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Dio kato baco tigo kali!

October 26, 2010

It is not so easy for Hanisah “The Puteri Mandi” from Kota Bharu to say: “Dio kato baco tigo kali”. He said “Read” three times. Instead of saying that, she sometimes says: “Dio baco kato tigo kali”. She reads “Say” three times. Obviously, this situation is not so laughter-proof for us. She laughs like a witch. I laugh like a shaman. But as we continue, it’s getting more unbearable and confusing. It’s not a matter of joke anymore. This is serious. And I ask myself: Why can’t Hanisah say the sentence properly?

This is one of the tasks that the participants have to perform in the recently-concluded Speaking Experiment. Like Hanisah, they are asked to say all the 19 cute minimal pairs in a sentence, or famously reported in the literature as a Carrier Sentence. The idea of saying a target word in a sentence has been widely and traditionally practised by many prominent scholars in the research of speech production of many languages around the world. In recent studies, Gili Fivela & Zmarich (2005) examined Italian geminates by inserting a target word in the carrier sentence: “he calls (target word) back with emphasis”, while Arvaniti & Tserdanelis (2000), in their investigation of initial geminates in Cypriot Greek, imbedded a target word in the carrier sentence: “he said to him (target word) suddenly and left”. Funny sentences, huh?

Okay, I can sense the obvious question: Why can’t we just say the target word alone, without a carrier sentence? Alright, you got me. Now listen up. The reason is purely phonetic. It is important that, when making acoustic measurements of a target word, the sounds surrounding that target word can be easily recognised and segmented through a waveform or a spectrogram. Acoustically, the measurement of, say, initial voiceless stops (especially initial geminates like /pp/, /tt/ & /kk/) can only be made possible when they are preceded by another sound, like a vowel.

Now, this is the Carrier Sentence that I used for my Speaking Experiment:

/diɔ katɔ (target word) tigɔ kali/ “he said (target word) three times”

This is an adaptation from the original sentence of /diɔ katɔ (target word)/ “he said (target word)” used by Abramson (1986) for his laboratory experiment on Pattani Malay speakers. I added /tigɔ kali/ “three times” so that the acoustic properties at the end of a target word can be easily defined (besides promoting my little ass for being a little creative and innovative). Yes yes, it is done as such for acoustic purposes and has nothing to do with the number 3. Again, the reason is purely phonetic. Not numeric. Not semantic (though sometimes it makes the participants wonder why the hell he has to say everything for three times).

At a first glance, the sentence looks pretty naïve and simple. Even a five-year old can pronounce the sentence so effortlessly. But here is the catch – the participants have to repeat the target word, in a sentence, in a random order, back to back, for 6 times. So you can do the math – 38 tokens times 6 is …. er, 228! Yes, imagine saying the same thing over and over for 228 times in a stretch. It is not as easy as it may seem, is it? The efforts can be time-consuming and not so finger-lickin’ good. It demands energy, focus, attention, dedication and patience. Many times, the participants have to take more than a few desperate breaks in the middle of the experiment, like Hanisah “The Puteri Mandi” from Kota Bharu. Yes, for all those tears and hysteria, Hanisah definitely deserves one good award. No, not one, but three awards. For saying every target word for three times.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2010 4:14 pm

    kesiee ko hanisah. belit lidoh dio.

    p/s: humang ai, pueh ese cubo nak memahamkan apo bondo eh yang dimaksudkan. ontok-ontok yolah awak kek sini sambil garu-garu kepalo yang tak gata.


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