Saturday, 6 April 2013

IPA 1900 - cont'd no. 1

Henry Sweet prepared the transcription of the Southern English version of the text which you can see in my blog entry of the 4th of April. There's also a Northern English version ( = Anglais du Nord) prepared by Richard J Lloyd. Northern English refers to an area roughly between Birmingham and Durham1. Lloyd was reader in phonetics at the University College, Liverpool. He published a book in 1899 with the title Northern English - phonetics - grammar - texts (Leipzig etc.).
Here's his Northern English version:

1see p. 8, § 7 of W. Scholle, G. Smith, Elementary phonetics - English, French, German, (Glasgow, Dublin, 1903)


  1. This a rhotic variety of English. He's clearly claiming that Northern English was rhotic in 1900.

    This surprises me, as I've only heard non-rhotic Northern English (apart perhaps from a small area in Lancashire). We had neighbours and billeted sailors from the north, and George Formby was a popular radio comedian, all adults while I was a child, some of them born before Lloyd died (1906). I had uncles from Yorkshire and Tyneside (although Lloyd excluded Newcastle and Northumberland from Northern English). Can rhoticity disappear so quickly?

    There's a possible clue in his "Northern English" book, that you mention Petr. He explains there that he's primarily describing his own speech. Let's guess he acquired his rhoticity as a child in the mid-1840s, and kept it throughout his life, while subsequent generations had at least fifty years in which to discard rhoticity by 1900. Further, he argues against using intrusive r in northern English, which must indicate the prevalence of that phonemenon, and by implication point to the existence of non-rhotic northern speech during his lifetime.

    He doesn't refer to phonemes or allophones, what follows is my interpretation of what he writes. His transcribed IPA text demonstrates two allophones, prevocalic trilled [r] and untrilled [ɹ] elsewhere. He describes something rather different in the book. There, he refers to coronal vowels, that are r-coloured, transcribed with a superscript r above the vowel character, for the non-prevocalic environment, i.e. the instances of /r/ that are lost in non-rhotic English. He finds this Northern English allophone more relaxed than is the case in American and SW English. In his Northern English speech, this /r/ survives in the vowel and not as a postvocalic consonant. So there was just one small step from this to full non-rhoticity in Northern English, i.e. merely skip the r-colouring of the vowel.

  2. The occurrence of pre-consonantal /r/ is not the only strange thing about this transcription. Here are a few other oddities:

    1. aim → /eːɪm/ where all other occurrences of the FACE vowel have /eː/
    2. of is usually /ʌv/ but there is one occurrence of /ɔv/
    3. the stress marking is seriously weird. There are long long stretches without any marks. This is also true of the transcription by Sweet.
    4. The use of /e/ in weak syllables. /laŋɡwedʒez, sɪstem, ɪlɪtəret/ are some examples.

    1. Yes indeed, John. In the book on Northern English, Lloyd explained that e: tended to have a slight palatal off-glide. Either he's inconsistent in the transcription, or maybe he's telling us that usage varies.

      I thought they were inconsistent about transcribing accentuation too, then I thought I saw the principle: the first syllable is always accented unless some other syllable has an accent mark. I was too impatient to check it all the way through.

  3. I checked the occurrence of rhoticity in Lancashire by listening to recordings in the British Library online collection, particularly the Leeds Survey of English Dialects (early 1950s, informants born between 1860s and 1880s), the Berliner Lautarchiv (British prisoners, born 1880-90, recorded 1915-18, sounds like phonograph cylinders), and the BBC Millenium Memory Bank (people aged 20-80, recorded in 1998-99). Apart from the war prisoners (who read a passage from Luke's gospel), all the informants were interviewed about life stories. Taken together, they confirm the Wikipedia article on the Lancashire dialect today, that rhoticity declines the closer one gets to Manchester and Liverpool, and dies out northwards between Preston and Lancaster. Two informants born around 1860 were just 15 years younger than Lloyd hmself. The SED 19th c. informants were specially selected to highlight conservative pronunciations, all were rhotic. The few Liverpool informants, (1920 to 1960) were all non-rhotic. The 1914 war prisoners were all rhotic except the one from Manchester. There was less rhoticity among the 20th c. informants, and especially some examples of partial rhoticity. Any systematic tendencies among these might point to steps in how rhoticity is abandoned. I noted from one informant (Bolton 1909): rhotic forges, work, form but nonrhotic start, paper.

    All rhotic informants followed Lloyd's description, trilled r (at least frequently) before vowels, r-colouring on vowels elsewhere.

    Other common features: h-dropping, frequent spirantization of k, even initially. FACE vowel e:, confirming John's comment.

    Remember, these are first impressions. You'd have to trawl through the lot, syllable by syllable, and count, to find the necessary evidence for any tendencies.

    1. In the Berliner Lautarchiv collection, the recording from Wakefield in Yorkshire was rhotic. This was very surprising. Rhoticity is extinct around Wakefield now.

  4. Thanks, Sidney, for lending your ears to all these recordings!

  5. This is interesting. His book is now in the Internet Archive. I must have a read of it.

    I'm surprised to see a form of Northern English that uses ʌ so much.