Pronunciation of /s/

Ciamar a chanas mi.... / How do I say...
Eòs Buidhe
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:30 pm
Language Level: Beginner
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: North Carolina, USA

Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Eòs Buidhe » Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:02 pm

I have read that /s/ is dental in Gaelic, but am a little unsure of how one makes /s/ dental since it's a fricative. I've tried touching my tongue directly to my teeth while trying an "s," but that doesn't sound right at all. I just sound like I'm talking with a serious lisp. Do you merely move the tip of your tongue close to your teeth rather than directly against them, much like you would move your tongue close to your gum ridge (not against it) when speaking English? Any insight would be greatly appreciated.



akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:47 pm

Touch the base of your (upper) teeth where the tooth meets your gums with the tip and you got it. If you move away from the gums, yes, you start sounding a little odd :)

Seonaidh
Posts: 1486
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:00 pm
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Faisg air Gleann Rathais

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Seonaidh » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:41 am

Are you sure about that? As the OP stated, it does sound a bit "lispy" - at best, maybe like a Basque z. It's not the s-sound I recollect hearing from other Gaelic speakers - or do we all "get it wrong"? In which case, is "correct Gaelic" actually a living language?

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1354
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Cofhurtail (chan ann bho thùs)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Níall Beag » Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:51 am

I'm a bit perplexed too. If I touch the teeth with the tip of my tongue, where's the gap for the air to come out? Gappy teeth aren't that common in the Gaidhealtachd.

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:39 am

where's the gap for the air to come out?
On the side, as it always does with s sounds, be that the English s or the Gaelic s? Technically it's called lateral airflow.
it does sound a bit "lispy" - at best, maybe like a Basque z
Nothing like the Basque z - let's leave that out of the debate. And yes, it does sound a bit more lispy than the English alveolar s I guess. Perhaps it depends on what we consider a lisp?
is "correct Gaelic" actually a living language?
I'm going by the pronunciation used by living native speakers. I'll stick to answering the practical questions but feel free to theorize and philosophise.

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1354
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Cofhurtail (chan ann bho thùs)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Níall Beag » Fri Jan 10, 2014 1:47 pm

akerbeltz wrote:
where's the gap for the air to come out?
On the side, as it always does with s sounds, be that the English s or the Gaelic s? Technically it's called lateral airflow.
You realise we're talking about S here, not L...? o_Ô

Technically L is a lateral, whereas S is a voiceless sibilant. S sounds are articulated by using the groove of the tongue to form a very narrow passageway of air (the body of the tongue on either side is raised, making contact with the roof of the mouth, the groove is dropped). The groove of the tongue is along the top of the tongue, so if you put the tip of your tongue against the teeth, you have no air channel.

I thought Gaelic S was a laminal sound articulated between the teeth and the alveolar ridge, and Wikipedia agrees, calling it a voiceless alveolar fronted sibilant (/s̪/, which is the symbol given in a certain Blas na Gàidhlig).

Ceid
Posts: 56
Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:18 am
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: SAA
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Ceid » Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:12 pm

akerbeltz wrote:Touch the base of your (upper) teeth where the tooth meets your gums with the tip and you got it. If you move away from the gums, yes, you start sounding a little odd :)
I definitely hear this /s/ from many native speakers. To my American ear, it stands out very distinctly. It's one of the tell-tale traits of a native speaker versus a non-native one for me. From non-native speakers in Scotland, I don't hear it as much, although I do hear it a lot from non-native speakers from Cape Breton. Maybe since their community is smaller, learners are more in contact with native speakers? I don't know, but since I studied for 4 years with a Cape Breton speaker, it's part of my Gàidhlig even though as an Isolated learner, I have to remind myself to do it,

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:15 pm

S sounds are articulated by using the groove of the tongue to form a very narrow passageway of air (the body of the tongue on either side is raised, making contact with the roof of the mouth, the groove is dropped). The groove of the tongue is along the top of the tongue, so if you put the tip of your tongue against the teeth, you have no air channel.
Don't be absurd. Your tongue may or may not groove (in German it does for example) but the airflow is always lateral. I'd like to see anyone do any for of /s/ and have central airflow down the groove. For /ʃ/ yes, but not for /s/.
/s̪/
That's a dental brace under the s, nothing to do with being laminal, I think you're confusing it with Box Underneath, which is the laminal diacritic.
I definitely hear this /s/ from many native speakers.
I'm slightly confused as to which s you're hearing, the English /s/ or the Gaelic /s̪/ but in any case, unless we're talking really old native speakers in Cape Breton, I would be slightly careful about generalising from emigrant community speech. I am aware of the fact that many emigrant communities continue forms of speech which are now rare in the 'homeland' but emigrant speech is not static, it is subject to language change too. My experience of German and Basque from the USA is that even if the speakers are x generation native speakers, they generally have an increasing American twang to it so if English has affected some of the phonemes of CB Gaelic, I would not be at all surprised. In fact I'd be flabberghasted if there was no such effect at all.

Seonaidh
Posts: 1486
Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 8:00 pm
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Faisg air Gleann Rathais

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Seonaidh » Fri Jan 10, 2014 11:45 pm

It doesn't work for me. I can do a variety of different flavours of s, but none of them are formed in the apparently "correct" way. Indeed, when I try that, I'm more likely to come out with a Welsh ll than any sort of s. Or am I just terminally deformed?

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Sat Jan 11, 2014 1:27 am

Let's try a different tack - you can say a dental /d/, yes? Now just say /sd/ but keep your tongue where it needs to be for the /d/.

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1354
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Cofhurtail (chan ann bho thùs)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Níall Beag » Sat Jan 11, 2014 2:42 am

akerbeltz wrote:
S sounds are articulated by using the groove of the tongue to form a very narrow passageway of air (the body of the tongue on either side is raised, making contact with the roof of the mouth, the groove is dropped). The groove of the tongue is along the top of the tongue, so if you put the tip of your tongue against the teeth, you have no air channel.
Don't be absurd. Your tongue may or may not groove (in German it does for example) but the airflow is always lateral. I'd like to see anyone do any for of /s/ and have central airflow down the groove. For /ʃ/ yes, but not for /s/.
I apologise for having an absurd accent. Funnily enough, no one has ever suggested that I sound foreign when I speak English, and people have mistaken me for a native of several other languages each containing an /s/ phoneme, and yet I am physically incapable of producing an S-like sound laterally. Absurd.
That's a dental brace under the s, nothing to do with being laminal, I think you're confusing it with Box Underneath, which is the laminal diacritic.
Ok, but as per the WP article, the term "dental" is in common use, but incorrect, as it is a post-dental sound, which WP describes as "fronted alveolar".

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:28 am

Look, this is not about trying to bandy around ever more minute linguistic terms. Sure, I could explain stuff using non-alphabetic transcription which looks impressive but doesn't help anyone. On the whole, folk use phonemic transcription symbols which means that there is really fine detail which has to be known/is implied, however you want to see it. Which means that yes, if you really want to, you can pick all sorts of holes into someone writing /s̪/. Again, that doesn't help Eòs with his question.

And I honestly don't care two hoots about whether anyone calls it post-dental, dental, or fronted alveolar, we can spend the next 10 years debating which is the best term when, as far as a question about a specific language is concerned, this doesn't matter one jot. We're pitting the People's Front of Judea against the Judean People's Front...

For Gaelic s, have the tip of your tongue as close to the base of your upper teeth as possible. If you're not sure, start with a dental /sd/ combination without sliding your tongue around. That's the practical answer and I don't care about how anyone wants to label this for their next paper in Language.

Eòs Buidhe
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:30 pm
Language Level: Beginner
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: North Carolina, USA

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Eòs Buidhe » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:59 am

I sincerely appreciate everyone throwing their two bits in on this one, but I'm still a little confused, I'm sorry to admit. Having been fortunate enough to have been aided by experienced teachers in the past, I feel like I have a good grasp on recognizing and pronouncing most Gaelic sounds. However, I never asked for help on /s/ as I was unaware that it was different from the /s/ I use in English. Using the advice above: The sound I make when I touch my tongue to the base of my upper teeth is very hissy and sort of flat sounding. The sound is escaping from the sides of my tongue. If I curve my tongue so that airflow passes down the middle (the same way I sound /s/ in English) and touch it just barely to my teeth I get a sharp /s/ sound that seems to be a lot closer to what I've heard. I reached this by playing with the positioning of dental /sd/ as suggested. Any advice on what I should be hearing and if I'm on the right track?

akerbeltz
Rianaire
Posts: 1745
Joined: Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:26 am
Language Level: Barail am broinn baraille
Corrections: Please don't analyse my Gaelic
Location: Glaschu
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by akerbeltz » Sat Jan 11, 2014 1:55 pm

You're very welcome 8-)

The problem with what you're (or indeed most people hear) is twofold. For one, a sound you make yourself sounds different to you than to other people because of the resonance effects of your own head which are picked up directly by your hearing - whereas for everyone else, there is air in between the sound coming out of your mouth and it hitting their ears. So that 'distorts' stuff. Secondly, hearing sounds as adults is heavily influenced by our native language(s) - basically by the time you come out of puberty, your ears have been primed to listen out for the typical phonemes of your language(s). So even if you hear a sound that is only vaguely similar to one in your language(s) - or not similar at all, your ears and brain try to identify the nearest possible match. It's a bit like using Google tr*nsl*t* (Irish > English) to tr*nsl*t* Scottish Gaelic to English. You get some hits, some are funnily off and some it just gives up on.

Sooo... while listening is of course an essential exercise, practically speaking the only bulletproof way (unless you have someone who can do sonagrams or somesuch fancy stuff on a recording of you) is to make sure you produce them right. What you say about 'barely touching the teeth' sounds ballpark in the right area (I'm not worried about what you're saying about airflow down the middle cause that's impossible, both for English and Gaelic /s/ so I'm guessing this is just some impression you're getting) and if it's in the same place as dental /d/, then I'm confident that you're at least very close.

Níall Beag
Rianaire
Posts: 1354
Joined: Sun Sep 23, 2007 6:58 pm
Language Level: Cofhurtail (chan ann bho thùs)
Corrections: I'm fine either way
Location: Sruighlea, Alba
Contact:

Re: Pronunciation of /s/

Unread post by Níall Beag » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:44 pm

akerbeltz wrote:Look, this is not about trying to bandy around ever more minute linguistic terms.
Indeed not, but the reason that I'm "bandying about" these terms is because as yet you've only told me that I'm wrong, and never really given any evidence to help prove to me why. You are talking down to me and dismissing my comments, and I'm using this terminology to try to open up a dialogue. I'm not going to just sit back and accept your judgement on everything I say and perceive as being wrong if you're not willing to show me how and why.

But as it stands, you're just calling things "absurd" and "impossible" that I actually do. I physically cannot pronounce an S without forming a tongue grove, and this is one of the two main characteristics of S-sounds/sibilant fricatives as defined in the Wikipedia article:
Wikipedia wrote:Its manner of articulation is sibilant fricative, which means it is generally produced by channeling air flow along a groove in the back of the tongue up to the place of articulation, at which point it is focused against the sharp edge of the nearly clenched teeth, causing high-frequency turbulence.
[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless ... _fricative]
If you are going to dismiss the Wikipedia article, please do so explicitly, don't simply ignore it entirely. Tell me why it's wrong. Point to an article that says otherwise.

If you're not willing to do that, get down off your high horse and stop belittling people who dare to disagree with you.

Post Reply