30 July 2013

Use of Mobiles

Don't you hate it when people use their mobile phones when driving? And it seems just as prevalent in Brunei, maybe more, than the rest of the world.

But I bet you do it yourself! In fact, people seem to expect others to answer their phone immediately, whether they are driving or not. So, on the one hand we all agree that using a mobile while driving is not a good idea. But at the same time we all do it!

I just read a news report that the driver of a train in Spain was on the phone when it crashed, killing 79 people (see here). So even train drivers do it!

For the record: I never, ever use my mobile phone when I am driving. So don't be annoyed if I do not respond immediately to your call sometimes.

07 July 2013

'o' instead of 'u'

Someone recently asked me why the letter 'o' is pronounced as /ʌ/ in so many words of English: come, company, some, done, money, monkey, dove, love, above. Why are these words not spelled with 'u'?

The answer is this: in cursive handwriting, the sequences 'um', 'un' and 'uv' are rather difficult to decipher, because there are so many short vertical lines occurring one after another. As a result, scribes preferred to use 'o' rather than 'u' before 'm', 'n' and 'v'. Note that there is no such problem before letters such as 's' or 'p', which is why words like must and cup have the expected 'u'.

The only words that don't fit into this pattern involve 'o' before 'th': other, nothing, mother, brother, smother, etc. I don't know why 'o' rather than 'u' occurs in these words.

One other observation: in Brunei, there is a tendency for spelling pronunciation to occur, and about half of UBD undergraduates have /ɒ/ rather than /ʌ/ in the first syllable of company. I don't know how many other words have this kind of spelling pronunciation.

In fact, this shift is also found in some words in Britain: about 30% of people in Britain now have /ɒ/ rather than the traditional /ʌ/ in one, and this trend is strongest among the younger generation, suggesting it will one day become the norm. Furthermore, Coventry once had /ʌ/ in its first syllable but it usually now has /ɒ/, and covert used to be /kʌvət/ but 46% of people in Britain now have /əʊ/ in the first syllable of this word.

It seems that spelling pronunciation is widespread, and places like Brunei may be leading the way in this respect!

(All percentages for British English above are from: Wells, J. C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Harlow: Longman. The data about UBD undergraduates is from page 41 of: Deterding, D, & Salbrina, S. (2013). Brunei English: A New Variety in a Multilingual Society. Dordrecht: Springer. The observation that scribes avoided 'u' before 'm', 'n' and 'v' is from page 118 of: Algeo, J. (2010). The Origins and Development of the English Language (6th ed.). USA: Wadsworth Cengage.)

06 July 2013

Book on Brunei English

My book (together with Salbrina Sharbawi) on Brunei English has now been published by Springer, which is nice. One problem is: how can people in Brunei buy it?

Of course, you can get it from Amazon (here). One really strange thing about the Amazon information: you can buy a new copy of the book for US$103.90; or you can buy a used copy of the book for US$103.90. Bizarre!

It seems a pity if a book about Brunei is not actually for sale in Brunei, so I have tried to persuade Booker's in Gadong to stock it. The boss there was a bit hesitant, as it is likely to cost nearly $200 and he doesn't think too many people will buy it. But he agreed to get one or two copies. I just hope he doesn't get stuck with them and be unable to sell them. Maybe a few of my students will see that, even at $200, it will be relevant for so many of their courses at UBD that it is worth buying. We will see.

02 July 2013

Bruneian English : Wikipedia

Yesterday, I created a new Wikipedia page on Brunei English (here). I notice there have already been several edits to it, mostly by SamX (who I assume is a member of staff at Wikipedia). The majority of the edits are helpful, putting in relevant links to other Wikipedia pages for example. But the title of the page has now been changed from Brunei English to Bruneian English. Hmm ... I'm not sure about that one.

Never mind. I just hope the page provides a valuable resource. I have also tried to create a reasonably wide-ranging list of references which, I hope, can offer a sort of bibliography on Brunei English. I will try to add to that, so that it offers a useful resource for researchers and students.

I believe the page as it stands is well constructed. Of course, anybody can add to it or change it how they like. I just hope that people will reference things properly when they add to it; but maybe I am being naive here, as undoubtedly all kinds of things will be added. Let's just hope that what people add is constructive.