27 September 2006


Oh, I never thought I would be so busy that I seldom post in this blog anymore. But I hope that would change pretty soon.

I guess the main reason was that I was so engulfed with the class I am teaching that I spend a lot of time preparing for the class. There is just a lot of material, and even I am learning stuff that I wouldn't have known if I haven't been teaching this class.

Anyway, I am nursing a little sore throat right now. It started last Monday. I guess I did three things last Monday which aggravated the situation. The first one was I lectured for an hour during the morning, for my class, of course, from 9:00 to 10:00. The second was that I led the discussion on the seminar class I am taking in the afternoon, from 2:00 to 3:00. We discussed Reichenbach's 1947 article on different notions of time and temporality. The third thing was that I was practicing my pharyngeal sounds in Arabic. I guess the third one was the culprit.

I am having a bit of a problem with transcribing Arabic pharyngeal sounds. I hear them all as glottal stops, but my informant tells me that they are two different sounds! So the word /Xi:d/ means "hand" if the consonant in the position of the X is a voiceless glottal stop, but it would mean "festival" if the consonant is a voiced pharyngeal fricative. I feel like I am choking. Well, actually, I am, because in order to make a pharyngeal fricative, you close the pharynx as small as possible and pump air out. But I still do not hear the distinction.

Speaking of pumping air out, here is some trivia for you. Do you know that the speed of the air coming out of your lungs when you are speaking can range from 48-120 km/h? Yes, the air comes out that fast. It's about as fast as the speed of a car in a freeway. This air then produces an acoustic shock wave which the ear then perceives as sound.

Another trivia: the adult male voice has an average of 120Hz, which means that the sound wave has 120 cycles per second. The female voice on the other hand is 220Hz, that is why we perceive the female voice as having higher pitch. And, if you analyze the pitch of a soprano singer singing an aria, it would be around 1000Hz, which means that the sound wave repeats so fast, and if you clip the sound wave and repeat it over and over again, it would sound like a horn. We tried splicing sounds in class, and that was what we thought in the first place, a horn.

Anyway, I better end my post here, as I am heading for my class. Today I will be teaching them the different grammatical cases of Uralic languages, and the phonotactics of Finnish.

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