Thursday, 19 September 2013

OU, you ARE awful

Here is a first draft of the notes for the last new V4 section:
  1. borough
    There are also many place-names that are compounded from something+'borough', such as 'Marlborough', 'Middlesborough' and 'Yarborough'. (Similar-looking place-names spelt something+''burgh', such as 'Edinburgh' have no /ʌ/, and the '-burgh' suffix is not stressed: /'edɪmbrə//).
  2. router
    The published (hardcopy) Macmillan English Dictionary gives three transcriptions, one for British English (with /u:/, with matching audio [on the CD]), and two for American English /u/ and /aʊ/ (but with only one audio example – /aʊ/). The Internet offering is less clear. The link with 'british/' in it has /u:/ with matching audio. But there is a mistake in the link that points to the 'american/' dictionary; there is only one transcription (/u/) with audio /aʊ/.
  3. slough
    The noun has the vowel sound /aʊ/, and the wholly unrelated verb is /slʌf/. It might be thought that this word, in either of these pronunciations, is so little-used that it is not worth a student's attention, but as the Macmillan English Dictionary includes both (slough [marked 'American', and with an audio representation different from either of the transcriptions given] and slough), each of these words is included. (Students of literature may come across 'The Slough of Despond', in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and students who study in the south-east of England are likely to meet the place-name 'Slough'; both of these have the /aʊ/ pronunciation.)
  4. bivouac, gouache, langoustine, pirouette, and silhouette
    These five, with a shortened /u/ were borrowed (like many other /u:/ words)  from French.  Note that this is not to say that in all words borrowed from French, 'ou' makes this sound. In camouflage, carousel and limousine for example, this digraph represents an /ʊ/ sound. But in 'pouffe', an alternative spelling for pouf, the Macmillan English Dictionary gives the transcription /u:/ while the audio sample gives a clear /ʊ/ sound. (The main entry has the sound /u:/). Macmillan English Dictionary's transcription for tourniquet uses /ʊə/ in the 'ou' syllable, but the sound in the audio sample is a clear /ɔ:/. Meanwhile, the transcription of troubadour has two different phonemes – /u:/ in the first syllable and /ʊə/ in the last (although the Macmillan English Dictionary audio sample has a clear /ɔ:/ sound in the last syllable). As with all borrowings there is fluidity in (and disagreement about) the pronunciation.
    To take another example, Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes the 'ou' in boutique as /u:/, but the audio sample has something between /u/ (that is, unlengthened) and /ʊ/. The same dictionary treats bouquet in the same way (this time with the added option of an /əʊ/ pronunciation). Again, Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes the 'ou' in couscous as /u:/, but the audio sample has a clear /ʊ/ sound.
    Taking another language (the source word is Arabic, although French colonial cuisine may have influenced its adoption into English), the Macmillan English Dictionary's transcription of houmous has /ʊ/ in both syllables, but the audio sample has the sound /u:/ in the first syllable and something between /ʊ/ and/ə/ in the last. Derivation from any particular foreign language is rarely if ever a reliable indicator of the appropriate British English phoneme, although this knowledge may sometimes assist in making an informed guess. It is clear that there is a mixture of uncertainty and insouciance among native-speakers of English over how to pronounce these words , and that using a /u:/ will result in a perfectly comprehensible pronunciation.
  5. chough
    This word is not listed in the Macmillan English Dictionary; the link is to the Collins Pocket English Dictionary.
  6. furlough
    The rather obscure word furlough (chiefly used among British English speakers to refer to periods of absence from regular duties in the US military – the corresponding British English word being 'leave') is unique among polysyllabic words ending in '-ough' in that the last syllable, though unstressed, is pronounced with a full diphthong (/əʊ/. Other polysyllables ending in '-ough' have an unstressed /ə/.
  7. bourbon
    The Macmillan English Dictionary's unequivocal transcription for bourbon uses /ɜ:/ in the 'our' syllable. This is the sound used for the US whisky. But in the context of European history, either /ɔ: or /ʊə/ is usual – as it is for a certain kind of chocolate biscuit.
  8. tourniquet
    The Macmillan English Dictionary's transcription for tourniquet uses /ɔ:/ in the 'our' syllable, but the sound in the audio sample is a clear /ʊ{/. The /ɔ:/ sound, as noted elsewhere occurs (in Macmillan English Dictionary's audio sample – though not the transcription) in the last syllable of troubadour
  9. could, should, and would
    The 'l' is silent in these three words. There is no trace of an /l/ phoneme (in fact, there is not even an etymological justification for the 'l' in could – Chaucer, for example, used the word 'koude' and the 'l' was added later on the basis of analogy with the other modals. See this Etymonline explanation).
  10. patchouli
    While the Macmillan English Dictionary gives this vowel to the 'ou' in patchouli, with stress on the first syllable, this pronunciation is foreign to many speakers of British English, who put the stress on the 'ou' and use the sound /u:/ – giving a more English-sounding and common vowel. See, for example, here. The Macmillan English Dictionary's compiler must have been too old or too young to remember the craze for patchouli oil in the Sixties!
  11. entourage
    Although entourage is clearly related to tour etymologically, the longer word has no schwa – even when a rock star takes one on tour (and who is to say whether, in some future folk etymology, an entourage may not be explained as something you go 'on tour' with!)
  12. lough
    This word is used mainly in Ireland and does not fit in with a scheme of seven sounds represented by the spelling '-ough'. It does not, in fact, fit in with the standard set of 44 phonemes of British English learnt by many English language students, having the final consonant /x/, which is pronounced similarly to consonant at the end of the Scottish loch (like the consonant at the end of the Scottish loch (not unlike the one at the end of the German [bax] – Johann Sebastian et al.)
  13. ratatouille
    In this word, in the Macmillan English Dictionary's entry the 'ou' digraph is realized as the glide (sometimes called a semi-vowel) /w/. Some speakers use the same /w/ sound – with the justifications of consistency, etymology, and context – for bouillabaisse and bouillon, but the Macmillan English Dictionary has a /u:/ vowel for these words.
Update 2013.09.19.17:45
I've added one for entourage.
Update 2013.09.21.17:45
And one more for ratatouille 
 Update 2013.09.21.17:35
Added this rant. The situation is ridiculous enough to merit a standalone post, but I don't have the time.

<rant flame="vigorous">
 I was recently gulled into switching to M&SEnergy; it would 'fix' energy prices until some date in the future. It doesn't. It fixes the unit cost for consumption. So if they want to raise prices they just load it onto the Standing Charge. Grrr. 'My bad'  though; I should have read the small print.

I also went for paperless billing, online management, all that good stuff. But I had trouble submitting a reading. so I pressed the button for an online chat. And this appeared: 
BUGRIT! Wrong computer. And don't talk to me about Dropbox, purveyors of flakey bloatware to the crowned houses of Europe.
Anyway, long story short, their software is incredibly picky about versions of browser software and combinations thereof with operating systems. The message was a museum exhibit, talking about Vista and Netscape. The latest version of IE it supported (not that I normally use it, but it's my first port of call when meeting ridiculous compatibility issues) was V3!†

Internet Explorer V3, that takes me back to the time in – when was it?... the 90s? – when I was using Netscape Navigagor V2.? and I went over to the Dark Side because IE beat NN to including rudimentary CSS support. But I digress...

I'll have to phone. And that's Monday morning wiped out. Hmmph. And the upshot I suppose will be that I can't manage my account online because of their feebleware.

Anyway, must get on....

b PS Here it is:

†I was wrong about IE V3 . Still, it's pretty picky. And people who advertise online account management should support it.

Update: 2013. 
Footer updated

Update 2013.10.15.14:40  – Footer updated

Update 2014.11.11.11:11  – and again

 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:  over 47,300 views  and well over 6,350 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 2,350 views and 1,000 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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