Pronounciation tolerance (WAS: [IE conlangs])
|Date:||Friday, April 9, 1999, 23:03|
Gary Shannon <reboot@...> wrote:
> English, at least, would appear to be very tolerant of variety in vowel
> sounds. Are other languages this tolerant, or are there languages in which
> slight mispronunciations would confuse the meaning of a sentence?
As someone else posted, it's logical to suppose that the
larger the phonemic inventory of a language, the larger the
possibility of confusion when mispronouncing a sound. But
redundancy is probably adjusted in all languages so that
that's not a real problem.
As an L2 English speaker, I'm always surprised when hearing
different pronunciations of words -- but I guess these
happen between dialects, not so much within the same dialect.
> Anyway, the reason I bring all this up is that it seems to me that any
> candidate for a global language must be a some language which is extremely
> tolerant of various types of "mispronunciation". How do languages other
> than English stack up in this regard?
Spanish (Rioplatense), having a small phonemic inventory
compared to those of English and even of Castilian Spanish,
allows for a small degree of variation that sounds "right",
but you can certainly make yourself understood even if you
mispronounce very common sounds. I mean, you can pronounce
/s/ as [s], [z], [T], [S], or /b/ as [b], [B], [v], etc.
and the worst problem you'll have is that some people may
believe you have a speech defect or you're a pedant. As for
vowels, the degree of freedom is smaller; for example,
native speakers usually replace English /&/ by /a/ or /e/,
but not consistently, and Spanish doesn't have the "easy
way out for vowels" that English schwa represents, so I'd
say pronunciation of vowels in Spanish *is* important.
But mispronouncing/mishearing a vowel tends not to be
catastrophic in Spanish, because words are more distinct
than in English -- for a given pattern, say CVCV, there
are less possible words, even taking into account that
there are fewer vowels to begin with.
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