Monday, 10 December 2012

'Dream a little dream of Wayne'

Platanaceae Platanus occidentalis
American Plane

Well, it rhymes with 'Birds singin' in th' American Plane', and one of the first recordings of 'Dream a Little Dream of Me' was by Wayne King and his orchestra, who was beaten by 2 days in 1931; the first was by  Ozzie Nelson on 16 February. Since  then there have been about 60 other recordings, and I imagine hundreds of live covers.

But the 'birds singin' in the sycamore tree' were nowhere near the sort of tree that we know in British English as a 'sycamore' - acer pseudoplatanus. The American Sycamore, sometimes called 'American Plane' - platanus occidentalis - though also known as the 'American Sycamore' is a closer relation of the London Plane - platanus acerifolia. 'American Plane' is eleven times more common in COCA than 'American Sycamore', though 'Sycamore tree' wins over 'Plane tree' by a ratio of about 5/2 (69/27, to be precise). Interesting numbers - but I don't know what they indicate (if anything).

This post was going to be about misnomers, of which the lexicon is full. The only one I've written about so far - apart from the above - is the cor anglais -  in which anglais may  be a long-entrenched typo for anglé [a reference to its bent crook]. This may itself be a folk etymology; it depends on a mistaken equation of [e]  and [ɛ] - which, though true, isn't a strong counter-argument: mispronunciations are a common feature of etymological relations, and this one is not unlikely  - especially in the mouth of a speaker of a language that has no phonemic distinction of this sort.

This instrument is known in American English as the 'English Horn', although I know of nothing particularly English about it - except perhaps that it may be associated by some with music by English composers. And its name may lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy: perhaps a composer, wanting to sound English, might use an 'English Horn'. But the two most notable pieces that come to mind are not English at all: it is the solo instrument featured in the slow movements of the New World Symphony ('Hovis') and the Concierto de Aranjuéz ' ('Orange juice').

But I'm rushing to press with an update on When Vowels Get Together - progress that I'm afraid is glacial. I'm coming to the end - as I fear I've said more than once - of the -EA- section. This is a very rich combination of vowels. Whereas in all the combinations starting with a, the average number of possible pronunciations is 7.6 - ranging from 2 to 11 - the number of possible pronunciations of -EA- is 22. That's very nearly three times the average for -A*-, and twice as many as the highest (-AE-) so far published.

I'm just reaching the stage where I put in the external links. Now, I know that for some users this is of no importance. On a bog-standard Kindle, for example, the links presumably don't go anywhere. (When I open the .mobi file in my simulator what I see looks like a Kindle, but when I click on an external link the simulator fires up my browser and displays whatever it is there.) But on some other platforms the device may do something useful, which some users might value.

So I've set up a new Twitter handle - @WVGTbook. If you're interested in the progress of the book, please follow this account, which will return the compliment. Then you can DM me about your needs. If you're happy to brave the full glare of publicity, just use the tag #WVGTbook. In particular, at the moment, I want to know whether you need the external links.

Update Removed reference - no longer true - to the @WVGTbook icon.Update 
 Updated TESconnect stats. EA is long gone. I'm about to release V3.0 (AA-AU, EA-EU, and IA-IU).
Update: 2013.10.02.16:20
HeadFooter updated

Update: 2015.06.13.12:30 – 

Added picture

Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Nearly 49,100 views  and  8,000 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,700 views and nearly 1,100 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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