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And. I think I think she's. Right. Well it looks as if Eliza has mastered one of the sounds of English John. One Professor Higgins though would probably say that she has mastered two sounds where our minds meet and a series of explorations in human communication conducted by professors John Freud and Arnold Nelson of the Department of English Western Michigan University where minds meet has produced and recorded by W-M UK under a grant from the National Association of educational broadcasters. In a shrinking world where minds meet and words are not at all man speech is his most decisive act. These discussions explore this world of speech and the topic for today is earmarks of English speech sounds. Here are professors
frind and Nelson. This is John freind and this is Donald Nelson. John Suppose you explain what you meant by saying that Professor Higgins a top adviser to sounds. Well I ne All I meant was that the sound of the sound that we hear in rain in Spain is not one sound. It's at least two. What do you mean that because we spell that song with two letters in Spain and rain and plane and a Y in strays and for that reason that's two separate sounds. Well No Arny not because it's spelled that way because it sounds that way. Many of the vowel sounds of English aren't single sounds at all but combinations of two different sounds. Sound like I for instance which we write with one letter is really two different sounds that glide into each other. I see he
e writing right now as the same thing is true of the sound. A A is really a and e a e an E and E the as a the two sounds the glide and so when Eliza says. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. If I slow that down it sounds like this. The raid in Spain stays mainly in the plain. Well if you could say it backwards it would be there. Yes yes a backwards comes out. Well why don't I say Eliza sentence and then have the tape recorder play it backwards. The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane and it's in a rut.
It would be interesting to try this with other sounds to see what they're really like. Well at least it would give us a new slant on them. Something like a painter looking at his work upside down. Well since you're so backward in your English John where you come from 1 to 5 that way. OK yet go one two three. Everything for her all of 5 1/2. Well it's not only the Vols John. Those consonants seem to be rather complex sounds too. I notice that the V and the F sounds in five are hardly recognizable backwards and that means that if we could slow down the tape recorder we would hear instead of one kind of sound a series of separate sounds in both the consonants V and F right. And when that series is reversed we get an entirely different effect.
Well I'd like to take some pairs of words next Danny for instance the pair of words say yes. Now theoretically the sounds in those words are exactly reversed and they should sound the same backwards or forwards. You mean the sound of cars and not the spelling. Yes but I'd like to take two other words to the words talk and caught in those words you have to that also sound like exact reversals and then finally I'd like to take the pair of words how and walk I think we can see even before we start that those two aren't exactly alike. You see it. It's how but it's who walk the walk who and who. All right. It's the same difference as the difference between PA and Paul and Paul. You see there's an awe in how but an awe in walk.
But there's who involve say yes. So a year this talk caught our eye. How walk. Why. Well again I was listening to those consonants while you were concentrating on the Vols the asses seemed to be the same both ways. The sounds of T and K especially and talk and cop were quite different to my ear backward. Yes well obviously the T at the beginning of a word is not the same as the T at the end of a word. In fact most consonants change their sounds depending on where they are in the word and that is depending on what other sounds come before and after them. Well the two words Pat and spent for instance demonstrate this point clearly. The sound of P is not the same when it begins a word as when it follows an s. It's an interesting
experiment to say these words while holding a lighted match in front of your mouth when you say Pat the flame will be blown out. When you say spat it it will use this demonstration in my classes and it never fails. It's obvious from these examples that spelling doesn't indicate actual sounds very accurately. I'm going to try this backward speech on a palindrome you know those clever sentences that are spelled exactly alike forwards and backwards like the famous one of Adams's introduction of himself to Eve. Madam I'm Adam. Well I'd like to try the famous one attributed to Napoleon. Able was I ere I saw Elba. My Aussie IRA have told me that sounds like Russian. Did Napoleon say that while he was retreating from Moscow. I'm not sure where that where he spoke that we're all aware that we're all aware that English spelling is a far cry from English pronunciation
but the way we spell words nevertheless affects the way that we hear sound so that when we hear a foreign language we seem to hear it in terms of English spelling as well as English sounds. Well not John you're introducing a very important point here. That is that each language has its own set of sounds. Some of these may be like our own but the ones that aren't causes a great deal of trouble. In fact we can hardly hear them. That is we don't hear them for what they really are ears or listening for English sound at sight and consequently we hear them as a kind of mis pronunciation of English. Yes we have English ears. It's much like an optical illusion. I suppose we could call in an auditorium motion. Well when we listen I need to a language that's completely foreign to us. We're uncertain of just what sounds we really are hearing like in this South American Indian dialect which I don't see me yet and teach what I'm not.
We don't know yet young teacher as I was listening to this I was thinking how difficult it would be to spell what I was hearing. I couldn't make out very clearly any of the individual sounds and you you don't mean just that the words are foreign. No but the sounds that make up the words rhyme. Well I wasn't sure for instance whether I heard a D or an IRA at one point. And I think this illustrates that there's a big difference between the sounds that are spoken and the sounds that are heard. Well that's our main point today that English like all languages is made up of your marks. And it's the sounds that the ear receives rather than those that the voice sounds that are really the building blocks of a language. And it's not that what the voice and is unimportant but that the spoken sound is never the same
twice the mechanism of a voice after all doesn't stamp out identical sounds. Like a mint stamps out pennies. But the ear receives these sounds as if they were exactly the same all the time. Yes our ears are interested in families of sounds that go together to make up a kind of group. They're not interested in hearing the exact nature of each separate sound. In other words to our ears and a is an aid. Just as a chair is a chair even though we know that every chair is different and the same thing holds true in writing. We never write our name the same way twice but to a bank there are our signatures in our signature. Well our eye does the same thing with separate letters too. I once made a collection of over 50 different examples of G that I found in magazines and a kind of printed form of the letter G. I noticed that there were unbelievable differences between some of them but never the last song. Each one
of them has a G. Well if our ears did hear all the little differences instead of only the similarities we would hear only a jumble of sound instead of a language and the ear does get into difficulties when it listens to a foreign language. The sounds do get jumbled. I think we can illustrate some of these difficulties by playing part of the interview you recorded with a Swedish speaking student. Mr. Carey. I've always understood that there is one sound in Swedish That simply is not heard in English and it may be not heard in a lot of other languages. And that is well since I can't pronounce it. I'll simply ask you to say the Swedish word for the English word 7 where you say it again. And that is spelled ass J U. I'm going to try it myself.
You say it once more and I'm going to try and figure it what you find wrong with my pronunciation. Anything wrong with where. Just where. Well. When I make it I make it as if I were saying is if it were spelled w you. Yeah but that isn't quite right. Hoo hoo hoo. So there's a kind of queso in the letters right. Well you can yeah this is America. Almost like you you need to listen to your teeth. Get into the act. They don't just like.
Well I still can't hear that sounds on I ought to be able to look to. I heard a lot of sweeties in my home when I was a child but I never was able to hear that sound so I can say it properly. Well I didn't hear any Swedish in my home so I haven't had any difficulty with and I'm glad to hear that. Well later in that interview I got involved with a couple of other sounds that my English ears don't hear very well. One of the sounds is spelled T.J. in Swedish and the other one is spelled with a K.. When Mr. Kerry was trying to get me to hear the difference they sounded identical. The word beginning with T.J. sounded something like. And it means to cry. The word that starts with K sound something like chop bar. And that means meatball. All I could hear in both cases is what I would spell with a C H. I don't hear any difference between the first sound in that word
and the first trip. Let me hear you. In that part of it. Yeah. Chip chip chip chip chip chip chip chip. Chip chip. When you put on the word Ball our ship would find him or. He would say this is wrong. I couldn't hear the difference then. But I think maybe I hear it now. I think the difference
is illustrated in two different pronunciations that we sometimes hear of a word like nature. The way I just said it nature. When I would consider an affected pronunciation you mean a transition like Nate. Yes your nature. Well I didn't mean nature and nature in the C-H sound in English. Any after all is very close to that is a t y sound. Yes we have a lot of words in which this combination results in C H. This just sound as in church. Words like fortunate literature mixture words which spell S.H. yes like an evolution. I'd say out. Sound off in other words this does occur in English and I think that's the important thing. We don't ever hear it at the beginning of words as in Swedish. We often hear when one word ends with a T and the next word starts with a Y as
in next year next year next year next year next year that's when it said fast like that. Well the point is that it's easy enough for us to say these sounds. We do it all the time but it's almost impossible for us to hear them in unfamiliar surroundings. In my interview with Mr. Kerry I found that his Swedish ear had the same kind of problem with English with the T Y in the c h sounds he heard quite a difference. But here we find that he heard little difference between sounds and are really worlds apart for us. I had trouble with. Beer the beer where we drank. You didn't hear the D. Quite closely to me and I heard the animal
person speaking. If someone said look at the bird. He wouldn't know what to look for something flying in the air or something on a man's face is that there was no doubt about it. In normal conversation you would have this difficulty. Yeah. Yes if somebody was saying. Look at the beer and then look at that look there. There is the area we're calling a goatee. Yeah. Well Arnie that sounds awfully amusing to us as we hear it. But it shows that Mr. Kerry is still not as sure of those sounds as a native English speaker. Well he had been in this country for three years but he still
couldn't distinguish one I suppose many three year old children who speak English natively would have relatively little difficulty with. Well this business of the difficulty that a foreigner has with English or an English speaking person with a foreign language can be illustrated with many languages. I found the same thing that you did when I interviewed Dr. Irving low of the English department Dr. Low's native languages Chinese. And since Chinese is so different from English. The difficulty is in hearing sounds are even greater. I asked him first what difficulties we would have in learning Chinese be the ability to distinguish between the level of a peach. Even now we usually say that 8 11 with a piece. Well I found that actually many of the levels have lost it. And now we have five high to
seven levels in tremendous number. And those are those distinguish the meanings of words. Yes and this number varies from one to another. Take for instance the the name of the Chinese name of Juan which is usually spelled w a n g sometimes a bit o n g. If you see two Chinese people meet and one of them says My name is Juan and the other one who's won. This sounds amusing. This is because at least three or four names with the same pronunciation. And could you get could you say a few of those names for them. Perhaps I can hear the difference. Yes I would say the first thing rap is the S. So the US see the difference and then the three separately the first one. These three I have in my 1 1 1.
1 1 1. Well I heard a difference in pitch but I'd never be able to remember it long enough to know which one you were talking about. Why why why. Yeah like I mean I'm sure the travel actually comes when different words have different meanings. For instance it's a nursery rhyme. I can recall the first line of it which is used to teach the Westerners how to distinguish the difference between the levels of peach and the first and I read something like this. You will notice that there are several words was the same sound. Yes that means all woman. Means the horse and the other means
slow. So this first lie means an all woman riding on the horse which is too slow. I and all of those there were three different meanings of what I heard as just mom. Yes actually there are three others. Means woman. Horse means to scold. Reprimand means to sell merchandise. And all are distinguished by those pictures that we don't even hear I don't even hear except when you say them in succession like that I can tell a slight difference in pitch. Well I do any sounds in English that cause a special difficulty to a speaker in Chinese exchanges for a beginner. He'll have trouble to distinguish between the airport and the ends because this distinction does not exist in Chinese. They would then sound alike
to them and he would have difficulty saying them for this and that is a maze or so and is made with the lips they have lived. Need those two sounds would be difficult for a Chinese to distinguish between the word lip and the word no. Yeah. And then there is the. Three I think three and sing songs. Either one of those th sounds. They don't exist in Chinese either those I know. It's a new problem kind of because you kind of a thing wish this and that ahead. PH John I wonder if we export to China Dolls and say Mama. Yeah but for all I know they call them horsey dolls there. Well I mean we've been talking about the difficulties that foreigners have with English and vice versa.
We ought to mention that there are sounds in English that a native speaker of English has difficulty in hearing. You don't have in mind now speech you're hearing the facts but rather the difference between English dialect. Right. We even in America we have different dialects with their own sounds and that is certainly noticeable Whenever a person travels even from one part of the country to another. For instance I always have trouble knowing what a Southerner means when he says pin a does he mean P or P E N. The same problem with meat in a pan. In my own Minnesota dialect I have difficulty hearing the different sounds we spoke of earlier in the sounds and W.. I have trouble saying them at that point. Yes pawn paw. I don't distinguish easily between the word the C o t Cott is not it. They are small bed and cot. See a GHG in the past tense of catch this particular death spot is found in my hometown all the nearby communities don't have any trouble with it.
Well which one do you see. Well I think I always used to say cot but since this was pointed out to me when I was in high school I think now I waver between the two so that now I'm never quite sure which of the two sonnes I'm saying you'd say you slept on a cot. Yes I caught a few winks on a cot. Well you know I mean my wife has a pronunciation something like that. She says Mockingbird where I would say Mockingbird. Well we all have a dialect of course and consequently we all have some deaf spots but the really amazing thing is how skillful it is that our ears are really extremely skillful anyway skillful as they are. Yes with all the sloppiness of speech and with all of the dialect differences with all the individual differences and voices the ear is still able to pick out those essential cues that make sounds meaningful. Well that is really an irony that we associate language and communication so much with the tongue but we use the word tongue to mean language as in the phrase the tongues of man or
he speaks a foreign tongue but the tongue important as it is in the vocal mechanism isn't essential. The handicap of being without a tongue is not as one might think insurmountable. Here is what to me is an almost fantastic illustration of this point. The speech of a man without a tongue in this recording. He's being interviewed by his doctor the patient. Baron am 57 years of age. A plumber by trade and a resident of St. Louis County was operated in July and I'm here 31 by Dr. James Barrett Brown of St. Louis. The operation was imperative and consisted of complete extirpation of the town our county a town which advocated a brush with a corner where the hyoid bone and not a very common tissue remain before commenting further on this I knew would be rehabilitation. I want to ask Mr. fan a few
questions to indicate his fertility in daily conversation. What is your name. Laila I do. My own. Then where do you hear I live that killed hundreds. And who on any other. Then world. How old are you. I am 57 and lovely What is your occupation. I am not drama. How long have you been good. You were blinded by feeling yet. Have you found the absence of your talent a special handicap in carrying on your trade. I have. The trouble is that it is really red blue I have a little light on it. I'm back to live it every day and night.
The earmarks of English remain. Even though the tongue is gone. Well no single part of the speech mechanism is really essential. After all many people don't have teeth and there are many people who can speak even though their voice boxes have been removed. But the crucial role that the era plays in producing speech sounds cannot be overemphasized. Well as a contrast to the speech we heard of the man without a tongue. Let's listen now to the speech of the man whose speech organs are perfectly normal but who was not able to hear his speech. The speech of the congenitally death. This man is resigning the Gettysburg Address. Fold up both of them for the substance. That led to for Dr. Fenton.
Don't you know. Well Annie I don't think we need to say anything about that. It makes its own point. We've talked about one kind of sound the vowels and consonants but there's a lot more a person does in speech besides uttering vowels and consonants like the Chinese language. English takes account of levels of pitch among other things. Well next time let's talk about the keyboard of speech. What the voice does to the vowels and consonants you have been listening to where our minds meet in a discussion of human communication by professors John freind and Arnold Nelson. When our minds meet is produced and recorded by W-M UK under a grant from the National Association of educational broadcasters This is the end of the Radio Network.
Where minds meet
Speech sounds
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Western Michigan University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Earmarks of English: Speech Sounds
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Discussions explore world of speech, conducted by Professors John Freund and Arnold Nelson of Western Michigan University
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Host: Freund, John
Host: Nelson, Arnold
Producing Organization: Western Michigan University
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 63-4-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:24
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