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It's A Glottal Thing

30 June 2013

Today I have an extremely small anecdote to share, but the linguist in me found it rather amusing. Let me take you back to a few days ago...

I had just sat down with my boyfriend on these unique benches in the local airport. They're an odd shape, almost a horizontal cross-section of a boat with a dorsal fin in the middle for back support. My boyfriend had already taken out his laptop and I was in the process of mimicking his motions, as we had an hour to kill.

In the midst of sorting through my rather large tote (brought to be used as a beach tote for towels at our destination) I hear a rather odd noise. Of course, airports are a mecca of odd noises, even a small one like this. Several languages and dialects are being spoken, plates and cups are clanging on the tables, there's pitter-pattering of small and large feet alike... so this shouldn't have been out of what I'd normally expect, especially as I've heard similar utterances before.

All I heard was " Now I thought I told you before..." What caught my attention was the extreme glottal stop usage of the man's dialogue. Or perhaps his accent made it sound harsher and more apparent in speech. I can't quite tell, but he was somewhere from the United Kingdom. Despite hearing British/ Welsh/Irish people talking before, I had never heard this much glottal-age in such a short sentence. (For those who might not be aware of what a glottal stop is, it is the 'noise' you make when saying things like 'uh-oh' or 'button', it's more prominent in British English. It's that quick "stop" you make in the middle of uh-oh. I'll post a video below to help.)  I'll attempt to transcribe it, but forgive me as it's been a year since I've transcribed anything, and vowels aren't my strong-suit. This is what it sounded like to me:

Aj  θɔʔ  aj  toʔd  ju  bifɔʔ

All I know is, I swear I heard that darn glottal stop at least 3 times. I even thought he pronounced it at the end of both 'I's too, but I left that out as it's most likely my mind on sensory overload. Either way, my inner linguist is fairly satisfied right now, despite leaving the Basque country, a linguistic paradise, for the time being. Does anyone find it amusing to hear less-common American English (or your native dialect) IPA sounds? What's your favorite IPA sound?

*Note: I'm not disrespecting British people at all, so i hope it doesn't sound like that! It's just amusing to hear accents. :)

Here's a link to the promised video:     I think he does a decent job at explaining how the noise is made and giving examples.