Google and Potteries accent

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In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War, it seems incredible that a Memorial should be in danger of destruction, but that is what is happening in Stoke on Trent, where one of the six historic town halls (the one for Fenton – the town that Arnold Bennett left out of his Five Towns) is up for sale and consequent probable demolition. Inside is a ceramic war memorial with the names of Fenton’s war dead. It cannot be moved, apparently, because of the way it is attached to the building, but since the Department for Justice vacated it (the building’s latest incarnation was as law courts), the Stoke on Trent City Council seems to be washing its hands of the destruction of this memorial which has not only personal significance for the members of the deceaseds’ families, but also artistic and industrial historic merit.

There is a campaign on line to get the building, and so the memorial, preserved, and a week or so ago, the campaign committee organized a human chain round the town hall, and a YouTube video resulted. This has a commentary spoken by one of the organizers, in what I would call a fairly ‘mild’ Potteries accent, with hardly any difficulties in comprehension for listeners from anywhere in the world. Nevertheless, the subtitles provided by Google are hilarious. I can only suggest you listen, read and wonder at the way some of the words have been interpreted by their program. Thanks to Alec for pointing me towards these subtitles.

One Comment

  1. Was the subtitling technology created in America? Well, Google is American obviously. That would explain at least some of the mistakes. Some of his vowels do sound like different American vowels. For example, around 1:33 in the video he says [praps]. The subtitles say “props”. In America, the phonetic sequence [praps] would be much more likely to be a realization of “props” than “perhaps”. At 0:36, “Fenton” is heard as “phantom”. His DRESS vowel does sound more in the phonetic area of American TRAP there to me. At 0:44, he says “can’t”, but the subtitles say “called”. That could be because the vowel he uses in that word is very back and within the phonetic range of American THOUGHT. At 1:13 his “other men” is heard as “Overman”, possibly because of his unusually close STRUT vowel and open DRESS vowel (by American standards).

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