David Deterding expressed some surprise at the LPD entry for comfortable.
The LPD entry for 'comfortable' seems to suggest that the preferred US pronunciation is: [kʌmftərbl]. Is that correct? Does the /r/ get moved so that it is next to the /b/? Actually, the schwa is raised, which means it is optional; and then I am confused. Does the second syllable potentially have a syllabic /r/?
The r-metathesized pronunciation for AmE is shown in plain type, not bold. That means that the preferred form is the same as BrE, with no r. Its existence is confirmed by Webster's Collegiate etc.
Yes, my convention in LPD is to represent 'syllabic r' (lettER) as raised schwa plus r, bringing it into line with the conventions for syllabic n and syllabic l. If the schwa is "optionally deleted" then the syllable spacing guarantees that the sonorant becomes syllabic. (Unless of course there's a compression mark, in which case it can revert to being nonsyllabic.)
David came back with
Golly, I had never appreciated the distinction between bold and not bold. And I had to look for quite a while to find an explanation of this (p. xvii). I wonder if it might be included in the "typographical conventions" on p. 922, at the end of the book? I guess it makes sense, but hmmm ...... I've been using the dictionary for years, and I never picked up that distinction between bold and not.
I’m sure he’s not alone. My only defence is that it was the publishers who insisted on reducing explanations to the absolute minimum. Since no one reads them anyhow, they said, don’t use up space on them. And they are not to be found anywhere on the CD-ROM.
So let me set out again what it says on p. xvii of LPD.
Many English words have a number of different possible pronunciations. Some of the users of LPD will be teachers and learners of EFL/ESL […], and will look for advice on how to pronounce a given word. For them one main pronunciation, printed in bold, is given at each entry. This is the form recommended for EFL purposes. […] If the BrE and AmE recommended forms are different from one another, then both are given in bold. Other users of LPD, especially those who are native speakers of English, will be interested not only to see what form is recommended but also what variants are recognized. Where pronunciations other than the main one are in common educated use, they too are included, but as secondary pronunciations, printed in ordinary black type. […](In earlier editions, and on the screen display of the CD-ROM of the current edition, the main pron is in colour, secondary pron(s) in black.)
Back to comfortable. The entry reads
ˈkʌmpft əb |əl ˈkʌmpf ət əb |əl || -ərb-, ˈkʌmpf ət̬ əb |əl, ˈ•ərt̬-
As usual, a raised symbol stands for an optionally inserted segment. Ignoring the optional epenthetic p and the choices between ə plus a sonorant and a syllabic sonorant, we can unpack the remaining abbreviatory conventions as follows.
|main pron, BrE and AmE||ˈkʌmftəbl̩|
|secondary pron, BrE||ˈkʌmfətəbl̩|
|secondary prons, AmE||ˈkʌmftɚbl̩, ˈkʌmfət̬əbl̩, ˈkʌmfɚt̬əbl̩|
I wonder whether north American readers, in particular, are happy to see a recommended pronunciation with omission of the vowel corresponding to the -or- of the spelling. And how do you evaluate the transfer of the r into the penultimate syllable? And would you voice the t?