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Hearing nuances and emphasis in words

Rhea

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Had an interesting conversation where I was teasing about the southern US version of INsurance versus the northern inSURance.

They said, you just said the same word twice.

So I said, “it’s like the difference between PEEcan versus peCAN.

And again, they said, you just said the same word twice again. Are you trying to gaslight me?

I suppose it’s a version of not being able to hear certain sounds in non-native languages, such as my Japanese exchange student not being able to tell the difference when I said glass or grass. But it was so interesting, they could not hear the difference in inflection.

What sounds are obvious to you but indiscernible to others?
 

Loren Pechtel

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I have the opposite problem--I can't hear the tones in Chinese. It makes it exceedingly hard to learn and it also means what little I do know it's about 50:50 whether I'm understood--many times I've said something, my wife repeats what sounds to me exactly the same, but she's understood and I'm not.
 

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And again, they said, you just said the same word twice again. Are you trying to gaslight me?

I entertain the possibility that you were being gaslighted.

I'm from Kansas. I used to pronounce "egg" with a long A, and I didn't know that other people said it differently.
 

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And again, they said, you just said the same word twice again. Are you trying to gaslight me?

I entertain the possibility that you were being gaslighted.

I'm from Kansas. I used to pronounce "egg" with a long A, and I didn't know that other people said it differently.

Same here, with the long A, still. But I just thought, if I egg someone on, I lose the long A sound.
 

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My attempts to pick up Diné Bizaad have been badly complicated by my inability to catch the difference between nasalized and non-nasalized vowels, especially when the speaker is talking quickly.

I am generally amused by my Michigander realtions and their "dray-gons" and "bay-gs"; they can't seem to hear the difference either.
 

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For a time, I worked with a group of native Arabic speakers, from a variety of different middle eastern countries. One young trilingual woman, from Lebanon, often asked me about how to spell certain English words and told me her difficulty was that to her, the 'a' sound in 'cat' and in 'cake' was the same. She realized that the 'a' sound was different--she simply could not distinguish it. There were some other interesting differences in what she could hear compared with what a typical American speaker of English would hear. She grew up speaking Arabic, of course, as well as French, of course, and also English but still had difficulty with certain distinctions that Americans hear but don't think about past our learning to read/spell years. Of course, the Arabs all could discern accents amongst each other, particular to the region where they were raised. They found US Southern dialects to be incomprehensible.
 

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My attempts to pick up Diné Bizaad have been badly complicated by my inability to catch the difference between nasalized and non-nasalized vowels, especially when the speaker is talking quickly.

I am generally amused by my Michigander realtions and their "dray-gons" and "bay-gs"; they can't seem to hear the difference either.

When I lived in Wisconsin the word “bag” was always my best accent discriminator.
 

bilby

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One of those silly games that's currently doing the rounds on Facebook is "Make a song better by replacing the word 'girl' with 'squirrel'".

I responded to one such with:
In none of the dialects of English in which I am fluent does the word 'squirrel' have the same number of syllables as, or rhyme with, the word 'girl'.

It took me years to work out what 'secret skwirl' (as heard on American TV shows) meant.

Indeed, it took me a minute to grasp that the apparent non-sequitur or replacing 'girl' with 'squirrel' was inspired by someone who thinks the two words rhyme.

Only American English speakers (or those educated by them) could have originated this strange game.

Which apparently constitutes an attack on the USA - suggesting that there's a different way of speaking English from that employed in the USA is, I discover, a vile calumny. It is, after all, only a short step from such a suggestion to hinting that these 'other' ways of speaking might be better than that employed in the US, and that hint is at least as combative as firebombing the Whitehouse while wringing the neck of a Bald Eagle.

Needless to say, 'squirrel' has two distinct syllables, and neither rhymes with the single syllable 'girl'. If you don't like it, tough.

I have more to add in a minute, but I just want to nip outside and check out something buzzing my house. It's making a sound like one of those 'Predator' drones. brb
 

Politesse

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One of those silly games that's currently doing the rounds on Facebook is "Make a song better by replacing the word 'girl' with 'squirrel'".

I responded to one such with:
In none of the dialects of English in which I am fluent does the word 'squirrel' have the same number of syllables as, or rhyme with, the word 'girl'.

It took me years to work out what 'secret skwirl' (as heard on American TV shows) meant.

Indeed, it took me a minute to grasp that the apparent non-sequitur or replacing 'girl' with 'squirrel' was inspired by someone who thinks the two words rhyme.

Only American English speakers (or those educated by them) could have originated this strange game.

Which apparently constitutes an attack on the USA - suggesting that there's a different way of speaking English from that employed in the USA is, I discover, a vile calumny. It is, after all, only a short step from such a suggestion to hinting that these 'other' ways of speaking might be better than that employed in the US, and that hint is at least as combative as firebombing the Whitehouse while wringing the neck of a Bald Eagle.

Needless to say, 'squirrel' has two distinct syllables, and neither rhymes with the single syllable 'girl'. If you don't like it, tough.

I have more to add in a minute, but I just want to nip outside and check out something buzzing my house. It's making a sound like one of those 'Predator' drones. brb

I think you're a bit confused about the American pronunciations of squirrel and girl.
 

zorq

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And again, they said, you just said the same word twice again. Are you trying to gaslight me?

I entertain the possibility that you were being gaslighted.

I'm from Kansas. I used to pronounce "egg" with a long A, and I didn't know that other people said it differently.

Yeah, I agree that you are more likely the one who was experiencing a gaslighting. if people can't hear the stresses on words then sentences with words like "record" and "closer" might be nearly indecipherable.

The music artist booked time in the studio to record her new vinyl record.

We thought the negotiations might sour so our team brought in a deal closer to bring us closer to agreement.


Other word stress changes are quite common when the words changes it's part of speech.

Which suspect do you suspect most?

These stress changes are very common in English and it is very unlikely for a person to have American English as their first and primary language but fail to recognize these language patterns.

some examples...

produce compound rebel contract project convert escort impact pervert subject
 

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My attempts to pick up Diné Bizaad have been badly complicated by my inability to catch the difference between nasalized and non-nasalized vowels, especially when the speaker is talking quickly.

I am generally amused by my Michigander realtions and their "dray-gons" and "bay-gs"; they can't seem to hear the difference either.

I've been a Michigander my entire life. I've never heard the words dragon and bags pronounced "dray-gons" and "bay-gs". Were these Michiganders yoopers. Western North Michiganders definitely have an accent, being influenced by northern Wisconsinites.
 

Tharmas

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I have a pretty flat American accent, but I hear regional differences pretty clearly. What gets me though is where the emphasis goes in sentences. Consider the following examples:

I want to go!
I WANT to go!
I want to GO!

My wife says there’s no difference in meaning between those sentences. I hear definite, if subtle, differences in meaning.
 

Politesse

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My attempts to pick up Diné Bizaad have been badly complicated by my inability to catch the difference between nasalized and non-nasalized vowels, especially when the speaker is talking quickly.

I am generally amused by my Michigander realtions and their "dray-gons" and "bay-gs"; they can't seem to hear the difference either.

I've been a Michigander my entire life. I've never heard the words dragon and bags pronounced "dray-gons" and "bay-gs". Were these Michiganders yoopers. Western North Michiganders definitely have an accent, being influenced by northern Wisconsinites.

That's because you can't hear it, not because you don't say it. Keep up with the thread, here.
 

Wiploc

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I have a pretty flat American accent, but I hear regional differences pretty clearly. What gets me though is where the emphasis goes in sentences. Consider the following examples:

I want to go!
I WANT to go!
I want to GO!

My wife says there’s no difference in meaning between those sentences. I hear definite, if subtle, differences in meaning.


Play this for her:

passion.jpg

"I didn't ask for the anal probe."
 

ZiprHead

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210824922_4656509124377269_5337700546242632411_n.jpg

Squirrel and girl doesn't rhyme in Michigan

But it's close enough to have some fun with it.

My squirrel...

Talkin' 'bout myyyy squirrel
 

Swammerdami

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I have great trouble hearing and remembering tones in Thai. (This causes severe comprehension problem in queries about distance: the words for 'near' and 'far' differ only in tone!) My failure to produce correct tones is the main reason many Thais have trouble understanding my Thai.


Some of the other posts dealt with ambiguity among three vowel sounds, as present in the English words: bait, bet, bat. (In grade school we were taught to call these sounds long A, short E, short A respectively.) I think many languages do NOT distinguish these as three different vowels. In Thai the 'long A' is denoted with , the 'short A' with . (The latter looks like the former duplicated, but is a separate symbol in font or on keyboard.) Thais will pick one or the other when rendering 'short E', perhaps adding a tone mark or shortening mark.


Though a native English speaker, there are two antonyms I often cannot distinguish: can and can't. Do others have trouble with this?
 

bilby

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View attachment 34385

Squirrel and girl doesn't rhyme in Michigan

But it's close enough to have some fun with it.

My squirrel...

Talkin' 'bout myyyy squirrel

In Australia and in all the UK dialects with which I am familiar, it's not even close. The two words neither rhyme nor scan, and it's impossible to sing your substitute lyric without butchering the melody.
 

zorq

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To me "squirrel" has 2 syllables and "girl" has only 1. So I am wondering. Are people who insist that this is a close rhyme squeezing "squirrel" into one syllable or stretching "girl" into two?

A one syllable "squirrel" is vaguely familiar. but a two syllable "girl" that rhymes with "squirrel" sounds quite exotic to my ear.
 

Loren Pechtel

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To me "squirrel" has 2 syllables and "girl" has only 1. So I am wondering. Are people who insist that this is a close rhyme squeezing "squirrel" into one syllable or stretching "girl" into two?

A one syllable "squirrel" is vaguely familiar. but a two syllable "girl" that rhymes with "squirrel" sounds quite exotic to my ear.

I can't see them rhyming, either.

"el" doesn't rhyme with "irl".
 

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To me "squirrel" has 2 syllables and "girl" has only 1. So I am wondering. Are people who insist that this is a close rhyme squeezing "squirrel" into one syllable or stretching "girl" into two?

A one syllable "squirrel" is vaguely familiar. but a two syllable "girl" that rhymes with "squirrel" sounds quite exotic to my ear.

I can't see them rhyming, either.

"el" doesn't rhyme with "irl".


If you're going to pick random parts of the words so you can claim they don't rhyme, why not say that "gir" doesn't rhyme with "rrel"? If you want to be fair, you should either compare "rl" with "rrel" or "irl" with "irrel."

Try to pronounce an "L" by itself. You can't pronounce it without adding a vowel either before or after. You wind up saying something like "el" or "la."

When you pronounce the world "girl," you put an "e" sound before the "L," as if it were spelled "girel." That ending is a lot like the ending of "squirrel." A double "r" sounds a lot like a single one.

If I was scanning a poem with the word "girl" in it, I might call that 1.5 syllables. The reader will pronounce it as one syllable or two depending on which is dictated by the meter. And if that reader pronounces it the other way in the next line, she probably won't even notice the difference.

I infer from this thread that some people, or some dialects, usually stress or linger over the "rrel" of "squirrel" more than they do the "rl" of "girl." I don't have a problem with that, but it is new information.
 

bilby

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To me "squirrel" has 2 syllables and "girl" has only 1. So I am wondering. Are people who insist that this is a close rhyme squeezing "squirrel" into one syllable or stretching "girl" into two?

A one syllable "squirrel" is vaguely familiar. but a two syllable "girl" that rhymes with "squirrel" sounds quite exotic to my ear.

I can't see them rhyming, either.

"el" doesn't rhyme with "irl".


If you're going to pick random parts of the words so you can claim they don't rhyme, why not say that "gir" doesn't rhyme with "rrel"? If you want to be fair, you should either compare "rl" with "rrel" or "irl" with "irrel."

Try to pronounce an "L" by itself. You can't pronounce it without adding a vowel either before or after. You wind up saying something like "el" or "la."

When you pronounce the world "girl," you put an "e" sound before the "L," as if it were spelled "girel."
I don't. Girl is very definitely one syllable. The r modifies the vowel so it's not 'gill' or 'gull'.
That ending is a lot like the ending of "squirrel." A double "r" sounds a lot like a single one.
The r in 'girl' is silent, and acts only to modify the vowel.
If I was scanning a poem with the word "girl" in it, I might call that 1.5 syllables. The reader will pronounce it as one syllable or two depending on which is dictated by the meter. And if that reader pronounces it the other way in the next line, she probably won't even notice the difference.

I infer from this thread that some people, or some dialects, usually stress or linger over the "rrel" of "squirrel" more than they do the "rl" of "girl." I don't have a problem with that, but it is new information.
The i in 'squirrel' has the same sound as in 'tit', and terminates the first syllable. The second syllable is pronounced 'rul', with the same vowel as 'bug'.
 

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In my dialect, squirrel and girl almost rhyme exactly. (We were once accused of speaking like Okies, but I think that's severe exaggeration.)

The i in 'squirrel' has the same sound as in 'tit', and terminates the first syllable. The second syllable is pronounced 'rul', with the same vowel as 'bug'.
Same as in 'tit'?? One of my best expat friends here in the once-grand teak-tree jungle is an Aussie. I often have trouble understanding him.
 

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For me, the 'ur' sound in 'girl', 'bird, 'spurn, 'fur' are all almost the same vowel. Bilby is right: the 'r' sound is an essential part of the vowel. In English an explicit 'R' is included in the spelling (are there exceptions?) but not in other languages. French 'peu' sounds about like English 'purr.'

But what is this vowel called? It's not any of the ten vowels primary-school pupils memorize: {Long,Short}×{A,E,I,O,U}.

I'll tell a sad anecdote about this vowel in Thai, but I'll bump another thread to tell it, instead of hijacking this thread.
 

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For one thing, the English emphasize different syllables. The cockney dialect as well.

MAsage vs massage.

When listening to Australians speak in the news it can be difficult to understand depending on the speaker.

Over here I can have trouble understanding a thick southern accent. Oil can be 'all'.

The American black dialect has unique emphasis and intonations.
 

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yeah buoy.png
Many Americans might have seen the "Yeah buoy" meme above and thought that it was amusing because it is reminiscent of 80's hip hop vernacular and Flavor Flav's use of the expression in particular. But I have a British friend who pronounces the word 'buoy' in a way that is almost indistinguishable from the way they pronounce 'boy', which is still very close the standard American pronunciation of 'boy.' As such I suspect that this meme is much less interesting for people with that British vernacular and they see it merely as a simple pun.
 

bilby

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View attachment 34405
Many Americans might have seen the "Yeah buoy" meme above and thought that it was amusing because it is reminiscent of 80's hip hop vernacular and Flavor Flav's use of the expression in particular. But I have a British friend who pronounces the word 'buoy' in a way that is almost indistinguishable from the way they pronounce 'boy', which is still very close the standard American pronunciation of 'boy.' As such I suspect that this meme is much less interesting for people with that British vernacular and they see it merely as a simple pun.

Boy and Buoy aren't nearly indistinguishable in pronunciation. They are completely identical.
 

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What used to perplex me was the supposed "hw" sound that starts whale. My Random House Websters now gives two pronunciations, one with the h and one without. I have never in my life heard a speaker who pronounced it "hwhale." (That is, unless the h is so breathy and subtle that I don't detect it.) Is there a region where this pronunciation still predominates? My guess is that it's like the k in knife, which was once sounded by English speakers centuries back, until the extra sound fell out of use. Moby Dick is long enough without shoe-horning an extra letter into every whale.
 

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What used to perplex me was the supposed "hw" sound that starts whale. My Random House Websters now gives two pronunciations, one with the h and one without. I have never in my life heard a speaker who pronounced it "hwhale." (That is, unless the h is so breathy and subtle that I don't detect it.) Is there a region where this pronunciation still predominates? My guess is that it's like the k in knife, which was once sounded by English speakers centuries back, until the extra sound fell out of use. Moby Dick is long enough without shoe-horning an extra letter into every whale.

Are you saying 'whale' and 'wail' are the same sound? That Charles Prince of Wales is pronounced as 'Prince of Whales'? This is certainly not the case in my dialect.
 

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I'm in Ohio. If I start to say "way" it's the very same way I start to say "whale."


Interesting.

How about "which," "what," and "whether"?

Especially "whether." Do you pronounce it exactly the way you pronounce "weather"?
 

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"I saw the Prince of Wales at the art gallery" is an exact homophone with "I saw the prints of whales at the art gallery".
Perhaps it is my family and I but we pronounce Prince different to prints.
Prince we have the emphasis on the 'ce' but in prints the emphasis in on the 's'
 

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How about "which," "what," and "whether"?

Especially "whether." Do you pronounce it exactly the way you pronounce "weather"?

Straight up. This is Ohio (or, south of I-70, O-hiyuh.) I'm in a little tourist trap town, and if a tourist should ever say to me:
"Howdy. Huh-Whitney Huh-White's the name. From Huh-Wheeling. Passing through. Huh-what restaurants do you recommend? And huh-which attractions should we check out, huh-while we're here?"
...I'd wonder:
1) Asthma?
2) Doesn't that slow your whole life down?
3) Dude, are you coming on to me?
 

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This is a fascinating conversation. I'm familiar with some of the different pronunciations and inflections described here but others are totally new to me. It's also interesting (but I suppose it shouldn't be surprising) to me that some of you have never heard certain variations that have been mentioned.

As for replacing words in songs, I do it all the time and "squirrel" for "girl" is a classic one for me as I like to replace "I wish that I had Jesse's girl" with "I wish I had a messy squirrel". In the context of those nonsensical lyrics I pronounce squirrel like "squrl" but in ordinary conversation it's slightly more obvious that I'm speaking a word with two syllables. For the record, I'm a few miles out of Boston.

Regarding "wheat", "what", etc., with breathy "H" sound at the beginning, I hope that you will enjoy (if you haven't already) the Family Guy gag on the subject. First it was "cool hwhip" and later appropriated by "hwheat thins".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZmqJQ-nc_s

In the case of these examples:

I want to go!
I WANT to go!
I want to GO!

I think an easy way to demonstrate the difference is to ask questions about each part of the sentence.

Who wants to go?
I want to go.

Do you want to go or do you need to go?
I want to go.

Do you want to go or do you want to blow?
I want to go.

Anyway, I'll think more about pronunciations and inflections that might be unique to my area and worth sharing, and I look forward to seeing more oddities like this from you all.
 

Swammerdami

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Come to think of it, my H in 'Whale' may be almost inaudible (though I THINK I'm producing it). And when I hear others saying 'wHale' my brain may be imagining the H! :confused:
 
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