Showing posts with label pronunciation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pronunciation. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

“A Ukulele” or “An Ukulele”? | Mignon Fogarty, The Grammar Girl, The Quick and Dirty

Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty describes an interesting dilemma in this article about respecting cultural differences in pronunciation when choosing the proper words. Her focus is on the pronunciation of ukulele in Hawaii, how it differs from the pronunciation elsewhere, and the impact on word choice.

But I like the article because it provides a unique example of when to use an and when to use a before a noun or adjective. By highlighting the correct rule for making that choice, she reveals misunderstandings about that rule:
  • Wrong: Use a before words that begin with a consonant, and use an before words that begin with a vowel.
  • Right: Use a before words that begin with the sound of a consonant, and use an before words that begin with the sound of a vowel.
In other words, pronunciation matters in those choices. Spelling does not matter (except that the words must be spelled correctly, of course).

She concludes with this advice about which word to use with ukulele:
If you’re writing for a national publication, I suggest you stick with “a ukulele”; but if you’re writing for a Hawaiian publication, you should definitely go with “an ukulele.”
Here's how I put the use of a and an in the first entry of my online writing guide, Garbl's Editorial Style Manual; I also include the:
a, an, the The articles aand and the are adjectives that modify nouns. Use the to point to a specific noun; use a and an to point to a general, nonspecific noun: Please bring me the newspaper suggests a specific newspaper, while Please bring me a newspaper doesn't specify which newspaper. 
Use a before consonant soundsa European countrya B.A.a historic eventa one-year terma style manuala utopia. Use an before vowel soundsan 18-year-old candidate, an environmental disaster, an FDA study, an MBA, an heir apparent, an honorable man, an hour ago, an NBC sitcom, an SBA loan. If the letter h is sounded, use aa hamburger, a history book, a house, a hotel.
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Fogarty's article is featured today, Feb. 6, in my daily online paper, Garbl's Style: Write Choices, available at the Editorial Styles tab above and by free email subscription.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Don't forget your teethbrush | Mind your language Blog, The Guardian

At least once a week, my blog refers to items in my online editorial style manual about the preferred or correct use or spelling of specific words.

I offer that advice because many words in English (generally, homonyms) have the same spelling or pronunciation (or both) but have differing meanings. Other words (synonyms) have identical or similar meanings but are spelled differently. Among synonyms, some are simpler to use and understand because they're shorter, with fewer syllables, or have fewer other definitions. Or the meaning of one synonym is more precise than its synonyms or more common in particular professions, geographic locations, user groups ... and so on.

All those synonyms and homonyms can be confusing to people who don't use certain words frequently and to new or young learners--especially if they already speak another language that has fewer homonyms and synonyms. English--American English, especially--has become such a hybrid of words from many languages and even geographic variants of English! 

So, this article captured my interest because it provides a good example of the need for a handy style guide (especially) or dictionary. As its subhead says:
Arts minister, but art thieves. Drugs tsar, but drug dealers. When you put a noun in front of another noun, should it be singular or plural?
Sometimes we all need to just look something up, to find out what's recommended or correct! (My blog on Nov. 1 covered rules for using for using plurals.)

Even among the best of writers and editors, it's impossible to remember all the correct spellings and definitions of words and the rules for using them. A thesaurus can be useful, at least as a starting place. But if you're more interested in the precise meaning of a particular word, instead of the similarity between words, a reliable style guide or dictionary will be more useful.

If your dictionary lists two (or more) spellings for a word, use the first one unless my editorial style manual (or another style guide) lists a specific exception. If your dictionary provides different spellings in separate entries (gray and grey, for example) use the spelling followed by a full definition (gray). If a dictionary entry is listed as usually or often, use that entry.

If you live in the United States or are writing for publications mostly for U.S. audiences, you should use American word spellings instead of British spellings. 

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This article is featured today (Nov. 2) in my daily online newspaper, Garbl's Style  Write Choices--available at the Editorial Style tab above and by free email subscription. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Pet Peeves: From the N Entries in Garbl's Editorial Style Manual

Here's the 12th in my alphabetical series of pet peeves--from entries in the N section of Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. My style manual covers editorial issues like abbreviations, addresses, capitalization, English grammar, Internet terminology, numbers, plurals, possessives, punctuation, spelling and word usage. It focuses on U.S. standards for spelling, punctuation, definitions, usage, style and grammar.

Earlier blogs:

A peeves | B peeves | C peeves | D peeves | E peeves | F peeves | G peeves | H peeves | I peeves | J peeves | K & L peeves | M peeves

near miss, near-miss A near miss (without a hyphen) is a miss that is near, like a blue jacket is a jacket that is blue. But near-miss (with a hyphen) is a hit. Avoid confusion by using near-collision (with a hyphen) instead of near miss when describing a narrowly averted collision.

neither When used on its own without nor, make the verb singular: Neither of the men was ready.

nevertheless Overstated. Simplify. Try even so, but, yet, still or however.

new development, new improvement, new initiative, new innovation, new introduction Redundant and wordy. Simplify. Drop new.

nice It has many meanings, including "finicky," "precise and subtle," "delicate," and "scrupulous." And it's commonly used to mean "friendly, pretty, courteous, respectable or good." If you mean one of those words -- or any of the other definitions of nice -- be nice to your readers and use one of them. Or describe why you think something is "nice" He volunteers at the dog shelter; not He's niceTheir house has indoor plumbing; not Their house is nice.

No. Use as the abbreviation for number when used with a figure, in both singular and plural forms: the No. 3 choice, invoice Nos. 4311 and 5207, lot No. 23, apartment No. 6. Don't use the number symbol or sign, #, to stand for No. or number.

noncontroversial All issues are controversial. A noncontroversial issue is impossible. A controversial issue is redundant.

none are, none is Both phrases are correct, depending on the noun that follows them (or the understood noun if you're not naming it). If that noun is plural, use a plural verb; if it's singular, use a singular verb. Thus: Of the eight applicants, none of them are qualified. Every child went to the haunted house, and none [of them] are returning. None of the applicant's proposal was persuasive. None of it is safe for children. If the noun form is unclear, use a singular verb.

none at all Redundant. Replace with none.

notify Formal. Simplify. Use tell instead.

not only ... but also Balance the sentence grammatically when using this phrase. If a prepositional phrase follows not only, for example, a prepositional phrase should follow but also. Correct: The fall in the birthrate varies not only from city to city but also from area to area. Incorrect: Not only does the fall in the birthrate vary from city to city but also from area to area.

nuclear, nuke Potentially misused. George W. Bush and some other U.S. presidents have mispronounced nuclear. But just because presidents say something doesn't make it true or correct. (Think WMD in Iraq.) It's "noo-klee-ar," not "noo-kyuh-lar." And spell it correctly too; it's not nucular

Also, casual use of the slang word nuke for nuclear minimizes the death and destruction that would come after use of nuclear weapons. Avoid using nuke whether you're writing about attacking with nuclear weapons or cooking with a microwave oven.

numbers Spell out most whole numbers below 10. Use figures for 10 and above: five, nine, 15, 650. [There are exceptions to this general advice. The numbers entry in my style manual includes more advice, but it deserves its own blog posting.] If you're not already doing so, use the number 1 key on your computer keyboard to create the number 1. Don't use the old-fashioned, potentially odd-looking lowercase L key to create the number l

numerous Overstated. Simplify. Try many, or be specific.



Monday, June 11, 2012

‘Ya’ll’ and other speech patterns an integral part of Appalachian culture | Samantha Perry, Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Perry, editor of the daily newspaper in Bluefield, West Virginia, provides some useful, friendly advice and information, especially for those of us who live outside the U.S. South:
Some mistake an Appalachian drawl as a beacon of ignorance. They believe the word “y’all” is synonymous with low SAT scores.
How wrong could they be?
Here in the mountains, we don’t run and hide from our speech patterns. We embrace our slang and colloquialisms, knowing the way we speak is a part of our culture. It’s a generational thing, passed down from those before us.
What’s wrong with speaking with a slight drawl, a wisp of a twang or, my favorite, a bright smile that ever-so-slightly alters the enunciation to exude the southern charm indicative of a wide-brim hat with silk flowers and mint juleps served up fresh at the Kentucky Derby?
She also comments on a new TV miniseries about the feuding Hatfields and McCoys. Sounds like it's worth seeing:
In light of our state’s depiction in many other movies and productions — such as the film “Wrong Turn” and the fairly recent Australian news segment — “Hatfields & McCoys” showed a much more honest and accurate representation.
And, it underscored the importance of family, faith and forgiveness. In light of today’s societal problems, that’s not a bad message to get out to 13.8 million viewers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do you speak Texan? | Jessica Sinn, University of Texas at Austin

Is the Texas twang fixin’ to die out? That's a question writer Jessica Sinn asks near the start of this interesting article.

I'm not a Texan and have spent only an hour or two at the Houston airport. But I've known folks from there (and elsewhere in the South)--and have been fascinated by their accents. And I must make it to Austin City Limits one of these days!

The initial answer to Sinn's question:
Not necessarily, says Lars Hinrichs, assistant professor of English language and linguistics and director of the Texas English Project at The University of Texas at Austin. Despite the drastic changes in the Lone Star State’s iconic accent, Texans will continue to use their twang, but only in certain contexts.
Hindrichs explains that high mobility and rapidly increasing access to mass media have affected the Texas twang. But:
[T]his isn’t just happening in Texas, Hinrichs said. The distinctive sounds and vocal patterns of America’s regional accents – like the way Bostonians drop the “r” in some words – are rapidly transcending into a more homogenized Midwestern American dialect.
Later in the article, linguistics graduate student Kate Shaw Points, a participant in the Texas English Project, notes that Texas-born Hispanics in the Austin area revert to Hispanic English when the conversation turns toward local politics and gentrification. (In Hispanic English, the sound is produced with the tongue toward the back of the mouth.)

Sinn asks what’s causing this unconscious switch in accents?
Points suggests it’s a way of expressing a certain identity. When they are happily waving their Texas-pride flags, they tend to infuse some twang into their speech. But when they’re staking claim to their East Austin neighborhoods, they employ the Hispanic accent to distance themselves from encroaching developers and affluent interlopers.
Sinn explains that these insights can help dispel harmful stereotypes about different ethnic groups. Understanding this behavior also may increase a sense of tolerance for other cultures. 

Points said (emphasis added):
Appreciating that different groups of people have varied linguistic patterns, and that none of these patterns are a priori "better" than others, could lead to increased understanding of other cultures. The more you know about how an ethnic group outside your own uses language, you are better prepared to accept their culture.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Undressed by Bad Word Usage | John Bliss, Business 2 Community

Now I may be biased because I’ve been in the word business for 40+ years. But I maintain that people who are sloppy with word usage will be equally sloppy in discharging managerial duties or being good team players.
Bliss makes a valid point. Correct word usage is important for the point he's making and, more importantly, because it aids readers and listeners.

He goes on to list and explain a few of his "pet bugaboos." They're capitalized in his list, though the only one that should be is Realtor. It's a trademarked term (in the United States) for some people working in the real estate industry. His bugaboos:

  • compliment vs. complement:
  • Realtor vs. Relator (mispronounced)
  • nuclear vs. nuculer (mispronounced)
  • fiefdom vs. fifedom (mispronounced)
  • utilize vs. use
  • cheap vs. inexpensive
For more advice on word usage as well as spelling, punctuation, capitalization and other style questions, check out Garbl's Editorial Style Manual. Also check out Garbl's Word Links. It has sections on vocabulary and spelling. 


Friday, April 20, 2012

I Learned to Speak Four Languages in a Few Years: Here's How | Gabriel Wyner, Lifehacker

While I consider myself an expert in using English, I suck at learning and remembering foreign languages. 

Unfortunately, I wasn't very attentive while studying French for two years in high school (my girlfriend was in the class, ahem). I didn't need a foreign language to get out of college. And much more recently, I can't seem to remember basic terms of human interaction in foreign countries even 20 minutes after reviewing them!

So this article, which I need to study more thoroughly, caught my attention. It doesn't make learning a foreign language sound easy, but it does provide a method that seems efficient and effective.

Wyner writes:
This is the method I've used to learn four languages (Italian, German, French and now Russian); it's the method that got me to C1 fluency in French in about 5 months, and I'm currently using it with Russian (and plan on reaching C1 equivalent fluency by September).
Here are the headings for each stage in his process:
Stage 1: Learn the correct pronunciation of the language.
Stage 2: Vocabulary and grammar acquisition, no English allowed.
Stage 3: Listening, writing and reading work.
Stage 4: Speech.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Yours, sir, is a LAFA | Hajrah Mumtaz, DAWN.COM

"LAFA" in the headline refers to "locally acquired foreign accent"--the practice of mimicking "English English" in former British colonies like Pakistan, where this article was first published.

Mumtaz writes:
I think that languages ought to be written and spoken in their correct form. Slang is one thing, and sometimes words and phrases must be added to a language because it lacks expressions — because of historical and societal context — that convey the exact meaning required. Thus we have additions such as ‘floor patients’ or ‘mummy daddy’ people. And there does exist a need for languages to be flexible and coin new words and usages as times change.
Accent and pronunciation, however, are more problematic. One could argue that pronunciation should also be as received, but too many people find themselves derided or discriminated against in varying ways, here and elsewhere, because their English accent is not good enough.
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