The Wonders of Phonology!

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The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:01 am

Slash phonetics.

This is the boring, technical part: in phonology class today we discussed how certain sounds (called obstruents) are made when airflow through the vocal tract becomes obstructed somewhere along the way (for example, not how you have to close your lips first to make a [b] sound but not an [a] sound). Most consonants are obstruents, but some are sonorants which means that the airflow does not become obstructed in the vocal tract. [l] is put into this category, because while the tongue blocks the airstream from going through the middle of the mouth it can go out one or both sides.

Here is where the interesting part (in my opinion) begins: whether or not you use both sides of your tongue or one side or other when making an [l] noise apparently varies from person to person. The way to tell is to position your mouth like you are going to make an [l] sound, then stop and without moving your tongue suck air into your mouth. If both sides of your tongue feel the cool influx of air, then you lower both to make [l] noises; if the left side feels cool air then you drop that one to make the sound, etc. I make them by dropping the left side of my tongue.

I was excited to share.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby Android Replica » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:55 am

Interesting.

Is there an objective measure of this, or is it largely a matter of feel? I mean, given enough study, could you tell the degrees of one person versus another?
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:08 am

We didn't go too much into it in class. The professor likes to occasionally break up the monotony of lecturing by getting us students to make funny noises, albeit for some purpose tangentially related to what he had just previously been discussing.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby PonderThis » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:22 am

Welllll.

Wellllll.


Welll welll welllllll.


Huh. I appear to be a part-time lefty. I did not know that.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby GregorR » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:35 am

I'm disappointed that I can't use this as an angle for prejudice since it's impossible to tell. You filthy side-ellers should be forced to wear badges! :x

:wink:
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby fanelian » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:47 am

I just noticed that I push my tongue further against my teeth to pronounce my english "L" than I do my spanish ones. for my spanish "L" I push my tongue against my gum/mouth roof. Funny.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby ntw3001 » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:26 pm

I never thought there was a right and wrong way to pronounce L's, but since there is a way I do it and a way I do not, I guess there must be. By the way guys, you probably ought to work on symmetrical L-formation; you don't want to look stupid.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby chrismachine » Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:38 pm

I am lefty and my wife is balanced... I smell divorce!
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:05 pm

You double-sided L makers are freaks! Lefties, let us band together in solidarity!
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby kupo » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:14 pm

I love this type of stuff. I love linguistics and sounds and things. Hooray. :mrgreen:
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:28 pm

You would love my class then. There's also a seemingly disproportionate amount of dick jokes made by the professor and occasionally the students. I'm not sure if you'd love that.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby EsBe » Wed Feb 08, 2012 11:33 pm

jvcc wrote:You would love my class then. There's also a seemingly disproportionate amount of dick jokes made by the professor and occasionally the students. I'm not sure if you'd love that.

Are they at least phonology puns? On an unrelated topic, I initially read this as "frenology" because of the way I pronounced it in my head.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:07 am

Yes. In English there are only five possible combinations for words that begin with three consonants, so we had to determine what they were for a homework assignment. We were discussing our findings in class and someone suggested "schl" as in "schlepp"--by the way, "ch" is considered one sound in phonetics: it is transcribed as [tʃ] by the Brits and [č] by the Merkins. During our debate about whether that combination of consonants should be accepted given that it is only used for words derived from Yiddish, people were trying to come up with examples. Our professor said that he could think of one that he wouldn't say in mixed company, after which there was a pause and then some general laughter. I turned to look at the President of the Linguistics club, as I know him to be, and he his face was the very picture of confusion.

In another class our teacher was trying to explain phonemes and allophones. He wrote a letter P on the board and explained how the sounds that we denote with that letter can be aspirated (i.e., be accompanied by a burst of air as in "pin") or not (as in "spin"): these two sounds are allophones of the phoneme /p/. After explaining all this he stopped and said, "I've chosen a bad example; you'll see why in a moment." He then wrote the letter T next to P and its allophones on the board and went through a similar explanation. He ended by saying that /t/ as a phoneme represents "t-ness." Again, a pause and then general laughter.

Not the greatest penis-related anecdotes in the world, but given the context of their occurrence I think that they are worthy of note.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby Judas Maccabeus » Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:28 am

jvcc wrote:Yes. In English there are only five possible combinations for words that begin with three consonants, so we had to determine what they were for a homework assignment. We were discussing our findings in class and someone suggested "schl" as in "schlepp"--by the way, "ch" is considered one sound in phonetics: it is transcribed as [tʃ] by the Brits and [č] by the Merkins. During our debate about whether that combination of consonants should be accepted given that it is only used for words derived from Yiddish, people were trying to come up with examples. Our professor said that he could think of one that he wouldn't say in mixed company, after which there was a pause and then some general laughter. I turned to look at the President of the Linguistics club, as I know him to be, and he his face was the very picture of confusion.


Of course, "that word" comes from Yiddish too, if it's the one I'm thinking of. Also, "schl" is still only two consonants phonetically, since the "sch" is just the same sound as "sh" with a different spelling.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby PonderThis » Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:29 am

Man it's funny how jvcc's post has had me all self-conscious about how I make "L" sounds for the last few days.

Wellllll helllll's bellllllls .... Llllllllllllamas.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:05 pm

Judas Maccabeus wrote:Of course, "that word" comes from Yiddish too, if it's the one I'm thinking of. Also, "schl" is still only two consonants phonetically, since the "sch" is just the same sound as "sh" with a different spelling.

I don't know if anyone in class brought that up. We were probably too busy thinking about schlongs.

PonderThis wrote:Man it's funny how jvcc's post has had me all self-conscious about how I make "L" sounds for the last few days.

Wellllll helllll's bellllllls .... Llllllllllllamas.

lol
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby GregorR » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:30 pm

jvcc wrote:I don't know if anyone in class brought that up. We were probably too busy thinking about schlongs.


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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby Zombie Protestor » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:42 pm

The L you say.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:28 pm

Those who are familiar with French and Canada (and I think I'm really addressing one person here in particular), how many vowels are there in Canadian French? Not separate vowel sounds, but letters used to denote vowels. I will share an anecdote regarding this class and the phrase "monkey crotch" if I receive a satisfactory answer. I'll probably share it anyway, but I want to heighten the suspense.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby James » Wed Feb 15, 2012 7:54 pm

I KEEP MEANING TO POST IN THIS THREAD BUT FORGETTING TO.

Phonology is one of many subjects I'd like to know more about, but never bother to spend the time learning. Specifically, it's one of many linguistic subjects I'd like to know more about, but neer bother to spend the time learning. It all seems very interesting, but I can never remember the terminology, no matter how many Wikipedia pages I absent-mindedly skim over.

fanelian wrote:I just noticed that I push my tongue further against my teeth to pronounce my english "L" than I do my spanish ones. for my spanish "L" I push my tongue against my gum/mouth roof. Funny.

My mum pointed out to me that in Swedish the "T" sound is pronounced with the tongue against the teeth, whereas in English the tongue tends to be touching the roof of the mouth just behind the teeth. It seemed weird that it should be different, and I wasn't sure of the impact it would actually have, but now that I listen out for it, I think I can hear a difference in Ts in Swedish, and even in English spoken with a Swedish accent (although we mustn't forget the role my expectation might play in that). The interesting thing is that when I make my feeble attempts to speak Swedish, and terrible though my pronunciation is, I do think there's a kind of a mode-switch regarding the way sounds are formed, beyond the surface-level phonetics. I think that must in part emerge from the nature of the language: the features of a language, such as the permissible phonemes and sequences thereof, will inform the ways the mouth and tongue produce sounds, if only out of practicality (moving between two different particular tongue positions might be prohibitively awkward, for example). At least, that would be my guess. Then there's always the cultural element (some things are just the way they are because that's how they've come to be for that language).

I don't know. This is yet another subject on which I am not an expert.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:34 pm

I've looked it up and the English [t] is a voiceless alveolar stop while the Swedish [t] is a voiceless dental stop. Voiceless means that making the sound does not cause the vocal chords to vibrate (to experience this place your fingers or hand over your voice box, then make a prolonged [p] sound, and then a prolonged [b] sound: the first is voiceless and the second voiced). A stop or plosive is a sound produced by blocking the airflow at some point along the vocal tract. The English stops are [p], [b], [t], [d], [k], and [g].

So the difference between the Swedish and English [t] is the place of articulation. This involves which articulators come into contact in order to make the sound: you have active articulators which move (the lower lip and tongue) and passive ones which stay in place (e.g., your upper teeth, alveolar ridge, velum, etc.) Alveolar articulation (as in the English [t]) means that the active articulator of the tongue tip or blade comes into contact with the passive articulator of the alveolar ridge (the area behind your upper teeth). [D] is another alveolar sound in English. Dental articulation (as in the Swedish [t]) involves the tongue tip or blade touching the upper teeth. If you get your tongue in the position to make an English [t] and then move it slightly forward you can hear a noticeable difference.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby chrismachine » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:37 pm

The alphabet is the same as English, unless you count vowels with accents as being distinct, in which case there are 3 extra Es, 2 extra As and Us, and an extra I and O.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:44 pm

chrismachine wrote:The alphabet is the same as English, unless you count vowels with accents as being distinct, in which case there are 3 extra Es, 2 extra As and Us, and an extra I and O.

Yeah, my homework is to determine whether two different sounds are phonemes (in highly watered down terms, different sounds represented by different letters) or allophones (different sounds all represented by the same letter). My teacher hasn't said whether a letter with an accent counts as an allophone for the same letter without one. Fortunately he never has us actually hand in the exercises we do and I don't feel well, so I think I'll let my brain rest until class tomorrow.
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby chrismachine » Wed Feb 15, 2012 8:59 pm

Two specified sounds? what are they?
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Re: The Wonders of Phonology!

Postby jvcc » Wed Feb 15, 2012 9:30 pm

[i] as in "me" and [I] as in "bit". I've been listening to pronunciations of French words online and the distinction is clearly not as pronounced as it is in English.
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