Saturday, 9 May 2009

Accents of English

Saturday, 9 May 2009 13:47
pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)

I'm reading Wells's Accents of English series right now, which I got as a present from my father a while back.

It's comforting to me that my pronunciation is mostly fairly close to RP, though it's interesting to see the little details in which it differs—the two most common influences are words that I learned from their spelling and whose pronunciation I guessed incorrectly on the one hand, and influence from American (which doesn't make quite the same phoneme distinctions) on the other hand. There are also a few things that are probably from "near-RP" (Wells's term), such as "happy tensing", and a fair number of cases where there are two (or more) RP variants, of which I take a less-common one.

So my speech is not really quite RP, but near enough that I'm happy with my speech—and also happy to pass on the way I speak to Amy.

The only artificialisms in my speech that I can think of are pronouncing "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc." with a final short -y as in "windy, thirsty"—which I gave up after a while—and pronouncing something like [hw] for orthographic "wh". Which I'm starting to think I should probably abandon, not only because Amy doesn't seem to be picking it up anyway, but also because wh-lessness isn't really stigmatised so even if I think it's nifty, it's a bit pretentious. And, after reading a bit of Wells, because he says that in England, only the speech-conscious do it; it's not part of (nearly) anyone's natural speech. On the other hand, I've been doing it for so long that the habit has become more ingrained, and pronouncing "white" as "wight" feels wrong now! Even though when I speak quickly (and don't have enough time to "fix" my speech), it comes out like that anyway....

The one thing that genuinely surprised me was to find that supposedly, "pour" is an exact homophone of "pore", and for non-rhotics such as myself also of "paw". I'd always thought it would rhyme with "poor" and "tour". (Though of course, for many native speakers, NORTH and CURE merge anyway, making the point moot: "poor, pour, pore" will all sound exactly the same.)

Is it really "Pore me a drink"? How odd.

And apparently, "lather" has a long A sound as in "rather" or "father". Which didn't agree with, and my Penguin English Dictionary only lists as an alternative after the short-A version as in "gather", which is how I pronounce it.

Fun stuff.


pne: A picture of a plush toy, halfway between a duck and a platypus, with a green body and a yellow bill and feet. (Default)
Philip Newton

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