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Pronouncing new sounds in new languages

From:Daniel44 <daniel44@...>
Date:Wednesday, May 2, 2001, 11:50
Christophe jorolluju:

"Now I hope that Daniel will have understood that the two sounds transcribed
by <y> and <u> in Uusisuom may sound very different for him, but for some
people, actually for more than 3/5 of the world's population... they just
sound the same, and that it's no use claiming the contrary. You cannot fight
the truth."

I understand the word 'truth' to mean an objective truth, something based on
fact rather than supposition. You may not be able to fight truth, but
supposition in my book is fair game!

Just because two sounds may sound very similar to a person's ear does not
automatically make those two sounds 'the same'. They are two different
sounds, they are two distinguishable sounds. Granted, it may take time and
effort for learners of Uusisuom to master these two sounds and the
difference between them, but did not I have to master certain new sounds
when I learned French and German at school? I certainly did not say to my
French teacher ' Excusez-moi, this 'r' is not how we say it in English,
therefore I won't accept that it is a valid sound and will not attempt to
learn how to say it.'

It amuses me that a lot of the people who are opposed to IALs are those same
people who argue that English should be universally accepted as the
international language. But as Christophe has already pointed out, after
more than 10 years of study, he still finds certain basic words in English
difficult to pronounce. Now if English, with its various flaws,
irregularities, strange sounds (and yet as many as 1-1.5 billion speakers
worldwide) can be suggested as an IAL, why not the vastly simpler and
regular Uusisuom?

My French is not perfect, but I think the 'y' sound in Uusisuom is very
similar to the 'u' sound in the word 'lune'. I also realised yesterday that
the 'u' sound in Uusisuom is very similar to the 'u' in the Italian word
'pUnto'. In short, the 'u' sound is shorter and more 'tense' than the 'y'.

I'm planning to record some Uusisuom and put it up as sound files on the
net. Hopefully this will be a great help to learners of the language.

Finally, even if 'only' 2/5 of the world's population are
comfortable/confident to learn Uusisuom, that still means up to 2.4 billion
speakers of Uusisuom (wow!)


'Uusisuom - kohta halomaale'

----- Original Message -----
From: "Christophe Grandsire" <christophe.grandsire@...>
To: <CONLANG@...>
Sent: Wednesday, May 02, 2001 11:03 AM
Subject: Re: sending mail to the list

En réponse à SuomenkieliMaa <suomenkieli@...>:

> > I guess I can give you a very rough idea of how to say > Vya:a:h properly. (1) say English "view" but with the > initial "i" sound, (2) say "rat" in a very New Yorkish > "a" & draw it out, (3) expell a puff of air for the > playful "h". Voila! Vya:a:h! > > Any better, Christophe?? >
Well, I'm gonna explain this once and for all: I am a native speaker of French living in France! First, it means that most explanations that have to do with how something is pronounced in a certain dialect of English are irrelevant with me, as I don't know what you're talking about. Second, even if I understood the explanation, the problem is not here. Whatever the explanation might be, even if you pronounce the sounds at my ear, there are some sounds I cannot produce, whether because I cannot tell them apart from other sounds I know (it's the case with Uusisuom {y} and {u}, and Daniel can repeat as much as he wants that those two sounds are very different, to me they are just the same, and it's not because I don't want to hear the difference, but just because I cannot hear it. A hardware problem if you want), or because I can tell them apart, when in isolation (it's the case with the difference between the {a} in "rat" and the {a} in "father"), but I cannot command my mouth to make such different sounds, because it has not been trained in doing so. To tell you how difficult it is for someone to learn sounds that don't exist in their native tongues, I will explain something. I've been learning English for about 13 years. Yet for the first ten years I didn't even know the {i} in "sit" was pronounced differently from the {ee} in "feel", though during all this time I listened to a lot of English speaking programs, songs, etc... I just heard the same sound in the words "sit" and "feel"! The result was that for ten years I wondered why my French-English dictionaries obstinately transcribed differently in their phonetic transcriptions what sounded like one single sound to me. I really became aware of the distinction when I joined the list and learned about phonology and the IPA. Suddenly I realized what I had been overlooking for ten years. Suddenly I began to hear the distinction, and trained myself to pronounce it. Now I can pronounce it easily in isolation or in one isolated word. Still, in everyday speech (and believe me, though I still live in France I use English everyday), I still confuse the two sounds in my speech, to the extent that I usually pronounce "bitch" like "beach" and "sit" like "seat". This problem sometimes leads to misunderstandings between my boyfriend and me when we talk together. Now comes the freaky part: in French standards, I am considered as very good at learning languages, far better than most French people. In fact, by French standards I'm considered bilingual French-English. All this is to tell you that how different two sounds may seem to you, for people speaking another native language those two sounds may sound like only one, and this is not a problem of work, of dedication to learn a language (believe me, I'm very dedicate when I learn languages), or a problem of understanding explanations. To take a computer comparison, it's not a software problem (you change the software and it works) but a hardware problem. My ears have not been trained in my youth to differentiate the same sounds as you. My mouth has not been trained to pronounce the same sounds as you, and changing that can be very difficult. It took me ten years to separate the sounds in "sit" and "feel". Now I'm working on the difference between the "a" in "rat" and the "a" in father. I can now here the difference in isolation, but not in a flow of words, and I cannot pronounce correctly the "a" of "rat", even in isolation. It invariably comes out as the "a" in "father", although I know what sound I should make, and I even know how to put my mouth to make it, I just don't manage to do it! Now, I hope that Daniel will have understood that the two sounds transcribed by {y} and {u} in Uusisuom may sound very different for him, but for some people (actually, for more than 3/5 of the world population, and that's the lower limit), they just sound the same, and that's it's no use claiming the contrary. You cannot fight the truth. As for the name of your conlang, Vya:a:h, as I've understood, the {y} stands for the same sound as {u} in French "lune" (that's to say, kind of trying to pronounce "ee", but with the lips rounded as if you pronounced "oo"), while the {a:} stands for the same sound as {a} in "rat" and "cat". Well, the first sound is not difficult for me, I have it in my native tongue. As for the second, it's the one I am currently trying to master, and cannot manage to do so. Wait for another ten years and I may be able to master it :) . Then I will try to hear the difference between {u} in "put" and {oo} in "book", and maybe within twenty years I will have finally mastered all the vowels of English :) . Strange, thinking that it took me hardly more then two months to master the sound transcribed by {u} in Japanese (an unrounded "oo", like pronouncing "oo" with your lips straight as if you were pronouncing "ee"). This sound is as foreign to French as the lax sounds of English. I guess it must be the "lax" feature which is very difficult to master. Christophe.


Frank George Valoczy <valoczy@...>
Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Padraic Brown <pbrown@...>
SuomenkieliMaa <suomenkieli@...>