5. Trills, L2 accent, and e-mail discussion lists

       Our classmate Mia Shen recently asked two interesting questions: (1) Is there a language which has both an alveolar and a uvular trill as separate phonemes? And (2) can someone who begins learning a foreign language after puberty hope to eventually speak the language without a foreign accent? Ladefoged and Maddieson say in The Sounds of the World's Languages that there does not currently seem to be a language with both kinds of trills as separate phonemes (with the possible exception of Eastern dialects of Occitan, a Romance language spoken in France). Mia decided to see if anybody had any further data on this and her other question, and had me post her inquiry for her over LINGUIST, certainly the biggest e-mail discussion list for linguistics. (Mia is not subscribed to LINGUIST, and only subscribers can post to the list.) Link to her inquiry here: http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-2276.html#2 (L2 means a 'second foreign language', though it may in fact be a third or fourth or more!)

       Mia was a bit overwhelmed – and certainly pleased – by all the responses she got. She waited until most of the responses seemed to be in, organized them into a summary (with a little editing help from Ms. Chung), then again had me post it to LINGUIST. Here is the summary: http://linguistlist.org/issues/12/12-2753.html. Mia says she is now receiving more mail in response to the summary, and she will perhaps post a follow-up soon to summarize the additional data that has come in.

       Professional e-mail discussion lists, of which LINGUIST is a prime example, are a powerful research tool and also a great way of connecting with people who share interests with you. LINGUIST is (in my humble opinion) one of the best managed lists around, and anyone serious about linguistics should consider subscribing. If you feel you already have more mail than your inbox can handle –LINGUIST will send you maybe 8-10 messages on an average day–you may wish to subscribe to LINGLITE. With this option, you receive just one list of subject lines and URLs a day, so you can choose only the posts you're really interested in and read them on the Web at your leisure. The LINGUIST subscription page is here: http://linguistlist.org/LL/subs-index.cfm

       Of course, you shouldn't post just any old question to a list like LINGUIST whenever one comes to mind. You are expected to do your own research first (which should include asking relevant professors as well as Web and library work), and if you still can't find a satisfactory answer, THEN try posting to the list. People don't respond well to anything that looks like laziness! Also, it is recommended that you have a native speaker look over and help you edit your post before you send it out. You can also do a search of the LINGUIST archives at http://linguistlist.org/search/index.cfm before posting to see if anyone has already asked a similar question before. And it's better to read the list for a few weeks to get a feel for what's appropriate before posting anything yourself.

       There are many other related linguistics lists you may like to try. For phonetics, in addition to our own NTUphon and Phonetics, there's a low-traffic one called The teaching of phonetics mailing list (phonet@jiscmail.ac.uk), which can give you access to many of the biggest names in phonetics, like Peter Ladefoged and John Wells. The homepage for this list is at: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/lists/phonet.html. You can also subscribe to a monthly newsletter on the same server, called FONETIKS, at: http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/wa.exe?SUBED1=fonetiks&A=1.

       To keep abreast of what's going on in linguistics in Taiwan, subscribe to the Taiwan Linguist Discussion List 台灣語言學討論區, at http://linguist.tw/linguist_7_2.asp?num=73. You will receive notices of linguistics-related lectures, conferences, and job opportunities, and occasionally there is some discussion as well (those of you on NTUphon have already been receiving many of these). You might also want to consider joining the Linguistic Society of Taiwan, the 台灣語言學學會. They have student rates. It's a good way to introduce yourself into Taiwan's linguistics circles. For more information go to http://linguist.tw/. Check out the list of members to find out who and where some of Taiwan's linguaphiles are.

      You will find links to lots of linguistics-related lists on this page of LINGUIST: http://linguistlist.org/lists/get-lists.cfm.

Next: Reviewing Chapter 7: Place and Manner of Articulation


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