Friday, 11 February 2011

R & R #2

credit: Garnet Education
R & R stands for the title Rhymes and Rhythm, a book written by Michael Vaughan-Rees (see my blog post of the 7th of February). Today I'd like to tell you a bit more about the contents of this book.

Part I (= chapter 1) deals with polysyllabic words and stress. Students are asked to count the number of syllables in words, find out which syllable is stressed, spot the schwa in unstressed syllables, practise strong and weak forms and are given exercises on sentence rhythm and word linking. Here are some examples of what these exercises look like (I do hope M V-R and the publisher don't mind my using some isolated examples; my wording of the tasks is slightly different):

1. Decide how many syllables there are in each of the following words:
policeman, unabridged, ...
2. Where is the stress? Japan, Peter, ...
3. Which syllable is stressed? Jemima, Manchester, ...
4. Listen to words with schwa. support, parade, ...
5. Circle the syllables containing schwa. Argentina, workmanship, ...
6. Listen to the four-beat rhythm of sentences while concentrating on strong and weak syllables: Those are the people we drove to the party, Tom's not as tall as the rest of the family, ...
7. Listen to how words are linked together: two_wapples, three_yapples, necks_tweek, ...

Some of these exercises are too easy for my German students of English, but others are exactly what they need. More to come soon!


  1. >> 1. Decide how many syllables there are in each of the following words: policeman [...] <<

    That first case is not so easy. I (Br.En. speaker) say /pəˈliːsmən/ (3 syallables). However, many of my compatriots say /ˈpliːsmən/ (just 2 syllables). And this by no means a case of "lower-class sloppiness". If anything it's a characteristic of "advanced [i.e. upper-class] RP" to pronounce "police" as /pliːs/. Former Tory Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw (William Stephen Ian Whitelaw, latterly 1st Viscount Whitelaw KT, CH, MC, PC, DL) consistently pronounced the word "police" in this way.

  2. Kevin: Thanks for your comments on the two pronunciations of police(man). Several of my German students of English pronounce please (German word-final fortissification) to make it sound like disyllabic police

  3. Kevin, I agree that it's not a matter of social class, but it's not confined to "U-RP" either. My impression is that about everyone in England says pliːs in a normal context, and that it's much more tied to the lexeme than being the usual optional reduction to schwa and then to zero.

    (BTW, the term "advanced RP" is often used for an accent that is more open to "sub-RP" elements such as glottal stops for t, an open GOAT diphthong etc. Concerning Lord Whitelaw, his education at a traditional public school might be more important than his later honours.)

  4. Every native speaker of English (with or without OBE, BSA, etc.) is free to pronounce a word as she or he 'polices' :)

  5. As long as there's no grammar please, certainly.

  6. Having neglected (for four years!) to check back here for any follow-up comments, I'd like to say sorry, and thanks for the correction, Lipman!

    With regard to "advanced RP" I did, of course get it completely arse-about-tit (as the technical expression has it). I should indeed have said "U-RP".

    I agree incidentally that Whitelaw's /pliːs/ is public-school RP, but even Theresa May, the current Home Secretary, despite being mostly state-school educated, seems to me to say /pliːs/ (and /pliːsiŋ/) much more than I think is usual in General British Pronunciation. Compare the pronunciations in and (to take two random samples) with the way May says "police" in, for example. Perhaps it's a Tory thing?

    1. Always worth some research, but I think not. Lipman