I have some questions

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LifeDeath
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2017-03-11, 9:29

Thank you for this answer and analysis.

vijayjohn wrote:I think I'd say "and" rather than "or" here (unless I'm understanding LifeDeath wrong. LifeDeath, my understanding is that you're talking about situations where people lost opportunities and, as a result, failed at something. Does that sound about right?).

Yes. Maybe it's when "losing opportunities" and "failing at something" is kind of the same thing. For example, you bought a lottert ticket, its number was winning and you won a billion, and on your way to take the prize, you accidentally droped your ticket in a sewage grid when crossing a road. So after a couple of years you can say "I could have had a billion, but in fact, I didn't". So I think this is kind of loosing the opportunity.

vijayjohn wrote: It mostly just sounds like you have a bit of a problem with knowing how to pronounce some of the vowels (which of course is understandable with English :P)

Well the thing is that I guess that I know how to pronounce vowels properly in English. I think that I can say some simple and casual sentences pretty well (comparing to how I read), especially if I just speak. But when it comes to reading, things change. Maybe it's because I have to read other man's thoughts, and because there are some words that I'm just not familiar with at all. Anyway I will be working on that problem.

vijayjohn wrote:Also, sometimes, it sounds like you're pronouncing your "ng"s like an "n" (e.g. stocking feet), which sounds a bit odd.

Oh, I contrariwisely thought that I overpronounced it, I think it's especially noticeably in "drinking" almost in the end of the text.

vijayjohn wrote:1. Make sure that you're always pronouncing "y" at the ends of words like an "ee," not like "i" or ы. :) Same with the "ea" in "dream(ing)." For example, at the very beginning of your recording, you pronounced "Wendy" wrong so it sounded more like "when they ran down..." You pronounced it correctly later in this passage, though.

Didn't know about "y", henceforth I will be trying to spell it correctly. But I always tried to pronounce "ea" properly, too bad I didn't succeed.

vijayjohn wrote:2. "Didn't" has an "i," not an "ee."

That is also an obvious thing that I thought I'd never be capable of doing incorrectly. But I managed to, huh. Maybe it's because when you read you try to do your best, and we know what usually happens when one tries to do his best.

vijayjohn wrote:6. The "l" in "half" is silent. "Half" should be pronounced exactly like "haff" (if "haff" were a word). It rhymes with "chaff," "gaffe," and "laugh."

That's interesting, I didn't know about that. I think it's a popular word and I heard it many times and knew how to pronounce it.

vijayjohn wrote:10. The "t" in "uncertainly" should not be voiced. It's pronounced like a "t," not like a "d."

And about that. I think that I've always pronounced it analogically to "certain", where the "t" is pronounced if I'm not mistaken.

vijayjohn wrote:11. Pronounce the "h" in "harmless" (безвредный). Otherwise, it sounds like "armless" (безрукий!).

Well it's also hard to learn where it should be voiced and where not. I am used to that it's not voiced in "honesty". I thought that it would be unvoiced in other word of that type.

So I think that to learn all that I need to practice and listen to native speakers a lot.

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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 10:58

LifeDeath wrote:
vijayjohn wrote: It mostly just sounds like you have a bit of a problem with knowing how to pronounce some of the vowels (which of course is understandable with English :P)

Well the thing is that I guess that I know how to pronounce vowels properly in English. I think that I can say some simple and casual sentences pretty well (comparing to how I read), especially if I just speak. But when it comes to reading, things change. Maybe it's because I have to read other man's thoughts, and because there are some words that I'm just not familiar with at all. Anyway I will be working on that problem.


It's really difficult in English because honestly, English orthography is a mess with little connection between spelling and pronunciation, maybe because it's a mixture of Germanic languages and French. You may know the idea of "ghoti" as an alternative spelling for "fish" ("gh" as in "tough", "o" as in "women" and "ti" as in "nation"). Or how the "ough"s in "tough", "though", "thorough" and "through" are all pronounced differently. I've heard of native speakers making mistakes like that sometimes, like pronouncing "awry" like "aw-ree" instead of "a-wry". To make matters worse, the same word is sometimes pronounced differently in AmE and BrE (beyond accent), e.g. "laboratory".

I also have to look up pronunciation constantly. Aside from dictionaries with phonetic script, I find en.wiktionary.org pretty useful.

vijayjohn wrote:6. The "l" in "half" is silent. "Half" should be pronounced exactly like "haff" (if "haff" were a word). It rhymes with "chaff," "gaffe," and "laugh."

That's interesting, I didn't know about that. I think it's a popular word and I heard it many times and knew how to pronounce it.


I think the "l" in "lf" is never pronounced in English, or just functions as a vowel modificator like in "self" or "shelf" (exception: compound words like "welfare" or "malfunction"). My IPA skills are rudimentary, right now I'd say /sɛəf/. Case in point, I think Wiktionary has it completely wrong here because it says /sɛlf/, so maybe it's not that helpful after all. Native speakers, please correct me if I'm mistaken.

vijayjohn wrote:10. The "t" in "uncertainly" should not be voiced. It's pronounced like a "t," not like a "d."

And about that. I think that I've always pronounced it analogically to "certain", where the "t" is pronounced if I'm not mistaken.


If I understand you correctly, you're confusing "voiced" and "pronounced". A voiceless consonant is pronounced, but it's not the voiced version. For example, /z/ is the voiced version of the unvoiced /s/: "this" is pronounced /ðɪs/, "is" is pronounced /ɪz/. Same for /d/ and /t/.

vijayjohn wrote:11. Pronounce the "h" in "harmless" (безвредный). Otherwise, it sounds like "armless" (безрукий!).

Well it's also hard to learn where it should be voiced and where not. I am used to that it's not voiced in "honesty". I thought that it would be unvoiced in other word of that type.


I think usually the H is pronounced, there are just a few words where it becomes a glottal stop, "honest" is an example. In "honor" it's also dropped, but in "hostile" it's not, so I guess there's no other way than learning it for every word. But this again depends on dialect, don't be surprised if some Londoners drop the H frequently.

So I think that to learn all that I need to practice and listen to native speakers a lot.


I think it's a mixture of theory (learning the rules) and practice (listening). For example, I believed I had acquired a reasonable understanding of English pronunciation by listening to it a lot, but only recently I learned that an S in the beginning of a word is always unvoiced in English--I used to try what sounds more accurate, "sand" or "zand" before I learned that general rule. It's always difficult with phonemes that your own language doesn't have or doesn't distinguish, in this case I've had to learn a lot about Z and S because my local German dialect doesn't differentiate between the two, I had to learn that from scratch. Not only did I have to learn that S is always unvoiced in the beginning of a word, unlike in German--I also had to learn that it can be either voiced or unvoiced in the end of a word, unlike in German again, where it's always unvoiced in the end--so basically the rules are reversed in English (typically, a German may say "zingers" instead of "singerz"). These subtleties can be a pain in the arse to learn.

I'm not a native speaker, please everyone correct me if I'm mistaken on something, by all means. I'd hate to tell someone else something wrong.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-11, 17:29

Babbsagg wrote:It's really difficult in English because honestly, English orthography is a mess with little connection between spelling and pronunciation, maybe because it's a mixture of Germanic languages and French. You may know the idea of "ghoti" as an alternative spelling for "fish" ("gh" as in "tough", "o" as in "women" and "ti" as in "nation").
While English spelling is not great, and especially unfun for learners, it often gets a bad rap for no good reason. "Ghoti" is an example of that. If you write down <ghoti> and show it to any native English speaker (who hasn't heard of it), they will pronounce it something like /ˈgoʊ̯ti/. If for some reason the word "fish" didn't exist in English, and you asked a native speaker to spell an imaginary word pronounced /ˈfɪʃ/, they would almost certainly write <fish>. And that's because English spelling has rules. There are a lot of places where it falls short, especially in very common words and marking stress and vowel shifts, but for the most part, the pronunciation of an English word is more apparent from its spelling than you might think.

Babbsagg wrote:I think the "l" in "lf" is never pronounced in English, or just functions as a vowel modificator like in "self" or "shelf" (exception: compound words like "welfare" or "malfunction"). My IPA skills are rudimentary, right now I'd say /sɛəf/. Case in point, I think Wiktionary has it completely wrong here because it says /sɛlf/, so maybe it's not that helpful after all. Native speakers, please correct me if I'm mistaken.
Depends on the dialect you speak. Most American dialects have /l/ there, but it's a variant called "dark L" [ɫ], which is the variant used at the end of a syllable. In some dialects, including some British ones, dark L has vocalized, so that's what you might be thinking of.

Words ending in <alf> and <alve(s)> do truly drop the /l/ though. "Calf", "half" and "salve" are the only ones I'm thinking of right now.

Babbsagg wrote:I think usually the H is pronounced, there are just a few words where it becomes a glottal stop, "honest" is an example.
You're on the right track. I'd say though that in words like "honest", the <h> simply isn't pronounced. English often inserts a glottal stop before a word beginning with a vowel sound, and "honest" begins with a vowel sound, so it gets the same treatment.

Babbsagg wrote:In "honor" it's also dropped, but in "hostile" it's not, so I guess there's no other way than learning it for every word.
Right. When in doubt, pronouncing the <h> is your best bet.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 18:53

Dormouse559 wrote:
Babbsagg wrote:I think the "l" in "lf" is never pronounced in English, or just functions as a vowel modificator like in "self" or "shelf" (exception: compound words like "welfare" or "malfunction"). My IPA skills are rudimentary, right now I'd say /sɛəf/. Case in point, I think Wiktionary has it completely wrong here because it says /sɛlf/, so maybe it's not that helpful after all. Native speakers, please correct me if I'm mistaken.
Depends on the dialect you speak. Most American dialects have /l/ there, but it's a variant called "dark L" [ɫ], which is the variant used at the end of a syllable. In some dialects, including some British ones, dark L has vocalized, so that's what you might be thinking of.


I know it's the dark L, but when Wiktionary writes /sɛlf/, I assumed it means the "bright" one. Is it me not getting something or is Wiktionary unreliable here?

Thanks for clearing this up, I wasn't aware that it's usually not vocalised there. Maybe because I've learnt English mostly from Brits? I just tried a little, in words like "pull" or "tool" or "well" I pronounce it as a consonant, but it's borderline vocalised as the tip of my tongue touches the palate ever so slightly. When I say "self", I cross that line and it's vocalised.

I guess I should be more careful with telling people about the finer details of pronunciation.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2017-03-11, 19:21

Well I think that there's not the dark L symbol in the IPA. And it's technically made by connectind the back part of a tongue with the roof of a mouth. Thanks, by the way, for those thoughts that you shared upon the matter.

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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 20:14

LifeDeath wrote:Well I think that there's not the dark L symbol in the IPA. And it's technically made by connectindg the back part of a the tongue with the roof of a the mouth. Thanks, by the way, for those thoughts that you shared upon the matter.


Actually, there is (see Dormouse559's post).
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-11, 21:25

Babbsagg wrote:I know it's the dark L, but when Wiktionary writes /sɛlf/, I assumed it means the "bright" one. Is it me not getting something or is Wiktionary unreliable here?
There's no mistake on Wiktionary. That entry is using a phonemic transcription, marked with /slashes/. Dark L is an allophone of the English /l/ phoneme in syllable codas, so there's no need to mark it explicitly at the phonemic level. A phonetic transcription would indicate dark L and would be in [square brackets].

Apologies, Babbsagg, if you already know some of the things I'm explaining. I don't know what you know about phonology, so I'm trying not to assume too much.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-11, 22:48

Thanks, that's really good to know. I wasn't aware of the distinction between phonemic and phonetic script, I just wondered why sometimes it was very detailed and sometimes not, and thus I wondered if it's just sloppy when the Wiktionary transcribes "tool" as /tuːl/. I thought it was telling me that it's pronounced with a deep U and a "light" L--or to put it another way, with a strong German accent.

This should avoid much confusion in the future, especially on this forum. Thanks a lot!

edit: so I'll have to ask if I understand this correctly: basically, phonemic script gives a more general idea about the pronunciation of the word without going into the details of how it sounds in different varieties/dialects of English, or even with foreign accents. Examples:

"too" -> /tuː/ means it's pronounced in whatever way the /uː/ is pronounced in a given variety, giving the information that it's similar to "you" or "tool" but different to "blood". As in, it allows varieties of the sound that are recognised as the same phoneme and thus don't alter a word's meaning. On the other hand, [tuː] would be a gross misrepresentation in Oxford English. /l/ can be used for both light and dark L because they're closely related and in English using either is irrelevant for the meaning of a word (and some dialects use one where others use the other, for example the Scottish tendency to use dark L instead of light L in the beginning of words, without affecting the meaning). Is this correct?
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-12, 17:08

Pretty much. You've described supradialectal transcriptions, which are usually phonemic. But phonemic transcriptions can also be dialect specific. The important thing is that they only show phonemes, the smallest units of sound in a language that can change meaning.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-12, 19:37

Babbsagg wrote:Thanks, that's really good to know. I wasn't aware of the distinction between phonemic and phonetic transcription

"Script" usually refers to a distinct writing system or style of writing. But phonemic and phonetic transcriptions are just different applications of the same script (since both typically employ IPA).

Be advised that there's really a range of phonetic transcriptions, from "broad" to "narrow". Very narrow transcriptions can be difficult to read because we're not really aware of what our utterances really sound like much of the time. (Your mind is great at filling in sounds you think should be there.) Very broad phonetic transcriptions, on the other hand, sometimes scarcely differ from phonemic transcriptions.

To be honest, I think a lot of the "phonemic transcriptions" in Wiktionary and other dictionaries are actually broad phonetic. They often give details on vowel quality, for instance, that are needlessly specific. For instance, the Cois Fharraige pronunciation of Irish cabáiste, rendered /ˈɡʊbˠɑːʃtʲə/ on Wiktionary, is phonemicised by Ó Siadhail as /ɡubɑːsʹtʹə/ or even /ɡabaːsʹtʹə/ (since he adduces phonological rules for the raising of the /a/ in the initial syllable and the backing of the /aː/ in the second). There's no need to give the stress, since it's predictable (with only a handful of exceptions) and doesn't distinguish any minimal pairs. And there's no phoneme /ʃ/ in Irish; this is just the usual phonetic realisation of /sʹ/, the slender (palatalised) counterpart to /s/ (which doesn't have to be phonemicised /sˠ/ since if a consonant isn't slender in Irish, it must be broad).

Dormouse559 wrote:Pretty much. You've described supradialectal transcriptions, which are usually phonemic. But phonemic transcriptions can also be dialect specific. The important thing is that they only show phonemes, the smallest units of sound in a language that can change meaning.

I know that's how the Wikipedia article describes them, but I think it's misleading to call a phoneme a "unit of sound". It's really an abstraction which can be realised a variety of ways (or, in the case of neutralisations, not realised at all). The difference between /d/ and /t/ in English may surface as voicing, aspiration, glottalisation, length/height of the preceding vowel, etc. And it can be lost completely (e.g. medially when both are flapped to [ɾ] and preceding vowel is not lengthened or centralised). What's salient is that, on a psychological level, two morphemes are recognised as distinct if one contains /d/ and the other /t/.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 16:33

Thanks for the replies, I'll read [I just wanted to say "read into", does that even exist?] about phonemes and phonetic transcription to get a better understanding.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-13, 16:47

Babbsagg wrote:Thanks for the replies, I'll read [I just wanted to say "read into", does that even exist?] about phonemes and phonetic transcription to get a better understanding.

"Read into" means to add your own interpretation to something, e.g. "She read too much into peoples' words, that was the trouble; she went too far, expected too much." It can also be used in a more literal sense of information being recorded: Data is "read into" computers and into official court documents.

If you want to say that you'll spend some time reading about a subject in order to gain an understanding, a common idiom is "read up on", e.g "I seem to recall a way of removing characters from a string using javascript. I'll read up on it again."
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-13, 16:50

I think I used it that way before, must be more cautious. I suspect I wrongly altered "delve into".
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2017-03-19, 10:06

In Eminem's song "I'm not Afraid" there's the following part:

"Cause the way I feel, I'm strong enough to go to the club
Or the corner pub, and lift the whole liquor counter up
Cause I'm raising the bar."


Can you tell me what "lift the whole liquor counter up" means? Because that's what I don't understand. I think that "counter" can mean sort of a table in a bar. Yet it doesn't clear the thing up. I guess that maybe it has a kind of heroical connotation, or motivational. Like he's going to drink more that anyone else is able, and it's expressed like something that is usually hard to do.

I also don't understand the last sentence, because "bar" can mean many things in English. The most common one, I think, is "a place where people drink alcohol". But if that's what he meant, then it means something very similar to the previous phrase. Because "counter" and "bar" both mean "place where people drink", and "lift up" and "raise" both mean the same thing, too. So those seem to be same sentences only written in different words.

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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-19, 12:11

@LifeDeath

As far as I understand it, you're mostly right. The counter is the table in a pub where you order your drinks. I think he's using "lifting the whole liquor counter up" as a play of words with the double meaning that he's strong enough to drink like an elephant and strong enough to heave the actual counter. "Raising the bar" is another play of words, on one hand a common phrase that means breaking records, on the other hand--literally--heaving the counter.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2017-03-19, 17:05

But does "heave the actual counter" make any sense? I don't think this is something people commonly do.
And about the following phrase, maybe it is a play of words, but what's the use of using one meaning twcie in two ordered phrases?

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Re: I have some questions

Postby Babbsagg » 2017-03-19, 17:29

To be honest, I don't think that rap lyrics always make a lot of sense. Neither do they always hold up to literature standards. It's mostly over the top self-aggrandisement mixed with third-rate wordplays.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby Dormouse559 » 2017-03-19, 18:01

LifeDeath wrote:But does "heave the actual counter" make any sense? I don't think this is something people commonly do.
It's not supposed to be taken literally. Like Babbsagg said, Eminem is making a pun. A feeling of empowerment can be expressed by talking about literal feats of strength or power. (A fairly common phrase is "I feel like I could take on/conquer the world".) So when he talks about lifting up the liquor counter, he is communicating how powerful he feels figuratively, not his literal, physical strength. The second part of the pun explains why he feels powerful; he is "raising the bar", which, if you interpret it literally, means the same thing as the previous line, but as an idiom it means that he is breaking records, like Babbsagg said, performing better than anyone else before him. The basic message of those two lines is "I feel extraordinarily powerful because I am the best at what I do."

LifeDeath wrote:And about the following phrase, maybe it is a play of words, but what's the use of using one meaning twcie in two ordered phrases?
That's English-language wordplay for you. A popular source of humor is to play with different levels of meaning. Eminem's lyric is clever because on one level he says the same thing twice with different words, but on another level he says two different yet cohesive things.

I'm trying to describe the attraction of such wordplay. Think of it as the language equivalent of those optical illusions where, depending on how you look at a picture, you can see either a rabbit or a duck.
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Re: I have some questions

Postby LifeDeath » 2017-03-20, 12:39

That's an interesting point. But why does he use different aspects of tenses? "I'm strong enough to lift the whole liquor counter up" is a present tense expressing future intentions, he feels that he's strong enough to go to the club aqd lift the counter in the future. Or it can be a theoretical assumption, which, I think, is almost the same (cause any future intentions are theoretical until they finally come true).
"I'm raising the bar", on the other hand, is a progressive action. I think it's mainly used to talk about things that one is going to start doing in a short time, or already in process. Why wouldn't they be two similar tenses? I think then the wordplay would look more interesting (well I know that the problem's in me, because I'm maybe not familiar with such usage).

Here's the example to show what I mean:
"I think I'm strong enough to go to the pub
I'm drinking some beer".

So you see, doesn't it sound strange when different aspects are used?

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Re: I have some questions

Postby linguoboy » 2017-03-20, 14:23

Babbsagg wrote:To be honest, I don't think that rap lyrics always make a lot of sense. Neither do they always hold up to literature standards. It's mostly over the top self-aggrandisement mixed with third-rate wordplays.

You need to listen to different rappers.

LifeDeath wrote:That's an interesting point. But why does he use different aspects of tenses? "I'm strong enough to lift the whole liquor counter up" is a present tense expressing future intentions, he feels that he's strong enough to go to the club and lift the counter in the future. Or it can be a theoretical assumption, which, I think, is almost the same (cause any future intentions are theoretical until they finally come true).

I'd say the latter. At least I don't get a strong sense of future intentions from this sentence.

LifeDeath wrote:"I'm raising the bar", on the other hand, is a progressive action. I think it's mainly used to talk about things that one is going to start doing in a short time, or already in process. Why wouldn't they be two similar tenses? I think then the wordplay would look more interesting (well I know that the problem's inwith me, because I'm maybe not familiar with such usage).

Because this action is in progress if you take it in the non-literal meaning Dormouse explained: This rap is creating a new standard by which performances will be judged.


LifeDeath wrote:Here's the example to show what I mean:
"I think I'm strong enough to go to the pub
I'm drinking some beer".

So you see, doesn't it sound strange when different aspects are used?

Not really. As you said (and as I've explained before), the progressive is used for future actions in the same way as the simple present. The time doesn't have to be especially short either, e.g. "We’re not going to South Africa this year, Peru next year and somewhere else the year after that and the year after that."

The only mismatch I see is between the certainty of the second sentence (spoken as if going to the pub were a definite intention) and the tentativeness of the first. But a sentence like, "If I'm strong enough go to the pub tonight I'm drinking some beer" is completely natural.
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