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Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you...
September 11, 2011 2:28 PM   Subscribe

Original Pronunciation (OP) "...performance brings us as close as possible to how old texts would have sounded. It enables us to hear effects lost when old texts are read in a modern way. It avoids the modern social connotations that arise when we hear old texts read in a present-day accent." The site includes transcripts of Shakespeare plays and other writings with IPA notations, indicating how to pronounce them in OP. It also includes some audio recordings.

Youtube contains a bunch of OP resources: a "Midsummer Night's Dream" scene in OP (useful because the OP site has a transcript of the play in IPA; Ben Crystal (actor and son of linguist David Crystal, creator of the OP site) performing "O for a muse of fire" from Henry V; documentary about the "Midsummer Night's Dream" production linked to above, in which prof Paul Meier reminds us that this would have been the accent used by the settlers on the Mayflower, who colonized America; Sonnet 145.

David and Ben Crystal are the father-and-son team spearheading the current interest in OP. They co-wrote a fantastic and fascinating Shakespeare dictionary, which you can search online here, though nothing beats the print version. (It's also bundled, in a simplified form, with the Shakespeare IOS app.)

(We covered this topic on Metafilter previously. I created this post because the main site linked to is new and looks likely to become a hub for OP studies in the future.)
posted by grumblebee (38 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Rubbing hands together enthusiastically)
posted by glaucon at 2:55 PM on September 11, 2011


a "Midsummer Night's Dream" scene in OP

So, apparently, Shakespeare was Jamaican-Scots?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:02 PM on September 11, 2011


To my linguistically unsophisticated ears, the OP sounds a bit like a contemporary Irish accent.
posted by mondo dentro at 3:07 PM on September 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


The first video certainly has an Irishness about it. There's a reason for that, as the Irish accent has old features no longer present in many English accents. However, it does sound like the actors have gone a little astray with it. Perhaps they used the current Irish accent as a base for teaching Original Pronunciation and it left its mark?
posted by Jehan at 3:16 PM on September 11, 2011


Since posting this, I have been enjoying David Crystal's blog:

-- Did Elizabethans use "bottom" to mean "ass"?

-- Talking with your mouth full.

-- Alien languages.

-- Would "gonna" be an anachronism on "Mad Men"?

-- The letter M invades Macbeth.

-- Snippets of music used in speech, such as when someone "quotes" the "Twilight Zone" theme by saying doo-dee-doo-doo, doo-dee-doo-doo...

-- Obama's speech style.
posted by grumblebee at 3:17 PM on September 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, apparently, Shakespeare was Jamaican-Scots?

To my linguistically unsophisticated ears, the OP sounds a bit like a contemporary Irish accent.


Everyone who has dabbled with OP has discovered that listeners receive it as a variety of dialects. I've heard people say it sounds like Irish, Welsch, Scots, American, Australian, etc. (I've never heard Jamaican before.) I don't think all those folks are wrong. I think aspects of the accent have woven themselves into all sorts of contemporary English sounds.
posted by grumblebee at 3:20 PM on September 11, 2011


Everyone who has dabbled with OP has discovered that listeners receive it as a variety of dialects. I've heard people say it sounds like Irish, Welsch, Scots, American, Australian, etc. (I've never heard Jamaican before.) I don't think all those folks are wrong. I think aspects of the accent have woven themselves into all sorts of contemporary English sounds.

I'd say it sounds like an Irishman pretending to be Scots after speaking Swedish for years.

(it seems like from the Crystal recordings that the it's not just the accent but the rhythm as well...)
posted by ennui.bz at 3:28 PM on September 11, 2011


So the Crystals found Shakespeare's dictaphone? I'm sure transcribing it was fun, save for the several hours of Shakey's nephews recording farts and giggling.
posted by scruss at 3:30 PM on September 11, 2011


-- Would "gonna" be an anachronism on "Mad Men"?

Yes, especially if you type it out on one of those IBM Selectric II typewriters, circa 1973. Jeez.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:31 PM on September 11, 2011


So the Crystals found Shakespeare's dictaphone?

Answers to "How do you know?"
posted by grumblebee at 3:33 PM on September 11, 2011


Sorry for spraying the walls of this thread with links, but I can't resist posting this find: David Crystal's adaptation of "Hamlet" in which (almost) every word begins with an H:


The H Quarto Text
Actus Primus Scene Prima
Hamlet's Headquarters

Barnardo: Hark!
Fancisco: Ho! Henchman?
Barnardo: He.
Francisco: Hey, hour heedfully heeded.
Barnardo: Horological halfnight has happened. Hop home.
Francisco: Hokay. Horrendously heatless. Heartsick.
Barnardo: Have had harmony here?
Francisco: Housemice have hushed.

Horatio and Marcellus hither

Horatio: Hello.
Marcellus: Holla!
Bernardo: Horatio?
Horatio: H-h-half here.
Marcellus: Hamlet henchmen have had horrific haunting.
Horatio: Humph!
Bernardo: Heck! Hair-raising hackles have happened. Heebie-jeebies. Horrible.
Horatio: Hallucinations, henchmen. Had Hallucinogens?
Barnardo: Haven't had hashish.
Horatio: Have.
Francisco: Haven't!
Horatio: Humbug! Hangovers? Headaches?

Haunter hither...

The rest (pdf).
posted by grumblebee at 3:47 PM on September 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I heard that as a mix of generically Northern English, Irish, a dash of Scots, and OP Middle English (example here). Incidentally, reading the Canterbury Tales while whispering the text under your breath in OP (or a rough approximation of it) is really fun - it's a beautiful, earthy language, and makes a lot more sense out loud.
posted by ZsigE at 3:49 PM on September 11, 2011


So, apparently, Shakespeare was Jamaican-Scots?

Newfoundland, minus the local slang. Seriously.


posted by Phalene at 4:15 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ahh....IPA, the bane of the layperson in trying to understand how to pronounce something on Wikipedia.
posted by Atreides at 4:26 PM on September 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Ahh....IPA, the bane of the layperson in trying to understand how to pronounce something on Wikipedia.

I don't get why it's a bane. You can easily look up symbols you don't know ON wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipa

I don't know IPA even close to by heart, but I was able to look up the odd symbols in this word ...

Oedipus -- ˈɛdɨpəs (US pronunciation)

... really quickly on the page I liked to, above.

ɛ -- lEt, hEAd
d -- standard
ɨ -- rabbIt, edIble, garbAge
p -- standard
ə -- About, itEm, gallOp, circUs

Hint: copy an odd symbol to the clipboard, go to the page I linked to, press CTRL+F (MAC: Command+F) and then paste.
posted by grumblebee at 4:50 PM on September 11, 2011


s -- standard
posted by grumblebee at 4:53 PM on September 11, 2011


ˈɛdɨpəs

Also, the little single-quote/apostrophe is a stress marker letting you know the first syllable gets primary stress.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:34 PM on September 11, 2011


I don't get why it's a bane. You can easily look up symbols you don't know ON wikipedia

By the time I've looked up the last letters, I've forgotten how to pronounce the first ones.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:22 PM on September 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


So, apparently, Shakespeare was Jamaican-Scots?

Curiously, I used to know a girl who was born of a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother. She grew up in Canada and despite a startling gift for mimicry, she could not produce either a Scottish or a Jamaican accent. These two accents are in the repertoire of every two-bit comedian, but not in hers.

Back on topic, the OP Dream puts me in mind of the North of England. It is like watching an entire drama class that was abandoned in the woods as infants and raised by Sean Bean.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:27 PM on September 11, 2011


Metafilter: like watching an entire drama class that was abandoned in the woods as infants and raised by Sean Bean.
posted by Sebmojo at 7:52 PM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Jamaican sound comes from the cadence of the speech, to my ears.
posted by gjc at 8:14 PM on September 11, 2011


This reminds me of the time that a practical-joker conductor of mine prepared a chorus to sing Carmina Burana and convinced them to do it in classical Latin pronunciation (OP Roman?). Needless to say the effect of Orff's music is lessened when it sounds like Elmer Fudd.

(O Fortuna
welut luna
statu wariabilis
&c.)

posted by Thomas Tallis is my Homeboy at 8:23 PM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'd say it sounds like an Irishman pretending to be Scots after speaking Swedish for years.

So...Geordie, then?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:27 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know what would be fun?
Going back and correcting Shakespeare's grammar.
Don't let me stop you.
posted by ovvl at 8:38 PM on September 11, 2011


Meesa readin' Shakespeare now, okeeday?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 11:21 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, where can we see video of original pronunciation, casting (all male), staging, costuming, lighting, etc.?
posted by pracowity at 11:40 PM on September 11, 2011


How do people know what people sounded like 400 years ago?
posted by delmoi at 12:00 AM on September 12, 2011


she could not produce either a Scottish or a Jamaican accent.
that's funny, I have a bit of the same thing - I can't do a german accent at all, and my parents are german - I actually can hardly hear their accents, though I know that they're quite pronounced.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:06 AM on September 12, 2011


Delmoi: by reading the thread?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:18 AM on September 12, 2011


How do people know what people sounded like 400 years ago?

http://www.metafilter.com/107330/Speak-the-speech-I-pray-you-as-I-pronounced-it-to-you#3916136
posted by grumblebee at 4:58 AM on September 12, 2011


Having to listen to the stupid fake modern British accents affected by Shakespeare companies is what's ruined Shakespeare for me. It's the primary reason I hate Ren Faires, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:37 AM on September 12, 2011


So this is where Ben Afleck gets his stuff.
posted by Gungho at 7:18 AM on September 12, 2011


Having to listen to the stupid fake modern British accents affected by Shakespeare companies is what's ruined Shakespeare for me. It's the primary reason I hate Ren Faires, too.

Who is doing all these fake British accents? I am pretty insulated into the "sophisticated" NYC theatre world, where almost all actors and directors have been to drama school. When I was in college, in the 80s and 90s, it was already frowned upon for Americans to do Shakespeare with British accents. I can't think of any production I've seen where the actors did this (and I'd certainly walk out if it happened).

I know the major, professional regional theatres don't -- in general -- do this (e.g. professional theatres in Chicago or DC or Seattle), so who is doing it? Are we talking about community theatre?
posted by grumblebee at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2011


Studying Chaucer in college we did a lot of reading aloud, and it got me in the habit of pronouncing the "gh" in words like "daughter" and "ought." Which was great fun and really annoyed our chums. In fact, everyone in my class enjoyed reading modern material as though it were Chaucerian. So much of modern English is silent!

It's nice to be reminded that language is a living, changing thing. Today's speech would doubtless have sounded extremely foreign to Shakespeare's contemporaries.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:49 AM on September 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is what you hear when you visit Tangiers, Virginia.
posted by Deathalicious at 4:18 PM on September 12, 2011


Maybe this should be in a private message, as it's not really on-topic, but grumblebee's last message in this thread reminded me I kept wanting to ask if he was familiar with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. I ask because a) it's a decently known regional, and you're in the approximate area, b) I've been a subscriber to STNJ for a few years, c) I always find your thoughts interesting as to your personal views as to how Shakespeare should be performed, and d) STNJ very rarely does a straight-forward originalist production, and can be outright gleefully non-traditionalist. So I was just curious if you had any familiarity with it or opinion.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:32 PM on September 12, 2011


Sorry, but I've only heard of them. I'm a typical New Yorker without a car, so getting to Jersey, as close as it is, is a hassle. But I'll check them out when I can.
posted by grumblebee at 6:58 PM on September 12, 2011


Consider it a recommendation. :-)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:16 PM on September 12, 2011


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