Wednesday, 13 April 2011

a visit from Orlando

For our summer show the LGMC in which I sing is presenting an “aural adventure” called Sound and involving music in a wide variety of styles from a wide variety of places (blog, 4 March).

On Monday the composer Orlando Gough joined us to teach us his piece Olympic Hopefuls. This could be called a soundscape of human noises, and involves our unaccompanied singing of a text mostly consisting of nonsense syllables, with occasional strings of real (English) words that nevertheless are not included in any kind of grammatical sentence structure.

Sample text:
home bam bee put ho n kit chi koo a
dut sko mee ney har do vee dey
… four five ring fence post box ticking
I suppose you could call the piece an a cappella tone poem.

The score contains frequent musical or choreographic directions to the singers: ‘keen, breathy’, ‘slurred, out to lunch’, ‘tribal’, ‘hit chest (hard)’, ‘knackered, panting’, ‘deeply charismatic’ and many others. A paralinguistic feast.

Helpfully, the composer has provided a key to interpreting the spellings of the nonsense syllables. As you can see, the repertoire of vowels comprises just these nine: æ e ɪ əʊ ʌ aɪ ə ɑː eɪ. Schwa is always difficult to respell. I assume that the singers all know that hookah is ˈhʊkə. In interpreting the instruction “single consonant: add schwar” I think the composer means ə, not an AmE-style ɚ. We’ve just got to live with the fact that where the composer writes har most of the choir pronounce hɑː, as he does himself, but that the few choir members who are Scottish or American inevitably go for hɑːr.

I started off somewhat sceptical about this composition. But as we practised it I grew convinced that it will make an impressive, if unusual, item in the concert.

Orlando’s surname, Gough, is pronounced ɡɒf and is of Celtic origin. In some cases it represents Scottish Gaelic gobha, Cornish or Breton goff, ‘smith’. In other cases it derives from the Welsh goch ɡoːχ, the soft-mutated form of coch ‘red’.

44 comments:

  1. I don't understand what sound the "hn" indicates. What would the IPA be for that?

    I recently attended a Hindu funeral, which used a similar system of re-spelling to represent the Sanskrit to anyone who wanted to join in. Sadly we had no time to rehearse this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, then it must be that the Smallville creator is also /ɡɒf/. I've been mispronouncing it for ages then.

    ReplyDelete
  3. God, what a brilliant thing to be singing. Very jealous!

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Ed
    I suppose that 'hn' and 'hm' are voiceless nasals followed by a voiced nasal.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What does the composer mean by hor in the first two lines of the score? I would guess it meant /hɔː/, which would be a tenth vowel.

    Anonymous: Alfred Gough is American-born, so it's unlikely he says [ɡɒf]; I'd guess [gɔf]. Googling produced nothing useful, though I have learned to pronounce Kristin Kreuk's surname with GOOSE, and that one Chon Wang, a character in Shanghai Noon, a "martial arts action comedy western film" (WP), pronounces his name "John Wayne", ha(r) ha(r) ha(r).

    ReplyDelete
  6. I hope there are no medical emergencies resulting from the instruction to "hit chest (hard)" :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't understand what sound the "hn" indicates.

    My guess would be [hn̥], with the instruction to "hum" referring to the syllabic nasal. He may also mean [hm̥] but in that case I assume he would have written "hm".

    ReplyDelete
  8. @Anonymous, John Cowan:

    There's a "Gough Street" in San Francisco. Most here are cot-caught merged so it's difficult to tell whether the local vowel is LOT or THOUGHT. I have heard uninitiated out-of-state Americans attempt to pronounce it /goʊ/ rather than /gɔf/.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @Ed:

    Hindu weddings and funerals tend to be on the unrehearsed side. At my own Hindu wedding my wife and I were presented with some vows to read publicly to each other that we had never seen before. At least they had been translated to English from Sanskrit:)

    ReplyDelete
  10. So he's definitely not gɒf, but either gɑːf or gɔːf. And maybe goʊ or gəʊ to the uninitiated. That's fabulous.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Is ɡɒf necessarily "wrong" for an American? Surely nobody without the father-bother merger is likely to call him ɡɑːf, and even ɡɔːf sounds a bit odd to me. It's not as if Americans call Hugh Grant ɡrɑːnt. (They don't, do they?) Surely there has to be some tolerance for phonemic differences when a person's name is pronounced throughout the Anglosphere? Otherwise, a name can be "correctly" pronounced only by its bearer and those who grew up near him. If my name was Mark, I wouldn't be offended by people who pronounced it mɑrk. I don't think I would...

    ReplyDelete
  12. Open back rounded vowel, ɒ, is present in the Boston accent.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Leo, what does ɒɑː 'opposition' have to do with ɑː vs. æ? Just asking.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anonymous, they are both systematic differences between American English and southern British English, of course.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I also think you're contradicting yourself: you say "Oh, but why wouldn't an American pronounce Gough British-style?" and then mention Hugh Grant, whose surname is an example in the opposite direction (i.e. "No American would pronounce Grant ɡrɑːnt" – then why do you ask the same about Gough?). But, hey, it doesn't matter.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I think it needs to be pointed out that the American English /ɔː/ is very commonly realized as [ɒː], to the extent that few Americans would consider "caught" and "court" to have the same vowel in any sense. The Boston [ɒː] is unique in terms of the historical phonemes that produced it (COT and CAUGHT, without PALM), but in qualitative terms it's a pretty unremarkable vowel shared with tens of millions of other Americans.

    ReplyDelete
  17. (Sorry, that should read "LOT and THOUGHT" rather than "COT and CAUGHT".)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Caught and court? Hm, what a bizarre example. They are different because of the r colouring of the latter: kɔːt and kɔ:rt. I don't think I've ever heard a long C13 from an American.

    ReplyDelete
  19. @ Lazar Taxon (regarding the Boston [ɒː]): Well it's sort of unique in that it's also use in LOT words. This sounds very distinctive to me. But I know what you mean though.

    I wonder if the "poem" will sound alright with non-rhotic and rhotic speakers saying it together. Well this probably isn't the first time that has happened now that I think about it.

    ReplyDelete
  20. *used in LOT words

    ReplyDelete
  21. @Anonymous: You missed my point; I picked that example precisely because it demonstrates how the equivalent of RP /ɔː/ has diverged into two very different qualities in AmEng - the r-colored one is significantly higher, and the non-r-colored one is significantly lower. Americans would likely tell you that "baaed" and "bard" have the same vowel, the latter simply with the addition of /r/, but that "caught" and "court" have completely different vowels, because the qualities are so different. This opening of historical /ɔː/ is what has facilitated the low-back merger found in the West.

    @Phil Smith: As I said, the phonemic distribution is different, but the phoneme's realization (that is, its quality) is not too divergent from the broader mass of AmEng dialects.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I should add, the use of a cringe-inducingly open [ɒː] in place of [ɔː] (that is, when not accompanied orthographically by ) is one of the hallmarks of an American doing a terrible fake British accent, such as you can hear on Saturday Night Live.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Gah, that should be "not accompanied orthographically by 'r'".

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sorry for the multi-post, but when I said "significantly higher", I meant relative to the other AmEng vowel, not relative to British /ɔː/. American and British "court" (and British "caught", obviously) both use pretty much the same vowel quality.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I pronounce "caught" and "court" with distinctly different vowels. The former is hovering somewhere between back [ɑ] and central [ä]; the latter is definitely [ɔ].

    ReplyDelete
  26. Court has a diphthong in (older) RP, so it should indeed be a closer same vowel than in caught in GenAm and local accents.

    ReplyDelete
  27. @Lazar Taxon:

    You missed my point; I picked that example precisely because it demonstrates how the equivalent of RP /ɔː/ has diverged into two very different qualities in AmEng

    From a historical point of view there are three vowel qualities: that of THOUGHT which had Early Modern English [ɒː], that of NORTH with Early Modern English [ɒr] or [ɒːr], and that of FORCE with early Modern English [oːr].

    In RP these have all merged into what is phonetically often somewhere between [ɔː] and [oː].

    In (horse-hoarse-merged) AmE, NORTH and FORCE have merged into something like R-colored [ɔɚ] (qualitatively not dissimilar perhaps from RP NORTH-FORCE-THOUGHT), while AmE THOUGHT has usually remained open as [ɒː ~ ɑː ~ aː]

    So it's not that AmEng has diverged, but rather that is has not merged quite so much as RP has.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Court has a diphthong in (older) RP, so it should indeed be a closer same vowel than in caught in GenAm and local accents.

    "A closer vowel", of course (editing error).

    ReplyDelete
  29. Lazar,
    I don't think anyone has yet made it quite clear WHY your statement "I think it needs to be pointed out that the American English /ɔː/ is very commonly realized as [ɒː], to the extent that few Americans would consider "caught" and "court" to have the same vowel in any sense" is as bizarre as Anon says it is. It certainly does need to be pointed out that the American English /ɔː/ is very commonly realized as [ɒː], as it is not very commonly realized that it is very commonly realized as [ɒː]. John Cowan took exception to my using [ɒː] for it some time ago on here, and I gave a more explicit explanation of the conflicting AmE and BrE conventions for the phonetics and phonology of it.

    But however you transcribe "caught" for those Americans who don't have the LOT-THOUGHT merger, the reason why "caught" and "court" was a bizarre example is that not a few of them, including phonologists as well as phoneticians, would not "consider them to have the same vowel in any sense" precisely because for them, not having the NORTH-FORCE merger either, they don't. So for them the vowel qualities are different not just because of the r colouring mentioned by Anon: kɔːt and kɔ:rt, which with a narrower transcription marking that difference would be kɒ(ː)t~kɔ(ː)rt (with NORTH), but also because of the functionally (phonologically) different vowel: kɒ(ː)t~ko(ː)rt/koʊrt.

    If you had chosen "taught" and "tort" or "sought" and "sort" as your examples, there would still have been a sufficiently striking difference between the allophonic qualities of the vowels to make it more plausible to say that few Americans would consider them "to have the same vowel in any sense" (without the benefit of specialist training), and there wouldn't have been the complicating factor of the FORCE variant: afaik not even AmE speakers who say foʊrt and poʊrt say toʊrt or soʊrt.

    ReplyDelete
  30. The Cornish for "smith" is gov (Kernewek Kemmyn spelling) or gof (traditional spelling, but not goff.

    ReplyDelete
  31. mallamb: It's true that I wasn't considering the NORTH-FORCE distinction, but the number of distinguishers in the US population is extremely small. Their existence does not render my statement, "few Americans would consider "caught" and "court" to have the same vowel in any sense", bizarre, because those few remaining distinguishers are obviously not going to be the primary reason.

    ReplyDelete
  32. John Maidment: the spelling goff came from the Oxford Names Companion. Thanks for setting me right.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I have the NORTH-FORCE merger but not the LOT-THOUGHT one, and for me caught is [kɔt] whereas court is [kort], the same as the nuclear vowel of GOAT or perhaps a little more tense; as I said before, [ɒ] is as alien to my speech as [y]. So the vowels are indeed distinct in quality, but there is no lowering.

    ReplyDelete
  34. And I do say [sort], [tort], [kort].

    ReplyDelete
  35. John C,
    No doubt you do, but if you have the NORTH-FORCE merger your [sort], [tort], [kort] are not functionally distinct from [sɔrt], [tɔrt], [kɔrt]. The fact that you put them in square brackets rather than solidi presumably means you recognize there is no functional opposition between them and the different quality vowels in your [sɔt], [tɔt], [kɔt]. And you have told us that you do not have the LOT-THOUGHT merger, so I do not doubt that your preference for [ɔ] over [ɒ] to represent THOUGHT reflects a realization of it more distant from your [ɑ] for LOT than the Bostonian [ɒ] that Lazar was talking about.

    So it's not surprising that your r-coloured NORTH-FORCE is closer still, maintaining a distance parallel to that between the Bostonian [ɒ] and [ɔr]. That doesn’t mean it realizes a different phoneme from your /ɔ/, any more than the Bostonian [ɔ] does in [ɔr]. Whether 'few Americans would consider "caught" and "court" to have the same vowel in any sense' is not a good guide to phoneme identity, but if they were the few Americans who do NOT have the NORTH-FORCE merger, they would be absolutely right NOT to consider "caught" and "court" to have the same vowel in any sense.

    So Lazar, I agree that it's _more_ than likely that Americans would 'tell you that "baaed" and "bard" have the same vowel, the latter simply with the addition of /r/', and that would obviously be a relatively unproblematic NS-speaker intuition, but the fact that the _phonetic_ qualities are so different in "caught" and "court" even for those who have the NORTH-FORCE merger doesn't mean that they have completely different vowel _phonemes_ if there is only the one phoneme for them to have, with allophones varying from ɒ to ɔ. And as you say, only relatively few do have a different vowel phoneme for "court" to have, namely GOAT.

    Or are you saying that even given a NORTH-FORCE merger, GOAT is the vowel you would identify in 'sort' and 'tort' as well as 'court', while saying that "caught" has what you propose to transcribe as [ɒː]? I don't think many people would agree with you.

    ReplyDelete
  36. mallamb: In my analysis of my own AmEng speech, I consider GOAT, NORTH-FORCE and THOUGHT to be three different phonemes. It helps that in my case, "Laurie" [ˈlɒːɹi] doesn't rhyme with "glory" [ˈglɔɚi] (nor with "sorry"), although many AmEng speakers would merge those two sequences. (My GOAT, by the way, is [ɤʊ].) I just don't think it's useful to identify NORTH-FORCE with THOUGHT for most AmEng speakers outside of the New York City area.

    ReplyDelete
  37. No, no, no, Lazar, of course it's not. I thought we were supposed to be discussing what the _vowel_ phonemes in NORTH and/or FORCE are, and what the lexical set items NORTH and FORCE represent r-colouring _of_.

    I assume you mean "I consider GOAT, NORTH-FORCE and THOUGHT to be three different phonemes _or_phoneme_sequences_". You could say that about older RP too, but the phonemes and phoneme sequences are differently distributed between those lexical set items: əʊ, ɔː, ɔə, ɔː. For current RP you would have to say two different phonemes or phoneme sequences, with the phonemes and phoneme sequences differently distributed again: əʊ, ɔː, ɔː, ɔː:

    I have lost track of what your own AmEng speech is. Perhaps you could remind me, but what do you mean by «It helps that in my case, "Laurie" [ˈlɒːɹi] doesn't rhyme with "glory" [ˈglɔɚi] (nor with "sorry") although many AmEng speakers would merge those two sequences»? Are you saying that your "sorry" doesn't go with your "Laurie"? Or if not, that you have a three-way opposition between "Laurie", "glory" and "sorry"? Is any such opposition reflected in some extended lexical set? And how does it help? Or what does it help? From what you have said before, and from my understanding of the situation in general, it clearly doesn't help to maintain the NORTH-FORCE opposition.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Ok, I'm not quite sure what you're asking, but I'll sumarize my phoneme distribution.

    NORTH and FORCE use /ɔɚ/, which I do consider to be a single phoneme. (I suppose I could also treat it as a sequence of /ɔː/ and /r/ - although this /ɔː/ would appear nowhere else.)

    LOT uses /ɑː/, while THOUGHT uses /ɒː/. GOAT uses /oʊ/, which I realize as [ɤʊ].

    So yes, I have a three-way opposition between "sorry" (in the LOT set), "Laurie" (in the THOUGHT set), and "glory" (in the NORTH-FORCE set). /ɒː/-before-/r/ is also found in a few other cases - "laurel", "Lauren" and "Lawrence" (why always after /l/, I don't know).

    ReplyDelete
  39. «I suppose I could also treat it as a sequence of /ɔː/ and /r/ - although this /ɔː/ would appear nowhere else.»

    I wish you would treat it as a sequence of _something_ and /r/! But obviously that something can't be /ɔː/ if it appears nowhere else. The [ɔː] must be an allophone of something else. The question is what. Could you look at me arguments in more detail and see how they apply to you?

    ReplyDelete
  40. «I wish you would treat it as a sequence of _something_ and /r/! But obviously that something can't be /ɔː/ if it appears nowhere else. The [ɔː] must be an allophone of something else.»

    Why do you insist on that? The easiest thing, in my view, is to consider it to be a fundamentally rhotic phoneme, /ɔɚ/, analogous to the phonemes that I use in NEAR, SQUARE and NURSE. The fact that "Laurie" and "glory" don't rhyme means that I can't treat THOUGHT and NORTH-FORCE as the same phoneme. The only other choice would be to treat NORTH-FORCE as a sequence of GOAT plus /r/, but this would make necessary a radical phonemic analysis, with NEAR being FLEECE plus /r/ and so forth.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I mean, "radical phonemic reanalysis".

    ReplyDelete
  42. @Lazar:

    "Accents if English" lists a set of NORTH words where the stressed vowel precedes intervocalic non-morpheme-final /r/:

    aura, aural, Laura, Taurus.

    Do these words have your "sorry", "Laurie" or "glory" vowel?

    ReplyDelete
  43. I use [ɒː] in "Laura", but /ɔɚ/ in "aura", "aural", "Taurus", and "saurian". With the exception of "Laura", my [ɒːrV] words seem pretty much equivalent to the cases in RP - "Laurie", "Lauren", "Lawrence", "laurel" (and non-pre-rhotically, "Austria", "sausage", "claustropobic") - where a presumed historical /ɔː/ has been lowered to /ɒ/.

    ReplyDelete
  44. David Marjanović18 April 2011 at 19:13

    Ah, so Gough rhymes with Brough! I happen to have had some idea how Brough is pronounced, because Brouffia is named after two Broughs.

    Le Goff is a Breton surname.

    ReplyDelete