Professor Higgins, a scientist of phonetics, and Colonel Pickering, an Indian dialect linguist, meet on a rainy night in London. Higgins bets that he can transform a poor flower girl with “kerbstone English” into a lady that could pass as a duchess in six months. The next day a flower girl who had overheard him the previous night, Eliza, shows up at his house wanting speech lessons. With a bit of convincing, Higgins agrees and the bet is on. Can Eliza really pass as a duchess? What will she do after the six months are done?
Pygmalion was a great book. I was looking for some of Shakespeare’s plays when I came across it, and it’s definitely worth a read. I love the progression in Eliza’s speech as the story continues. At first, it is extremely hard to understand what she is saying, then, as her English improves, it gets easier, until, at last, she is speaking English as refined as the professor’s. There are letters like upside down e’s at the beginning! It is a bit easier to read than Shakespeare, though. I also like the strong female characters; they aren’t intimidated by the men and show Shaw’s point of view on feminism.
Here`s a picture of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Linguists use this to write down how words are pronounced: