Tuesday 23 December 2014

Christmas Season 2014

credit: WallpapersWide.com

I don't want to miss the opportunity to send season's greetings to all my blog followers and to extend my best wishes for the dawning year!

Sunday 7 December 2014

GA and GB prons in monolingual EFL dictionaries

Recently a thought crossed my mind (yes, this happens occasionally): When did general monolingual dictionaries intended for learners of English as an additional language include transcriptions of both main reference accents - General British (aka RP) AND General American? I walked to our departmental library shelves to find an answer.
One of the widely used dictionaries is The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English of which you see the dust jacket of the 2nd edition.

Neither the first nor second edition contain American English pronunciations. The first edition indicating them is the third of 1974. In the acknowledgment section written by the editor A S Hornby we read that it was Jack Windsor Lewis,
Jack Windsor Lewis and Albert Sidney Hornby in 1974 (photo credit: JWL)
at that time lecturer at the University of Leeds, who provided the transcriptions. That American English pronunciations were included is revealed in the section on "Pronunciation and stress" (pp. xii-xv). The letter r, which is almost always sounded in GA as it is a hyperrhotic accent, is not indicated in the transcriptions if it would be the only difference between GB and GA. Dictionary users who intend to speak GA are expected to add the /r/; in other words, when they look up the word form, they will find /fɔm/ only and are expected to adopt the pronunciation /fɔrm/ (I'm using the symbols proposed in the 3rd edition). Though it saves printing space it's a bit infelicitous in a dictionary intended for learners.
Matters become even less felicitous with words such as curry and furry. For curry we find /kʌrɪ US: kɜɪ/ - the reader must transform this to /kɜrɪ/ - , but in the case of furry the learner is told to pronounce it /fɜrɪ/.Don't get me wrong! There's logic in this. All I'm saying is that it is less comfy than what we are used to these days. Maybe Jack can tell us more about the editorial motives behind this policy.

Any changes in the fourth edition? More on this topic in a future post.

Update: See also the latest article by Jack on phonetics in advanced learner's dictionaries.