zompist bboard

a congress of convoluted conworldery
It is currently Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:20 am

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 9 posts ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 5:40 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11763
Location: Santiago de Chile
Despite being into languages and conlangs and conworlds for... hell, have I been into this ten years? Seems I have. Well then despite being interested in languages and constructed worlds and so on, this hobby has caused in me an unusually small increase in actual knowledge about linguistics: I'm quite conversant in it, and probably know more about it than 95% of the other non-experts, but that's about it. As a consequence, when I talk about linguistics with other conlangers I'm always the one that knows the least.

This being the case, I'm sure some of you fine folk should know the answer to a question that just popped into my head: Are some sounds easier to pronounce than others? Because on the one hand, of course not: I find the approximant rhotic sonds of english weird and whenever I produce them I can't help but produce a [w] sound at the end, but I'm sure native english speakers find it perfectly normal: hell, brits even have epenthetic rhotics in places! So sometimes when you find a sound harder to produce it's just you're not used to it as compared to the sounds of your own language

But on the other hand, some sounds *seem* more complicated than others even between one's own language: it feels to me as if [a] is easier than [tS] or [ks], both sounds of my native spanish, and if someone were to mispronounce them I should think that's expectable, whereas if someone can't pronounce a simple [o] vowel I'd be surprised at how incapable he was at producing speech. And it seems as if some sounds you find in a vast fraction of existing languages and others are much rarer, it could be cause the human mouth is just better at making some sounds than other sounds: and one should think so too, after all, the mouth is a specific structure with specific mechanical and physical properties, just like my car is excellent at taking you from place to place in a city, it's apalling at pulling a plow and only adequate at moving all your belongings to your new apartment.

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 6:34 pm 
Sanno
Sanno
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:00 pm
Posts: 16390
Location: One of the dark places of the world
Yes, some sounds are easier than others.

This is shown by:
a) some sounds are typically aquired much later in child language development
b) some sounds are more frequently subject to anomolous "speech defects" in adulthood
c) some sounds seem to endure less long in any given language, more rapidly being replaced by other sounds
d) some sounds are more likely to occur only in particular dialects of a language, with variants found in even closely-related dialects
e) some sounds are found in relatively few languages

There are some sounds where these bits of evidence don't add up - clicks, for instance, occur in few languages, but seem relatively stable over time. Sibilants are prone to speech impediments, but are widespread and longlived. But most often these things go together, and the most parsimonious explanation is simply that these sounds are relatively difficult to make (or, at least, more difficult than some close alternative). Plus, those sounds are often those that are 'logically' hardest on the basis of complexity of production. So, to take your example, English /r/:
- is one of the last sounds correctly aquired by children ("I'm weeeally sowwy...")
- is a sound that is relatively commonly the subject of a 'speech defect' in adulthood
- has splintered into half a dozen different realisations in different dialects, in an ongoing process (c.f. the spread of labiodental /r/ in several British dialects)
- is rare in world languages

Simple explanation: it's a hard sound! (either to make or to hear).

_________________
Blog: http://vacuouswastrel.wordpress.com/

But the river tripped on her by and by, lapping
as though her heart was brook: Why, why, why! Weh, O weh
I'se so silly to be flowing but I no canna stay!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 7:13 pm 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:50 am
Posts: 2547
Quote:
But on the other hand, some sounds *seem* more complicated than others even between one's own language: it feels to me as if [a] is easier than [tS] or [ks], both sounds of my native spanish, and if someone were to mispronounce them I should think that's expectable, whereas if someone can't pronounce a simple [o] vowel I'd be surprised at how incapable he was at producing speech.

I'd actually be impressed if an average Anglophone managed to pronounce all of /a e i o u/ right on the first try without having a prior introduction to linguistics, due to how the closest equivalents of /e o/ are diphthongized in almost all varieties of English and how the closest equivalents of /a u/ are either fronted or diphthongized or both in most varieties. (Also, the vowel reduction.)

_________________
The conlanger formerly known as “the conlanger formerly known as Pole, the”.

If we don't study the mistakes of the future we're doomed to repeat them for the first time.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:47 am 
Niš
Niš
User avatar

Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2017 6:44 pm
Posts: 13
absolutely. some sounds are easier to pronounce.

the schwa and /o/ immediately pop into my head. these sounds don't require extremely strange tongue position or mouth shape, and are rather natural or instinctive.
however, sounds such as certain clicks or pharyngealized consonants can be very difficult. these sounds have awkward movements or constrictions that can be very foreign or difficult to some people.

personally, I struggle with dental fricatives since my native language doesn't have them, and I lived ten years not knowing I was pronouncing words like "three" and "tooth" completely wrong (sree and toof). hell, I still struggle and stutter sometimes lol.

bbb

_________________
Image


Last edited by bbbosborne on Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 12:58 am 
Boardlord
Boardlord

Joined: Thu Sep 12, 2002 8:26 pm
Posts: 10452
Location: In the den
One theory is that the easiest sounds to learn (as opposed to produce) are those where you can see how they're made. So children learn /p/ before /t/ before /k/.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:07 am 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Tue Mar 28, 2006 9:14 pm
Posts: 4480
Location: Berlin, Germany
Pole, the wrote:
Quote:
But on the other hand, some sounds *seem* more complicated than others even between one's own language: it feels to me as if [a] is easier than [tS] or [ks], both sounds of my native spanish, and if someone were to mispronounce them I should think that's expectable, whereas if someone can't pronounce a simple [o] vowel I'd be surprised at how incapable he was at producing speech.

I'd actually be impressed if an average Anglophone managed to pronounce all of /a e i o u/ right on the first try without having a prior introduction to linguistics, due to how the closest equivalents of /e o/ are diphthongized in almost all varieties of English and how the closest equivalents of /a u/ are either fronted or diphthongized or both in most varieties. (Also, the vowel reduction.)

Haha, I'm remembering my American friend trying to pronounce schon and just saying "shown".

_________________
Glossing Abbreviations: COMP = comparative, C = complementiser, ACS / ICS = accessible / inaccessible, GDV = gerundive, SPEC / NSPC = specific / non-specific
________
MY MUSIC


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:51 pm 
Smeric
Smeric
User avatar

Joined: Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:00 pm
Posts: 1350
Pole, the wrote:
Quote:
But on the other hand, some sounds *seem* more complicated than others even between one's own language: it feels to me as if [a] is easier than [tS] or [ks], both sounds of my native spanish, and if someone were to mispronounce them I should think that's expectable, whereas if someone can't pronounce a simple [o] vowel I'd be surprised at how incapable he was at producing speech.

I'd actually be impressed if an average Anglophone managed to pronounce all of /a e i o u/ right on the first try without having a prior introduction to linguistics, due to how the closest equivalents of /e o/ are diphthongized in almost all varieties of English and how the closest equivalents of /a u/ are either fronted or diphthongized or both in most varieties. (Also, the vowel reduction.)

Indeed, it took me a lot of work to learn how to not diphthongize /o/, and I'm still not entirely convinced my /e/ isn't more like /ɛ~e̞/.

_________________
"But if of ships I now should sing, what ship would come to me,
What ship would bear me ever back across so wide a Sea?”


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 9:59 pm 
Osän
Osän
User avatar

Joined: Thu Aug 30, 2007 10:45 pm
Posts: 11763
Location: Santiago de Chile
very true, english speakers are always pronouncing monopthongs as dipthongs.

why, thank you, that's informative. I was hesitant to arrive at this conclusion precisely because of the counterexamples Sal points out: clicks are weird as fuck but they seem super stable in those languages that do have them, and so maybe we find them hard for the same reason an american might find simple monopthongs hard. Also, there could be second-order effects at play: maybe there's something about english phonology that makes r a hard sound, whereas some other phonology (maybe richer in approximants, who knows) wouldn't have that effect... though it's harder to imagine what those second order effects might be, and also it seems approximant r is so rare that we wouldn't expect it to appear in these ostensible "r-unsuitable" languages anyway

_________________
Articles on Suenu - Amphitrite


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 10:38 pm 
Sumerul
Sumerul
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:50 am
Posts: 2547
Quote:
why, thank you, that's informative. I was hesitant to arrive at this conclusion precisely because of the counterexamples Sal points out: clicks are weird as fuck but they seem super stable in those languages that do have them, and so maybe we find them hard for the same reason an american might find simple monopthongs hard. Also, there could be second-order effects at play: maybe there's something about english phonology that makes r a hard sound, whereas some other phonology (maybe richer in approximants, who knows) wouldn't have that effect... though it's harder to imagine what those second order effects might be, and also it seems approximant r is so rare that we wouldn't expect it to appear in these ostensible "r-unsuitable" languages anyway

Well, in Polish the default “r” sound is the “trill r”, but it's still a “difficult” sound — one of the latest sound children learn to pronounce (I can recall learning it around the age of four), most commonly substituted with [l] or [j] by children and with [ɹ], [ɰ] or [ʁ] by adults with the speech impediment. Apart from that, the /ɨ/ most foreigners confuse with /i/ and the infamous alveolo-palatals, the Polish phonological system looks quite plain.

(Ah, there's also the issue of /v/ and /w/ that are hard to distinguish by Indians and Finnish people in particular.)

_________________
The conlanger formerly known as “the conlanger formerly known as Pole, the”.

If we don't study the mistakes of the future we're doomed to repeat them for the first time.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 9 posts ] 

All times are UTC - 6 hours [ DST ]


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Majestic-12 [Bot] and 2 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group