Archive for Phonetics and phonology
Back in March, Lauren Spradlin gave a wonderful talk at PLC 39, under the title "OMG the Word-Final Alveopalatals are Cray-Cray Prev: A Morphophonological Account of Totes Constructions in English". It's been on my to-blog list ever since.
Totes, of course, is a clipped form of totally, which can be found is exchanges like this one:
A: Yo, I'm totes starving. I could totes eat a horse right now.
B: Yeah, totes feel you man. I'm totes hungry too.
A: I totes know this totes pimp place we could eat.
B: We should totes hit it up then.
This (I think simulated) example of "totestalatarianism" comes from a Totes Truncation site that Lauren set up to hold the appendices for a paper of the same name as her PLC talk.
But the point of her analysis is not the totes usage itself, as striking as it sometimes is, but rather the pattern of abbreviation that often spreads to other words in the totes phrase: "totes emosh", "totes adorb", "totes atrosh", "totes apprope", "totes unfortch". Mix in a final /s/ and maybe some expressive palatalization, and you've got "totes arbz" (< arbitrary), "totes inevs" (< inevitable), "totes awesh" (< awesome), "totes impresh" (< impressive). Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Yagoda wrote to ask about the reduced or unreduced pronunciation of man ([mən] vs. [mæn]) in noun compounds: policeman, fireman, garbage man, mailman, gunman, lineman, etc.
I don't know of any scholarly treatments of this precise subject. For an extensive discussion of the textual history and distribution of man- compounds, you can read Kirsti Peitsara "MAN-Compounds in English", Selected Proceedings of the 2005 Symposium on New Approaches in English Historical Lexis. And for some background discussion on the relations among structure, sense, and stress in such phrases, see Mark Liberman & Richard Sproat, "The Stress and Structure of Modified Noun Phrases in English", in Sag & Szabolsci eds., Lexical Matters, 1992. But I don't know of any discussion of (for example) why the -man in policeman is reduced, while the -man in mailman isn't. (Those are my judgments, anyhow, and Merriam-Webster's agrees with me…)
So I'm throwing the floor open for contributions from readers.
|Michelle Rodriguez:||Hey, did ya bring the cavalry?|
|Dwayne Johnson:||Woman, I AM the calvary.|
While watching the Danish show Borgen last night I noticed that Kasper, when talking about ordering a smoothie, first said [smu:di] and then later said [smu:ði]. The first form in particular but also the variation pleased me, so I asked Anna Jespersen about it and look at this bonanza she came up with! (What follows is a paraphrase of what she sent me.)
Smoothie is a newly borrowed word, and I think it's the only one we have encountered with a non-initial [ð]. Consequently, there's a lot of variation. [ð] and [d] would be the most common variants but there are lots of other options. Check out these two ads from McDonald's:
i. In the attached print ad, the line below the smoothies reads "Try our new, refreshing smoothies (no matter how you pronounce them)".
Manohla Dargis, "In ‘Cinderella,’ Disney Polishes Its Glass Slippers", NYT:
You know the rest, bibbidi-bobbidi-boo and all that jazz.
My reaction when I read that was, Gee, interesting re-spelling of Bibbity Bobbity Boo, in line with the standard American flapping and voicing of non-syllable-initial /t/. But it turns out that I'm about 66 years too late.
In China (and around the world among China watchers), everybody's talking about this ungainly syllable. "Duang" surfaced less than a week ago, but already it has been used millions and millions of times.
"The Word That Broke the Chinese Internet" (2/27/15) by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian
"'Duang' is Everywhere on the Chinese Internets, Here’s What It Means" (2/27/15) by Charles Liu
"Chinese netizens just invented a new word, and it's going insanely viral" (2/28/15) by Ryan Kilpatrick (English text part of the way down the page)
There are several different sorts of things involved on the perceptual side of the phenomena that people call "vocal fry" and (less often but more appropriately) "vocal creak".
One perceptual issue is the auditory equivalent of the visual "flicker fusion threshold". If regular impulse-like oscillations in air pressure are fast enough, we hear them as a tone; as they get slower and slower, we can increasingly separate the individual pressure pulses as independent events. The threshold at which the pulses fuse into a tonal percept is called "auditory flutter fusion" or sometimes "auditory flicker fusion". The transition between separation and fusion is a gradual one, and in the boundary region, we can hear the pattern in both ways, sometimes as what is called a "creak" sound, because it sounds like the creaking of a sticky hinge.
The other issue is the perceptual effect of pressure oscillations that are irregular as well as relatively low in frequency. Large amounts of random local variation in period sound like the sound of frying food, as bubbles of steam randomly form and pop here and there.
Both creak and fry can happen in human speech vocal-cord oscillation. But what people generally call "vocal fry" is actually more often mostly "vocal creak".
Following up on our recent Vocal Fry discussion ("Freedom Fries"; "You want fries with that?"), Brett Reynolds wrote to suggest that "Sarah Koenig's vocal fry seems to be something new". As evidence, he suggested a contrast between a piece she did in 2000 ("Deal Of A Lifetime", This American Life #162, 6/23/2000) and one from 2014 ("The Alibi: Prologue", This American Life #537, 10/3/2014). Here are the opening passages from those two segments, along with another one from 2000 ("The Mask Behind The Mask", This American Life #151, 1/28/2000), her first for This American Life:
Since sound is just variation in ambient air pressure, you could think of speech as being like really fast weather in your mouth. I traditionally make a lame joke about this in Intro Phonetics, and the other day I decided to cash the humor in on some facts. Here are the past couple of weeks of barometric pressure observations at Philadelphia International Airport:
It's well known that syllables and words are longer before silent pauses, other things equal. It makes sense that syllables and words would also be longer before filled pauses (UH and UM), but I haven't seen this explicitly noted or quantified. For a course assignment, I recently prepared an R-accessible version of Joe Picone's manually-corrected word alignments for the Switchboard corpus (done when he was at the Institute for Signal and Information Processing at Mississippi State) — and so for this morning's Breakfast Experiment™, I thought I'd take a quick look at pre-filled-pause lengthening.
It's been a while since I posted a Breakfast Experiment™ — things have been hectic here — but yesterday in a discussion with some phonetics students, I learned that certain old ideas about (linguistic) intonation have passed out of memory. And in trying to explain these ideas, I posed a problem for myself that is a suitable subject a little hacking during this morning's breakfast hour. Attention Conservation Notice: We're going to wander in the history-of-phonetics weeds for a while here.