Friday, 21 November 2014

Uneasy listening #2

The very first word of Ms Maier's talk is this:

It sounds like [θræʊt], doesn't it? What I did next was to start with the first 30 ms of the word and then add 30 ms each time till the end of the word (30, 60, 90, ... 300, 330, 360 ms). Listen to this:

Here's the first word followed by the next one. Can you decode what she wants to say?

The problem of understanding this phrase (and many others in her speech) lies in the fact that she compresses a disyllabic word to a monosyllable. What may make things even more complicated is the fact that this compression happens at the very beginning of her speech when the listener's ears and brain have not become attuned to her dropping-one's-syllables style.


  1. I understand this challenging habit is quite common among native speakers of English. Ms Maier (whose voice I find very sweet) seems to push it to the limit.

  2. Sorry Petr, but you've had numerous examples of word reduction in the past as curiosities, why should this one be any different?

    Listening to the whole recording (in your previous post), there are several difficulties. She seems to be reading from a prepared manuscript, and rushing it through to get it done in the allotted time, like so many conference presentations. Reading aloud is an art that few people manage, and even fewer realise is a problem. Then there's her subject matter, she's talking about new words for new inventions.

    But 'bout 2014? Is that really a problem? Or is it her MOUTH vowel, the [æɒ] of the home counties, rather than the [au] of RP?

    1. Sidney, this snippet was not intended as an illustration of a categorically different type of listening difficulties but rather to illustrate to EFL learners that one of the weakforms of the lexeme 'throughout' is /θraʊt/.

    2. My apologies, Petr. I suspect you've cut your extracts here a little late. I hear them all as [bæ:t]. I went back to the previous post and listened there, and you're correct, it starts with "th'rout", but not RP: [θræ:t] (regional home counties). Check your extracts again, make them start a little earlier, and then remove my comments. Good luck.

    3. No need for an apology, Sidney! I'm going to listen to the word again and will make the necessary changes.

    4. I've now made the extracts start earlier in the second video/audio.