Writing Assignment 3

In phonology, we learn that our phonemic inventory (mental inventory of sounds that distinguish a difference in meaning) is smaller than the set of sounds that we produce. We also learn that speakers of different languages have different phonemic inventories (think of the English vs. Hindi example discussed in class) in addition to different phonetic inventories. When learning a second languages, it is difficult to try to master the new sounds of that language, especially if their phonemic inventory differs from ours. Below is a youtube video that pokes fun at the attempts of foreign speakers to master English pronunciation (in this case, it’s The Pink Panther‘s French Inspector Clouseau that is having some difficulty). The alligators from the comic strip Pearls Before Swine  are similarly supposed to have difficulty producing some English sounds.

Think about popular observations on how speakers from various parts of the world struggle with pronouncing various English sounds. What mistakes do they make and why?

Another possible route you can take: If you have studied other languages, you have most likely encountered sounds in that language that were unfamiliar to you. What language and sounds did you have difficulty with? What does this indicate about the mismatch between that language’s phonetic/phonemic inventory and your English phonetic/phonemic inventory?