Friday 13 January 2012

another ejective sample

When I listened to Tuesday's 'Essential Classics' presented on BBC Radio 3 by Sarah Walker, I heard her pronounce the name of the Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink as [ˈhaɪtɪŋkʼ], i.e. with what seems to be a word-final ejective variant of /k/. Listen for yourselves, please:

credit: BBC

Sarah Walker was born in a place near Sheffield in Yorkshire. She studied music at Royal Holloway College, and after that she pursued postgraduate studies in Performance and English Experimental Music at Reading University and City University London. Dr Walker holds a Ph.D. in music. Her thesis deals with English experimental music.


  1. Ejectives are a not particu'ly unusual sporadically occurring paralinguistic articulatory gestural device speakers may have recourse it seems most usually in order to enhance clarity. They seem to unpredictably vary in their 'popularity' from one individual, locality or period to another. Typical uses arise in isolated occurrences of exclamatory articulations like Stop!, Quick! etc. Many might use one at the end of a remark like "Let me think!". Sarah Walker most naturally wanted ev'ry syllable of a such an exotic name to be clearly audible so she she made a very proper use of a final ejective.

  2. I like this, so I've just printed JWL's comment for my records.

  3. @JWL: To make clearly audible to her listeners that the conductor's last name has a word-final /k/ is the most probable explanation for making the /k/ so salient. To seek recourse to an ejective seems to me to be a rarer procedure than to articulate the /k/ with an (extra-)strong aspiration.
    I get a bit of a stomach ache, however, when trying to agree with JWL in calling the ejective a "paralinguistic" articulatory gestural device without restricting this attribution to the English example under scrutiny here. There are a few languages around the globe which have ejectives in their phonemic repertoire (.e.g. Zulu, K'ekchi, Xhosa). With those languages, ejectives are a proper linguistic device.
    I'd like to mention in passing that Sarah Walker does not emphasise either Haitink's name when she introduces the musical piece conducted by him or the equally unusual name of the orchestra: 'Concertgebouw'.

  4. She has a few rather peculiar features to her speech, especially given she is a BBC presenter. Maybe the Beeb feel she helps represent regional accents, althugh the Sheffield-ishness is quite mangled in a multi-region mix. What struck me about the comments above is that there are unpredictable and erratic elements in her delivery, not least in breathing and aspiration. Sometimes long sentences in one breath, tumbling punctuation. Other times short punchy, erratic (loud) snatched breathing. Difficult to draw liguistic examples from! Although I like her music choices and way with guests on air.