Wednesday 20 April 2011

maculate spelling

The Guardian newspaper used to be a byword for typographical errors of one kind and another, which is where its nickname the Grauniad comes from.

Those days are gone. But occasional errors remain, here as elsewhere. (And as someone who commits the odd typing error from time to time myself, I’m in no position to throw stones.)

It is when a spelling mistake is repeated several times in the same article that one begins to feel critical. Yesterday’s paper had a health article by Patrick Kingsley devoted to macular disease, the eye condition that can lead to blindness.

Although the disease is correctly referred to as macular, the part of the eye affected is the macula. We nonrhotic speakers pronounce the two terms identically, but the noun is correctly spelt without r, the adjective with.
Patrick Kingsley got it wrong, spelling both terms macular.In the version now available on the website the spelling has been corrected and there is an embarrassed apology.
The fact that even highly literate university graduates such as Guardian journalists still have difficulties with English spelling supports the view that it ought to be reformed. However any reform intended to apply to English as a whole would have to retain the letter r in those positions where rhotic speakers (who are the majority) retain it. So nonrhotic speakers are still going to have to learn and apply spelling differences that from our point of view are unpredictable, arbitrary: perhaps cawt (caught) vs. cort (court), even though they are homophones for us.

Even if we reform our spelling it’s going to have to be marimba but timber, Virginia but linear, necrophilia but familiar, and umbrella but cellar, not to mention lava and larva. Tough.

So it is with macula and macular, and likewise for the exactly parallel uvula – uvular, peninsula – peninsular. Classicists will recognize Latin first-declension nouns in and their corresponding adjectives in -ār(is).

Still on spelling: today’s paper has a piece mentioning the Welsh historical figure Owen Glendower, or Owain Glyndŵr as he is spelt in Welsh.

The Guardian journalist who contributed it is keen to use the Welsh form of his name, but unfortunately writes it Owain Glyndwyr, not once but twice. So far this error hasn’t been corrected on the website….


  1. I know you know this, but not all non-rhotic speakers pronounce "caught" and "court" alike.

    The "peninsula"/"peninsular" confusion seems to be particularly common, in my experience.

  2. English needs a Vuk Karadžić [vûːk kâraʤiʨ].

  3. Your intended link to the version now available on the website is misdirecting to your blog.

  4. BTW I haven’t yet despaired of finding time to follow up the argy-bargy on "a visit from Orlando" last Wednesday, but in view of your examples "cawt" and "cort" I am bound to point out pro tem that although there may not be any non-rhotics left who have FORCE in "court" and NORTH in "cortex", there are plenty of rhotics who do. So even the rhotics who don't would still find it tough to have "coert" or something for the former and "cortex" for the latter, and we non-rhotics would find it even tougher.

  5. And would this reform recognise other historical distinctions such as CURB-KERB? In Scotland and most of Ireland this distinction is preserved but in America it's merged.

    What about more recent splits such as TRY-FLY?

  6. I'd go with having a spelling for each of the standard lexical sets, with the possible exception of ones with extremely low functional load such as PALM. (Provided that LOT has a distinctive spelling and the R is START is transcribed, spelling PALM and TRAP the same way (and START as TRAP + R only creates approximately *one* pair of non-homophone homographs not involving a proper name -- the only one I can think of being calm/cam. There'd be quite a few eye-rhymes such as carry/starry, but they already exist in the current spelling.)

  7. The Metro wrote "holier than though" rather than "holier than thou" on page 6's article, "Clegg gives back house sales profit". Does anyone have "thou" and "though" as homophones?

    Spelling mistakes can reveal pronunciations. From the number of people who get "wander" and "wonder" confused, I think that some must have these words as homophones.

  8. I'm a little confused as to whether you're in favour of spelling reform or not, mainly because the post seems to start in favour, but then highlights the fundamental problem with spelling reform: it presumes consistency of pronunciation across all speakers. This is particularly of concern for social reasons as it ends up promoting one dialect over others and, in the process, *increasing linguistic insecurity* amongst those who speak a non-conformant dialect.

    Whilst at the moment we have a relatively democratic arbitrariness to our spelling system, in which everyone knows that they cannot rely on a match between orthographic and phonetic, a reformed system would ensure that the speakers of lower-status dialects not only continue to spell things wrongly, but in doing so are now marked. They will have to learn two sets of words where they have a merger the standard has not, and you have already highlighted rhoticity problems.

    The well-educated would already likely to speak a dialect close to that selected as the paradigm for reform (let's be honest, they're not going to select a predominantly working-class dialect, it's gonna by RPish). The well-educated already spell better than the rest (Guardian editors notwithstanding). So spelling reform simply entrenches social difference: it ends up working against those very people it purports to help.

  9. Sorry about the broken link, now corrected.
    May I refer some of you to this article of mine?

  10. Would spelling reform be applied to place-names? We might have a civil war over how the city of Bath should be spelled.

  11. As any fule kno, Glyndwyr is the plural.

  12. Glyndwr, of course, being an agentive noun derived from the verb glyndio, meaning "to instigate an ultimately unsuccessful rebellion against English rule".

  13. @Ed:

    "Holier than though" could just be mechanical memory of someone typing on a keyboard.

    I find that I often type "thought" instead of "though" because my fingers are so accustomed to "ough" being followed by "t". That's obviously not a phonologically-based error.

  14. garicgymro: surely the singular form would then be glynd(i)wr, not glyndŵr, wouldn't it? Ta waeth, ho ho.

  15. So how do you pronounce those Welsh words? In Welsh and in English?

  16. The name is [ˈoʊain ɡlɨ̞nˈduːr], [ˈəʊɪn ɡlenˈdaʊə]. The verb glyndio is a joke. If it really existed it would be pronounced [ˈɡlɨ̞ndjo] and the agent noun would be [ˈɡlɨ̞nd(j)ʊr].

  17. The offending "Glyndwyr" has now been corrected to "Glyndwr" (if the no circumflex merits the use of "correct") on its first occurrence but not its second. Isn't the Grauniad still wonderful?

    Thanks for the article link. I had read it, but it bears rereading.

  18. @Stuart Brown:
    1) If each letter/digraph/trigraph (any generic term for those) corresponds to a diaphoneme, all speakers can rely partly but not completely on pronunciation to determine spelling.
    2) Even if a spelling reform is based on a very specific accent (e.g. RP as spoken by people born between 1960 and 1970), I can't see why, for speakers of different dialects, that would be worse than the spelling that exists today for them. (Of course there would still be problems, but the relevant comparison is between the proposed reform and the current spelling in this world, not between the proposed reform in this world and the best possible spelling in the best possible world -- see

  19. A lot of the irregularity in English spelling is dialect-independent.

    Personally, if reform were to happen at all I'd go for a regularisation of the current spelling: many words wouldn't change, and where the current system marks distinctions made in some dialects the new one largely would too. E.g. NORTH/FORCE is largely predictable from the spelling, so if you regularise existing spellings you don't lose the distinction for those who make it, except where the current spelling already doesn't mark it, like in "port" (and "force" itself).

    (I mean something like what Mark Rosenfelder does on , though taking a wider range of accents into account: several of his reforms don't work in my accent.)

  20. Sounds like we need an IngSoc to fix this mess. :O

  21. Stuart Brown: It is possible to design a reform (not a complete replacement) for English orthography that makes the distinctions needed for the living accents of English. This would ensure that the pronunciation is predictable from the spelling (as in French), without requiring that spelling be predictable from the pronunciation.

  22. JHJ said...
    I know you know this, but not all non-rhotic speakers pronounce "caught" and "court" alike.

    Are you referring to some non-rhotic speakers from my side of the pond (the side that isn't yours)? Or is this something else?

    @ army1987: Thanks for the Wikipedia article URL. I wasn't aware of the name of that fallacy. Now I can use it in debates :)

  23. @army1987: I don't see myself as succumbing to the Perfect Solution Fallacy (nice term, though!). I accept that compromises would be made: my point was that they would be made by folks such as you and I, not by the low-status speakers and would end up selecting against the very people who most struggle with literacy. Indeed, John's article linked to above explicitly shows this attitude where, in section 8.3, he argues that "If in a spelling reform we make provision for the such stigmatized pronunciations, we could be seen as bolstering vulgarity and ignorance. The objective, scientific observer of course discounts these social views and refuses to make such value judgments, but a reforming movement does have to take such prejudices into account."

    You say that "I can't see why, for speakers of different dialects, that would be worse than the spelling that exists today for them." The reason would be that spelling reform would then carry with it normative pressure. At the moment, a poorly literate stigmatized dialect speaker who cannot see a mapping between the spelling of a word and his pronunciation of it carries no further burden, he can write it off to the famed irregularity of English. Once a reform was in place, it would embed that people who spelt poorly also spoke poorly, reinforcing linguistic stigmatization and insecurity.

    @John Cowan:
    This is, to my mind, precisely the aesthetic rather than utilitarian view that I reject. We are university educated folk, we read a great deal, we acquire new lexemes through that medium, but we also can handle the irregularities of English or have the linguistic security to be able to ask "how to do you say that"? Poorly literate, stigmatized dialect speakers read very little, they do not acquire new lexemes through reading. They have no need of a spell-to-speech mapping; its introduction would merely satisfy a certain desire for systematicity by certain members of the literate elite. I believe that that very message of systematicity would, in reality, take on normative force in the speech-to-spell direction, whether or not it was intended that way.

    I suppose what I'm arguing for here is a kind of linguistic version of Rawl's difference principle: that economic and social (and to me linguistic) inequalities are unavoidable, but that justice occurs when they are configured so as to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society. That, to me, is the linguistic status quo. I cannot see a realistic programme of reform would not simply marginally increase the benefit to the more advantaged members of society, at the expense the benefit to the less so; and as a good Rawlsian I can't accept that.

  24. @mallamb: Funny enough, the NORTH-FORCE distinction is maintained among some, but not all, of the non-rhotic speakers here in Massachusetts. (Most of those that I've heard with the distinction, though, are over 50.) In their case, NORTH is merged into LOT-THOUGHT, resulting in:

    father: [ˈfaːðə]
    bother: [ˈbɒːðə]
    cot, caught: [kʰɒːt]
    horse: [hɒːs]
    hoarse: [hɔəs]

  25. @Lazar Taxon: and those who have lost the NORTH/FORCE distinction would merge them into FORCE, so they'd be distinct from LOT/THOUGHT, wouldn't they? (So "caught" and "court" would still be different.)

    The NORTH/FORCE distinction is still maintained by some non-rhotic speakers where I live (S. Yorkshire), too. (My impression is that it's strongest in word-final position, but that it can be there elsewhere too.) I make it, but my accent is a bit of a hybrid and isn't consistently non-rhotic.

    I'm sure one of JW's pronunciation preference surveys found a "sauce"/"source" distinction more likely to be reported than a "lava"/"larva" one, too, but I can't find the figures right now.

    Also I believe Caribbean English usually has a NORTH/FORCE distinction, and some Caribbean English is non-rhotic.

  26. @JHJ: Yes. Those who don't merge NORTH into LOT-THOUGHT merge them into FORCE, leaving LOT-THOUGHT distinct.

  27. As for ‘what happens to NORTH’, I swear I've heard someone pronouncing Laura as /lɑːrə/ several times. (Maybe I was hallucinating, though.)

  28. Stuart Brown said:
    Once a reform was in place, it would embed that people who spelt poorly also spoke poorly, reinforcing linguistic stigmatization and insecurity.
    I'm a native speaker of a language with a nearly phonemic¹ spelling based on the standard dialect (namely Italian), and I've never experienced anything like that. People who e.g. geminate all post-vocalic /b/'s (including myself) sometimes might find themselves in doubt as to whether to spell b or bb in a given word, but the situation isn't any different from that of English speakers in doubt between w and wh (including the nearly total lack of stigmatization of b /bb/ and the extremely small number of people who attempt to make the contrast without having it in their original accent).
    1. i.e., from the spelling one can determine the pronunciation with the exception of a few pairs of phonemes with very low functional load.

  29. @Ed, 20 April 13:32, re 'wander/wonder'
    I (otherwise fairly Standard British English but with a Midlander for a father) have wander and wonder as homophones (with LOT) unless making a conscious and artificial-feeling effort to distinguish them, just as I have one=wan (LOT) rather than one=won (STRUT).
    And see here.

  30. @ Phil Smith and JHJ:
    My non-rhotic grandma distinguishes "caught" and "court", but she uses the CURE vowel in "court". She is 92, so not very representative of the population, but it shows that the distinction has not died quite yet.

  31. @ Anonymous at 11:35:
    Isle of Man accents have /ɑː/ in North.

    There are also some northern English speakers who have such an open vowel in NORTH that it's approaching /ɑː/

  32. A lot of Irish non-rhotics maintain a NORTH-FORCE distinction.

    This song is called 'Horse Outside', and you can hear the low, long /r/-less NORTH vowel in the word 'horse'.

    The singers are from Limerick city, and their non-rhoticity is not as advanced as most English accents. A similar situation exists for many inner-city Dublin speakers.

  33. @Stiuuət Braun:
    '…ð fφndəmentl probləm wið speliŋ riform: it priziumz cnsistnsi əv prənφnsieixn əcros ol spiicrz. Ðis iz prtíciulrli əv cnsωrn fr souxl riiznz əz it endz φp prəmoutiŋ wφn daiəlect ouvr φðrz and, in ð prouses, *incriisiŋ linguístic inseciuriti* əmφngst ðouz hu spiic ə noncnformnt daiəlect.'

    Ə speliŋ z ounli ə miin əv wik pωrpəz iz t wωrc laic ə diicoudr ðət helps piipl t riid ð saundz. It s not its pωrpəz t xou ð histri əv ð laguinж (etimoləжi) or t wωrc fr iik daiəlect. Piipl hu spiic ə daiəlect φndrstand pωrfictli φðrz, spexiəli ð mein acsent əv ð cφntri (RP or GA) ənd wen ə forin dφznt φndrstand ðm, ðei r ceipəbl əv riiprədiusiŋ sφk saundz.
    In mai əpiniən, ə radicl riform wud rizist betr ð cnsωrvətiv forsiz wik wud trai t rivωrt ð riform ət liist in sm aspects (əz ðei did fr instns in жωrmn, wer ð 'th' wəz riteind in sm wωrdz laic 'Apotheke' or 'Themen'). Hauevr, fr ə səcsesfl riform, stəbiliti z indispensəbl; wφn cn toləreit ə riform, bət not ə pωrmənnt wφn.
    Ai þinc ðət ə speliŋ riform xud bi triitid əz ə xift əv alfəbet insted əv ə mir adicuəsi. Ðφs ð topənimz n anþropənimz wil bi keiжd tu (sou ju wil not niid tu asc piipl hau t spel ðer neimz, n ju wil rait "Woric" n "Lestə" insted əv "Warwick" n "Leicester" ən sou on).

  34. …ðə ˌfʌndəˈmentl̩ ˈprɒbləm wɪð ˈspelɪŋ rɪˈfɔːm: ɪt prɪˈzjuːmz kənˈsɪstənsi əv prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃn̩ əˈkrɒs ɔːl ˈspiːkəz. ðɪs ɪz pəˈtɪkjʊləli əv kənˈsɜːn fə ˈsəʊʃl̩ ˈriːzənz əz ɪt endz ʌp prəˈməʊtɪŋ wʌn ˈdaɪəlekt ˈəʊvər ˈʌðəz ænd, ɪn ðə ˈprəʊses, *ɪnˈkriːsɪŋ lɪŋˈɡwɪstɪk ˌɪnsɪˈkjʊərɪti* əˈmʌŋst ðəʊz huː spiːk ə nɒn kənˈfɔːmənt ˈdaɪəlekt.
    ə ˈspelɪŋ z ˈəʊnli ə miːn əv wɪtʃ ˈpɜːpəs ɪz tə ˈwɜːk ˈlaɪk ə ˌdiːˈkəʊdə ðət helps ˈpiːpl̩ tə riːd ðə saʊndz. ɪt s nɒt ɪts ˈpɜːpəs tə ʃəʊ ðə ˈhɪstr̩i əv ðə ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ ˌetɪˈmɒlədʒi ɔː ˈwɜːk fər iːtʃ ˈdaɪəlekt. ˈpiːpl̩ huː spiːk ə ˈdaɪəlekt ˌʌndəˈstænd ˈpɜːfɪktli ˈʌðəz, ˈspeʃəli ðə meɪn ˈæksent əv ðə ˈkʌntri («RP» ɔː «GA») ənd wen ə ˈfɒrən ˈdʌznt ˌʌndəˈstænd ðəm, ðeɪ ə ˈkeɪpəbl̩ əv ˌriːprəˈdjuːsɪŋ sʌtʃ saʊndz.
    ɪn maɪ əˈpɪnɪən ə ˈrædɪkl̩ rɪˈfɔːm wʊd rɪˈzɪst ˈbetə ðə kənˈsɜːvətɪv ˈfɔːsɪz wɪtʃ wʊd traɪ tə rɪˈvɜːt ðə rɪˈfɔːm ət liːst ɪn səm ˈæspekts (əz ðeɪ dɪd fər ˈɪnstəns ɪn ˈdʒɜːmən, weə ðə «th» wəz rɪˈteɪnd ɪn səm ˈwɜːdz ˈlaɪk ɔː «Themen»). haʊˈevə, fər ə səkˈsesfəl rɪˈfɔːm stəˈbɪlɪti z ˌɪndɪˈspensəbl̩; wʌn kən ˈtɒləreɪt ə rɪˈfɔːm, bət nɒt ə ˈpɜːmənənt wʌn.

    ˈaɪ θɪŋk ðət ə ˈspelɪŋ rɪˈfɔːm ʃʊd bi ˈtriːtɪd əz ə ʃɪft əv ˈælfəbet ɪnˈsted əv ə mɪər ˈædɪkwəsi. ðʌs ðə ˈtɒpənɪmz ənd ænˈθrɒpənɪmz wɪl bi tʃeɪndʒd tuː (səʊ ju wɪl nɒt niːd tu ɑːsk ˈpiːpl̩ ˈhaʊ tə spel ðeə ˈneɪmz, ənd ju wɪl ˈraɪt «Woric» ənd «Lestə» ɪnˈsted əv «Warwick» ənd «Leicester» ən ˈsəʊ ɒn.

  35. It s ə fact ðət iivn ð slaitist speliŋ rifoorm wil bi rizistid bai ð piipl, fr instns sins 1999 ð Spanix Əcadəmi həz əbolixt ð daiəcriticl marc in ð wωrdz "sólo, éste, ése, aquél" wik r spelt nau əz "solo, este, ese, aquel" in ol əv ð ceisiz. Hauevr, moust əv pφbliceixn stil spelz ðiiz wωrdz wið ð əbolixt daiəcriticl marcs. Ð seim həz əcωrd wið ð Frenk Əcadəmi wik rimuuvd ð sωrcmflecsiz on 'i' n 'u' if ðei r not niidid t distinguix əmφŋst homəgrafs. And ð жωrmn riform əv 1996 iz stil rizístid bai ə lot əv piipl (bφt in ðət cais, ð sistm wil bi
    fainəli impouzd bicoz it s ði əfixl speliŋ toot in ð scuul).

  36. ɪt s ə fækt ðət ˈiːvn̩ ðə ˈslaɪtɪst ˈspelɪŋ rɪˈfɔːm wɪl bi rɪˈzɪstɪd baɪ ðə ˈpiːpl̩, fər ˈɪnstəns sɪns 1999 ðə ˈspænɪʃ əˈkædəmi həz əˈbɒlɪʃt ðə ˌdaɪəˈkrɪtɪkəl mɑːk ɪn ðə ˈwɜːdz «sólo, éste, ése, aquél» ɪn ɔːl ðə ˈkeɪsɪz. haʊˈevə, məʊst əv ˌpʌblɪˈkeɪʃn̩z stɪl spelz ðiːz ˈwɜːdz wɪð ði əˈbɒlɪʃt ˌdaɪəˈkrɪtɪkəl mɑːks. ðə seɪm həz əˈkɜːd wɪð ðə frentʃ əˈkædəmi wɪtʃ rɪˈmuːvd ðə ˈsɜːkəmfleksɪz ɒn «i» ənd «u» ɪf ðeɪ ə nɒt ˈniːdɪd tə dɪˈstɪŋɡwɪʃ əˈmʌŋst ˈhɒməɡrɑːfs. ənd ðə ˈdʒɜːmən rɪˈfɔːm əv 1996 ɪz stɪl rɪˈzɪstɪd baɪ ə lɒt əv ˈpiːpl̩ (bət ɪn ðət keɪs, ðə ˈsɪstəm wl bi ˈfaɪnəli ɪmˈpəʊzd bɪˈkɒz ɪt s ði əˈfɪʃl̩ ˈspelɪŋ tɔːt ɪn ðə skuːl).

  37. Army1987: You write: "Even if a spelling reform is based on a very specific accent (e.g. RP as spoken by people born between 1960 and 1970), I can't see why, for speakers of different dialects, that would be worse than the spelling that exists today for them." In a word, because such a spelling would merge away distinctions made by those speakers, obliterating cues they need to identify the words. The current spelling may maintain unnecessary distinctions (e.g. vain-vein, wrack-rack, taut-taught), but at least it also maintains necessary ones, defined by the living accents of English.

    Stuart Brown: You have a hold of the right stick, but at the wrong end. My wife teaches reading and writing to competent adult speakers of English — usually, but not always, native speakers — so I am very familiar with how such people read and how they write.

    Adult literacy students, like children, and unlike sophisticated readers, know a great many more spoken words than written ones. If somone who has never seen the written word "kangaroo" before applies the spelling-to-speech algorithm of English (such as it is), they will come out with something close to /k+æ+ŋg+ə+r+u/, perhaps with the wrong vowel reductions or missing the /g/. Still, from this they may very likely recognize the word kangaroo: if they don't know this word, that's a problem on a different level. (This example is due to Rudolf Flesch.)

    Applying the same algorithm to "could", however, gives /k+oʊ+l+d/, which is not recognizable as could, and indeed may be mis-recognized as cold. Changing the spelling to "cood" would avoid this problem. If the unpredictable irregularities of the current orthography were repaired, it would become much more tractable for learners of all sorts.

    A spelling system that maintains all the distinctions needed for every living accent would not be subject to normative pressure such as you describe, as there is no accent which makes every such distinction. Questions like "Why do we spell 'tern' and 'turn', or 'fork' and 'poark', differently?" wind up having a single satisfying answer: "Because in other places, people do pronounce them differently, and we want what we write to be easy for them to read."

  38. @Жon Cawən

    «Ə speliŋ sistm ðət meintéinz ol ð distincxnz niidid fr evri liviŋ acsent wud not bi səbжect t normətiv prexr sφk əz ju discraib, əz ðər iz nou acsent wik meics evri sφk distincxn. Cwesknz laic wai dər wi spel ‘tern’ n ‘turn’, or ‘fork’ n ‘poark’, difrəntli? waind φp haviŋ ə singl satisfaiiŋ ansr bicoz in φðr pleisiz, piipl du prənauns ðəm difrəntli, ənd wi wont wot wi rait t bi iizi fr ðəm t riid.»

    Ðat miinz wi wil prizωrv wφn əv ð wωrst speliŋ sistm ounli in ð seic əv ə mainoriti hu, on ði φðr hand, dount həv aiðr riiprizentid its oun acsent in ð trədixnl speliŋ. Ai ges, ðət ə riform wik wωrc fr ð forən n fr ð məжoriti, ənd meik prənφnsieixn dikxnriz φnnesəsri (icsept fr ð spexəlists), iz inφf prougrəs. Haiərəglific raitiŋ ənd kainiiz carəctrz ər ifixnt t riiprizent ə tφŋ əloŋ its histri or iivn difrənt languiжiz, bət ðei ər toutəli juusləs ət prəvaidiŋ ð riidr wið ð beisic pωrpəs əv ə raitiŋ: ən iizi wei t diicoud ð prənφnsieixn wiðaut nouiŋ ð miiniŋ.

  39. ðət miːnz wi wɪl prɪˈzɜːv wʌn əv ðə wɜːst ˈspelɪŋ ˈsɪstəm ˈəʊnli ɪn ðə seɪk əv ə maɪˈnɒrɪti huː, ɒn ði ˈʌðə hænd, dəʊnt həv ˈaɪðə ˌriːprɪˈzentɪd ɪts əʊn ˈæksent ɪn ðə trəˈdɪʃn̩əl ˈspelɪŋ. ˈaɪ ɡes, ðət ə rɪˈfɔːm wɪtʃ ˈwɜːk fə ðə fɒrən ənd fə ðə məˈdʒɒrɪti, ənd meɪk prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃn̩ ˈdɪkʃənrɪz ʌnˈnesəsri ɪkˈsept fə ðə ˈspeʃəlɪsts, ɪz ɪˈnʌf ˈprəuɡrəs. ˌhaɪərəˈɡlɪfɪk ˈraɪtɪŋ ənd tʃaɪˈniːz ˈkærəktəz ər ɪˈfɪʃnt tə ˌriːprɪˈzent ə tʌŋ əˈlɒŋ ɪts ˈhɪstr̩i ɔːr ˈiːvn̩ ˈdɪfrənt ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒɪz, bət ˈðeɪ ə ˈtəʊtəli ˈjuːsləs ət prəˈvaɪdɪŋ ðə ˈriːdə wɪð ðə ˈbeɪsɪk ˈpɜːpəs əv ə ˈraɪtɪŋ: ən ˈiːzi ˈweɪ tə ˌdiːˈkəʊd ðə prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃn̩ wɪðˈaʊt ˈnəʊɪŋ ðə ˈmiːnɪŋ.

  40. Hlnodovic: What "majority accent"? Every accent of English is spoken by only a minority of anglophones (that is, less than 50% of them). I note in particular that you write "aiðr", which is almost certainly a minority pronunciation of either, and if you pronounce Chinese with a leading /k/, you are very unusual indeed.

  41. John C,
    We who humani nil alienum a nobis putamus to the extent of wading through that lot in the necessary state of horrified fascination are indeed in a minority!

    Hlnodovic has kainiiz for 'Chinese' (your solidi are too generous) because he's using k for tʃ as in 'wik' for 'which', and c for k as in 'Cawən' for 'Cowan' and the eye-popping 'pφbliceixn'. And I'm by no means sure it's a wind-up.

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  44. @Жon Cawən
    Hlnódovic: wot məжoriti acsent əv inglix iz spoucn bai ounli ə mainoriti əv angləfounz ðət iz, les ðən fifti prsent əv ðm. Ai nout in prtíciulr ðət ju rait «aiðr», wik iz olmoust sωrtnli ə mainoriti prənφnsieixn əv iiðr…

    Wel, pωrsnli ai juuz Risiivd Prənφnsieixn wik iz ð beis əv mai speliŋ prəpouzl wið sm cnsexnz t Жenrl Əmericn, laic ð «r», ð singl «a» in wωrdz laic «past» wik φðrwaiz ai xud riiprizent laic «paast» ənd wen GA z mor régiulr (pridictəbl) ðn RP. Əz ai sed əbφv ‘Piipl hu spiic ə daiəlect φndrstand pωrfictli φðrz, spexiəli ð mein acsent əv ð cφntri (RP or GA) ənd wen ə forinr dφznt φndrstand ðm, ðei r ceipəbl əv riiprədiusiŋ sφk saundz.’

    Souxl discrimineixn wount disəpir fr əcseptiŋ ol acsents əz iicuəli valid, ən standrd languiж, comn tu evriwφn z betr, φðrwaiz laic ð «moos maajorũ» [mos maiorum] ð souxli ruuliŋ clas wil keinж ð modl evri taim tu icscluud ði φpstarts.

  45. wel, ˈpɜːsənəli ˈaɪ ˈjuːz rɪˈsiːvd prəˌnʌnsɪˈeɪʃn̩ wɪtʃ ɪz ðə beɪs əv maɪ ˈspelɪŋ prəˈpəʊzl̩ wɪð səm kənˈseʃn̩z tə ˈdʒenrəl əˈmerɪkən, ˈlaɪk ðə «r», ðə ˈsɪŋɡl̩ «a» ɪn ˈwɜːdz ˈlaɪk «past» wɪtʃ ˈʌðəwaɪz ˈaɪ ʃʊd ˌriːprɪˈzent ˈlaɪk «paast» ənd wen «GA» z mɔː ˈreɡjʊlə (prɪˈdɪktəbl̩) ðən «RP». əz ˈaɪ ˈsed əˈbʌv «ˈpiːpl̩ huː spiːk ə ˈdaɪəlekt ˌʌndəˈstænd ˈpɜːfɪktli ˈʌðəz, ˈspeʃəli ðə meɪn ˈæksent əv ðə ˈkʌntri («RP» ɔː «GA») ənd wen ə ˈfɒrɪnə ˈdʌznt ˌʌndəˈstænd ðəm, ðeɪ ə ˈkeɪpəbl̩ əv ˌriːprəˈdjuːsɪŋ sʌtʃ saʊndz.»

    ˈsəʊʃl̩ dɪˌskrɪmɪˈneɪʃn̩ wəʊnt ˌdɪsəˈpɪə fər əkˈseptɪŋ ɔːl ˈæksents əz ˈiːkwəli ˈvælɪd, ən ˈstændəd ˈlæŋɡwɪdʒ, ˈkɒmən tu ˈevrɪwʌn z ˈbetə, ˈʌðəwaɪz ˈlaɪk ðə «moːs maːjɔrũː» ðə ˈsəʊʃəli ruːlɪŋ klæs wɪl tʃeɪndʒ ðə ˈmɒdl̩ ˈevri ˈtaɪm tu ɪkˈskluːd ði ˈʌpstɑːts.

  46. Hlnodovic: Well, that may be true of RP (though less so than in the past), but as I have said before, "GA" is now a basically notional accent confined in actual use to tiny areas of the country: parts of central Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, southern Iowa and east central Nebraska, and southern Florida. There is in fact no accent of American English that is either numerically or socially dominant. It is true that certain professions, such as newscaster, require that the aspirant adopt a so-called neutral accent; on the other hand, other professions, like politician, require that the wannabe have or adopt a noticeable regional accent. (Among Presidents since World War II, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama are the only exceptions.)

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