Sounds, Social Attitudes, and a Lack of Speech Science Education

Friday, April 12th, 2013 @ 4:02PM

Recently I came across an article in Yahoo news called 8 bizarre sounds you’ve probably made without knowing it ( The title gave me the feeling that I would immediately see the natural bias one has regarding his or her speech sounds in relation to those used in other languages. That is the title alone suggests such thinking. However, I found the writer to be  comfortable with linguistics terminology and explanation, given the audience. The examples were informative and in short, thank you James Harbeck! 

With this being said, what I found disturbing/ amusing were the  comments. I have picked a few to share below.

“I once cleared my throat and snorted while in a foreign country and a man walked up and handed me a cabbage and said “Here you go!”” — Classic feeling that other language sounds are akin to bodily functions.

“I tried learning French once but my nasal passages weren’t acrobatic enough. I can only talk with my mouth” — Actually this one is pretty good.

“I just finished this article after my snoring woke me up. Does that count?”  — Ok, not everything is murder, mystery and scandal.

Then there are a plethora of posts equating bilabial fricatives to flatulation and a whole range of sexual situations — surprise.

All in all, I wanted to point out the obvious (people revert back to a junior high school level on message boards and many people will find this stuff boring) as well as the fact that we are generally uninformed about such common things.  Most people will find at least several scientific topics boring. However, that does not mean that these topics should not be introduced at the high school level because frankly our general lack of awareness regarding how language works and how one language can differ from another is absurd. This is because everyone uses language, and most learn or try to learn another language. A better understanding of language can only help people navigate the ever increasing global market.

Of course I could also just be incredibly biased given the subject matter that I study ;-)

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Categories: Joel Deacon

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