Tuesday, 5 June 2012

sound clips for LPD

Rodica Calciu asked

I was wondering whether you could tell me something about the recordings on the CD-ROM [that accompanies the printed LPD]: who are the people whose voice you recorded, [what was] their age, [and what was their] profession. This will probably help me understand the occasional mismatch between first transcription and recording.

In reply I must first confess that not all the voice clips were recorded especially for LPD. Some came from the Longman database and had originally been recorded for LDOCE or other Pearson Education dictionaries.

Nevertheless, we did record something close on a hundred thousand sound clips specially for LPD. I spent 25 full working days in the studio monitoring them as the speakers spoke them, and to the best of my knowledge they are all accurate and correct.

But I did not have a chance to monitor the remainder, nor to check whether they agreed with my choice of first pronunciation.

For those mismatches that have been brought to my attention, I will try to ensure that for the next edition (whenever that is) we sort them out.

I hope that at least in every case the pronunciation accords with one of the variants given in LPD, even if not the first.

The speakers were professional actors or voice artists engaged by the publishers, Pearson Education (Longman). Some were British, some American, as appropriate; but since the recordings were made in Harlow, Essex, the Americans were all currently living in the London area. I do not have any biographical data on them. I would estimate that all were aged between 25 and 65. As you can hear, half were men, half were women. They were all supposed to be conversant with IPA, but in practice not all could fluently read a phonetic transcription, which is one reason why I was present throughout and had to intervene from time to time.

I had to allow a certain leeway to the speakers. Even though they were voice professionals, not all could control their pronunciation in the way a trained phonetician would be able to. I gave up trying to get one American speaker to cut out plosive epenthesis, e.g. dænts rather than dæns, etc. — I don’t remember the precise words in question. So the variant recorded was not in every case my first choice at this level of phonetic detail; but it was always a pronunciation covered by the printed entry, even if not the main variant.

Occasionally I had to intervene to make an American actor contaminated by living in England sound more American. I remember suggesting to one such that Clinton would be better in AmE as ˈklɪntn̩ (i.e. ˈklɪ̃nʔn̩) rather than as ˈklɪntən: he agreed immediately, with a wry laugh.

It would be nice to check every single sound clip for the next edition (if there is one). However, this may not prove possible. Meanwhile, thank you to those of you who have drawn occasional discrepancies to my attention.


  1. I think, only an opinion, that it would be best for Longman never to publish the dictionary in paper form again and instead to create a subscription website for it with a monthly fee which would get updated frequently, just like this blog.

    1. If the fee is, let me calculate, 12 times 10 or 15, depending on how often you'd buy a new edition, so a 180th of a good used-book price, say £10, then all right. That's 6p per month, rounded up. Otherwise you might exclude lots of potential beneficiaries.

    2. Well, the price would have to be an issue, but also the content. For example, perhaps it would need to include even more toponyms or trademark names. Apart from perhaps a few actors, phonologists and phoneticians, speech therapists and dialect coaches, I've always wondered who buys these dictionaries. They obviously do sell, teachers of English also buy it, but minus a few enthusiast EFL learners, it remains a mystery. Somewhat. They obviously 'live' to see a few editions so a reading audience must be there.