Tag Archives: accent

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll

That’s short for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

What is this gobbledygook, you ask? One very long word, for starters. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a village in Wales; the name is shortened to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll and commonly known as Llanfair PG or Llanfairpwll.

Wow, long name, Batman!

I am not making this up.

Llanfair station sign, photo by cyberinsekt

Llanfair station sign, photo by cyberinsekt

I started giggling while trying to pronounce it, from the English orthography guide: Llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch. My tongue was tripped up a few times.

The name is Welsh for “St. Mary’s church in the hollow of the white hazel near to the rapid whirlpool and the church of St. Tysilio of the red cave”.

I love new words! I love language.

Listen to the name of the town, as spoken by a person with a South Wales accent.

Satellite maps of the village.

Photos taken in the village.

OK, you can start making fun of me for enjoying this now.

Beijing or Beijing?

I had been wondering, while watching the games of the 29th Olympiad (and so much reporting on same), which was the correct way to pronounce the name of this, the capital city of China, Beijing. Turns out, yes, there is.

I’ve heard it pronounced a couple different ways mostly — with a hard J sound and instead with a softer sound, as in measure.

I came across the answer in my feed reader today. Thank you, Language Log. Along with the answer to my query, the post is quite interesting. Have a read!

Update: Another post over at Language Log, this time posing the query, do people who live in Beijing really pronounce the hard J? Like me, they’re apparently given to “gliding over” or slurring consonants.

Language learning help online

I found this site today via a comment on my blog, on a previous post. Using the “Please call Stella” paragraph from the Speech Accent Archive, KanTalk lets people record themselves speaking the brief snippet and post the recording at its site, to allow for critique. The purpose: Help non-native English speakers improve their speech in English. Users can Skype each other, as well.

Although much less academic in nature than the initial Archive, this project could be great. An online tool that can truly aid language learning. Kudos.

Subdividing the South

With all the new words being added to the public consciousness each year, perhaps we should consider new words for different parts of the South.

One friend, who grew up in Arkansas and lives here still, says that this is more Midwestern than Southern:

Many people consider me to be Southern, and while I often take it as a compliment (even if it wasn’t intended that way), it’s not one I deserve. Northwest Arkansas, in my opinion, is not the South. It has a great deal of history related to the Ozarks, people who didn’t take a side in the Civil War or fought with the Union. But it’s a completely different flavor from the South, where my folks grew up [west Tennessee and southern Georgia]. In the South, ladies wore (and wear) heals and pearls to football games, they speak with various Southern accents, none of which I’ve been able to master. My brother can imitate my south Georgia relatives, and we all fall in the floor laughing. My mother’s friend from Mississippi pronounces my name with four syllables, but it’s hardly Elizabeth. More like Liz-a-BAY-uth. They still hold debutante and coming-out parties in south Georgia, and many high school dances are still held separately for white and black students, or were combined in the last couple of years (check out NPR, and I’m obviously not endorsing that!).

In some ways, I can see where she’s coming from. Northwest Arkansas is growing rapidly, and I’d guess that many of the newcomers aren’t Southerners. Actually, I wouldn’t consider myself a Southerner, either, although for purposes of residence clarity, I will call myself an Arkansan. It seems a term such as Southerner or the South are more defined by history than by the present day. I’ll claim Arkansan, simply because it’s my state of residence. But Southerner? I’d have had to grow up in the South, and I didn’t.

I certainly agree that Arkansas is not part of the Deep South. (Hence the distinguishing term, though.)

As another friend (from Virginia) pointed out, the Southern states that are on the East Coast have characteristics that the other Southern states (including Arkansas, obviously) don’t share. This is something Arkansas shares with the Midwest, but it seems a weak way to argue that Arkansas is not part of the South, to say that it’s not Eastern. Alas.

According to all standard measures, Arkansas is part of the traditional South: It seceded from the Union. Arkansas is also part of the traditional Southern Democrat phenomenon. It certainly shares many of the characteristics of the South mentioned in A Prairie Home Companion‘s program from Georgia this weekend.

Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective: I’m Midwestern, and Northwest Arkansas isn’t that. Elizabeth’s from further south, and she more clearly sees the distinctions of this area from there.

Maybe we should take a cue from car commercials on TV, which subdivides many regions into smaller pieces and sort of creates new identities for their residents. Car commercials label Arkansas “mid-south,” and although it may not be coining a new word, it could work. Oklahoma is termed “southwest” by car commercials.

The U.S. Census Bureau classifies 16 states as Southern, and it further breaks them into divisions:
• The four East South Central states are Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.
• The eight South Atlantic states are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.
• The four West South Central states are Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.

Aside from being clinical, though, these terms add confusion to the situation: Maryland wasn’t part of the Confederacy, and Oklahoma and Texas are not included in any definition of the South I’ve ever seen.

In the interim, I’ll continue using the standard, universal, traditional terminology when needed.

Arkansan? Arkie? Or Arkansawyer?

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is asking its readers to weigh in on which descriptor they use to describe themselves, as why.

I’ll be interested in the results. I referenced this conundrum in a post last week.

A former co-worker, here in Northwest Arkansas, was adamant on this: He calls himself an Arkansawyer, but he calls me an Arkansan. The difference? I didn’t grow up here. My family heritage does not involved Arkansas. He did and his does. He is proud to call himself an Arkansawyer.

Then again, members of Leadership Benton County, which I was part of in 2005-2006, were firm that terminology such as Arkansawyer only helped entrench the rest of the country’s low opinion of Arkansas, which is apparently not to different from the Arkansas depicted in Beverly Hillbillies.

Many of the residents of Northwest Arkansas (an average of 1,196 people move to Northwest Arkansas every month) are not originally from here, and they tend to fight the negative stereotypes.

Identifying the residents of other (mainly Midwestern) states where I’ve lived is not an issue; the populous agrees. Is this a situation unique to Arkansas, United States?

I call myself an Arkansan: This term follows the conventions used in many other states for one, which makes it the logical choice. I don’t really like the term Arkansawyer, or Arkie, particularly in formal contexts, because they seem so informal and uneducated.

Speech Accent Archive

Over at Metrolingua I found a fun toy today, a Speech Accent Archive. It’s a product of extensive research:

The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers.

I could spend a lot of time listening to the same paragraph so many times! I just wish the notes (and transcription) were complete on each sample.