Friday, January 27, 2012

Insight of the Day That I Was Most Pleased With

I was listening to a talk by this Greek girl today.

I was speaking to The Greek afterwards, and asked him the following: "Hey, does the Greek language have any works that end in either 't' or 'p' "?

Sure enough, it doesn't. Which I knew it wouldn't.

How did I know this?

Listening to the girl talk, there were certain words where she would add half an extra vowel at the end, particularly words that ended in 't' or 'p'. So the word 'treatment' became something almost like 'treatmenta' and 'group' became 'groupa'. Not with a strong emphasis on the 'a' at the end, but noticeable.

My hunch, which it seems was right, is that this came from the fact that she wasn't used to words ending in 't' and 'p' - she was used to a vowel at the end after these letters. And this was so subconscious that she was adding it in slightly in English, even though it wasn't there. This would only seem to work if words ending in these letters were completely absent.

Bam! It makes you look like Sherlock (not Shylock) Holmes when you can spot these kinds of obscure connections.

There's few things as satisfying as correctly identifying something random about the world based on correlations that most people aren't paying attention to.


  1. I noticed a similar thing with Turkish friends in London: sekool instead of school, biridge instead of bridge. My diagnosis: they don't do initial consonant clusters. Turned out to be right.

  2. Interesting. I know some Turks, and I'll keep a lookout for it.

    The Turkish one I've noticed is that words that end in a hard 'r' they sound sometimes combine the 'r' with a 'zh' afterwards (think as in Dr Zhivago, or 'Jean-Claude' in the French pronunciation). This is my main linguistic diagnostic for being Turkish, actually. (I've also come across it in one or two Eastern European groups, although I forget which).

  3. BTW, I've just learned that what we're talking about here is called . . .

    (phonotactics) the area of phonology concerned with analyzing the permitted sound sequences of a language