Friday, 25 November 2011

ðə ˈʔɑːtɪkl̩

In the talk on Multicultural London English that I recently gave in Japan, one of the things I mentioned was a tendency to simplify the phonetics of the indefinite and definite articles by reducing their allomorphic variation. My data came from Kerswill et al., ‘Contact, the feature pool and the speech community: The emergence of Multicultural London English’, Journal of Sociolinguistics 15/2, 2011: 151–196.I am well aware that MLE speakers are not the first NSs to fail to observe the rules that we teach EFL students for the pronunciation of the (that is, ðə before a consonant sound, ði in front of a vowel sound, plus the occasional strong form ðiː). Indeed, I make the point in the note I put in the relevant entry in LPD.
What seems to be true is that ðə plus hard attack before a word beginning with a vowel sound is more frequently heard in MLE than in, say, traditional Cockney or RP. But this is only an impression: I don’t think we have much in the way of hard statistical evidence. The sociolinguists may know its percentage incidence in MLE (see table below), but there’s not a lot of information available about other varieties. I don’t think I ever say ðə ˈʔæpl̩ and so on myself. But I could be wrong.

12 comments:

  1. To me, ðə ˈʔɑːtɪkl̩ is far less noticeable than ə ˈʔɑːtɪkl̩. And according to Kerswill et al., MLE does that, too. (Like certain accents in the US. I've even heard it in songs.)

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  2. I should have said "striking" instead of "noticeable".

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  3. As a NNS, I had failed to notice that ə plus hard attack before a word beginning with a vowel sound was not an uncommon feature in certain accents of AmE- if I have not misunderstood what wjarek seems to suggest. That’s why when I first heard this
    http://www.youtube.com/watchv=nHF78h_o6f4&feature=related (4:13), I thought the child had said ə ʔeɡ because she was typically overgeneralizing rules governing articles.
    Do you, NSs, consider that this is a common feature of certain accents of AmE or it is just a case of overgeneralization?

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  4. My view on this is that ði sounds a little stilted. I'm almost positive that I always use ðə before a vowel or a consonant, placing the glottal stop where necessary. For reference, I'm from the US, in eastern Massachusetts.

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  5. It's funny how Turkish is an ethnic group of its own in the data. Was this survey done in an area with a large Turkish population?

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  6. Here in New Zealand ðə before a vowel is much more common than in Britain, and surely predominates among younger speakers. As a Pom who moved out here in 2003 (and always says ði before a vowel), this was very noticeable. And you do hear "send me a email" from time to time. There also tends to be less linking r (e.g. kɑː əlɑːm); perhaps this has been influenced by Pacific Island languages where words like fa'amatai are common.

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  7. They say 'cah alarm' and other non-linking-rs are or were characteristic for diverse Southern accents in the US.

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  8. Rhotic speaker that I am, I had a real tough time figuring out the title of this post. Only after googling "otticle" and getting "article" as one of several possible alternatives did I figure it out.

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  9. Come on Ellen, you’re kidding. Even though you’re a rhotic speaker: Friday’s blog entry is about a variety of London speech, so you can’t expect unrounded ɑː to correspond to written ʻo’, can you? Moreover the initial vowel of otticle certainly wouldn’t be pronounced long in London either. – On the other hand it turned out to be a good idea to use (if not ðiː) search engine.

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  10. Even though I don't have the father-bother merger myself, the fact that Scherbatsky (/-'bɑːt-/ the last name of a character in How I Met Your Mother) isn't spelled with an O does give me cognitive dissonance. (Simply, since PALM words are so much rarer than either LOT or BATH my brain has decided that the /ɑː/ in their accent corresponds to my /ɒ/ and their /æ/ to my /a/ (i.e. TRAP=BATH=PALM).)

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  11. @homoid. How rude. :( Actually, it did not at all occur to me that the length distinction mattered until after I knew what the word was. Frankly, I'm new to reading this blog, and, along with that, don't have experience translating IPA to British accents.

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  12. A couple of years ago I (in Australia) noticed that I was saying ðə before vowels in most social contexts, and so I started listening to what other people say. It appears to be quite common

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