Thursday 5 April 2012

Geoff Lindsey's Listening Quizzzz

Geoff Lindsey's put up a listening quiz here lately that I recommend to you. Please take this quiz before you read my comments.

S2: Sound clip 2 is transliterated by Geoff Lindsey as "of the grandeur of feeling, of grandeur of action, of grandeur of ceremony". Geoff isn't sure about the consonant cluster in <grandeur>. I think it's // - listen to my extract. First, you hear the whole word, then the consonant cluster in isolation.

Geoff also maintains that Pountney says "of THE grandeur of feeling"; I have my doubts. I'd rather say that it should be "eh - of A grandeur of feeling". Listen to my clip. First you hear "eh - of a grandeur of feeling" then "eh - of a":

S4: The transliteration offered by Geoff is this: "’m very lucky here because I’ve worked quite a bit in Zurich." The bone of contention is the tense of 'work' in the sub-clause. Is it present perfect or present tense ("[...] 'cause I work quite a bit in Zurich")? I think it's impossible to decide purely from the sound clip. The last part of this clip is the section "...work_qui..." slowed down by 38%:

S9: The speaker now is Thomas Hampson, an American baritone. The sentence is: "And I don’t mean this as gratuitous praise, I really enjoy working with David." The difficult phrase here is 'gratuitous praise', not only because the adjective is of low frequency, but also because it's said with an American accent, which implies that Mr Hampson's pronunciation illustrates yod dropping and t-flapping. In other words he says [ɡrɘˈtuːət̬əs]. Additionally, the diphthong in 'praise' is slightly monophthongised. Listen for yourselves:

S11: "I don’t think that composers like Thomas, and certainly not Verdi, ever mean to set a play to music as it were." If you're not familiar with the name of the the composer (Ambroise) Thomas, you have no chance whatsoever to guess what Thomas Hampson is talking about. As a consequence I should say that in this particular instance the quiz is rather of the "The Weakest Link" type than an "ear-training" one. The same verdict applies to the word 'répétiteur' in clip no. 12.

We're about half way through the sound clips. Comments on the second half will be put online tomorrow.

picture credits: Christian Ammering and


  1. I could quibble about various points here, but the most important one is in connection with S11. Your statement "If you're not familiar with the name of the the composer (Ambroise) Thomas, you have no chance whatsoever to guess what Thomas Hampson is talking about" is simply wrong.

    As I said in my answers, "Not one of the native-speaker respondents knew the name Thomas – but not one of them got the syntactic structure wrong, because they could tell that the t after like was not a past tense suffix. Whereas about half of the non-natives messed the whole thing up in a manner similar to the subtitler."

    So none of the native speakers were familiar with Thomas, but their native listening skills meant that they could "guess" exactly what Thomas Hampson was talking about: all they were missing was the name in the phrase "composers like X".

    1. Geoff, I obviously didn't phrase my sentence precisely enough, for which I offer my apology. What I meant to say was that listeners had no chance to decode the word after 'like'. I did not intend to insinuate that they could not understand the morpho-syntactic structure or semantic content of the rest.