14 March 2006

Sounds right to me

Language Log's recent entry on Engrish reports on an exegesis of a borderline offensive Chinese menu (Benumbed hot vegetables fries fuck silk) and correctly chastises the borderline tasteless practice of dialect humor.

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a Vietnamese coworker recently. He was struggling over the excessive amount of dental fricatives ("th"s) in speech and writing. He was reading a document lousy with "the"s and was struggling over the constant need to pronounce this unpronounceable and non-Vietnamese consonant ("Start THE server with THE settings found in THE config file...") in his head. We talked about how the sound is often elided in conversation and I tried to get him to skip the sound and just keep the voiceless part, sort of, but I ended up adopting his confusion by repeating it so much. It does sound weird. He traded me a nasal N sound (palatal nasal?) in Vietnamese for my English TH, so I think he's getting the better end of the deal. Oh, and their tonal shifts aren't that easy either.

[ posted by sstrader on 14 March 2006 at 2:27:18 PM in Language & Literature ]