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Spoken and Written language

Types and styles of pronunciation

Classification of pronunciation variants in English. British and American pronunciation models

Spoken and written language


Regional and stylistic varieties of English pronunciation

Lecture 2

Methods of phonetic analysis

We distinguish between subjective, introspective methods of phonetic investigation and objective methods.

The oldest, simplest and most readily available method is the method of direct observation. This method consists in observing the movements and positions of one's own or other people's organs of speech in pronouncing various speech sounds, as well as in analyzing one's own kinaesthetic sensations during the articulation of speech sound in comparing them with auditory impressions.

Objective methods involve the use of various instrumental techniques (palatography, laryngoscopy, photography, cinematography, X-ray photography and cinematography and electromyography). This type of investigation together with direct observation is widely used in experimental phonetics. The objective methods and the subjective ones are complementary and not opposite to one another. Nowadays we may use the up-to-date complex set to fix the articulatory parameters of speech - so called articulograph.

Acoustic phonetics comes close to studying physics and the tools used in this field enable the investigator to measure and analyze the movement of the air in the terms of acoustics. This generally means introducing a microphone into the speech chain, converting the air movement into corresponding electrical activity and analyzing (Ксень, это слово у Красы через «s», но, по-моему, тут «z») the result in terms of frequency of vibration and the amplitude of vibration in relation to time. The spectra of speech sounds are investigated by means of the apparatus called the sound spectrograph. Pitch as a component of intonation can be investigated by intonograph.

The acoustic aspect of speech sounds is investigated not only with the help of sound-analyzing techniques, but also by means of speech-synthesizing devices.

We don't need to speak in order to use language. Language can be written,
broadcast from tapes and CDs, and produced by computers in limited ways.
Nevertheless, speech remains the primary way humans encode and broadcast
language. Speaking and writing are different in both origin and practice. Our
ability to use language is as old as humankind is. It reflects the biological and
cognitive modification that has occurred during the evolution of our species.
Writing is the symbolic representation of language by graphic signs. It is
comparatively recent cultural development. Spoken language is acquired without
specific formal instruction, whereas writing must be taught and learned through
deliberate effort. The origins of the written language lie in the spoken language,
not the other way round. .

The written form of language is usually a generally accepted standard and is the same throughout the country. But spoken language may vary from place to place. Such distinct forms of language are called dialects! The varieties of the language are conditioned by language communities ranging from small groups to nations. Speaking about the nations we refer to the national variants of the language. According to A.D. Schweitzer national language is a historical category evolving from conditions of economic and political concentration which characterizes the formation of nation. In the case of English there exists a great diversity in the realization of the language and particularly in terms of pronunciation. Though every national variant of English has considerable differences in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar; they all have much in common which gives us ground to speak of one and the same language — the English language.

Every national variety of language falls into territorial or regional dialects. Dialects are distinguished from each other by differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. When we refer to varieties in pronunciation only, we use the term accent. So local accents may have many features of pronunciation in common and are grouped into territorial or area accents. For certain reasons one of the dialects becomes the standard language of the nation and its pronunciation or accent - the standard pronunciation.

The literary spoken form has its national pronunciation standard. A standard may be defined as "a socially accepted variety of language established by a codified norm of correctness" (K. Macanalay). Standard national pronunciation is sometimes called "an orthoepic norm''. Some phoneticians however prefer the term "literary pronunciation".

2. Classification of pronunciation variants in English. British and
American pronunciation models.

Nowadays two main types of English are spoken in the English-speaking world: British English and American English.

According to British dialectologists (P. Trudgill, J. Hannah, A. Hughes and others), the following variants of English are referred to the English-based group: English English, Welsh English, Australian English, New Zealand English; to the American-based group: United States English, Canadian English. Scottish English and Ireland English fall somewhere between the two, being somewhat by themselves.

According to M. Sokolova and others, English English, Welsh English, Scottish English and Northern Irish English should be better combined into the British English subgroup, on the ground of political, geographical, cultural unity which brought more similarities - then differences for those variants of pronunciation.

Teaching practice as well as a pronouncing dictionary must base their
recommendations on one or more models. A pronunciation model is a carefully chosen and defined accent of a language.

In the nineteenth century Received Pronunciation (RP) was a social marker, a prestige accent of an Englishman. "Received" was understood in the sense of "accepted in the best society". The speech of aristocracy and the court phonetically was that of the London area. Then it lost its local characteristics and was finally fixed as a ruling-class accent, often referred to as "King's English". It was also the accent taught at public schools. With the spread of education cultured people not belonging to upper classes were eager to modify their accent in the direction of social standards.

In the first edition of English Pronouncing Dictionary (1917), Daniel Jones defined the type of pronunciation recorded as "Public School Pronunciation" (PSP). He had by 1926, however, abandoned the term PSP in favour of "Received Pronunciation" (RP). The type of speech he had in mind was not restricted to London and the Home Counties, however being characteristic by the nineteenth century of upper-class speech throughout the country. The Editor of the 14th Edition of the dictionary, A.C. Gimson, commented in 1977 "Such a definition of RP is hardly tenable today". A more broadly-based and accessible model accent for British English is represented in the 15th (1997) and the 16th (2003) editions – ВВС English. This is the pronunciation of professional speakers employed by the BBC as newsreaders and announcers. Of course, one finds differences between such speakers - they have their own personal characteristics, and an increasing number of broadcasters with Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents are employed. On this ground J.C. Wells (Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 33rd edition - 2000) considers that the term BBC pronunciation has become less appropriate. According to J.C. Wells, in England and Wales RP is widely regarded as a model for correct pronunciation, particularly for educated formal speech.

For American English, the selection (in EPD) also follows what is frequentlyheard from professional voices on national. network news and information programmes. It is similar to what has been termed General American, which refers to a geographically (largely non-coastal) and socially based set of pronunciation features. It is important to note that no single dialect - regional or social - has been singled out as an American standard. Even national media (radio, television, movies, CD-ROM, etc.), with professionally trained voices have speakers with regionally mixed features. However, Network English, in its most colourless form, can be described as a relatively homogeneous dialect that reflects the ongoing development of progressive American dialects. This "dialect" itself contains some variant forms. The variants involve vowels before [r], possible differences in words like cot and caught and some vowels before [l]. It is fully rhotic. These differences largely pass unnoticed by the audiences for Network English, and are also reflective of age differences. What are thought to be the more progressive (used by educated, socially mobile, and younger speakers) variants are considered as first variants. J.C. Wells prefers the term General American. This is what is spoken by the majority of Americans, namely those who do not have a noticeable eastern or southern accent.


3. Types and styles of pronunciation

Styles of speech or pronunciation are those special forms of speech suited to the aim and the contents of the utterance, the circumstances of communication, the character of the audience, etc. As D. Jones points out, a person may pronounce the same word or sequence of words quite differently under different circumstances.

Thus in ordinary conversation the word and is frequently pronounced [n] when unstressed (e.g. in bread and butter ['bredn 'butэ], but in serious conversation the word, even when unstressed, might often be pronounced [ænd]. In other words, all speakers use more than one style of pronunciation, and variations in the pronunciation of speech sounds, words and sentences peculiar to different styles of speech may be called stylistic variations.

Several different styles of pronunciation may be distinguished, although no generally accepted classification of styles of pronunciation has been worked outand the peculiarities of different styles have not yet been sufficiently investigated.

D. Jones distinguishes among different styles of pronunciation the rapid familiar style, the slower colloquial style, the natural style used in addressing a fair-sized audience, the acquired style of the stage, and the acquired style used in singing.

L.V. Shcherba wrote of the need to distinguish a great variety of styles of speech, in accordance with the great variety of different social occasions and situations, but for the sake of simplicity he suggested that only two styles of pronunciation should be distinguished: (1) colloquial style characteristic of people's quiet talk, and (2) full style, which we use when we want to make our speech especially distinct and, for this purpose, clearly articulate all the syllables of each word.

The kind of style used in pronunciation has a definite effect on the phonemic and allophonic composition of words. More deliberate and distinct utterance results in the use of full vowel sounds in some of the unstressed syllables. Consonants, too, uttered in formal style, will sometimes disappear in colloquial. It is clear that the chief phonetic characteristics of the colloquial style are various forms of the reduction of speech sounds and various kinds of assimilation. The degree of reduction and assimilation depends on the tempo of speech.

S.M. Gaiduchic distinguishes five phonetic styles: solemn (торжественный), "scientific business (научно-деловой), official business (официально-деловой), everyday (бытовой), and familiar (непринужденный). As we may see the above-mentioned phonetic styles on the whole correlate with functional styles of the language. They are differentiated on the basis of spheres of discourse.

The other way of classifying phonetic styles is suggested by J.A. Dubovsky who discriminates the following five styles: informal ordinary, formal neutral, formal official, informal familiar, and declamatory. The division is based on different degrees of formality or rather familiarity between the speaker and the listener. Within each style subdivisions are observed. M.Sokolova and other's approach is slightly different. When we consider the problem of classifying phonetic styles according to the criteria described above we should distinguish between segmental and suprasegmental level of analysis because some of them (the aim of the utterance, for example) result in variations of mainly suprasegmental level, while others (the formality of situation, for example) reveal segmental varieties. So it seems preferable to consider each level separately until a more adequate system of correlation is found.

The style-differentiating characteristics mentioned above give good grounds for establishing intonational styles. There are five intonational styles singled out mainly according to the purpose of communication and to which we could refer all the main varieties of the texts. They are as follows:

1.Informational style.

2.Academic style (Scientific).

3.Publicistic style.

4.Declamatory style (Artistic).

5.Conversational style (Familiar).

But differentiation of intonation according" to the purpose of communication is not enough; there are other factors that affect intonation in various situations. Besides any style is seldom realized in its pure form.

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