C: Cunning Linguistics and Oral Invagination

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Because language is sexy and don’t anyone ever tell you differently.

I’ve forgone computer science for something less soul draining: applied linguistics. At the very least, I have the option of combining the two, but for now I’m focusing on the linguistics. Like any other academic field, linguistics has its soul-draining features, filled with pedantry and outmoded ways of describing language. You see, I’ve taken part in four whole lectures on linguistics and I am now an expert. Clearly.

To be honest, I have had fun committing the International Phonetic Alphabet to memory and making a fool of myself in public contorting my mouth to figure out whether a sound is a labiodental fricative or alveopalatal affricate, high front unrounded vowel or nasal stop. And I’m not being completely ironic.

However, the most joy I’ve received is not from the rote memorization of esoteric concepts, but from the awareness this intro to linguistics has injected into me. In doing those silly exercises, listening and feeling the differences between the “ffffff” and “vvvvvvv” sounds, my eyes and ears have been opened to the way language actually comes out of our mouths versus the way we think we hear them.

Think of the word “fountain.” Listen to it in your head. Say it aloud, if you feel like it [Don’t worry, no one’s watching]. Do you actually pronounce the “t” sound? Does the tip of your tongue flick off your palate with a puff of air passing your lips when you go over the “t”? Or does it the sound actually form at the back of your throat with the air cut off when you quickly close your throat.

“fountain” becomes “foun’ain” and even “fou’ain”

“good night” becomes “good nigh'”

And while we might force the tip of our tongue to touch the top of our mouth, we often become so lazy with the amount of air we exhale that

“little” becomes “liddle”

a “flower petal” becomes “flower pedal”

Did you know the soft “d” sound is the equivalent of a single trill of the “r” used in languages like Spanish? Try it.

It’s little things like this that tickle me pink and make me look forward to the next class. Oh the places we’ll go once this intro course is done with.


2 thoughts on “C: Cunning Linguistics and Oral Invagination

    • I am with you there. Went through 4 long exercises during lecture today, creating charts upon charts to figure out language rules, differentiating between phonemes and allophones, going back and forth trying to remember the difference between an [a] and an [aj] and that one “ae” symbol…

      Not gonna miss this part at all.

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