بحث با مارتن و اینژ: صامت‌های زبان‌های جهان

 
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Hi, in the previous video, we discussed
the different ways in which languages can produce different consonants, and the ways in which they can
distinguish between them. We have seen our three dimensions
which are relevant here. The first is place of articulation,
where in the mouth do I produce the sound? The second is manner of articulation, how is the air stream modified
when I produce the sound? And the third is voicing,
what do I do with my vocal cords? I'm going to discuss these issues a little bit more
now with my students, Inge and Marten. >> Yes I'd like to ask the first
question because I was wondering are there consonants that
occur in all languages? >> Yeah, right, that,
that's a very interesting question. It's actually a question which
has inspired linguists forever or at least since the 19th century and
the answer seems to be that there at least two good
candidates for such consonants. This is the M sound, and the T sound. They, linguists don't necessarily agree
on them, there are some linguists who say that maybe, one of, or two of these
sounds don't occur in all languages. But I think,
it's fair to say that they do. >> But why would it be M and T only? >> Well, it's probably M and
T because they are simple. For instance, they are easy to make. It's very easy to make a T. I use the tip of my tongue. The tip of my tongue is very flexible and I put it basically at its natural
place just behind the teeth. T, that's a very simple sound to make and it's a wonderful consonant, and
M is also very simple to make. I just close my lips. Furthermore, it's very easy to see. It's very easy to,
to see that somebody is making an M sound. As a matter of fact, it's sometimes
claimed that all languages, or many languages at least
have the same word for mother, it's mama, something like that. And the reason for that might be that it's
so easy to make for a child, so the child is just lying there in its cradle and saying
[mamamama] not meaning anything at all, it's just the mother who observes this and
thinks, okay, he must be talking about me. >> Okay, so M and T are the easiest
sounds, or the easiest consonants? And if you look at all languages
in the world are they certain? What, what constants are there? What set? >> Yeah, there so the, it's a, it's a set of very vast size probably
because even this T sound might sound quite slightly different in
one language from the next. But apart from that I, I think if
we look at the phonetic alphabet we see a few hundred different symbols for
consonants. So it's quite many. >> And is there one language
that has most consonants of all? >> Well, yeah, I'm, I'm not sure,
depends a little bit on how you count. But if you want to find one such language,
for some reason, you have to go to Southern Africa. So there's several languages spoken there
which seem to have many, many different consonant sounds, something between
100 and 150 different sounds. >> Okay, I was, I was also wondering then I know that we talk mostly about
consonants, but what about vowels? Are, are there also that many vowels? >> Well, yeah,
that's another interesting question. I think the answer is no. So if we look again at the set of symbols
which are used in the phonetic alphabet, it's definitely smaller. So that's one side of the answer. Also, within a language,
if you have many different you use more consonants
than vowels within one >> Okay.
>> in the same language. >> And is there a reason for that? I mean, if there are just fewer vowels
in general, doesn't mean that a language always also needs to have
fewer vowels than consonants. >> Yeah, that's true, but I think there are two sides to this,
to the answer to this. So on the one hand vowels,
it's more difficult to distinguish between vowels, because the difference
between vowels and consonants again is, in order to produce consonants, you need
some obstruction somewhere in your mouth. In order to produce a vowel,
there's no obstruction, you just transform the sound
when it's going out in some way. And there's just many more different ways
of making an obstruction in your mouth than transforming a sound like that. That seems to be an important
part of the answer. Now you can also ask, how then come, that within a language there are still
more consonants than vowels? So some languages have
many different vowels. So we are,
all three of us are speakers of Dutch, and Dutch actually has quite
a lot of different vowels. It has like 13 different vowels. Well, there are languages which
have only maybe ten consonants, so why are there no languages with
13 vowels and ten consonants? The answer to that, I think is also
interesting, and that it seems to be that consonants have a slightly different
function in language than vowels. So, consonants seem to reveal
more of word meaning. We use consonants mostly
to reveal word meaning. In Semitic languages, like Hebrew and Arabic, people write only
the consonants and not the vowels. They apparently don't need
them to still understand it. Maybe you even remember from,
on the Internet, there are these messages where they just took
out all the vowels from an English text. >> Mm-hm.
>> Mm-hm. >> And
you can still understand those messages. So, that's what we use consonants for, mostly to, if you see the consonants
you already know what the word is. So, you don't really need the vowels for
that. The vowels, we use more for grammar, for expressing grammatical structure. If I, if I say a sentence and if towards
the end of the sentence my voice goes really low, in English,
what do, where do I do that? I do that on the vowels. So that's what I use the vowels for more. So they seem to have slightly
different functions. And there's many different words with
many different meanings in human language but there's not so many different kinds of grammatical
constructions in the same languages. >> Okay, and then finally I had
a question which is similar to the one earlier about consonants, is that, are there also vowels that can
be found in all languages in the world? >> The, well, probably yes. Again, it depends a little bit and
people are debating about this. People just like to debate
about these kinds of things. But I think that it's fair
to say that 99% of all languages have at least
three different vowels and those three different vowels
then are typically A, I and U. Again they are sounds which
are relatively easy to make. They probably are the three vowel
sounds which are easiest to produce and are also maximally different. They're very easy to
distinguish from each other. In this video, we have seen that
there are certain consonants and also certain vowels which seem
to occur in all languages. But that beyond that
there's a vast variation. We've also seen that there seem to be
more consonants than vowels, typically, in a language and you've seen that there
might be various reasons for that. In the next video we're going
to look more into language, into how all these differences between
consonants are actually used in language, in speech errors,
in the way in which we learn languages, and in the way in which
languages are structured.

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