Monday, 4 October 2010

what’s new

As I brush the egg off my face, I agree I’d better stick more strictly to phonetics.

Today’s blog will be derivative. First, here’s a cutting-edge report from the world of phonotectonics and consonantal drift.

Second, we have a video of a young Londoner doing rather impressive impressions of twenty different accents. This video went viral over the weekend, so you may have seen it already.

I thought that was pretty good on the whole, though the attempt at a Japanese accent is feeble. And he needs a scriptwriter. You may consider his “natural” speech, his own accent, rather interesting, too. Despite his extensive use of intervocalic t-glottalling and th-fronting, he does not think of it as Cockney. On the contrary, the very first “impression” he attempts is one of Cockney. It differs from his usual speech by, for example, incorporating shifted diphthongs and by a marked change of voice quality.

Thirdly, a footnote to Friday’s nom nom nom.

13 comments:

  1. I hadn't seen that video actually. Thanks for linking it.

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  2. His American pronunciation isn't too bad, but he doesn't realize that no American would ever use the expression "take the piss".

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  3. LDOCE: take the piss (out of sb/sth) BrE to annoy someone by laughing at them or making them seem stupid.

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  4. On the whole, great! Very interesting.

    I agree that the Japanese attempt was rather poor, but the Southern US accent was very feeble as well.

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  5. A friend sent me that video this past weekend. Agree that most of the accents were done quite well, but I thought the Italian one was horrible. I taught EFL in Italy for a year, and I never once heard an accent like that. Anyone else find that?

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  6. Such inconsonance.
    I for one don't believe in plate phonics (I am more of a supporter of Three-aitchionism, hhh: holy hieroglyphic hudibrastics), as the superconsonant cycle seems to imply a recurrence of this odd primeval alphabet soup (whether they call it Amaze-ya or Panglossia Ultima).

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  7. @ Zoe: There's this waiter at my favorite restaurant that sounds a bit like that. He always adds little schwas at the end of words that end in consonants.

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  8. What I do find impressive is the things he gets right despite (presumably) having no training in phonetics or dialectology. He knows that dog and boss are CLOTH words and therefore take the THOUGHT vowel in New York City even though they take the LOT vowel in his own accent. He can produce the voiceless unaspirated stops of Afrikaans-influenced English, something I was incapable of doing until I was rather older than he is and was taking my first phonetics course.

    One thing that surprised me is how genuine his mainstream RP sounds compared to how really, really bad his posh U-RP sounds.

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  9. @ Tonio: Yes, I agree (I don't mean to annoy anyone by writing posts that say things like "I agree" by the way) about him knowing about how to say dog. I was impressed by that too. At the same time though, I think that is a pretty well-known part of the NYC accent, if only in a few words, e.g., coffee and dog. It does, of course, occur in other words, but I'm saying that those words seem to be the most "famous" ones with that vowel.

    You're not the only who has (or had) trouble with deaspirating your voiceless stops. I always had trouble doing that for Spanish and still do. It often ends up coming out as a voiced/lenis stop when I try to do it. The voiced alveolar trill and the approximant allophones of the voiced plosives /d/, /b/ and /g/ are also difficult while I'm on that subject (which has nothing to do with what you said).

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  10. I don't want to come over like my granny (who used to watch New Faces and say 'She's doing her best!' while we were shouting abuse at the screen) but it's pretty unusual to be able to 'do' all these different accents - it would be more interesting to talk about what he focuses on (salient features of the accents that allow them to be identified, rather than getting everything exactly spot on) rather than just saying 'Oh his accent X is rubbish'.

    Just a thought ;-)

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  11. @accidentobizzaro: sorry, I guess my post did sound kind of harsh. I do think that overall he did an amazing job; I just wonder where this sort of fake Italian accent comes from, as I hear it a lot in stereotypes, jokes, etc. and it doesn't sound anything like the real Italian accents I hear. It sounded like the guy in the video had picked up that accent from listening to non-Italians speak with a fake Italian accent, whereas most of the other accents sounded like he had exposure to the real thing...just a thought

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  12. @accidentobizzaro I think you're right; looking at this video in more detail would be a great teaching opportunity. It's not just what he highlights phonetically but also culturally through the choice of content and phraseology. But if somebody qualified (ie not me) would do a more detailed phonetic analysis of this video (things done right, things done wrong, stereotypes, etc.), it would make a great teaching resource.

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  13. @ techczech:
    somebody qualified
    Hmmm...I wonder if there's anyone like that around here.

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