English Elocution in the West


In the West, little attention had been paid to pronunciation until the rise of England as a global colonial power. By the mid 1800s England wanted to assert a single standard for spoken English across the Empire. How could a single version of vernacular English rise above all others? 



The English Elocution Movement chose one form of spoken English to become the standard for all and invented teaching methods and tools to teach this form of English pronunciation in schools, churches, and universities. New scholarly fields such as Orthoepy, Elocution, Phonetics, and Phonology developed in order to lend authority to the industry.




English spelling is not phonetic, and is pronounced in various ways across classes and regions. How can a single standard for the pronunciation of English be taught when regional speech habits and spelling vary so widely?



In the West, the sound structure of words had to be performed with the body and tested through spoken accent. In both cases, a phonetic script was necessary. Like the rime table tradition of China, phonetic writing systems like the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) assigned one symbol to each speech sound.


By the end of the nineteenth century, social distinction in China was achieved through written, not spoken, means. Therefore, the rime table tradition was never used to phoneticize spoken languages like Mandarin or English. When in the nineteenth century merchants and those traveling to California for the Gold Rush found a need to learn spoken English, they invented a much simpler system of transcription. The common practice was to use Chinese characters so that each symbol stood for a whole syllable. In this system, the monosyllabic English word “please” became three syllables: “pu-lee-suh.” The result of this method was the creation of the so-called Pidgin English in the nineteenth century. This method led to the various forms of Chinese-English today and accounts for the difficulties most Chinese speakers face when learning Standard British or American pronunciation.

到十九世纪末,书面语的差异而非口头语的差异彰显着中国社会阶层的差异。因此,韵表无法给普通话或英语标注语音。十九世纪时随着淘金热的浪潮,商人和旅行者们纷纷涌入加利福尼亚,他们发现了学习英语口语的必要。因此,他们发明了一种更为简化的记音方法。其中最普遍的做法就是使用中文的单个汉字来指代相应英语单词里的某个音节。用这种方法单音节英语单词 “please”变成了三个音节:“普利兹”,这就是十九世纪“洋泾浜英语”的产生背景。这种英语学习的方法导致了今天多种中式英语口音的出现,也给那些想学习标准英音或美音的英语学习者带来了相当的难度。


If Chinese scholars had converted the rime table tradition into a phonetic transcription system for spoken Mandarin and English, the sophisticated system used for over 1,000 years for regulating poetic composition could have served as a phonetic script for teaching English pronunciation. This is what the Pinying program does.

如果汉语言家能够把韵表体系转化为一种语音记录系统来记录普通话和英语发音, 那么一千多年来被用于规范诗歌创作的复杂系统就可以作为一种记音工具来教授人们学习发音。这就是“拼英”的基本原理。