Archive for Phonetics and phonology

Sinitic ideophones

I have always felt that binoms are a key to studying early vernacular Sinitic.  (See "Selected readings" below for useful references on this topic.)  Now we have a valuable research tool for access to and analysis of premodern Sinitic binoms, which fall within the purview of the tabulated listings introduced here:

The Chinese Ideophone Database (CHIDEOD)
L’ ensemble de données des idéophones chinois (CHIDEOD)

In: Cahiers de Linguistique Asie Orientale (Brill)

Authors: Thomas VAN HOEY and Arthur Lewis THOMPSON

Online Publication Date:  26 Oct 2020

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New official night market sign with Taiwanese

The Shalu district of Taichung (Taizhong) is opening a new night market:

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The pragmatic and innovative Choe Sejin — 15th-16th c. Korean phonetician, translator, and interpreter

[This is a guest post by S. Robert Ramsey]


The Statue of King Sejong in Downtown Seoul.

The brilliance of good king Sejong (1397-1450) overshadows another great mind of Joseon Korea, a middle-class man named Choe Sejin (1465-1542).

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More post-IPA astronauts

As promised yesterday in "Pronunciation evolution", today I'll present some examples to suggest that Wally Funk's pronunciation of "astronaut" was not a mistake or an idiosyncrasy:

Taking a look at a sample of 100 instances of "astronaut" in the previously-described NPR podcast corpus, I found several similar cases where the word has only two phonetic syllables, with the first ending with a fricative and the second starting with [n]. And in more than half of the cases, the unstressed medial syllable is not elided, but the /t/ vanishes completely, and the /r/ is retained only as spectral lowering at the end of the /s/. I don't have time this morning to lay those examples out and discuss them, but I'll put it on my to-blog list for tomorrow.

We might transcribe Wally Funk's rendition in IPA-ish as [æʃnɔt], though the [ʃ] would be covering a complex tangle of coronal gestures:

an astronaut


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Heavy Velar vs Meager Bilabial Articulations in Xiongnu Language

[This is a guest post by Penglin Wang]

            The great difficulties we have with trying to study Xiongnu language persist from trying to glean Xiongnu words, especially the glossed ones, in early Chinese sources for comparison in order to know what linguistic affiliation it seems to have in the central Eurasian region. Since these difficulties cannot be overcome at all owing to its extinct status a millennium plus ago, an alternative approach could be to recognize that there are different components of language regardless of living or extinct and attempt to observe how different components can differ from one another yet still be entities that most researchers would want to treat as linguistic data or facts rather than imaginations for a comparative purpose. It could then be possible to open up a window to contribute to a solution of some classic problems in Altaic comparative studies. One such attempt is to examine the available Xiongnu words from the perspectives of articulatory phonetics and phonotactics. Concern for these is characteristic of Xiongnu studies. Pulleyblank (1962:242) has insightfully observed “only *b- initially, never *p-” in the Xiongnu transcriptions.

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Pronunciation evolution

Listening to a StoryCorps conversation about the history of women in NASA's astronaut corps as Wally Funk experienced it, I noticed something (phonetically) striking in her first sentence:

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Proto-Turkic Consonants

I seldom announce the publication of Sino-Platonic Papers on Language Log, but this one, although seemingly highly esoteric, will actually be of interest to many readers.  Aside from numerous Turkic tongues, among other languages and groups it touches on, the following are mentioned:  Mongolian, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Tocharian, Uyghur, Bulgar, Tatar, Bactrian, Tungusic, Celtic, Dravidian, Yeniseian, Samoyedic, Chuvash, Latin, Italic, Prussian, Slavic (various languages), Sanskrit, Kitan, Hungarian, Xiongnu (Appendix 2 is a list of Xiongnu words surviving in Altaic languages), Circassian, Caucasian, Avar, Dingling 丁零, Khotanese Saka, Sogdian, Khwarezmian, Old Persian, Middle and New Persian, Pashto, Ossetian, and numerous Iranian languages, Yuezhi, Koguryŏan (Korean).

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Sino-Platonic Papers is pleased to announce the publication of its three-hundred-and-twenty-fifth issue:

"On *p- and Other Proto-Turkic Consonants," by Orçun Ünal (Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Göttingen, Germany)

Dedication:

To my first teacher in Mongolian

Claus Schönig (1955–2019)

http://www.sino-platonic.org/complete/spp325_proto_Turkic_consonants.pdf

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Strange tales and labiovelar transcriptions

East Asians have been addicted to strange stories for millennia.  Many of these fall under the rubric of guài 怪 ("strange"), e.g., zhìguài 志怪 ("records of anomalies"), the name of one of the earliest genres of strange stories in China.

One of the strangest aspects about East Asian strange tales is that perhaps the most famous collection of all was written by a Westerner, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904).

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Canine intonations

I live in a duplex.  Even though the two houses are separated by a thick brick wall, I sometimes hear sounds coming from my neighbor's place.  The most conspicuous are the vocalizations made by her dog, Izzy.

Izzy is some kind of South Carolina coon hound.  We live in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, but my neighbor got her female dog from a rescue service in South Carolina.

Izzy is quirky.  She is unique.  I have never heard any other dog like her.  She doesn't just bark; she talks.  Izzy's voice projects emphasis, querulousness, inquiry, complaint, displeasure, joy, dismay, and a whole range of other emotions and intentions.  Sometimes she seems to be talking to herself (muttering and mumbling), and sometimes she seems to be communicating with her owner or other people around her.

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QAnon phonetics

David Gilbert, "QAnon Thinks Trump Says ‘Chy-na’ to Send a Secret Message About Ukraine", Vice 3/14/2022:

QAnon followers are boosting an unhinged new conspiracy theory that claims former President Donald Trump was purposely mispronouncing the word “China” for years, as part of a secret plot to alert the world that COVID-19 was manufactured in Ukraine.

The latest conspiracy theory being spread among QAnon adherents ties in with the wider conspiracy about U.S. biolabs in Ukraine and suggests that QAnon may be shifting its longstanding perception of China as the enemy.

The new conspiracy theory, first flagged by disinformation expert Marc Owen Jones, has been bubbling up on QAnon channels on Telegram for the past week.

First, some enterprising QAnon sleuth claimed to have “discovered” that there was a place in Ukraine called “chy-na” and further claimed that Trump’s distinct pronunciation of “China” was the former president’s attempt to signal to his followers that what he was talking about was “chy-na” in Ukraine, and not China.

In recent days, the theory has grown, and many QAnon followers now argue that when Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” he was secretly referring to the Ukrainian chy-na, and trying to tell the world that the virus was manufactured in Ukraine, a claim that ties in with the broader belief that Ukraine is home to some “deep state” plot to control the world.

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The weirdness of typing errors

In this age of typing on computers and other digital devices, when we daily input thousands upon thousands of words, we are often amazed at the number and types of mistakes we make.  Many of them are simple and straightforward, as when our fingers stumblingly hit the wrong keys by sheer accident.  People who type on phones warn their correspondents about the likelihood that their messages are prone to contain such errors because they include some such warning at the bottom: 

Please forgive spelling / grammatical errors; typed on glass // sent from my phone.

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First novels

I traditionally start my phonetics courses with an "over-under bet", about how much randomly-selected audio we need to listen to (and look at), before we find a systematic, interesting, and essentially unstudied phenomenon. In the case of English, I generally offer 20 seconds as the threshold value — for less well-studied languages like French or Chinese, the threshold might be 10 seconds. For understudied languages, 3 seconds.

This came up a few weeks ago in my corpus phonetics course, and so we took a look at the most recent Fresh Air podcast at that point: "With a nod to 'Lolita,' 'Vladímír' makes a sly statement about sex and power", 2/22/2022.

Here's the first bit of the show (a little less than 12 seconds):

This is Fresh Air.
Our book critic Maureen Corrigan says
Julia May Jonas's new first novel,
called Vladímír,
should spark a lot of heated discussions
on today's campuses.

And the first interesting-and-unstudied phenomenon turns up after about 6.2 seconds:

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A quaint and curious English village name

In studying the history of the Chinese Imperial examination system, I came upon an individual named Stafford Northcote (1818-1887), 1st Earl of Iddesleigh, who was instrumental in devising the British civil service.  Naturally, I tried to pronounce the name of the village he was from, but couldn't quite wrap my head and tongue around it.  So I decided I'd better do a bit of research on the history of Iddesleigh to see what topolectal gems lay hidden in that perplexing concatenation of six consonants and four vowels.

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