Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Great vowel shift

In the late-fifteenth century printers began printing books written in the form of London English which had already become a kind of standard in manuscript documents. Between 1475 and about 1630 English spelling gradually became regularized. There are noticeable differences in the look of printed English before the mid-seventeenth century, but after that date it is largely the same as modern English, the major difference being the use of the long s (∫) in all positions except finally.

Pronunciation change and the Great Vowel Shift

By the sixteenth century English spelling was becoming increasingly out of step with pronunciation owing mainly to the fact that printing was fixing it in its late Middle English form just when various sound changes were having a far-reaching effect on pronunciation.
Chief among these was the so-called ‘Great Vowel Shift’, which can be illustrated (with much simplification) from the three vowel sounds in mitemeet, and mate. In Middle English these were three long vowels with values similar to their Latin or continental counterparts [i:], [e:], and [a:] (roughly the vowel sounds of thieffete, and palm); the spelling was therefore ‘phonetic’.
 After the shift:
  • long i became a diphthong (probably in the sixteenth century pronounced [əi] with a first element like the [ə] of the first syllable in ago)
  • long e took its place with the value [i:]
  • long a became a front vowel, more like that of air to begin with, but later [e:].
A parallel change affected the back vowels of mouth and moot. Hence the mismatch of the long vowel sounds of English with their counterparts in other European languages.
Additionally, during the period a number of sets of vowel sounds that had formerly been distinct became identical, while their spelling distinction was largely maintained, resulting in a further mismatch of spelling and pronunciation.
Important examples are:
  • the long vowel a in mane and the diphthong ay or ai in maymain
  • the long mid vowel o in sloeso and the diphthong ow or ou in slowsow (= cast seed)
  • the diphthong represented by u in due and the diphthong eweu in dewneuter.

English is tough stuff 2

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.

I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,

Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.

Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.

Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?

It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!
-- Author Unknown

English is tough stuff

Sometimes English spelling and pronunciation are so absurd that one wonders how we arrived at the particular pronunciation.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Intonation practice

How to get rid of that pesky high rising terminal or in other words that rising intonation at the end of EVERYTHING. Neighbours and Home and Away have a lot to answer for. Some regional Australian accent variations do rise at the ed of every sentence or chunk of speech but really when newsreaders start doing it something has to change!

Try this little exercise which may  help your fluency, vocabulary and pausing as well as trying to understand good ol' Aussie English.

There are many good resources on the Internet and the podcast of the ABC morning current affairs show AM is one of them.

It has the audio as well as the script for each story. You will get a variety of speakers ranging from the presenter, to other journalists to 'Aussies" on site at various new incidents.

The trick is to grab the little moving audio cue and keep moving it back again and again until you get the same intonation as the speaker. Eventually you will be able to read the text at the speed (and with the same intonation) as the speaker.

Intonation practice using AM podcast

Good Luck