Lesson 9 Monday 20th May

Today was the last formal lesson. Next week, during the lesson time, in Aula 12, VC, students can come to try out their material on the computer and projector system. Everyone should have chosen their topic by now, so anyone who has not must come to see me during office hours on Tuesday 21st May (11.30-1.30) or Friday 24th May (10-12 noon). We went through points on how to lay out material on slides (less is more!), font choice and size (sans serif such as Arial, Helvetica, Liberation Sans, Verdana, at least 32), equipment needed (your Presentation on computer and/or  pen drive, notes, hand-outs, printed version of References and print-out of slides 4 or 6 to a page to hand in to me at end of Presentation, bottle of water + paper cup, tissues), what to do if something goes wrong: relaxation and breathing exercises if struck by panic or you forget what you were going to say next, + look at your notes, use a hand-out if the projector refuses to cooperate. You will be marked both on your material and on your Presentation Skills (including slides) and particularly since this is an English Language exam, make sure you don't make any classic mispronunciations and don't have any grammar mistakes on your slides. We also suggested that neat, smart appearance is to be recommended for the Presentation, as a courtesy to your audience (but don't overdo it!).

I am putting up some Choice files to book the date and time for your Presentation. Please remove your name if you discover that you won't be ready in time for the slot you book, since in this way you won't waste my time waiting for you to show up and perhaps somebody else could use the slot.

If you have any doubts or queries, please contact me in person. You can telephone during office hours if you can't manage to come in person: 055 2756639.

Please remember all the points we have been over for Presentation Skills also when you (Lingua students) are doing your Presentation for Prof. Samson!

Remember to use only reputable academic material for your Topic research. This means material published in books or academic journals which will have been peer-reviewed and material on university websites if put there by members of the teaching staff, not material put up by students. Try Research Gate and the Library.

Any students who have been absent for more than two lessons will need to do the Make Up Work (available at Copisteria X) before they can have a final mark for this course.

Lesson 8 Monday 13th May

Penultimate lesson today, last lesson will be next week, Monday 20th May. We dealt with Indian English today, one of the Outer Circle (Kachru) Englishes where English has become Institutionalised and functions as the associate national language, primarily for communication between Indians rather than between Indians and native English speakers (though this also happens). It is now a recognised variety of English with its own Pronunciation, Vocabulary, Grammar and Discourse Style. We went over some of the features of Indian English, especially the Pronunciation which is marked by a general shortening of vowels and diphthongs (RP /ɪ/ and /i:/ both pronounced as /ɪ/), the lack of dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/, which are pronounced as plosives /t/ and /d/, pronunciation of /w/ as /v/, geminate consonants in middle of words, rhoticity. In contrast to Standard English, Indian English is a syllable-timed language, not a stress-timed language. We also looked at Vocabulary with compounding of words from English to provide term for culture- specific Indian items (e.g.dining leaf), addition of suffix or prefix to existing English words ('spacy', 'teacheress'), use of indigenous words. For Grammar we noted the lack of marking for plurals, use of specific/non specific rather than definite/indefinite system for articles, lack of marking for past tenses, application of continuous tenses to stative verbs, change of word order in noun phrases, invariant question tags ('no?', 'isn't it?). For Discourse style, the use of polite phrases, deferential language which would be considered excessive by Inner Circle speakers.          

For Presentation Skills we dealt with End of Presentation and Questions and the importance of continuing to look at the audience and maintain contact with them when soliciting and answering Questions, making sure to look interested and smile.   

The length of your Presentations should be 10-12 minutes and you should use 6-8 slides. At next week's lesson we shall deal exclusive with Presentation Skills and go over structure and  content of Presentation and format of slides, equipment and what to do if something goes wrong.

You should be selecting your Topic now and submitting it to me for approval (in person, not by mail!), as time is getting short. I hope it goes without saying that you should use only English language sources for the material for your Presentations. Use serious academic sources, not Wikipedia or non-peer-reviewed material on the web. We can use the lesson timetable for Presentations on Monday 27th May and Monday 3rd June and I shall set other times and book rooms during the Exam session. I shall put up Choice files in our section of the page for each of you to book your time for your Presentation.

Homework for the next lesson (Monday 20th May)

(i)  Look at the material on the British Library link: Indian English (British Library link);

(ii) Sampling of Indian accents

(iii) School in the Cloud Ted Talk (1)

(iv) Hole in the wall Ted Talk (2)                              

Lesson 7 Monday 6th May

Relatively low attendance today. Remember that there will be extra work to do for anyone who has missed more than two lessons! After today, there will be only two more lessons: Lesson 8 (13.06.19) and Lesson 9 (20.05.19). We discussed what you had discovered in your evaluation of radio and television news broadcasts. Most people thought that there was more voice quality and variation in tone, speed and volume in the radio broadcasts than in the television ones, since for the radio the voice had to do all the work of maintaining contact with the audience and making sure the information was communicated effectively whereas for the television the physical sight of the newscaster, as well as background images, meant that facial expression and (limited) body movements established the connection with the audience and kept their attention. A Presentation is halfway between these tow experiences, since you will have direct contact with the audience but what you will be saying will all be new to them and they will need to be able to understand and assimilate, as well as trusting you.

We went over the features of three Inner Circle Englishes: Canadian, Australian and New Zealand Englishes.

For Presentation Skills we went over Nerves (pros and cons) and Body language 

(to be continued)

Homework for the next lesson (Monday 13th May)

(i) Practise the confidence, breathing, relaxation and physical stance techniques outlined in the lesson. Get helpful feedback from a friend: “Do I look relaxed and confident?”

(ii) Begin to think about your Topic for your Presentation:

Material still to be covered in lessons: Indian English, Singapore English, Features of Outer Circle and Expanding Circle languages 

Lesson 6 Monday 29th April

We went over the Paragraph you had prepared for Homework and two brave volunteers read it aloud for us. It was immediately obvious to both the volunteers and to the rest of the class that they were speaking too quickly for the audience to understand, follow and assimilate what they were saying. This almost always inevitably happens, especially because feeling nervous and wanting the experience to be over as quickly as possible makes you speak faster. This is why a lot of practice need s to be done to reach the appropriate speed of delivery for a Presentation. The volume is also important and will depend on the size of the room and the number of people present in it. In both cases (speed and volume) they will be different from ordinary conversation. Practice is needed with feedback from a helpful friend is needed to establish the appropriate speed and volume.

We also looked at the structure of the paragraph and how it had several inserts between commas or in brackets. Remembering the work we had done on Intonation, it is important to be able to communicate to the audience that these are secondary pieces of information. One of the pieces of bracketed information was also a humourous comparison and the contrast needed to be emphasised in order to establish a good relationship with the audience. The paragraph also used repetitions and sequences of three elements. Intonation and change of volume and speed needed to be used also for these.

Recommended speed for a Presentation is approx. 100-110 words per minute. Practise using the Homework paragraph  (199 words). Read it aloud and time yourself. Continue until you manage to do it in 1 minute 45 seconds.

Pauses are important to give both you and your audience time to catch your breath (audience metaphorically, you both metaphorically and physically!). Pauses will also give the impression that you are confident and in control.

We also went over the characteristics of the four Englishes you had listened to for Homework: Scottish (Edinburgh), Welsh (Pontypridd), Northern Irish (Belfast) and irish (Dublin). It was interesting to see that several of the 'tricky' phonemes we have been practising in the course ( /ɜ:/, /ʌ/, /θ/, /ð/, /ŋ/) were either absent or took different forms in these Englishes. I pointed out that in each of these four countries there is an indigenous language which is not English.


(i) Practise reading the Paragraph aloud as though for a Presentation, timing yourself and asking a friend to comment on speed, volume and clarity;

(ii) Practise reading aloud the paragraph on facts and figures on the Moodle page (it turned out to be three (short) paragraphs): Facts and Figures Paragraph;

(iii) Listen to a news broadcast (in English) on the radio and a news broadcast on the television. Evaluate the delivery according to these questions:

Quality of voice: is it soft, harsh, musical, flat?

Volume and speed: can you hear easily and do you have time to listen, understand and assimilate the information?

Use of voice: does the speaker vary the volume and speed, emphasising key words or facts?

Articulation: can you hear and identify each word, including new and unfamiliar terms?

Silence: does the speaker pause regularly?

Are there any differences between the radio broadcast delivery and the television broadcast delivery?

You could try the Exercise on Italian radio and television news broadcasts as well (not instead!) if you like.

Lesson 5 Monday 8th April

After all our worrying about whether Via Laura would be open for lessons or not, it turned out that it was and we had the lesson there with no problems. The projector even behaved itself and took up no time in starting to work - typical now that we shall be in Aula 12 VL for our next lessons! Speaking of which, remember that there is no lesson next week (April 15th) or the week after, so our next lesson  (Lesson 6) will be on Monday 29th April.

We began by going through the last two phonemes I wanted to focus on as being difficult for learners, the dental fricatives, /θ/  and  /ð/  always representing the spelling 'th'.  As these are fricatives they are produced by passing the air through a narrow space formed by the articulators, in this case the tongue and the back of the top teeth, or alternatively the tongue and top and bottom teeth.  The important thing is not to press hard or close the space: if you press hard with the tip of your tongue on the alveolar ridge you will produce the alveolar plosives /t/ and /d/ and if you press the sides of the sides of your tongue you will produce the alveolar fricatives /s/ and /z/. If you close the space, no air or sound will come out (and you  will choke!). Some regional varieties of English substitute /θ/ and /ð/ with /f/ and /v/, which is known as 'fronting'. The unvoiced (no vibration in your throat since vocal cords open) /θ/  can be found at the beginning and end of words or syllable, but never in the middle. It is used with words which come into English from Greek such as 'thesis', 'theory', 'theatre' but also some very frequent native words such as 'thick', 'thin', 'through', 'three', thirteen', 'thirty', 'thousand' and is very common at the end of words: 'both', 'bath', 'month, 'moth', 'breath' 'tooth'.  The voiced (vibration in your throat since vocal cords almost closed)  /ð/, in contrast, can appear in any part of the syllable although it is rare at the end: 'the', 'this', 'that', 'they', 'them, these', 'those', 'though', 'mother', 'brother', 'father', 'rather', 'other', 'either', 'neither', 'with'.

We carried on with the Discourse function of intonation, paying particular attention to how intonation can signal new and important information or important rather than subordinate information. These functions are very important for Presentations where the audience needs to be able to recognise from the intonation of the delivery what the most important sections are and what is given or already known information. Higher pitch, slower speed, wider pitch range and increased loudness all signal important information. We experimented with dividing a test into 'sense units' which is very useful for reading aloud and noting how these can combine with the intonation features.

We went over the characteristics of the West Midland (Walsall) accent (Brummie) and dialect and the Liverpool accent and dialect (Scouse). I told you that the West Midland accent is the least appreciated regional accent by speakers from other regions and that the Liverpool accent differs from other accents from the same general area due to the large influx of people from Ireland during the 19th and 20th centuries, which has incorporated elements of the Irish accent into it.

We finished by going very briefly through what we shall be dealing with as regards Presentation form and Presentation Skills during the rest of the course. The topic of your Presentation should be chosen from the material we have covered (and will be continuing to look at) during the course: Pronunciation, Register (still to do), Intonation, Regional dialects and accents of the UK, World Englishes.

Homework for the next lesson (Monday 29th April)

There's a long break between our lessons now, so lots of Homework to keep you busy!

(i) Practise /θ/ and /ð/ extensively in all positions (the phoneme, not you!). Be careful not to ‘front’ them.

(ii) Practise reading aloud the Paragraph in our section of the Moodle page, working out tonic syllables, new information and shared or given information and adopting the appropriate intonation.

(iii) Listen to all the recordings we have done so far and see if you can follow them more easily now. 

(iv) Listen to the recordings (33,34)Edinburgh, (37, 38)Belfast,  (39, 40)Dublin and (15, 16)Pontypridd. Check with the Word List each time.

(v) Listen to the extra recordings I shall put on the Moodle page. Try to identify the accents. I'm afraid I ran into technical hitches here, so couldn't put them up untio very late and not even all the ones I wanted (+ in the wrong order!). If you see them, try anyway, if not, we can do them later. Regional accent (i), Regional accent (ii), Regional accent (iii) - click on video .

Lesson 4 Monday 1st April

I told you that next week's lesson (Lesson 5) will be in Aula 6, VL, but that then we shall have a break of two weeks with no lesson (Monday 15th April and Monday 22nd April) and then start up again with Lesson 6 on Monday 29th April in yet another Room, AULA 12 VIA LAURA.

After many minutes of fun and games with the projector we got the lesson started and collected some of the Homograph pairs you had found for Homework: discount (n.) and discount (v.), import (n.) and import (v.) - and the two exports - tear (n.) and tear (v.) (different semantic meanings) and I added project (n.) and project (v.) - I wonder where I found the inspiration for that one!

We then began the complex subject of Intonation and I showed you Peter Roach's opinion that foreign learners of English can only learn English intonation as a child learns it, by listening to and copying speakers of English - even though he spends five chapter of his Introduction to English Phonetics and Phonology in explaining it! We went through the four hypothesised functions of Intonation: Attitudinal, Accentual, Grammatical and Discourse, discovering how these tend to overlap and not be mutually exclusive. With respect to the Attitudinal function we experimented with the other ways of expressing emotion and attitudes when we speak, using variations in speed and volume, pitch, voice quality, facial expression, gestures. We shall continue with the Discourse function next lesson since this is the most important from the point of view of Presentations.

We then went over the characteristics of the two dialect accents you had listened to as Homework last week: Middlesbrough, a 'mild' version of Geordie and Northumberland a 'strong' version of Geordie. Geordie is a dialect which is very different from those of the rest of England and Wales and resembles Lowland Scots. Both of these 'languages' developed from Old English without either the influence of Latin from the Romans (who did not reach this far) nor the Norman French (who also did not manage to subdue this region). For this reason it contains many words which come from Old English such as bairn (child), wife (adult woman), larn (teach) canny (good, clever, kind), bonny (beautiful, fine). It has no /h/ dropping, but does share the lack of 'foot-strut' division and 'trap-bath' division characteristic of all Northern dialects. Glottalisation of /p/, /t/ and /k/ is another characteristic as is the pronunciation of RP forms with /aɪ/ as /ɛi/ and /eə/  as /ɛ:/  and  /ɜ:/ as /ɔ:/.


(i) Listen to the Audio recordings from Walsall and Liverpool (numbers 17, 18, 25, 26). I have put a copy of the Word List which is used in the recordings in our section of the page. I had to take a photograph of it from the book, so it's rather dark. I suggest you print a copy of it;

(ii) Listen to the Audio recording of Slog's Dad (a short story by the Northumbrian writer David Almond) which should be easier to follow than the Geordie audio text of last week, since this is read by a professional reader and you now have some keys to understanding the accent.

Lesson 3 Monday 25th March

We had the lesson in our new (for the next three weeks) room, Aula 6 in Via Laura. There is more space than we need and the projector gave us some trouble to begin with, but let's hope that these were just teething problems.

We went over the /ɜ:/ words you had found and some more that I had found, along with the various spellings the phoneme can represent. We went over Rhoticity and the (lack of ) pronunciation of the phoneme /r/ except when followed by a vowel phoneme, therefore never in end position of a word except in continuous discourse when it may be used as a continuant to smooth the pronunciation of a word which ends with a vowel phoneme when followed by a word which begins with a vowel phoneme. This is the case with RP whereas other regional varieties and world Englishes are rhotic, most noticeably American English. We looked at Kachru's Three Circle Model of the Spread of English: the Inner Circle (basically the ENL countries), the Outer Circle (basically the ESL countries) and the Expanding Circle (basically the EFL countries) with the first as 'norm-providing', the second as 'norm-developing' and the third as 'norm-dependent'. The model has caused quite a lot of controversy, but it should be remembered that it was not intended to represent superiority or inferiority in any way.

We then looked at Word Stress, starting off with the importance of Strong and Weak Syllables. Only Strong Syllables can be stressed; Weak Syllables ca never be stressed. We also noticed the distinction that (weak syllables never being stressed given) nouns tend to have the stress closer to the beginning of the word while verbs tend to have the stress closer to the end of the word. This can be seen very well in the Homographic word class pairs of noun-verb such as contract (n.) - contract (v.), object (n.) - object (v.), etc. We noticed how the vowel phoneme changed to become weaker in the unstressed syllable.

We looked Compound Words where the stress is usually on the first word of the pair, except where the first term is adjectival and the second is in the past participle form (bad tempered) or a number ( ten-fold) or the whole pair forms a verb (upgrade, downsize). We looked at the suffices which are always unstressed (-ful, -ness. -less, -able/ible, -ment, -ly, -ous, -es) and the prefix which is unstressed: un-.


(i) Try to find three more homographic word class noun-verb pairs, or other word classes if you can't find noun-verb.

(ii) Read the article by Paul Kerswill 'Mobility, Meritocracy, Dialect-Levelling: The Fading (Fasing) Out of Received Pronunciation' . I have left a photocopy in Copisteria X and Naomi has found a version of it on-line on the Research Gate site.

(iii) Access the website www.hodderplus.com/linguistics

I have just discovered that it has been taken over by Routledge so I have put that link in our section of the page. When the book site opens up click on eResources and then on Download Resources and a zip file will open up with all the audio files. If it asks you for the Password etc. , it's below.

Username: ACCENTSstudent

Password: dialects 

Class/teacher: Christine Richardson University of Florence

Listen to the audio tracks 29a, 29b, 30a, 30b, 46a, 46b

Lesson 2 Monday 18th March

I apologised to everyone for the missed lesson last week, but I was really too ill to teach. Ironically I tried to go back to work the next day and made myself even iller! Fingers crossed for now!

We went over the 're-' words you had found fro Homework and their pronunciation, finding that when the 're' could not be separated from the main part of the work with a hyphen, the stress was on the second syllable (not the 're') and the pronunciation was /rɪ/, whereas when it could be separated the pronunciation was /'ri:/. We went over the main points from the talk by David Crystal which I was pleased to see you had all managed to access and listen to successfully. The idea of a standard form of a language and a standard pronunciation is a dilemma. Is a model needed? Which model should it be? Are all dialects equal? Is standard English only "the minority dialect" (David Crystal)?

We then went on some more problematic vowel phonemes: /e/, /æ/ and /ʌ/, all of which are clearly distinct sounds for native speakers of English but which are often not as clearly distinct for non-native speakers. /æ/ is a strong vowel and appears in monosyllables and stressed syllables of polysyllabic words, so not as the letter 'a' at the beginning of words such as 'appear', 'ago', 'away', 'along', 'about', 'around', etc, which have /ə/. Although /æ/ is always represented graphically as 'a' (with the exception of 'plait' and 'plaid'), 'a' is not always pronounced /æ/!  /ʌ/ has many graphic representations including 'u' (but, much, trust), 'o' (love, above, cover, some, come, Monday, money, mother), 'ou' (young, country, cousin) and is the vowel phoneme for the 'un-' prefix (unhappy, unlucky).

We then began think about how many speakers of English there are in the contemporary world and what kind of English they speaker, first tracing the history of the spread of English from the approx. 6 million speakers in England at the beginning of the 17th century, through the first 'diaspora' (Jennifer Jenkins) to other parts of Britain and to North America and the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand. The second diaspora was then to Africa and Asia.

We can now distinguish four kinds of English:

ENL -English as Native Language

ESL - English as Second Language

EFT - English as Foreign Language

ELF - English as Lingua Franca

NB Next week's lesson will be in Aula 6, Via Laura, as will be the lessons of April 1st (really, no joke!), and April 8th. More news about the lessons after that to come!


(i) Find as many words as possible which contain the vowel phoneme  /ɜ:/ ; write them down and attempt to transcribe them (Hint: the word 'word' contains this phoneme!)

(ii) Read the article by Jennifer Jenkins on English as a Lingua Franca (link in our section of page)

Lesson 1 Monday 4th March

After much counting of students present and listening to sob stories about why some of you hadn't signed up, or had come even though the course was full and insisting on the fact that I cannot take more bodies than seats, we began the lesson.

We went over the intended course programme: the active and passive elements of Spoken English. Active in students' production of spoken English, for which we shall go over Pronunciation, Intonation and Register before concentrating on Presentation Skills and passive in looking at (and listening to) Regional varieties of UK English and some  World Englishes. The end-of-semester Verifica will be in the form of an individual Presentation on something to do with one of the topics covered in the course (must be approved my me).

We began with Pronunciation, making friends again (for unifi triennale students) or fro the first time (students who did their first degree in other universities) the RP Phoneme Chart. After going very quickly over the sounds of all the phonemes we began to look at those which cause particular problems for non-native speakers and mark those who mispronounce them immediately as a foreigner. The first sounds were the /I:/, the /ɪ/ and the /i/. Only the last of these, used to represent the sound of the final 'y' or 'ey' when forming a syllable of words (e.g. happy, carry, money, etc.) is similar to the Italian /i/. The other two are much shorter (/ɪ/) and much longer (/i:/). The contrast in length becomes very evident in the words 'busy' and 'easy: /'bɪzi/ and /'i:zi/. It is important also to remember that the consonant following a vowel phoneme lengthens it if voiced and shortens it if unvoiced.


(i) Find five more ‘re’ words pronounced with /ɪ/ and five more ‘re’ words pronounced with /i:/. Where is the stress in each case?

(ii) Watch the ‘Happy Vowel’ video (link in Section)

(iii) Watch the video of David Crystal on Standard and non-standard Language (link in Section)

Ultime modifiche: lunedì, 18 novembre 2019, 17:49