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  1. #1
    Billie9274 is offline Newbie
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    The difference in American and British vowel symbols.

    This question has been bugging me for some time. It's about the Tense diphthing-like vowels, say, /o/ and /I/ and /ɔ/.

    Pronunciation 'o', as in no, seems like a diphthong and British phonetic symbols represent that in that way. But American symbols tends to write it
    as /no/. Why is that? To me it doesn't do its role of showing the right pronunciation. I know they decided to use wedged s,j,c,z instead of old affricates symbols for one symbol, one pronunciation's sake but in this case it doesn't fall into any of that. Is there any reason for this?


    and the tense /i:/sound..... one day I saw it represented as /iy/ for signifying that it's a tense vowel. But do they still use /iy/ today?

    and lastly the /ɔ/ sound! It would be pronounced as laxed rounded vowel in Brisith english and tight, tense vowel in American english. Why do they differ in this pronunciation in this vowel? Suppose I were looking about the Old English pronunciation and there is no reference whether if it was to be American or British, what pronunciation should I take as standard?


    All the best to you all.

  2. #2
    Skrej's Avatar
    Skrej is offline Key Member
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    Re: The difference in American and British vowel symbols.

    There isn't much, if any standardization in dictionary phonetic transcription. Each dictionary has its own way of writing phonetic transcriptions, and will provide a pronunciation key. Sometimes you'll find similarities between dictionaries, but that's more accidental than intentional.

    The only standardized representation is IPA, which many dictionaries don't use.

    As to why the actual pronunciation varies, that's just the way languages work. There isn't always a logical explanation for why one language or variant treats a given phoneme the way it does.

    Regarding the Old English question, Old English was Old English. It's neither BrE or AmE. America as a country didn't even exist while Old English was spoken, and neither did modern day Great Britain. The original Kingdom of England was just getting started at about that time, but it was busy switching between Anglo-Norman (a very old form of French) and Middle English, which generally marked the end of Old English.

    Of course, some of the Old English pronunciations, vocabulary, and case endings were kept, but there was lot of influence from Norman. By the time all this got settled out linguistically, Old English was gone, with said influences creating Middle English.

    Old English was much closer to Modern German, both in grammar and pronunciation than to Modern English. Old English is as foreign a language to modern AmE and BrE speakers as Arabic, Chinese, or Russian. It wasn't even initially written in the Latin alphabet, but rather in a form of Runic. It was later written in a quasi-Latin alphabet that was sort of a mix of Latin and Runic letters.
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  3. #3
    Billie9274 is offline Newbie
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    Re: The difference in American and British vowel symbols.

    Quote Originally Posted by Skrej View Post
    There isn't much, if any standardization in dictionary phonetic transcription. Each dictionary has its own way of writing phonetic transcriptions, and will provide a pronunciation key. Sometimes you'll find similarities between dictionaries, but that's more accidental than intentional.

    The only standardized representation is IPA, which many dictionaries don't use.

    As to why the actual pronunciation varies, that's just the way languages work. There isn't always a logical explanation for why one language or variant treats a given phoneme the way it does.

    Regarding the Old English question, Old English was Old English. It's neither BrE or AmE. America as a country didn't even exist while Old English was spoken, and neither did modern day Great Britain. The original Kingdom of England was just getting started at about that time, but it was busy switching between Anglo-Norman (a very old form of French) and Middle English, which generally marked the end of Old English.

    Of course, some of the Old English pronunciations, vocabulary, and case endings were kept, but there was lot of influence from Norman. By the time all this got settled out linguistically, Old English was gone, with said influences creating Middle English.

    Old English was much closer to Modern German, both in grammar and pronunciation than to Modern English. Old English is as foreign a language to modern AmE and BrE speakers as Arabic, Chinese, or Russian. It wasn't even initially written in the Latin alphabet, but rather in a form of Runic. It was later written in a quasi-Latin alphabet that was sort of a mix of Latin and Runic letters.

    Right. I've even seen 'o' represented as something like /ow/, though it seems intuitive in a different kind of way.
    and thank you for shedding some light on Old English topics. The similarities English and German shared is so striking, including the velar fricative and palatal fricative sound.

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: The difference in American and British vowel symbols.

    Many dictionaries use something similar to the IPA, but with a few things of their own that are meant to be more intuitive to non-specialists. There is, however, no universal agreement among them about what is more intuitive, so forms vary, but all should have a page explaining their symbols.

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