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Summary Details

Query:   British vs American English pronunciation
Author:  Alain Th鲩ault
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonology

Summary:   Dear List members
Earlier this week (Linguist 13-222) I aked you all the following question:

Would any of you know of papers, or web pages, that give a complete, or partial,
comparative description of the phonology of British and American English. I want
to make a speech sythetyser speek like CNN from a list of BBC like pronunciations
and I have a feeling that there are regular conversions that can be made.

I received answers fromm the following people :

Richard Coates <>
Michael Tjalve <>
Marc Picard <>
Raphael Mercado HBA <>
Antony Dubach Green <>
Caroline Reul <>

They suggested the following :

Bauer, Laurie et al., 1980, American English pronunciation, Gyldendal
Contains comparisons section by section with British English. (Hard to find)

Wells, John C., 1982, Accents of English, CUP (3 volumes)
A classic

Jones, Daniel,1997, English Pronouncing Dictionary, Cambridge University Press .

Trudgill et Hannah, International English: A Guide to Varieties of Standard
English, OUP (4rth edition due in April 2002)

In addition, Antony Green tells me:

Of course, there are lots of regular correspondences between the two, but I'm not
sure to what extent a speech synthesizer armed only with the RP pronunciation
will be able to predict GenAm pronunciation. If it has access to orthography, it
may be able to predict that 'court / caught' and 'parse / pass' are not
homophonous in GenAm although they are in RP; but if all it knows is the RP
pronunciations [kO:t] and [pa:s] it will be very difficult.

Another problem will be to decide which GenAm you want to synthesize.The
variety described by Wells includes a contrast between [Or] and[or], so that
"horse" and "hoarse" are distinct, but in fact only asmall minority of GenAm
speakers still make this distinction. (It seems to have been much more widespread
in the beginning of the 20th century than it is now.) What about the "which/
witch" distinction? That's also losing ground in America, but it's still much more
common than it is in England. The "caught/cot" distinction has been lost among
your anglophone countrymen as well as in the western half of the US and in some
areas of the eastern US (upper Ohio valley, eastern New England) but it still
quite robust around the Great Lakes ,NYC, Philadelphia, and the South. So the
problem is that GenAm isn't anywhere near as homogeneous as RP is, and you need to
decide *whose* GenAm you want to take as your basis. I'm sure you won't find
consistency even among CNN announcers as far "which/witch" and "caught/cot" are

Thanks again to all who answered

Alain Th?riault
Ph.D. Student (Linguistics)
Universit? de Montr?al

LL Issue: 13.405
Date Posted: 13-Feb-2002
Original Query: Read original query


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