Monday 24 October 2011

language show

On Saturday I looked in at the London Language Show: 150 stands and three seminar rooms, exhibitors ranging from language schools to cultural bodies to publishers to travel agencies (they arrange student visits abroad). Over the three days of the show there were ‘taster’ sessions on Arabic, Czech, Chinese, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, and British Sign Language, plus intensive classes in a subset of these and a whole range of seminars.

On the CUP stand I was able for the first time to have a look at the new (18th) edition of the Cambridge EPD. Visually, the most striking change is that the coloured type in the body of the dictionary, blue-green (teal?) in the 17th edition, is now light brown (tan?). The contents include six short essays by outside contributors. Transcription-wise, the most important change is that words such as tune, duke now have the tʃ, dʒ form prioritized. This is what my own preference poll reveals to be the most widely preferred BrE form, but I still find it a bit shocking.

I noticed two exhibitors at the show specializing in offering pronunciation tuition. I was attracted to one stand by the large chart of phonetic symbols for English displayed — refreshingly error-free and well presented. The young lady on duty at that stand turned out to hold a master’s in Phonetics from UCL: this was after my retirement, so I had examined her but not taught her.

A difference from previous years was the unusually high profile presented by two particular languages: Polish and Mandarin Chinese.

All the more reason for us to drill our students diligently in the difference between ɕ, ʑ and ʂ, ʐ.
_ _ _

In a week I shall be off to Japan, for a conference in Kochi (here’s the programme). I hope to see some of you there. Afterwards I shall also be giving lectures in Osaka and Kyoto.


  1. There is an excerpt from the new Cambridge here. I think the new typeface for IPA symbols is Charis SIL. Previously, I believe it was Doulos. I like this new look.

  2. "Transcription-wise, the most important change is that words such as tune, duke now have the tʃ, dʒ form prioritized. This is what my own preference poll reveals to be the most widely preferred BrE form, but I still find it a bit shocking."

    Prioritized? That is much more shocking than tʃu:n or dʒu:k :)

  3. At least cot/caught merged forms are given as preferred for US English. MW's Learner's Dictionary does not list cot/caught unmerged forms at all.

  4. What is your preference?

    Or rather what's the difference between tʃ, dʒ and tj, dj?

  5. What shocks you about prioritized, Simon M Hunter? The -ize spelling rather than -ise? But that's preferred by many British dictionaries, including the OED. Or is it this vocabulary item? It's been in the language for over fifty years, and expresses succinctly what would otherwise take several words ('accorded the first position', 'treated as the main pronunciation').

  6. Sorry, Simon M. Hunter: you just got pwned (sic).

    On the plus side, we don't often see John Wells below the line defending himself. So kudos for that.

    John Wells: I am not a phonetics student, but this blog is one I now read every day. I hope I am learning something along the way.

    Thanks for it.

  7. I have no objection to prioritize if you like it, although I would prioritise 'preferred'. It seems to have taken off in the 1980s, along with much other corporate gobbledygook. Still, I'll accept prioritize if you'll accept tʃu:n...

  8. Do yod-coalescers have "dune" homophonous with "June"?

  9. I do. Also "dew", "due" and "Jew".

  10. In Wimbledon, they have always pronounced ''deuce'' as ''juice''. No news here.

  11. According to Sandra Clarke, (the author of ''Newfoundland and Labrador English'' published by Edinburgh University Press), the palatalized pronunciation (tune=choon, deuce = juice) is common in Atlantic Canada.

  12. I never read this up, but off-hand, my impression is that yod coalenscence come and goes in waves. Or maybe the shifts are more complex and depend on accents and registers. (Until the last decades, it seemed to be more at home in U-RP than in mainstream RP, don'cher know, but I might be imagining this.)

    John W., could it be that formerly, it depended on the lexeme, while the recent trend is general?

    (Concerning 'prioritize', I'm not much fond of it but it's practical. AP Herbert already demonized (ha!) what he called the ize-mania in the thirties, and while I often understand his feelings, this condescending purist's view can make one use the word liberally.)

  13. I don't think "dune" and "June" are quite the same for me, but they're both affricates. Introspecting (which I know can be unreliable) suggests the former is apical and the latter laminal.

    The new EPD still seems to mark a number of my pronunciations with "US", based on the sample given.

  14. @ JHJ: What's your view of their transcription of Adwick-le-Street (using the link provided by Duchesse de Guermantes)? I thought that this was one of those place-names where the w is silent, as in Norwich, Greenwich or Warwick. Are there some locals who say the w in this word?

    I've checked LPD and it doesn't see the w as silent either.

  15. I've always wondered about the (j)u vs (j)ʊ relationship. For example, what for CEPD18 is ˈækjʊpʌŋktʃə, for LPD it's ˈækjupʌŋktʃə.

    Which one is it? Which one would be more ‘correct’?

    I'm not really sure I've read the complete set of rules for this, and also i vs. ɪ, but I would love to. Who knows, perhaps this edition brings it somewhere on its first pages.

  16. Strangely, or not, actuary with -tju- comes only with e, not ə.


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