Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sounds and Symbols Class

Every language in the world is made up of a combination of sounds. Many sounds are common, but there are some that are unique to a very few language groups. This week we began learning the basic International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In many ways we feel like 1st graders again- learning to read and sound out words.

Our classes this week have been focusing on one manner of articulation called fricatives. Fricatives are a sound that is made by air passing over and around an obstruction (the tongue) and making a hissing or buzzing sound. Common English fricatives are f, v, th as in think, th as in thy, s, z, sh as in chute and sh as in beige.

We also learned some new fun ones that are not present in the English language. Dennis and I often find each other laughing as we make all these weird sounds.

In our reading textbook, these fricatives are often described to us in funny ways. Here are a couple we learned yesterday.

I can't give the symbol for this one since it is phonetic, but the sound is when "the lips are brought together so they barely touch. The lips should be relaxed and kept flat. Do not press the lips together tightly or purse them. Try to blow through your lips very gently. Try imitating a lady drying her nail polish. Pretend there is a small piece of grass on the tip of your tongue. Spit it off by protruding your tongue between your lips and pulling it back rapidly to leave a narrow slip through which to blow. Prolong the "phi" sound." This sound should not be voiced, in other words, your vocal cords shouldn't be used.

Another fun one is x. Not the x you know. "Think [k], but relax the tongue to blow air through the slot. Say the English word "ache" and feel where the back of your tongue contacts the roof of your mouth. Try slurring the word "ache" so that you lazily articulate the consonant. Say what a cat says when it spits at a dog: [xxxxx]. Pretend like you're shooting a gun: [pxxxxx]" That one really cracked us up.

Anyway, have fun trying those out and if anyone overhears you just shoot them with your new voiceless velar fricative skillz.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun

Love you


Jean said...

Dennis is a good demonstrator. do the head motions go with it?

Put Dennis behind the camera next time and let us see you practicing.

Love it - you just have a real way of letting us all in on what is going on as you learn.

Kate said...

I tried out every sound as I read - even the ones I already know! That's not type a, is it? :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you're having fun with it, are the girls learning too? They're at least laughing at you!!

pat ve said...

If you get to review this 20 years from now, I wonder what you'll say. Probably about the same thing we say about a baby. "Aww, he's talking. Isn't that cute?"

Inside Out said...

I watched this with sound off. THAT is funny... B Boy.

pat ve said...

Ron, I like it too with the sound off. Kind of funny that way.

Peter Kerr said...

Nice moves there, Dennis!! You will fit in very well with an African tribe!!

aliann said...

Trent and I both enjoyed the video. I'm no good at languages at all - I'd be a mess in that class. But now Trent is walking around the house making spitting cat/ gun noises.