Monday, August 20, 2018

Twelve Pronunciations of Water

English is a language with many dialects. One of the characteristics which distinguishes these dialects is pronunciation. Dialects can be classified as rhotic and non-rhotic. Other differences are in the vowels and in the use of the flap in certain dialects. These differences can be illustrated by the pronunciation of the word water. Here are twelve pronunciations:

1) wɔ:tə 
2) wɔ:ʔə 
3) wɑʔɚ
4) wɑ
5) wɑ
6) wɑt̬ɚ
7) wɑɾɚ
8) wɔɾɚ
9) wɔɾə
10) wʊɾɚ
11) wo:ɾə
12) wo:tə

The first pronunciation is the pronunciation of RP. It can be considered Standard British English. The second pronunciation also occurs in British English, especially in the south of England. The third pronunciation is common in southwestern England and the fourth pronunciation is typical of northern England.

The fifth pronunciation is common in Scotland and Ireland. The sixth pronunciation occurs in Irish English and has a voiceless apico-alveolar fricative.

Number 7 is common in North America. This is followed by a pronunciation which is typical of New York. Number 9 is also typical of New York but is a non-rhotic pronunciation. Number 10 is a pronunciation which is associated with Philadelphia. Here the first vowel is the vowel of put.

The last two pronunciations are typical of Australia and New Zealand. The eleventh pronunciation has a flap and the twelfth has an alveolar plosive. The twelfth pronunciation is more formal than the eleventh.

The examples illustrate the variation in English pronunciation. Though the word water has only four segments, it can be pronounced in many ways. The different pronunciations indicate that English has several dialects.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Spanish Diminutives

Diminutives are very common in Spanish. They are used more than in English. Spanish diminutives are formed with a suffix.

With words that end in a vowel, the vowel is dropped and -ita or -ito is added. With feminine nouns, the suffix variant is -ita and with masculine nouns it is -ito. Here are examples:

pájaro (bird) pájarito (small bird)
perro (dog) perrito (small dog)
casa (house) casita (small house)

With words that end in e the suffix is -cita or -cito.

café (coffee) cafecito (small coffee)
tigre (tiger) tigrecito (small tiger)
fuente (fountain) fuentecita (small fountain)

With words that end in n or r the ending is the same as with vowels.

camión (truck) camioncito (small truck)
rincón (corner) rinconcito (small corner)
mujer (woman) mujercita (small woman)

Words which end in other consonants add -ita or -ito.

låpiz (pencil) lapicito (small pencil)
pastel (cake) pastelito (small cake)
reloj (clock) relojito (small clock)

Many words lack a diminutive such as ciudad (city), edad (age) and espacio (space). A few diminutives are irregular such as pez (fish) and pececito (small fish). Spanish diminutives can be applied not only to nouns but also to adjectives and adverbs. Examples include quieto/quietecito (quiet) and rápido/rapidito (quickly).

Diminutives are used extensively in Spanish. The Spanish diminutive has suffix variants. They can also be combined with the plural suffix -s. Spanish diminutives can be formed not only with nouns but also with adjectives and adverbs.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Pronunciation of r in Brazilian Portuguese

The r of Brazilian Portuguese is different from that of Spanish. In certain parts of Brazil, the r is pronounced as in Spanish, but this is not the case for most speakers. Let us look at examples.

In world-initial position, most Brazilians pronounce the r as a glottal or velar fricative. This sound occurs in real (royal), rio (river) and roda (wheel).

When the r is word-final, it can be pronounced as a velar fricative, glottal fricative, alveolar approximant, alveolar trill or not pronounced at all. This depends on the dialect. Examples include jantar (dinner), lar  (home) and mar (sea).

Between vowels, the r is realized as an alveolar flap. Examples include amarelo (yellow), muro (wall) and ouro (gold).

Most Brazilians pronounce the double r the same as the word-initial r. It is a glottal or velar fricative. Examples include carro (car), cigarro (cigarette) and garrafa (bottle).

In words such as honra (honour), the r is not classified as intervocalic even though the first vowel is fully nasalized. Here the r is realized as a glottal or velar fricative. This is in contrast to hora (hour) in which the r is an alveolar flap.

The r of Brazilian Portuguese has different realizations. It can be a glottal/velar fricative, alveolar trill, alveolar approximant or alveolar flap. In word-final position, many Brazilians do not pronounce the r at all. Speakers who use the glottal/velar fricative do not use the alveolar trill, and speakers who use the alveolar trill do not use the glottal/velar fricative.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Variation in Spanish Pronunciation

The Spanish suffix -ismo is the equivalent of the English -ism. It occurs in a number of words such as capitalismo (capitalism), federalismo (federalism) and nacionalismo (nacionalism). This suffix also has four possible pronunciations. Let us illustrate.

The suffix -ismo has the following pronunciations:

1) [ismo]
2) [izmo]
3) [ihmo]
4) [i:mo]

The first two pronunciations are the most standard. The first one is the same as the spelling of the suffix. In the second pronunciation we have an example of voicing assimilaton. The assimilation is regressive because the voiced nasal triggers voicing in the fricative. The third pronunciation is an example of glottalization. This can also be classified as debuccalization, which is a type of lenition. The fourth pronunciation is the most complex. Here we have deletion and compensatory lengthening. The word-initial vowel lengthens to compensate for the loss of the consonant.

The first and second pronunciations of the suffix are the most formal. In contrast, the last two are the least formal. The Spanish suffix -ismo can be pronounced in four different ways. The pronunciations illustrate voicing, glottalization, deletion and compensatory lengthening.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Languages of Indonesia

Indonesia is a country with over 700 languages. Most belong to the Austronesian language family, but in eastern Indonesia many Papuan languages are spoken. Though Indonesia is the official language, most Indonesians speak other languages as their first language.

In addition to Indonesian, other languages with millions of speakers include Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese, Minangkabau, Buginese, Banjarese, Acehnese, Balinese, Betawi and Sasak.

With over 700 languages, Indonesia has the second largest multilingual population in the world. Only Papua New Guinea has more languages. Despite the presence of the Dutch for over 350 years, few Indonesians can speak Dutch. Indonesian is the language which serves to unite the country.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Language vs. Dialect

A number of languages are very similar to one another. However, for political reasons, they are often classified as languages rather than dialects. In other cases, however, languages are often classified as dialects.

The Danish, Norwegian and Swedish languages are similar to one another. Norwegian and Swedish have a similar sound system, and Danish and Norwegian share many words. Norwegian and Swedish in particular share a high degree of mutual intelligibility. Nevertheless, they are considered languages.

Hindi and Urdu are also similar. Hindi is spoken in India and Urdu in Pakistan, and the two languages have different scripts. Despite their high degree of mutual intelligibility, they are never considered dialects.

The term Serbo-Croatian was once used for the official language of the former Yugoslavia, but now the language has different names. It can be called Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Serbian. These are all mutually intelligible, but for political reasons different names are used.

Indonesian and Malay are mutually intelligible, but for political reasons, they are usually classified as languages. There are significant differences in spelling, grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. The two varieties also use different loanwords.

The Dutch spoken in Belgium is often called Flemish. Though Flemish differs in many respects from Dutch, standard Dutch is taught in school. However, Belgians prefer to call their language Flemish.

China is a country with many languages. The most widely-spoken is Mandarin, but others such as Cantonese, Hakka and Wu are also spoken. Though they are not mutually intelligible, languages such as Cantonese are often called dialects. The reason is that they use the same script of Mandarin.

The Philippines is a country with over 100 languages. Tagalog, one of the official languages, is always referred to as a language. However, the regional languages, though they are not mutually intelligible, are often called dialects.

The difference between a dialect and a language is not always so clear. For political reasons, languages are often mutually intelligible but not considered dialects. In other cases, languages are often called dialects because they share the same writing system and because regional languages have less prestige than the official language. Languages have a higher status than dialects.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


A disjunct is an adverbial phrase with information that is not considered essential to the sentence. It expresses the speaker's attitude towards the sentence. The disjunct refers to any part of the sentence which is not fully integrated into the clausal structure of the sentence. The disjunct usually appears peripherally, at the beginning or end of the sentence.

Here are examples of disjuncts:

Fortunately for you, I can give you an extension.
Frankly, the whole presentation needs revision.
Honestly, I didn't see anything.
Luckily, she arrived on time.
Unfortunately, by the time he arrived, most of them had already left.

In certain cases, the same word or phrase can be interpreted as an adjunct or disjunct.

They seriously worked in an underground diamond mine in South Africa.

The disjunct meaning is that the speaker is serious when he/she says that they worked in an underground diamond mine. The adjunct meaning is that they worked in a serious manner while in an underground diamond mine. With the disjunct meaning seriously is a sentence adverb and with the adjunct meaning, it is an adverb of manner.

Disjuncts are adverbial phrases which are not an essential part of the sentence. They usually appear peripherally. In certain cases, the adverbial can be interpreted as either an adjunct or a disjunct.

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