With all the sounds we can make with our mouths, how do we know which ones are important for our language? We take a look at phonemes, the basic sounds of language, and how we can identify them, how we tell them apart, and how our brains react to them.
Phonemes and Allophones, Part 2
When we deal with language, how do we know what sounds we hear match up to what categories? And how do we know what sounds to make ourselves? In the follow-up to our phoneme episode, we takes on allophones, the speech sounds that are driven by rules, and that define the way we hear our linguistic world.
The International Phonetic Alphabet
How can we track all of the sounds of language, exactly how we hear them? Why aren't our regular writing systems up to the challenge? In this episode, we talk about the International Phonetic Alphabet: what it is, why we need it, and how the charts are arranged. Plus, we made our own IPA charts!
How do we put together our syllables? Where do the consonants and vowels go inside our words? In this episode, we talk about syllable structure: how we fit the sounds together, how we decide what consonants go where, and how we know what makes words rhyme.
Places and Manners of Articulation
Where in our mouth do we pronounce our sounds? In what ways do we let the air escape? In this episode, we talk about places and manners or articulation: all the different places in the vocal tract we can make sounds, the different methods for restricting air flow that we use, and some of the variation we see between languages for making consonants.
Vowels and the IPA
How do we define vowel sounds? What are all the different vowels we can make? In this episode, we return to the International Phonetic Alphabet to look at vowels: what parameters we use to define them, what variation we see across languages, and some ways we can play with them to create more categories of sound.
Non-Pulmonic Consonants: Ejectives, Implosives, and Clicks
How do we make sounds without using our lungs? What kinds of consonants can we gulp or pop out of our mouths? In this episode, we talk about non-pulmonic consonants: ejectives, implosives, and clicks. We look at how we make them, where we find them, and why some configurations for making these sounds are just impossible.
Resonance and Formants
How do we create different kinds of sound waves when we only have one mouth? What properties do those speech waves have? In this episode, we talk about resonance and formants: how different parts of a speech wave can get amplified, how that relates to how we talk, and how the sounds of vowels are influenced by our tongue and lip setups.
Phonation and Glottal States
How do our throats work to make different kinds of sounds? What different settings for our vocal folds do we have? In this episode, we talk about phonation and glottal states: how air interacts with our anatomy to create waves, what settings we have besides voiced, voiceless, and closed completely, and how these other settings, breathy and creaky voice, are used across languages. And how they're all totally fine and cool!
Stress and Feet
How do different languages play with pitch to create differences in meaning? How do we tell where stress falls? In this episode, we look at stress and foot structure: how languages use tone, pitch, and stress; how we can build different kinds of feet; and how where we place our stress can change the way we emphasize our sounds.
How do we wade through hissing or silence to tell consonants apart? Which cues do we grab onto to get us on top of these sound waves? In this episode, we take a look at obstruent acoustics: how they differ from vowels or other sonorous sounds, how the way we make fricatives influences the way they sound to us, and how we latch onto lightning-quick changes to tell us what stop we just heard.
How can we tell apart different sonorant consonants - your [n]s and [m]s, [l]s and [ɹ]s? What do their sound waves look like? In this episode, we take a look at the acoustics of nasal and approximant consonants: how opening up your nose influences your speech, how close some consonants are to being vowels, and why it can be hard for some people to tell apart the English l and r.
How can we try to capture the commonalities and differences between linguistic sound systems? What makes one language sound different from another? In this episode, we take a look at Optimality Theory: how we can use constraints to describe how phonology behaves, how we rank which rules we care most about breaking, and how changing our priorities leads to totally different sound outcomes.