Friday, 5 October 2012

more syllable-based allophony

Jacob (Monday’s blog) isn’t ready to give up yet.
In LPD, for the word sequel the given phonemic transcription is ˈsiːk wəl, which indicates that the vowel // should be fortis-clipped by k.
However, the pronunciation heard on the CD which comes with the book is clearly [ˈsiː]+[kwəl], which shows no clipping at all, as the k does not belong to the first syllable, being the onset of the second syllable.
Could you tell me how to resolve the discrepancy?

No, I can’t, beyond reiterating that speakers are not consistent in whether or not they reflect these boundaries in their pronunciation, and that there are considerable differences between different speakers and different accents. All I know is that when I say this word myself, I believe that I normally do have fortis clipping of the . I have no idea why the actor who recorded the word in the studio on the occasion in question appears to have pronounced it as if it were a compound such as sea quest. And if I had shown sequel in the dictionary as ˈsiː kwəl, as you imply I ought to have done, you can bet your bottom dollar that the actor would have chosen to say ˈsiːk wəl, as I do, and you would still be complaining.

Jacob continues

Further, as there are a large number of words for which the phonemic syllables (based on a number of syllabification principles) do not align with the phonetic syllables (an example is Sundridge ˈsʌndr ɪdʒ phonemically, but [ˈsʌn] +[drɪdʒ] phonetically), it seems that from an ESF perspective, a phonetic transcription which stipulates the phonetic syllables would be of great help to foreign students. It would be a godsend if such a dictionary were made available.

Actually, Sundridge, the name of a village in Kent, is a particularly interesting case. All three possible syllabifications ˈsʌndr ɪdʒ, ˈsʌn drɪdʒ, ˈsʌnd rɪdʒ are phonotactically well-formed (if you accept my argument in favour of recognizing syllable-final (n)tr, (n)dr, as in ent’r a plea, und’r a cloud). The etymological one is the first: the name comes from OE sundor ‘separate’, cognate with the stem of modern asunder, plus an element ersc ‘ploughed field’, which is also to be found in the name Winnersh (a place near Reading). Popular etymology, though, might seem to favour the the second, as if it were a compound of sun, or the third, as if it were ‘ridge of the Sund’. My choice was of course the first, just as in sundry, which following my general principles I syllabify as ˈsʌndr i.

I repeat that speakers (and accents) differ widely in the extent to which they make these boundaries audible in their speech and in what articulatory means they employ to do so.

I’m afraid, Jacob, that as things are you have to choose between my LPD, where I at least try to supply a syllabification that predicts the likely boundary-adjacent allophones in accents like mine as accurately as I know how, and Peter Roach’s EPD/CPD, which divides syllables entirely on phonotactic grounds, making no claim about boundary-adjacent allophones. If you think there’s a gap in the market for a third approach, do feel free to try and fill it. Peter and I have done our best.

33 comments:

  1. Oh, there are so many unclear things about the allophonic syllabification. For example, I don't get why Masai is ˈmɑː saɪ since the stronger-stressed first syllable should attract the sibilant. Furthermore, it wouldn't break the phonotactic constraint. The same applies to the name of the British singer Sade, given as ˈʃɑː deɪ in LPD. LPD, it seems, tends to start syllables with consonants wherever it can. A sort of horror vacui that bans beginning the syllables with vowels.

    What should one say about payment and repayment? Look those entries up. Impenetrable.

    Or ˈtæb lətʃ ə, where no syllable in English ends in a schwa and an affricate, but OK, you can explain it by the means of syllables with equal stress levels so the consonant goes with the left one.

    I don't see why ˈgrɑːn tʃɪst ə couldn't be ˈgrɑːntʃ ɪst ə, except that it is that way because of etymology.

    Could someone explain also the choices for extra and district as well as Sherlock?

    It is so weird that syllabification has only been discussed twice and it's so fascinating.

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    1. JMR

      What should one say about payment and repayment? Look those entries up. Impenetrable.

      This a dictionary, not a rule-book. It records what, in John's expert judgement, the majority of speakers say.

      What it boils down to is whether the penultimate syllable is open or closed. Open or closed phonetically, not phonologically.

      So how do we tell? Well, for me the easiest test is vowel length — again, phonetic, not phonological. Other things being equal, vowels are shortest before a voiceless consonant and longest in an open syllable. The vowel in time is not as short as the vowel in type but it is shorter than the vowel in tie. So, the test here is this:

      Is the vowel of payment perceptibly shorter in duration than the in repayment?

      John's judgement is that it is, hence his comparison with claimant which nobody would think to pronounce with an initial open syllable.

      John's judgement of his own speech is backed by his study of the speech of a great many other people. Have you any grounds for doubting that he found the same distinction in the data?

      The fact that it seems a bit odd that payment and repayment should be differently syllabified is of no real importance. It isn't even the sort of anomaly that leads to interesting analysis and conclusions. One might discover why and in what circumstances a particular speaker makes the distinction, but I can't see how you might diagnose the habits of a whole speech community.

      Irregularity is irregular. No amount of theorising can impose regularity when the facts deny it.

      It may well be the case that your speech has imposed a regularity that the majority of us do not share.

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  2. P. S. Both the book and the (awfully buggy, hopefully-to-be-redesigned) CD use the illicit ɬ character for the British transcription.

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    1. Really? My LPD3 does not use ɬ for the British RP transcriptions, although it is used in the odd Welsh transcription. What edition do you have?

      What makes it illicit? Is it banned by the Council of the IPA?

      ɛd e:vja:d

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    2. By the way, I think that you should sign with your full name in accordance with the policy of this blog, especially given that you've expressed some strong views.

      ɛd e:vja:d

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    3. Jean-Marc Rouen.

      The third edition.

      Look:

      http://s10.postimage.org/6sahst01l/sshot_19.png

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    4. It is illicit because it doesn't exist in British English as a sound, a phone. I hope that you are satisfied now, however, if you are not, I would be glad to answer your questions.

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    5. Please consult the Key to phonetic symbols on the inside front cover. At the foot of the lefthand column you find **in foreign words only** x (loch, chutzpah) and ɬ (Llanelli, Hluhluwe). This is in line with BBC policy that announcers are expected to be able to use these two sounds, as well as French-style nasalized vowels, where appropriate. They are not "illicit", and my use of them is deliberate.

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    6. Good, I see. Thank you. I presume that entry will change since in the last few days no one pronounced it the way it was written down in the dictionary.

      Now that we have cleared that out, could we go onto the next stage and explain district, extra, Sherlock, Masai, Sade?

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    7. "No one"??? It so happens I have just a few moments ago heard a reporter on Sky News TV pronounce it with a perfectly good ɬ. He was not the first. (Everybody is getting practice now.) You must not make unsubstantiated sweeping statements.

      For the rest, please read my syllabification article, available on-line.

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    8. Let us pause for a second. Perhaps Ed will find this hard, but since you can say to that Chinese person, or wherever he is from, to "get a life", I believe I can state that I am not an idiot. I have obviously read that article, but it is full of wholes and things you find that need not to be said, yet they do. One flagrant example is the line about extra which is a non sequitur. District is equally unclear. Otherwise, if it were clear, other people could respond.

      How can payment be ˈpeɪm ənt and repayment ri ˈpeɪ mənt? That makes absolutely no sense. Neither does ˈstʌn səl for stansail.

      That article, as well as the Accents of English, need to be completely rewritten. Because one doesn't know which rule and when trumps that other rule. Complete anomy.

      Let it be said that I respect your work and will now probably enter this blog with deep fear that a sad news will strike me, but I just do not get it why does Ask Professor Wells exist if you either do not reply or say to people Get a life!

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    9. I do reply, very assiduously and very politely. My postings on Monday and today explain why I have no very satisfactory answer to give Jacob, with whom I have been conducting an extensive private discussion.

      I think "payment" rhymes with "claimant". Don't you? Compare "pay Ma(donna)". I think /s-tr/ in "district" is similar to /s-tr/ in "this trick".

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    10. @ Jean-Marc:
      The actual words were "Beyond telling him to get a life (an idiom he might not be familiar with), what can I do but hold my hands up and CONGRATULATE HIM ON HIS DILIGENCE AND ON THE ACCURACY OF HIS OBSERVATIONS?"
      I assure you I would take that as a great compliment!

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    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    12. J. M. R., If mean that you think payment and repayment should have the same syllabication as repayment because they are (you think) pronounced the same, I disagree, because they aren't pronounced the same. I won't pretend to understand John Well's choice of how to divide words into syllables, but it's clear enough to me that it's not odd that they might be broken up in to syllables differently.

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    13. I would transcribe (my pronunciation of) Grantchester as /ˈgranttʃɛstər/: note /ttʃ/, stop followed by affricate. It does not rhyme with Manchester, which has the same vowels. This is also how I hear the (Canadian) Forvo pronunciation.

      I've always found John's treatment of /tr/ and /dr/ a bit alien, I presume simply because my accent differs. (My intuition is that most cases of them have become /tʃr/ and /dʒr/, but this certainly does not apply to "matter of fact" or "under a cloud", however much compressed.)

      dʒɔnəθən dʒɔːdn

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    14. The point is, Ellen, that his system isn't phonetic. It aspires to divide words into syllables – although it is arguable whether those can be call syllables and, cleverly, they aren't separated by full stops in the dictionary – so that it is easy to predict the allophone in question. It's as good as it can be, and obviously its creator put great effort into it, however, it is also deeply contradictory. It doesn't want to break phonotactic rules, yet syllables often end in e and there are plenty of words like flɒ ˈdʒɪst ɪk, for example.

      I just wanted to get to the bottom of it and never ask a question about it again, but it isn't easy and as you can see, many of the users of the dictionary, some with background in phonetics, have absolutely no idea what it's about.

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    15. Let me add that flɒ ˈdʒɪst ɪk and the e ending the syllable words are explained in the rules.

      If I was rude, and I believe some here might think so, I would be ready to apologize, but let it be said that I have utmost respect for Prof. Wells.

      Eventually, I hope I hope I will be able to explain Masai and Sade to myself (check the article and its rules no. 1 and 4, which I thought guaranteed ˈmɑːs aɪ. Only etymology and rule no. 3 could result in a different syllabification, yet I believe that would make no sense because the etymology of those words would be to obscure.

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    16. JMR

      How can payment be ˈpeɪm ənt and repayment ri ˈpeɪ mənt? That makes absolutely no sense. Neither does ˈstʌn səl for stansail.

      Facts are facts. They don't have to make sense.

      of course, you're perfectly entitled to prove that the facts do make sense. But you have absolutely no entitlement to alter the facts to produce a spurious — I would say mendacious — rationality.

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    17. David, if the whole thing was nonsense, than codifying it in a published article wouldn't make sense. It's the case of two nouns breaking the rules of gluing and phonotactics. Likewise, you are entitled to produce an explanation of irregularity.

      Furthermore, I have the right to alter the facts, but everything has a price. Your last line is spurious and mendacious, very unlike anything you have written so far.

      This board needs explanations, not accusations, ethics and manners policing and attacking other people for no reason.

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    18. I can only make sense of stansail that it is that way because the last syllable is thought of as a morpheme, a shortened version of sail so it doesn't trump the glue & don't break the phonotactic rule code.

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    19. JMR

      David, if the whole thing was nonsense, than codifying it in a published article wouldn't make sense.

      It isn't a codification, it's a record, an observation. A fact.

      Calling it 'nonsense' is pointless. It is what it is.

      It's the case of two nouns breaking the rules of gluing and phonotactics.

      No, it's a case of two pronunciations disproving some putative rules of gluing and phonotactics.

      The fact that they can be thus disproved shows that they were well-constructed rules.

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    20. No, it's a case of two pronunciations disproving some putative rules of gluing and phonotactics.

      That was perhaps a little unfair. The examples don't so much disprove the rules as indicate that they are not applicable in the discipline of descriptive phonetics. They may well be of considerable value in theoretical phonology.

      Nobody buys a dictionary to be told the theoretical abstract forms that underlie the observed concrete forms. This is especially true of a reference work used mainly by foreigners who wish to know what in practice they might to copy, and who are generally antipathetic to theory of any kind.

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    21. J.M.R.

      What is this word "stansail" that you keep mentioning? It's neither listed in LPD nor the previously-mentioned Syllabification and allophony, and I've never heard of it before. When I've googled it, it is only coming up as a surname, yet you have consistently written it without a capital letter.

      ɛd e:vja:d

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    22. Obviously, it doesn't exist. It should be stunsail or stuns'l.

      Your thoughts? Does payment rhyme with repayment? What about Sade and Masai?

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    23. JMR

      check the article and its rules no. 1 and 4, which I thought guaranteed ˈmɑːs aɪ.

      I belatedly twigged that you were referring to another document. So I checked it as you suggest. I don't see how the rule 4 there makes any difference. It applies to constraints. There is no constraint on the syllable mɑ: — indeed it corresponds to a word, as does the syllable ʃɑ:. Similarly, there are no constraints on mɑ:s or ʃɑ:d. They serve as a particular pronunciation of Mass and a non-rhotic pronunciation of shard.

      There's no theoretical argument for or against ˈmɑ: saɪ, ˈmɑ:s aɪ, ˈʃɑ: deɪ, ˈʃɑ:d eɪ. We simply listen and find out what speakers choose.

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    24. The problem is that these rules work together, you cannot pick one and not the other. Since the constraint isn't broken and the first syllable is more stressed, the consonant must be glued onto the first one.

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    25. I guess once more this is a demonstration of what rhymes with what. But let it be said that I am not convinced about payment and repayment. And claimant as a word one of them should rhyme with.

      Probably, to Professor Wells, they rhyme with shah day and not shard ay.

      But how do I know when to pick which? As for buying those dictionaries, who knows, maybe they don't, but this dictionary is written as coherently as possible and even though Professor Wells said on one of those pages from UCL that English isn't (fully) logical and coherent and that we should deal with it, these rules have been written with a purpose in mind.

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    26. Your thoughts? Does payment rhyme with repayment? What about Sade and Masai?

      For me, the words "payment" and "repayment" rhyme. However, I don't speak anything like RP, and John Wells would not write LPD with my sort of speech in mind. My own accent has some similarities with Scottish ones when it comes to syllabication (but not with pronunciation). For example, I would normally say "put it in there" as [pʊ tɪ tɪn ðɛ:]. There is an old joke about the Yorkshire pronunciation of "It isn't in the tin" becoming [tɪn tɪn tɪn].

      Until a few seconds ago, I didn't know what/where/who Masai was, so I don't think that I should have an opinion on the pronunciation of this African language.

      I must admit that I find some of the syllabication in LPD strange. For example, the words that begin with the letters "idea" are baffling in their RP forms. However, the main test is whether it's accurate rather than whether it's strange or not. It's more difficult to tell now whether a dictionary is accurate, since not everyone gets to hear RP regularly (you only get a certain range of words used on Radio 3 and Classic FM). RP has become a flag without a pole in recent years.

      ɛd e:vja:d

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    27. JMR

      The problem is that these rules work together, you cannot pick one and not the other. Since the constraint isn't broken and the first syllable is more stressed, the consonant must be glued onto the first one.

      The unacceptable word is 'must'. Rule 1 seems to predict that that syllabification will be ˈʃɑ:d eɪ, ˈmɑ:s aɪ. John's observation finds that the prediction is not confirmed. Assuming that John's observation is accurate — and it would take very strong evidence to question it — then in these two words the consonant must not be glued onto the first syllable.

      But so what? Neither is an English name. Why on earth should we expect them to follow the trend of English phonology?

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  3. I have no idea why the actor who recorded the word in the studio on the occasion in question appears to have pronounced it as if it were a compound such as sea quest.

    Perhaps he was "enunciating".

    piː mæk ənɛnə

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  4. Speaking of Machynlleth, this evening I heard a German reporter attempt to pronounce it. Apparently aiming for /maˈxʌnθlɛθ/, she succeeded in pronouncing it [maˈxanslɛs].

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