Wednesday 29 February 2012

a year in the merde

I'm reading Stephen Clarke's A Year in the Merde of 2004. It's about a Brit going to Paris to start a new job there. Some of the Parisian frogs try to speak English with him - in a more or less strong French accent. As one can't expect the average reader to be familiar with IPA symbols, the author tries to convey the accent by a kind of pronunciation spelling.

Here are some examples for you to enjoy. Can you guess their meanings?

sentence solution (to be published)
Alok for wah toowa king wizioo 1 I look forward to working with you
Ah'm ed of hah tee 2 I'm head of IT
Ah've done a yee-uh uv post-grad at Jo-ja state 3 I've done a year of post-grad at Georgia State

Stephen Clarke

Monday 27 February 2012

what's it called? (with updates)

This blog entry will be revised!
What is the standard accent or norm accent or reference accent or model accent of England called? Well, the term that first and foremost comes to mind is RP or Received Pronunciation. But there are others (together with some updates as suggested by blog followers) such as

name abbrev. used by
BBC pronunciation --- Peter Roach1
Educated Southern English ESE Gerhard Leitner2
English Standard Pronunciation E.S.P John L. M. Trim3
General British pronunciation GB Jack Windsor Lewis4
Modern Received Pronunciation MRP Patricia D. Scott Ashby5
Public School Pronunciation PSP Daniel Jones6
Non-Regional Pronunciation NRP Beverley S. Collins7
Received Standard --- Henry Cecil Wyld8
Reference Pronunciation RP David Rosewarne9
Standard British English SBE Ken R Lodge10
Southern British English --- Kenyon & Knott11
Southern British English --- Alfred C. Gimson12
Southern British Standard SBE John C. Wells & Greta Colson13
Southern England Standard Pronunciation SESP Paul Tench14
Standard Pronunciation StP Daniel Jones15
Standard Southern British English SSBE Rachael-Anne Knight16
Received Pronunciation RP Alan Cruttenden17(and others)
Traditional Received Pronunciation Trad RP Peter Trudgill18
U pronunciation --- Alan S. C. Ross19

This list is by no means complete. I deliberately left out denominations like Queen's English or Oxford English. The burning question (well, at least for some; for others it's a tiring one) is why some authors opine that RP is an inappropriate label and therefore fancy another term. This'll be pursued in another blog entry.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at

1Roach, P. (2009), English Phonetics and Phonology, (London etc.), p. 3
2Leitner, G. (1982): "The Consolidation of 'Educated Southern English' as a Model in the Early 20th Century", IRAL 10, p. 93
3Trim, J.L.M. (1961): "English Standard Pronunciation", ELT Journal XVI (1), p. 28, 34
4Windsor Lewis, J. (1972), A Concise Pronouncing Dictionary of British and American English, (London), p. xiv
5Ashby, P. (2011), Understanding Phonetics, (London), p. 4
6Jones, D. (1917), An English Pronouncing Dictionary, (London)
7Collins, B., Mees, I.M. (20082), Practical Phonetics and Phonology, (London, New York), p. 4
8Wyld, H.C. (1914), A Short History of English, (London), p. 17
9Rosewarne, D. (1984): "The term RP", JIPA 14, p. 91
10Lodge, K. (2009), A Critical Introduction to Phonetics, (London, New York), p. 71
11Kenyon, J.S., Knott, Th.A. (1944), A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English, (Springfield, Mass.), p. v
12Gimson, A. (1970), An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, (London), p. 85
13Wells, J.C., Colson G. (1971), Practical Phonetics, (London), p. 6
14Tench, P. (2011), Transcribing the Sound of English, (Cambridge etc.), p. 4
15Jones, D. (1909), The Pronunciation of English, (Cambridge), p. v
16Knight, R.-A. (2012), Phonetics, (Cambridge etc.), p. 9
17Cruttenden, A. (2008), Gimson's Pronunciation of English, (London), p. 77
18Trudgill, P. (2002): "The sociolinguistics of modern RP", in Trudgill, P., ed., Sociolinguistic variation and change, (Edinburgh), p. 171-180
19Ross, A.S.C. (1970), How to Pronounce It, (London), p. 11

Sunday 26 February 2012

another (fairly) new blog

In November 2011 Sidney Wood launched a blog called SWPhonetics. It contains some good tutorials, e.g on PRAAT, if you're into this program(me). I also recommend the postings on (the dangers of) mp3-recordings.

Sidney Wood
I'm afraid I can't display a photo of Sidney Wood here because I do not have either the express or the written permission from the blog's author, and it would be too tiresome to give full credit with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. ;-)

Saturday 25 February 2012

a (fairly) new blog

This is to inform the interested public that Geoff Lindsey maintains a weblog which has been online since December 2011. It's called "speech talk", the subtitle is "thoughts on english, speech & language".
This blog contains some very interesting entries on English phonetics; I recommend this blog wholeheartedly!

The author holds a PhD from UCLA. He has repeatedly taught on SCEP (Summer Course in English Phonetics) held by UCL (University College London).More on him to be found here.

Friday 24 February 2012


On the 7th of August 1994, Charles Neal Ascherson, journalist for the Independent on Sunday from 1990 to 1998, wrote in said newspaper:

According to Wikipedia Neal Ascherson was born in Edinburgh in 1932 and educated at Eton. He read history at King's College. Instead of becoming an historian, he pursued the career of a journalist.

Neal Ascherson

Wednesday 22 February 2012


An aristocrat went to the village shop and asked for some "pepper". "Red or black pepper, sir?" asked the shopkeeper. "Don't be ridiculous," snapped the customer, "lav't'ry pepper."

I'm reading and enjoying Jilly Cooper's Class of 1979.

Jilly Cooper

Tuesday 14 February 2012

another ejectivatress

On Friday, the 13th of February, and on Monday, the 6th of January, I wrote about ejectives. In the meantime I came across another Brit speaker who uses ejectives every now and then: Dr Lucy Worsley1, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces. You can hear Lucy Worsley in various clips on youtube. I chose the video clip in which she introduces her book titled If Walls Could Talk. Listen closely to the word 'talk' as part of the clause "if walls could talk" at about 0:10 or to the word 'work' in the sentence "[b]ut imagine sharing your bedroom, even your bed, with other family members, with your work colleagues, even with strangers" at 1:47. Both k-sounds are produced as ejectives. Listen, please!

BTW: If you listen to her saying "present" (~0:32), "Britain" (~2:47) or "bring" (~3:40), you'll discover that she has slight problems with the r-sound after a bilabial plosive. It reminds me of Woy Jenkins.

1My thanks go to Graham Pointon for drawing my attention to Dr Worsley and her habit of replacing th's by labiodental fricatives.

Sunday 12 February 2012


You will have heard or read about ACTA, the agreement to be brought about between several countries. Some nations have signed it, others have not yet ratified it. Some institutions cast doubt on this agreement because they fear that ACTA may infringe on people's rights to free speech.
It seems that only few people know what's behind this acronym: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
It also appears that a few news presenters do not check the pronunciation of counterfeiting with their pronunciation unit or dictionary. Here's an example of a section taken from yesterday's evening news of the Second German Television (= ZDF):

The word counterfeit (n., vb.) comes from Old French contrefaire with the past participle forms contrefet or contrefait. According to OED the word entered the English language in Middle English times. Thus, it has nothing to do with the English verb/noun fight, however attractive the thought may be as regards ACTA.

Friday 10 February 2012

fresh from the printer

Fresh from the printer come these sentences concocted by a student of mine:
  • "Two major theories are at present."
  • "Firstly, physical factors, meaning manner and place of articulation, hinder speakers from fluent entrance in a language, since articulation of sound varies among languages".
  • "Especially in school environments, it is easy to find out about students of mother tongue English because the rest of class usually has a strong German accent."
    The sentences have been excerpted from a student paper on foreign accents. These gems were ground by a 10th (repeat: tenth) semester student who wants to become an EFL teacher. Should he be unleashed upon pupils? Not by me - no, definitely not!
    credit: teamcallo