* TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language.
To understand something of the task facing a Warlpiri child beginning to learn English, we need to view English through Warlpiri-coloured glasses: we need to contrast the language structures of Warlpiri and English. This paper contrasts just the sound systems of the two languages. Other topics, such as the different word structures, syntax (how words are put together to make a proper sentence), and semantics (structures of meaning) are equally relevant, but are not dealt with here.
How the Warlpiri sound system accommodates a foreign word, such as one borrowed from English, illustrates the contrasts between the Warlpiri sound system and the foreign one. To understand the principles which govern the adaptation of a foreign word to make it "Warlpiri-sounding" is to appreciate how to hear foreign words with "Warlpiri ears", and in turn to appreciate the knowledge that the Warlpiri child brings to learning a second language. Hence many examples in this paper are drawn from the loan vocabulary of Warlpiri -- the words Warlpiri has borrowed from English.
Pronunciation mistakes made by a Warlpiri learning English are accommodations of the English word to the Warlpiri sound system. To understand what is behind these "mistakes" one must understand the contrasts between the two sound systems. Three levels of contrast are involved:
Warlpiri examples are given in the standard Warlpiri orthography (spelling system), and thus can be looked up in the Warlpiri dictionary and noticed in other Warlpiri language materials. Similarly, English examples are given in standard English orthography.
The Warlpiri language has the sounds represented by the symbols in the following table.3 (It is repeated in the Appendix along side of the English system for comparison.)
p t rt j k
m n rn ny ng
l rl ly
w r y
(word-initially, rt,rn,rl are written t, n, l )
i, u, aA word from any other language will be perceived by a monolingual Warlpiri according to the above sound system. He makes sense of the foreign word in terms of his own language's sound system. When he says the foreign word, he does so according to the Warlpiri sound system -- he speaks with a "Warlpiri accent". Consider what makes a Warlpiri accent different from a French accent or a Japanese accent, for instance.
ii, uu, aa
Examples of how English words are perceived by a Warlpiri speaker, and how they are spoken with a strong Warlpiri accent, are readily provided by the terms Warlpiri has borrowed from English, such as in the following list.4 If you say the English word to yourself while looking at the Warlpiri word, you will get an idea of how English sounds are perceived by the ear attuned to Warlpiri, and of what is meant by a "Warlpiri accent".
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCESome of the sound correspondences between English and Warlpiri are evident from the above list.
Janyuwarri ) January
Pipuwarri ) February
Nupampa ) November
Tijampa ) December
WARLPIRI ENGLISHIn other words, Warlpiri has an almost identical sound corresponding to all the English nasals, laterals and glides. These 8 are the extent of the consonants in common between the 18 of Warlpiri and the 23 of English. Even these do not correspond in all phonetic details, but, as Capp 1977:9 says of the varieties of English [l] (compare the two occurrences in little), they are the new learner's least worry." They are a minor contribution to an "accent".
n, rn n
ny [n] some n before u, i, e.g. in onion
ng [n] some ng; n before k; e.g. in lung
l, rl l
WARLPIRI ENGLISHSee Tate 1976:46-54.
p b p
t, rt d t
k g [k] k, c
j [dz] j,g [t ] ch
Warlpiri has no distinctive fricative sounds. In an English word with a fricative, the Warlpiri "accent" replaces the fricative with a stop consonant: the Warlpiri sound most closely corresponding to each of the English fricatives is a stop in roughly the same place of articulation. Just as for stops (2.), the English distinction between voiced and voiceless is not made in Warlpiri. The sounds of English listed in the right-hand columns below do not occur in Warlpiri, and they are difficult for a Warlpiri speaker to learn to say. The nearest Warlpiri equivalent is the sound whose symbol occurs in the left-hand column:
WARLPIRI ENGLISHSee Tate 1976:54-67.
p v [f] f, ph
( z [s] s, c
j ( [dz] j,g ch
( azure sheep
( mother thirty
Note especially the large number of distinct English sounds which Warlpiri "collapses" into j (i.e. the sound in Jampijinpa). These distinctions are all the more hard for a Warlpiri child to learn because of their number, leaving aside any difficulty with one particular sound.
There is another fricative sound in English, h. Warlpiri has no equivalent sound, and speakers either leave it out completely, or approximate it with y or w . Capp, working with Pitjantjatjara speakers, found that "effective grounding in the production and correct usage of this sound is a basis for teaching the aspiration of word-initial stop sounds... Learners sometimes try to produce the sound breathing in." (1977:10)
WARLPIRI ENGLISH EXAMPLE WORDThe English interdeterminate vowel (schwa, [
i bit, bet, beat
u boot, put, pot
a bat, Bart, but, bare
uu boot, bought
ayi bait, bite, Bert
uwa bought, bore
iya beer, bare
uwu boat, boot
uya ) boy (?)
The Warlpiri child will have trouble distinguishing between English words which differ solely by vowels which correspond to the one Warlpiri vowel. For example, "bait" and "bite" would probably be pronounced the same, like a possible Warlpiri word payiti. Similarly, "buy" and "pay" are collapsed.
Tate 1976:14 notes tendencies in English vowel mispronunciations. However, as Capp found for Pitjantjatjarra, "the vowel glides (diphthongs) of English are no real articulatory problem. The difficulties lie with the consonants." (1977:2)5
A Warlpiri speaker uses Warlpiri syllable patterns when saying a foreign word. If the syllable pattern of the foreign word involves just the Warlpiri syllable types, CV and CVC, then the word is relatively easy for the Warlpiri speaker to pronounce, as in the examples already given in section 1. They are shown again here with the syllable pattern given in the middle column.
WARLPIRI SYLLABLES ENGLISHThere are further restrictions on Warlpiri syllables:6
kalinta CV-CVC-CV calendar
tala CV-CV dollar
mijirnirri CV-CV-CV-CV missionary
piipi CV-CV baby
kuwana CV-CV-CV goanna
jawa CV-CV shower
jangari CV-CV(-CV) shanghai
panji CVC-CV fancy
Jantiyi CVC-CV(-CV) Sunday
Mantiyi CVC-CV(-CV) Monday
Jarritiyi CV-CV-CV(-CV) Saturday
Janyuwari CV-CV-CV-CV January
Pipuwari CV-CV-CV-CV February
Julayi CV-CV(-CV) July
Napimpa CV-CVC-CV November
Tijimpa CV-CVC-CV December
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCENote that the added final vowel also can break up an English word-final pair of consonants, as in "ji-min-ti" cement.
nanikutu nanny goat
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE ENGLISH SYLLABLESThe particular initial pair of consonants [my], found in some English words beginning "mu-", can be pronounced by a close Warlpiri equivalent, ny. Alternatively, a vowel may be inserted between the two consonants.
pilayi play CCV
jiriyi three CCV
pakuju box CVCC
jumuku smoke CCVC
jinayiki snake CCVC
turaki truck CCVC
pilangkiti blanket CCVC-CVC
pulakani flagon CCV-CVC
Puratiyi Friday CCV-CV
Jipitimpa September CVC-CVC-CV
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE ENGLISH SYLLABLES
pija picture CVC-CV
jakumanu stockman CCVC-CVC
Juujiyi Tuesday CVC-CV
Winijiyi Wednesday CVCC-CV
Jayijiyi Thursday CVC-CV
pirdi-pulawa pretty flower CCV-CV-CCV-CV
kuurlu school CCVC
puunu spoon CCVC
makiti musket CVC-CVC
yapukaji half-caste CVC-CVCC
yajilitiki athletics VC-CV-CVCC
Yalijipiringi Alice Springs V-CVC-CCCVCC
Sometimes the Warlpiri speaker changes the pronunciation of an English consonant into the corresponding Warlpiri nasal or lateral, thereby enabling the consonant to occur in syllable-final position (i.e. the last C in a CVC syllable):
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE ENGLISH SYLLABLES
walypali white fella CVC-CV-CV
An English word beginning with a vowel when pronounced by a Warlpiri speaker has a consonant added to the beginning of the word. The consonant is one of the glides, usually y or w, depending on the following vowel. Furthermore, an English word beginning with h is treated the same as English words beginning with a vowel. It is difficult for a Warlpiri speaker to say these words without adding a consonant before the first vowel.
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCEYoung children say some Warlpiri words with an initial vowel (e.g. "ampiya" for yampiya 'leave it'). It may be possible to introduce English vowel-initial words through mimicry of this type of "baby talk".
Wukutupa ) October
Yapirili ) April
Yalijipiringi Alice Springs
Further, some Warlpiri speakers may be familiar with Pitjantjatjarra, and be aware of words in that language which begin with a vowel. (Pitjantjatjarra has V and VC syllables as well as the CV and CVC types in Warlpiri.)
A Warlpiri speaker pronounces an English monosyllable (word consisting of a single syllable) as a word of two syllables, or sometimes more.
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE
Some final consonants are easier to pronounce than others, as Warlpiri does have CVC syllables ending in a nasal (m, n, rn, ny, ng), lateral (l, rl, ly), or rr. Words ending in t, d, p, b, k, g, s, z, sh, ch, f, v, th are much harder for a Warlpiri to master. Examples of difficult English words include those in the right-hand column below:
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE
jaaji church, judge
jatimapi(-mani) shut up
(i) initial clusters of an English consonant followed by l, r; i.e.
p, b, f, k, g, s followed by l
p, b, f, th, t, d, sh, k, g followed by r
Examples: please, bleed, fling, clear, glass, sleep, pray, bring, Friday, throw, tread, dress, shrug, crane, green.
With some drilling, the Warlpiri pupil should manage these CC clusters without too much trouble.
(ii) initial clusters beginning with English s, and followed by a single consonant:
s followed by p, t, k, w, m
Examples: spoon, still, skin, swim, smoke The sound s is among the most difficult English sounds for a Warlpiri speaker to learn, even when not combined with another consonant. Having to pronounce another consonant immediately after an s is doubly difficult for a Warlpiri speaker. There are two common treatments of these clusters: either the s is dropped (as spoon and school become puunu and kuurlu), or a high vowel (i or u) is inserted to separate the two consonants (as smoke becomes jumuku).
(iii) initial clusters beginning with English s, and followed by two consonants:
s followed by pl, pr, py, tr, ty, kr, kw, kyExamples: splash, sprint, spew, street, stew, scream, squall, skew
The comments in (ii) above about clusters beginning with s apply from (ii) above. These clusters of three consonants are even harder. Ability to pronounce them correctly assumes the ability to correctly pronounce the simpler clusters described in (ii).
(i) English words ending in a consonant will tend to have a vowel added.
Examples: canteen, machine, council, goat, camel, bullock, rubbish, town, towel, finish, cement, seven.
(ii) English words ending in more than one consonant will tend to have the consonant cluster (group) simplified: a vowel might be added at the end of the word, and put between the consonants, or one or more of the consonants may be dropped (not pronounced).
Examples: table, athletics, springs
The dropping of the last consonant from a group is particularly troublesome in English, because of two very common inflectional suffixes (endings) which can get ignored this way. These two endings are the 3rd-person singular verb ending and noun plural "s", and the past tense "ed". Thus "milk" and "milks", or "kill" and "killed", get pronounced the same way. This also applies to the "'d" of shortened "had", as in "I'd better go home."
To begin with, it would probably be better to use verbs which have a different vowel in the past tense, such as "ran -- run", "go -- went", "sing -- sang", which the Warlpiri child can easily catch. Similarly, it would be an idea to use irregular plurals, such as "child -- children", "man -- men", and plurals of words ending in a vowel, such as "kangaroo -- kangaroos". Later, introduce the final clusters in "dog -- dogs", "talk -- talked".
The existing books on English pronunciation tend to concern themselves with the total spectrum of English speech as if it was all hard... Although "Sound and Sense" [Tate 1976] does consider many of the differences between Australian languages and English, 22 pages are devoted to vowel exercises, 55 pages to consonants and consonant production... Incidental examples of the clusters do occur; but not in such a way as to really alert teachers to their importance.Capp 1977:2 recommends "Situational English for Newcomers to Australia. Part 1 Teacher's Book (London: Longman, 1970) as "the best source book available", on teaching consonant clusters. Anon. n.d.:5 says this is available from Language Teaching Centre, P.O. Box 39, Woden ACT 2606.
The same criticism is applicable to [Pearson 1972]. Both books are good as far as they go. They could have expended less effort on known sounds and the vowels and concentrated more on the problems of clusters of consonants.
WARLPIRI ENGLISH SOURCE ENGLISH SYLLABLES
pajingkirli bicycle CV-CV-CVC
warrki(-jarrimi) work CVC
wurlkumanu old woman VCC-CV-CVC
parnpiya family CVC-CV
pirnpaji breakfast CCVC-CVCC
There is a useful way of marking which syllable of a word is stressed, namely writing an apostrophe (') immediately before the syllable. So, for example, there are English words with initial stress, such as 'children, 'water, e'ssential, 'carrying, but this is not so for other English words: re'cording, in'vestigate, insu'rrection.
It is possible for more than one syllable in a word to be stressed. In a word with more than one stressed syllable, it is still true that one of the stressed syllables is more prominent than the others. The syllable with the most stress is said to have primary stress, and it is this that the apostrophe ' indicates -- the apostrophe immediately preceds the syllable that has the primary stress. The other stressed syllables have secondary stress, which may be marked with a double apostrophe " before each secondary stressed syllable. Thus, in English we have words like 'indus"try, "consti'tution, "capita"li'sation.
In English it is possible to have a word of two syllables, both stressed, such as "can'teen, 'foot"ball. This is not possible in Warlpiri. Also, some English words have stress on the last syllable, such as in'vite, re'cord, a'broad, re'ceive, a'llow, "Tenne'ssee, but this is not a possibility in Warlpiri. Warlpiri words are never stressed on the final syllable. Words with final stress are consequently difficult for a Warlpiri to say with accurate English stress, and hence need lots of drilling.
In Warlpiri, the root of every word has a stress on its first syllable, as does every suffix (ending) of two or more syllables: 'kirrirdi, 'Japal"jarri, 'Ngaliyi"kirlangu, 'pirli"manu, 'Yurntumu"wardingki. The stress pattern of a Warlpiri word reflects its composition, its morphological structure. And in a Warlpiri sentence, the beginning of each word is signalled by a primary stress -- the stress has a demarcative function.
In English, stress functions differently from in Warlpiri. For instance, there are some English words which are a noun or a verb depending on the stress pattern, such as record, convict, permit, protest, conduct, torment, insert. Such pairs are probably difficult for the Warlpiri child to distinguish.
Those English words which have stress patterns similar to Warlpiri words are not so difficult for Warlpiri speakers to learn to say correctly. However, English words with an unstressed initial syllable are difficult. A Warlpiri speaker learning English tends to pick out the first stressed syllable as the beginning of the word. For example, ba'nana will be said as 'nana. The ear more attuned to English will change the stress pattern of the English word so as to include the initial syllable, and pronounce the word as 'pinana. Similar Warlpiri loans from English are:
It is changes such as these which are behind the un-English accent of many Warlpiri speakers. Right from the beginning, attention should be given to correct placement of stress.
For example, the following words have non-initial stress (indicated by apostrophe before the stressed syllable) in English, but when borrowed into Warlpiri have initial stress:
It is probably easier for the Warlpiri child to begin with words with initial stress (most words of Germanic origin in English), e.g. water, teacher, mirror etc., and then move on to words with non-initial stress, such as banana, tomato, potato.
There is much in common with similar situations elsewhere in the world. For example, a study in the West Indies
confirmed a basic principle that directed the teaching methodology... was that, as far as the learner was concerned, the continuum between Creole and Standard consisted of four hierarchical strata of linguistic structures as follows:(Craig 1979:180)
A those common to both Standard and non-Standard speech and therefore within the production repertoire of the learner;
B those not usually produced in the informal, non-Standard speech of the learner, but known to him and produced under stress in prestige social situations;
C those which the learner would recognise and comprehend if used by other speakers (especially in a meaningful context), but which the learner would be unable to produce;
D those totally unknown to the learner.
With respect to pronunciation of sounds, the different degrees of strength of a "Warlpiri accent" would conform to the above four levels. For instance, the pronunciation an "h" at the beginning of an English is commonly at level "B" above: when speaking informally, the young Warlpiri may say happy without the initial h , yet pronounce it when conscious of showing his command of English.
Warlpiri spelling uses the following letters:
a i j k l m n p r t u w yand, as second letter of a digraph only,
d (in rd), g (in ng)Presumably, then, introductory English material, at least the words that are not sight words, would best be confined as much as possible to words using just the Warlpiri letters. Then the new letters would be introduced. The following letters are new to a literate Warlpiri beginning English writing:
b c e f h o q s v x zThus the child has to learn to form and to recognise 11 new letters, in both upper and lower case. Also, the letters a, d, g, i, u do not occur at the beginning of a Warlpiri word, so Warlpiri children beginning English reading would also have to learn the capital letters A, D, G, I, U as they would not be used to seeing them as initial capitals.
Those new symbols which correspond to a non-Warlpiri sound (such as f, v, h, s, z) would presumably be better introduced before those known symbols which have a different value in English from Warlpiri (such as u, g other than in ng, vocalic y). These observations about letters need to be integrated with the grading of sounds set out in sections 1 and 2.
bilabial apico- apico- lamino- velar
alveolar domal alveolar
stops p t rt j k
nasals m n rn ny ng
laterals l rl ly
flaps rr rd
glides w r y
Word-initially, rt,rn,rl are written t, n, l.
high i u Long vowels are written as
low a geminates: ii, uu, aa
labial apico- dental palatal velar
stops p t k
b d g
fricatives f s th sh
v z dh zh
nasals m n (ny) ng
lateral l (ly)
glides w y r
front central back
high beat boot
mid bait about boat
bet Bert pot
low bat Bart bought
diphthongs bite boy bout
affricate a mixture of a fricative and a stop
alveolar involving the ridge behind the upper teeth
apico- pronunciation using the tongue tip
bilabial pronunciation using both lips
continuum continuous variation, not just a small number
domal pronunciation involving the hard palate behind the
fricative hissing or buzzing type of sound
glide type of sound intermediate between consonant type
and vowel type, sometimes called semi-vowel
lamino- pronounciation using the blade of the tongue (the part behind the tip)
lateral pronunciation with coming out the sides of the
monolingual knowing only one language
nasal pronunciation with air coming out the nose
sonorant pronounced with a resonance inside the mouth, and
can usually be held indefinitely
stop type of consonant sound involving release of
pent up air (sometimes called plosive)
syllable see beginning of section 2
velar pronunciation involves the velum (soft palate)
2. Ideally, this paper would use a uniform phonetic alphabet for writing both Warlpiri and English example words, and indeed some examples are given in the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). IPA examples are usually given in square brackets. However, to make it easier for non-linguists to read, I have used a "common sense" kind of phonetic alphabet such as used by some English dictionaries.
3. For further details of the pronunciation of Warlpiri, refer to the IAD Warlpiri Language Course, and Hale 1977.
4. The loanwords cited in this paper have been taken from Hale 1974, 1977, from the IAD Warlpiri Language Course materials, from various issues of Junga Yimi, and from the 1981 and 1982 Yuendumu calendars.
5. Capp 1977:6 also suggests a technique for helping with the English vowel sounds which are very similar. His suggestion amounts to exploiting the different ways that one Warlpiri vowel gets pronounced according to the consonants next to it, particularly the consonant that follows the vowel. Thus the first vowel in the two Warlpiri words pili 'digging scoop' and pingi 'ant' are really the same vowel, i, but it is pronounced a little bit different in pili (a bit higher) than in pingi. The phonetic (sound) difference is a bit like the difference between the two different English vowels in bit and bet. Capp does not describe the technique in any detail, and it may well be more appropriate to Warlpiri linguistic training rather than oral English for children.
6. For a more detailed statement of Warlpiri phonotactics (what sounds may be adjacent) and stress, see Hale 1977 and Nash 1980 (Chapter 3).
Capp, Robert. 1977. Pitjantjatjarra and English sound systems: assumptions for teaching English pronunciation. 21/10/77. 15pp. typescript.
Craig, Dennis R. 1979. Bilingual Education: Creole and Standard in the West Indies, pp. 164-184 in Sociolinguistic Aspects of Language Learning and Teaching, ed. by J. B. Pride. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (xix+248 pp. $16.50) First published in International Journal of the Sociology of Language 8 (1976).
Hale, Kenneth L. 1974. An elementary dictionary of the Warlpiri language. Mimeo., 97pp. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Re-issued by Institute for Aboriginal Development, Alice Springs, 1977, as part of course materials for their Warlpiri Language Course.
— 1975. Gaps in grammar and culture, 295-315 in Linguistics and Anthropology, in Honor of C.F. Voegelin, ed. by M.D. Kinkade et al. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press.
— 1977. Elementary remarks on Walbiri orthography, phonology and allomorphy. 34pp. Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T.
Nash, David. 1980. Topics in Warlpiri Grammar. M.I.T. dissertation.
Pearson, L.A. 1972. Pronunciation Drills for Primary Classes. N.T.A.
Smith, Frank. 1973. "The Efficiency of Phonics", chapter 7 in his Psycholinguistics and Reading. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Tate, Gloria M. 1976. Sound and Sense: A Speech Handbook. 104pp. Darwin: Department of Education. (Reprinted from 1967 edition published by Welfare Branch, N.T.A.)
Reference added 2011:
Geytenbeek, Brian B. 1977. Looking at English through Nyangumarda-coloured spectacles, pp.34-44 in Language problems and Aboriginal education, ed. by Ed Brumby and Eric G Vászolyi. Perth: Mt Lawley CAE
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