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On Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 9:38 PM, Jeff Sheets <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Very few English dialects can even begin to agree on how any
> single word is pronounced, though, as you correctly point out, for the most
> part, we can understand each other.
>
> Except when we don't.  Ever speak to an Irish man or woman, with a brogue or
> accent so rich you could build a mint around the person and retire to a
> personal island?  I worked with an Irish woman a long time ago, who spoke
> English.  But I couldn't understand 10% of what she said without
> concentrating extremely hard.  Phonologically speaking, she was speaking
> English, since her perceptions of the phonetics of her speech matched what
> she understood the English letters to be pronounced as.  Phonetically
> speaking, she was saying stuff so different, and with an extremely different
> stress and tone pattern than any English I ever spoke before, or since.

I was once at a small convention of webcomic fans with an Australian
guy, and I literally could not understand a single word he said. I had
to draft a Brit in attendance, whose dialect was close enough to
either of ours that we could communicate without difficulty, to
translate for me. It was kind of embarassing actually.

But yeah, if you're communicating via mouth noises, mouth noises are
kind of important. Just like if you're communicating via squiggly
shapes on a computer monitor, the shapes themselves are important,
because if you use totally different ones ur'kk vw xinokwrwkt
ubxinoewgwbauvkw.