6.27.2005

the phonetics/usage divide

as it turns out, Scott and I both have interesting, if somewhat predictable, phonetic foibles: I, like many Oklahomans, tend to relax tense vowels, which is especially notable in the "ai" diphthong in the word "while," which I pronounce similarly to "wall."

Scott's invented usage extends the rule that causes "f" to become voiced ("v") when an "s" is added after it at the end of a word. "life" becomes "lives," "wolf" becomes "wolves," "bath" "bathes", "belief" "believes" and so on. He sometimes pronounces the plural of "death" with a voiced fricative - "deatthhz." (there's no letter for that sound!) And the plural of "graph", "gravz."

Taken by themselves by linguists, these observations demonstrate regular changes that languages tend to undergo, or the application of an accent. But the more interesting thing is that these phonetic changes also depend on usage.

I do not pronounce "while" like "wall" in the sentence, "i've been saying it this way for a good long while." And Scott does not say "gravz" in the sentence, "he graphs tangents every thursday."

Both of these phonetic differences are not typically considered meaning-related. In most linguistic studies, phonetic and semantic changes are seen as occuring independently. But my more "careful" pronunciation of "while" when it's used as a noun (especially at the end of a sentence), and Scott's differentiation between singular verb and plural noun are only phonetically predictable when the meaning and the context of the words is taken into account.

13 comments:

natalia said...

top-down processing like whoa!

(i've been reading a psycholinguistics textbook...)

Cristi said...

... you're a top-down processor! (tell me more, i've never read a psycholinguistics textbook.)

Scott said...

You, Cristi, graph tangents every thursday. Not I.

Also, you two, "top down processing". Jigga Wha?

natalia said...

oh sorry Cristi, i assumed they teach that in linguistics, but it might be more cogsci theory.

language processing can be either bottom-up or top-down. bottom-up means that we integrate little pieces of information, for example, acoustic data, into bigger, more significant chunks, such as phonemes, and then words, then sentences. so we go from simple acoustic perception to higher processing of semantic data.
top-down is more fun - it's when the way we process things is influenced by context. for example, we almost immediately understand a word that was made ambiguous by modifying one of its sounds because of context (i.e. when you hear "i ate a juicy p*ear", where p has been acoustically modified to be between p and b, you don't think of the big furry thing, you think of the fruit). or for example, top-down processing occurs when you switch first letters of two words you are saying really fast (aphasic patients also often make that mistake). that means you are thinking of the next word as you are saying the first, so the whole sentence influences individual word sounds. also, that's how you can read words in a sentence with scrambled letters except for the first and the last one (do you guys remember that paragraph that was going around a while ago?) - you know what to expect because of context. that's all top-down processing. so in your examples, semantic information about the words, such as what part of speech they are, influences production. "graphs" as the verb is more important than "graphs" as the object, so Scott may be subconsciously more articulate in the former case to make himself more understandable, whereas in the latter case it doesn't matter as much, so he can pronounce it however is more convenient.

natalia said...

p.s. i found the scrambled word thing!

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

honeylove said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a natural penis enlargement site. It pretty much covers natural penis enlargement related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

doer said...

Hello, just visited your blog, it's informative. I also have a better sex life related website, hope that it is useful to you

Anonymous said...

tooth whitening san antonio!!! PerfectlyWhite.com is proud to present to you the first ever at home plasma arc teeth whitening treatment. We are bringing you the most popular in office teeth whitening treatment at home for the fraction of the cost! One laser whitening treatment at a doctor's office can run around $1000 as shown above. This is very exciting news for anyone who is looking for professional plasma arc teeth whitening in the comfort of their own home. Best of all you can have this plasma arc light technology for much less! These bulbs are actual plasma arc bulb used in a $10,000 plasma arc machine as seen above! Each bulb for this machine retails for $200! You will get one with our kit for much less! The light is yours to keep and can be used as many times as you like! We also have incorporated this lighting technology into our hand held models. You can achieve professional results in less than 7 days! Our method also works in between your teeth and deep down below the enamel. This procedure will not damage or wear away the enamel. Visit tooth whitening san antonio

usersanonimos said...

YOUR BLOG IS GOOD, IT IS REALLY NICE. HERE YOU CAN LEARM MORE ABOUT big dicks TO FIND big dicks

bloggirl1272 said...

I skim a lot of blogs, and so far yours is in the Top 3 of my list of favorites. I'm going to dive in and try my hand at it, so wish me luck.

It'll be in a totally different area than yours (mine is about as of may 2003 the erectile dysfunction market) I know, it sounds strange, but it's like anything, once you learn more about it, it's pretty cool. It's mostly about as of may 2003 the erectile dysfunction market related articles and subjects.

sandyhay said...

Great looking blog! I have a business finance small software site which basically deals with business finance small software. You are welcome to visit.

Cash Advance Man said...

Bloggs are such a wonderful way to plublish ones thoughts. Thanks for letting me visit and leave a comment. enlargement penis secret

Anonymous said...

cool stuff keep the posts comming penis enlargement tip

Related Posts with Thumbnails