Hayes Introductory Linguistics p. 2997.Some toughies from English The hardest factor in phonetic transcription is that we tend to hear best the phonetic distinctions of languages we speak. In fact, it’s typically the distinctions heard in infancy and toddlerhood that are the most noticeable — experiments have shown that the circuitry for vowel detection, for example, is already being “tuned” to the ambient language by the age of six months. Thus, if there are English distinctions that you didn’t acquire early on, you may find them tough. I only apologize a little bit for this: linguistics training necessarily involves practice in hearing such distinctions, even if it’s hard! To make the course a bit fairer I will render some “exotic” cases from American dialects, which I hope will be hard for everybody! Here are cases of distinctions that may be difficult. They are posted at the same Web page mentioned above. feet [fit] fit [ft] Clues:  shorter than [i]. Spoken slowly,  becomes . Luke [luke] look [lk] Clues:  shorter than [u]. Spoken slowly,  becomes . thy [a] die [da] Clue: sit up close and lip-read.  usually has tongue protrusion. writer rider [a] Clue: [a] has more jaw lowering. caught[kt] cot [kt] Clue:  has a fish-like lip-rounding gesture.
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