Archive for Phonetics and phonology

"Dick voice": Annoying voices and gender stereotypes

During the 2016 presidential campaign, there was a lot of negative commentary about Hillary Clinton's voice. Some examples from across the political spectrum are compiled and discussed here, and even-the-liberal-The-Atlantic published on "The Science Behind Hating Hillary's Voice".  Since Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump pretty much got a pass for vocal characteristics analogous to Hillary's, it was suggested more than once that the criticism was sexist, most creatively in this reprise of Shout by Dominique Salerno and Laura Hankin.

In fact, considering how many people have criticized aspects of Donald Trump's speaking style, it's striking that there's been so little discussion of his tone of voice as opposed to his rhetorical style and content. But this balance is distinctly different for his senior advisor Stephen Miller — see Kali Holloway, "What makes Trump advisor Stephen Miller so unlikeable?", Salon 2/15/2017. That article leads with a collection of video clips from Miller's recent interviews — here's the audio track:

Holloway's evaluation of those clips is strongly negative, and also distinctly gendered:

If you caught any of those appearances, you may have noticed a few Miller trademark gestures. Empty, reptilian eyes scanning left to right over cue cards. A pouty mouth delivering each insane untruth. And a voice that sounds like every hyper-unlikable, pompous, joyless, self-important authority-on-everything you’ve ever met. Or as Katie McDonough of Fusion puts it, “he has the voice of someone who is a dick.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (41)

Ask Language Log: Turnbull, Trumble, ?

Graeme Orr asks:

This relates to US-Australian relations, thrown into mirth if not disarray by a now infamous phone call.

Afterwards, Mr Spicer mistook our PM's surname twice in a press conference.

Australian social media heard Spicer as calling our PM Turnbull 'Trumble'. But I distinctly hear it as 'Trunbull', a simple transposition error of a name Spicer probably only has seen not heard. 'Turnbull' is Anglo/Saxon, 'Trumble' is Scottish and there have been several famous Australian 'Trumbles', so Australians would be primed to hear the misspeaking that way.

Can your software parse the mispronunciation?

Already local journalists are stirring the PM by calling him 'Trumble' to his face.

Which is more than a tease. E.g. that 60 Minutes interviewer is the doyen of our press gallery and believes the Trump phone insults should be a trigger for Australia to free itself from our role as 'Deputy US Sheriff' in the Pacific.

P.S. We are used to this in a way – Jimmy Carter once stood beside PM Malcolm Fraser and welcomed him as 'My good friend John Fraser'. John was merely Fraser's formal first birth name.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (15)

Inaugural addresses: SAD.

A few days ago, I posted some f0-difference dipole plots to visualize the contrast between Barack Obama's syllable-level pitch dynamics and Donald Trump's ("Tunes, political and geographical", 2/2/2017):

Obama 2009 Inaugural Address Trump 2017 Inaugural Address

For another take on the same contrast in political prosody, I ran a "Speech Activity Detector" (SAD) on the recordings of the same two speeches, and used the results to create density plots of the relationship between speech-segment durations and immediately following silence-segment durations:

Obama 2009 Inaugural Address Trump 2017 Inaugural Address

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

n't is the new not

[h/t Larry Horn]

Comments (4)

MLK day: Pitch range

In honor of MLK day, I've replicated something that Corey Miller did for a term paper in an introductory phonetics course in the early 1990s. The point of the exercise is that any given speaker can exhibit a wide variety of different pitch ranges. 25 years ago this was a somewhat complicated business, involving digitization of tape recordings, use of expensive high-end computer workstations and so on. Today the whole process from start to end took me less than half an hour, leaving out the time required to write this post. I've put links to the relevant scripts at the end of the post — six lines of shell commands and a dozen lines of R.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (8)

Transcription, lenition and allophonic variation

I doubt that many native speakers of American English will recognize this word:

But with a little more context, more people will get the message:

And if we play the whole pause group, it becomes obvious:

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (24)

Language vs. script

Many of the debates over Chinese language issues that keep coming up on Language Log and elsewhere may be attributed to a small number of basic misunderstandings and disagreements concerning the relationship between speech and writing.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (69)

A Chinese primer for English (1860)

During the last few days, there has been a flurry of excitement over the circulation of photographs and information concerning an old Chinese textbook for learning English.  Here are a couple of pages from the book (click to embiggen):

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (10)

"Ni hao" for foreigners

A video titled "The Chinese tourists accused of bad behaviour in Thailand | Channel 4 News" was posted to YouTube on 2/22/15, but it has been recirculated in this article by Didi Kirsten Tatlow about Chinese travel abroad during the recent National Day holiday:  "With Its Tourists Behaving Badly, China Embarks on Some Soul-Searching" (NYT, 10/10/16).

I do not wish to analyze the behavior of Chinese tourists at home and overseas.  What struck me powerfully about this video is the peculiar pronunciation of what is arguably the most widely known Mandarin expression in the world, viz., Nǐ hǎo 你好 ("hello; hi!").  You can hear it at 0:23 and 0:37 of this 4:04 video.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (29)

Dialectal interference in Shanghai

Here's a photo of a warehouse on Chongming Island, at the northern edge of Shanghai, which deals in various agricultural products, as listed on the two signs:


(Source)

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (3)

Rhotic fricatives on the hoof

For a linguist, at least if the linguist is me, it is a thrill to cross for the first time the northern border that separates Austria from Czechia. Immediately after crossing the border last Sunday, my train stopped at Břeclav, and I was able to hear over the beautifully clear announcement PA system my first real-context occurrence of one of the rarest sounds in the languages of the world.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments off

Eurasian eureka

After reading the the latest series of Language Log posts on long range connections (see below for a listing), Geoff Wade suggested that I title the next post in this series as I have this one.  If there ever was an occasion to do so, now is as good a moment as any, with the announcement of the publication of Chau Wu's extraordinary "Patterns of Sound Correspondence between Taiwanese and Germanic/Latin/Greek/Romance Lexicons, Part I", Sino-Platonic Papers, 262 (Aug., 2016), 239 pp. (free pdf).

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (27)

Sino-Roman hybrid characters

Founded in 1858, Keio is the oldest university in Japan and one of the best, also ranking high in world ratings.  Its name is written 慶應 in kanji.  That's a lot of strokes to scribble down every time you want to write the name of your university, so Keio people often write it this way:   广+K 广+O (imagine that the "K" and the "O" are written inside of the 广).  That makes 6 strokes and 4 strokes instead of 15 strokes and 17 strokes respectively, 10 strokes total instead of 32.

Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (13)