Tag Archives: phonetics

The man who can talk backwards

Just a few days ago I saw an amazing video about Kurt Quinn, a man who can talk backwards. When I say backwards, I don’t mean that he reverses the order of the words in a sentence, but he actually reverses the order of the sounds. He’s got a YouTube channel where you can see this in action, and I would recommend this video by Smarter Every Day which tests the limits of Quinn’s skill.

The Smarter Every Day (SED) video not only demonstrates Quinn’s skill, but also offers up a little bit of phonetic science to explain how it works. While I deeply appreciate SED’s attempt to describe phonetics, there are a few things missing from the explanation that I want to go over here. This should not be taken as a criticism of SED at all. What Quinn can do is highly unusual, and highly interesting, and I want to explore it further. Continue reading

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Linguistics

Short vowels and long vowels

English is traditionally described as having “long” and “short” vowels. Despite this terminology, the distinction has nothing to do with length. In fact, a long vowel is one where the pronunciation matches the name of the letter. For example, the “a” in “made” is a long-A, because it is pronounced like the name of the letter A. The “o” in “throne” is another example of a long vowel, this time a long-O. Short vowels, on the other hand, have unpredictable pronunciations. Despite the name, they are not short versions of the long vowels. They are actually completely different vowels with no relation at all to their long counterparts. The “a” in “mad”, or the “o” in “done”, are considered short vowels because their pronunciations do not match the names of the letters. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Linguistics

The IPA: Non-pulmonic consonants

nonpulmonic cons

The main consonant chart of the IPA was covered in two earlier parts (you can see the whole series up here). In this post, I’ll cover the smaller box below the main one. This is the one labelled “non-pulmonic consonants”.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under IPA, Linguistics

The IPA: The Vowel Chart

This is part of a series on the International Phonetic Alphabet. The series so far is over here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. You’ll probably want one to follow along.

In this post, I’ll cover the vowel chart. The IPA divides up sounds based on their articulations, and vowels and consonants have fundamentally different kinds of articulation. In particular, consonants are sounds produced with obstruction in the vocal tract, while vowels are sound produced without any obstruction.
Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under IPA

The IPA: Consonants Part II – Manner of Articulation

This is part of a series. The other posts are here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. It is helpful for following along.

In the last post I covered voicing and place of articulation for consonants. In this one, I’ll go over the other major feature: manner of articulation.
Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under IPA, Linguistics

The IPA: Consonants Part I – Place of Articulation

This is part of a series. The other posts are here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. It is helpful for following along.

As I mentioned in the first post, consonants are characterized by obstruction of airflow, and the consonant chart is organized around this. Each row in the chart represents to what degree the airflow is being obstructed, and this is technically known as “manner of articulation”. The top row, “plosives”, are consonants produced with a brief period of silence where no air escapes at all. As we move down the rows, the constriction widens and more air flows, and the final row represents approximants which have the minimum degree of obstruction possible to still be a consonant.
Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under IPA, Linguistics

The IPA: Introduction

This is part of a series. The other posts are here. You can get your copy of the IPA here. It is helpful for following along.

This is the International Phonetic Alphabet (you can get your own copy here). Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under IPA, Linguistics