Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: English Pronunciation

From:Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>
Date:Saturday, June 12, 2004, 15:40
I thought I had replied on list to one conlanger about
my remark on English pronunciation, but in fact it
came out as a private reply. As I think there is
nothing really personal in it, I re-post it on the
list. I apologize if anybody felt offended, and insist
on the fact that this is purely my own aesthetic point
of view. I think it's not forbidden to have
preferences as to foreign languages and accents, and
to find some more beautiful and interesting than
others; I quite understand that other people would not
agree to my preferences.


What I meant is that when I listen so some English
people (not all of them, clearly), I feel a sheer
pleasure, just when listening to music or attending a
theatre play. It is both very expressive and very
rich, it is ART. Here I'm just talking about the
melody and the pronunciation, not about the message.
This I seldom feel when listening to Americans, but I
could also compare it to the music of French language,
which is also usually very motononous and hardly
exciting. I don't mean that every English speaker
should talk this way, I just enjoy some way of
speaking that seems to me typically English of

If you take the name "Holmes", for ex, it can be a
piece of art in itself, just like a painting or a
small piece of music. First there is the initial "H".
it comes from the deepest of the chest, then it
acquires expressivity through the throat, the mouth,
between tongue, teeth and palate: it's like a powerful
first dish, exciting your appetite as to what will
follows. We have absolutely nothing like that in
French. Then the "o" is a poem, it changes and
fluctuates between "o", "ao" and "ow", and the melody
of it is like a wave, first rather high, then
descending, then going up again, but not so high as
first. It is deep and sounds like one would speak
through a pipe. The "l" is not a "l", anyway not like
we call a "l", it's a vibration that concludes and
closes the vowel, that fades away like the wind, and
then the "ms" is just like the
sound of the wave breaking on the sand. Well, that may
be poorly or uncorrectly described, but this is the
way I feel it. This is pure music. Nothing to do to
with the French pronunciation of it, which is simply
dull. (I don't know how Americans pronounce it and I'd
better no ask, as I'll get thirty-two different
answers; the only thing is to listen to it).

True, I also sometimes heard melody in English spoken
by Americans, especially by women, but that was very
different. I remember I saw a TV report about female
American scientists trying to talk to bonobo monkeys
(in Virginia, I believe ?). I was frightened. I can't
figure how many octaves they used and how high they
got, but it was terrible. It made you gnash your
teeth. I felt such a pity for those poor monkeys: how
could they stand it ? and what could they think about
human language, if that was the only example of it
they had met ? I think those women were talking to
them just the same way they would have been talking to
their children, anyway, so they didn't force
themselves really much. Sure, it was expressive, but
to me it was absolutely unbearable. I thought it
should be forbidden to harass animals in such a way,
even for the sake of science. [Please note: this is

I think that the music of languages is something
really interesting. I love listening to Spanish or
Russian for ex: I read somewhere that these are "male"
languages, while English would be "female" (can't
remember what is French: maybe androgyne, or asexuated
?) I also was very surprised when listening Hebrew for
first time in Israel: the melody sounded to me very
similar to the French one (the general melody of the
sentence, not the sounds themselves). Every language
has a personality of its own, and you can enjoy it (or
not) even without understanding one single word.
Northern Norwegian is exciting to me (singing
language), as Danish sounds horrible (although I find
Danish people sympathetic). German sounds
serious and professional. Italian is not just a
language, it's theatre. Finnish is again something
completely different and quite interesting, something
like a typewriter. Etc.

I remember one I day I was in Senegal and was
listening to radio. A man's voice was talking in a
very expressive way, and it was very long, without any
interruption. I didn't understand one single word and
even didn't know what language that was (probably
wolof ?). Was it on a religious topic, or political,
or whatever, I had no idea. But it was something so
powerful and extraordinary (something like a storm, or
like trucks rolling across the bush, or heavy drums),
that I listened to it for about 30 minutes just for
the pleasure of it, just like it were a symphony. I
never knew what the hell he was talking about.

This all perfectly subjective, of course.

Philippe Caquant

"High thoughts must have high language." (Aristophanes, Frogs)

Do you Yahoo!?
Friends.  Fun.  Try the all-new Yahoo! Messenger.


Emily Zilch <emily0@...>English, Masculine, Feminine