Release notes: World English pronunciations

By Catherine Sangster, Head of Pronunciations

In this update, we publish written and spoken pronunciations for several additional varieties of English. British and American English pronunciations are always given for all non-obsolete words. Now, words which originate in other parts of the English-speaking world are supplied with pronunciations in the variety of English most relevant to that word as well.

The varieties of English added are those spoken in Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Scotland, Singapore & Malaysia, and South Africa. We have developed transcription models which reflect the distinctive contrasts and patterns of each variety. Some varieties already had some coverage in OED; these have been expanded and regularized. Others are new to OED (e.g. Hong Kong English and Singapore English, added in the previous update); for these we researched and created new models for pronunciation transcription. It was a challenge to come up with an effective single model for Englishes which span geographically and sociologically diverse populations, and some compromise has been inevitable. Our models are intended to reflect the most common features of the form(s) spoken by the majority of educated speakers of each variety, rather than demonstrating the breadth of variation. All this work was based on recent phonetic research.  More detailed discussion of each model and its sources can be found here, along with a set of keys which list the symbols used to transcribe each variety.

This update goes beyond transcriptions, however. Each of these words has also been recorded by a person who speaks the relevant variety, allowing OED users to hear the pronunciations as well – just click the blue play icon next to the transcription. This significantly widens the range of audio pronunciations that we offer. Pronunciations for new and existing entries are being researched and recorded all the time, and further varieties are planned for future updates.

You can read more about the new features added to OED this quarter here.