Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

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Brun Ugle
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby Brun Ugle » Sat Aug 29, 2020 12:25 pm

blackcoffee wrote:
jonm wrote:
blackcoffee wrote:I ordered a copy today too. :)

Wonderful! By the way, I've enjoyed reading in your log about your experiences with Spanish and Listening-Reading. And you mentioned there that you're a high school teacher. I sincerely hope the school year gets off to a good start under incredibly demanding circumstances.

Thanks! A big part of my justification for ordering the book was to develop better methods for learning students' names. I don't have a consistent shorthand for making notes about how they pronounce their names, and then I'm not sure later what my scratches were supposed to mean. :lol:

I've long had trouble with Asian names. I think I just don't hear certain sound/tone distinctions, and so I end up with an awkward back and forth. . . . I try to pronounce a person's name, and they keep repeating it, so I know I'm not getting it right, but I just don't hear the difference, let alone know how to make the proper sound. I wonder if I could learn the proper physical way to generate the sounds such that I could make the correct sound even if I still couldn't hear the difference. I don't encounter too many Asian names these days, but it's interesting to think about.

My experience says that that could work. I’ve learned to hear sounds better by first learning how to produce them. Of course, my production probably improves as my ability to distinguish the sound does, but just knowing where to put my tongue and things seems to be a useful first step.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:37 pm

blackcoffee wrote:Thanks! A big part of my justification for ordering the book was to develop better methods for learning students' names. I don't have a consistent shorthand for making notes about how they pronounce their names, and then I'm not sure later what my scratches were supposed to mean. :lol:

I've long had trouble with Asian names. I think I just don't hear certain sound/tone distinctions, and so I end up with an awkward back and forth. . . . I try to pronounce a person's name, and they keep repeating it, so I know I'm not getting it right, but I just don't hear the difference, let alone know how to make the proper sound. I wonder if I could learn the proper physical way to generate the sounds such that I could make the correct sound even if I still couldn't hear the difference. I don't encounter too many Asian names these days, but it's interesting to think about.

I can relate to this... I taught English as a second language for a number of years and probably will again at some point, and I often found it challenging to remember and pronounce my students' names. I agree that it's well worth making this kind of effort. I find that the more comfortable I am with students' names, the easier it is to connect.

I think you're on the right track here... Just as you and Brun Ugle said, I think learning how to produce sounds can help make them easier to recognize and distinguish.

Do you by any chance know ahead of time what languages your new students' names are in? The reason I ask is, if you like, we could always have a look at the sound systems of those languages over on Wikipedia. Even just previewing a few of the potentially challenging sounds and having a sense of what to listen for might be some help. I might not know the languages (and I also find tones challenging), but I can definitely help make sense of those charts that show a language's sound inventory. And possibly other forum members who know the languages might have some advice.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Sat Aug 29, 2020 3:46 pm

I live in Connecticut in the US, and the majority of students have European names. Knowing the language of origin doesn't always help, either, because sometimes the same name has evolved to be pronounced quite differently by different families. Italian ones are quite common and can vary a lot in pronunciation.

This year I plan to ask students to record themselves saying their name, and maybe even include commentary on how people tend to get it wrong, and/or share an anecdote about their name, i.e. do they like it or hate it, are they named after someone, etc. Then I'll definitely have some material to work with.

By the way, I read your language log and started to get intimidated by the scope of phonetics! I'm just reminding myself to think of it as 'peeling an onion.' I'm just scratching the surface and trying to retain a few useful bits here and there.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:53 pm

blackcoffee wrote:I live in Connecticut in the US, and the majority of students have European names. Knowing the language of origin doesn't always help, either, because sometimes the same name has evolved to be pronounced quite differently by different families. Italian ones are quite common and can vary a lot in pronunciation.

This year I plan to ask students to record themselves saying their name, and maybe even include commentary on how people tend to get it wrong, and/or share an anecdote about their name, i.e. do they like it or hate it, are they named after someone, etc. Then I'll definitely have some material to work with.

That's such a great idea! I may adopt this the next time I teach in the classroom. Not only will you have the recordings to listen to, but you'll have hooks that'll make the names more memorable, and it's a great way to let your students know that you consider this important.

By the way, I read your language log and started to get intimidated by the scope of phonetics! I'm just reminding myself to think of it as 'peeling an onion.' I'm just scratching the surface and trying to retain a few useful bits here and there.

Thanks for checking out the log! And it's definitely a good idea to take it step by step. That's very much the approach the book takes. And as you say, the goal is just to learn some things that can help us as language learners. We're not training to be phoneticians or anything. :)

I think what's most helpful is the firsthand experience of shaping the mouth and throat in different ways to make different sounds. All of us are already masters of a certain set of shapes and sounds, a certain set of "audible gestures." And basically what we're doing is expanding our repertoires. Often we can do that by starting with a familiar audible gesture and finding out what happens when we make an adjustment. Other new audible gestures really will seem exotic, but those can be the most fun.

And then we basically have three ways to describe or refer to a particular audible gesture: We can use lots of everyday words, or we can use just a few specialized terms, or we can use a symbol. I think the terms and symbols are a big part of what can make phonetics seem overwhelming at first. The good news is, there's really no need to make any special effort to learn them. If you end up liking the book and wanting to go through it, you'll pick up the most useful terms and symbols as you go along, and doing it that way, they'll be grounded in vivid sensory experience and easier to remember.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby Deinonysus » Mon Sep 14, 2020 6:46 pm

jonm wrote:So glad this is coming together!

Deinonysus wrote:I'm in! I just ordered my copy.

I just realized that although I have a couple of conlanging books that deal with phonology and at least three books on the phonology of specific languages (English, Ancient Hebrew, and !Xóõ), I have never actually read an academic book on general phonology.

I was hoping you'd be interested, and I'm really happy to hear that you are! Hope you like the book as much I do. I can say that for me, it's helped tie together and reinforce things I learned from other sources. And the discussion will really benefit from your insights and all the knowledge and experience you can bring. By the way, I'm looking at the Wikipedia page for !Xóõ, and wow, that is a truly awe-inspiring phonemic inventory... At once daunting and intriguing...

I strenuously deny these heinous allegations of being knowledgeable and experienced, but looking forward to going over the book. My copy just arrived today!
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby tangleweeds » Mon Sep 14, 2020 8:42 pm

My copy is theoretically on the way. Amazon says it's arriving Wednesday, but the (probably erroneous) tracking number I got said it was already delivered to Hilo, Hawaii last week. I'm really looking forward to getting it.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:43 am

Hey everyone, I'm very excited to hear that your copies are arriving or in transit. I really hope you all like the book as much as I do.

Chapter 1 is something of a general introduction, and chapter 2 is where the guided experiments start. So just in case chapter 1 seems a little theoretical, I encourage you to hold out for the experiments. Starting at the beginning of chapter 2, everything will be grounded in things you can try yourself.

Since that direct experience is such an important aspect of the book, those first two chapters together might be a good amount for us to read to start up the discussion. (Chapter 1 is about 10 pages and chapter 2 is about 20 pages.)

Please feel free to ask any questions as you go along.

And I'm basically up for anything with respect to timing. As books arrive, people could dig in as soon as they like, and we could see as we go if it makes sense to sync up to some extent or if people would prefer to just read at their own pace. I'm totally up for either.

I'm going through a stressful interpersonal situation at the moment, and I'm hoping it will be resolved in about a week, but it could be two. Since not everyone has their book yet, I'm thinking I'll wait to start my own reread so I can really give it my attention. But no need to wait for me to get started, or to hold off on asking questions (a little phonetics would be a nice respite).

Deinonysus wrote:I strenuously deny these heinous allegations of being knowledgeable and experienced, but looking forward to going over the book. My copy just arrived today!

:lol: Thanks for the laugh, it did me good. Really hope you enjoy the book and looking forward to the discussion!

tangleweeds wrote:My copy is theoretically on the way. Amazon says it's arriving Wednesday, but the (probably erroneous) tracking number I got said it was already delivered to Hilo, Hawaii last week. I'm really looking forward to getting it.

Hi tangleweeds, hope it's the former and you get your book! Wonderful to have you on board! :)

annelions wrote:
blackcoffee wrote:This sounds really interesting! I have wished for a long time that I could remember IPA or even know for sure exactly what sound was being represented. Even when I hear a sound I'm not sure of it moments later.

Same. I think my biggest problem with IPA is that explanations I've seen thus far are generally explained by way of example words in English and in such a way that I'm not sure that the person doing the explaining is aware that different accents even exist. I can't recall which off the top of my head, but I remember being particularly annoyed by certain vowels and th sounds that sound identical in my everyday speech.

Since this textbook seems to take a different tack, it looks much more useful. I can't order it right now but I do hope to order it in the future.

Hi annelions, I'm so sorry, I meant to respond much sooner. I ended up writing quite a lot, and then I worried that it would be too much without the book as an anchor. So the short version is, I think you're absolutely right. English vowels vary enormously across different accents, so they don't make very good reference points. It would help if the variety of English was specified and if that variety was one that everyone involved was familiar with, but even then, comparing vowels in different languages or even different accents is very tricky.

The book does indeed take a different approach. For one thing, it introduces more reliable reference points for vowels, but that comes toward the end. The early chapters are mainly about becoming familiar with the vocal tract and how you can shape it to make different sounds. As you try out a new shape and sound, a new audible gesture, you also get the IPA symbol that's associated with it. So the symbols are introduced gradually and associated with vivid experience, which I think makes them easier to learn. At this point, a given symbol really represents a kind of shape and sound you can make, a category. And then later, you see how the same symbols are used more or less on a "closest fit" basis to represent the phonemic inventories of specific languages or accents.

I'm probably getting too far ahead though, so I'll stop there. I still have the long version as a draft, so thanks for inspiring me to write it, and I'll probably incorporate some of it as we go along. Also, I read your log, and things may have already changed, but I think it's really cool that you're learning Croatian while in Croatia and I hope you can travel again soon.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:10 am

My book is theoretically in transit as well. I don't mind a preview if people are ready to start.
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby jonm » Tue Sep 15, 2020 6:39 pm

blackcoffee wrote:My book is theoretically in transit as well. I don't mind a preview if people are ready to start.

Maybe we could give ourselves a tentative, flexible target of going over the first two chapters at the beginning of October? That's a little over two weeks from now, so it would give us a little time for books to arrive and for reading. October 1st is a Thursday, so toward the end of the week, or we could also wait till Saturday, October 3rd, if it works better to wait till the weekend. Very open to other possibilities (including everyone just reading at their own pace).
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Re: Reading Catford's A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

Postby blackcoffee » Wed Sep 16, 2020 11:05 pm

jonm wrote:
blackcoffee wrote:My book is theoretically in transit as well. I don't mind a preview if people are ready to start.

Maybe we could give ourselves a tentative, flexible target of going over the first two chapters at the beginning of October? That's a little over two weeks from now, so it would give us a little time for books to arrive and for reading. October 1st is a Thursday, so toward the end of the week, or we could also wait till Saturday, October 3rd, if it works better to wait till the weekend. Very open to other possibilities (including everyone just reading at their own pace).

This sounds good to me. My book arrived today, but I won't have time to really get started until the weekend. :D
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