Release notes: West African English pronunciations

Release notes: West African English pronunciations

The OED‘s latest update sees the addition of several Nigerian English words, including bukateria, danfo, and tokunbo . This was the perfect opportunity for OED’s pronunciation team to add a West African English model to our World English coverage, bringing our current total to fifteen.

We have been expanding our representation of written and spoken pronunciations from an increasing number of global varieties of English since 2016 . Besides British and U.S. English pronunciations (which are given for all non-obsolete entries), words and phrases from specific World Englishes are given additional written and spoken pronunciations in the relevant variety. To hear any pronunciation aloud, simply click the blue ‘play’ icon next to the transcription.

Our practice when working on World English is to review current scholarship and liaise with consultants and native speakers to develop a pronunciation model suitable for OED’s purposes. The model is used in transcribing researched pronunciations for both the new additions and existing OED entries which fall into the same category, so that coverage is achieved across the entire dictionary. These transcriptions then steer live voice recording sessions with native speakers to create our spoken pronunciations.

For our West African English model, our key source was Ulrike Gut , who has worked extensively on Nigerian English. We’d also like to acknowledge the contribution of consultant Kingsley Ugwuanyi

English is considered a national or official language in seven parts of West Africa: Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon’s anglophone provinces, the Gambia, and the island of Saint Helena (listed in descending population order). Each of these can be and has been studied in isolation, and words from each appear in OED, but there are several common tendencies which give value to a West African English (WAfE) set of pronunciations. These include features such as having a similar vowel quality in words such as trap and start, and relatively ‘full’ vowels in unstressed syllables where /ə/ may be found in other varieties. Our model is flexible (for example, in its treatment of nurse and square vowel qualities) but gives priority to Nigerian and Ghanaian Englishes as being the two West African Englishes with the most speakers.

Full references and discussion of the new West African English model can be found here. General discussion of the World English models, with more detail about our transcription principles and whose pronunciations are represented, can be found here.

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