segment sceptics

Selected, in chronological order • Paul (1886), according to Abercrombie (1991): “In contrast to Pike’s view that a stretch of speech has a natural segmentation is the view that it is an indissoluble continuum, with no natural boundaries within it. This view is at least a hundred years old. It is clearly stated, for example, […]

back from baap

And what a fascinating time it was. I went with the expectation of finding out about lots of new ideas, and there was certainly a lot of new findings, new measurement methods, new and refined analyses. But by far the most engaging sessions (I thought) were the ones that looked back to the early days […]

on phonematic units

Firthian Prosdic Analysis provides a way of thinking about language and phonology which is fundamentally different from approaches in the ‘American’ and/or generative tradition. As Anderson’s overview points out, “While one might be tempted to compare the phonematic units of the former with the phonemes of the latter [ie phonemicist analyses], for example, this would […]

phonology’s biggest mystery

The deepest, darkest, most impenetrably infathomable question in the entire history of British, European, and American phonology all rolled into one squirming mass of intellectual energy: revealed. What on earth was JR Firth talking about? Prosodies, phonematic units, paradigms and syntagms, and far-reaching distrust of the phoneme. How I wish I understood this stuff.

the magic of language

Here’s JR Firth talking about the magic of language – an ancient notion which is still useful, he said. “All the children of men learn to speak in an atmosphere of magic. When a baby’s bodily disturbances reach the ears of those around him, all sorts of feelings are mobilized in his service – motherly […]