Saturday 28 June 2014

People Speaking - Dialogue 27.1

Readers are referred to blog no. 475 by Jack Windsor Lewis and to a sound file (to be found here). Text and sound file are taken from a valuable book with the title People Speaking which was published together with an audio cassette in 1977 by OUP. The booklet contains 53 dialogues and other texts of various length and difficulty read aloud by actors and recorded in a sound studio. Alas, neither the booklet nor the cassette are available any longer. Therefore I am all the more pleased and grateful to have received a copy of the booklet from the author's hands. You can find the texts and audio files on Jack's weblog.

In blog 475 Jack transcribes one of the dialogues - it's no. 27 - and makes some valuable comments on the way the dialogue was spoken by the actors and on related matters. I usually read them closely and check Jack's remarks against my own impressions by listening to the recording. Today I thought I'd share some of my observation with you. Here we go then.

1a) Jim: Hullo, Margaret. Had a good holiday?
1b) `hᴧlˏləʊ, mɑgrət.  ˈhad ə gʊd ˏhɒlə
Jim starts with a high fall - his voice starts fairly high and quickly drops to a low pitch on the first syllable of "Hullo" to rise again immediately on the second syllable and ends with a high pitch on the second syllable of  "Margaret":

Jim's voice starts at around 270 cps on /hᴧl/ and ends at about 310 cps on /grət/.

Jim begins his second sentence - "Had a good holiday?" - fairly high again (about 270 cps) and drops to 140 cps on the second syllable of "holiday", then rises again on the final syllable to a pitch of about 260 cps.

The word "Hullo" is transcribed with double /l/ by Jack. I see his point in doing so, because the l-sound is a teeny weeny bit longer than how the impersonator of Margaret says it in sentence 2  - 70 ms versus 65ms - but my impression is that this does not justify two l-symbols. (The second sentence will be discussed in a future blog). Update: See Jack's latest blog on the matter of one or two ells in "Hullo".

In the latest - eighth - edition of Gimson's IPE by A. Cruttenden the TRAP vowel is no longer transcribed by the ash symbol; the /a/ is used instead. Complying with this change, Jack transcribes Had as /had/. He correctly transcribes "holiday" as /hɒlə/ because that's what the speaker says. He also rightly points to the fact that the vowel of the middle syllable is usually a schwa nowadays. As to final // or /deɪ/, there are of course people who use // in compounds such as busman's holiday, holiday maker or holiday home, but my impression is that the pronunciation with /deɪ/ predominates these (holi-)days.

Thursday 12 June 2014

Beverley Collins

It is with great sadness that I have to announce the passing of Dr. Beverley Simeon Collins. I was shell-shocked when I heard of his sudden death and still am.
I first met Bev in 2010 at SCEP - the Summer Course in English Phonetics at UCL. I had the honour of giving some minor pieces of advice on the third edition of his Practical Phonetics and Phonology, which came out in 2013. We planned a workshop in 2014 for German teachers of English as a foreign language, which couldn't take place however, and so we postponed it to the coming year.

A friend and colleague is gone forever. His loss creates a huge void in the area of phonetics.

See also Jack Windsor Lewis's personal remarks on Bev's life and death, which are to be found here.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

pre-fortis clipping

If you have bat breath, you must be a vampire. If it's bad breath, you should clean your teeth or see your dentist.
credit: Nemo
(We were practising bad versus bat in my phonetics classes today)

Friday 6 June 2014

Comb your hair!

Why can't my German students of English pronounce the word for
used under this licence:
properly? After 7-9 years of English many of them still call it /kɒmb, kɒm, kuːm/.
Take it from me - it's /kəʊm/ in GB and /koʊm/ in GA.

Wednesday 4 June 2014


During the latest visit to my urologist we talked about what linguists call 'orthoepic acronyms', i.e. acronyms you pronounce like words. Take BBC - you've got to spell it out (if it's supposed to be English you're speaking). NASA, however, is pronounced /næsə/ or /nɑːsə/. NASA is an orthoepic acronym.
credit: argyle Inc.

My urologist came up with TRUS, which he pronounced as /trʌs/. I asked him what it stands for, and he replied: /trænzrektəl ʌltrəsɒnəˈgræfi/. I couldn't resist correcting him.

The English wordstock contains some sixty words ending in {-graphy}. The pronunciation is always /grəfi/, hence /ʌltrəsəˈnɒgrəfi/. I haven't yet found a word with the main stress on {-graphy}.