Talk:Non-native pronunciations of English/Archive1

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Asian Numbers

I decided to take out the references in Cantonese, East Asian languages, Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean to "trouble with numbers larger than ten thousand." While it's an interesting piece of information, it's not going to manifest itself in speech except for a "pause before saying big numbers." AEuSoes1 19:17, September 8, 2005 (UTC)


Hello, I wrote down some annotations for myself, but I feel too lazy and too incompetent to decide what of it is useful and to work it in. In case anyone is interested:

Incorrect stressing of syllables; in most German words, the first syllable is stressed. Exceptions include words beginning with be-, ge-, er-, ver-, zer-, ent-, (and a few other prefixes); compound adverbs with her, hin, da, or wo; and loanwords to German from other languages. The stress normally falls on the second syllable in the former two examples. Even experienced speakers have difficulty placing stress on the final syllable.

-- I dare say this aims at the Swiss. I don't quite know how Swiss Germans speak English, but they (quite fascinatingly) always stress the first syllable when they speak French, and do so in German, too (eg canton is Kantón in German German, but Kánton in Swiss). Germans normally do not have problems with final-syllable stress.

German speakers may pronounce /w/ as [v], and /v/ as [f]. However, Bavarian lacks /v/, and Bavarians usually learn /w/ more easily than /v/ . In German spelling, the sounds corresponding to w and v are switched from English. Therefore, it's not uncommon for Germans to pronounce /w/ as [v] and vice versa or pronounce both as [ʋ] (a sound halfway between v and w).

-- Not true concerning German spelling/pronunciation. German <w> is /v/, German <v> is /f/ (not /w/!) in native words, /v/ in borrowings.

[dʒ] as in jam, is often devoiced, being pronounced as [tʃ].

-- Southerners. No problem for people from the North (Schleswig-Holstein and so). [ʒ] features in Low German, many elder people even carry it over to High German (the name Jürgen can then be pronouced /ʒY:(R)g@n/.

Lack of distinction between [æ] and [ɛ]: thus "man" and "men" are pronounced as the latter.

-- Or 'men' is hypercorrected to [mIn], heard it quite often.

+ People from the north have a typical way to pronounce final -er: not [@] as in standard English, but something like [E:] ('however' [hau'?EvE:]). They often do so in German as well, which is considered vulgar. Our English teacher did a great effort to eradicate this.

+ When we were learning English, many of us used to pronounced initial /tS/ like /S/ ('chair' = 'share' [Se:E:]). Initial /tS/ is very rare in German.

+ Immense problems with tenses! Present perfect/simple past, present/future, and over all the distinction between progressive and non-progressive tenses. The German tense system is simpler than the English one.

+ 'Finger' is often pronounced as in German, ie rhyming with 'singer'.

+ Attempt at a spelling pronunciation of initial wr- (ie the w is not silent as it should be -> [vr], [wr]).

+ Glottal stops in vowel hiatus, no gliding-over as in French: 'as a whole' [?es?@'hoUl] (don't know if this is non-standard in English).

+ In written language: tendency not to capitalise proper nouns when used as adjectives ('the english language as spoken by a German'), tendency to insert superfluous commas, esp. before subordinate clauses ('He said, that he wasn't there').

PS: Germans learn Commonwealth English in school, but there is a one-year or so focus on America and some of the AE--BE differences. More exposure to AE through MTV and the like, however. AE seems to be considered chique by many (perhaps BECAUSE they were taught to use BE …).

The bit about German stress was taken directly from the German phonology page. If it applies only to the Swiss then something must be done about that page as well. I don't really see the point in having a whole other section on Swiss German if we're going to lump High, Middle, and Low German anyway.

Your input is appreciated, and I've made some changes based on it, but it’s important to remember that we can’t put in stuff that we’ve noticed ourselves, since that would violate the policy on original research. This article has been criticized (see discussions below) on its lack of source citations and I’m sure there’s still some stuff in the article that’s either bogus or poorly researched. AEuSoes1 19:09, September 8, 2005 (UTC)

The article currently claims:

'Hochdeutsch (Standard German) lacks initial [s];'

I don't think this is true in practice. While most words with an initial /s/ tend to be realised with a [z], some are not. I think this is a general rule for words with an initial CC combination, like /sl/ or /sk/ (e.g. /slawisch/). Granted, I can't think of anything other than loan words and names that begin with CC combinations like that, but realising anything like that with a [z] would sound awkward to most Germans. — Ashmodai (talk · contribs) 20:36, 12 June 2006 (UTC)

German Stress

The anonymous speaks again:

I understand and appreciate our policy on original research. Nevertheless I deleted the bit on incorrect stress by German-speakers now because it is absolutely not the case. I know that, and whoever put it in in the first place will hardly ever be able to cite his/her sources as it is, I repeat, false (and it does not follow from what is written here). German is not Finnish ;).

I'm confused. As far as I can tell, what I put about German stress follows the German phonology section exactly, although worded slightly differently. Here's what the German Phonology section says:

The first syllable of German words receives stress, with the following exceptions:

  • Words beginning with be-, ge-, er-, ver-, zer-, ent- or a few others receive stress on their second syllable.
  • Compound adverbs, with her, hin, da, or wo as their first part, receive stress on their second part.
  • Many loanwords, especially proper names, keep their original stress.
and here's what I put:

Incorrect stressing of syllables; in most German words, the first syllable is stressed. Exceptions include words beginning with be-, ge-, er-, ver-, zer-, ent-, (and a few other prefixes); compound adverbs with her, hin, da, or wo; and loanwords to German from other languages. The stress normally falls on the second syllable in the former two examples. Even experienced speakers have difficulty placing stress on the final syllable.

If somehow I've changed the meaning by rewording, then it seems more appropriate to change the wording rather than delete the whole paragraph. I'll admit that, as the one who put the details in, that my only source is the German phonology page, but if it's invalid in this page then it's also invalid in the German phonology page. Yet you link to the latter as an implied acceptance of its accuracy. So there are two basic options here, we either keep the bit about German stress in both pages (albeit reworded to your liking in this page) or delete it in both. AEuSoes1 18:08, 23 September 2005 (UTC)

<start of my talk

Hi. The info on German phonology is correct&#0151;stress is usually on the first syllable of the word stem in native words, on any syllable (depending on etymology) in loan words (with a broad sense of loan word). But this does not entail that Germans have problems in putting the stress word-finally. There are plenty of everyday German words which are stressed on the final syllable (eg all those internationalisms on -tion, like Kommunikatión, Informatión, etc.).

What is true is that English stress might nevertheless pose a problem for German-speakers. But not because of word-finally stressed words, but because of (perceived) irregularity. Perhaps you had this in mind?

(Also, as I said, stress rules are slightly different in Swiss-coloured German.)

end of my talk>

All right, well we can simply put "Difficulty stressing the correct syllable" instead of "incorrect stressing of syllables." The point of the information on German stressing was not to say that they always stress words according to German rules but that any time that they do stress incorrectly, it may have to do with negative transfer of stressing rules or, as you say, because of perceived irregularity. If you feel that the implication is otherwise, you don't need to delete the paragraph. Just add something about transfer to the existing oneAEuSoes1 19:16, 6 October 2005 (UTC)

<commencement of Teutonic casuist's enunciation

I don't mind the wording 'incorrect stressing of syllables'. It was just the explanation given in the first place that was not accurate (which I think we have sorted out together now). But then it all cooks down to the (true) proposition that Germans have problems stressing their English correctly, and this can probably be said correspondingly about every group of non-native speakers of English (or any language with similarly complex stress rules). So, if we don't add something about the distinctive German way of mistreating English stress (which I am not able to do; if you can that would of course be great), the whole paragraph is not very informative (or even misleading if German is singled out), on account of which I had just deleted it instead of trying a rewording.

((Re-reading our discussion here, I'd like to apologise if my tone seems somewhat harsh sometimes (I'm not sure). I do have a functional command of English, but language registers are among the hardest things to grasp for non-native speakers of any language. <small>And btw I think ja sowieso English could ruhig take over some German hedge words ;).</small>))

end of German twaddler's talk>

I wouldn't worry too much about sounding harsh. I agree that speakers of other languages may have trouble stressing English words, but information about that difficulty is not readily available. AEuSoes1 01:22, 13 October 2005 (UTC)


Can we move all the features of the Irish to Distinguishing accents in English? Except any that pertain to Irish who are not native speakers of English.

Why are the Irish among the non-native speakers of English?

Mandarin: Much vs Many

I removed a statement from the Mandarin section:

  • Confusion of countable vs uncountable ("many" and "much") as they are not differentiated in Mandarin grammar.

Because it is false. I've never heard Mandarin speakers confuse these. In fact, Mandarin grammar prevents such confusion, because you have to know whether a noun is a count noun or not in certain contexts, more so than in English. (Refer to the measure word and noun classifier articles for more information on the affected area of Mandarin grammar.) That same feature should make the choice between "many" and "much" obvious for a Mandarin speaker, though it is true that there is no direct translation for the latter term - it's not needed because the presence or absence of a noun classifier signals the same thing as the much/many contrast in English.

pgdudda 01:48 Jan 8, 2003 (UTC)

I have had many Mandarin speakers confuse much/many in my 10 years of teaching ESL. Regardless of the grammar in Mandarin, this distinction in English poses problems for speakers of many languages, including Mandarin.Interlingua 13:29, 30 March 2006 (UTC)
I was referring specifically to "much" and "many". Even though, measure words are used extensively in Chinese, the measure word does not indicate whether "much" or "many" shoud be used for a situation. An example in English: "sheets of paper" (noun with measure word) does not indicate whether you will use "much" or "many" for "paper". It is more contextual.
  • How many sheets of paper do you have? (你有多少张纸?)
  • How much paper do you have? (你有多少纸?)
I have been asked many times whether "much" or "many" should be used for a situation. However, most fluent English speakers seem to have mastered this.
-- voidvector

I don't see a problem there: paper is uncountable, but sheets is countable. -- Tarquin 00:27 Jan 9, 2003 (UTC)

Hmm, I gave a flawed example. But my point was count nouns in Chinese does not help Chinese speakers identify the usage of "many" and "much". I think it is the difference between "actual countability" and "grammatically countability". In Chinese, measure words can be used to all nouns that address countable or measureable objects. In English, not all of those nouns are grammatically countable (e.g. homework, furniture, clothing, paper) -- voidvector
Besides, as your own "flawed" example shows, the count classifier 纸 itself would tell a Mandarin speaker that 多少 should be translated as "many". Now, if Mandarin-speaking students of English don't know this "trick", that's a flaw in teaching, not an inherent difficulty in learning. But that would still lead to the much vs. many confusion that you describe.
It doesn't help that "some" is in certain contexts a mass noun quantifier and in others a count noun quantifier. "How much paper? Some paper." vs. "How many sheets? Some sheets." A way to test for count-ness would be to try replacing ‘some’ with ‘a few’. If it works, you have a count noun. If not, it's a mass noun.
Additionally, it's simple enough to teach: If you can respond with "3hen 1duo", use "much"; if you can use a classifier+number in your response, use "many".
Dunno if that adds anything useful to the discussion. However, to state that Mandarin does not distinguish count nouns when it in fact does, is false. I'd be willing to amend it to something like: Confusion of count noun quantifiers vs. mass noun quantifiers (specifically "many" and "much") as they are not differentiated in Mandarin vocabulary.
-- pgdudda
I was trying to proof that the Chinese classifiers do not help Chinese speaker in identifying whether a noun is count noun or mass noun. That is what you brought up initially if I am not mistaken.
In Chinese, there are classifiers for both count nouns and mass nouns, and even some verbs. For everyday purpose, a Chinese do not need to know whether a classifier is a count, measurement, or others; instead, he only needs to know which classifier goes with which noun.
In English, the distinction between mass and count nouns leads to the usage of different words e.g. many, much, less, fewer, etc. Therefore, when the Chinese learns English, he will have no concrete way of distinguishing mass and count nouns. (Fluent English speaker distinguish them by memory and experience I believe.) Your test is also based on the same concept of mass and count, so it does not help in this case.
A Chinese will have to commit to memory that even though one can count the number of pieces of "furniture" in a room, "furniture" is actually a mass noun.
-- voidvector


This is a rather English-language-centric article. More accurate would be the title "How to tell the origin of an accent in the English language."

Well, yes it is Anglohpone-centric, and that's a good thing since the page is designed to help identify and remedy problems non-native speakers have when learning or speaking English. As English is the target language in these cases, it makes perfect sense for the article to take English as its center. This article is both descriptivist and prescriptivist, as is appropriate for something written with the express purpose of helping non-native speakers more closely approximate native-speaker pronunciation. A parallel focus would be appropriate for articles on how to help non-native speakers improve their pronunciation in another language (Spanish, Chinese, Guarani, kiSwahili).
While an article on how to identify the origin of an accent might be interesting, it would distinct from this one, both in purpose and organization. Such an article would be structured around various accents or departures from native-speaker English, for example replacing /θ/ with /t/ and then listing native languages whose speakers exhibit this pronunciation: German, Japanese, Nahuatl, etc. (but NOT Greek, Icelandic, Continental Spanish, Gulf Arabic, etc)Interlingua 13:37, 30 March 2006 (UTC)

Some info

Gritchka comments:

  • Cantonese
    • 'wh' is rare in English anyway; most accents have 'w'
    • 'th' - doesn't distinguish [T] from [D]
  • German
    • 'th' - as above
  • Japanese
    • bilabial f
  • Mandarin
    • m occurs initially, just not finally
  • New Zealander
    • six and seven are sux and siven
  • Persian
    • throat noise? Persian has a [k]. It also has [x] and /q/ (various realizations) but there's no reason their /k/ should be odd.
  • Russian
    • palatalized dental? Their cjonsjonantsj are oftjen pjaljatajalized but I don't know what you mean by this epenthetic consonant
  • Indian subcontinent
    • retroflex t d n l

I am simply commenting rather than changing it because it's a very vague grab-bag at the moment, and I'm not sure whether it's useful without more solid detail.

2002.03.28: Thank you, Gritchka. You are quite accurate in all of these comments. I just looked in here before making changes to the original article in case discussion shed light on why certain things weren't listed. I'll go make my changes now -- feel free to comment! (Intended changes are to New Zealand and that Indian retroflex thing. More if I think of good ways to address them.) -- pgdudda

I didn't just edit the article; what happened? -PierreAbbat

Seems to be a bug in the system -- this has happened to me too (found an edit I made in RecentChanges a day or two ago that I actually made in April).--maveric149

Gritchka, don't be so shy. If you have something to add, add it. If it will help identify an accent, add it.

Added following to East Asian accents:

  • When raising the tone at the end of a question "You did what?", often the last syllable is lengthened and sounds almost like it is being sung.

I have heard this frequently in Thai people, and in Hong Kong Chinese. I suspect that it is common amongst East Asian tonal languages, but others should review this. -- Chris Q 09:13 Jan 9, 2003 (UTC)

Russians might not distinguish between /x/ (Jose) and /h/ (house) when speaking English, but was /x/ considered to be an English phoneme to begin with? I pronounce San Jose, as in the city in California, as /s&n,hou'zei/, but then again I've never heard what a person from there has to say about that.

Hey, I'm an American teaching English to Mandarin speakers in Beijing and there are a few things that I've noticed. First, Mandarin chinese does not have the same 'h' as English. Rather, they have some something resembling /x/; as a result, Mandarin speakers tend to pronounce 'h' as /x/, the former sound being very hard for them. Those that are aware of the difference will often overcompensate and not pronounce the h at all, or much too softly. Secondly -- and this is most prevalent in the north where the Mandarin is very pure -- they have a tendancy to overly retroflex consonants, especially sh, zh and ch (pinyin) for sh, j and ch (english), respectively. Then, the closely related phenomenon of erhua, whereby the speaker gives the syllable's vowel a retroflex quality, sometimes audible as an 'r' to an English speaker (as in yi dianr) and sometimes not (as in dour, depending on the speaker) all significantly alter the vowel quality of the word they are pronouncing. When a Mandarin speaker does this in English, it creates a very bizarre pronunciation that can generally be corrected by instructing the Mandarin speaker to flatten his or her tongue. The non-retroflex x (pinyin) is pronounced almost as an s (but without the voiced quality it gives the following vowel) in some areas and as a result many Mandarin speakers attempting to pronounce 'sh' (in which the tongue is not retroflex) will end up pronouncing a sound that is, to an English speaker, indistinguishable from an s. This s/sh confusion is widespread and makes poor speakers of English very hard to understand. It is not a problem so much with people in the south of China and in Taiwan who generally have a very hard time pronouncing the retroflex consonants of Mandarin properly anyway.

Then, there are some grammatical issues that carry over. First of all, the declarative 'there is' is the same as 'have' (you3) in Mandarin, used without a subject. So it's quite common to hear a Mandarin speaker say 'over there have one' (nei bianr you yi ge) instead of the somewhat more correct 'there is one over there'. This brings up the subject of locative placement. The locative in English tends to be placed at the end of a clause unless it is meant to have focus; in Mandarin it is generally placed between the subject and the verb. This results in very bizarre sounding sentences.

One of the biggest differences that carries over is the yes/no problem. Chinese (and Japanese too) do not actually have words for yes and no. Japanese has hai/iie, but these do not express the same meaning as yes/no in one important and detectable sense: they actually mean affirmative/negative or alternatively correct/incorrect. The Chinese case is more complex but when speaking English this same confusion arises: when answering a negative question in English, we use 'no' to mean that we agree with the (negative) statement. For example, "You're not going to school today, are you?" is affirmed with "no", as in "No, I'm not." whereas the Japanese and Chinese would say "hai" or "dui", respectively. So in translation -- and this is an often tell-tale sign because the habit is incredibly hard to break -- a Chinese english speaker would answer the question with "yes" if he means in fact that he is not going to school. This leads to confusion.

In the preceding paragraph I mentioned the Chinese yes/no case being complex and this too affects their speech. By complex I mean that the Chinese don't actually have words that approximate yes and no at all. With the Japanese, hai and iie are used with approximately the same frequency as yes or no, with the small difference wrt negative questions mentioned above, and so they can be thought of as near translations for yes and no. Chinese, on the other hand, simply has no adequate translation for these words. This is because the Chinese generally repeat the predicate of the question if they mean to affirm it, and negate the predicate if they mean to negate it. So in the preceding example, "You're not going to school today?", I might say, "Ni jin tian bu shang ke ma?" to which a Mandarin speaker would reply "shang (ke)" if he means he will, and "bu shang (ke)" if he means he won't. So in English he might say "go" or "not go".

Misuse of articles was mentioned in the article. One tell-tale sign of a Mandarin speaker is his preference for the numeral 'one' to the indefinite article. This is because, in certain situations, Mandarin asserts the indefiniteness of a noun by using 'yi + measure' before a noun. This is hardly strange, most romance languages do this too, but somehow Mandarin speakers consistantly use one when they mean a, especially in the accusative.

Ok actually I could go on all day, and probably some of this is too detailed to be of use in the article, but I figure maybe you could get some use out of it.

Alexander Poquet (atpoquet AT csbd DOT org)

Hi Alexander! Since you're actually "on site" teaching English to Mandarin speakers, perhaps you can contribute something to the to-date-stalled discussion on confusion of much vs. many at the top of this article... I‘ve never noted such confusion in Mandarin speakers, and my exposure is extensive, but you're right there... Have you noted any such difficulty amongst your students? Just Curious™...
pgdudda 02:57 Apr 7, 2003 (UTC)