At the risk of sounding like I missed the joke: creakiness in a speaker Chomsky's age is much more likely to be physiological in origin than stylistic. I checked older footage of Chomsky, and he does seem to have been quite a bit less creaky in the 60s than today. But more importantly, listen to William F. Buckley in the same recording! I suspect that Noam has been out-creaked.
Archive for Sociolinguistics
While I am a loyal fan of your program, I’m very disappointed in your interview of David Thorpe and Susan Sankin from 7 July 2015. As both a phonetician who specializes in intonation, stress patterns, and voice quality, as well as a gay man, I found the opinions expressed in the interview to be not only inaccurate, but also offensive and damaging.
You can listen to that interview, and read the transcript, on the Fresh Air web site — "Filmmaker And Speech Pathologist Weigh In On What It Means To 'Sound Gay'":
Is there such a thing as a "gay voice"? For gay filmmaker David Thorpe, the answer to that question is complicated. "There is no such thing as a fundamentally gay voice," Thorpe tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But, he adds, "there is a stereotype and there are men, to a greater or lesser extent, who embody that stereotype."
In his new film, Do I Sound Gay?, Thorpe searches for the origin of that stereotype and documents his own attempts to sound "less gay" by working with speech pathologist Susan Sankin.
"Can you spot wealthy New Yorkers by their ‘R” sounds?", Improbable Blog 6/19/2015:
Is it possible to gauge how wealthy a New Yorker might be just by the way they pronounce their /r/ s? A new paper in the Journal of English Linguistics investigates whether variations of rhoticity [viz. the prevalence, or lack of, the /r/ sound in speech] in wedding-consultants’ speech could be correlated with the amount of money a bride states she is willing to spend on her wedding dress. That is to say, the amount of money she has at her disposal, used as a measure of her (perceived) social status. The paper, in the Journal of English Linguistics, June 2015, 43: 118-142, can be downloaded here for US$30: Maeve Eberhardt & Corinne Downs, "'(r) You Saying Yes to the Dress?' Rhoticity on a Bridal Reality Television Show", Journal of English Linguistics 2015.
Or you can deprive Sage Publications of their $30, and get a report about the same research for free in an earlier version: Maeve Eberhardt & Corinne Downs, "A Department Store Study for the 21st Century: /r/ vocalization on TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress", NWAV 2013.
James Fallows has been superintending an interesting discussion at the Atlantic about how strange early twentieth century American announcers sound to us today (There are five articles in the series so far, listed with links here). The comments on his articles suggest that we need make certain distinctions.
At the Atlantic:
"Language Mystery Redux: Who Was the Last American to Speak This Way?", 6/6/2015
"That Weirdo Announcer-Voice Accent: Where It Came From and Why It Went Away", 6/7/2015
"The Rise and Fall of Announcer-Speak, Class War Edition", 6/9/2015
"American Announcer-Speak: The Origin Story", 6/9/2015
"Announcer-Speak: The Video Highlights Reel", 6/11/2015
Joshua Fishman, a founder of the field of the sociology of language and a highly influential scholar of language planning and bilingual education, died last night at his home in the Bronx at the age of 88.
The following remembrance, written by Ofelia García (Professor in the Ph.D. programs of Urban Education and of Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Literatures and Languages at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York), has been shared on Facebook and the LINGUIST List.
A week ago, Bob Ladd pointed us to a Guardian story about British sociolinguistic prejudice ("Viewer offered BBC’s Steph McGovern £20 to 'correct' her northern accent", 11/25/2014). Steph McGovern is from Middlesbrough, and back in February of 2013 ITV News had one of its posher presenters trying to fix up Middlesbrough resident's pronunciation in real time:
A short summary of the filled-pause saga so far: If we call nasal-final filled pauses UM and non-nasal varieties UH, younger people use UM more than older people, and women use UM more than men. We've found this to be true in several varieties of English (sampled all over the U.S., sampled all over the U.K., from Philadelphia, from Glasgow) and in several other Germanic languages (Dutch and German). In addition, in the Philadelphia Neighborhood Corpus, where we have interviews gathered over four decades of real time as well as interviews with speakers of different ages, it appears that there is a historical trend as well as a life-cycle phenomenon. Contributions to this work-in-progress have come from Mark Liberman (University of Pennsylvania), Martijn Wieling (University of Groningen), Josef Fruehwald (University of Edinburgh), and John Coleman (University of Oxford), among others.
For more detail, here's a chronological list of past posts: "Young men talk like old women", 11/6/2005; "Fillers: Autism, gender, age", 7/30/2014; "More on UM and UH", 8/3/2014; "UM UH 3", 8/4/2014; "Male and female word usage", 8/7/2014; "UM / UH geography", 8/13/2014; "Educational UM / UH", 8/13/2014; "UM / UH: Lifecycle effects vs. language change", 8/15/2014; "Filled pauses in Glasgow", 8/17/2014; "ER and ERM in the spoken BNC", 8/18/2014; "Um and uh in Dutch", 9/16/2014; "UM / UH in German", 9/28/2014; "Um, there's timing information in Switchboard?", 10/5/2014; "Trending in the Media: Um, not exactly…", 10/7/2014.)
Below is a guest post by Martijn Wieling, adding one more Germanic language to the list.
Josef Fruehwald, "America's Ugliest Accent: Something's ugly alright", Val Systems 10/1/2014.
Update — See "The beauty of Brummie", 7/28/2004 — some quotes therein from Steve Thorne:
In May 2002, I recorded short samples of 20 different accents of English… In order to limit the influence of extraneous variables, the speakers chosen were all male, white, aged between 35 and 40, and upper-working to lower-middle class. These recordings were played to 96 native and 109 non-native English speakers who were then asked to briefly describe each accent and rate each one on a scale of 1-10 (1 = very unpleasant, 5 = neutral, 10 = very pleasant). […]
We've previously observed a surprisingly consistent pattern of age and gender effects on the relative frequency of filled pauses (or "hesitation sounds") with and without final nasals — what we usually write as "um" and "uh" in American English, or often as "er" and "erm" in British English.
Specifically, younger people use the UM form more than older people, while at any age, women use the UM form more than men do. We've seen this same pattern in various varieties of American English and in John Coleman's analysis of the spoken portion of the British National Corpus, and we found the sex effect in the HCRC Map Task Corpus, which involves task-oriented dialogues among college students from Glasgow in Scotland.
It was even more surprising that Martijn Wieling found the same pattern in a collection of Dutch conversational speech. And to make the puzzle more puzzling, Joe Fruehwald's analysis of the Philadelphia Neighborhood Corpus, which includes recordings across several decades of real time, suggests an on-going change in the direction of greater overall UM usage, as well as a life-cycle effect within each cohort of speakers. And Jack Grieve's analysis of Twitter data indicates a pattern of geographical variation within the U.S.
For additional details, see "Young men talk like old women", 11/6/2005; "Fillers: Autism, gender, age", 7/30/2014; "More on UM and UH", 8/3/2014; "UM UH 3", 8/4/2014; "Male and female word usage", 8/7/2014; "UM / UH geography", 8/13/2014; "Educational UM / UH", 8/13/2014; "UM / UH: Lifecycle effects vs. language change", 8/15/2014; "Filled pauses in Glasgow", 8/17/2014; "ER and ERM in the spoken BNC", 8/18/2014; "Um and uh in Dutch", 9/16/2014.
Now Martijn Wieling has found the same pattern in German. His guest post follows.
Kat Chow, "Make It So: Sir Patrick Stewart Moos In Udder Accents", NPR Code Switch ("Frontiers of Race, Culture and Ethnicity") 12/30/2013:
Cow-d it really be? Have our ears herd this correctly? (Sorry, I can't help myself.)
Patrick Stewart — ahem, Sir Patrick Stewart — mooed up a storm on the podcast, How To Do Everything, impersonating cows from various regions. You might even say Stewart was code-switching.
A listener who says she moos with "kind of an American, Nevadan accent" posed the question: Just how would a person moo in a British accent? (And, by the way, it's true: cows do moo in regional accents.)
Just now I was washing breakfast dishes and mentally composing a Facebook post, which started out “Last night was not a good night for Orioles – Red Sox – anti-Yankees fans! The three way tie for first place got broken in the worst direction! Us and our Red Sox buddies …” and I forget how that sentence was going to end, because I was caught up short noticing how it began. I’ve known about the ongoing spread of the ‘accusative’ pronouns forever – Sapir wrote about it (as a case of “language drift”), and Ed Klima, one of my favorite grad school professors, had worked on it and talked with us about it (we tried to figure out what kinds of rules would make ‘us’ and ‘me’ not get nominative in conjoined subjects while "I" and "we" as simple subjects are obligatorily marked nominative, and discussed similarities with French ‘disjunctive’ pronoun ‘moi’ vs. clitic subject 'je'). And it was the source of my oft-repeated anecdote about my son Morriss in 4th grade asking me to proofread a composition he had just written – it started out ‘Seth and I went to the mall’ and he pointed to ‘Seth and I’, and said to me “That’s how you spell “me and Seth”, right?”.
But none of that had prepared me for having it emerge in my own dialect. But there it was. And when I think about putting “We and our Red Sox buddies” instead, it sounds over-formal, doesn’t fit in the context of baseball buddies. So it looks like “us and …” has made the move from passive recognition to becoming an active part of my (most?) colloquial register, at least the baseball buddies register.
A couple of days ago, Joe Fruehwald and Bill Labov were on WHYY, the local public television station, in a NewsWorks Tonight segment about "How the Philly accent is changing". The text version on the newsworks.org web site is nicely presented, with illustrative inline sound clips. You should read (and listen to) the whole thing!