Saturday 29 October 2011

The Oxford Advanced American Dictionary online

It’s been advertised as a “new website for learners of American English”. It is the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary (OAAD) website. The site went live about two weeks ago and is available for consultation free of charge. 

The OAAD has many features in common with the OALD, the former coming from the same stable as the latter. 

As far as phonetics is concerned, the OAAD offers learners a “Pronunciation Guide” (very similar to the one we find in OALD) with information regarding the transcription of American vowel and consonant sounds, as well as stress, and strong and weak forms. 

Unlike the OALD, transcriptions in the OAAD also include the symbol for the (usually voiced) alveolar tap, , as in ˈlɪt̬l or ˈsɪt̬i. In the OALD, words like these are transcribed with a plain t, the pronunciation also matching the transcriptions supplied. This is not so, though, for many other words, such as, for instance, parting, pronounced by the same American speaker as ˈpɑrt̬ɪŋ in both dictionaries but transcribed as ˈpɑːrtɪŋ in the OALD and ˈpɑrt̬ɪŋ in the OAAD.  

This is one of the main reasons why some of my EFL students, after starting to use both dictionaries together, began to complain about the OALD. Some of them, noticing the discrepancy between the pronunciations offered and the corresponding transcriptions, simply decided to try and imitate what they could hear on the recordings rather than pay attention to the symbols used. 

Another characteristic of the phonetic transcriptions provided in the OAAD is that the long vowels have no length marks. So, for example, today’s “Word of the Day”, foolhardy, is transcribed ˈfulˌhɑrdi, as one would find in most textbooks by American scholars. 

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the name of the phonetics editor for the dictionary – not even on the Oxford University Press website. Does anybody know who that is? 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

On a rather different note, what do you think about this video clip entitled “Englishmen going to Italy”, which has been doing the rounds in Italy recently? 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

And finally, a special treat for Halloween for my English Phonetics students at the Università degli Studi della Tuscia:


  1. Alex: At Amazon's you can take a preview of the printed version. The 'Foreword' was written by Cheryl Boyd Zimmerman, Associate Professor of TESOL at California State. She must have been responsible in some way or other for the contents.

  2. It's only where you can have the sneak preview; doesn't offer the preview function.

  3. My followers might want to read an article on this topic by J. Windsor Lewis: