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1. The candle-blowing sound is a physical by-product of a directly functional act, the extinguishing of the candle by means of a peculiar method of producing a current of air. So far as normal human interest is concerned, this sound serves merely as a sign of the blowing out, or attempted blowing out, itself. We can abbreviate our record of the facts a little and say that the production of the candle-blowing sound is a directly functional act. On the other hand, the articulation of the wh-sound in such a word as when has no direct functional value; it is merely a link in the construction of a symbol, the articulated or perceived word when, which in turn assumes a function, symbolic at that, only when it is experienced in certain linguistic contexts, such as the saying or hearing of a sentence like When are you coming? In brief, the candle-blowing wh means business; the speech sound wh is stored-up play which can eventually fall in line in a game that merely refers to business. Still more briefly, the former is practice; the latter, art.
2. Each act of blowing out a candle is functionally equivalent, more or less, to every other such act; hence the candle-blowing wh is, in the first instance, a sign for an act of single function. The speech sound wh has no singleness, or rather primary singleness, of reference. It is a counter in a considerable variety of functional symbols, e.g. when, whiskey, wheel. A series of candle-blowing sounds has a natural functional and contextual coherence. A series of wh-sounds as employed in actual speech has no such coherence; e.g., the series wh(en), wh(iskey), wh(eel) is non-significant.
3. Every typical human reaction has a certain range of variation and, properly speaking, no such reaction can be understood except as a series of variants distributed about a norm or type. Now the candleblowing wh and the speech sound wh are norms or types of entirely distinct series of variants.
First, as to acoustic quality. Owing to the fact that the blowing out of a candle is a purely functional act, its variability is limited by the function alone. But, obviously, it is possible to blow out a candle in a great number of ways. One may purse the lips greatly or only a little; the lower lip, or the upper lip, or neither may protrude; the articulation may be quite impure and accompanied by synchronous articulations, such as a x-like (velar spirant) or sh-like sound. None of these and other variations reaches over into a class of reactions that differs at all materially from the typical candle-blowing wh. The variation of wh as speech sound is very much more restricted. A when pronounced,
for instance, with a wh in which the lower lip protruded or with a wh that was contaminated with a sh-sound would be felt as distinctly "off color." It could be tolerated only as a joke or a personal speech defect. But the variability of wh in language is not only less wide than in candle-blowing, it is also different in tendency. The latter sound varies chiefly along the line of exact place (or places) of articulation, the former chiefly along the line of voicing. Psychologically wh of when and similar words is related to the w of well and similar words. There is a strong tendency to minimize the aspiration and to voice the labial. The gamut of variations, therefore, runs roughly from hW (I use W for voiceless w) to w. Needless to say, there is no tendency to voicing in the candle-blowing wh, for such a tendency would contradict the very purpose of the reaction, which is to release a strong and unhampered current of air.
Second, as to intensity. It is clear that in this respect the two series of variations differ markedly. The normal intensity of the candle-blowing sound is greater than that of the linguistic wh; this intensity, moreover, is very much more variable, depending as it does on the muscular tone of the blower, the size of the flame to be extinguished, and other factors. All in all, it is clear that the resemblance of the two wh-sounds is really due to an intercrossing of two absolutely independent series, as of two independent lines in space that have one point in common.
4. The speech sound wh has a large number of associations with other sounds in symbolically significant sound-groups, e.g. wh-e-n, wh-i-s-k-ey, wh-ee-l. The candle-blowing sound has no sound associations with which it habitually coheres.
5. We now come to the most essential point of difference. The speech sound wh is one of a definitely limited number of sounds (e.g. wh, s, t, l, i, and so on) which, while differing qualitatively from one another rather more than does wh from its candle-blowing equivalent, nevertheless belong together in a definite system of symbolically utilizable counters. Each member of this system is not only characterized by a distinctive and slightly variable articulation and a corresponding acoustic image, but also-and this is crucial-by a psychological aloofness from all the other members of the system. The relational gaps between the sounds of a language are just as necessary to the psychological definition of these sounds as the articulations. and acoustic images which are customarily used to define them. A
sound that is not unconsciously felt as "placed" with reference to other sounds is no more a true element of speech than a lifting of the foot is a dance step unless it can be "placed" with reference to other movements that help to define the dance. Needless to say, the candleblowing sound forms no part of any such system of sounds. It is not spaced off from nor related to other sounds say the sound of humming and the sound of clearing one's throat-which form with it a set of mutually necessary indices.
It should be sufficiently clear from this one example and there are of course plenty of analogous ones, such as m versus the sound of humming or an indefinite series of timbre-varying groans versus a set of vowels-how little the notion of speech sound is explicable in simple sensorimotor terms and how truly a complex psychology of association and pattern is implicit in the utterance of the simplest consonant or vowel. It follows at once that the psychology of phonetic processes is unintelligible unless the general patterning of speech sounds is recognized. This patterning has two phases. We have been at particular pains to see that the sounds used by a language form a self-contained system which makes it impossible to identify any of them with a non-linguistic sound produced by the "organs of speech,” no matter how great is the articulatory and acoustic resemblance between the two. In view of the utterly distinct psychological backgrounds of the two classes of sound production it may even be seriously doubted whether the innervation of speech-sound articulation is ever actually the same type of physiological fact as the innervation of "identical" articulations that have no linguistic context. But it is not enough to pattern off all speech sounds as such against other sounds produced by the "organs of speech." There is a second phase of sound patterning which is more elusive and of correspondingly greater significance for the linguist. This is the inner configuration of the sound system of a language, the intuitive "placing" of the sounds with reference to one another. To this we must now turn.
Mechanical and other detached methods of studying the phonetic elements of speech are, of course, of considerable value, but they have sometimes the undesirable effect of obscuring the essential facts of speech-sound psychology. Too often an undue importance is attached to minute sound discriminations as such; and too often phoneticians
1 This word has, of course, nothing to do here with "place of articulation." One may feel, for instance, that sound A is to sound B as sound X is to sound Y without having the remotest idea how and where any of them is produced.
do not realize that it is not enough to know that a certain sound occurs in a language, but that one must ascertain if the sound is a typical form or one of the points in its sound pattern, or is merely a variant of such a form. There are two types of variation that tend to obscure the distinctiveness of the different points in the phonetic pattern of a language. One of these is individual variation. It is true that no two individuals have precisely the same pronunciation of a language, but it is equally true that they aim to make the same sound discriminations, so that, if the qualitative differences of the sounds that make up A's pattern from those that make up B's are perceptible to a minute analysis, the relations that obtain between the elements in the two patterns are the same. In other words, the patterns are the same pattern. A's s, for instance, may differ quite markedly from B's s, but if each individual keeps his s equally distinct from such points in the pattern as th (of think) and sh and if there is a one to one correspondence between the distribution of A's s and that of B's, then the difference of pronunciation is of little or no interest for the phonetic psychology of the language. We may go a step further. Let us symbolize A's and B's pronunciations of s, th, and sh as follows:
This diagram is intended to convey the fact that B's s is a lisped s which is not identical with his interdental th, but stands nearer objectively to this sound than to A's s; similarly, B's sh is acoustically somewhat closer to A's s than to his sh. Obviously we cannot discover B's phonetic pattern by identifying his sounds with their nearest analogues in A's pronunciation, i.e. setting thi th, 81 variant of th, sh1 = s. If we do this, as we are quite likely to do if we are obsessed, like so many linguists, by the desire to apply an absolute and universal phonetic system to all languages, we get the following pattern analysis:
which is as psychologically perverse as it is "objectively" accurate. Of course the true pattern analysis is:
for the objective relations between sounds are only a first approximation to the psychological relations which constitute the true phonetic pattern. The size of the objective differences th-s, s-sh, th-81, 81-shi, th-81, 81-8, 8-shi, and shish does not correspond to the psychological "spacing" of the phonemes th, s, and sh in the phonetic pattern which is common to A and B.
The second type of variation is common to all normal speakers of the language and is dependent on the phonetic conditions in which the fundamental sound ("point of the pattern") occurs. In most languages, what is felt by the speakers to be the "same" sound has perceptibly different forms as these conditions vary. Thus, in (American) English there is a perceptible difference in the length of the vowel a of bad and bat, the a-vowel illustrated by these words being long or half-long before voiced consonants and all continuants, whether voiced or unvoiced, but short before voiceless stops. In fact, the vocalic alternation of bad and bat is quantitatively parallel to such alternations as bead and beat, fade and fate. The alternations are governed by mechanical considerations that have only a subsidiary relevance for the phonetic pattern. They take care of themselves, as it were, and it is not always easy to convince natives of their objective reality, however sensitive they may be to violations of the unconscious rule in the speech of foreigners. It is very necessary to understand that it is not because the objective difference is too slight to be readily perceptible that such variations as the quantitative alternations in bad and bat, bead and beat, fade and fate stand outside of the proper phonetic pattern of the language (e.g., are not psychologically parallel to such qualitative-quantitative alternations as bid and bead, fed and fade, or to such quantitative alternations as German Schlaf and schlaff, Latin āra and ārā), but that the objective difference is felt to be slight precisely because it corresponds to nothing significant in the inner structure of the phonetic pattern. In matters of this kind, objective estimates of similarity or difference, based either on specific linguistic habits or on a generalized phonetic system, are utterly fallacious. As a matter of fact, the mechanical English vocalic relation bad: bat would in many languages be quite marked enough to indicate a relation of distinct points of the pattern, while the English pattern relation -t d, which seems so self-evidently real to us, has in not a few other languages either no reality at all or only a mechanical, conditional one. In Upper Chinook, for instance, t: d exists objectively but not psychologically; one says, e.g., inat 'across,' but inad before