Author Topic: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern  (Read 536 times)

Offline metroplexchl

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Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« on: September 17, 2019, 10:40:51 PM »
My daughter constantly replaces the letter "T" with an apostrophe vocally.  So, the word "button" vocally becomes "Bu'uhn".   A "fountain drink" is now a "fow'uhn drink".   Does this lazy speech pattern have a name or title?   How can I explain to her that this makes her sound immature and unprofessional?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2019, 11:31:14 PM »
First, that's called a glottal stop and it is a common variant of T, especially in the middle of words, mostly in British dialects.
https://englishpronunciationroadmap.com/what-is-a-glottal-stop/
(A similar feature of American English is the "flapping" of T in the middle of words like "water" being pronounced something like a quicker version of "wadder". That's just another kind of lenition = weakening.)

Second, you should start by taking a step back and rethinking how you conceptualize dialectal variation. There's no "right" way to speak. There are different ways to speak, and you might have one that you prefer, which is probably just how you grew up speaking (or how you were told you "should" speak by someone else who was told they "should" speak that way, and the cycle continues). But variation and change are natural parts of languages, and you should not consider someone who speaks differently to be speaking worse (or "immature and unprofessional").

On the other hand, there really are some social stigmas out there (because most people buy into the myth that there are "right" ways to speak, because of existing social standards and prejudices, which end up boiling down to associations with people from certain regions, or just other people). So there in some situations having a certain accent can be perceived as, for example, unprofessional, and because people have that perception (it's really their problem, not that of the speaker), it could be harder to get a job, etc. But I would say that most of the time these concerns are exaggerated, and especially in the globalized world today there's so much variation that I at least hope everyone can be taken seriously regardless of where they come from. Still, it's a complex issue. Take, for example, the "Valley Girl" accent of some people from part of California, which very clearly represents an identity (that's what accents are!), but can also result in the person not being taken seriously by others because of that identity. In some ways, then, accents are like clothing, and people do get judged for how they sound or what they wear. But accents aren't something you can just put on or take off. (In that sense, these issues fall somewhere between judging someone for their fashion choices, and judging them based on race or national origin, although often much smaller groups than by 'race' or country.) Everyone has an accent. It just happens to be the case that some accents are considered normal (what you might expect on TV, or from someone from your hometown), while others are considered less prestigious, less educated, etc.

So what does all of this mean? Well, if your daughter is talking like other people around her, that's completely normal, and not something you need to "fix", and also probably not something you can control. If she is speaking like that outside of an area where it is common, maybe because she's copying movies she likes or something like that, then it might cause some confusion or lack of closeness with her peer group. But in the end, peer groups in adolescence are one of the strongest factors in shaping an accent (more than parents), so that will probably sort itself out. Regardless, one of the worst things you can do is try to control how she speaks or make her self-conscious about it.

In the end, the only constant in language is change: "would you look at how the kids these days are talking..." has been said for centuries.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2019, 11:37:40 PM by Daniel »
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Offline metroplexchl

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2019, 11:49:50 PM »
Your response = LIKE A BOSS

JK.  I've noticed she doesn't do it with her friends much because they don't speak that way.  But when she's around me, she does.  I've assumed it's to annoy me (seriously....we're very close and love poking fun at each other).  But I want to make sure she understands that adults in professional situations (she's about to go to university) don't speak this way.  I went to an osteo surgeon before a knee surgery once.  His young nurse tech came in and was asking med questions about "Sta'ins" (meaning statins) and the like.  Drove me up the wall and made me question her professionalism. 

Is there a professional term for this similar to VocalFry, Upspeak/talk, Valtalk, etc?

Offline panini

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2019, 09:28:55 AM »
I'm mildly shocked that Daniel associates this process with Britain. I only know a few Southern US speakers who don't do the t→ʔ/__n rule (instead, they do flapping). You might do a survey of online dictionaries with audio samples, watching for UK vs. US pronunciations. But also beware spelling pronunciations – sometimes, speakers over-articulate in order to "be clear". It is perfectly normal in RP, and Prince Harry does it all the time. It is a little strange that it is stigmatized among the youth in your area.

This is generally termed "debuccalization", but it also has an idiosyncratic name in English accent studies, glottal replacement.


Offline Daniel

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2019, 12:41:24 PM »
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I've assumed it's to annoy me (seriously....we're very close and love poking fun at each other).
Then it's not a serious problem.
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Drove me up the wall and made me question her professionalism. 
To be blunt, that's your problem, not hers.
It can be difficult or uncomfortable to get over linguistic prejudices, but it's important to think about. There's simply no relationship between accents and intelligence. It's similar to another myth, that people who don't speak your language (or don't speak it well) are unintelligent-- in fact, if anything they probably speak more languages than you do (their language, as well as you speak your own, plus at least some of your language, and maybe others). Perception can be deceiving, especially if you don't take the time to question it.

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I'm mildly shocked that Daniel associates this process with Britain.
Huh? It's a stereotypical feature of some British accents (though not all!), especially Cockney (the examples of "butter" as 'buh'er" or "water" as "wah-er" are well known by most English speakers, I'd think, and certainly linguists). It's relatively rare (but not unattested) in the US.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 12:43:50 PM by Daniel »
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Offline panini

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2019, 08:59:09 AM »
Huh? It's a stereotypical feature of some British accents (though not all!), especially Cockney (the examples of "butter" as 'buh'er" or "water" as "wah-er" are well known by most English speakers, I'd think, and certainly linguists). It's relatively rare (but not unattested) in the US.
Setting aside debuccalization in [bʌʔə], prenasal debuccalization as in [ɹaʔn̩] is the overwhelming majority rule in the US. It does also happen in UK English, and there is a position that it's a Northern feature that has recently moved to London. I don't plan to yell "You're wrong!" about the geographical distribution of this rule, I just want to reiterate that it's a fundamental fact about US English.

But while we're on the topic, while it is true that there is no correlation between accent and intelligence, there is a correlation between dialect choice and professionalism. There is the same correlation between speech pattern choices and professionalism as there is between professionalism and other choices such as dress, cleanliness posture and snarkiness. Perhaps you disagree. The more cogent consideration in this case is simply that the claimed correlation does not exist (pending further details about the OP's social context).



Offline Daniel

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Re: Need help identifying annoying speech pattern
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2019, 01:34:54 PM »
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Setting aside debuccalization in [bʌʔə], prenasal debuccalization as in [ɹaʔn̩] is the overwhelming majority rule in the US.
I was referring to the more general phenomenon, which is more common in British dialects. Consonant clusters do work differently sometimes, but I believe also fall into the more general pattern where applicable. That would also be less perceptually salient, although you're right to emphasize that the two examples in the original post involve nasals, so perhaps that's more specifically what is going on here. (In that case, I'd emphasize even more that this doesn't matter, because it's less salient, and much more common.)

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But while we're on the topic, while it is true that there is no correlation between accent and intelligence, there is a correlation between dialect choice and professionalism. There is the same correlation between speech pattern choices and professionalism as there is between professionalism and other choices such as dress, cleanliness posture and snarkiness. Perhaps you disagree.
That's a problematic and complicated argument. Yes, some people do "posture" by changing their accent to appeal to others in professional settings, and yes, there are some widespread "expectations" i professional settings. But that does NOT mean that individuals with a different accent are less intelligent or necessarily less professional. Rather, it is a systemic problem, in part due to demographics, and in part due to perpetuating these beliefs so that it's generally seen as "OK" to judge someone by their accent. Something similar can be said about race, given statistical disparity in wealth distribution, etc. But from that you cannot say that an individual employee of a certain race is "less professional" or "less educated" or whatever. Statistics are misleading in cases like these, because they perpetuate stereotypes and confuse effect with cause. There is absolutely no reason that someone with a particular accent would not be an exemplary employee.

(As you say, the OP's social context is important to consider any further details, because another complication is the distinction between different kinds of identities expressed via accents, such as geographic vs. social class vs. peer group, etc.)
« Last Edit: September 19, 2019, 01:40:18 PM by Daniel »
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