Friday, 14 December 2012

beer or what?

Students of my phonetics courses are requested to take an IPA (= Individual Pronunciation Assessment) test.
One of the test sentences runs like this: "What do you choose - beer or juice?"
Some of my young professionals try to avoid word-final fortissification (typical of their native language), so the sentence materializes as: "What do you choose - beer or Jews?"

credit: Dinner Series



  1. Apple Jews or Orin Jews?
    Wikipedia has a (disambiguating) whole extensive article on Or(r)ins including Orin, Wyoming, a town in east central Wyoming, United States.

  2. There are all kinds of jokes making fun of "Jews for Jesus" (which in general seems not much of a challenge), for example "Jews for cheeses", "chews for Jesus" or "juice for cheeses".

    1. Lipman, my students are somewhat embarrassed when I tell them what they actually said.

  3. In my very first lesson in assimilation many many decades ago and more, the lecturer started with the sentence: "there's a dew on the lawn".

    If a language offers opportunities for jokes, they're gladly taken for better or worse.

    English seems to offer numerous opportunities for puns, possibly a combination of phonology and the bias towards monosyllabic words.

  4. English seems to offer numerous opportunities for puns...

    The humour in "beers or Jews", though, derives from the fact that the imperfect rhyme (juice/Jews) means that it is NOT a pun (even if the poor foreigner we are making fun of can't see it -- or rather, hear it). Compare the case of the Dutchman who, when asked "Do you love Jesus?", replied: "Oh, yes: Edammer, Goudse -- but also Camembert, Brie; in fact, ALL kinds of French Jesus."

    K: Can you explain precisely what you mean by "fortissification" (a Google search for the term throws up results only from your own contributions!)? Presumably it will differ in some way from simple "de-voicing" of the "I can see it your ice" variety to be heard from so many East European singers-in-English at the Eurovision.

  5. @Kevin: German is typical of what is called Auslautverhärtung, i.e. word-final lenis consonants are pronounced as if they were fortis - hence the coinage fortissification. As a consequence of Auslautverhärtung, the preceding vowel (or nasal/liquid) is clipped (= pre-fortis clipping). What Germans speaking English have to learn is to lengthen the sound preceding a final lenis consonant.