Archive for the ‘Phonetics’ Category


Monday, April 6th, 2015

A comment by Emilio Márquez on my post of March 26 reminded me that I need to do another EP tip on the subject of stranding. The one that is already there deals only with stranded auxiliary/modal verbs such as can and must.

Prepositions can also be stranded. When they are, they usually appear in their strong form, rather than have their vowel reduced to a weak vowel such as ə or u even though they are unstressed. This is most common with the words at from for of to.

I’ll do the tip soon, so won’t bother giving any examples here, but I can’t resist mentioning an interesting pair of sentences that popped into my mind. They illustrate the phenomenon of stranding nicely, I think.

What did you think of (=əv) yesterday?
What did you think of (=ɒv) yesterday?

Listen up!

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Photo credit: David Benbennick
Used under this licence

It is a long time since I did anything to EP Tips. It was always my intention at the beginning of the saga to have sound clips attached to lots of the tips.

Well, now I have decided to start work on adding more of these. The first is already in place.

As always I will be grateful for any comments. You can post these on the EP Tips comments page. The link is in the side-bar under Pages. I have cleared out all the old comments from this. The link to the EP Tips page is also in the side-bar.


Saturday, February 14th, 2015

Photo credit: Mark O’Donald.
Used under this licence.

The woman in the picture is Lyse Doucet. She is a wholly admirable, and I think, a very brave person. She appears fequently on the BBC News, reporting from dangerous places such as Homs in Syria. She is often seen in heavy body armour.

Although I think the work she does is important, I have always found her accent somewhat strange. According to Wikipedia she was born into an English-speaking family in Bathurst, New Brunswick, Canada. However, her family is of Acadian descent. She also has Irish and Mi’kmaq ancestors.

I have never been able to put my finger on what is odd about her pronunciation, but a couple of nights ago I did notice one surprising thing. She pronounced the phrase last chance as lɑːst tʃæns. One would expect both vowels to be of the TRAP set, or possibly both of the BATH set. I shall be listening carefully next time she appears.

CLICK HERE to hear a short clip of Lyse Doucet.

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.