Tag: languages

The Linguistic Phenomenon Du Jour: Vocal Fry

By Veronique Greenwood | December 13, 2011 1:26 pm

What’s the News: Rarely has a humble little sound aroused such interest as in the last few days, as a paper about a phenomenon called vocal fry, a creak in someone’s voice as they speak, has been propelled to web prominence. Though many outlets got some basic facts wrong—the new study doesn’t actually show that fry has become more common among young women, just that it was common in the small group surveyed—all recognized the opportunity to launch into something we wish we knew more about: why we make funny sounds when we talk.

How the Heck:

  • Vocal fry is a low, rumbling creak that, in English speakers, seems to appear mostly at the ends of sentences and has been captured in voice recordings going back to the early part of last century. Below is a clip (start watching at 34 seconds) with Mae West showing vocal fry on the “me” in “Why don’t you come up sometime, see me,” identified by the linguistics wonks at Language Log. Basically, it’s the opposite end of the spectrum from falsetto.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Mind & Brain

Today's Best Science: Mercury Orbiting, Toxin-Sucking Bananas, Language Colors Perception

By Patrick Morgan | March 16, 2011 10:28 pm
  • Orbit time! Launched in 2004, NASA’s Messenger spacecraft will this Friday become the first probe to orbit Mercury—potentially uncovering polar ice or explaining why the planet is oddly dense.
  • Older AND wiser: When scientists played recordings of lion roars for elephants, they discovered that the oldest female elephants were the most sensitive, and even discerned the calls of lions from lionesses.
  • Health experts say that this year’s cholera epidemic in Haiti could affect double the UN’s prediction of 400,000 people. The UN’s “crude” predictions assumed only a certain percentage of the population would be affected, whereas the new estimate takes water supplies and immunity into consideration.
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: News Roundup
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