The Chaos

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

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word. Continue reading


Definitely Indefinite

‘An Historical Note

‘He was sojourning at an hotel in Bond Street.’
Anthony Trollope

Here’s a hypothesis – or rather four separate but vaguely related hypotheses – on words beginning with h and an unstressed syllable (or why some people say an history, an hotel and an hypothesis):

  1. Once upon a time all educated people spoke French and so pronounced history, such as the French word histoire, with a silent h. Appropriately they gave it the article an.
  2. Some – less well-educated and therefore non-French-speaking – people spoke badly, were lazy about pronouncing their aitches, and so got into the habit of saying an ‘istory.
  3. Educated people disliked dropping aitches, so began to pronounce them in French words that traditionally used the article an: an history.
  4. People spoke too quickly, running together the words a and history, so that it became pronounced anistory. When they paused for breath, and separated things out a bit, they thought the word must be an history.

Note the inherent snobbishness of these hypotheses. It crops up a lot in the study of language.

But whatever the origins of the practice may be, the rule is: if the h is pronounced (as in history, hotel and hypothesis), the correct article is a; if it is not pronounced (as in honour and hour), use an.’

– Taggart. C., Wines. J.A. 2008. My Grammar And I (or should that be ‘me’?) London, Great Britain: Michael O’Mara (2011) p. 42-43

Geordie Accent

Geordie is a regional nickname for a person from Tyneside, a region of the north east of England, or the name of the English-language dialect spoken by its inhabitants. Depending on who is using it, the catchment area for the term ‘Geordie’ can be as large as the whole of north east England, or as small as the city of Newcastle upon Tyne.

In most aspects Geordie speech is a direct continuation and development of the language spoken by the Anglo-Saxon settlers of this region. Initially mercenaries employed by the ancient Brythons to fight the Pictish invaders after the end of Roman rule in Britannia in the 5th century, the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who thus arrived became, over time, ascendant politically and – through population transfer from tribal homelands in northern Europe – culturally over the native British. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms that emerged during the Dark Ages spoke largely mutually-intelligible varieties of what we now call Old English, each varying somewhat in phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. This Anglo-Saxon influence on Geordie can be seen today, to the extent that poems by the Anglo-Saxon scholar the Venerable Bede translates more successfully into Geordie than into modern day English. Thus, in northern England, dominated by the kingdom of Northumbria, was found a distinct Northumbrian Old English dialect.

Phonetically, Geordie consonants generally follow those of Received Pronunciation. Some phonological characteristics specific to Geordie are listed as follows:

– Geordie is non-rhotic, like most Anglo-English dialects. This means speakers do not pronounce /r/ unless it is followed by a vowel sound in that same phrase or prosodic unit. The rhotic sound (/r/) in Geordie is pronounced as [ɹ].

– Unusual for language, there is some differentiation in pronunciation in the Geordie dialect based upon the speaker’s sex. For example, English sound /aʊ/, pronounced generically in Geordie as [əʊ], may also have other, more specific pronunciations depending upon whether one is male or female. Males alone often pronounce the sound /aʊ/ as [uː], for example, the word house (/haʊs/) pronounced as [huːs]. Females, on the other hand, will often pronounce this sound as [eʉ], thus: [heʉs].

– /ɪŋ/ appearing in an unstressed final syllable of a word (such as in reading) is pronounced as [ən] (thus, reading is [ˈɹiːdən]).

– /ər/ appearing at the end of a word (such as in sugar) is pronounced as [a] (thus, sugar is [ˈʃʊga]).

– Yod-coalescence in both stressed and unstressed syllables (so that dew becomes [dʒuː]).

– T-glottalization, in which /t/ is replaced by [ʔ] before a syllabic nasal (e.g. button as [ˈbʊʔən]), in absolute final position (get as [gɛʔ]), and whenever the /t/ is intervocalic so long as the latter vowel is not stressed (pity as [ˈpɪʔi]).

– /æ/ specifically in the words had, have, has and having is pronounced as [ɛ].

– /ɛ/ specifically in words with the spelling “ea” (such as bread and deaf) may be pronounced as [iː].

– /əʊ/ specifically at the ends of words, with the spelling “ow” (such as in throw and follow) is pronounced as [a] in monosyllabic words and [ə] in polysyllabic words (thus, window as [ˈwɪndə]).

Gradation Words and Citation Pronunciation

Gradation words are pronounced differently depending on the context in which they are spoken. These words can be pronounced in a strong and weak manner. The strong pronunciation is also called citation pronunciation because of its formal sound. This form often occurs when the word is spoken in an isolation, although, to much usage of the strong version of gradation words makes a speaker sound unnatural and amateurish.