pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

Occasionally, I comment to Amy that a particular word is a homophone (such as sew and sow or rose “flower” and rose “went up”).

Yesterday, I mentioned hole (in a bucket) and whole (the whole piece of cake), and she said that for her, those weren’t homophones.

I asked her how she pronounced them, and she said that for her, they are (roughly) [hoʊ̯wəɫ] |hole| vs. [hoːl] |whole|.

Essentially, that boils down to “/ho:l/ as pronounced in English” versus “/ho:l/ as pronounced in German”! (The former with a diphthong and a velarised /l/, the latter with a long monophthong and a non-velar /l/.)

I wonder what the phonotactics of her particular idiolect of English are… it clearly seems to have at least one vowel phoneme that isn’t in, say, RP, for starters! And the rules about when /l/ gets velarised are clearly also different.

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)

An interesting sentence, which I found on an old blog entry of Professor John Wells’s:

Who would know aught of art must act, learn and then take his ease.

If it is read with an RP accent, using strong forms for would of must and the weak form for and, it supposedly not only uses all monophthongs and narrow diphthongs but does so in a regular order: roughly, going clockwise around the periphery of the IPA vowel diagram.

(For the remaining diphthongs, one could add something along the lines of My loud voice nears their moors.)

Très nifty!

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 remember at a meeting of the Hamburg Esperanto Society, someone mentioned that pronouncing “n” as a velar (rather than alveolar or dental) nasal before “g” or “k” was wrong; words such as “benko” should always be [benko] “ben-ko” and never [beŋko] “beng-ko”. And that this was supported by tapes that Zamenhof supposedly made and sent out for instruction.

Now I’m leafing through a book on “language answers” by Zamenhof in response to various questions, and found this as item 71 (translation on request):

Pri prononco en teorio kaj en praktiko.

Kiel en ĉiuj lingvoj, tiel ankaŭ en Esperanto la sono «j» ordinare moligas la konsonanton, kiu staras antaŭ ĝi; oni sekve ne devas miri, ke ekzemple en la vorto «panjo» la plimulto de la Esperantistoj elparolas la «nj» kiel unu molan sonon (simile al la franca «gn»). Tiel same oni ne miru, ke en praktiko oni ordinare antaŭ «g» aŭ «k» elparolas la sonon «n» naze, aŭ ke antaŭ vokalo oni elparolas la «i» ordinare kiel «ij». Batali kontraŭ tia natura emo en la elparolado ŝajnas al mi afero tute sencela kaj senbezona, ĉar tia elparolado (kiu estas iom pli eleganta, ol la elparolado pure teoria) donas nenian malkompreniĝon aŭ praktikan maloportunaĵon; sed rekomendi tian elparoladon (aŭ nomi ĝin «la sole ĝusta») ni ankaŭ ne devas, ĉar laŭ la teoria vidpunkto (kiu en Esperanto ofte povas esti ne severe observata, sed neniam povas esti rigardata kiel «erara») ni devas elparoli ĉiun sonon severe aparte; sekve se ni deziras paroli severe regule, ni devas elparoli «pan-jo» «san-go», «mi-a».

Respondo 56, Oficiala Gazeto, IV, 1911, p. 222

citita el: Doktoro L. L. Zamenhof, Lingvaj Respondoj: Konsiloj kaj Opinioj pri Esperanto, ed. G. Waringhien, 6a eldono, Esperantaj Francaj Eldonoj, 1962.

So it seems that not only is the velar pronunciation of “n” before “g” and “k” allowed, Zamenhof himself even considered it (at least at one point) as “more elegant” than the “purely theoretical” (in the sense, I believe, of “adhering to a pure reading of the theory”, not in the sense of “not occurring in practice”) pronunciation.

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)

Listening to this clip on YouTube, right at the beginning she said aftermath with a BATH vowel in the final syllable.

Huh! I had always used TRAP there, as in maths. (But then, I’m not sure whether I’ve ever heard the word spoken before.)

Looked it up on dictionary.com; its house dictionary only has TRAP for the final vowel, but further down, the World English Dictionary has BATH (i.e. it lists both the TRAP and the PALM vowel, and in fact the PALM one first).

Since for me, BATH goes with PALM, perhaps I should use BATH in aftermath as well.

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)

While listening to CBC Radio North, I had heard Iqaluit pronounced as (what sounded to me like) Iχaluit.

Today, while looking for something unrelated, I came across something interesting: a map in Fortescue’s A Comparative Manual of Affixes for the Inuit Dialects of Greenland, Canada, and Alaska (jump to page 24 if the link doesn’t take you there).

Specifically, one of the things that map shows is where “non-final /q/ pronounced as [X]”… and that region includes southern Baffin Island, including Iqaluit. (Along with Nunavik and Labrador to the south, but not parts north or west of South Baffin.)

So I wasn’t imagining things!


Incidentally, the whole book looks fascinating; pity I can’t find it at the usual booksellers’ sites (and that Google Books doesn’t provide access to the entire contents).

Hm, I wonder whether Hamburg University Library might have a copy? Supposedly, they have a good section on Eskimo-Aleut languages. Still, a copy of my own would be fun… *wistful*

LÜK = look

Tuesday, 20 September 2011 06:42
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)

Quick post, might be expanded later: Amy just said that her MiniLÜK thing is called LÜK because you have to "look" at it. So presumably she's equating German [Y] with her English /U/... which matches the fact that her English /u/ appears to be fronted a bit, so it would make sense that /U/ is, too.

Still, interesting!

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)

John Wells reports “some assorted nuggets of interest” from the ICPHs XVII (the 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences) in Hong Kong.

One of them is particularly interesting for me as a native speaker of German, and perhaps for those of you who speak German, too:

Klaus Kohler [sic] [demonstrated] among other things that German listeners needed no more than the palatalization of a single segment n to hear kann Ihnen rather than just kann, deeply buried in the middle of a rapidly spoken colloquial sentence.

And I tried it myself and I think I can nearly reproduce that, at least for the speaking bit (harder to test the comprehension bit): kann is [kʰan] while kann Ihnen is [kʰanʲː]. (Not quite [kʰaɲː], I don’t think.) I can imagine that in rapid speech, the final length would get lost, leaving only the palatalisation.

...and here I thought German had no palatalisation! (True, it's phonetic only, not phonemic, but still: very interesting. To me, at least :D)

It also provides a lovely synchronic example of how segments can get lost while their ghost remains in the effect they have on the surrounding segments: similar thing occur in all sorts of areas such as umlaut, tone, or Greenlandic uvularisation. And also how this can cause phoneme splits if segments get lost, where the previously allophonic distinction (caused by the presence of the affecting segment) becomes phonemic when the segment drops entirely (as with Greenlandic vowels, where three phonemic vowels [six, if you count vowel length] split into six [twelve], once the uvular consonant got assimilated completely to a following consonant, forming a non-uvular geminate, while the vowel remained uvularised).

Accio

Monday, 18 July 2011 08:11
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)

One thing that surprised me in the HP7 film was that they pronounced “Accio” as “Ackio”; I had expected “Axio”.

That is, I had expected acc- to have the pronunciation as in “accelerate”, since it’s followed by a high vowel; the pronunciation as in “accordion” would have made sense to me if acc- had been followed by a low vowel.

pne: A DataMatrix 2D barcode encoding "pne" (DataMatrix pne)

So apparently, “demonstrative” (as in “demonstrative pronoun”) is stressed on the second syllable: deMONstrative.

I have pretty much been stressing it on the first, like with “demonstrate”; hence, DEMonstrative.

That’s fairly far back, but not unheard-of for English (compare, for example, “investigator”, which also has main stress on the fourth syllable from the end, at least for me).

Ah well.

(Or is this like “alveolar” [DW, LJ], where a significant number of people use my pronunciation, i.e., the “wrong” one?)

pne: The coat of arms of the Swiss canton of Graubünden. (Graubünden)

There’s a region in the canton of Graubünden in Switzerland called “Oberhalbstein” in German and “Surses”[*] in Romansh.

I had always presumed that that word was pronounced “,Ober'halbstein”… which would make it something like “Upper Half-Stone”. Even though that didn’t make much sense.

I just realised that it would make more sense if pronounced “,Oberhalb'stein”: that would be something like “Above the stone”, and would match the Romansh much more closely, too (which is from something like SUPRA SAXAM; feel free to correct me on the Latin).


Edit 2011-03-28: Having asked Miriam in Savognin, the "oberhalb 'Stein" pronunciation is indeed the correct one.


[*] Not to be confused with “Sursaissa”, which is “Obersaxen” in German (and, in practice, in English), which must be from the same root. The English Wikipedia article mentions a 765 form Supersaxa, which fits that theory. Here, though, the “-sax-” element was not interpreted by the Germans.

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)

As far as I know, the most common German pronunciation for Libyen (the country of Libya) is /'ly:bi@en/, i.e., as if spelled Lybien. Similarly, the adjective libysch is commonly pronounced /'ly:bIS/ (like lübisch meaning “of Lübeck”).

On tagesschau, the prestigious German news show, it seems to be house style to pronounce it the way it’s spelled: /'li:by@n, 'li:bYS/. At any rate, I’ve heard several different speakers pronounce the name that way. (Given the state of affairs, the country has been in the news for several days, so you hear it from someone else every day.)

Now while /'li:bIS/ is not a problem, I find it hard to get my tongue around /'li:by@n/, for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, except that they probably revolve around the front rounded vowel in the second syllable in combination with something else—the fact that the syllable is unstressed or that it’s followed not by a consonant but by schwa, or something. At any rate, I can see why the pronunciation /'ly:bi@n/ is so common: it’s a lot easier. And, interestingly enough, even the news speakers seem to have trouble wrapping their tongue around the official pronunciation on occasion.

Also, when foreign correspondents are shown, they tend to pronounce the name of the country the “normal” way, rather than the “official” way the newscasters use. So, the spelling pronunciation seems a bit artificial to me on the part of the newscasters.

pne: A picture of a six-year-old girl (Amy)

For Amy, them seems to have no distinct strong form; instead, she has generalised the weak form /ðəm/ (for her, [dəm]) for the strong form as well.

For example, recently we were looking at a car where the windows on our side had frost on them and we couldn’t see inside; she suggested, “Let’s see whether there’s frost on the other windows, otherwise you can look through [ˈdəm]”, with a stressed final them. But her stressed form still had a schwa / neutral vowel in it, which doesn’t really work in English phonology (though it’s perfectly cromulent in some other languages, Albanian being an example that comes to mind). (For me, for example, that word in that position would be [ˈðɛm] with a DRESS vowel.)

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)

In der Tagesschau war neulich von der Büste der Nofretete die Rede; der Sprecher sprach sie wie „büßte“ aus.

Ich hätte jetzt „Büsste“ getipt (auf „wüsste“) reimend. Ist das wieder ein Fall, wo mein persönlicher Dialekt sich nicht mit Hochdeutsch deckt (wie z.B. in „Erde“)?

Aber ein Blick in den Duden sagt mir, das Wort sei „Bụ̈|ste“ und mitnichten „Bü̱|ste“. Soviel also dazu.

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)

So apparently palette (the thing an artist keeps their paint on) is pronounced /ˈpælɪt/ (rhymes with mallet or, for that matter, pallet, as in the thing that you stack goods and and carry with a forklift).

I had always assumed it was a /pəˈlɛt/ (puh-LET), à la française.

Whodathunkit.

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Philip Newton

June 2015

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