In a message dated 11/2/01 5:00:25 AM, [log in to unmask] writes:

<< It completely escapes my understanding how anyone could consider [t] to
be softer than [d], or [f] softer than [v]. >>

    Well, say [t] and [d] in isolation, and you can see.  ;)  [d] requires
that you put some effort into it, whereas you could say [t] without doing
anything.  Plus, [d] is LOUDER.  Everyone seems to want to ignore that point.
 A sound being louder causes it to seem harder if it's a stop.  As for [f]
and [v], I have no idea what you're talking about.  [f] sounds like a cloud;
[v] like ripping paper.  [f] even feels softer on your lips than [v], and
putting it in a word doesn't change this: [afa] is much softer than [ava].
You have to lose your phonetics training in order to see this, I think.
Forget about the way these things look on a spectrogram.  With fricatives,
think of how they feel, and with stops, think about how they sound.  Besides,
voiceless stops are so miniscule that they often aren't the differentiating
factor in words.  In English, for instance, the main distinctive feature is
aspiration and vowel length.  In Spanish, the voiced stops are barely stops
at all, in most places.  And someone else mentioned some other examples.
    Also, I really like the whispering example.  :)

<<Seriously though, the application of words like "soft" and "hard" to sounds
is metaphorical, and different languages/people have different metaphores
(see Rick Morneaus essay -- sorry I've forgotten the current link).>>

    Yeah, this is a very good point.  And also, even if you still can't
comprehend how this thing could come about, just remember that it makes sense
to not just someone, but quite a large group of people, which means the
metaphor is in there *somewhere* (the brain, I mean).