The sounds and allophones of Taiwan English II
(with allophone-writing exercise)
Note: Make sure that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font installed in your computer so that the IPA symbols will display correctly.
Below is a passage from a local English textbook which has been transcribed into IPA symbols to represent the way it might be read by speakers of 'Taiwan English'. You may laugh when you recognize some of the very typical local pronunciations in it. It is a composite transcription, so it will not be consistent in places; though it is possible for an individual to be inconsistent as well. A few pronunciations (like [suz] for shoes) are typical of Malaysian English, since the transcription was based on readings by all of the students in a phonetics class from a previous year, and a few of these were ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. But mostly it is authentic Taiwan English!
read the text out loud to decipher it, then write it out in regular English
Next, as an exercise, write out ten 'rules' of Taiwan English, based on the incorrect pronunciations represented in the passage. If you have other verifiable examples, you may write rules based on those, too; this passage does not by a long shot cover all the possibilities. After doing this exercise, one student commented: "I had no idea there were so many things wrong with our English!" Rather than feeling disheartened, though, you should feel glad that you will now have a much better understanding of what constitutes really good pronunciation, and you will be able to put your finger on just where the problems are. You will then be in a good position to fix the problems you identify.
Remember to note errors in both segments (consonants and vowels) and stress and timing. Although there is a special phonological notation used for writing allophonic rules (e.g. this rule means that 'obstruents are voiced in intervocalic position': [- sonorant] → [+ voiced]/V___V), we will write out the rules in regular prose similar to what we have encountered in chapters 3 and 4 of Ladefoged's A Course in Phonetics. Prose rules are longer and wordier but easier to understand, and on this page we will try to keep everything as clear and straightforward as possible. You may look at one or two of the rules on the next page as a model to get yourself started; but please do your own work, as well as you can, and don't just copy the rules. You may find ones not mentioned in the rules on the next page, or your interpretation of the data may sometimes be different than what is given in the sample rules.
Sample passage of Taiwan English transcribed into IPA:
to think about:
(1) Is Taiwan English a completely non-rhotic dialect? Where is postvocalic /r/ most often pronounced, and where is it most often omitted?
(2) What is the distribution of /ɛ/, /æ/ and /eɪ/ in Taiwan English? Do they occur in free variation? Or are there a few typical patterns, and individuals tend to follow one or the other of them? What are these patterns?
(3) Usually a syllable-final nasal 'allophone' has the same backness feature as the preceding vowel; but the high and mid-high vowels /i/, /ɪ/, /u/, and /ʊ/ seem to be exceptions in many cases. Can you think why this might be?
(4) Are there any discernible, consistent rules of stress in Taiwan English? What are they?
(5) Do you think that English orthography (spelling) sometimes leads to incorrect 'spelling' pronunciations in Taiwan English? Do you think these come directly from the written form of the word, or are they simply transmitted through faulty teaching? (If you think the incorrect pronunciations come directly from the spelling, that would suggest that Taiwan English speakers have some knowledge of English phonics «÷Åªªk, which has not been taught in public schools until quite recently; you would need to explain this.) Give examples of incorrect spelling pronunciations in Taiwan English.
After you have done your best to come up with at least ten allophonic rules of Taiwan English, you can compare your work to the sample rules on the next page.
Next: The sounds and allophones of Taiwan English III (with sample allophonic rules)
on to next page back index I index II home