Wednesday 15 October 2014

progressive/perseverative assimilation

Here are two snippets of a BBC Radio 4 interview with a 93-year-old gentleman by the name of Bob Lowe1. The general topic is loneliness.
credit: BBC
Listen closely to how Mr Lowe pronounces the phrases " [...] and I know all those [...]" and "[...] and in that way [...]". Can you spot the progressive assimilations?

Answers to my questions will be added at a later time although I don't think you need them or do you?

There's another sample of perseverative assimilation to be heard in the sentence "Nearly all those stories are given to us by other journalists" uttered by Ian Hislop1 in a speech on the malpractice of journalists - the so-called Leveson inquiry.

And here's yet another one pronounced at a fairly slow tempo. Victoria Coren Mitchell1 says this:
[...] you've chosen this to be quite an early question [...]

1My thanks to Paul Carley for digging up these samples.


  1. Fascinating, nice find Paul, quick ears. Going off-topic: his GOAT ("know", "those") doesn't sound RP, glottal stop in "that way" could mean anything. Nothing else to go on, no indication of rhoticity. GOAT isn't northern either, so southern at least. Is there enough here for the GB people to say its not GB? If not, what else would they like to hear in order to make a decision?

  2. In reply to Sidney’s questions. This excerpt from a person’s speech can’t be described simply as GB because it has some indication of regional affiliation. It can be called, on the meagre evidence it presents, a piece of a southern “Regional GB”. I’d be inclined, largely from voice quality impressions, to place him in the south east and possibly even go so far as to hazard an area of southeast London.

    As to assimilation, his “all those” could be sed to contain an assimilation of the /ð/ to an /l/ under the influence of the previous /l/ of ‘all’ but I’m not sure that the /ð/ can’t be sed to be simply elided.
    This type of assimilation of an initial /ð/ being converted to /l/ under the influence of a foregoing /l/ mentioned here has long been very common yet I know of no account of its existence in any textbook describing GB before the work of Collins and Mees. See the current edition of their Practical Phonetics and Phonology page 122.

    1. Thanks Jack, that's about as far as I got too. But what is it, in this very brief extract, that enables you to say "regional GB" rather than just "regional"? I couldn't get beyond "regional". What is GB about it? (I've been assuming there are at least two options, "southern regional" and "southern regional GB", but perhaps there aren't?)

  3. I found it quite funny that his poem rhymed /ɪəl/ with /i:l/, even though he has a distinction between the two. "Meals on wheels" is a well-known phrase in England, but there might still be many older speakers who don't make a rhyme of meals/wheels.

    The GOAT vowel seems quite typical of rural southern England, and perhaps also some parts of the Midlands. His FACE vowel sounds southern to me, but it is not a Cockney /æɪ/.

    I am now cheating and googling. He is from Hampshire.

    1. In the full poem, he uses both forms of TH-fronting by rhyming truth/proof and together/ever. It's interesting to hear this from a man of his age. TH-fronting has not received as much attention as other consonant changes. My impression is that it extends across most of the country now in the speech of the young, but that its extent in the speech of older people is much more constrained.

    2. Ed, your Daly Mail link says they grew up in Harrow (north London), I agree the accent is more home counties than London. Hampshire was retirement. I don't hear any TH-fronting, it's more like a free rhyme, alliteration. The BBC recording is here:

    3. Then the word came to me, assonance is the term for those near rhymes.

    4. I plead guilty to not having read the full article. I just saw that Bob is referred to as a "pensioner from Hampshire" in the summary, and then scrolled down to the full poem. Harrow he is then.

      I've just had a look on your website for the first time in a while. There's some interesting stuff on Kent. I'd like to go out to the old mining area on the Kent coast to see if any proper dialect remains there.

    5. Your welcome Ed. I'm not sure the mining area (inland from Deal and Dover) is the best place for remnant earlier dialect. A lot of the miners came from elsewhere, one source quotes 1500 mining families coming to Betteshanger (['bɛtsæŋ(g)ə] in a few days in the 1920s. The last mines closed in the 1980s. Dover museum is reputed to have a good display. Go on a pub crawl from Adisham to Appledore to Goudhurst at this time of the year when there are no visitors.

    6. I'll try that pub crawl. I do enjoy a good pub, whether I hear the local vernacular or not. I was making an assumption that mining areas would be most likely to preserve dialect, which might well be proved wrong in this case.

      The same points that you make about the Kent mines could be said about the Yorkshire ones as well though. Apparently, there was a big influx of displaced Scottish miners in the late '60s, but this doesn't seem to have had any impact at all on the local speech. (I wouldn't be surprised if many of them went back to Scotland when the pits closed.) I would've thought that the Kent coalfield would have had fewer incomers just because it was so far away from any of the others and also relatively small, but I might be wrong.

      There's a nice little map here showing the old Kent coalfields.