Sunday 31 July 2016

Transcriptions can be embarrassing!

This blog entry contains a word which some readers may find upsetting!

The transcription text in one of the final written tests this term contained the sentence:"[...] you can't talk without intonation [...]". Some of my young professionals transcribed it like this: /ju kʌnt tɔːk wɪðaʊt ɪntəneɪʃən/. Ahem!


  1. A very natural projection of your pupils’ unconscious thoughts.

  2. Oh dear! On the other hand, "can't talk" is a verbal phrase so the syntax should prevent improper interpretations. The first explanation has to be the student was ignorant. That said, the production and transcription of ah-like vowels and STRUT has been messy for more than a century in RP, the word in question being pronounced close to the student's own pronunciation of the name "Kant".

    1. It could also have been a Freudian slip of the tongue. Imagine English native speakers walking through Kantstrasse in a German town or the German Minister for Education introducing herself as "Johanna Wanka".

  3. Actually, I don't think the German pronunciation of the name Kant lends itself all that readily to an "improper interpretation" unless you are someone who speaks English with a very Cockney or "Lahndn" accent. In most of southern (and especially south-western) England it's the expression "ihr könnt" that's much more likely to provoke schoolboy titters.