Archive for Variation

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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Remarkable Ukrainian-Scottish speaker

Robert Shackleton sent in a link to this BBC Ukrainecast episode from 14 March, with the comment

Very distressing to listen to the interview, but also an interesting example of a native Slavic language speaker who has near-perfect Ayrshire speech.

The referenced interview starts at 6:20 in the BBC podcast — I've reproduced it below for convenience, and for protection against future bit rot:

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Spring is sprung

The start of today's newsletter from Amy Stoller:

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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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How to pronounce the surname "Mair" and other Doggie talk

People pronounce my surname all sorts of different ways — Myer, Mare, Meer, Mire, as in Golda Meir, etc., etc., with the number of syllables (one or two), accent, and vowel quality varying almost limitlessly  — but I've never once in my life "corrected" anyone, because I think they're all legitimate.  Think of the different ways to pronounce Sun Yat-sen's and Chiang Kai-shek's names, and how to pronounce 陈 (Chen, Chin, Chan, Tan).

After all, people in the same family may pronounce their own surname differently, e.g., Boucher ("Butcher, Boochez"), Naquin ("Na-can, Næ-kwin"), and the famous Penn Sinologist Derk Bodde (1909-2003) introduced himself as "Derek Bod", whereas most other people called him "Durk Bod-de").

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Child child child child child child child child child child child child child

Following on the hoofs of "Sumomomomomomomomo" (11/17/21), here's another good one, from rit majors:


(source)

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English vocative pronouns

On my to-blog list since last month:


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Arigatō

There's probably no other Japanese word that is better known to the world than "arigatō".  In this little essay, Kaki Okumura attempts to explain why "there is difficulty" means "thank you".  This is something that I have often pondered myself, but is that all there is to it?  And what about the alleged Buddhist aspects of the expression?

Even the rather full etymology I've quoted below doesn't do full justice to the word.

"The Strange Thing About Writing ‘Thank You’ in Japanese:  When life is full of good miracles"

Kaki Okumura, Medium (8/27/21)

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I feel like "I feel like"

[This is a guest post by Pamela Kyle Crossley]

Just read the blog post on this. I feel like "I feel like" is one of those passive-aggressive tics that came in in the 1980/1990s, related to that thing where people turned statements into questions by raising their pitch at the end of a sentence (which I think was originally a California-ism). That fake question stuff was passive-aggressive, and students used it addictively, particularly in discussion. "I'm asking, right? Not stating? So nobody can criticize me, right? I'm just asking a question? If I'm wrong, don't be harsh on me, right? I'm just asking?"  Very destructive. Students need to be able to make statements.

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I'm (like)

Yesterday, I had a ride with a young man (age 23) from East Liverpool, Ohio to Irwin, Pennsylvania, a distance of about 70 miles, so we had the opportunity for a good talk.  He is a tow truck operator by trade, but was also acting as a taxi driver to earn some extra income.

We had a nice, free-flowing conversation covering all sorts of interesting topics:  his work as a tow truck driver, the ceramics industry in that Tri-State (Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) corner of the world, his 12-year-old niece winning the first demolition derby of her life and getting a 6-foot-high trophy plus a prize of $1,200 at the Hookstown County Fair, and much else besides.

Fairly early in our conversation, I noticed an unusual feature of the young man's speech, the prevalence of the word "I'm" at the beginning of sentences.

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Affidavid

From Barbara Philips Long:

It is my impression that this lawmaker is pronouncing affidavit with a terminal -d instead of -t, regardless of the phonemes in the following words.

Listening to the audio, I agree with the judgment:

Mr. Braynard, I
did have a chance
to read through your affidavit
and look at
the exhibits that you attached
to the affidavit


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