Slow, repeated listening in Korean

I had been struggling to find slow but mostly real spoken Korean to listen to repeatedly, but in the last few days I’ve found two resources which I will use a lot. 

The first is by Paul Shin, a Korean-American living in Incheon. One of his playlists is Learning Korean while you sleep. I can’t promise the “while you sleep” part, but he presents a large number of reasonably realistic sentences at full sleep, then slowly, then word-by-word, then a literal translation, then a more-or-less idiomatic translation. Some of his videos are only aural and others have the sentence written as well.  

Korean Class 101 is a major site for learning Korean. Their Slow listening for absolute beginners uses a totally different understanding of “absolute beginners” than mine, but they also have videos of repeated slow listening which work in the same way. They don’t have a playlist (at least, that I can find), but here is their main page and here is one slow listening video, from which you can link to others.

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1a) I ate my food and you ate your food. 1b) I ate my food and you ate yours. 
2a) I ate my food and the cat ate its food. 2b) I ate my food and the cat ate its.

No-one ever specifically tells native-speaker children that sentences like 1a) and 2a) are correct but awkward, that sentences like 1b) are correct and natural and that sentences like 2b) are impossible. (I figured this out myself when creating grammar summary sheets.) Why is 2b) impossible? Your food and yours, our food and ours, her food and hers and even his food and his are all interchangeable here, but its food and its aren’t. It isn’t simply that native-speaker children never encounter sentences like this. Native-speaker children are capable of making an almost infinite number of sentences they have never encountered (and most delight in doing so).

Quite recently I actually encountered a sentence like 2b) in a published novel by an established author. Unfortunately, I didn’t note the page, so I’ll have to re-read or at least skim the part that I’ve read in order to find it.  

Consonant clusters

Posting about Sprite recently, specifically mentioning consonant clusters, reminded me that I have not fully explored these in this blog. Some time ago I posted a list of common words with the possible clusters of English, but didn’t analyse the clusters themselves.

All of the two-phoneme initial consonant clusters in English start with /s/ and/or finish with /w/, /l/, /r/ or /j/ (the ‘y’ sound in you, not the ‘j’ sound in jewel). Starting with: 
/sw/ switch, suede
/sl/ sleep, slow

The other ones starting with /s/ are:
/sm/ small, smile
/sn/ snow, snap
/sp/ speak, spend
/st/ state, still
/sk/ school, scale, skin
the rare, Greek /sf/ (sphere, sphinx)
and the very rare, Greek /sθ/ (sthenic (I don’t know what this means, but it appears on lists of consonant clusters)

The ones ending in /w/ are:
/tw/ twenty, twelve
/dw/ dwell, dwarf
/kw/ question, quite
/gw/ guava, Guam
/θw/ thwart

The ones ending in  /l/ are:
/pl/ place, play
/bl/ black, blood
/kl/ close, clear and scientific words starting with chl
/gl/ glass, glance
/fl/ floor, flat

The ones ending in /r/ are:
/pr/ problem, provide
/br/ bring, break/brake
/tr/ try, train
/dr/ draw, drive
/kr/ create, cross and many Christian and scientific words (chrome, chrono-)
/gr/ great, group
/fr/ from, phrase
/θr/ three, through
/ʃr/ shrug, shrink

Finally, the ones ending in /j/ are:
/mj/ music, museum
/nj/ new/knew, nuisance
/pj/ pupil, pure
/bj/ bureau
/tj/ tune, tube
/dj/ during, duty
/kj/ queue/cue, curious
/fj/ future, fuel
/vj/ view
/hj/ huge, humour

In table form:

switch, suede sleep, slow

m small, smile

music, museum
nsnow, snap

new/knew, nuinsance
pspeak, spend
place, playproblem, providepupil, pure

black, bloodbring, break/brakebureau
tstate, stilltwenty, twelve
try, traintune, tube
dwell, dwarf
draw, driveduring, duty
kschool, scale, skinquestion, quiteclose, clearcreate, crossqueue/cue, curious
guava, Guamglass, glancegreat, group
fsphere, sphinx
floor, flatfrom, phrasefuture, fuel

three, through

shrug, shrink

huge, humour

(I tried to make a table unambiguously showing which combinations are possible and which aren’t, but couldn’t make one that is both complete and clear.)

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“Could you tell me why?”

One grammar activity required students to place the given jumbled words into the correct order. One of them involved an indirect question, approximately “Could you tell me where the station is?”. All the students wrote “Could you tell me where is the station?”. This fits the pattern for a direct question (“Where is the station?”) and is perfectly understandable, but no native speaker over the age of three ever uses that structure, or is ever explicitly taught the rule.

It sounds a bit wishy-washy to say “In this kind of sentence we use this order and not that order” without giving some sort of reason, especially when there’s such a strong pull towards that order (viz, the subject-auxiliary inversion of a direct question).

But grammar books and websites don’t give a reason. Even the monumental Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (which I have just bought, so I’m likely to quote more, in order to get my considerable amount of money’s worth, says only:

The main structural difference between subordinate and main clause interrogatives is that subject-auxiliary inversion does not generally apply in the subordinate construction.

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Saw Thor

The topic in the textbook was emotions and one of the questions was ‘Do you enjoy horror movies?’. One student said yes, so I asked for an example. He said ‘Saw’. Another student said ‘But that’s an action movie’. He and I looked puzzled. He quickly searched for an image of that movie and showed it to her. She said ‘Oh, I thought you said /sɔ/’, then quickly searched and showed us an image of Thor.

/θ/ is one of the last phonemes which native English speaking children acquire (indeed, some don’t acquire it (and /ð/) at all – dis, dat, tick and tin are part of several established varieties of English), and it is probably the hardest phoneme for second language learners (/ð/ is at least far more common, in higher-frequency words like this, that, these, those, there, then, mother, father, brother).

I’m surprised that this misunderstanding happened this way around. I would far more expect the first student to mispronounce /θɔ/ as /sɔ/. Anyway, the misunderstanding was cleared up, and I was able to give them a brief explanation.

아빠, 아버지

This morning’s New Testament reading was Romans 8:14-17. Of particular linguistic interest is verse 10: ‘you received the Spirit of sonship [fn: Or adoption]. And by him  we cry, “Abba, Father.”‘ (NIV) Abba is the Aramaic word for father, which Paul uses alongside the Greek equivalent: Αββα ὁ πατήρ (abba ho pater). (Paul uses it twice, here and in Gal 4.6, and Mark once, in 14.36.) Some commentaries state that the Aramaic word has connotations of intimacy and childlike trust (indeed some paraphrase it as ‘Daddy, Father); others that it is the usual, natural, neutral word. If there is a connotation of intimacy, it is because Aramaic was the language of the home and everyday life, whereas Koine Greek was the lingua – um  – franca of international communication (which is why the New Testament was written in it).

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Early memory about language

My earliest memory of consciously exploring language is a child’s activity called (I think) ‘Mix and Match’, which I had when I was about 5 or 6. Searching on the internet earlier today, I couldn’t find any reference to this. There were about 12 large cards, each with nine beginnings of words (one or two consonants – I now know the technical term ‘onset’) in a 3 x 3 grid, and about 50 small cards, each with one end of a word (one or two vowels and one or two consonants) (technical term ‘rime’). The letters on the large card had a thick coloured border around the left side and half of the top and bottom, and the letters on the small cards had a similar border around the right side and half of the top and bottom, in a variety of colours. After choosing a large card at random, the task was to form words using the small card, chosen at random. The first time through, you also had to match the colour (which cut down the number of possible combinations). The second time through, you were allowed to mix the colours. I remember being fascinated that the pronunciation of the ends changed as you joined them to to different beginnings, eg ‘ear’ and ‘hear’ but ‘wear’.
I don’t know what happened to that. None of my sisters ever mentioned it, not even when their children were that age.