Archive for Phonetics and phonology

Automatic Pinyin annotation — state of the art

[This is a guest post by Gábor Ugray]

Back in 2018 your post Pinyin for phonetic annotation planted an idea in my head that I've been gradually expanding ever since. I am now at a stage where I routinely create annotated Chinese text for myself; this (pdf) is what one such document looks like.

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Farther on beyond the IPA

In "On beyond the (International Phonetic) Alphabet", 4/19/2018, I discussed the gradual lenition of /t/ in /sts/ clusters, as in the ending of words like "motorists" and "artists". At one end of the spectrum we have a clear, fully-articulated [t] sound separating two clear [s] sounds, and at the other end we have something that's indistinguishable from a single [s] in the same context. I ended that post with these thoughts:

My own guess is that the /sts/ variation discussed above, like most forms of allophonic variation, is not symbolically mediated, and therefore should not be treated by inventing new phonetic symbols (or adapting old ones). Rather, it's part of the process of phonetic interpretation, whereby symbolic (i.e. digital) phonological representations are related to (continuous, analog) patterns of articulation and sound.

It would be a mistake to think of such variation as the result of universal physiological and physical processes: though the effects are generally in some sense natural, there remain considerable differences across languages, language varieties, and speaking styles. And of course the results tend to become "lexicalized" and/or "phonologized" over time — this is one of the key drivers of linguistic change.

Similar phenomena are seriously understudied, even in well-documented languages like English. Examine a few tens of seconds of (even relatively careful and formal) speech, and you'll come across some examples. To introduce another case, listen to these eight audio clips, and ask yourself what sequences of phonetic segments they represent:

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"Will life be better in the coming year?"

So asks the Chinese colleague who sent me this photograph:

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Tao vs. Dao: amazing restaurant sign near UPenn

I've eaten in this hot pot (huǒguō / WG huo3-kuo1 / IPA [xwò.kwó] 火锅 / 火鍋) restaurant at 3717 Chestnut St. on a number of occasions, and each time I go, I am struck by the creative sign out front:

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D for Dog, L for Love

When confirming reservations on the phone with clerical folks in certain southeast Asian countries, Paul Midler noticed they often used variations of the NATO phonetic alphabet. "D for Dog" and "L for Love" seemed to be a couple consistent additions. Passing through a travel agency in Thailand, he saw this:

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Agu hair bian

Here I am standing in front of a hair salon near the south gate of Kansai University in Osaka, Japan two days ago:

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Pronouncing Kiev / Kyiv

The Wikipedia article on Kiev or Kyiv gives this as the pronunciation of the Ukrainian form Київ, transliterated as Kyiv:

And here's a lesson from Twitter:

https://twitter.com/wiczipedia/status/1194686620097826821

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Variations on a colloquial Sinitic expression

When I walked into my "Language, Script, and Society in China" class on Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., the students were energetically discussing a colloquial expression.  Those from south China didn't know the expression, but the ones from northeast China knew it, although they weren't entirely sure how to write it in characters, and there was some difference of opinion over how to pronounce it.

Finally, they agreed that we could write the sounds this way:  yīdīlə.

Then we moved on to a consideration of the meaning of this expression.  The consensus was that it meant "carry / pick up a group of things (such as a six pack)".

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Remarkable Name of a Hong Kong Restaurant

From Bob Bauer:

Bob explains:

The photograph shows the front of a Hong Kong restaurant which has not only chosen as its name the colloquial indigenous Cantonese word, 冚棒唥 ham6 baang6 laang6 'all; in all' (Sidney Lau 1977:324), but has also displayed this name in BOTH Chinese characters AND Jyut Ping. We should especially note that the Cantonese romanization is correct AND complete with tone numbers!

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"Horse" and "language" in Korean

A Korean student was just in my office and saw this book on my table:  mal-ui segyesa 말의 세계사.

She said, "Oh, a world history of words!"

But I knew that couldn't be right because the book is a world history of horses.  It's actually a Korean translation of this book by Pita Kelekna:

The Horse in Human History (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2009)

So what happened?  Did the student make a mistake?

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Blue-Green Iranian "Danube"

A curious phenomenon of Old European hydronymy that I've noticed for a long time is that many of the most important rivers in Central and Eastern Europe — Danube, Don, Donets, Dnieper, Dniester, and others — all have names that derive from the ancient Iranian (Scythian) word for "river" (cf. don, "river, water" in modern Ossetic).  Source

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Third-g?ra(d|t)e phonetics

Recent political events have offered a lesson in the phonetic interpretation of American English, among other subjects. See "Trump disparages Pelosi at their first meeting since impeachment inquiry began, Democrats say", Washington Post 10/16/2019:

"He couldn't handle it," Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, referring to a House vote earlier Wednesday condemning Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. "He just couldn't handle it. . . . So, he just kind of engaged in a meltdown."

Pelosi added that she is praying for Trump's health. Pressed for more, she responded: "I'm not talking about mentally. I'm talking about handling the truth."

In remarks outside the White House, Schumer had told reporters that Trump had called Pelosi a "third-rate politician." Pelosi later clarified at the Capitol that Trump had called her a "third-grade politician."

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A disyllabic autantonymous stative verb

Lucas Klein and Nick Williams asked me about this interesting word:  落魄.

It can mean either "free-spirited" or "downtrodden", which appear to directly contradict each other, and it has at least three variant pronunciations (luòpò, luòbó, luòtuò).  Source

Negative meanings:  "down and out; in dire straits; abject".

Positive meanings:  "unrestrained; unconventional; untrammeled by convention; casual".

Seems to be a literary term.

Source

Goes all the way back to Shǐjì 史記 (Records of the [Grand] Scribe / Historian; completed ca. 94 BC), scroll 97, "Lì Shēng zhuàn 酈生傳" ("Biography of Li Sheng").

Can also be written 落拓 (cf. 落魄 above and note that both the semantophores and the phonophores of the second characters of the two variants are starkly different).

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