What am I doing with a blog?

Awww…heck. I dunno.

So, the day called and had good news and bad news June 12, 2007

Filed under: misc,school — himbly @ 9:44 pm

I’ve been working really really hard. My wordlist…the one that consists of 18 separate lists of fake English-sounding words…she is done. Well. I am (with good cause, as you will find out) hesitant to say I’m DONE (all caps)…but it sure looks that way. Today, after much much toil…much toil…I put my wordlist into the experiment software and ran into the testing booth and listen to my words in their grown up form.


It seems like yesterday when they were just an Excel spreadsheet. It ~was~ just yesterday that they were being edited and sworn at (I call it their ‘teen years’). And now they’re all growed up and playing in our testing booth ready for little ears to hear.

Honestly…although blase now for my labmates…it was really cool being in that room and hearing all those words I’ve worked so hard on.

ummm…it occurs to me that I maybe ought to explain why the hours and hours and hours of editing. My study consists of 6 lists of words. Each of these lists vary in the frequency of the onset in English – meaning that the beginning sound combination of each words (eg. for a word like play, the sound combination ‘pl’ is the onset. For a word like drive, ‘dr’ is the onset) varies in how regularly you can find it in English. I go from frequent (like ‘pr’ as in pray or prank) to less frequent (like ‘kl’ as in clap or clean) to not at all (like ‘tl’ or ‘dl’ which are not found at the beginnings of words in English…or ‘pt’ ‘bd’ which are not heard at the beginnings of words in English, but they are found at the end in words like ‘kept’ or ‘cubed’…or ‘tk’ ‘pg’ which aren’t heard as part of a ‘cluster‘ in English).

Now, since I had to record myself making these words and some of the onsets I required were not onsets I’ve ever made previous to this study, I was not articulatorily proficient enough to make ‘tl’ and ‘dl’ and ‘pk’ and ‘pg’ (etc) without inserting a schwa where it did not belong. Especially with the ones of the type ‘pg’ because I’ve never even heard them, let alone made them. They were so hard to edit because I don’t know what they’re supposed to sound like.

So, that’s what the editing was about. Making words that were not natural for me sound natural. That took hours…days…weeks. No kidding. It was the longest part of this whole exercise. So far…so far….

The words also needed to be edited for length (within 50ms), length of the space in between, noise…all sorts of stuff. These things had to be edited so that they would not bias the baby who was listening to them.

Okay…so…that’s what I’ve been doing. And since my advisor was encouraging me to get my ass in gear, I wanted it to be done done DONE. I was really really tired of editing. So…now it’s “done”…in quotes because it ain’t over until it’s over.

I have my first baby booked for friday, too. Yay!

So…as is customary to my people, I think I might be getting sick. Having finished the wordlist and put into the experiment software I finally got somethign done that I’ve been working very hard towards for, well, weeks and weeks but the past few days have been a real push and filled with stress.

Then…I got a call from C. He left a message saying that the autobody shop had contacted him (when we were together, he took control over the dealings when the car got backed into, which was much appreciated by a flustered me) and that they wanted more money (of course). Long story short, he’s going to help me pay for it…which is very very kind. Especially since it’s going to cost quite a bit.

I’m hoping now, after a long nap, that I won’t get sick after all.


5 Responses to “So, the day called and had good news and bad news”

  1. Jangari Says:

    Wow, this is probably the most detailed explanation of your research I’ve heard thus far. It sounds like it’s really comin’ along.

    A brief thought about onset clusters: do you really think /pt/ never occurs in English (as an onset)? Imagine a speaker who pathologically reduces and deletes schwas. They might pronounce ‘perturbed’ [ptз:bd], or [ptзrbd] (depending on one’s r-fullness), right?

    So, what happens in those impossible clusters, do you record them and digitally remove the inevitable vowel? they must sound awful – but I don’t want to cloud your study with preconceptions!

  2. himbly Says:

    Well…I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not going to be very frequent (and that’s what I’m looking for…frequency). Not everyone will delete that schwa, not everyone says words like ‘perturbed’ in front of a 6 month old, etc. However, I’m guessing the baby will have heard that cluster in coda position.
    Also, they’re not really my focus. The ‘tl’ and ‘dl’ are my focus. I think, with my initial tests, we’ll be able to weed out anything like that, too. It’s imperfect right now, that’s for sure, but if we watch the babies carefully, we should learn more.

    Yeah…I recorded them and used Praat to remove the vowel. Umm…the less ‘impossible’ ones don’t sound bad, but the ‘pg’ and ‘tk’ ones do sound awful. Or they don’t…how can we tell? There’s no pops or anything…but because I know (and anyone who has listened to them knows) they’re heavily edited…they sound heavily edited. It’s funny even the adult reaction to that list. I hate it…anyone who’s listened to it hates it. I’m wondering what the babies will do.

    I’ve been finding it difficult to write about my research for some reason or other. How is your stuff coming along??

  3. platypusattack Says:

    Shit Himbly, I was intrigued by your project when we heard the sound recording (“CRABS”!) but wow – sounds amazing and … uh, Weird. 🙂 Good Weird – I think I’ll stick with not going to Grad School for now to avoid projects with this kind of intensity. Although I gotta say that I love the fact that you have an excel spreadsheet (such a mathematical accountants-type of tool) for such a brilliant language project.
    I’d love to see your words sometime. And I’m NOT speaking metaphorically.

  4. Jangari Says:

    I’m wondering what the babies will do.

    Of course. I suppose it’s part of the research to test whether these clusters are audible to non-specialised ears. The fact that they probably universally do not occur does not entail that they are articulatorily impossible. In fact I’m leaning to the view that acoustic phonetics is more culturally induced than physiologically constrained.

    My work’s going alright. Back to the field in under two weeks. But I’ve still got plenty of preparation to do before then, and time’s running out.

  5. himbly Says:

    Platypus- oh darlin’, you only have to ask and I am willing to yack on about it for a zillion years. We will have to think up a safe word. I can actually send you guys a .wav file of some of the finished products (much like CRABS! but actually sorted out and in order and stuff). Email me with your email address…I only have R’s, I think.

    I miss you on Facebook!

    Jangari- I honestly don’t know if the ‘completely unattested’ list is universal, I just know that these clusters are not found in English (across syllable and word boundaries, yes..but not clusters). I know that the ‘found in coda but not in onset’ list is not universal (Greek uses ‘pt’, I believe). I’m being pretty language specific here…babies are only from monolingual households (English).

    But I’ve still got plenty of preparation to do before then, and time’s running out.

    hehehehe…I think you’ve captured the nature of research in that one, well-put statement.

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