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Illustrations of the IPA are concise accounts of the phonetic structure of different languages using the Association’s International Phonetic Alphabet, accompanied by audio recordings. A selection of Illustrations have been made freely available below, and are available to view in order of publication date, title, or article number.
As Ladefoged (1999) points out in his description of American English, there is considerable diversity in the phonetic characteristics of English spoken in North America, such that the commonly used phrase ‘General American English’ is not entirely meaningful. The description of American English provided by Ladefoged was based on a southern California dialect. The purpose of this report is to augment that account with a brief description of southern Michigan speech patterns. According to Labov and colleagues (e.g. Labov, Yeager & Steiner 1972, Labov 1994), southern Michigan, particularly in its urban areas, is part of a relatively large dialect region in the inland northeast United States called ‘Northern Cities’. According to Labov, the Northern Cities dialect cuts an irregular swath through a chain of cities in the inland northeast extending, roughly, from upstate New York (e.g. Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo), through northern Ohio (e.g. Cleveland, Toledo), southern Michigan (e.g. Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids), northwest Indiana (e.g. Gary, Hammond), northeast Illinois (e.g. Chicago, Rockford) and south-central Wisconsin (e.g. Milwaukee, Madison). Speakers from neighboring regions such as northwest Vermont, northwest Pennsylvania, and north-central/northeast Indiana appear to show some features of the dialect. Labov contends that the vowel shifts that characterize the Northern Cities dialect are observed in their most advanced forms in the largest urban areas of the region, such as Detroit, Buffalo, and Rochester.
The variety described here is representative of colloquial Assamese spoken in the eastern districts of Assam. Assam is a North-Eastern state of India, therefore Assamese and creoles of Assamese like Nagamese are spoken in the different North-Eastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and also the neighbouring country of Bhutan. Approximately 15 million people speak Assamese in India (see Ethnologue, Gordon 2005, which lists 15,374,000 speakers including those in Bhutan and Bangladesh). In the pre-British era (until 1826), the kingdom of Assam was ruled by Ahom kings and the then capital was based in the Eastern district of Sibsagar and later in Jorhat. American missionaries established the first printing press in Sibsagar and in the year 1846 published a monthly periodical Arunodoi using the variety spoken in and around Sibsagar as the point of departure. This is the immediate reason which led to the acceptance of the formal variety spoken in eastern Assam (which roughly comprises of all the districts of Upper Assam). Having said that, the language spoken in these regions of Assam also show a certain degree of variation from the written form of the ‘standard’ language. As against the relative homogeneity of the variety spoken in eastern Assam, variation is considerable in certain other districts which would constitute the western part of Assam, comprising of the district of Kamrup up to Goalpara and Dhubri (see also Kakati 1962 and Grierson 1968). In contemporary Assam, for the purposes of mass media and communication, a certain neutral blend of eastern Assamese, without too many distinctive eastern features, like /ɹ/ deletion, which is a robust phenomenon in the eastern varieties, is still considered to be the norm. The lexis of Assamese is mainly Indo-Aryan, but it also has a sizeable amount of lexical items related to Bodo among other Tibeto-Burman languages (Kakati 1962), and there are a substantial number of items borrowed from Hindi, English and Bengali in recent times.
Bardi is the northernmost language of the Nyulnyulan family, a non-Pama-Nyungan family of the Western Kimberley region of northwestern Australia. Currently about five people speak the language fluently, but approximately 1,000 people identify as Bardi. The region was settled by Europeans in the 1880s and two missions were founded in Bardi country in the 1890s. Use of the language began declining in the 1930s. Many Bardi people were moved several times between 1940 and 1970, both to other missions dominated by speakers of other Indigenous languages and to local towns such as Derby. This community disruption accelerated the decline of language use in the community and first language acquisition. Bardi is the name of the language variety spoken at One Arm Point. There are two other named mutually intelligible varieties apart from Bardi: Baard and Jawi. The extent of dialect diversity within Bardi is unknown, but does not seem to have been particularly high compared to that between named varieties. The ISO-639 language code is [bcj].
The region of Béarn denotes the historically Romance-speaking part of the modern-day Pyrénées-Atlantiques département in south-western France. The langue d’oc or southern Gallo-Romance variety historically spoken in Béarn, commonly referred to as ‘Béarnais’, is a dialect of Gascon. This variety may also be referred to by its autoglossonym ‘Biarnés’ though the French term is the most widely used designation for the regional language. The number of Gascon speakers in south-western France increases steadily from north (Bordeaux) to south (the Pyrenees) and because Béarn is the area of linguistic Gascony with the highest recorded number of Gascon speakers (Moreux 2004), Béarnais may be considered the principal surviving dialect of Gascon, though other surviving dialects, such as ‘Gascon de Chalosse’, and ‘Landais’, are still spoken and written.
Hamont is a small town located on the north-eastern edge of the Belgian province of Limburg, on the national border with the Netherlands. It is situated about 30 km south of Eindhoven and 15 km west of Weert in the Netherlands. The town has about 13,500 inhabitants. According to Belemans, Kruijsen & Van Keymeulen (1998), the dialect of Hamont belongs to the West Limburg dialects (subclassification: Dommellands). Limburg dialects occupy a unique position among the Belgian and Dutch dialects in that their prosodic system has a lexical tone distinction, which is traditionally referred to as SLEEPTOON ‘dragging tone’ and STOOTTOON ‘push tone’. In line with recent conventions, stoottoon is referred to as Accent 1 and transcribed as superscript 1; sleeptoon is referred to as Accent 2 and is transcribed as superscript 2 (cf. Schmidt 1986).
Dutch is a language spoken by about 20 million people in the Netherlands and Belgium. This region is not only characterised by a complex dialect situation, but also by the use of two institutionalised varieties of the Standard language: Netherlandic Dutch is spoken in the Netherlands and is documented in Collins & Mees (1982), Mees & Collins (1983) and Gussenhoven (1999), while Belgian Dutch is spoken in the northern part of Belgium (Flanders) by approximately 6 million speakers. This variety is the same as what is commonly referred to internationally as ‘Flemish’. However, the term ‘Flemish’ is avoided here since it erroneously suggests that this language is different from the one spoken in the Netherlands: the lexical and syntactic differences between the two language varieties are very small. Nevertheless, there are significant phonetic differences as well as substantial regional variability within the two speech communities.
Bengali ( /baŋla/) is an Indo-European language (Indic branch) spoken by over 175 million people in Bangladesh and eastern India (Dasgupta 2003: 352; Lewis 2009). The speech illustrated below is representative of the standard variety widely spoken in Dhaka and other urban areas of Bangladesh.
Portuguese, a language of the Ibero-Romance subgroup of the Romance languages, has a variety which is spoken in Brazil, a country with circa 170 million inhabitants, of whom about 161 million speak Portuguese and 138 million live in cities. For this illustration of Brazilian Portuguese (henceforth BP), we have recorded a speaker whose choice was guided by two demographic criteria, namely, to represent the most populous dialectal region, that of São Paulo, and the most frequent age range (15–29 years, corresponding to 28% of the Brazilian population. Source: IBGE, Demographic census 2000). The speaker was a female undergraduate student at the University of Campinas at age 21 at the time of the recording. She was born in the city of São Paulo, where she lived up to age 10. From then on she has been living in Valinhos, a city on the outskirts of Campinas.
The accent described here is the present-day version of the accent that has been used as the standard in phoneticians' description of the pronunciation of British English for centuries. The definition of this accent is a matter of heated debate and frequent controversy: the arguments will not be rehearsed here, but the interested reader is recommended to look at Jones (1917 and subsequent) and Wells (2000). The most important aspects of this accent should, however, be made clear.
a. The number of native speakers of this accent who originate in Ireland, Scotland and Wales is very small and probably diminishing, and it is therefore a misnomer to call it an accent of BRITISH English. It is an accent spoken by some English people.
b. The great majority of native speakers of this accent are of middle-class or upper-class origin, educated at private schools and (if of appropriate age) university. This does not mean that the accent cannot be acquired by others: the present author (who attended a state school in the Midlands) originally spoke with an accent with noticeable regional features, but has over many years of teaching the phonetics of English acquired an accent not far from the standard one described here.
c. The majority of speakers of this accent live in, or originate from, the south-east of England.
d. The accent is most familiar as that used by most ‘official’ BBC speakers of English origin (newsreaders and announcers on Radio 4 and Radio 3, and most television channels). It is also frequently heard on the BBC World Service, though that service appears to have adopted the policy of sometimes using newsreaders and announcers with noticeable foreign accents. It is clear that this accent will eventually lose its pre-eminent status in broadcasting as a result of the wish to broaden the social base of broadcast speech, but it will take a long time for this to happen.
Standard Tajik, or Modern Literary Tajik as it was called during the Soviet era, was established in the nineteen twenties and thirties based largely on the dialects of the Bukhara-Samarkand area, which was at the time the undisputed cultural centre of the Tajik-speaking population. Dushanbe, the current capital of Tajikistan, was then a small village with a population of only a few hundred and had no cultural heritage comparable to that of Bukhara or Samarkand. Bukharan Tajik, whose phonology is described in this paper, is a variety of Tajik that played a particularly influential role in the phonological standardization of Tajik, which took place for the most part in 1930. For instance, the Scientific Conference of Uzbekistan Tajiks of 1930 resolved that the dialect of Bukhara must be the designated basis of the sound and orthography of literary Tajik (вaroji tajjorī вa kanfiransijaji ilmiji istalinoвod 1930: 2). In August the same year, the Linguistic Conference held in the then newly established Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic also adopted a similar resolution that establishes the ‘language of the Tajiks of Samarkand and Bukhara’ as the reference point in establishing the literary (i.e. standard) pronunciation (Halimov 1974: 126). According to Bergne (2007: 82), ‘the same Linguistic Conference of 22 August 1930 in Stalinabad decided that the phonetic base for the language had better be the dialect of Bukhara’. Thus, the Bukharan Tajik of today is the direct descendant of the variety of Tajik which served as a primary basis of standard Tajik phonological norms; and hence differs little from standard Tajik phonologically and phonetically.
Burmese is the official language of Burma. (In English, ‘Burmese’ and ‘Burma’ are also known as ‘Myanmar’, and ‘Rangoon’ as ‘Yangon’.) It is the major language of the Burmic branch of Tibeto-Burman, and is spoken natively by upwards of 30 million people in the lower valleys of the Irrawaddy and Chindwin rivers, the central plain of Burma and the Irrawaddy Delta, and non-natively by up to another 10 million speakers of other languages in Burma.
Spanish is by far the most widely spoken Romance language, used by about 350 million people mainly in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America. The language variety described below is formal Spanish spoken in Castile (Central Spain) by educated middle-aged speakers.
Central Arrernte is the language of an area centred on the present-day town of Alice Springs, in Central Australia. It is one of a group of dialects or closely-related languages spoken or formerly spoken over most of the southeast quarter of the Northern Territory and extending on the east side into the far-western part of Queensland; a slightly less closely-related language extends south into the north-central part of South Australia. They include varieties using the names Anmatyerr, Alyawarr and Antekerrepenh as well as several varieties using the name Arrernte with (nowadays) English geographical qualifiers. The major surviving varieties, Eastern, Central and Western Arrernte, Eastern and Western Anmatyerr, Southern and Northern Alyawarr each have several hundred to a thousand speakers, and are still being learned by many of the children, who grow up bilingual (in English) or multilingual. Breen (2001) is a brief introduction to the phonology of these languages.
Central Sama (ISO code sml) is spoken in the Philippines throughout the Sulu Archipelago and the Sibuguey Gulf to the north, and in many scattered communities as far north as Manila Bay. In Sabah, Malaysia, it is spoken primarily in the districts of Semporna and Kunak. For more information regarding the classification of this language within Austronesian, see Gordon (2005).
Chickasaw is a Muskogean language spoken in south-central Oklahoma. Published descriptions of Chickasaw phonetics include Munro & Willmond (1994), Munro (to appear), and Gordon et al. (2000). The following description is a summary of the principal phonetic aspects of Chickasaw drawn primarily from these works.
Chistabino is the variety of Aragonese, a Romance dialect descended from Latin, like Spanish, still spoken in the Valley of Gistau, bordering on France and formed by the River Cinqueta, in the central part of the Spanish Pyrenees (Province of Huesca). Although it is spoken mainly in the village of Gistaín (c. 240 inhabitants; c. 1400 m above sea-level, near latitude 42°35′), and is fairly well preserved by the older generations there, fluent speakers can still be found also in the nearby locality of San Juan. The other inhabited villages in the valley (Plan, Serveto, Sin and Saravillo) have suffered much greater degrees of erosion by Castilian (Standard Spanish), which has increased its influence through much improved communications, leading to the development of tourism in the area and emigration by the young in search of greater prosperity. The remaining village, Señes, has been uninhabited since 1970.
Cicipu ([tʃìtʃípù], ISO 639–3 code awc) is spoken by approximately 20,000 people in northwest Nigeria, with the main language area straddling the boundary between Kebbi and Niger states. The language belongs to the Kambari subgroup (not Kamuku as stated by Lewis, Simons & Fennig 2013) of Kainji (Benue-Congo), although it is heavily influenced by the lingua franca Hausa, in which almost all speakers are fluent. There are several identifiable dialects, with native speakers of Cicipu generally listing seven. Of these, Tirisino is the most prestigious and least endangered dialect, and this is the one presented here. Tikumbasi is the most divergent of the dialects, with the /o/ vowel in the other dialects consistently corresponding to /e/ in Tikumbasi (for example /póːpò/ ‘hello’ ~ /péːpè/, /tʃìkóːtò/ ‘drum’ ~ /tʃìkʷéːtè/). The distinction between /o/ and /ɔ/ has been lost in Tikumbasi.
Cocos Malay, hereafter called Cocos, is referred to in the Ethnologue with the ISO code of ‘coa’. The Ethnologue considers Cocos to be a Malay-based Creole along with several other Malay-based creoles (Lewis 2009). Cocos is spoken in Australia and in Malaysia. In Australia, it is spoken on the islands of Cocos and Christmas with a total combined population of about 700 speakers on those two islands. In Malaysia, Cocos speakers are found primarily in the eastern and southeastern coastal districts of Sabah (Kunak, Semporna, Lahad Datu and Tawau). In early 2013, the Ethnologue listed the population of Cocos speakers in Malaysia as 4,000 and decreasing. The Ethnologue also stated that the total number of Cocos speakers in all places around the world is 5,000. However, both of these statements in the Ethnologue are not correct. The Cocos population in Malaysia is increasing, not decreasing, and the total worldwide population of Cocos speakers is much larger than the Ethnologue estimate. The 1970 population estimate for Cocos speakers in Malaysia was 2,731 (Moody 1984: 93, 100). But the 2012 population estimate for Cocos speakers worldwide is 22,400, with most Cocos speakers living in Sabah, Malaysia. Our study focused exclusively on Cocos speakers in Malaysia. Some Cocos speakers interviewed in our study claimed that their ancestors originated from the island of Cocos (also known as Keeling), southwest of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. Others claimed that their ancestors originally inhabited the Indonesian islands of the Malay Archipelaɡo and subsequently migrated to Cocos Island and then to Sabah. Two historical accounts of the Cocos can be found in Nanis (2011) and Subiah, Rabika & Kabul (1981).
As a western Slavic language of the Indo-European family, Czech is closest to Slovak and Polish. It is spoken as a native language by nearly 10 million people in the Czech Republic (Czech Statistical Office n.d.). About two million people living abroad, mostly in the USA, Canada, Austria, Germany, Slovakia, and the UK, claim Czech heritage (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic 2009). However, it is not known how many of them are native speakers of Czech.