This blog will now take an Easter break. Back at the beginning of May.
- Friday 7 April 2006
Clicks are sounds articulated with an ingressive velaric (oral) airstream mechanism. As such, they necessarily have a simultaneous velar closure. When we write [ǁ], say, to symbolize a voiceless alveolar lateral click (former IPA symbol [ʖ]), we imply a simultaneous [k]. The click articulation is produced during the hold stage of a voiceless velar plosive.
In the case of a voiced click, e.g. [ɡǁ], or a nasalized click, e.g. [ŋǁ], we symbolize the velar component explicitly. (Many people show the simultaneity explicitly, too, by linking the two symbols with a tie: [ɡ͡ǁ], [ŋ͡ǁ].)
Treating the voiceless clicks as symbolically unmarked and the voiced or nasalized ones as marked has its parallel in the orthographies of the click languages. Zulu [ǁ] is written as x, [ɡ͡ǁ] as gx, and [ŋ͡ǁ] as nx. There are also voiceless aspirated [ǁʰ] xh and breathy-voiced nasalized [ŋ̤͡ǁ] ngx.
I notice that my colleague Patricia Ashby of the University of Westminster requires her students to symbolize all clicks by a double symbol, always making the nature of the velar component explicit. They have to write the voiceless alveolar lateral click as [k͡ǁ], and likewise for the other places of click articulation. This makes the treatment of all classes of click parallel, at the expense of necessitating an extra letter for each voiceless click. What do other people think? Should we transcribe the Zulu for ‘no’, cha, as [kʰ͡ǀa] or just as [ǀʰa]?
Zulu xoxa ‘narrate!’. Do we need the light green parts of the transcription?
OK, this has also been a fun exercise for my web skills in getting the correct IPA transcription symbols on-screen. I hope you can see them all properly. For some advice on how to do it, see here.
- Thursday 6 April 2006
Courses in phonetics often include a practical examination that requires the candidates to be familiar with “all the sounds represented on the IPA Chart” (or words to that effect). They are expected to be able to recognize these sound-types in nonsense words or substitutions and to perform them in isolation or in simple sequences.
However in practice certain sound-types tend to be excluded, whether explicitly or implicitly. For example, with speech therapy students we usually require only a subset of the cardinal vowels: all the primaries [i e ɛ a ɑ ɔ o u], yes, but among the secondaries only [y ø œ ɯ]. We don’t bother with [ɶ], with cardinal [ɒ ʌ] or with [ɤ]. On the other hand the MA Phonetics students, and candidates for the IPA exam, do have to cover these sounds.
The same applies to some of the consonants in the Chart. Whereas everyone has to be familiar with those such as [ɸ ʂ ɣ q], only advanced students would be expected to cope with the pharyngeals [ħ ʕ]. As for the epiglottals [ʜ ʢ ʡ], I don’t think we require anyone to master them for examination purposes.
I remember being surprised, many years ago, to find that students in Edinburgh were not taught the alveolopalatals [ɕ ʑ tɕ dʑ]. (Things may have changed now.) We certainly cover them in London, not least because of having to deal with Polish and Mandarin Chinese, in both of which languages alveolopalatals contrast with (somewhat retroflex) [ʃ ʒ tʃ dʒ].
- Wednesday 5 April 2006
I hope you like the intonation notation system used in the last two postings. It is the system I shall be using in my new book, due out in the autumn.
My aim is a notation system that is intuitive for the reader to interpret, while being easy to type on a computer.
Given that I want to be able to combine it with ordinary phonetic transcription, it has to be based on adding to the orthographic or segmental text (text-decoration) rather than changing it (text-alteration).
This means that although I approve of Brazil’s principle of symbolizing the place of the nucleus (the tonic) separately from the choice of nuclear tone, I have rejected his device of using capitaliZAtion for this purpose, and have instead adopted Halliday’s old idea of underlining the nucleus.
In the notation of tone, I want to use marks that are iconic, i.e. that suggest by their shape the pitch characteristics involved, as do those of the O’Connor and Arnold system. But keeping the notation easily typable means rejecting some of their special marks, since some of them are not even Unicode symbols. In any case, I think that for most EFL purposes (and even for native speakers) the distinction between different kinds of fall (high fall, low fall, rise-fall) is relatively unimportant, and that for most purposes it is sufficient to symbolize them all with the backslash symbol [\]. Likewise with the various types of rise [/] and fall-rise [\/]. So, like Richard Cauldwell, I operate with a basic three-tone system.
Where the choice of nuclear tone is irrelevant, I just put [ˈ] as a place holder.
For non-nuclear accents I think it is generally adequate to use a simple straight apostrophe ['], or if available its phonetic equivalent the stress mark [ˈ]. In the basic markup I do not mark simple rhythmic stress at all, though the symbol [°] is available for those who want to show it.
Interestingly, the end result is very similar to Tench’s notation in his book Intonation systems of English (1996).
\/ðɪs | ʃəʊz ˈhaʊ tə kəm\/baɪn | fəˈnetɪk sɪmbl̩z ən ɪntə\neɪʃn̩ mɑːks ||
In pedagogical applications, I think that ToBI-style notation (H*L-L% and the like) is a nonstarter.
- Tuesday 4 April 2006
Following on from yesterday: there are also tonicity idioms — in which the place of the nucleus is fixed. Here are some examples involving personal pronouns, which bear the nucleus despite seeming from a pragmatic point of view not to be in contrastive focus.
ˈGood for ˈyou! (= congratulations!)
ˈBully for ˈyou! (= sarcastic congratulation)
ˈBlow ˈme! (= I am suprised or annoyed)
ˈGet ˈher! (= look at her putting on airs)
ˈSearch ˈme (= I don’t know, I’ve no idea)
The fixed tonicity is necessary for the idiomatic meaning. If, instead, you say
— that’s an invitation (perhaps to a policeman or immigration official) to do just that, rather than a confession of ignorance. And if you say
— then that’s an invitation to perform a sexual act. The same tonicity-dependent interpretations apply if we replace blow by the f-word.
Apropos (but nothing to do with the last example), Michael Ashby tells me he has an article on “Prosody and idioms in English” due out soon in the Journal of Pragmatics.
- Monday 3 April 2006
English has various tone idioms — words or phrases for which the choice of tone is fixed rather than free. For example, the interjection oops or whoops, used when you’ve fallen, or dropped something, or made a mistake, can only have a rise. You can’t say it with a fall.
On the other hand the phrase by the way, used in spoken English to introduce a side issue not connected with the main subject you were talking about before, seems (at least for me) always to have some kind of fall (high fall, low fall, rise-fall), never a rise or fall-rise.
By the \way, | have you ˈseen my um/brella anywhere?
× By the /way, | have you ˈseen my um/brella anywhere?
This is despite the fact that (as Alan Cruttenden has shown us) most limiting adverbials tend to have a rise; it is reinforcing ones that usually take a fall.
You can say hello! with any tone. But its newer equivalent hi! seems to demand a fall.
(I suppose there is also a cutesy way of saying hi with a fall-rise, but I think that only a few speakers would use it. When I was a lad, English people didn’t say hi at all. We thought of it as an Americanism. But now you hear it everywhere. I think I started using it myself about ten years ago, on the principle that if you can’t beat them join them.)
You can use any tone for goodbye, though probably the most usual one is a rise. But its informal equivalent see you sounds odd with a simple rise: it seems to need a fall-rise.
Good/bye! (also with a high head or prehead, ˈGood/bye! or ¯Good/bye!)
?? /See you!
A rise seems OK if we add an adverbial. So is a fall.
ˈSee you to/morrow!
ˈSee you to\morrow!
Has anyone got any more nice examples?
- Saturday 1 April 2006
I hear from my colleague Olaf Lipor that the International Phonetic Asssociation is considering recognizing a further new symbol, in order to cater for the voiced linguolabial trill, a sound-type recently discovered to be used contrastively in Caslon and Ki-Flong, languages spoken on the island of San Serriffe.
Linguolabials, articulated by the tongue tip against the upper lip, are very rare in the languages of the world. Nevertheless linguolabial plosives, fricatives, and a nasal are known to occur in a cluster of languages in the island state of Vanuatu. Among these languages are Tangoa and Vao. But until now there had been no report of a linguolabial trill.
The way in which the IPA is expected to symbolize the new sound is with the ‘combining seagull below’ diacritic, U+033C, thus [r̼].
We are hoping to have the Serriffean phonetician Dr Charis Doulos, a native speaker of Caslon and the person who first described the linguolabial trill, come to UCL Phonetics & Linguistics as an academic visitor at this time next year. She will no doubt be willing to act as a language consultant for our practical phonetics class, so that the students can have the opportunity of observing the sound first-hand and of learning to perform it to the native speaker’s satisfaction.
San Serriffe sprang to world fame as a consequence of a feature article in the Guardian newspaper, published on 1 April 1977, the tenth anniversary of its independence. But at that time its native languages had not been thoroughly investigated.
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