IPA query

mjd   Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 06:55 GMT

I know I've said this before, but each time I hear one of your accent samples, I'm still amazed at how well you can mimic our accent.
Mxsmanic   Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 20:16 GMT
Mimic? What do you mean by that?

I listened to the recording. From an American standpoint, the two sentences sound pretty much the same; the difference is apparent only if one is listening for it. The difference in consonants is the phonemic difference, as the difference in vowel length carries no information to American ears. The difference between /t/ and /d/ is quite difficult to hear without context, too.
Jim   Wednesday, October 20, 2004, 23:51 GMT

By "mimic" mjd means Tom's Polish but you'd never guess by listening to his samples.

"the difference is apparent only if one is listening for it" ... of course you were listening for it: that's the whole context in which it appeared.


In other words, nothing short of a miracle can get Mxsmanic to admit defeat.
Tom   Thursday, October 21, 2004, 00:18 GMT

"The difference in consonants is the phonemic difference"

I tried to make a recording where there is no difference in consonants. My idea was that you would still be able to tell "laid" from "late" from the length of the preceding /ei/. Do you hear a difference in consonants in my recording?
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, October 21, 2004, 01:33 GMT
I think there's some truth to what Mxsmanic says. There are some/many Americans who don't pick up on length. For example, we hear many Americans say "vary" (long vowel) when they mean "very" (short), and we just accept this as a "funny" accent. I believe someone from the east coast of the USA, like mjd, would notice this too as with the other "pecularities" of Midwesterner. I guess this is what gives it its bland quality.

As Jim said, in connected speech, 't' in "late" and 'd' in "laid" are quasi-absorbed into the following word: "twice". But evidently, we do hear "lade" for both words; the only difference being length.
Mxsmanic   Friday, October 22, 2004, 05:31 GMT
If Tom's English is impossible to distinguish from American English, then he is not "mimicking" anything … he is speaking American English, just as native speakers of that language do.

Language is not eye color or height: it's just a tool that you use to communicate. Anyone can learn to speak any language perfectly—nothing is built in.

Anyway, I did hear a difference in consonants, and in vowel length, upon listening carefully. But in connected, ordinary conversation, these two sentences sound the same, and only context would make them clear.
Mi5 Mick   Friday, October 22, 2004, 06:57 GMT
It's just like I said before: some people can't make distinctions through vowel length because they generally don't listen for it. Paying close attention may enable them to discern such contrasts in isolation, but even so, they can't extrapolate any extra meaning. On the hand, other people are finely tuned to this so it's all second nature to them.
Jim   Friday, October 22, 2004, 07:54 GMT
It's all getting a little hypothetical. As Aussies Mick and I are finely tuned for this. Perhaps Mxsmanic really isn't just like he claims but he writes "in connected, ordinary conversation, these two sentences sound the same," Well, this is just a counterfactual statement. How can we say this when it's not in any ordinary conversation where we heard the recording?
Mxsmanic   Friday, October 22, 2004, 17:21 GMT
It's not a matter of "fine tuning," it's a matter of distinguishing between phonemic and non-phonemic. Vowel length is not phonemic in standard English, and so speakers of standard English ignore it; if they didn't, it would be much harder for them to communicate.

Speaking a language efficiently requires not only recognizing the phonemes but also ignoring anything that isn't phonemic.
charlie   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 01:09 GMT
In my standard English accent vowel length is phonemic.
Mxsmanic   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 09:33 GMT
Standard accents don't have phonemic vowel length. English lost phonemic vowel length centuries ago. If vowel length is phonemic for you, you are speaking a regional dialect of some type; and you can safely assume that there will be quite a few words that will be incomprehensible for you in standard English, or vice versa, when pronounced in isolation (because of conflicting sets of phonemes).
charlie   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 11:07 GMT
You are mistaken in your assumptions. Firstly, I do not speak a regional dialect and I use vowel length to make phonemic distinctions, most of which were outlined in the previous posts. Secondly, I understand speakers from other English speaking countries and vice versa they understand me.
ESL   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 11:40 GMT
Charlie, where are you from?
From manic's posts I see that some people in America (Midwest ?) claim that vowel lengh isn't phonemic.
Aussies disagree.
I wonder what NS from other countries think about the vowel length.
Mxsmanic   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 21:37 GMT
In standard pronunciations of English, vowel length is not phonemic. If vowel length is phonemic for you, you are not using a standard English pronunciation. It's as simple as that.
charlie   Saturday, October 23, 2004, 22:59 GMT
You don't know what you are talking about. It's as simple as that.

To "ESL": Southern England.