Describing sound (was: Chicken Cacciatore & 2 questions about E-o)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Saturday, July 17, 2004, 6:53|
On Friday, July 16, 2004, at 08:00 , Philippe Caquant wrote:
> I knew I shouldn't say that ;-)
> Anyway, suppose Germans had 101 ways of pronouncing
> "Bach" (probably exaggerated ?),
Yep - it's exaggerated.
> then there is no
> reason to think that Russians haven't also 101 ways of
> pronouncing "uspex" (success),
Yes there is. Please explain how _uspex_ can be pronounced in 101
> what ? The only possible conclusion is: everybody will
> pronounce anything just any way.
Nope - people tend to follow dialect patterns.
> I wonder how people
> can understand each other when speaking ?
Because we rarely speak in single words - most of us, even you I think,
speak words _in context_. Natural languages have a good deal of in-built
redundancy which help, usually successfuly, meaning to be conveyed even
tho we have a certain amount of"noise" or interference - and regional
differences of pronoucing /x/ are just one such. You really must learn
how natural languages actually work.
> (BTW, French would rather pronounce "Bach" as "Bak",
> at least when talking about Jean-Sebastien, but one
> should definitely NOT ask a Frenchman how to pronounce
> German words.
Nor English words - my daughter-in-law, who is a French speaker, having
been born and brought up almost in the center of the Hexagon, finds the
pronunciation of English names by most French radio/TV announcers to be
On Friday, July 16, 2004, at 07:20 , Christophe Grandsire wrote:
> En réponse à Mark P. Line :
>> NB: I've stopped posting anything about linguistics or natlangs to this
>> list, so I've decided to post something about my other hobby besides
>> conlangs -- cooking.
>> How to Make Chicken Cacciatore
> [snip great recipe]
> Great reply! ;)
> It's not, because you describe the "x" in "uspex" in terms of the "ch" in
> Bach. If there are 101 different pronunciations of "ch", how are we
> expected to know which one you meant?
Fortunately, there rather less than 101 :)
About three, as far as I can see [x] ~ [X] ~ [R_0]
> And it may be obvious to you, but you know both languages. Think of those
> who don't know Russian, which by the way are the main target for a
> language lesson book :) .
Yep - the 'like in' descriptions are not the most helpful. In many
textbooks, e.g. it says Welsh _ch_ is like Scots _ch_ in _loch_; this
suggests [x]. In fact the Welsh sound [X].
> The problem is that maybe Russian has a single transdialectical way of
> pronuncing "x", but many languages don't. Stop thinking that all
> languages are like French, i.e. essentially linguistic monoliths. The
> variations in languages like English, Spanish or even Dutch are immense,
> and you don't need to travel thousands of kilometers to experience it
Indeed not - and some Brit English varieties do, despite Philippe's
sarcasm, actually cause problems in immediate comprehension.
> (indeed, in Dutch you're generally at walking distance from at least two
> or three dialectical variations :) , and not small ones. When my friend
> first once from his living place to a place only 18 kilometers further
> away, it took him a full year to begin to understand people speaking
> their own dialect there! And he is normally *extremely* good at dialects)
My daughter-in-law, altho very much at home in English, finds it very
difficult to follow local speech if she moves to a part of the country
where, to us native, the local accent doesn't seem very pronounced. In
many languages, regional differences are very much alive & to non-native
(and sometimes even native) speakers they can prove an obstacle.
> Trying to describe sounds of a language in the purpose of teaching it
> with sounds from those languages is thus just stupid, because you have
> *no* idea which variety of those languages the reader is familiar with.
This is particularly so if the sound is English. How many times have I try
to figure out whether the author is talking in terms of RP pronunciation
of south-east England or of 'General American'.
> > (BTW, French would rather pronounce "Bach" as "Bak",
> > at least when talking about Jean-Sebastien,
Would that be the one we in the UK call 'Johann Sebastian'? (Or did this
prolific family have French members?)
> but one
> > should definitely NOT ask a Frenchman how to pronounce
> > German words. Especially if he is an international
> > journalist.)
> I hope you've realised that with this sentence, you've just explained
> *exactly* why describing the sounds of a language in terms of the sounds
> of another language is a bad idea in general :) .
"A mind which thinks at its own expense will always
interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760