sounds awkward to me.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

OED online relaunched

OED online has been relaunched.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Guess who?

"My sense of my importance to the world is relatively small. On the other hand, my sense of my own importance to myself is tremendous." Can you guess who is reported to have said this?

credit: Allan Warren

Sir Noël Peirce Coward
(1899 - 1973)