Tuesday, November 22, 2005

light at the end of the tunnel

It's been a nasty couple of weeks with night after night of 2:00 bed times, but I think I finally see an end in sight. I get to devote all of today to the journal, copy-editing all the articles. I have to ship everything off to our web mistress by December 2 for publication in January. For several days I was hitting the panic button, but I think now I might actually pull it off. Famous last words.

Also, did you know that the language Kabardian, spoken in the northwest Caucasus (Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, right next to Chechnya and north of Georgia and Armenia), has 48 consonants and only 2 vowels. To put that in perspective, Hawaiian (which is the opposite extreme) has 8 I think. English has 19 or so, depending on what you count. There are 12 possible different places to articulate a consonant with the tongue, lips, and mouth, and Kabardian uses 11 of them. English uses 6. They even have two different types of glottal stop. What's a glottal stop you ask? It's when you close off the air in your larynx (voice box, adam's apple), producing complete silence. English, well most dialects, actually have this, though we don't recognize it. Say the sentence "I've got three buttons on my cotton shirt." Try to say it normally and don't hyper-articulate each sound. Chances are you just produced three glottal stops. There's one in button and one in cotton. Say it again normally, concentrating on button and cotton. Now, say "terrible atomic tigers." Notice where you put your tongue when you say each of those ts. A little behind and above your teeth, right? Now say cotton and button again, doing your best not to say them super-slow. Notice how your tongue doesn't go to the same place for the t in cotton as it does in tiger? Well, at least it doesn't until you get to the n sound. What most American dialects do on those words is not produce a real t at all. Instead you cut off your air at your larynx, right before the n. (Why we think we are saying t or switch to say t when we are super careful is a topic for another day.) Anyway, a glottal stop is just silence, so how can Kabardian have two of them? They have one like the one in English and they have another which has the lips rounded. Of course, you can't hear the difference on the consonant itself, because, it is, well, silent. You can only hear it when a vowel is next to it. The vowel comes out rounded due to the rounded consonant next to it. (English doesn't have a perfect pair to demonstrate rounding, but compare the vowel in bean versus in boondocks. Notice the lips. It's better in French. Compare the last vowel in Evangeline to the first in "une vache qui ruit." Did I spell laughing right, you French speakers?)

For those of you fascinated by my tense / subject issue, I am making progress and want to have a rought draft done by the end of the holiday. We will see. If I do come up with a solution, I will be sure to post it hear, as I know you are all captivated. Actually, I have a pseudo workaround if I fail. I want to disprove the conclusion to three experiments, only one of which is this tense/subject thing. If I fail there, then I will just write a paper on the first two. I'd like to actually hand in a rough draft. If I do, it will be the first time ever when it wasn't required. I've been in school now for... 19 and a half years. Good lord. And I have 2-3 more to go.

Also, today at 3:00 I am headed to the lab to record sentences for someone doing an experiment in English intonation. Being a native speaker of English is something of a commodity. Also, I am the only native speaker of English in my intonation class, except for the teacher, so I get to be very special. (Other languages are Japanese, Korean, Serbian, and Kalmyk (a Mongolian language).) A student in Second Language Acquisition wants to run some experiment related to English intonation, so I will be recording the sounds for her experiment.

Oh, and I threw my back out again last night. B slipped and fell on the ground, so without thinking I bent over to pick him up. I never made it. Pop. I spent the rest of the night lying on the bed again.

1 comment:

Killer Llama said...

Dear Paca,

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sorry you are having back problems. My dad used to have it alot but has managed to get it under control now, using a combination of back exercises and just being aware of activities and sitting positions that can strain him.

I've had lower back pain myself, as recently as about 4 months ago, but I've never been incapacitated like it sounds is happening to you.

Chok dii na krap!