Tag Archives: phonetics

Who “r” you?

My latest article for the BBC is on “r” – that sound we make in many different ways, and sometimes not at all, depending on who we are and where we’re from. It has a very interesting history, and not just in English!

What a single sound says about you


Phonological aspirations

Do you wish you could have an easier time with non-English sound distinctions? Do you have a sense there are sounds that sound the same to you but are heard as different in other languages? Give this a listen – it’s the podcast version of my article on subtle sounds English speakers have a hard time telling apart.

5 subtle sounds that English speakers have trouble catching

Wah-wah in podcast

The Week has a section of podcasts – audio versions of some of its articles. We’ve made one of my most recent article, on wah-wah pedals and acoustic phonetics. Now you can hear me narrating it and listen to the examples mentioned all in one easy six-and-a-half-minute shot. It’s at theweek.com/article/index/254186/the-science-of-making-a-guitar-sound-like-a-human-voice or soundcloud.com/theweek/the-science-of-making-a-guitar.

Why the clicks?

Imagine if someone, instead of saying your name, replaced the first consonant of it with “tsk!” – for instance, “Tsk! ames” for “James.” Now imagine that that was somehow more polite than just saying your name. Now imagine that English started adding clicks to its words just for that sort of reason. Well, it’s already happened in Zulu and Xhosa – it’s how they got their clicks. Find out more in my latest article for TheWeek.com:

A brief history of African click words

Maybe don’t make these sounds too much

I have heard from various people that certain speech and quasi-speech sounds can be quite irritating. Now, some of them are normal enough when used just a little here and there – it’s just their overuse or overly obtrusive use that’s the issue. Some are simple matters of taste and don’t bother some people at all. Some are probably best left undone altogether. But, just to make the point in an in-your-face and just slightly tongue-in-cheek way, I’ve titled my latest article for TheWeek.com

10 annoying sounds you need to stop making

Phonological analysis of beatbox sounds

My latest article for TheWeek.com is in response to a suggestion made in a comment on my article on noises teenagers make. Someone asked for an analysis of the sounds beatboxers make. That’s a pretty tall order, but there are few little things that stand out, and I cover them:

A phonological description of beatbox noises

A night out with some different accents

My latest article for TheWeek.com was published today, and it comes with another video. This time it’s a quick look at sound change, specifically as expressed in the sounds in the words night out:

A linguistic tour of a ‘night out’ around the world

And how to tell if it’s a Canadian or an Australian asking you out