Archive for the ‘Prosody’ Category

Deacccenting

March 26, 2018

Coming past me every so often on tv, a commercial for the Car Gurus company, in which the pronunciation of the company name varies from a clear car gurus, [ˈkarˌguruz], with a secondary accent on the first syllable of gurus, to something like cargaroos, [ˈkargəruz], with this syllable unaccented and its vowel reduced to schwa — indeed, including the intermediate variant [ˈkargʊruz], with that syllable deaccented and its vowel laxed but not reduced to schwa.

My ears perked up at the pronunciations with deaccented second element, because they sounded so odd — because they effaced the identity of the guru component of the name, which is surely semantically important to the image of the company, which proposes to offer gurus, in this sense from NOAD:

noun guru: an influential teacher or popular expert

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When is Doris Day?

February 6, 2018

It starts with a recent (January 4th) One Big Happy and will end with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention in 1967. In the cartoon, Ruthie and Joe are unfamiliar with Doris Day the person and take Doris Day to refer to a holiday (like Flag Day):

(#1)

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100 years of independence

December 6, 2017

Though today is one of the dark days of early December alluded to in my recent posting — it’s Mozart’s death day, a sad occasion indeed — it’s also St. Nicholas’s day (gifts!), and Chris Waigl’s birthday (eggcorns, remote sensing of wildfires in the Arctic, Python, knitting, and more, in three languages!), and Independence Day in Finland. As Riitta Välimaa-Blum reminds me, this year’s Independence Day is something spectacular: the centenary of Finland’s declaration of independence from Russia.

(#1) The Finnish flag

So raise a glass of Lakka (Finnish cloudberry liqueur) or Finlandia vodka, neat, to honor that difficult moment in 1917 — the year should call to your mind both World War I (still underway then) and the Russian revolution, and these enormous upheavals were in fact crucial to Finland’s wresting its independence from Russia.

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Which witch?

July 9, 2015

Today’s Bizarro:

Two phonological issues here: the initial consonants in witch and which, which are identical for the bulk of current English speakers (as a voiced approximant [w]), but are distinguished (as voiced [w] vs. the corresponding voiceless [ʍ]) for some; and the prosody associated with the questions

(a) Witch one stole your broom?  VS.  (b) Which one stole your broom?

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Ruthie’s classic

October 29, 2014

Yesterday’s One Big Happy, with Ruthie treating the word classic (which she had surely heard before but clearly had not figured out what it meant) as a phrase:

Prosodically, classic and class sick are quite different: the first has an accented syllable followed by an unaccented one, the second has two accented syllables, with the first heavier than the second. Segmentally, they are very similar; although in a careful pronunciation, there are two occurrences of /s/ in class sick, one from each word (but only one occurrence in classic), in ordinary connected speech the first /s/ is suppressed, so that the two expressions are segmentally identical.

On the portmanteau beat

October 7, 2014

Today’s Zippy:

A complex portmanteau in the last panel: marshmallegro has all of marshmallow and all of allegro in it (thus combining the otherwise disparate marshmallow-toasting and musical-tempo themes), but the shared material — /ælo/ — is discontinuous, first /æl/ in the middle of the portmanteau, then /o/ at the end. (The portmanteau is also prosodically pleasing: a double trochee, S W / S W, which could easily be set to music.) (more…)

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.)

:

Medicinal meter

May 3, 2014

For some years, I’ve been taking a diuretic with a long name that lots of people, including some medical personnel, have trouble pronouncing, though I don’t. What works for me is that the name is in trochaic tetrameter (with a final short foot):

hydrochlorothiazide: HY dro CHLo ro THI a ZIDE

Trochaic tetrameter is the meter of most English folk verse (folk songs, nursery rhymes, etc.), many advertising slogans, sayings, and more. People didn’t frame these with the trochaic tetrameter pattern in mind; they chose expressions according to what “sounded good” to them — that is, according to an implicit or unconscious aesthetic.

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Porn prosody

August 29, 2013

Another installment of material on the (gay) porn register, following up on this posting, where I looked at some lexical features, saying about

man pussy, boy pussy, man cunt, boy cunt, man hole, [and] boy hole. These are terms strongly associated with gay porn (fiction, scripts of videos, and descriptions of videos) but not much used by gay men in everyday life; they are part of a specialized porn register, akin to the specialized registers in some other domains

Today there’s some more lexical stuff, but mostly it’s about the prosody of some writing about porn; like some other advertising copy, there’s some tendency for it to fall into metrically regular patterns.

The text is the copy on the front cover of the Dream World (1994) DVD:

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In quotation marks

July 18, 2013

Today’s Dilbert, with Dogbert weaseling words to the boss:

The strip has Dogbert speaking in quotation marks, indicating a prosody that sets off the word storage, suggesting that the word is not to be taken literally: it’s in what we’ll call storage, but nothing is actually stored there (a message that is close to ironic or sarcastic).