Do you see these two lovely pictures? The one with 6 nice ellipses is what the vowels looked like in a language we did a recent Acoustic Phonetics class project on. The other one where it’s all a mess? That’s what vowels in My Language look like. Even if you have no idea what these are showing, I think that you can see why vowels in My Language have been confusing! They are supposed to each have their own little space and not overlap, at least not much. It’s true, I haven’t worked with this data in my computer enough to fix all the mistakes and mis-labeling and such, but still. Couldn’t it look a little more like the lovely vowels in our class project? I’ve said for a long time that I don’t like vowels since they’re usually messy, and I think that I now have physical proof of my dislike – a very messy chart. For those of you linguists or language-nerds who do like vowels, we need you over in West Africa! (And for those of you who don’t like vowels, don’t be scared off. I’m surviving and so can you. Or maybe you can just not be scared off because by the time you get there I’ll have brilliant suggestions on how to make your vowels behave. I won’t tell you that it’s wishful thinking.)
Let me know if you’d like me to keep you posted on what I figure out about vowels in My Language. You may not care. But hopefully they’ll do something much nicer than this by the time I’m done with them. So take that, you naughty vowels!
(For linguists out there who happen to read this blog, here’s what the graphs are representations of. For those of you who don’t care, don’t bother reading this. These are acoustic readings of the vowels in a F1/F2 chart (in Hz) showing the midpoint and 2 standard deviations. Again, I’m sure that the ellipses could get much smaller as I fix outliers. For those of you who have taken articulatory phonetics and not acoustic phonetics, you’ll notice that in the nice example, the vowels are laid out about as they are in a vowel chart. That’s because the vowel chart isn’t just a made-up thing, but can actually be graphed by measuring sound waves and the vibrations that occur through the reverberations in your vocal tract before and after the constricted area. That’s totally not the technical terms for it, but hopefully it’s good enough to give you somewhat of an idea of what is happening.)