Friday, 15 June 2012

100 years ago

A hundred years ago the IPA was debating whether to admit articles in ordinary spelling to its journal the mf (Le Maître Phonétique). Daniel Jones thought it might be a good idea.

(The transcription Jones uses here is not quite the same as he uses in the Outline and EPD. For the fraught matter of how to write the vowel of DRESS he chooses ɛ rather than e — though if you look carefully you will see one word for which he forgets and inconsistently writes e.)

(Note the use of the long ɔː in the CLOTH words off(-print) and lost. In virtually all modern RP these words are pronounced with ɒ, which in this transcription would have been shown as ɔ without length marks. Two other words unlikely to be pronounced nowadays as shown here are interest and practically.)

The IPA Council however voted by 12 to 5, with 2 abstentions, that

l ɔrtɔɡraf yzɥɛl səra limite o syplemɑ̃ [ordinary spelling will be restricted to Supplements (published with the mf)]

From one such Supplement published in the same year, 1912, here is a ‘specimen of phonetic [hand]writing’: the North Wind and the Sun in ‘Northern English’, presumably therefore contributed by R.J. Lloyd. His accent was rhotic, with monophthongal FACE and GOAT .

36 comments:

  1. ælfəbet. When did they — or did they ever — introduce the stress marks?

    And also, by the way, the English diphtongs and — how can they be transcribed narrowly? The starting for the first one is the open-mid vowel, but for the first one? A truly ‘closed e’ or a mid vowel, ? Did the starting points differ in Daniel Jones's time?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That depends on the English...

      In modern RP (Geoff Lindsey style, though he calls it something else) they're both quite open (he uses ɛ for both) and the first one is a long vowel rather than a diphthong.

      Delete
    2. It can be a monophthong, but some modern RP speakers have a diphthong. It is their diphthong that I was interested in in therms of openness andabout the dipthong from the start of the last century.

      Delete
    3. For some reason, the SQUARE vowel doesn't attract as much interest as others. There's not been a huge amount of research on it. I suspect that Petyt's findings in West Yorkshire would be typical for most of the country. He found a movement first from to ɛə and then from ɛə to ɛ:

      Unless you use a Lancastrian ɜː, your SQUARE vowel is unlikely to be noticed by anyone.

      Delete
  2. A lot of Le Maitre Phonetique material will be reproduced in volume IV of Beverley Collins and Inger Mees' "English Phonetics: Twentieth-Century Developments":

    From the Routledge website:

    "Volume IV: English phonetics including dialectal varieties

    Contents: Le Maître phonétique, forerunner of the present-day Journal of the International Phonetic Association (JIPA), was the official journal of the International Phonetic Association. Edited by Daniel Jones and Paul Passy, and later by A. C. Gimson. All material appeared in phonetic transcription, which, where appropriate, will also be accompanied by an orthographic transcript."

    Sounds promising. My bookshelves are already calling out for a set.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Besides interest he also has ɪntrɪstɪŋ.

    Reading this entry and certain posts on Geoff Lindey's blog, I wonder why he chose the symbols i, u, ei, ou — were ʊ, ɪ devised after he died, was he not able to reproduce them in print, did the really meant today's i and was his ɔ without a length mark truly an [ɔ] or even then a true [ɒ] (nowadays perhaps only found in elderly people or perhaps some members of the upper classes)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I ask this, among other reasons, because Geoff Lindsey has a theory on why they chose ɪ and not, say, j, which is quite usual in other languages' transcriptions.

      Delete
    2. Thank you! I see.

      I am tempted to ask about your opinion on this

      In close-fronting diphthongs, linguists also have the choice of the semivowel symbol j – which makes explicit that such diphthongs are “falling”, i.e. decreasing in sonority. For R.P.’s diphthongs, however, the more marked choice of ɪ was made, presumably because of the strikingly non-high quality which the Tesco actress mimics. Here are authentic [eɪ] antiques from old films:

      but I think I will resist it.

      I guess the answer can only be Because ɪ and ʊ are the sounds those diphthongs end in (and u and j are not).

      Delete
  4. The phonetic handwriting is lovely.

    A slightly odd transcription though: ræpt for wrapped sounds a bit Southern to my ears. And there are a few words, such as hiz (as in all his might) and ænd, that have more consonants than we'd transcribe today (ɪz/iz and n/ən).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, that accent has some strange features for "Northern English", in particular the use of æ and the fact a different (though still apparently short) vowel appears in "last". It seems to distinguish FOOT and STRUT as well.

      Delete
  5. Is ɔ standard in "on"? I (AmE speaker) certainly have ɑ, and I thought this was standard for AmE and perhaps RP as well?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These transcriptions use ɔ for the LOT vowel, which would correspond to your ɑ.

      Delete
    2. That said, though, there are Americans for whom on and/or gone are in the THOUGHT lexical set. I say /ɑn/ but /gɔn/ myself, and I have LOT=PALM, THOUGHT=CLOTH.

      Delete
    3. New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and the Carolinas have ˈhɑːrəbl̩, ˈɑːrədʒɪn. General American and Canadian English have ɔ.

      I have to say that this is the first time I hear people not knowing that RP has ɒ.

      Delete
    4. As someone born in New Jersey and living in New York for three decades, it's not surprising that I do too.

      Delete
    5. Have LOT=PALM in horrible, origin.

      Delete
  6. Conservative, U-RP speakers used to say gɔ:n and ɔ:f, but also hɑːntʃ, lɑːntʃ, ˈlɑːndri.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As you can see from the comment by Evlekis here, some people still insist that this is the only acceptable form. I think that such attitudes are an embarrassment to my country.

      Delete
    2. I really didn't see his attitudes in that way. How did you deduce that?

      He also manages to mess up the comment - OK, I did that too in this or that other post - and also call Nigel Hawthorne - Trevor.

      What however is an embarrassment in my view is you - and I am not being rude, I hope the tone translates well - or any other person telling another how they can speak or not. If someone wants to sound like Brian Sewell, his choice. So what?

      Delete
    3. I'm not. Evlekis says that his way of speaking should have "pride of place" and that London is the "RP catchment area". This is his muddled way of saying that everyone should speak like him. I don't believe that at all. I'm the one who is against such attitudes.

      Actually I don't think that many people hate old-fashioned RP speakers merely because of how they speak. Nobody mocks how Tony Benn or Diana Athill speak. Brian Sewell is a different case. I saw him says on a programme hosted by John Prescott a few years ago that northern accents suggest low intelligence. Indeed, he thinks that he's superior to everyone and once called Victoria Beckham a "common little bitch" on live telly. When a man acts like this, he deserves everything he gets.

      Delete
    4. Then he is obviously wrong and not worth spending word on. Brian Sewell - a few of his horrendous 'gaffes' apart - is not a different case. How can you say it is not OK to mock Benn and Athill, but "Brian Sewell is a different case". No, he isn't. Why would you not mock Benn and Athill and mock Sewell? He has said repeatedly that he did not have elocution lessons as a child, was bullied because of the way he speaks and that it was just an accent he picked up from his parents.

      Delete
    5. Sewell is a different case if he believes that the way he speaks is somehow superior and entitles him to look down on the great unwashed. I say "if".

      Delete
    6. JHJ is right. Brian Sewell is not disliked because of how he speaks. He is disliked because of certain things that he has said.

      There is a clip here in which he gives some comments on northern accents, but this does not include the comment in the programme where he advocated a plague to fall on the Lancashire mill towns. His comments on Victoria Beckham can be found at 3:00 here.

      Delete
    7. JHJ didn't say that. He said the exact opposite.

      The question remains, though, why is it that people attack U-RP speakers with vehement violence all the while defending their own Geordie, Scouse or Brummie accents. I don't see why they just can't allow others to speak the way they want to.

      Delete
    8. I certainly didn't say the exact opposite to Ed. I just put a caveat there because I'm not personally familiar with Brian Sewell's views on the matter.

      As to your second point, I have no idea what you're talking about. Who attacks U-RP speakers with "vehement violence"?

      Delete
    9. Duchesse, I'm not sure whether you've mentioned beforehand whether you're British or not. This sort of subject is entwined with politics in Britain. I don't think that Professor Wells would appreciate it were I to turn his blog into a political forum, so I'll be brief. I think that the idea of U-RP being persecuted is common amongst certain right-wing papers. I do not think that their view of things is accurate.

      Delete
  7. The realisation of valuable [væljuəbl] and issue [isju:] is pretty dated too. Surely [væljəbl] (or similar) and [iʃu:] are nigh-on universal now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually [isju:] is still used a lot on the BBC (I listen mostly to Radio 4). I don't think that I've heard [væljuəbl] though.

      Delete
    2. Seconded: I have heard /ˈɪsju:/ in many different varieties of contemporary British speech.

      Delete
  8. What was the 1976 standard of IPA like? I've been searching everywhere for it, but the Internet has been no avail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure what this question means. "Standard of IPA"? Do you mean the IPA Chart?

      See almost any book on phonetics published before that year: for example, my "Practical Phonetics" (with Greta Colson, Pitman, 1971) reproduced the then current IPA Chart. Don't expect to find everything on-line: you may have to consult an old-fashioned printed book. Go to a library, go to a second-hand bookshop.

      Delete
    2. The 1932 version is on Wikipedia:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_International_Phonetic_Alphabet

      Delete