Up to scratch?

July 16th, 2014

Maidment Mansion is having a new kitchen installed. Here one of the planning committee inspects the new oven.

The Rose Chafer

June 22nd, 2014

We have been enjoying some very fine weather in the far west over the last ten days. Today has been the hottest so far, I think. This afternoon it has been 20 deg C (68 F).

To enjoy the weather a little trip to Carn Gluze aka Carn Gloose aka Ballowal, a place I have posted about before, and which has the advantage of remaining relatively unpopulated even at the height of the tourist season.

When I arrived, I had a stroke of luck. Just where I parked there was an old gentleman, yes even older than me! He was staring at something on a plant. When I got out of the car, he beckoned me over and showed me what he was looking at. You can see the very beast in the picture above. He told me it was a Rose Chafer, also called Green Rose Chafer or Goldsmith Beetle. Wikipedia tells us that its scientific name is Cetonia aurata. I have never seen one before, and without the old guy’s info I would have had no idea what I was looking at, even if I had spotted it for myself.

I spent the next ten minutes or so trying to take a picture of it. It was pretty hard because there was a moderate breeze blowing and keeping the beetle in focus was almost impossible. Finally, I took a few shots holding the plant still with one hand and holding the camera in the other. Of the ten or so shots I took only three were at all serviceable. The one above is the best.

SWF Online Dictionary

June 12th, 2014

JDL has just alerted me to the fact that the Standard Written Form Cornish dictionary is now available online. What is more, unlike the previously available PDF version, the online version includes pronunciations in IPA symbols.

The dictionary is published and maintained by Maga Kernow – The Cornish Language Partnership. You can find it here.

I haven’t had much time to look at the dictionary yet, but the pronunciations seem pretty good to me. For many words, both Middle Cornish and Late Cornish versions are given, reflecting the differing preferences of Cornish speakers. One thing that I think is missing is an explanation of the meaning of the symbols used (1) because not many users will be familiar with IPA symbols and (2) there seem to be some non-standard uses of symbols. An instance of this is the aspiration diacritic ʰ. In some Late Cornish versions this appears word-finally after a vowel — for instance the word hogh (“pig”) has the LC pron. hoːʰ. It is also used word-finally after l, as in the word a-bell (“afar”) which has əbɛlʰ as the LC pron. What exactly they mean by this I am not sure.

Watch this space for more thoughts on the dictionary.


May 24th, 2014


This post is prompted by a query from Nobuo Yuzawa about an utterance in my program Plato. First, I see I hadn’t posted a link here to that program, so I’ve put that right. The query ended up in the comments page for EP Tips and started an exchange of comments between Nobuo and Emilio Márquez. I’m going to remove the originals from that page and reproduce them here:

Nobuo Yuzawa says:
May 19, 2014 at 1:45 am
I have a question about the tonicity of Plato Set1 No10 “I can’t imagine what they want”. The intended answer is “what”, which means that its tone is a rise-fall – there is a rise in pitch in ‘they’. Is there any useful perceptual clue to distinguish this case from the case in which ‘they’ is the nucleus and is spoken with a fall?

Emilio Márquez says:
May 19, 2014 at 4:57 am
Nobuo, I think I can hear a mid-level strong “what” and then a high weak short fall during “they”. I suppose that if the nucleus was to fall on “they”, this word would be perceived to be stronger than “what”, irrespective of pitch.

Nobuo Yuzawa says:
May 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm
Emilio, thank you for your comment. Acoustically, what you perceive as stronger in “what” than “they” may be related to duration. This is a noticeable difference in duration between the two words, but almost no change is detected in intensity between them, and “they” is higher-pitched than “what”. As a Japanese speaker, I may be simply more sensitive to changes in pitch. Your perception of more strength on “what” may also have something to do with an overall stress pattern of this sentence, “what” being a content word and “they” being a function word. This may mean that if “they” were highlighted as spoken with a fall, it might require more change in prosodic elements, such as much higher pitch, more intensity, and/or more duration. It seems that a simple comparison of prosodic elements does not always explain satisfactorily perceptual differences of speech sounds by people, especially by native speakers. Would this explanation somehow make sense?

Emilio Márquez says:
May 19, 2014 at 5:19 pm
Nobuo, You’re absolutely right. I’m afraid I mixed up perception with articulation when I referred to strong “what” vs weak “they”.

I think Nobuo and Emilio have outlined part of the answer. I’ll add my thoughts. The first diagram below shows the broadband spectrogram and fundamental frequency contour of an utterance of the word No produced by me with a falling tone. Notice that there is a brief precursive rise in F0 and the peak coincides more or less with the beginning of the vowel.

Diagram 1
The second diagram shows a similar display for the same word said with a rise-fall tone. This time the peak is a lot later, approximately 225ms after the onset of the vowel.

Diagram 2
Diagram 3 shows the utterance No, you fool said with a falling tone on No. The F0 contour is similar to that of Diagram 1, with the F0 peak aligned with the vowel onset.

Diagram 3
Diagram 4 shows the same utterance, but this time with a rise-fall tone on the word No. Again there is a delay in the F0 peak, but this time it is in the syllable following the nucleus, and as you can see quite late in that syllable.

Diagram 4
The final diagram shows the utterance No, you do it, with a falling tone on the word you. Notice that the F0 peak is soon after the onset of the vowel, which is marked with the blue vertical line.

Diagram 5
So there is a distinct difference in the alignment of a falling tone within its syllable and the falling part of a rise-fall tone within its syllable. This difference is a further cue to the distinction between a fall and a rise-fall and this can be added to the “strength” difference that Nobuo and Emilio talked of.

This idea of a delay in peak alignment has been taken up by quite a few intonation researchers. One account you might like to look at is by Gussenhoven C. (1984) On the grammar and semantics of sentence accents. Dordrecht: Foris. He proposes a number of what he calls ‘modifications’ which can be applied to an accented syllable, usually the nucleus. One of these is [±delay]. The positive value of this modification can be applied to tones of all kinds, not only falls, and has the semantic effect of making the information so marked “especially noteworthy”, “not routine”.


May 10th, 2014

The picture shows part of a Chinese bronze ritual vessel known as a zūn. This particular specimen dates from the Western Han dynasty (220BC – 9AD). As you can see, it is in the shape of a rhinoceros and is inlaid with patterns of gold and silver. It was used to hold wine during ceremonies of ancestor worship (it is thought). I am sure you will agree that it is a very fine object and a very fine nose!

I assure you I am not becoming obsessed with noses, but I was led to this particular picture by the Flanders and Swann song in my last post. Another of their animal songs is The Rhinoceros, which begins like this:

Oh nobody loves the Rhinoceros much
If you ask the reason why,
They will tell you because of his scaly touch
Or his hard and glittering eye;
But should you ask a truthful man
You will get this quick response:
I do not trust that thing on his nose
The bodger on his bonce!

Bonce is a slang word you don’t hear these days. I think that’s a shame. It means “head” and according to the OED has been around since the late eighteen hundreds. It is pronounced bɒns. The OED does not list the word bodger with the sense it has in the song, but it may be a variant of the word podger, which the OED defines as: Any of various tools having the form of a short bar; spec. a tapered bar of iron or steel used as a lever, now often incorporating a spanner at one end.

Picture credit: BabelStone. Used under this licence.