Linguistics is an eye-opener!

Or, rather… an ear-opener…?

listen ear

First of all, let me apologise for my absence. Life has been very hectic, what with school and all that. But I’m going to try to be more disciplined from now on.

Anyway, since I first started doing linguistics, I have been realising things about the language I am exposed to on a day-to-day basis that I didn’t pick up otherwise, and even some things that I did, but was wondering about.

I’ve always been confused by the fact that one of the shortened versions for the name “William” is “Bill”. Why “Bill”? Why not just “Will”? It’s two very different sounds, after all.

Well, I actually have an explanation now! It turns out these two sounds do have some similarities! They are both labial sounds, sounds whose production are dependent largely on what the lips are doing. For [w], the lips are sounded, and for [b], the lips make a popping sound. This also explains the origin of the Patwa past tense marker “wehn”, which comes from “been”.

It even explains the rhyming scheme of some songs! Do you remember that sound from a few years ago, “Tipsy” by J-Kwon? The second verse starts: “2, here comes the 3 to the 4 to the 5/Now i’m lookin at shorty right in the eyes”… Considering the fact that [v] and [z] are different sounds, you might think that he was just rhyming the vowel sound. (Especially since he ends the next line with “guy”.) But! [v] and [v] are both fricatives! An even better example is the much newer song “Me Love My Fatty” by Style X. It goes: “Me love my, Me love my fatty/All when the knees dem knocky”. [t] and [k] are both plosive sounds!

I doubt J-Kwon or Style X deliberately sat down and thought, “Okay, I’m going to rhyme these two sounds because they belong to the same class of consonants.” But it goes to show there’s something intuitive to these classifications that may seem arbitrary when you’re learning them for the first time.

Learning these things makes linguistics a bit more fun!

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