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Standard English Pronunciation

The essential use of language is communication, ever more important in this global age. I have long called for a speech standard which is clear and pleasant. It would be a successor to the old "king´s English". The BBC used to provide such a standard, but, accused of elitism, it encouraged a variety of accents, some of them incomprehensible to me. The "English" on American TV cannot compare with the Spanish of an uneducated Mexican peasant. The cult of local accents is like that of dialects, including black English, Now industry has given me an additional argument. More and more machines are being taught to respond to verbal commands, which must be clear but not necessarily pleasant, alas. Here is a news item which may be encouraging, although it may make some horrible TV pronunciation the standard. Moreover, it sounds as though rival businesses may establish different standards, prolonging the confusion:

Microsoft, Cisco, and Intel have formed a coalition backing a simple speech recognition standard for the Internet that will allow users to access Web services via speech commands. The Speech Application Language Tags (SALT) standard, set for initial launch in the first quarter of 2002, will be interoperable across different operating systems. Developers can obtain it for free. Another, more functional standard, VoiceXML, is currently being developed by another industry group, although the SALT companies say the two will not compete. SALT is simply meant to allow Web sites to add speech functionality without having to reconstruct themselves, said Frank Caris, whose Philips Speech Processing North America unit is contributing its localization and speech recognition technology to the project. Microsoft has also said it will incorporate SALT into its Visual Studio.Net tools and Internet Explorer. AOL Time Warner already has its own Web site speech command tools available through AOL by Phone services. (IDG News Service, 15 October 2001)

Ronald Hilton - 10/27/01