Tuesday, 10 April 2012

BAAP miscellanea

More reports from BAAP:

• Calbert Graham (pictured) and Brechtje Post found that even at a low level of proficiency Japanese learners can generally assign English word stress appropriately. They can also perform “the durational and pitch feature contrasts of English stress” in much the same way as native speakers. However “results for intensity suggest a non-use of this feature in realising stress, even by advanced learners”. I don’t know whether this has any practical implications for teachers of EFL to the Japanese. I suspect that we NSs hear the stress contrasts produced by Japanese learners perfectly well, despite the missing variability in loudness.

• Arabic ḍād ض is nowadays typically realized as a pharyngealized voiced dental plosive or fricative ðˤ. In medieval treatises, however, it was described as a lateral, and may perhaps have been an ejective affricate t͜ɬ̕ˤ or voiced fricative ɮˤ. Lateral articulation of ḍād had been thought to be obsolete in modern Arabic, until in the early twentieth century scholars began to report its existence in parts of southern Arabia. Barry Heselwood and colleagues presented electropalatographic evidence from southwest Arabian dialects attesting to both and ðˡˤ realizations, the latter being a central fricative accompanied by unilateral escape.

• Kathleen McCarthy and UCL colleagues have been looking at the perception and production of English stops and vowels by London Bengali children. They call these children ‘sequential bilinguals’, since they typically start with Sylheti at home before starting to use English at about 3½ years. The phoneticians tested the children’s ability to perceive contrasts such as pea-bee, coat-goat, sheep-ship, cart-cut. At age 4 they performed significantly worse in these tests than monolingual-English controls. Their production is also “Sylheti-accented”. Surprise, surprise! We await results of the forthcoming retests to be carried out when the children are older and, presumably, more English-oriented.

• Examining the recordings in the Sound Atlas of Irish English, Elke Philburn found that glottalization of t, and to some extent of p and k, is not as geographically limited in Ireland as usually assumed, and appears to be spreading. It is well known to occur in Dublin, Belfast, and the Ulster Scots areas, but she found it ‘to some extent’ in all 32 counties. Teenagers (83%) glottalize much more than the elderly (7%).

• People acting as subjects for ultrasound tongue imaging or electromagnetic articulography tend to wiggle their tongues around when awaiting their turn to utter. How can you inhibit this ‘non-linguistic pre-speech behaviour’ or ‘vegetative wiggling’ and achieve ‘reliably still tongues’ in the run-up to speech? According to Sonja Schaeffler and Jim Scobbie, by playing them an audio prompt or making them listen to a dialogue partner. Distract them that way, and they’ll keep their tongues still.

1 comment:

  1. I am clearly exceedingly puerile, as I have been giggling at the term 'vegetative wiggling' for the last 10 minutes.