Monday, May 28, 2007

A whole glottal love

I've done a few impressions around the office that have gotten chuckles from my generous colleagues. The impressions are only good enough to be recognized. Not good enough to get any calls for an encore. I only pick the easiest and most obvious. A few people around the department have habits and tics so characteristic that they need only be mentioned and everyone knows the object of emulation. (The "low-voice" is a crowd favorite.)

Years ago when he got famous for doing his George Bush (Daddy) impression Dana Carvey liked to describe the voice as a combination of Mr Rogers and John Wayne. The speech and mannerisms of Bush the younger are also emulated of course and by much better performers. Frank Caliendo does one of the best impersonations out there. He doesn't use the the rubber face masking like Steve Bridges, but his voice is spot on. Bridges has mastered the mannerisms and body language. Just type either name into YouTube and you'll find several clips of their work.

It's quickly apparent from a study of Bush Jr videos that his characteristic facial expression is a squint and his body language often involves stretching his neck, pushing his face forwards towards the audience while either gripping the lectern with both hands, or symmetrically doing a the-fish-was-this-big gesture with both hands, or repeatedly pointing down at the lectern with one.

Let's consider some phonology then. If you choose to watch the following clip listen for the glottal stops.

Glottal stops are a very common in English both phonemically and non-phonemically. They're almost always used as the onset of a sentence that begins with a vowel as in Apples are delicious. If a word begins with a vowel but follows a coda consonant, the consonant will often serve as the onset and a glottal stop is unnecessary. Consider Red apples are delicious. The [d] serves as the onset for apple so no glottal onset is necessary. But Bush uses them in all sorts of odd places where they are commonly not used. He especially favors them for emphasis.

I won't transcribe these passages, but I'll place the symbol for a glottal stop [ʔ] at the head of each syllable that begins with it. Note that many of these syllables follow a coda consonant. There are also glottal stops on some syllable onsets that already have an onset. Typically the glottalized C onset is a soft consonant like [h] or [r] or [N]. It is common when a vowel follows a stylized pause for a glottal stop to be used -- Bush isn't the only one. But note that in several passages he doesn't pause and still uses the stop. I've provided the rough time marker before each passage.

:39 - ʔand the subsequent ʔexplanation of these changes ʔhas been confusing ʔand in some cases incomplete. Neither the attorney general ʔnor I approve...

1:10 - to explain how the decision was made ʔand for what reasons. Second(ʔ) we're giving congress ʔaccess to ʔan ʔunprecedented...

3:00 - We will also release ʔall Whitehouse documents ʔand emails ʔinvolving direct communications with the justice department ʔor ʔany ʔother ʔoutside person ʔincluding members of congress ʔand their staff

3:20 - ʔa ʔreasonable solution to the issue. However ʔwe will not go along with ʔa partisan fishing ʔexpedition ʔaimed ʔat ʔhonorable public servants.

After quite a fluid passage about ("'ll be a shame") Bush really puts his foot down with four glottal stops, the last three of these are especially odd and clearly employed for emphatic style. 3:45 - ʔit ʔwill be ʔreʔgrettable

Syntax -- Bush like appositives: He likes to reword his claims.

(I've chosen to post a FOX News video because sometimes we forget that this man is the President and FOX News kindly flanks him with flags to remind us. They also like the tasteful alert graphic to remind us to be at a responsible level of awareness. And you have to love the understated "BIG STORY" graphic. Thank you FOX News. Without you I forget to be "an Amerkin")

1 comment:

  1. His dis-deign is really at odds with the execution of delivery.


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