First Korean on the moon!
Phonetician/Phonologist Lisa Davidson, of NYU, sent me some comments on
the Armstrong story. (For previous coverage on Peter Shann Ford's reported discovery of the missing "a" in "one small step for (a) man", see: One
small step backwards
75-millisecond step before a "man"
abbreviated article: the smoking gun?
; and Armstrong's
abbreviated article: notes from the expert
.) Lisa makes some
sophisticated points. But she also observes, amusingly, that Shann Ford
illustrated his explanation of how Armstrong would have produced the /r/ of "for" with an image
(shown right) of a Korean alveolar. (Alveolar = consonant produced with
constriction between tongue and roof of mouth just about where you see
on the pic.) As you can see if you follow the link that Shann
Ford himself provided on the picture, the image is adapted from a guide
to the Korean alphabet. And look: the tongue is actually touching the
roof of the mouth (specifically, the alveolar ridge). Now, /r/ is an
approximant, meaning the tongue doesn't completely close off the air
stream, so you can tell this isn't an /r/ at all, and, as Lisa points
out, Korean doesn't even have an English-like alveolar approximant.
(Which takes my mind back
Korean pirates say?) So what you see is two pictures of a Korean guy saying e.g. /d/, /t/ or /n/, and then one of the same guy saying e.g. /m/, /p/, or /b/. And here is what all this tells you about the first words on the moon: zip.
Below is Lisa's message, which casts yet more doubt on Shann Ford's
conclusions, and also includes an invitation for Neil Armstrong: let
him know about it if you see him!
Posted by David Beaver at October 4, 2006 04:48 PM
Although it's perhaps a
minor part of this whole issue, I wanted to
weigh in on Ford's articulatory description of how /r/ is produced.
Since ultrasound and MRI are very well suited for looking at /r/, many
of us have done a number of studies on the shapes corresponding to /r/.
Extensive work has been done by Mark Tiede at MIT and Suzanne Boyce at
the University of Cincinnati, but also Jeff Mielke, Adam Baker and
Diana Archangeli at Arizona, Bryan Gick at UBC, and I'm working on a
project on /r/ acquisition by children.
While the retroflex shape
shown on Ford's webpage is certainly one
possible configuration for American English /r/ production, the fact is
that there are at least 4 other tongue shapes ranging from a big bunch
to a boring, undifferentiated lump in the mouth, that all correspond to
/r/. I might also point out that the picture on Ford's website (http://www.controlbionics.com/Electronic%20Evidence%20and%20Physiological%20Reasoning.htm)
is from a description of Korean alveolars, and Korean does not have the
American English approximant /r/. In any case, given the variety
possible, we have no idea what shape Armstrong produces (unless he's
interested in coming in to one of our labs--I'd be happy to check it
out for him!). It seemed from Ford's description that he considers the
retroflex shape essential to the production of this supposed schwa, but
in reality, we have no idea what Armstrong did. On the other hand, I'm
not sure that his actual tongue shape is important for determining the
presence or absence of schwa, so regardless of what Armstrong's
canonical /r/ looks like, I think Ford's articulatory argument for the
presence of schwa is incorrect.