Variation in Norm
The sounds of the major modern West Germanic languages have been the subject of extensive and insightful contrastive studies, see, for instance, Moulton (1962a) for English and German, Collins and Mees (52003) for English and Dutch, and Morcin iec (1994) for German and Dutch. In accord with objectives of applied linguistics their authors (rightly) concentrate on the sounds that are missing from the “source language” and particularly on the phonetic differences holding between neariden tical sounds of the languages to be compared, since these are the most persistent sources of difficulty and error in foreign language learning. In the process, the authors, however, often reveal a tendency to overlook or discount interesting more abstract structural properties shared by the languages or absent from them. Also they tend to overemphasize the unity of each particular language and presuppose uniqueness and constancy of its pronunciation, when they select just one standard variety as a fixed and putatively unalterable norm for the comparison. This proce dure is of course especially problematic in the case of English, which has (at least) two national standards of pronunciation that are strikingly different in sound. Pronunciation norms constitute a bulwark against variation and change, yet they are not immune to these universal linguistic phenomena. It can be observed that at least since the middle of the twentieth century there have occurred structural changes in the standard vowel systems of American English (AmE) and German, as well as remarkable changes in the realization of certain phonemes of...
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