Thursday, 25 November 2010

distinguish bad manners from bed manners - #3

Imitating the qualities of English /e/ and /æ/ is a difficult task for Germans:
  1. /æ/ is non-existent in Standard German;
  2. General British (= GB) /æ/ differs from General American (= GA) /æ/;
  3. the quality of /e/ a German learner of General British should aim at is but one of many qualities which one can hear in the English-speaking world.
Here are some variants of /æ/:

Germans very frequently produce an /æ/ close to the New Zealand (and South African) variant.
As there's hardly any kinaesthetic/proprioceptive information available during the articulation of /æ/ (and many other vowels), it's vital to concentrate on listening for the correct vowel quality in order to become sensitive for it. To hit the right target is a matter of trial and error.
And - do not mix accents! If you've decided on GB you shouldn't say words like France, dance, grass with an /æ/.
And - do not forget that /æ/ is but a convenient label for a variety of actual pronunciations.
And - it's less important to memorise the transcription symbol than to memorise and automatise the proper pronunciation.
And  - practise, practise, practise until you are certain your listeners are able to distinguish whether you say "Flesh Gordon" or "Flash Gordon". It can be rather embarrassing if you don't hit the proper target. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you're an honourable person, but you should search the Internet for the difference between the two expressions.)


    1. Your "conservative GB" value is bizarre. A centering diphthong? That would be more like SQUARE than TRAP. It's true that old-fashioned RP had a closer [ɛ]-like value, but I'm not aware that it ever reached close to [e] or became diphthongal. It's pretty much obsolete anyway.

    2. @vp: Please, take a look at p. 113 of the 7th edition (= 2008)of Cruttenden's Pronunciation of English. I agree with you in saying that it's pretty rare.

    3. I don't have access to that book. How does this variety differentiate TRAP from DRESS and SQUARE?

    4. @vp: I plan a separate blog entry on Gimson's/Crutty's characterisations of refined RP.