Monday, November 08, 2010

Phonics by Kelly Chopard


The above is a description of a phonics course. As can be seen from the title and body text, the instructor suggests that the pronunciation of phonics as /ˈfəʊnɪks/ is Singaporean and wrong.

Well, here’s an opinion from somebody who knows better — Professor John Wells, possibly the world’s foremost authority on English pronunciation, and writer of the Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (LPD).

Below is his entry for phonic. (The ~s means that, in terms of pronunciation, phonics differs only in that one detail from the headword, phonic.)


Unsurprisingly he prioritizes the more common pronunciation, /ˈfɒnɪks/, but also lists /ˈfəʊnɪks/ as a variant for British Received Pronunciation (RP). The same pattern is observed in the General American pronunciations, given after ||.

The fact that /ˈfəʊnɪks/ is not prioritized does not mean it is non-standard. In the LPD, non-standard (i.e. non-RP) pronunciations are marked §, as we can see in the following discussion of /wɪθ/ in Britain:


It is unclear on what basis (apart from irrational prejudice) Kelly Chopard believes that /ˈfəʊnɪks/ is a Singaporean, hence undesirable, pronunciation worthy of ridicule, when for millions of British and American speakers it is perfectly acceptable.

It is also interesting to note that she labels this pronunciation as ‘Singlish’, a usually dismissive term for colloquial Singapore English. However, one should point out that this term refers not so much to the Singapore accent as to other features such as lexis and syntax.

Indeed, the instructor’s misuse of linguistic terms, obvious misunderstanding of issues, and stilted English should make any knowledgeable reader question her credentials.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

1 comment:

gerry said...

Hi Dr Tan,

2 thoughts on this...

1) Does she actually mean that the 'Singaporean' pronunciation has a double 'n' sound - /ˈfəʊn ˈnɪks/ which i'm understanding from her, given she described it as 'phone-nix'? I don't think i've heard anyone pronounce it this way though...

2) Whatever the pronunciation she claims to have heard from Singaporean teachers, I'm guessing she's trying to 'sell herself' as being the best option, being the 'native' speaker... it all seems to have more social/commercial undertones than a real desire to share/educate =(