Wednesday 27 July 2011

our cake

As we were chatting at a summer party last weekend, someone brought up the possible minimal pair archaic vs our cake. We were trying to think of a context in which there might be a plausible confusion between the two. Finally someone came up with a scenario involving two daughters visiting their elderly mother. They brought with them a cake as a gift, which their mother promptly stored in a tin. But she had numerous cake tins, all looking much the same, and tended to accumulate old cakes or pieces of cake and keep them in the tins for months. When it’s time for tea, one of the daughters looks at all the cake tins, picks one, and asks her mother “Is this one archaic/our cake?”

Non-native speakers may be surprised that this is even considered a minimal pair. Surely aʊə ˈkeɪk is rather different from ɑːˈkeɪɪk. Well, yes, if that’s what you say. But if you are one of the many NSs who pronounce our as ɑː(r) (rather than as aʊə(r)), then the difference is only a matter of the vocalic material between the two velar plosives, keɪk vs keɪɪk, which comes down to a subtle question of timing.

There are two reasons why our might be monophthongal ɑː(r). It might be through the operation of the optional process of smoothing, which deletes the second part of the diphthong when followed by another vowel [and, I should have added, compression, which makes two syllables one]. This is what gives us RP pɑː power, ˈɡɑː striːt Gower St, etc. (The quality of the resultant monophthong may or may not be identical to that of the ordinary ɑː of START words.)

But it might also be simply that ɑː is the default pronunciation of our. Not everyone has our as a homophone of hour. That is true for me, and for an unknown number of other NSs. The two words make a possible minimal pair, ɑː our vs ˈaʊə hour. And ɑː is not just a weak form: it’s the strong form too. (I ought to do a preference survey for this.)

When I was taught the Lord’s prayer as a child, it began ˈɑː ˈfɑːðə, hu ˈɑːt ɪn ˈhevn̩.

I might ask you “Did your bus come on time? We had to wait for ˈa(ʊ)əz for ˈɑːz.”

I don’t think there are many NNSs who pronounce our, ours as ɑː(r), ɑː(r)z. On the other hand there may well even be a majority of NSs who do. No one knows.

Kenyon & Knott included ɑr as a possibility for AmE as long ago as 1953 (possibly even in 1944 — I haven’t got the first edition to hand). For BrE priority goes, I think, to Jack Windsor Lewis, in whose Concise Pronouncing Dictionary (1972) ɑː is included just as a weak form.

When still edited by Daniel Jones, EPD did not recognize the ɑː variant. It was only when Gimson and Ramsaran took over that it was acknowledged as a possibility. Now the OED, too, has caught up.


  1. Isn't -chaic = cake a case of the same process of smoothing, too?

    The intonation might be different in your scenario, though it doesn't have to.

  2. You are a singer, Mr. Wells. Do you find that "our" normally has one beat assigned to it in songs?

    I am not a singer. On the rare occasions that I sing, I have noticed that I have to compress my usual [aʊə] pronounciation to make it fit with the song. This suggests that a monophthongal pronunciation has been established for a long time.

  3. @Ed: "Our" normally has one beet assigned, but "hour" usually has, too, so this does not help at all.

    @John: I wonder why you think that there are not many NNS who pronounce "our" as ɑː(r). Of course, if you learn English in a language course, you probably get the more "formal" pronunciation, but for such a common word as "our" I would think NNS living in an English speaking country at least for some time should quickly adjust to the variant more prominent with NS.

  4. It's definitely an alternative pronunciation (or even an irregular spelling) because rhotic accents (such as GenAm) don't admit smoothing.

  5. Ed

    In the British National Anthem the same DA-DA-DA rhythmic phrase is used for

    God save our
    Long live our
    Send her vic-
    Happy and
    Long to reign

    The song Our House has DA-DA, an also a single note for the word in the phrase in the middle of our street.

    Another hymn:
    O God our help in ages past
    with identical rhythmic phrasing to
    Before the hills in order stood

    A children's song
    This is the way we wash our hands
    to the same musical phrase as
    Here we go round the mulberry bush

  6. @Ed; 'You are a singer, Mr. Wells. Do you find that "our" normally has one beat assigned to it in songs?'

    All this indicates is that a phthong is not the same as a syllable. A diphthong by definition is two vowels within a single prosodic syllable, and a syllable can be allocated to a single note (not beat) in music. Same is true with triphthongs.

    There's a poem set to music called 'Never weather-beaten sail', and in the second line the word 'tired' is allocated two notes and (according to the metre) two syllables. When our choir sang it, most people's instincts were to sing taɪ.əd, but I argued that 'tire' contains a triphthong aɪə, and that the poet's intention must have been that 'tired' be pronounced taɪ(ə).rɛd. Actually, the conductor disagreed, but I still think I was right.

  7. «When I was taught the Lord’s prayer as a child, it began ˈɑː ˈfɑːðə, hu ˈɑːt ɪn ˈhevn̩.»

    I bet it didn't. I bet when you were first taught it it began ˈɑː ˈfɑːðə, wɪtʃ ˈɑːt ɪn ˈhevn̩. It certainly did when I was first taught it, and not only are you are a few years older than me but you grew up in a vicarage and I in an atheist establishment, not I think learning it until I went to an Anglican school. I got the impression "who art in Heaven" was a RC innovation.

    I can offer an anecdote à propos of the wording we learnt. Several years later we were challenged to write it out, and one boy wrote "Our Father we chart in Heaven". He was held up to ridicule for this, but I think it showed early promise of an aptitude for liberal theology.

    (Weirdly, it seems that ː can disappear in italics, so I have reposted using guillemets, and correcting some weird typos of my own.)

  8. @mallamb

    Are you saying you suspect 'who art in heaven' to be RC and 'which art in heaven' to be Anglican?

    In my experience it has only ever been 'who art in heaven', and I've never been anywhere near a RC establishment.

  9. Mallamb, you're right. I even thought about that immediately after posting this morning, but decided to leave the text as it was, with the modern version.

  10. Paul, John has got me right: I didn't mean to imply it's not the modern version in Anglicanism too. I only meant I suspected "who art" was a RC innovation in Anglicanism which came in long before all the other tinkering with liturgical tradition.

  11. @ Steve: Yes, you are correct. When I wrote the post, I had in mind the two main English pronunciations (one a monophthong, the other a triphthong) and didn't consider diphthongal forms of "our". The OED image in the post lists [aʊr] as a diphthongal realisation in the USA.

    Would the ummah of RP speakers consider [a:] less acceptable than [ɑː] as a form for "our"? There are certainly some people who use [a:] but am not sure whether this would be considered non-RP or not.

  12. @mallamb:

    The "who art in heaven" phraseology is found in the Anglican 1928 Prayer Book (which was rejected by Parliament, but nevertheless proved influential in many parishes, and also in the US Episcopalian Church). It may have originated elsewhere: I don't know.

  13. @Paul Carley:

    Services based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (such as Evensong in many churches) still use the older "which art in heaven".

  14. @David Crosbie:

    I don't think the evidence of hymnody is decisive.

    "Abide with me" sets the word "hour" to one note. The word "heaven" is regularly set to one note. Hymns have conventions all of their own.

  15. My subjective sense is that OUR=HOUR is more common in AmE and that OUR=ARE is more common in Southern England.

    I've actually switched from OUR=ARE to OUR=HOUR since moving from England to the US.

  16. vp

    Yes but that still leaves the modern pop song Our House and the traditional children's song Here we go round the Mulberry Bush.

    Anyway heav'n sung as one note sounds churchy in a way that our sung as one note doesn't.

    Our isn't all that common a word in songs — which tend to a first person singular or third person perspective. But here's another:
    Sally, Sally, pride of our alley.

    Yes, there is an exception which proves the rule: an earlier Sally (presumably in the mind of the composer of Gracie's song) who:
    is the darling of my heart
    And lives in ow-wer alley
    . Sure enough, this sounds mannered and dated.

    Compare the words set to a tune of the same vintage:
    And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
    Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there

    If the lyricist had wanted the singer to go ow-wer it merely needed the omission of the preceding word that.

  17. I think OUR=ARE is most common in America. I almost never hear OUR=HOUR here in America.

  18. Yet another Yank who says /ɑr/ except in extraordinarily careful speech. But I would never smooth -chaic to /keɪk/: it is /keɪ.ək/ ~ / for me thanks to the weak vowel merger, so no minimal pair.

  19. I frankly have trouble imagining a Brit who does NOT say 'ah' for 'our', or 'pah' for 'power', or 'fah' for 'fire', and I pronounce these words this way too, having been taught (conditioned), in Poland of the 1960-ies, to imitate British patterns in speech and in writing. But I have practically never been in the UK, a couple of days aside. Had extensive contacts, day to day, with British expats, though.

    With your leave, one question though. My impression is that the 'ah' vowel in 'our' and 'fire' is a bit fronter than in 'far', more Australian-like, virtually identical with our Polish 'a', lower than STRUT, in any case not exactly as back as that in 'father'. Wrong?

    Re which art vs. who art. King James has 'which', while Douay-Rheims (RC, but may be modernised in the editions i could get hold of) has 'who'.

    'which' could refer to persons in older English, as in this Chaucer (CT, Prologue):

    Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle,
    Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.

    I wonder if they still 'clepen' it thus...

  20. It's clept Bawdeswell these days.

  21. Heav'n be thanks that it be swa y-cleped... I am therbi muchel y-plesed.

  22. Wojciech

    We British teachers of English are a far from random sample. Still today, but more so in the sixties, the selection processes favour speakers of RP and RP-like accents who also find it easy to speak in a consistent natural style at different speeds.

    A less selective example of British speakers would include a much higher proportion of people who say aʊə — especially when they slow down to speak clearly.

  23. Ad David Crosbie

    As I explained above, I had had little opportunity to listen how the British _en masse_ speak, I had to do with British colleagues with various (slight) regional accents (such as saying 'think' for 'thing' for instance) but they were probably not representative. In any event, I am pleased to hear not all British persons say 'ar' for 'our' and so on.

    Is their 'aʊə' when they attempt to speak clearly clear, careful but not unnatural? Or is is something like 'g-schwa-dańsk' instead of 'gdaj~sk' of a Pole who also tries to speak clearly but exaggerates and speaks artificial?

    Yet, one thing ('think') I'd still like to know: those who say 'ar' for 'our' or 'far' for 'fire' --- is their vowel quite like that in 'are' (sunt) or 'far' (distant)? My impression is that it is a bit fronter, 'lighter'. Is that quite wrong? Thanks.

  24. @Wojciech:

    I think I have a triphthong or at least a diphthong in all these words. Power, in particular, is practically two syllables for me. My first reaction was that the monophthongal pronunciations sound 'posh' - a sort of lazy RP associated with the upper classes. And I think you might be right about the vowel quality being often (though not in John Wells' case, apparently) different from the word far. That's logical, since we're presumably looking at a development aʊə. However, I've also noticed that my niece, speaking the working-class vernacular of the London/Essex borders where she grew up and lives (but not 'Jafaican') also uses a monophthongal version in our (not sure about hour and the other words cited), and in her case I would say that it is identical to the vowel in far. If I were myself imitating London working-class speech, I'd probably say æː, but maybe that's now old-fashioned.

  25. Wojciech

    Is their 'aʊə' when they attempt to speak clearly clear, careful but not unnatural?

    There's no they. Britain, as you must know, has a great variety of regional and social accents. For a word with frequent variation such as our, the way a given individual pronounces it on a given occasion may depend on background (regional, social, educational), context (especially background of hearer(s)), purpose of communication (clarity etc) and style (speed etc).

    I know that I usually say ɑː but sometimes aʊə. I could identify after the event why I chose aʊə, but I wouldn't be able to predict.

    Before a vowel, I'm much less likely to say aʊər than ɑːr. I don't know how many non-rhotic speakers have the same inhibition.

    So, some ɑː-avoiding aʊə-sayers may be aiming at clarity, others may be being careful, but not all of them are doing both. Likewise, some aʊə-sayers may be anxious not to sound unnatural, while others don't give it a thought.

  26. Ad Steve

    thank you. So I was taught a posh accent, it seems... well...such is life... . Won't they ever invent a class-neutral accent?

    Ad David Crosbie

    I gather from your reply that aʊə is, most of the time, not artificial, over-enunciated etc, roit?

    I personally would shrink from saing 'aʊə-r-idea', 'aʊə-r-america', 'aʊə-r-identity', maybe because it costs too much articulatory effort? (A triphthong plus a sandhi-r...). But I next to never say 'aʊə', just 'a:' or 'a:-r...'. Before a pause I sort of drawl the a: Theirs is no better than aa:z, like. (In the light of Steve's reply, this must sound obnoxiously posh...) I think you chaps call this 'smoothing', an additional 'a' instead of a 'u' (ʊ).

  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

  28. @ Wojciech: There are definitely many people who use [a:] rather than [ɑː]. My earlier question was whether RP-speakers consider [ɑː] more acceptable. As I'm non-RP by any definition, I find it hard to judge.

    On the other hand, START is a back vowel in all definitions of RP and in the speech of most English people, RP or not.

    In the majority of England, the first element of PRICE is further back than the first element of MOUTH. I would thus expect the smoothed form of /aʊə/ to be fronter than of /aɪə/. However, you sometimes get transcriptions of RP MOUTH as /ɑʊ/, so there must be some RP speakers who have a backer form for MOUTH than for PRICE.

  29. Ad Ed

    Thank you. I too am, regrettably, non-RP and as an upshot of this discussion even nonner than before, if I may say so....

    You write: 'In the majority of England, the first element of PRICE is further back than the first element of MOUTH.'

    Yes, I can relate to it, having in the ears various scraps of British speech I ever heard. Proice, like, sometimes. But I thought this very back pronunciation of the first element of PRICE was part of popular, not to say vulgar, pronunciation, if there be such a thing in your country. Sorry, I am severely underinformed concerning how the English really speak (so I can't, unlike Mr. 'Iggins, ask 'why can't the English learn how to speak', since I do not know if they can't. In any event, they can at least write, as is seen from this discussion...).

    Finally, concerning the 'START' vowel. In England, you are supposed to have it in 'ask' for instance, if you want to be invited to tea by polite people, right? Not in the US, though, where the 'CAP' vowel in 'ask' or 'dance' or 'after' is equally 'polite'. Now some Americans, this is my observation from the US, where I lived for like 2 years, took to pronouncing 'ask' and similar words with a vowel that is sort of mid-way between their CAP and their START (or their, which is supposed to amount to the same, COP). In any event the vowel in question is much fronter than the START (or COP) one, without being as front as, much less a bit raised like, the British CAP. I wonder if anyone ever made a similar observation with Yanks.

  30. @ Wojciech: The judgments that English people make about pronunciations are subtle and may seem arbitrary to foreigners.

    English people are almost certain to notice whether you say fronted, short /a/ (trap) or lengthened, backed /ɑ:/ (start/palm) in BATH (words such as ask, class, demand). There is some ill-feeling over pronunciation of BATH words, as almost everyone in the northern and western parts of England uses /a/. It would be provocative to tell the people of Castleford in Yorkshire that the way that they've always pronounced their town's name is not "received". John Wells considers /a/ in BATH to be non-RP, but Clive Upton thinks that /a/ must be included within RP, as the number of people in the north of England that uses /ɑ:/ is negligible.

    From my observations, I think that there are more people in England who use /a/ than who use /ɑ:/, but you have probably learnt /ɑ:/ from text books and from the speech of most BBC presenters.

    As regards PRICE, I meant using /ɑɪ/ rather than /aɪ/. I think that you are referring to /ɒɪ/ in your post, which is confined to the Midlands and would be considered part of a "broad" accent (definitely not RP). /ɑɪ/ can be heard in a lot of places, as far apart as Devon and Sheffield, and is not stigmatised.

  31. Ad Ed

    Thank you. I know their judgments are very subtle and hardly perscrutable to a foreigner; that is in part what makes learning English as a second language such frustrating experience.

    When I started learning English --- that is, in th'olde dayes of that Kynge Arthoure, maybe not exactly that much ago --- there was no discussion about 'bath', 'dance', 'after', 'ask' and 'mass' --- we were beaten so that we might pronounce them with an ɑ:. On the other hand, our 'a' as in trap, I mean the one we were beaten to produce, was more like 'e' as in 'lend'; 'land' and 'lend' were hardly any different. But people in Northern England certainly don't say 'beth', 'efter' or 'esk', do they? My impression is (but again I have had too little immersion in the British speaking element) that today's 'trap' in England (even in S. England) is lower, far lower than the 'e' in 'lend'.

  32. @ Wojciech: No, they don't. TRAP has always been a fronted vowel for the northern half of England as well as the Scots and the Welsh, and this is the same vowel used in BATH by most of the same constituency. The traditional south-eastern pronunciation of TRAP is similar to the Australian pronunciation. It is much less common now, but it is not dead yet. Last week I wrote down the name of a man with an Estuary Accent as "Simon Creck" rather than "Simon Crack".

  33. Ad Ed

    Thank you. What is the STRUT vowel in the norther half of England, then? Is it very high, oo-near? I once met a working-class person (male) from Manchester, who kept saying 'Mrs Thatcher crooshed the trade unions'. Some consider this pronunciation vulgar, worth frowning-at, afaik. 'Why can't the English learn how to speak' as Mr Higgins would say. But the south-eastern STRUT is like the nortnern TRAP, at least to my ears, is it not? The Australian STRUT too. But even the Southerners make some sort of difference between 'man' and 'men', 'flash' and 'flesh', 'pat' and 'pet', don't they? The American TRAP is raised too, but it is oftentimes a kind of diphthong: 'curm arn, mayn!', or '...mairn', or even '...meeaeirn', something like it.

  34. @ Wojciech: the northern STRUT vowel is the same as the FOOT vowel. For me and most northerners, "cut" and "put", and "blood" and "wood" are perfect rhymes. There is a complication though. In the far north, the speech is almost Scots and they pronounce STRUT with the same /ʌ/ as in most definitions of RP.

    In a broad Cockney accent, the STRUT vowel can become akin to the northern TRAP vowel /a/. In most south-eastern accents, it's more like the /ɐ/ as in the -er ending in German.

    I suggest that you find volume 2 of John Wells's "Accents of English" or his briefer 1970 article in Journal of Linguistics, No. 6, S. 231-252. This will explain most accents in England and Wales.

  35. Ad Ed

    thank you for your explanations and suggestions.

  36. Wojciech

    Reducing a triphthong — albeit aɪə rather than aʊə — to monophthongal ɑ: was one of the features noted by AC Ross in the paper that led to popular accounts of U and non-U speech.

    Some upper-class (U) speakers, he noted, pronounce tyre identically with tar. Social climbing middle-class (non-U) speakers made a distinction.

    There's a summary of the 1956 paper here. Look out for the amusing book-length derivation Noblesse Oblige by Nancy Mitford — unfortunately out of print. Society and pronunciation have both changed radically since then, but it might amuse you.

    (This just turned up on the radio programme Fry's English Delight.)

  37. Ad David Crosbie

    thank you. With dismay do I establish that in most cases the things I was indoctrinated to say in the old days are on the U side of the divide.

  38. Ad David Crosbie

    One think I'd like to know – if 'to take a bath' is non-U, as against 'to have one's bath', would the U version of 'Marat took the fateful bath' be 'Marat had his fateful bath'? Sounds 'genteel', if I may use an adjective recently suggested to me by lipman. But my ears are no guide.

    One author has actually written 'M. took the fateful bath' but he was American.

    Also, do you U British persons still say 'wireless' in the sense of 'radio'?

    As a poem once went:

    Oh, to be in England — if only arf a mo,
    where, when they talk of wireless
    they mean the radio

    but do they still talk of wireless?

    'wireless' seems to mean something else in the US, I am not sure what. Some tele-communicative contraption in any event.

  39. Wojciech

    People with wealth and aristocratic background no longer advertise the fact. David Cameron's accent and vocabulary are no different from a great many middle class speakers.

    The U/non-U distinction didn't apply to the vast majority of middle-class speakers and all working-class speakers — only the small proportion of middle-class speakers who tried to interact socially and professionally with the gentry and aristocracy. Over the years the distinction shifted; if used at all, it applied to educated and unedited speech. Some of the words that bothered the original speakers — such as toilet and napkin did engage speakers further down the social scale. One successful TV comedy centred on a comfortable-off middle-class woman woman desperately trying to assume a sophisticated elegant lifestyle and to disguise her working class origin. That's the sort of fictional character who worries about using the word toilet; in the real world no-one bothers.

    Wireless was never confined to upper-class speech. Nowadays, it's a generational thing. Young people find it quaint as a word for radio. As a technological expression it means the same here as in America. It's a form of radio, not used for broadcasting but for connecting, for example, my mouse to my computer, and my computer to my broadband input (my 'router').

    Have my bath implies that the speaker bathes at a regular time every day, and that this is a widespread custom. Our bathrooms have showers nowadays, which has removed the uniformity of custom. So it's now have a bath (or have a shower). As far as I'm aware, it's not frowned on to say take a bath/shower. I don't say it myself.

    The pronunciation features which genuinely distinguish old-fashioned aristocratic speech are nowadays an object of ridicule — or amusement at any rate. Few non-aristocrats choose to copy them.

  40. Ad David Crosbie,

    thank you for these detailed elucidations. I did not realise that showers were already so well-spread in the UK, back in the early nineties when I first (and last) visited England they were not. The English had by then, for us poor continentals, hoses attachable to the bath-tub's faucet, but they did not really function and the English (I met) did not have any experience in using such hoses. But the times, they are a-changin', as we know...

    Marat did not have a shower, though, at least if we are to believe J.L David ( Did he, then, have (not his, but a) bath? Does that sound correct?

    Re wireless I know now. I use a 'wireful' (or whatever is the opposite of 'wireless' in the context) mouse, hence my ignorance.

    Part of a problem for a foreign English learner—if he is not, and does not intend to become a member of the British society is that he has to choose some words: toilet or lavatory, napkin or serviette, lovely home or nice house, in neither case avoiding to arrogate to himself a status which he simply has not, and does not intend to acquire–nay, which he would shudder at being associated with. But you seem to be saying that this problem is disappearing slowly, are you not?

  41. In Ireland, many people pronounce "our" like "R" rather than like "hour". However, most of these don't pronounce "our" (or "R") like "are"; these are two of the few words with NORTH/THOUGHT rather than START/PALM (others include "father" and "rather"). For some speakers, Irish English "our" is homonymous with Irish gaelic "ár", which means 'our'.

    In the 1990s the company "Cable and Wireless" went from having a quaint old name to a hi-tech name without having to hire any expensive branding consultants.

  42. Wojciech

    Such shibboleths as remain among English speakers are designed purely to defend cliques from incursion by threatening outsiders — threatening because once the clique is infiltrated it loses its self-estimation. But foreigners are not a threat, since they'll never be part of the clique — by definition.

    Whatever words and pronunciation you have observed in native speakers that you've met will be perfectly acceptable in the vast majority of social contexts.

    Of course, British society has not turned into an egalitarian paradise. But, compared to when I was a boy, there is far less deference, and far less expectation to be deferred to. RP has nothing like the cachet it used to have, but it's still a sensible model (along with others) for foreign speakers.

  43. Ad mollymool

    Thank you. It is interesting that 'ár' and 'our' should mean the same and sound nearly the same in two languages as remotely related as English and Irish. Do you know the etymology of 'ár'? The etymology of 'our' seems to be something like 'uns' (cf. Dutch 'ons', 'our', in German 'uns-er') by n-deletion and rhotacism (Old English 'ur(e)'). In the Nordic languages it's 'vor' or something like that, I'd bet (though have no scholarly evidence for the moment) it's the same development as with 'our'.

    Ad David Crosbie
    Thank you. It's all a bit intimidating, though... . Explains, perhaps, why American English is getting so popular among especially young Polish (I suppose not just Polish) learners.. . English seems to be a very difficult language in general, far more than say French or Spanish or German or Russian, due to its subtleties, inconsistencies, lack of clearly defined rules and not the least class distinctions. Concerning the value of RP I fully agree, from my point of view. It's even acceptable with Americans, more or less... at least I personally got along well with them speaking my RP-ish English. But in Poland RP very rarely heard---people watch CNN and stuff, not British television, and the English rowdies we get here (in Gdańsk) every weekend do not speak it, as you might guess... sadly.

  44. @Wojciech: Proto-Celtic *anserom and Proto-Germanic *unseraz are from the same PIE root and have reconverged in ModIr and IrEng.

    OTOH Irish "sí" 'she' means and sounds like English "she" but is unrelated.

  45. @mollymooly:

    I remember reading a seemingly well-informed blog-post a while ago suggesting that English "she" may in fact be borrowed from Irish (just as "they" was borrowed from Norse). I can't remember which blog it was, though...

  46. Ad mollymooly

    Thank you. Where does 'sí' come from, then? The English 'she' is of uncertain etymology, tho' it is surmised that it be, in one way or another, connected to the German 'sie', Dutch 'zij', Gothic 'si'.

  47. @ Wojciech: You might be interested to listen to Brian Sewell, who is an old-fashioned U-speaker. His accent is often ridiculed and I wouldn't advise anyone learning English to imitate it except for a joke.

    He does have [a] in TRAP though.

  48. I shouldn't simply file him under "old-fashioned U-RP". There are too many exaggerations and, if I remember correctly, not enough natural reductions for that, in spite of that fact that he did go to a public school at a time where people left, and often enough had entered, speaking "natural" U-RP.

  49. thank you. Brian Sewell --- that is, sadly, more or less how I speak, not the least because performing 'natural reductions' (Lipman above) is against the 'phonetic genius' of my native tongue which does not know reductions, and except for the sentence intonation, which I have never mastered. I like his 'sire an heir', more or less the way I should pronounce it if I had any occasion to speak of such things as 'siring heirs'... .

  50. @vp: probably or possibly

  51. The Blog quotes Thurneysen saying:

    The nom. sg. (h)é, sí, (h)ed corresponds to Goth. is, si, ita; cp. Lat. is, id

    which would, if true, and if she<--seo, as many (most?) think, imply that the Irish 'sí' and the English 'she', while not mutual borrowings, are direct cognates.

  52. Ad Ed

    Thank you once again for your Brian S. But if my ear does not mistake me, he says sort of 'lenguid hend' (of Gian Gastone would reach of his bed still half asleep.... about 1:34). Also his 'ay' are very high to my ears, 'grapes' sounds a bit like 'greeps'.... sorry, this is just a (mis-)hearing of a stranger.

    Also, his sentence intonation is very affected, I spontaneously perceive it as intentionally, self-ironically affected ... am I wrong? Well, the topic he is talking about lends itself easily to such.

  53. @ Wojciech and Lipman:
    Sewell's way of speaking is certainly not one that I encounter in my everyday life. I have always considered him to be a U-RP speaker. Judged by the comments left on the YouTube video, I am not the only one: his speech is widely perceived as "posh". I think that Wojciech is right that his intonation might have been deliberately dramatic for this particular programme.

    Descriptions of the speech of the upper-class are seldom based on any robust research [except in the case of the Royal Family]. I wouldn't know how upper-class people speak for the simple reason that I've never met any upper-class people [knowingly].

    Perhaps Lipman can suggest an alternative public figure for an example of U-RP.

    I am surprised to hear in Brian Sewell's speech that he uses the same [u:] that I do in GOOSE. Almost all southerners use more fronted pronunciations now, and the more backed form is largely confined to some northern areas.

  54. Ad Ed

    I perceive Sewell's speech as what we call (in Polish) 'zmanierowana', in German 'manieriert', or 'characterised by a strong (purposefully overdone?) mannerism'. I think he intends to sound as if he was himself Gian Gastone de' Medici, reaching out his 'lenguid hend' and so on... . I can't hardly imagine that a normal person, I mean a person in his right wits, should naturally speak like that, even if he speaks of 'siring an heir' and of sinking to one's bed only to let oneself be treated to oranges and grapes brought in panniers by a donkey...

  55. Hi there!
    I am Amjad Sheikh, i have read many of the posts sent. I like them.

  56. I am an RP speaker and I definitely feel that the cause for monopthong "our" is one of default pronunciation rather than smoothing, in that I would usually pronounce "our" like "are" (sunt) but would never pronounce "power" like "par" or "tower" like "tar", etc, which I'd expect to be similarly affected if it were a case of smoothing. (Admittedly I might still consider the "hour" pronunciation to be a more careful one, but that is probably biased by the orthography). I might, however, pronouce "fire" like "far" (and "tire" like "tar", etc) in rapid speech.


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