Tuesday 17 May 2011


Those of you who read Jack Windsor Lewis’s PhonetiBlog will already know that the English Phonetic Society of Japan has just published a festschrift in my honour. It comprises a double issue of their journal English Phonetics. Thank you, EPSJ!

Jack has already given you some idea of the contents of the volume, and I refer you to his posting.

He also tells you that if you wish to purchase a copy (post free) you will need to remit ¥4500 to Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank, Fujigaoka Branch # 252, SWIFT code: BOTKJPJT, account number 1698177, account holder’s name Eigo Onsei Gakkai. You’d need to tell them your name and postal (mailing) address, too, and what you are purchasing.

One of the many interesting articles to be found there is by my colleague Patricia Ashby, and is entitled ‘The l-vocalization trend in young London English speech — growing or declining?’. Her evidence is drawn from a fairly small sample (nine speakers, all from inner London, plus three non-London ‘controls’) reading a structured set of sentences exemplifying word-final l in various phonetic environments (pre-consonantally, pre-pausally, pre-vocalically). Nevertheless it demonstrates some important points.
• All the London subjects sometimes vocalize final l even before a following vowel, as in I’d like to ask that girl out […ɡɛo ˈæoʔ]; and
• in all phonetic environments male speakers were at least twice as likely to vocalize dark-l as female speakers.

In discussing the background history of earlier l-vocalizations in English, Patricia mentions the name of the Piccadilly Line tube station Arnos Grove. The etymology of the first part of this name is believed to be Arnold’s, via an intermediate stage Arnol’s.

What she does not discuss is the question of how the Arnos of Arnos Grove is pronounced today. Given its etymology, we might expect ˈɑːnəʊz. The omission of the possessive apostrophe need not surprise us in the name of a London tube station, given other apostrophe-free Underground names such as Canons Park, Barons Court, Carpenders Park, Golders Green and Colliers Wood.

But I confess that I have always said the name to myself as ˈɑːnɒs, making it parallel to chaos, ethos and non-possessive names such as Amos and Carlos. (Note to Americans: I know that for you these names are ˈeɪməs and ˈkɑːrloʊs respectively. But in BrE they’re ˈeɪmɒs, ˈkɑːlɒs.)

I wonder what other Londoners do. Does anyone call it ˈɑːnəʊz Grove? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that, but then it’s not a part of London I often go to.

I checked on Forvo and find that the speaker there clearly says ˈɑːnɒs. So I’m not alone.
_ _ _

I shall now be away until the end of the month. Next posting: 1 June.


  1. Are you implying those other names should have apostrophes (in today's normative grammar)?

  2. Congratulations.

    A mediaeval indication of l vocalisation is the hypercorrect l in Bristol, formerly something like brig+stowe ("town with pier"). Now that particuar l is vocalised again we're nearly back where we started.

    Did it all start in English by inheriting the vocalised dark l of Norman French?

  3. Lipman: certainly not. As you may know, I am something of a campaigner AGAINST the possessive apostrophe. (There are other tube stations with an apostrophe, including King's Cross and Earl's Court. People, even literate ones, get very confused about apostrophes. Let's abolish them.)

  4. The English Place-name Society's 1942 volume on The Place-names of Middlesex gave [aˑnouz] and cited a spelling Arno's from an 1865 Ordnance Survey map. Earlier spellings are cited as Arnold(e)s from 1551 and 1819. I do suspect, though, that ˈɑːnɒs is now general. The EPNS pronunciation might have been a bit of editorial pedantry even then.

  5. My pronunciation, and that of every tube announcement, live or recorded, I remember having heard, is ˈɑːnɒs, or with the final syllable weakened to -əs in faster or more casual speech.

    I used to live in Southgate, one stop further out on the Piccadilly line, and would hear with depressing frequency that my supposedly Cockfosters-bound train would now, for some reason or another, be terminating at Arnos Grove, necessitating a cold wait on the open-air platform for the next train, a long walk, or a crowded and meandering bus journey.

  6. Yes, it seems to be ˈɑːnɒs for the London Underground. You can check on this amazing website with recordings of underground and tram announcements that I happened on just last Sunday, almost by accident ;)

    Must be among the geekiest, and therefore coolest, places on the web...

  7. Erm, apologies for my grammar. Served you with quite a garden path sentence there, didn't I? Almost accidentally, I found a website. The website contains recordings of announcements... That's what I wanted to say. (And yes, "almost accidentally" was intentional.)

  8. Congratulations, John!

    @wjarek: There seems to be a community of people collecting mass transit train sounds around the world - or rather, a number of communities. The aural equivalent of trainspotting?


    I'm particularly fond of this recording, an anthology of announcements made by real conductors on various lines, as distinct from the soulless canned voices we get on most lines these days.


    As for l-vocalization, I have the entirely unscientific feeling that it is growing in the US as well.

  9. Sidney: I have never heard anyone suggest that the final consonant of Bristol is hypercorrection. Rather, it reflects the tendency in the accent itself to convert final diphthong off-glides to /l/s, the opposite of l-vocalization. Check out this video starting at 1:33, where there is a brief example of homophony between soul and saw in favor of the former. (Ignore the video component, which is irritatingly slo-mo, and just listen.) The speaker glides nicely between RP and various Bristol accents: "sloppy", "brutal", "not as brutal", "over-enunciated", and "Poshstolian".

  10. If you've never heard anyone suggest that the final consonant of Bristol is hypercorrection, you had an opportunity to see it suggested only yesterday, when I had been talking about r behaving a bit like a prosody in the some of the pronunciations of 'comfortable' we were discussing, and pronunciations like ˈlɑrgr̩ for 'lager', but said of aɪˈdiər, which I think you too have been discussing recently, "The only thing I've been able to come up with for that is hypercorrection. Like Bristolian aɪˈdɪəl, or 'Bristol' itself." And JW had a whole entry on "Bristol liquids" on 13 January 2010 about these flashes of lambdacization, featuring pianols in the aerial and the Bristolian father in _Accents of English_ whose three daughters were supposedly called Evil, Idle, and Normal.

  11. And now I've watched your video I'm puzzled by your ideal that the "example of homophony between 'soul' and 'saw' is in favour of the former". The speaker feels the need to explain that 'soul' is intended precisely because it comes from a non-hypercorrecting source. I found this video rewarded careful study a bit more than the Terry stuff JW referred us to. FWIW I have always observed in Poshstolians I have known what this analyst confirms in his own accent from his own experience, that as the burr fades out what remains is the characteristic realization of /aʊ/.

  12. Hypercorrection is a sporadic phenomenon, whereas I understand Bristol lambdacization (thanks for that term) to be general, though sociolinguistically variable, like non-rhotic speech in the U.S. Surely you wouldn't call that hypercorrect? Pronouncing habanero (a type of hot pepper named after Havana) as habañero under the mistaken notion that the latter is more Spanishy is hypercorrection, but pronouncing all alveolar nasals as palatal would not be.

    As for rhotic idear in the U.S., it might be hypercorrection in the sense that it's sporadic (indeed, confined to this word), but non-rhotic accents are L in most parts of the country, so it's "hypocorrection" if anything.

  13. @ mallamb: How would you describe this "characteristic realization of /aʊ/"? I'm not from England so I'm not sure which realization you're referring to, but I'm just curious.

  14. John,
    AFIK Bristol lambdacization is regularly cited, at least by those familiar with it, as practically a paradigm case of hypercorrection. It is indeed sporadic, and the reason that that property is typical of hypercorrection is that it presupposes some level of consciousness at some stage of relatively recent history, whether dialectal or idiolectal, to perceive as a sociolinguistic shortcoming the feature for which it is an overcompensation, though of course some such hypercorrections may become established as fully fixed conventions, like the name of Bristol itself, or at least so well established as to make Evas introduce themselves to Bristolians as 'Eve', so as to avoid being called 'Evil'! So yes, it is sociolinguistically variable, like non-rhotic speech in the U.S, and I certainly wouldn't call that hypercorrect. What I would call hypercorrection in that case is precisely the rhoticization of inappropriate words like 'idea' by aspirants to rhotic speech, which is prestigious in the US, but it's not the prestige which makes it a hypercorrection. It's the aspiration to prestigious speech prompting the adoption of a feature where it doesn't belong. It doesn't mean a "correction upwards". It means an over-correction which actually makes the pronunciation wrong by any standards, so that it's seen as absurd, and the very opposite of prestigious. So your "hypocorrection" wouldn't be a "correction downwards". I suppose it would be something like a Bristolian's attempt to correct his entrenched aɪdɪəl not being a close enough approximation to the standard for it to be recognized as 'idea', so that it would still be perceived by standard speakers as an L-vocalized 'ideal' or something.

    And the wheel can turn full circle. The correcter may correctly correct aɪdɪəl to 'idea', but then congratulate himself on having achieved an aɪdɪə pronunciation of it. Which if you like would be a reverse hypercorrection.

    I don't really understand why you say rhotic 'idear' in the U.S. is a hypercorrection confined to this word. I'm sure there must be a lot of wannabe rhotics even in the US who are almost as incompetent as most non-rhotic Brits when it comes to putting the r in the right places when trying to imitate AmE.

  15. yuriive,
    You could hardly do better than listen to the recording John Cowan linked to at 17 May 2011 17:09

  16. Hypercorrection means that people avoid stigmatized pronunciations by speaking "correctly" and, in ignorance, also add the "correct" pronunciation to words that never had it. So in English you avoid vocalized l by pronouncing all dark l, and, in ignorance also add it to words that never had l. The habanera example is hardly a hypercorrection, but rather a matter of how a foreign word gets loaned.

  17. L-vocalization has always struck me as a nice similarity between a variety of English and Brazilian Portuguese, where we vocalize (I mean to turn it into a [-w]) simply all non-syllable-initial L's. Besides the problem native speakers have in misspelling final L's with U's, it's not particularly easy to make Brazilian beginner students of English say people instead of peopoe.

  18. I wonder how far the sequence diphthong + vocalized dark “l” is from an actual triphthong. Not too far, I’d say.

  19. M.A.L. Lamb:

    Thanks for the explanations on hypercorrection. I think I grasp the concept now.

    By "rhotic idear" I meant the use of idear by Americans whose speech is already fully rhotic (with the usual exceptions of library, February etc.) I suppose this pronunciation might in principle be borrowed from non-rhotic speakers who are using idear even in non-linking contexts as a hypercorrection, but why would such a pronunciation be borrowed at all? Intrusive r is socially disfavored, not favored. What is more, the plural for such speakers is idears, not ideas.

  20. JohnC, I do admire your punctilio in the matter of my name, with the initials fully specified as abbreviations and all. It's OK, I understand. I remember a rant of yours somewhere about people not identifying themselves properly with their user names. Actually I'm sure mine was imposed on me by subscription software simply adopting my email address, which was originally MALLamb and then stopped being case-sensitive. I dare say these things are opaque even to your understanding. Anyway it was not particularly cryptic, and I've unencrypted it now.

    Yes I should have understood that by "rhotic idear" you meant the use of aɪˈdiɚ by Americans whose speech is already fully rhotic. I would expect the plural for them to be aɪˈdiɚz, whereas the wannabe rhotics I was talking about could well hypercorrect to aɪˈdiɚz just as sporadically as they hypercorrect to aɪˈdiɚ. And hypercorrection is what that would be. It was the wannabes I was talking about when I said of aɪˈdiɚ that the only thing I'd been able to come up with for it was hypercorrection, and obviously that doesn't apply to bona fide rhotics, whose use of it remains mysterious, whereas with the wannabes it's by no means confined to that word. I was responding to Pete, who had said "I've always thought of ˈkʌmftr̩bl̩ as a hyper-rhotic pronunciation - like ˈlɑrgr̩ for lager or aɪˈdiər for idea."


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