ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

Art of Cueing: Segment Four

The final two handshapes, 7 and 8, are introduced in this segment. The flick, which resolves certain ambiguities that can occur at the side placement, is also described and some characteristics of running speech are discussed.

Handshape 7 /th g j/ "thug Joe"

Handshape 7 has the index and middle fingers extended with the thumb straight up. It represents the /th/ phoneme, occuring in the words thin, south and worth, the /g/ phoneme in the words go, ogre and brag and the /j/ sound as in joke, Roger and badge. Note that /th/ is unvoiced, meaning your vocal cords should not be vibrating as you say it, as in breath (but not breathe), thistle (but not this), thigh (but not thy) and three (but not thee). Practice cueing:
oath earth myth thought thigh
go get gear egg lag
just edge jaw joy lodge
ghost gentle Bethlehem urgent exam
As a young child, I found theology useless. Yesterday, however, I chatted with a jaundiced rogue who changed my apathy to yearning. Despite his grimy stay in a gloomy jail, he groped for God's grace. His quest filled him with an unearthly glow. I have begun a new lifelong goal: gain the grail and bring a glittering utopia to earth!

The Flick

The two cues for Timmy are the same, the open handshape at the throat placement and we tap our throat twice, once for /t i/ and once /m i/, so the cue reader can tell there are two syllables. But what happens when there are two consecutive cues with the same handshape at the side, as in raft? How is this distinguished from rat? The flick is the answer. We cue /r a/ with handshape 3 at the throat, open our hand while moving to the side placement for the /f/ and then, keeping the open hand shape, flick for the /t/. To flick, move your hand forward about 1/4 of an inch and back, as if you were touching the side placement twice. Flicks often occur when a cluster of consonants appear at the end of word, like horse, Welsh, raves, and laughed, but they can also occur across words, like wish once, green bug, little shop and thug Joe. Try to cue:
parse soft bathes fluffed abnormal
elm tree good place is crazy bar stool edge growth
caves depth thats right lab notes aim twice bath guy
red power turn blue soft mud well shod burn brown bread

Handshape 8 /y ng ch/ "young church"

To make handshape 8, spread your middle and index fingers apart as if you were making a peace sign or the V for victory. Use the index finger to touch the chin and throat placements and the middle finger for the mouth placement. This keeps the placements as distinct as possible and will not obscure the lips. Handshape 8 goes with /y/ which occurs in yellow and canyon, but also occurs in some surprising places: few /f y ue/, pure /p y ur/ beauty /b y ue t i/, and million, /m i l y uh n/. Handshape 8 is also for /ng/, the phoneme at the end of ring, bang and among. It too occurs in some unexpected places: thank /th a ng k/, ankle /a ng k l/, and bonkers /b ah ng k ur z/. Finally, handshape 8 is also for the consonant /ch/ as in chase, Rachel, and each. Some practices words:
chill check reach ouch H
bring honk drank oink sang
you minion cue yo-yo yam
chowder yesterday flinging beautiful reaching

Running Speech

Language is a dynamic process. It adapts and evolves over time, words come and go, pronunciations shift, etc. We also alter the language we use in different situations. We speak louder in a noisy room, we talk more clearly over a bad telephone connection, we may shift our dialect at work or when we go back to our hometown. For the most part, we make these adjustments subconsciously both when we produce and receive speech. In good communication environments (when we can speak at a normal conversational rate) our brains have learned to simplify the job of talking in several ways. We might replace a phoneme that is hard to say, that is, requires moving an articulator to an extreme position, with a similar sound that requires less movement. We've already seen one of these phonological phenomena, liasons. We link the final sounds of a word to the initial sounds in the following word. Have you noticed how difficult it is to determine where one word ends and the next begins when listening to a language you don't know? The same is true in English; it is the listener's brain that partitions the sounds neatly into discrete words.

Assimilation is another simplification that occurs when we speak at a normal rate. Sounds take on some characteristics of surrounding sounds. This often occurs because we cannot move our speech articulators quickly enough. Here are some examples:

With Assimilation Citation Form
this shoe /TH i sh ue/ /TH i s sh ue/
good boy /g oo b oi/ /g oo d b oi/
that person /TH a p ur s uh n/ /TH a t p ur s uh n/
light blue /l ie p l ue/ /l ie t b l ue/
did you /d i j ue/ /d i d y ue/
bet you /b e ch ue/ /b e t y ue/
those sheep /TH oe sh ee p/ /TH oe z sh ee p/
Elision refers to omitting a sound or even a whole syllable. Some times this is reflected in spelling and sometimes not:
With Elision Citation Form
I'm / I am /ie m/ /ie a m/
don't / do not /d oe n t/ /d ue n ah t/
y'all / you all /y aw l/ /y ue aw l/
don't you /d oe n ch ue/ /d oe n t y ue/
potato /p t ay t oe/ /p uh t ay t oe/
you'll / you will /y ue l/ /y ue w i l/
lots of money /l ah t s uh m uh n i/ /l ah t s uh v m uh n i/
fifths /f i f s/ /f i f th s/
this and that /TH i s n TH a t/ /TH i s a n d TH a t/
In an unstressed syllable, when talking normally, we generally substitute short, neutral vowels for ones that have long duration or require articulator maneuvering. This phonological process is called reduction. In American English, depending on your dialect, most vowels reduce to either /uh/ or /i/. Try saying remember when as /r i m e m b i w e n/ or /r uh m e m b uh w e n/ or /r i m e m b uh w e n/ at conversation speeds. You may not say that exactly -- maybe you still say /b ur/ in the middle -- but the phrase still sounds acceptable even if you sound like Joe Pesci.

In general, you should cue what you say, including these simplifications when you make them. In practice it is difficult to hear exactly what you're saying because your brain is giving your conscious mind the complete word, not the individual sounds. Another complication is that when you slow down and speak deliberately you won't be making the simplifications anymore! Do the best you can.


ToC P 1 2 3 4 M

© 1998-2001 J. Frisbie