How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
Review of English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
AUTHOR: Jones, Charles TITLE: English Pronunciation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries PUBLISHER: Palgrave Macmillan YEAR: 2006 Stefan Dollinger, Department of English, University of British Columbia SUMMARY This monograph aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the phonological and phonetic developments of the English language in England and Scotland in the Late Modern English (LModE) period, 1700-1900. As such, and as the title suggests, the work must be seen as a continuation of Dobson's study (1968) on English pronunciation 1500-1700, and the methodological approach and presentation of a wide range of evidence from primary sources follow the established pattern. It aims to provide authoritative information in the form of a one-volume reference work. The period is subdivided into three parts, the first and second halves of the 18th century on the one hand and the 19th century on the other hand. Each part first introduces the reader to the sociolinguistic situation of the period before discussing the type of source materials available and, especially for the 18th century, the relationship between sounds and symbols used by the writers of the period. The phonological system of the period is then reconstructed for both vowels (including diphthongs) and non-vowels (consonants and approximants). As can expected by the arrangement in three parts, roughly three quarters of the phonetic description are devoted to the 18th century, while the development of to the 19th century are discussed on roughly 50 pages. About 150 pages of the 350-page text deal with the sociolinguistic situation, with a special focus on different attempts at orthographic reforms in each period and the insights the various respellings provide into contemporary pronunciation. Jones uses a substantial body of contemporary sources and provides ample quotations to both illustrate his interpretation and to put the readers in a position to judge for themselves as much as is possible within the constraints of a one-volume work. The volume provides a distinct focus on the Late Modern English period, and here on England and Scotland, with occasional references to Ireland and successfully occupies a niche in the literature, narrowing temporal scope in comparison to other works (e.g. Horn and Lehnert 1954 on Early Modern English and LModE) and geographical focus (McMahon 1998 on Britain and the USA), while at the same time extending the base of evidence for the 18th century from previous studies (Beal 1999). At the same time, Jones aims to incorporate the social dimension of changes (Mugglestone 2003) in short introductory sections to each of three subperiods and it is perhaps here that the limitations of space prevent the presentation of the amount of detail that the social dimension would deserve. The real strength of the volume lies in the interpretation of the contemporary sources in the descriptive part. EVALUATION I would like to illustrate this aspect with three examples, the FOOT-STRUT split, developments in the fricative system and the loss of syllable-final /r/. FOOT/STRUT split A good example for the welcome addition of Jones's monograph to the available standard descriptions of Modern English phonology is the case of the split of ME short /u/, referred to by Wells (1982: 356) as the FOOT-STRUT split. Dobson (1968: 585) cites orthoepistic evidence from around 1640 onwards, as the vowels in CUT (more central) and PUT (high-back lax), are first distinguished. In Northern English, it is generally assumed that the unrounding (and lowering) did not take place, although in certain dialects, such as the Jesmond accent in Newcastle, schwa-like vowels are found in words that one would expect to be rounded, e.g. good, put, puss, apart from mud, blood, pus (Beal 1999: 135, McMahon 1998: 410), and there are indicators that the split may not have been as clear-cut even in 'polite' London speech, indicating that the split was still in progress in the 19th century. It is in cases such as these, that the clarity of Jones's accounts come to light. Based on Tuite's treatise from 1726, for the early 18th century, Jones distinguishes between two realizations of short u, a levelled, unrounded close-mid back vowel (the shortening in BLOOD) and the (single) rounded lax back vowel (BURST), and a ''nascent FOOT/STRUT split'' in the early 18th century in form of what was often called 'short and obscure (o)', approximating a central vowel, in BURY, BURIED, STUDY, as shown in a 1711 source, with more solid evidence for the split from the second half of the 18th century (p. 85). For this change, Jones produces evidence for a fudged, intermediate form, an *unrounded* close-mid back vowel (p. 209f), for which the present-day sociolinguistic situation of the FOOT/STRUT split in East Anglia provides some support (Chambers and Trudgill 1998: 113). In the nineteenth century, finally, the split appears to be firmly established at least in metropolitan usage, with a failure to lower and centralize in ''provincial, particularly Northern dialects'' (p. 320), but variation for some speakers, e.g. BUTCHER with a central vowel, can still be found in the south. Resulting FRICATIVES For non-vowel phonology, changes in the pronunciation of alveolar stops followed by high front vowels or a /j/-glide are one of the prime consonantal changes of the period. Jones's impressive data allows him to state that the numerous commentaries on the pronunciation of TI and DU in words such as ACTION or DUKE in the eighteenth century ''seem to suggest that an active an salient phonological change is taking place'' (p. 102). He argues convincingly (p. 102f) that changes from [ti] to [tj] and the conversion of the glide into a alveolo-palatal fricative with subsequent loss of [t] would be in line with the tendency of overlapping segments between syllables, as in CONDITION, and that the change can be seen as an internal process. Discussions like these not only shed new light on the phonological processes, but provide a wealth of information for the motivation behind the changes, for which Jones provides appealing accounts. For instance, in CON-DI-TI-ON, the consonants N, D, and T can be considered part of two neighbouring syllables, and only the last two syllables do not allow this on account of the hiatus. The 'ambisyllabicity constraint' is invoked to prompt bracketing also for the final two syllables, which results in the creation of the present-day fricative for TI. The reader therefore can expect more than mere phonetic description of the changes of the period. One consonantal change, however, that one could expect to be there does not figure prominently in the discussion. It is the change from medial consonant found in *pleasure, measure,* that is often described as a merger of /z/ and /j/ into the voiced alveolo-palatal fricative. Since textbooks note this as an 18th-century change, partly due to borrowing from French (McMahon, A. 1994: 29), one would expect to find more there. While Jones mentions the fact that a 1726 source presumably discusses the voiced fricative in the words EVASION, VISION, DELUSION (p. 105, also p. 252 for [g] vs. alveolo-palatal voiced fricative), he focusses on the voiceless counterpart instead in both chapters on the 18th century. If the data do not allow a more thorough investigation, as it appears, one could a clear disclaimer. The case of /r/ Retroflex /r/ received special attention from the late 18th century onwards and the case of syllable-final /r/ deletion, and insertions of intrusive /r/, shows the sociolinguistic dimension that is imminently involved in the study of LModE. Jones details opinions on the 'rough-ness' and 'foreign-ness' (p. 259) of rhotic pronunciations in late 18th century England, but likewise notices the decline of such statements in the nineteenth century. This presentation complements existing ones (M. McMahon 1998: 473-7, Beal 1999: 163-71), by again, drawing on a large selection of sources. Cases such as these show the variable treatment which individual variables received and show the variability within the LModE period. There are, of course, the staples of LModE phonology found and discussed in the volume: Happy tensing in all three periods, the BATH/TRAP split, and all forms of /h/ loss. Generally speaking, the chapters on vowel and diphthongal changes are most detailed and comprise an enormous asset of the volume. If one, however, is interested in lexical stress patterns, one will not find them (while part of 'word-level phonology' [p. x]) and will have to resort to McMahon (1998) for this kind of information. However, the reader is given a clearly structured volume across the three subperiods, which allows in many cases, the fairly accurate dating of developments in segmental phonology. Jones presentation belies the perhaps tacit assumption in the field of English historical phonology that, as he puts it, ''the further removed the linguistic data from the present day, the more revealing it is of the general principles of language change'' (p. 349). The social commentary of sound changes that are apparently lost in many earlier developmental stages is well integrated into the presentation of the internal changes. Relying mostly on what are usually termed 'prescriptivist' writers, Jones reaches the conclusion that ''the 'prescriptive' label is not altogether justified or deserved'' (p. 350). Jones's account sheds light on a variety of aspects, which is only marginally compromised by minor issues such as an index and a table of contents that both are not overly detailed and a missing IPA chart, which, in the light of different transcription traditions, may have been useful. Jones provides the first reference work on the phonology of the entire period, which, is lucid in presentation, most successful in capturing the sociohistorical dimension of the changes, yet still slim in appearance (making it a prime candidate as a textbook for specialist LModE phonology courses). The work is, beyond doubt, bound to have a lasting influence on the study of LModE segmental phonology for some time to come. REFERENCES Beal, J. C. 1999. English pronunciation in the eighteenth century: Thomas Spence's Grand Repository of the English Language. Oxford: Clarendon. Chambers, J. K. and P. Trudgill. 1998. Dialectology. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dobson, E. J. 1968. English pronunciation: 1500-1700. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon. Horn, W. and M. Lehnert. 1954. Laut und Leben: Englische Lautgeschichte der neueren Zeit (1400-1950). 2 vols. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften. McMahon, M. K. C. 1998. ''Phonology'' - in: Romaine, Suzanne (ed.) The Cambridge History to the English Language. Volume IV 1776-1997. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 373-535. McMahon, A. M. S. 1994. Understanding language change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mugglestone, Lynda. 2003. 'Talking Proper': the rise of accent as a social symbol. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Wells, J. C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Stefan Dollinger is a Postdoctoral Research and Teaching Fellow at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He has published on the development of English in the Late Modern period, with a focus on Canadian English. He is editor-in-chief of the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles (2nd ed.), www.dchp.ca, and teaches courses with a diachronic (history of English) and sociolinguistic focus.