Archive for the ‘Phonetics’ Category

Thomas Hallam Found!

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

The picture shows the tower of St Thomas Becket Church, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire. The churchyard here is where Thomas Hallam is buried and his tombstone reads:

Here rests the body of / Thomas Hallam / a member of the / Council of the / English Dialect Society / Born 26 December 1810 / at Raglow [Draglow] Chapel en le Frith Died 7th September 1895 / at Ardwick Manchester / He devoted the leisure moments / of a long and busy life / to a patient and diligent enquiry / into all that is noteworthy / in the various dialects / of Northern England / The results of his Studies are / placed in Bodley’s Library / in the University of Oxford.

There seems to be some doubt about the date of his birth, because the Chapel-en-le-Frith parish record of births baptisms has an entry: 30 Jan 1820 Thomas the son of John & Hannah HALLAM of Raglow, farmer and an entry for a burial: 11 Sep 1895 Thomas HALLAM of Ardwick, aged 75. I am trying to resolve this. The above information comes from the website of The Hallam Family of the Peak District. Many thanks to them.

The Bodleian Library does indeed have works by TH. Apart from the two works mentioned in my previous post, the catalogue also lists:

  • 1882 Three Great Dictionaries.
  • 1882 with Chamberlain, Edith L. A glossary of west Worcestershire words.
  • undated [Newspaper cuttings and printed items of the years 1838-94, chiefly of philological and biographical interest, collected by T. Hallam].

I am still trying to find information on TH’s profession, marriage and offspring if any.

Update: See the comment from Steven Hallam.


Photo credit: Tony Bacon. Used under this licence.

Thomas Hallam

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Thomas Hallam was apparently an accomplished phonetician, but very little seems to be known about his life. Here is what I have been able to find.

TH was a native of the Peak District in North Derbyshire. I am certain that he died sometime between 1890 and 1896. He collaborated with, and was highly praised by, such phonetics and philological luminaries as Alexander Ellis (1814-1890) and Walter Skeat (1835-1912). I came across TH in the publication part of whose title page you can see to the left. This was published in 1896 by the English Dialect Society.

In his introduction to the first of the two collections Skeat says of Hallam:

TH himself wrote the introduction to the second collection (actually two collections conflated into one) and in this gave a very detailed account of all the symbols and diacritics used, together with a description of the sounds involved. The pronunciations he recorded were printed for the first collection introduced by Skeat, but unfortunately TH died before he could provide Skeat with the pronunciations for the second collection.

There is no doubt that Skeat had taken on a difficult task with these two collections and he freely admits he would have been hard pressed without TH’s work. The collections were made by Samuel Pegge (1704-1796), a clergyman, who for the latter part of his life was the vicar in Old Whittington near Chesterfield. Skeat acquired the manuscript of the collections in 1873. They were difficult to read and were rather chaotically thrown together. The introduction by Pegge, which deals amongst other things with pronunciation, is practically incomprehensible. The frustration Skeat must have felt is well illustrated by this extract from a footnote:

TH wrote at least one other work for the English Dialect Society. You can see part of the title page to the right. This was published in 1885. The four words concerned have the following (approximate) meanings:

  • clem = suffer from hunger or thirst
  • lake = to play
  • nesh = susceptible to cold
  • oss = to try
  • The only one of these I am familiar with is nesh, which was commonly used in Derby when I was young, and probably still is.

    The paper is amazingly detailed and must have involved journeys by TH all over the country. You can read it online. It is part of the file which contains Ellis’s English Dialects – Their Sounds and Homes.

    I would love to know more of the details of TH’s life. If anyone has any further information, please let me know.

    My thanks go to JDL for providing the Pegge article. You can read it online here.

    Fire, place

    Monday, October 6th, 2014

    Phillip Minden’s comment on my last post prompted me to conduct a very cursory survey of varieties of Italian to see what they have for the words fire and place. You can see the result of this in the table below. A word of warning though — these are of course orthographic forms. I haven’t been able to find any online dictionaries which give pronunciations for non-standard varieties.

    Standard Italian is the only variety I have been able to find which has a voicing mismatch for the intervocalic consonant in these two words.

    It occurred to me whilst doing this survey that St. Italian has been fairly resistant to lenition, compared to some other Romance languages. Take for example the Latin word-ending -atum In St. Italian this has turned up as -ato, while Castilian Spanish has -ado.

    So why there is a mismatch in St. Italian fuoco and luogo remains a mystery.

    Hocus Pocus

    Friday, October 3rd, 2014

    This is one of those ‘why have I never wondered about this before?’ affairs.

    Consider, if you will, the Italian word luogo and the Spanish word lugar, both meaning “place/position”. Both derive ultimately from the Latin word locus, though in the case of the Spanish word I would guess via the adjective localis, with a dissimilation l → r in the presence of another l. Be that as it may, both words show lenition of the original Latin intervocalic consonant.

    Consider now the word for “fire” in the same two languages. These derive from Latin focus, meaning “hearth”. In Spanish we have fuego. All well and good. Same lenition. In Italian we have fuoco! Someone please tell me why.

    PTLC2015

    Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

    The dates for the 2015 meeting of the Phonetics Teaching & Learning Conference have now been announced. PTLC2015 will take place at UCL from 5-7 August next year. A link to the conference website can be found in the sidebar.