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Picture of Richard English
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Yes, yes, I really do need to learn that IPA, don't I? Sorry about that. It would have those minute subtitles (I am talking about the "water" ones)? I truly do like serious discussions here

The problem with trying to learn the IPA by reading textbooks and the like, as I see it, is that the representations will be of sounds which might not be the same in different languages. For example, were I to suggest that a sound is "o" as in "dog", we would all understand it. But English and American dogs are pronouced quite differently, US English not using the English sound at all.

I suppose the only way IPA can be learnt is by listening to the sounds, accepting that there will be some that one's own language just does not use, and just learning them. The gift of mimicry must surely help Wink


Richard English
 
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To learn IPA, you could take a class at your local university, get a good introductory book such as Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics (either buy it or get your local library to buy a copy), or wander around the Web by googling learning International Phonetic Alphabet. Wikipedia has articles on each symbol in the IPA (as well as every character in Unicode). It also has wonderful summaries of English phonology with pronunciations by major dialect (UK RP, General American, Australian, etc.). The OED uses IPA as do most modern dictionaries.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Don't misunderstand me; I have nothing against the idea, I am simply saying that, unless one hears how a sound is pronounced, then one person's understanding of the IPA will differ from another.

For example, the UK English pronunciation of the word "dog" is rendered in IPA as "dɒg" But it is pronounced by Americans as "dawg" or "darg" to my ears and its IPA is "dɑg" to allow for the difference. But how ever can one explain to an American what "dɒg" sounds like if they all pronounce it as "dɑg"?


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
Don't misunderstand me; I have nothing against the idea, I am simply saying that, unless one hears how a sound is pronounced, then one person's understanding of the IPA will differ from another.


No, the point of the IPA is that each symbol always and only represents one sound, so that there is never any confusion. If I say that "dog is pronounced as /dɑɡ/ in NA and as /dɒɡ/ in the UK, then you know exactly what the difference is. I don't have write something like "dawg", which could represent any number of pronunciations.
 
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No, the point of the IPA is that each symbol always and only represents one sound, so that there is never any confusion. If I say that "dog is pronounced as /dɑɡ/ in NA and as /dɒɡ/ in the UK, then you know exactly what the difference is. I don't have write something like "dawg", which could represent any number of pronunciations.

I understand that. But my point was that, without hearing the sounds - which needs a trainer or, at least, a recording - it's not possible to learn the IPA since the examples of equivalence given will be interpreted differently by different people.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
I understand that. But my point was that, without hearing the sounds - which needs a trainer or, at least, a recording - it's not possible to learn the IPA since the examples of equivalence given will be interpreted differently by different people.


I don't know what "examples of equivalence" are. But it is possible to learn the IPA without hearing the sounds (altho hearing the sounds can help), if you understand the terminology. /ɒ/ is an open back rounded vowel - even if I've never heard it, I know how to pronounce it.
 
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I don't know what "examples of equivalence" are.

Sorry. But to keep with the canine example, were I to say that the symbol ɒ in the IPA is pronounced as the British pronounce the letter "o" in dog, that is an example of equivalence. But I doubt whether anyone could make that sound had he or she never heard it.

It is only be hearing and practising sounds that we learn what they are.


Richard English
 
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Originally posted by Richard English:
Sorry. But to keep with the canine example, were I to say that the symbol ɒ in the IPA is pronounced as the British pronounce the letter "o" in dog, that is an example of equivalence. But I doubt whether anyone could make that sound had he or she never heard it.


If you understand how to make an open back rounded vowel, then yes you could make the sound even if you've never heard it. Hearing it helps, but if you don't understand how to position your tongue and lips then you'll be at a disadvantage.

quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
It is only be hearing and practising sounds that we learn what they are.


As children, yes. But with adults more explicit instruction can be more effective.

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As children, yes. But with adults more explicit instruction can be more effective

Of course. After all, that's how deaf people are taught to speak. But, like them, if we never hear a sound or have it corrected by others, then our rendition of it is likely to be imperfect.


Richard English
 
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As an English teacher, to some extent, I agree with Richard on this. I think that all he is trying to say is that without hearing the sound represented by a particular symbol writing down a word that contains that sound isn't an effective way of showing anything.

It occurred to me today actually when I was doing a pronunciation exercise from a (usually) very good ESOL teaching book.

The exercise listed groups of four words and asked the students to identify which one had a different vowel sound. This clearly depends on where you live.

Two of the examples bothered me. (The book is still on my desk at work but I think I can remember them.)

aunt, laugh, can't, cough

The answer given to this was "cough" and my problem with that is while "aunt" and "can't" have the same vowel for me, neither "laugh" nor "cough" match it. So I can spell "laugh" in IPA characters but unless the person reading it is already familiar with the sound writing that laugh = læf doesn't help because for some people laugh = lɑːf. (which for me would be the same vowel as in aunt and can't, but again not for others)
The other example that bothered me had "caught" as the odd one out which was for British English quite true but given that the other words rhymed with "not" (I can't recall what they were) I'm not sure it would be true in the US. In the UK caught is kɔːt. Isn't it kɒt in the US?

(Incidentally I also frequently explain to students who are having trouble with sounds how to physically form them with their mouth, lips, teeth, palate etc - though of course avoiding terms like"open back rounded vowel" which means something to me but not to my students who wouldn't have, or need, phrases like this in their very limited lexicons.
 
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Originally posted by BobHale:
As an English teacher, to some extent, I agree with Richard on this. I think that all he is trying to say is that without hearing the sound represented by a particular symbol writing down a word that contains that sound isn't an effective way of showing anything.


Sure it is. Writing /dɑg/ or /læf/ or /ʕaːl/ or /pʼχʷɬtʰ/ is an effective way of showing in writing how those words are pronounced. There is no other clear way of representing speech sounds in writing.

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z has inspired me to try to learn IPA, but it may be for naught for exactly Bob's rationale. I will probably use the tables on Quinion's pronunciation guide unless someone suggests something better.
 
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There are phonetics books which explain the IPA and come with CD-ROMs with sounds from speakers saying words. You can even find many MP3 files online at various academic sites that give the sounds of the various IPA symbols. And furthermore, the Wikipedia articles on IPA symbols also give OGG files of the sounds that can be played back by clicking on a button. When I took a phonology class at university, we even got to listen to our professor's collection of phonograph records with Daniel Jones (link) pronouncing various sounds in his creaky RP.

There is a difference between phonemic and phonetic (or broad and narrow) transcriptions that give a better idea of how a sound is produced, but besides learning the IPA it's very hard to describe. Plus everybody I've every spoken with says that hearing is believing, and that is probably the best way of learning the IPA. On the other hand, using the IPA to transcribe sounds is always preferable to some ad hoc transcription which is almost always ambiguous and seldom has any objective meaning beyond that of the person who uses it.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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But his kind of makes my point.

I have absolutely no idea what /ʕaːl/ or /pʼχʷɬtʰ/ sound like as they contain IPA symbols that I am less familiar with. Now you could write down words that have those sounds in but I wouild be none the wiser unless I heard you say them.
I may only have to hear them once but I have to hear them.

Your point, that it is an effective way to show how words sound is true - but not relevent to my point.
Don't get me wrong, I think the IPA is an incredibly useful tool. I know the symbols for the language I teach and a few others but the crucial element for me is that at some stage someone has to demonstrate the sounds to you : a CD Rom, a sound file, a tape recording or whatever, but something.
 
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they contain IPA symbols that I am less familiar with.

I think that Goofy perhaps overstates his case, but looking at where these symbols are located in the IPA chart gives somebody who is familiar with the principles of articulatory phonetics a good idea how some of these words would be pronounced. Some things you simply have to hear and or watch somebody produce to get it right. Recently, after seeing Avatar, I was at a site promoting the study of the Na'vi language (the conlang from the movie), and some folks were having trouble with the ejective stops. Now I know how these stops are produced, but it sound a lot like the person giving a tutorial on YouTube had gotten their production wrong and after listening to some great sound files at a site that distinguished between clicks and ejectives, I was able to determine that. [BTW, that /p'/ in Goofy's second example is a voiceless bilabial ejective stop.]

The additional point I was trying to make late last night in my last post above is that for the purposes of mimicry, a broad (phonemic) transcription will never be totally efficacious. One can add all sorts of diacritic marks and a prose explanation describing the sounds, but hearing is still the optimal way, and I could probably produce the words so that a native speaker would understand them, even though she would say that I have an accent. But compared to the typical ad hoc phonetic transcriptions based on English orthography, an IPA transcription would give me an absolute and objective representation of the sound.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Originally posted by zmježd:
I think that Goofy perhaps overstates his case, but looking at where these symbols are located in the IPA chart gives somebody who is familiar with the principles of articulatory phonetics a good idea how some of these words would be pronounced.


That is what I was trying to say, and I probably was overstating it.

quote:
Originally posted by zmježd:
Na'vi


Since I knew that Na'vi had ejectives, when I finally watched Avatar I tried to listen for them. I didn't hear any - but I was a bit distracted.
 
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And I completely agree with you. 100%
But there is always a but.

One place that the IPA is used, probably the only place where the average person will ever see it, is in the pronunciation guide on words in a dictionary and typically the front of a dictionary will say things like

/æ/ a as in "hat", "cat", "man"

but if the average user hasn't heard the words hat, cat or man, this doesn't give him any useful information.

Certainly for the trained user knowledge of where it is on the chart and the technical terminology will enable, at the very least, a good attempt to be made to produce the sound, but not for Joe Public reading the dictionary.

Funny how we can all agree about something and still generate so much debate.
 
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But there is always a but.

Of course, Bob. My observation holds true more of the consonants and less of the vowels. But, here comes my but, once you know the system, you can still give another person who knows IPA a better idea of what you're talking about pronunciation-wise than with some ad hoc "system".

/æ/ a as in "hat", "cat", "man"

Yes, for the non-native speaker of English, I think I would come up with an IPA chart for their L1. Presumably they've heard the words that would be used as examples. Wink


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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It sounds to me that this is almost like learning another language. Am I correct that just studying what Quinion has up isn't enough?
 
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Am I correct that just studying what Quinion has up isn't enough?

It might be enough if all you want to do is use IPA for English.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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This site lets you listen to the sounds of American English.

Altho I'm not sure why they make a distinction between the central vowels /ɝ/ and /ɚ/. They both sound the same.

This site lets you listen to every sound in the IPA. I like /ʘ/ and /ʢ/.

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Yeah, I forgot about the accent part. Thanks, goofy.
 
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Today on NPR they were interviewing a professor from an English University. He called one of the characters in a book he was reviewing a "son of a.....gun." He hesitated before "gun" and you knew what he was thinking. He then quickly said, "It is okay to say 'gun' in America, isn't it?" I think he meant it, and the interviewer just went on without answering.

My reaction was that the British must think we are much more prissy than we really are.
 
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Most British people wouldn't naturally use the "son of a ..." construction anyway, so if his hesitation was taken as implying that he'd substituted "gun" for a word that might offend the audience, he probably did it for effect.

I suspect he was having a little joke.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I suspect he was having a little joke.

I heard the interview, and it was definitely a bit of British humour.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I've always loved this thread...

I was a talking to a British friend, and he was talking about someone with cancer where the disease had metastasized to other parts of the body...except, he used the term "secondaries" instead of metastases. He said it was a term non-medical people in England use for metastases. I've not heard it used here, in that way, by anyone.

Would our British Wordcrafters use "secondaries" or "metastases?"
 
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I have heard both terms, but I can't imagine that either would be used much by non-medical people. I suppose "secondaries" or similar might be used when speaking to non-medical people to avoid the use of the rather forbidding "metastases" which would almost certainly be unknown to most people. "Secondaries", "secondary outbreaks", or similar would at least have the benefit of being comprehensible without the need of much further explanation.

Recently, describing the progress of someone with cancer to a mutual friend, I used neither phrase, simply saying that the cancer had spread to other parts of his body.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Yes, "spread" would be used by non-professionals here, too. But I don't think either professionals or non-professionals used "secondaries." I never heard it used when I taught oncology to students. We did call the tumor a primary tumor, and by definition, I suppose, the metastatic sites would be "secondaries." We just didn't call them that.
 
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Reviving a thread...

Every time I listen to BBC on NPR (and that's a lot!), I hear a new British/American English pronunciation difference. Today it was the word torture. In the U.S. most of us say "TOR-chur." The reporter said, "TOR-tur." I assume that's how most British people pronounce it?
 
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I've heard both.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Of course I knew from the context what was meant, but it sounded so different that had someone just said, "What does TOR-tur mean?," I would have said I didn't know.

[I am not sure about that ?," situation. Wink]
 
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I've only ever heard TOR-chur
 
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Here is a fun article about English in the U.S. and across the pond:
quote:
Not long ago, an American friend was driving rather too vigorously in the west of Ireland when he was pulled over by a Gard (police officer). "What would happen if you were to run into Mr. Fog?" the Gard inquired gruffly in his thick Irish brogue. Stung by this patronizing query, my friend replied with heavy sarcasm, "Well, I guess I'd put Mr. Foot on Mr. Brake." Whereupon the officer stared at him rather strangely and growled, "I said mist or fog."
There were some things I hadn't known about, like
quote:
What you say in Britain when you mishear what someone says depends on your social class. The working class say "Aye?"; the lower middle class, "Pardon?"; the middle class, "Sorry?"; and the upper class, "What?"
Is that the case? I also agree with the author that "children" is a lovely word, and I hate the word "kids" that Americans use instead.

The one part I didn't get is that an American will sometimes reveal that he/she doesn't know how to boil an egg. What does that mean? We're stupid, but we're not that stupid! Wink
 
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Yes and no.
It's more a formality thing.
I'm working class. (Well my background certainly is.) and I sometimes say "aye" (pronounced like the letter A), sometines say "pardon", sometimes say "sorry" and sometimes say "what".
It depends on tthe specific circumstances.
The class thing is more of a parody of the real situation, a way of poking fun at the various classes rather than a reality.

Which reminds me of this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AF4rxTGYfM

Ignore the bizarre subtitles which appear to be some kind of advertising, it was simply the most complete version of the sketch I could find.
 
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PS the article appears to be behind a paywall.
 
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Yes, I tried a million times to get that article from the NY Times, and I thought I finally had it. I guess I didn't.

Thanks for that great YouTube link. The subtitles were odd, I agree. I couldn't even see how they were advertising anything.
 
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There are a million differences here in Scotland, though most of them I know. I did think that English called the restroom a loo, but a couple from London said that's the "lower class" word for it, and they laughed when I said it. I then thought they called it a "toilet," but the woman said she only calls it the "ladies." Now we'd say "ladies room," but that's much closer to ours than I thought it was.
 
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What would they think of my "crapper"?


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Originally posted by Kalleh:
There are a million differences here in Scotland, though most of them I know. I did think that English called the restroom a loo, but a couple from London said that's the "lower class" word for it, and they laughed when I said it. I then thought they called it a "toilet," but the woman said she only calls it the "ladies." Now we'd say "ladies room," but that's much closer to ours than I thought it was.


Ah, the prescriptivism of the middle classes.

So many words exist for this one cocnept they form a dictionary in there own right and everyone has their own ide of what is proper or correct.

"Loo" and "toilet" are both fine. Unless you are Hyacinth Bucket.*

(*A dotty character from British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances who insists that her surname is pronounced bouquet.)
 
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Originally posted by Proofreader:
What would they think of my "crapper"?


Dunno. Is it a good crapper - brick built, decent plumbing? Or is it a wooden shed with a hole in the ground?
Show us a picture, we'll tell you what we think.

If you haven't got a picture of the crapper send one of the shithouse.
 
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If you haven't got a picture of the crapper send one of the shithouse.

Only have one of the WC.
It's two-stories -- workers on the bottom and management on top.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I wonder what Miss Jean Brodie called it? I can't imagine any reference to such a facility ever passing her lips.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Back to the title of this thread ...

The CMOS has a Q&A with Lynne Murphy at http://www.chicagomanualofstyl...Talk/latestTalk.html


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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Nice link, arnie.

Of course, by now I know most of the differences when the British (or Scottish or whatever) write or speak. However, sometimes I get an internal chuckle when I hear some of the differences. For example, our Scottish host was telling me about being far north where the sunset and sunrise occur at about the same time. He said, "I couldn't work out if it was sunset or sunrise." We'd say something more like "figure out" and would save "work out" for the fitness center!
 
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