Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Almost as cool as a bunsen burner

The coolest part of doing linguistics is that I live, work and socialize in a lab. Everywhere I go, no matter what else I'm doing I'm also collecting data.

Writing on my hand is fine for taking notes on syntax and semantics. But phonology is tougher. It can be awkward to pull out my digital voice recorder and ask someone to repeat an interesting pronunciation while I hold the mic up to their face. You talk funny. Here. Talk into this. I might sneakily transcribe a pronunciation, but that's not pure data collection. It's really analysis.

What are phonologists and phoneticians to do? Get to know the IPA. Develop your ear. Test it. Calibrate it. And once you trust it, transcribe with as much detail as possible. Then get you some cool free software for those opportunities to actually make a recording. Something that can take the data and give you strange graphs like these that the polyglot conspirator recently posted.

She presents these spectrograms of "Rod Bl-" and "Rob Bl-" as partial evidence of the effect of word-final [b] and [d] on the previous vowel in [rab] [rad].)

One program commonly used to generate such cool graphs is Praat. Version 5.1 was just released, so if you download it now, you'll be on the bleeding edge of the software tool.

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