A question about English English

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Tiassa, Aug 6, 2007.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    I'm curious about an aspect of speech in England: Where does the "ces" go?

    In the United States, we hear the English on television and radio use words that don't reflect our interpretation of the written version. As we understand it on this side of the pond,

    • Leicester = Lester
    • Gloucester = Glouster (Glahster)
    • Worcestershire = Worstershire
    • & so on, & so on​

    I realize that if you say the words fast enough, the "ces" syllable naturally contracts out of the word. Is that all that's happening? Or have we across the pond somehow perceived wrongly what all these English folks are actually saying?
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  3. Lord Hillyer Banned Banned

    Humans are lazy pigs.
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  5. vslayer Registered Senior Member

    if you pay attention you will notice that the first 's' sound is slightly elonged in words where there is a 'ces', its still in there, its just contracted to the point where it is hard to pick up sometimes.
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  7. superstring01 Moderator

    There was a time in the history of the English language when MOST of those "missing" consonants were actually pronounced OR were separated by even more vowels wich subsequently and through the obscurity of the ages, fell off.

    Whereas in most languages, when a vowel or consonant were no longer pronounced they were dropped altogether... in English we, for some ungodly reason, decided to leave them on to confuse our children and poor foreigners attempting to learn the language.

  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    The British do that with a lot of vowels. It's called "elision" to let a phoneme become silent in order to simplify the pronunciation of a word. They pronounce "oratory" as "orat'ry" and "extraordinary" as "extr'ordin'ry."

    With "Gloucester," the first E is elided, so the word becomes "Glouss-ster." The two adjacent S sounds can't help combining, and it becomes "Glouster."

    English has had a trend throughout its history to become a language of fewer syllables. All of the final E's on words used to be pronounced. Just read Shakespeare out loud so as to preserve the cadence of the iambic pentameter. Words like "loved" are two syllables. We preserve a remnant of that today in our three-syllable pronunciation of "beloved."

    In the U.K. that trend continues more strongly than in America. British sentences have fewer syllables than American sentences. But in any country, English sentences have fewer syllables than sentences in its close cousin, German. You have to rush through the German sentence, Meine Freunde kamen zu einem grosse Hause, to finish it as quickly as "My friends came to a great house." This allows English to be spoken more slowly, improving clarity and making it easier for foreigners or anglophones from different regions to understand each other. I speculate that this facilitated communication may one of the attributes that contributes to the advance and spread of anglophone culture.

    French has undergone the same campaign of elision, which resulted in the same advantage. Compare the seven syllables in Les cheveaux de nos amis to the ten in Spanish's Los caballos de nuestros amigos.

    Chinese wins the prize. By my informal tallies, a typical Chinese sentence has 7 syllables to 10 in English. As a result the language is spoken much more slowly, making it easy for us foreigners to parse sentences and recognize the words we know.
  9. Chatha big brown was screwed up Registered Senior Member

    Why is it that English written or read backwards looks a lot like Russian. Any correlations?
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I don't have the fonts available to illustrate, but the Cyrillic alphabet has several letters that are perfect or approximate mirror images of Roman letters, or other types of inversions. The printed letter ya is a backwards capital R. Yi is a more-or-less backwards capital N. Ge is an upside-down capital L. Ze looks like a written W on its side, AE is a backwards written capital E, and che is a lower case H rotated 180 degrees. You've probably noticed posters of movies set in Russia, in which they turn all the R's and N's around in the title to make it look like faux-Russian.

    Written Russian script has its own set of topsy-turvy relationships to ours. An M with a bar over it is a T.

    If you think the Russian alphabet is whimsical, it's nothing compared to the Cherokee language alphabet created by Chief Sequoia about 150 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee_alphabet
  11. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    The backwards "N" is "ee", there is no "yi".
    Russian vowel sounds as I was taught them:
    a (bat), e (bet), oy (b"oy"), o (got), oo (b"oo"t), ya ("ya"k), ye ("ye"t), ee (b"ee"n), yo ("yo"b), u ("u"niform).
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2007
  12. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You must be British or Australian. We don't pronounce those vowels that way over here. We pronounce "been" like "bin," not like "bean." "Got" has the cardinal A of "father," the way you pronounce that O is the way we pronounce AW in "awful." We don't have the sound you use in "bat," we pronounce "short A" much flatter, similar to the backwards E in Russian eto. We also don't have the vowel you use in "awful" and "talk," those sound almost like O to us.

    But there is not really the E sound of "bet" in Russian. The letter that looks like an E is pronounced ye. In the syllables she, che or shche it seems to be an E, but only because the Y is duplicated in the preceding consonant. In words like syem and byeli its Y sound is there, and in words like nyet and gdye it palatalizes the preceding consonant.

    I wrote yi for the letter and the phoneme that is customarily transliterated as i because it works the same way, although not as strongly. It palatalizes the consonants in onyi and lyi.
  13. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member


    And the one that looks like a backward "E" or "3" is "e" = B"e"t.
    10 vowels, five hard, five soft.


    (As back-up from my Russian languages

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    Regarding "ee"/ "yi" - Staleen, Yuree Gagareen, Roseeya?
    I never heard them pronounced Stalyin, Yuryi Gagaryin, Rossyiya.
    (Although I have seen Yuri transliterated as Yuryi in some American books :shrug: ).
    We have differences in the way we learn foreign pronunciation, as well as "our" own language? (US-UK).
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Stalin, Lenin and Kremlin are indeed pronounced Stuh-LYEEN, Lye-NYEEN and Kryem-LYEEN. L and N are phonemes that can be palatalized in Russian.
    This is wrong. If it were Yure, the Y sound is always carried, but not in Yuri. I apologize for adding to the confusion by calling the letter YI. That was bad judgment and I'll stick to I from now on. I is only pronounced as YI when the preceding consonant is capable of palatalization.

    But Yuri is just Yooree. Palatalization varies among the Slavic languages. Both Czech and Polish have palatalized R as in Dvorak and Brzezinski, respectively. In Czech the equivalent name is Jiri with a hook over the R, and in Polish it's Jerzy, both R's palatalized.
    We have differences in the way we're taught, because we have to use the phonetics of our own dialect as a reference. It's easy to teach the Spanish flapped R to a speaker of Oxford English, because they flap their own R. But we Americans cleave to our unique variant of the original Germanic gargled R of Anglo-Saxon so that doesn't work for us. As far as I know, I'm the only English tutor who teaches Americans to extract the flapped T from "latter" or D from "ladder" (we pronounce the two words identically) in order to master the Spanish phoneme.
    You left one out: the unstressed A and O. I don't have the IPA font, but it's the upside-down V, the U in "up." I hear Russian people pronouncing "Ohio" as "Uh-HIGH-yuh" and no one has any idea what they're talking about.

    In Bulgarian that sound has been ensconced with its own letter, the tvyordiy znak or "hard sign" that is almost obsolete in Russian. In fact, the U in "Bulgaria" is actually that sound, the U in "up." It's spelled that way in Bulgarian, if you've wondered why it looks so weird on their postage stamps. The Russians write it Bolgariya and get the same phoneme out of their unstressed O. To pronounce it as Bool-ga-ria is not right, although the genteel Bulgarians would never criticize a foreigner for it.
  15. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    I never heard that during my lessons - which comes back to different teaching methods, I suppose.
    I occasionally heard od'yeen (as opposed to od'een) and always put it down to a regional accent

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    Again, the ten are what I was taught, never came across that, and I don't remember noticing it the few pieces of Russian publishing I read.
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Not a very good teacher, if you'll pardon my saying so. This is universal stuff, not regional accent. My Russian vocabulary is too small to even be called "modest," but they did teach me to pronounce it correctly.

    Palatalized dental consonants are actually pronounced differently than unpalatalized. For the unpalatalized ones, the tongue is farther forward than for the English versions, up where you would form the English sound TH. The palatalized dentals are pronounced with the tongue farther back than their English counterparts. Anglophones who know only zdravstvuytye ("hello," literally "health be with you") usually pronounce it "zdras-tvoo-che," because that's what they hear, but the last syllable is really "-tye," with the T and the Y combining into a single sound.

    Same with Sta-LYIN. That's not the same L as in bolshoi. It's an L and a Y combined into a single phoneme. (Stalin is a made-up name based on the word for "steel." He was actually a Georgian and may well have had a four-syllable surname ending in -nadze or -shvili.)
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2007

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