Other Things I Didn’t Know

Or if I did I didn’t remember.

The book is slightly repetitive, covering the same topics in different ways. Here we have a different discussion of consonant clusters in the coda.

In both syllable-initial and syllable-final position, consonant clusters, the juxtaposition of two or more consonants within the same syllable, are quite uncommon. Neither Swahili, Fula, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese nor Korean allow them. Some languages, like Thai, allow the juxtaposition of two consonants. The juxtaposition of three consonants, as in English sprint, is quite exceptional. The juxtaposition of five consonants in syllable-final position, as in Norwegian skjelmskt ‘roguish, waggish’ (neutral/adverbial form) and German Herbsts ‘autumn’ (genitive case) is close to unique. (chapter 3 page 14)

Note that the author does not mention English’s “strength” in this paragraph. Does the author expect you to remember or forget? (Remember so it won’t be mentioned again. Forget so it doesn’t seem repetitive.)

For an experiment, psychologist Wolfgang Kohler made two pictures. The left one was two off-center rounded shapes laid somewhat on top of the other and the right was made up of seven triangles placed touching each other (looks like a five-point star with an extra triangle on its head). Then he made two words up and asked people to identify the shapes with the words.

When he asked people which word suited which figure, nobody seemed to be in doubt that maluma was the more suitable name for the figure to the left, while takete was more suitable for the figure to the right. This and similar experiments have been repeated in a wide variety of cultural contexts, such as with Swahili-speaking children in what is now Tanzania, and the result is the same. (chapter 3 page 17)

Soft sounds, like “m” in mommy, are associated with soft/good things. (Thus the round.)
Hard sounds like “t,” “k,” are associated with not good.

What happens if you combine an m, t, and k?

In other experiments, monolingual speakers of different languages (such as English and Japanese) were presented orally with a number of word pairs in their own language and the language they did not know and then asked to match the words. For instance, speakers of English might be asked to decide which of the two Japanese words mikata and teki meant ‘enemy’ and which meant ‘friend’. (The answer is that mikata means ‘friend’, while teki means ‘enemy’.) In these and a number of similar experiments, the correctness of the answers by far exceeds what could be produced by mere chance. The sound of a word, therefore, often seems to give a hint of its meaning. (chapter 3 page 17)

I’ve read this information in regard to less polite company words. (So n, k, t is female, because it is soft but k or k, d is male because it is hard.)

from Linguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages