Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My new adventure into linguistics

The university of Arizona offers a basic undergraduate course in Linguistics, that is available as a podcast through iTunes U. It is an introduction to language. After the first lecture that helped me sort out grammar (prescriptive vs. descriptive), we went off into a couple of hours spent on phonetics. That was a tough ride; a very technical set of lectures on consonants and vowels and all the various characteristics they could take.

Lecturer Amy Fountain during those lectures utters the phrase: this is bothersome now and you probably hate me for it, but if you stick with me and get these basics right, you are going to love me for it afterwards. Not that I fell in love with ms. Fountain, but I sure nearly dropped out of the course because of the dry phonetics, but somehow managed to pull through and began to see the light when we arrived at phonology.

Now here is a fine distinction. Phonetics is the universal identification of sounds in speech; phonology goes into the sound variety in specific languages. Put differently phonetics is universal, but each language has its own phonology. Like the D at the end of a word in Dutch sounds like T - I am giving it a whirl. I think the language examples pulled me through. Doing this in class must have been tough, but on podcast, with all the sound drops and no visuals, took quite the stamina. But it was worth it. And so many more lectures to go...

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