Comments on yesterday’s blog addressed the fraught question of proper names in pronunciation dictionaries. I thought it might be useful if I tried to say what my policy was in LPD, at least as concerns place names in England.
I must confess that I did not set up a set of principles before starting work. Rather, what follows is a post-hoc attempt to express the principles I think I generally followed.
Let’s start from the difficult fact that in England everything is complicated by social class factors. A hundred years ago, certainly fifty years ago, and still to a large extent today, most English people spoke and speak with a local accent. Broadly speaking, the lower your social class, the more your pronunciation diverges from RP; the higher your social class, the closer to RP. Whereas RP speakers can be found in all parts of the country (or could when I were a lad, when not only the local landed gentry but also the vicar and the doctor probably spoke RP or something very close to it), “local” implies non-RP. The local accent typically includes various features that are regarded as non-standard and have traditionally been considered unworthy of mention in normative reference works such as dictionaries. (Note to nonNSs: when I were a lad is a stock phrase with non-standard were for was, used for comic effect.)
So let’s agree, for the purposes of argument, that most people who live in Hull call it ʊl. But in RP it’s unquestionably hʌl. We can leave it to the sociolinguists to determine the precise details of who uses which of these pronunciations and under what circumstances, and to what extent there are also intermediate forms such as hʊl, həl and perhaps also ʌl.
I think there is very general agreement in England that we don’t want dictionaries to tell us about h-dropped pronunciations. In any case, they can immediately be inferred once we know that in working-class England all hs are subject to being dropped.
I think it’s also generally agreed that we don’t want to be told about the use of ʊ in all names in which RP has ʌ; again, this can be inferred by rule, once we know that in the north of England the FOOT-STRUT split does not apply, which means that there is no /ʌ/ and which makes Hull a perfect rhyme for full (as against RP etc in which hʌl has a different vowel from fʊl).
Those of us who, like me, grew up in relatively high-status families in the north have been aware of this variability since childhood. In the Lancashire village where I lived until I was a teenager, our neighbours drank from kʊps and ˈdlasɪz (ˈɡlæsɪz); but in our house we had kʌps and ˈɡlɑːsɪz.
(As an aside, it wasn’t until I went to boarding school in the south that I discovered that fuck has ʌ. We didn’t swear in our family, and the only people I had heard using this word until then had pronounced it fʊk.)
The name of the village was Upholland. (See the photo. Nowadays people seem to write it as two words, Up Holland. In those days we didn’t.) Yes, our neighbours called it ʊpˈɒlənd. But we, of course, called it ʌpˈhɒlənd. It is the latter that you would expect a dictionary of place names to show; the former can be inferred from it, but not vice versa.
Our nearest town was Wigan. We called it ˈwɪɡən, although quite a few of its inhabitants called it ˈwɪɡɪn (which caused some amusement and was part of a comical exaggerated local accent).
So it is with the BATH words. Our neighbours might have a baθ (actually, many had just a zinc tub in the kitchen, brought out as needed); we had a bɑːθ. (Recall that a is the local form of the TRAP vowel, in RP classically æ.)
One of my uncles lived in Grasmere, in Cumbria. His wife, my aunt by marriage, also happened to be aunt to the Attenborough brothers, the actor Richard (Lord A.) and the TV naturalist David. (You’ll have heard how they speak: both are native RP speakers and grew up in Leicester, in the linguistic north.) They, and we, called the place ˈɡrɑːsmɪə. For many local people, though, the first syllable had the TRAP vowel.
That’s the background from which I felt confident in saying that the RP name of Castleford, Yorks., is ˈkɑːsl̩fəd, though the great majority of locals certainly give it the TRAP vowel in the first syllable. For Doncaster, on the other hand, all three possibilities -kəs-, -kɑːs-, -kæs- seem to me to be at home in RP, though probably in that order of preference.
Moving to London, I naturally gave the pronunciation of Wapping as ˈwɒpɪŋ, ignoring the ˈwɒpʔɪn you hear from many locals. Likewise Harlesden: ˈhɑːlzdən, not ˈɑːozdən.
And so to Newcastle. The RP form for all places with this name (in my view) is ˈnjuːˌkɑːsl̩. However, the size and importance of the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne is such that I felt it appropriate to mention in LPD that locally it is -ˈkæsl̩, with a different stressing and different second vowel. (Here, of course, æ subsumes a.) There is a similar note at Carlisle.
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This blog will now be suspended until the end of March. I may see some of you in Kyiv/Kiev, where I shall be speaking at a conference at Kyiv National Linguistic University and also visiting the Taras Shevchenko National University — or at BAAP in Leeds. Next posting: 2 April.