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On ELL there are some questions about the pronunciation made from a person. Considering that the person speaking is an Irish person who works in Australia, aren't those questions too localized? How many users would need to understand how an Irish person working (and maybe living) in Australia pronounces some specific words?

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    My impression is that OP is trying to learn to recognize sounds that are absent in her language (she is Korean), and is listening to actual recordings off the internet. Sometimes she encounters dialect pronunciations - as of course she will in real life. It's an genuine problem, I think; but how to address is it a pedagogical issue. I've pointed her at 'generic' recordings in the Collins online dictionary, but I'd like to hear what actual teachers, and those who have actually had to learn the language, have to say on this matter. Feb 15, 2013 at 17:42
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    I understand why the questions are asked, but when the same type of question is being asked, the question is less, and less useful. Also, when the question comes on the lines of "I hear this; do you hear the same?" (which is what happened at least once), I don't see what future readers can get from that. It is like those questions about something written 100 years ago; once you say "what was acceptable then is not acceptable now" and "writers have the poetic license" there is no need to ask a question more about that text.
    – apaderno
    Feb 15, 2013 at 20:58
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    'Poetic license' is one thing; but what was written 100 and even 400 years ago is a living part of the read language. People have other reasons to learn English than the writing of business plans. If I take up Italian in my old age it will be to read not Il Corriere della Sera but Pirandello and Goldoni and Boccaccio and Petrarca. Feb 15, 2013 at 22:21
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    @StoneyB: That's fair, but I think we should be careful to note when such parts of the language are no longer in use in order to prevent ELL users from picking up bits of language that we've implied are grammatical, usual or acceptable which they then deploy unsuccessfully in their own writing or speech. Generally I think ELU is a better place for esoteric and out-of-date grammar, words and syntax, and that ELL should concentrate primarily on giving ELL users the tools that they need to communicate effectively in the modern English speaking world.
    – Matt
    Feb 16, 2013 at 9:32
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    @Matt That's fair, too. But I note that the questions of which kiamlaluno complains have, all but one, turned on points of syntax and idiom which are still current. They are drawn from Jane Eyre, which is a common school text - I read it in high school in the 60s, as did my wife in the 70s and my son in the 'oughts. And the questioner knows what she's about - witness this question - and is reading JE in parallel with Harry Potter. Let's treat our users as grownups, not children who must be protected from the classics. Feb 16, 2013 at 12:53
  • @StoneyB In Italian, nobody says volsi dove si puoti e più non dimandar, if not when quoting Dante Alighieri. A question about that phrase would be a little strange, if asked from who is learning Italian. I would find strange that somebody who is learning English, and who still have to understand when to use the subjunctive (for example), would ask about something written by Shakespeare.
    – apaderno
    Feb 16, 2013 at 13:31
  • @kiamlaluno In my wife's second-year college French class two years ago they read a story by Balzac (1799-1850), a contemporary of Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855). When I was a student in an Austrian Realgymnasium in 1962, third-year English students read passages from Macbeth alongside Theodor Fontane's Die Brück' am Tay. Feb 16, 2013 at 14:04
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    @StoneyB I studied Italian literature, but I would not expect that everybody interested in learning Italian needs to necessarily study Italian literature too. If I were to ask questions about phrases found in the Divina Commedia on Italian Language and Usage, I would quickly fill the site with questions that would not probably interest much users.
    – apaderno
    Feb 16, 2013 at 14:36
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    @kiamlaluno Well, I haven't noticed anybody asking questions about Chaucer, which would be a fairer comparison with Dante. And English has of course had a very different history than Italian: our literary language was fixed very early, and in consequence has engaged for centuries in a productive dialogue with the vernacular. Charlotte Brontë might be distressed, but she would not be much puzzled by the language of J.K.Rowling. Feb 16, 2013 at 15:39

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I think this is a situation where Meaning of Up/Down votes against ELL Meta questions may be an issue. For the record, I'm upvoting the question because it needs to be asked, not because I agree with OP's implied position that questions about a specific person's pronunciation are Too Localised.

If we're going to allow questions about pronunciation at all (I don't see how we can reasonably refuse them), surely we must expect they will often be in the context of specific examples?

We don't refuse questions concerning written usages by specific writers. Personally, I think questions concerning pronunciation by living native speakers are more On Topic for a learner site than questions about outdated Victorian literary usages.

So my position is that it's fine for people to ask about any pronunciation. Obviously, often they won't actually know that the specific instance they're asking about is in fact highly localised (the speaker could be drunk, have a speech impediment, or a very unusual accent / ideolect, etc.). ELL will presumably decide (and possibly closevote) on a case-by-case basis in such situations.

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  • As long as the question is not something like "I hear this; do you hear the same?" pronunciation questions are fine with me. What I find annoying is keeping to ask questions about the same person's pronunciation; at the end, it should be clear that how a person pronounce a word is not always the pronunciation somebody else uses.
    – apaderno
    Feb 15, 2013 at 21:22
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    @kiamlaluno: Well, I'll certainly defend your right to closevote as Too Localised if you think closely-related issues keep recurring. Come to that, I'd probably start aggressively closevoting myself, as duplicates if nothing else. But there are aspects of pronunciation that might bother non-native speakers, but which many Anglophones don't even notice. Precise enunciation of Wednesday, for example. Feb 15, 2013 at 22:01
  • Learners have a different approach to a language than who speaks it every day. There are details I don't notice in Italian simply for the fact I am used to them; I guess the same is true for who is an English native speaker.
    – apaderno
    Feb 16, 2013 at 13:42
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    @kiamlaluno: As John Lawler points out here, a phoneme is a particular set of sounds produced in a particular language and distinguishable by native speakers of that language. That's to say, there can be more than one actual sound representing "the same phoneme", in any language. Since the native speakers of that language treat them all as equivalent for the purposes of symbol representation, they often simply don't notice the irrelevant differences. Feb 16, 2013 at 15:12
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    @FumbleFingers I'd go even farther: not only do they not notice the differences, they are 'trained' not to hear them at all (within limits). Feb 16, 2013 at 16:19
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    @StoneyB: Excellent point. So I don't have "cloth ears" after all. I just don't hear irrelevant variations because it's inefficient use of my senses to make distinctions that don't actually mean anything (but you have to be at least aware of the difference to find the Family Guy Cool Hwhip sequence funny! :) Feb 16, 2013 at 18:13
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    @FumbleFingers Exactly (and very funny). We screen out anomalies we're used to hearing; it's only anomalies we're not used to hearing that strike us as strange or furrin. Feb 16, 2013 at 18:27

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