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  • English spelling is a mess. O-u-g-h becomes different sounds in

  • enough, cough, plough, hiccough, although, thought, and thoroughly.

  • Part of the reason for that is that English has so many loan words

  • whose pronunciations got either maintained or approximated.

  • Some were written down in the way monks would spell that sound

  • whenever that word happened to enter the language.

  • Plus, French scribes from the Norman Invasion

  • respelled English words to match French spelling rules. Plus,

  • English spelling became standardized with the implementation of the printing press in

  • the 16th century,

  • which was the start of Early Modern English, but before the Great Vowel Shift.

  • Which waswell, a lot of our vowels shifted.

  • Between the confusing spelling of English,

  • and the fact other European languages use different letters for different sounds,

  • we needed something for linguists to us

  • to explain the pronunciation of words without having to talk face-to-face.

  • So in the late 19th century, the International Phonetics Association worked together

  • to create the beginnings of the International Phonetic Alphabet, or IPA.

  • A century later, and after a few revisions,

  • it's now used around the world by linguists,

  • but also phonologists, speech pathologists, singers, and loads more people.

  • The goal of the IPA is to have a symbol for every sound in every spoken language in the world.

  • Now, it does have very Eurocentric roots.

  • The alphabet itself is based off the Roman alphabet,

  • with some Greek letters thrown in.

  • So the closer your language is to European ones,

  • the more the transcriptions look like regular Latin text.

  • It was designed to be easy to type without needing many custom letter plates

  • for printing presses or typewriters,

  • so it also has some rotated letters and partial symbols.

  • And the designers didn't want to have to use a lot of diacritics;

  • they wanted one symbol per sound, and one sound per symbol.

  • Andyeah. They did it. They put every sound that humans use in speech on a chart.

  • When you make a sound, you push air out of your lungs

  • and then you cause some sort of constriction in your mouth or throat

  • to create that particular sound.

  • Two things that are really important are where in your mouth and throat that constriction is:

  • that's called the place of articulation,

  • and how much constriction you're making:

  • that's the manner of articulation.

  • The chart is organised based on those two factors.

  • There's also a chart for vowels,

  • a chart of diacritics, and a chart of extensions,

  • but we're going to focus on the main consonant chart for this video.

  • Because there's variation from dialect to dialect,

  • and language to language, and person to person,

  • the little nuances of each of those sounds

  • can be even further "narrowly transcribed" using diacritics.

  • But these are, with a few exceptions, all the consonants that humans use.

  • Looking at the chart, you can see some familiar symbols.

  • These are a great guide to help you find your way around.

  • We can start at the top with the plosives:

  • those are the sounds that you make by stopping air flow somewhere,

  • and then releasing it suddenly, like a mini explosion.

  • If you say some of the letters you recognise off the top row,

  • as you move left to right,

  • you can feel those letters moving backwards in your mouth: p, t, k.

  • At the end of that row is the glottal stop, which is closing off the airflow in your throat.

  • It happens in English when we say "uh-oh".

  • Depending on your accent, it also occurs in "mountain", "Hawai'i", or "butter".

  • The nasal line, next down, is all the sounds that you make through your nose, m, n, ng.

  • Then you have trills, which we don't have natively in most dialects of English,

  • and which I'm therefore not great at pronouncing, other than a really over-the-top [rolled r].

  • Then we have taps and flaps, which are like those long trills,

  • but a tap is the one-time equivalent.

  • Next are the fricatives, where two parts touch. So, s and z,

  • where the two parts are the tip of your tongue and the alveolar ridge,

  • which is the hard bit of the roof of your mouth, just behind your top teeth.

  • Informally, that is thepizza ridge”,

  • because it's the bit you burn when you bite into pizza that's too hot.

  • And then finally, there are the approximants,

  • where two parts don't quite meet.

  • Lateral means that air is going round the sides,

  • like in l or the Welsh ll.

  • But: not every space in the table has a symbol.

  • Some of those empty spaces have white backgrounds,

  • and some of them are completely grayed out.

  • The ones with white backgrounds are possible for humans to make,

  • but they've not been given a symbol, because linguists have never found them

  • actually being used as sounds in any of the world's languages.

  • Sometimes they are found to exist by some researcher somewhere,

  • and if that happens then the International Phonetics Association will add a symbol.

  • The last time that happened was in 2005.

  • But then there are shaded areas, the shadow lands,

  • the sounds that are theorized to be impossible to produce.

  • Imagine trying to produce a sound that's in the place of your mouth

  • where you make a k or a g,

  • but using the same method that you use to go [rolled r].

  • You need some loose fold of tissue to make that rapid trilling,

  • and there's just no flesh loose enough to bounce around

  • right at the back of the roof of your mouth, at what's called the velum.

  • You could, I guess, in theory, curve your tongue back there,

  • but only by holding it too tense to actually make a trill.

  • So a velar trill is judged impossible. By all means, try it.

  • In the same way, if you try and cross the place of your mouth and throat

  • that you use to say "ha" or "uh-oh" with the method you use to make the l sound,

  • you're going to run into problems.

  • For "la" or "el" you let air escape from your mouth around the sides of your tongue: lateral.

  • But for "ha" you're constricting the air down in your throat at the vocal folds or glottis,

  • and you can't get your tongue down your throat to create that centre blockage.

  • I mean, your tongue has that flexibility in your mouth, 'l',

  • but you can't close your airway like you're making a figure 8 out of a straw,

  • and keep the air going round the sides.

  • Unless you're choking on food in exactly the wrong way,

  • and if you are, that's not really speaking.

  • A glottal lateral is judged impossible.

  • All those shaded boxes have the same sorts of limitations,

  • where it's not just that they would be difficult to pronounce, they are impossible.

  • Those gray boxes are forbidden from human speech,

  • not by choice of some High Council or the International Phonetic Association,

  • but just because of the limitations of being human.

  • Sometimes we do write things that we can't pronounce, like these:

  • you can't hold the letter p for that long,

  • or this where all those letter Es are silent!

  • For more on how writing is different to speaking,

  • my co-author Gretchen McCulloch has a new book called Because Internet,

  • it's available now, and there are links in the description.

English spelling is a mess. O-u-g-h becomes different sounds in

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那些可能存在但不存在的語言聲音。 (The Language Sounds That Could Exist, But Don't)

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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