[Sugar-devel] Phonology (was Re: Fwd: Summer of Code Proposal: Furthering Speech Recognition in Sugar.)

Sean DALY sdaly.be at gmail.com
Tue Mar 24 10:57:00 EDT 2009


I'm no linguist, but we speak 3 languages in the house and I have been
fascinated to observe that my kids seem to "borrow" phonemes between
languages. I met somebody at a party once who said that has been
documented in bi- and tri-lingual children, apparently as a way of
"economizing" brainpower when small (<6 y.o.) Not sure how
authoritative a party person is, though.

On Tue, Mar 24, 2009 at 3:36 PM, C. Scott Ananian <cscott at laptop.org> wrote:
> On Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 3:38 PM, Edward Cherlin <echerlin at gmail.com> wrote:
>> On Sun, Mar 22, 2009 at 3:43 PM, Sean DALY <sdaly.be at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Greetings Satya,
>>  I seem to remember reading that most of the world's
>>> languages draw from a pool of only 50-60 phonemes.
>> This turns out not to be the case. Individual languages commonly have
>> that many. English by itself has between 40 and 50 phonemes in
>> different dialects. Hindi/Urdu has a similar number.
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_phonology
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindi-Urdu_phonology
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipa#Description
>> Among the symbols of the IPA, 107 represent consonants and vowels, 31
>> are diacritics that are used to further specify these sounds, and 19
>> are used to indicate such qualities as length, tone, stress, and
>> intonation.
> There are languages with impressively small phoneme sets, but they are
> the exception rather than the rule.  It is also important to
> distinguish allophones: English has a large number of phones which are
> not semantically meaningful.  For example, the 'k' sounds of cat and
> scat probably sound the same to you, but the first 'c' is actually an
> aspirated 'kh'.
> And then when we consider writing systems, we have even more fun,
> since you can both write "extra" letters which don't map to
> semantically distinguishable phonemes, as well as omit semantically
> meaningful distinctions which the reader can "fill in" -- cf writing
> systems which omit vowels for the most obvious examples.
> But I have no idea what the original discussion was about. ;-)  I'm
> just saying "be careful of trying to count phonemes: unless you're a
> linguist, you're probably counting wrong".
>  --scott
> --
>                         ( http://cscott.net/ )

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