Archive for the ‘Phonology’ Category

Phonological analogy

December 8, 2014

Today’s One Big Happy has Ruthie coping with the word landlubber:

Ruthie takes her grandfather to be saying that he’s a land lover; landlubber is a relatively rare word, certainly rare in the experience of most children.

So then she has to deal with her grandfather’s apparent /b/ in lubber for /v/ in lover — and by analogy she concludes that his version of leave /liv/ would be leabe /lib/.



October 24, 2014

Yesterday’s One Big Happy, in which Ruthie goes (as usual) with the familiar over the novel:


Stovepipe hat (an unfamiliar expression for Ruthie) is transformed in Ruthie’s ears into Stove Top Stuffing, a familiar expression in her world (context is crucial!), even though the two are pretty distant phonologically (very imperfect as a pun).


Female archetypes in the movies

October 2, 2014

The first, summary, paragraph of the abstract for a Qualifying Paper in the Stanford Ph.D. program — by Sunwoo Jeong — on “Iconicity in Suprasegmental Variables:
The Case of Archetypal Hollywood Characters of the 1940s-50s”:

Films are potent vehicles that not only reflect common linguistic practices, but also create new social meanings for linguistic variables and actively shape dominant language ideologies of the era. This was especially the case for films made during the Golden Age of Hollywood in which several distinctive film genres, featuring highly stylized female characters, emerged as important cultural phenomena: femme fatales in film noir, independent brunettes in screwball comedies, and dumb blondes in musical comedies. This paper argues that systematic variation in suprasegmental linguistic cues like pitch, prosody, and voice quality was employed by the actresses to index the three prominent archetypes mentioned above, and more importantly, that the realizations of these variables were not arbitrary in that they created an iconic tie with the archetype that they indexed. Combined with other cinematic devices that fortified this iconic relation, the underlying ideologies behind these linguistic variables were more easily naturalized, resulting in wider dissemination.

(I’m way behind in posting on Neat Stuff by Stanford Students, but this one came in this morning and I thought I’d seize it before it fell into the To Do pit.)


Ling wars in Dingburg

September 30, 2014

Today’s Zippy has Dingburgers, drawn into camps on issues of linguistic variation and usage, slinging lots of technical terminology:

Most of these features — the glottal stop, NG coalescence, like, awesome, uptalk, whatever, vocal fry (creak, creaky voice) — have been discussed on Language Log or here, because they are associated with a collection of geographic or social dialect characteristics (region, age, sex, class, etc.) or particular styles and registers; they are socioculturally significant, usually in quite complex ways. The remaining three — strident voice, slack voice, and falsetto — are phonation types that have, I think, escaped attention on these blogs


Every year, the same for Orange

September 15, 2014

That’s the title of this Awkward Yeti comic from 12/11/13:

CAT with HAT, WALL with BALL, and LOG with DOG, while ORANGE stands alone. It’s the celebrated “nothing rhymes with ORANGE” trope.


mix media

September 12, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Instant food: just mix. And mix-n-match. But the linguistic point is mix media (for the expected mixed media) — an instance of lexicalized t/d deletion.



August 31, 2014

Revisiting my posting “The accent in Polish”, with a cartoon in which a Mr. Waterski corrects a desk clerk’s pronunciation of his name. The correction comes in two parts:

(1) a statement of fact about this particular name: “The accent is on the second syllable”; and

(2) an appeal to a generalization: “like every other Polish surname”

Part (1) is a brute statement of fact and it’s largely inarguable: people’s names are to be pronounced as they say they are (so long as this pronunciation is consistent with the phonology of the target language). If your family name is Taliaferro and you’re a Virginian who pronounces the name like Tolliver, then that’s the pronunciation (but you can’t insist that in English it’s pronounced [ˌtaʎʎaˈfɛrro], as in Italian).

Part (2), however, makes a claim about Polish — that the accent in Polish surnames is on the second syllable — and that generalization can be tested against the evidence. In fact, it is incorrect, and simultaneously (in a sense) insufficiently general.


The accent in Polish

August 30, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Ah, Watérski.

I did spend some time trying to find out if Waterski was an attested Polish name, but the enormous number of sites on waterskiing frustrated my search.


June 19, 2014

It started fairly simply, with a BBC radio news report from Iraq (heard from I don’t know which source; BBC news comes to me from several places, including BBC3 more or less directly): a bulletin from the Assyrian city of Nineveh, which the news reader pronounced as

(1) /ˈnajn@vˌe/

instead of what I expected to be

 (2) /ˈnɪn@və/

(where @ in the middle syllable represents a neutral unaccented vowel, ɪ or ə — usually transcribed ɪ, as in Wikipedia, though I sometimes hear ə).

I was, in fact, so astounded by the /aj/ in the first syllable of (1) that I failed to take notes on its source; I’d never heard anything but /ɪ/ in this syllable, and /aj/ is not even remotely like the vowel in the Assyrian pronunciation of the place name. Where would it come from?


Lateral flash thong

June 16, 2014

(Mostly, but not entirely, about men’s underwear.)

On Facebook, a link passed on by Matthew Melmon  to a June 13th posting on the Metro (U.K.) website, “Amazing news! Now you too can own this delightful swimming ‘sock’ “, showing a lateral flash thong on the ITV2 reality tv show TOWIE (The Only Way Is Essex):


A remarkable garment indeed: how does it stay up? And who wears something like this in public (outside of outrageous precincts like TOWIE)?



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