Archive for Phonetics and phonology

The Ramsey hypothesis

Chris Button writes:

I’ve been working on adding Japanese readings to my dictionary*. I decided to add pitch accents on the kun readings, and started getting interested in the history there. I came across some amazing work by Bob Ramsey—notably this one**.

[*VHM:  Comparative historical dictionary of Sinitic and Indo-European.]
 
[**"The Old Kyoto Dialect and the Historical Development of Japanese Accent", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 39.1 (June, 1979), 157-175.]
 
Clearly, to my novice eyes, he is absolutely correct. I’m staggered no-one really accepted it! I suppose it’s that age-old issue with academia around it being very difficult to disrupt the old guard with their vested interests. In any case, it looks like this recent article adds some nice typological data to Bob’s brilliant proposal.
 
I wonder what Bob thinks of it nowadays?

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A little Sinograph game

For cognoscenti.

Directions

Here's an amazing little game that was played by two of the brightest Sinology PhD candidates I've ever met.  It is a conversation between X and Y.  Y initiated the conversation by typing to X, without telling X the secret of the game.  When X received Y's first message, she immediately got what Y meant.  She understood as soon as she received his e-mail, then replied to him (by typing) in the same manner that he wrote to her.  And so off they went on their merry way in Lexiland!

Here I copy-paste this little hànzì yóuxì 汉字游戏 for Language Log readers who are well-versed in Sinographs and want to give it a try.  Even those who do not know any Chinese characters might still be able to gain a sense of how the game proceeds and what it signifies.

The "answer sheet” is at the bottom of this post. Please scroll down to the very, very end to see the answers. However, don’t look at the dá'àn 答案 ("solution") before trying really hard by yourself!

Warning!

This game is devilishly difficult.

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Political flapping and voicing of coronal stops

In most varieties of American English, coronal stops (/t/, /d/, /n/) that are not in the onset of stressed syllables are generally realized as ballistic "taps". And in these contexts, lexical (or historical) /t/ also loses its voicelessness.

So for most of us, traitor and trader are homophones.

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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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