Unlike some people, I have never been reluctant to allow my contact details to be available to anyone and everyone. Back in the days before email and the internet, you could find me in the phone book and on the electoral register; and if you knew that I worked at UCL you could always write to me or phone me there.
As an academic, it was obviously in my interest to make it easy for students, colleagues, prospective collaborators, publishers, and journalists to find me.
Fortunately no one has ever wanted to stalk me.
At the instigation of our departmental internet guru, Warwick Smith, I set up my homepage on the web as early as 1995, hosted on the UCL site with the same url as it has today. It has always shown my email address and my telephone number.
These details are also to be found in reference books such as Who’s Who.
So I was happy to agree to my publisher Longman’s suggestion that the CD accompanying LPD should put on the user’s screen an “Ask Professor Wells” button bringing up an email client with my email address in the “to:” field. And I regard it as one of my authorial duties to attempt to reply promptly and helpfully to the queries that readers send me.
Sometimes it can be difficult to work out from what they write the actual question that they really want to ask. And experience shows that I sometimes get it wrong.
Dear Mr. Wells,After some hesitation I replied
I'm very interested in pursuing a course on phonetics. I'm already a teacher of english as a foreign language in Argentina. I know this time of the year must be busy for you, lecturing and travelling. I'd very much appreciate your advice on something I've been wondering about. I'm supposed to teach stduents who would become teacher themselves to define and consolidate the sound system of the target language. Yet, one of my coordinators told me not to stick to a particular phonemic system, which I think would be confusing since I can't teach all the possibilities available. Then I don't know how to proceed.
I'm not sure what you mean by "a particular phonemic system". Do you mean a particular variety of spoken English (a particular accent, e.g. RP)? Or a particular transcription scheme?This elicited the enigmatic response
In any case you are constrained by what is to be found in the dictionaries and textbooks available to your students.
There is a book you might find useful: "Practical Phonetics and Phonology: a resource book for students", by Beverley Collins and Inger Mees. It includes brief accounts of a number of different spoken varieties of English, with recorded samples.
You need to stick to one variety for in-depth study (in Argentina, presumably "BrE", i.e. RP broadly defined). But students also need to be exposed to a wide range of dfferent spoken varieties, so that they -- just like native speakers -- can cope with understanding varieties that differ from the variety they actively use themselves.
In the other direction, if I were teaching Spanish here in England, I would teach European Spanish pronunciation, including the phonemic contrast between [θ] and [s], but would not hesitate to expose my students to American Spanish, where you do not make this contrast.
Thanks for answering. I was referring, as you said, to a particular transcription scheme. What other varieties apart from RP, would you recommend? Where can I get some online material?What I meant by “transcription scheme” was things like Upton’s OED notation as compared with the one that most dictionaries, including mine, use (see here), or non-IPA respelling systems, or a Kenyon and Knott-style system for AmE.
My correspondent’s response showed that we were still at cross-purposes. Rather than say that the obvious non-RP variety to introduce her students to in addition to RP was some kind of American English, I decided to leave the matter there.
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Next posting: 22 Feb.