Saturday, 19 February 2011

lemurs and Sir David

There are two blog entries (here and here) dealing with the question of how Sir David Attenborough pronounced the word lemur in his documentary on Madagascar aired by BBC Two on the 9th of February.
John C Wells writes: "But what David Attenborough said on TV last night, repeatedly, was ˈliːmʊə. I don’t think I have ever heard that before." The other blogger, Jack Windsor Lewis, opines: "This [= JCW's observation] very much surprised me becoz [sic] I too watched that program and, tho [sic] I he·rd [sic] him say that word more than twenty times, on no occasion did it strike me as ending with /ʊə/."
Who is one to believe? Well, the best thing is to listen for oneself! So one listened to episode one.
I spotted 22 instances of the word lemur/lemurs in this episode of nearly 59 minutes of length. Sir David's pronunciation vacillated between an unstressed mono- and diphthongal second syllable. If it was a monophthong (N = 17) it was mostly a schwa or /ɔ, ʌ/, otherwise (N = 5) I heard /ʊə/ or /ɔə/.


Addendum: I also watched the second and third episodes of the documentary on Madagascar: Again Sir David's pronunciation vacillated between a mono- and a diphthongal second syllable in the word lemur.

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