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If a recording machine is used in the study of American speech it is as essential to put it in charge of a specialist in experimental phonetics who knows its every idiosyncrasy, as it is to place the direction of such an investigation in the hands of a specialist trained in the processes of linguistic research.
The developments that have taken place in the mechanical recording of speech during the last decades give us an overwhelming advantage over those who had to construct the linguistic atlases of Europe. It would be a shame if we did not profit by this recent progress. If we do, this investigation will put at the disposal of linguists of the future an acoustic record of speech without parallel in history.
Discussion of Professor Russell's paper:
STURTEVANT: (1) Note that the Europeans have employed no mechanical methods in preparing their speech atlases. Phonographic records of speech will be of great value 20 years hence for the study of now moribund dialects. (2) Suggested that remarks be restricted to the place of such records in the project now on hand.
KURATH: Does the Speak-O-Phone distort any of the vowels?
KURATH: If the fundamental of the voice is below 250 vibrations per second, it is not recorded by the Speak-O-Phone. Can such records be used in a study of American intonation?
RUSSELL: Yes. The rise and fall of the voice is heard by means of the difference tones as if fully recorded.
KURATH: It is sometimes hard to tell by ear, when listening to orthophonic records such as those made by the Victor Company under the direction of Professors Ayres and Greet, whether a Southerner says [hat] or [hrt] (hurt). Would a physical analysis of the recorded sound help in deciding the question?
RUSSELL: Yes, if the high frequencies of [r] are actually recorded. STURTEVANT: There is a difference of opinion possible as to whether mechanical methods should be used or not.
MOORE: I am in favor of mechanical methods, to avoid the inevitable differences in interpretation of the same sound by different listeners. Russell, in giving his data on efficiency, stated that there was greater
efficiency in interpreting the living voice than in interpreting the record, but with training the interpreter could get approximately as good results from the record as from the living voice. But will not differences in training, that is, in perception habits, constitute a source of error?
RUSSELL: The actual facts were given in my paper without any glossing over. But note that practically for the vowels the same efficiency results from interpreting the living and the recorded voice. The great difference is in the final consonants, of which there is a very small number relatively. Training is of great importance in the interpretation of mechanical records. Dictaphone operators were tested and showed 18 % efficiency the first day, but after several days of training they showed an average of 92 %.-In answer to two questions, Mr. Russell stated that syllabic nonsense words, and his own lists, not those of the Bell laboratories, were used in getting the figures which he cited.
STURTEVANT: Mechanical records can be heard many times and by more people than the original utterance of the subject. These are important advantages.
BLOOMFIELD: The records can be carefully analyzed later!
RUSSELL: Yes. The ear will miss subtle differences which analysis will show.
HANLEY: The ordinary dictaphone has proved very useful for rough work. Why not use it for collecting material, and for permanent records pick out the best subjects. The Speak-O-Phone seems to be the best device mentioned by Mr. Russell for this purpose. SALESKI: What part would Professor Metfessel's device described in his Phonophotography in Folk Music play if the Speak-O-Phone were used?
METFESSEL: It is used after the records are made, and need not be considered at this point. Would it be possible to make records of telephone conversations from the exchange?
KURATH: Only part of the material can be phonographically recorded. Other features must be noted in long-hand, e.g. such groups as [fɔg, lɔg, frǝg] but [kag, klag] in Chicago. Do Romanic scholars think Edmont heard correctly in collecting material for L'atlas linguistique de la France?
MÜLLER: Yes, in all but one or two per cent of the cases.
is lost if mechanical devices are used in addition to recording by ear the living speech of the subject.
MOORE: If one man does the job there is unity, of course; but no more so than if mechanical methods are used to check up on the field workers' hearing.
MÜLLER: reaffirmed his stand.
STURTEVANT: Do you recommend that one man collect all the material in the United States and Canada?
MÜLLER: One man might work in the South, one in the East, and one in the West.
ROEDDER: A wrong impression has been given as to the lack of mechanical records of dialect material in Europe: (1) The PhonogrammArchiv at Vienna has a large collection; (2) there are plans to supplement the Sprachatlas des Deutschen Reiches by records of the 44000 communities represented on the maps of the atlas.
HANLEY: Mention of such records in France was made at the last meeting of the MLA. However the present plan differs from the European projects in starting with records. As for unity in Müller's sense, we cannot hope for it in this vast country. The field work must be done by several investigators. This fact makes mechanical recording all the more important.
THE SECOND SESSION was called to order by Professor Sturtevant at 9.00 o'clock on Saturday morning, August 3, and Professor Karl Young was elected Chairman. The discussion of the problems proposed in the preliminary circular was at once begun.
I. What action, if any, shall be taken with regard to the effect of
KRAPP: This is a part of the interpretation of the material, and need
KURATH: granted that the historical interpretation must come later. But in order to choose our 500 communities wisely, we must be guided in part by historical information.
STURTEVANT: We all agree. The two points of view that have been expressed, are not in opposition to each other. A complete historical research is not to be attempted before we get to work on the dialects. PROKOSCH: The available historical material is certainly to be utilized. The Managing Committee will surely use it when choosing the communities.
BOLLING: We must communicate to the Historical Societies that assistance is needed now and will be needed later when the speech material has been collected.
STURTEVANT: moved that a secretary be chosen; nominated Graves. Graves was elected by unanimous vote.
HANLEY: moved a substitute for Krapp's motion: That the matter be left to the Managing Committee, or that a special committee be chosen to advise on the choice of localities for study.
MOORE: We are all in agreement, but Professor Krapp's motion is preferable as a definite answer to the question appearing on the docket, and at the same time it allows the use of historical materials in the choice of communities.
BRYAN: moved another substitute: That all readily available information as to the movements of population be utilized when choosing the communities for study.
HANLEY: withdrew his substitute motion.
PROKOSCH: Suggested as an amendment to Bryan's motion that the cooperation of the historical societies be solicited.
BRYAN: That is assumed as a matter of course. But we must avoid delay in carrying out our project.
PROKOSCH: We should emphasize our desire for the cooperation of historians.
KNOTT: seconded Bryan's motion.
KRAPP: Elements of population should not be considered particularly in choosing working centers. They should be chosen for the strikingness of their present dialect. It is better to leave the question open. Naturally we shall use all helpful material. But our historians have not studied the history of the population in sufficient detail to be of much help to the linguists.
LELAND: The Council will endeavor to appoint someone on the Managing Committee who will be competent on the historical side. BRYAN'S substitute motion passed: That all readily available information about sources and movements of population should be utilized in
deciding upon centers to be studied. Main motion not further considered.
II. What action should be taken concerning the use of mechanical
KNOTT: The present conference could not deal with this question. It is one of those which must be left to the Committee. Is this the time
to call for the permanent Committee?
CHAIR: Action of this body is merely tentative in any case, and its function is to express opinions and make recommendations.
KNOTT: moved that decision on Question II be left to a committee composed of Kurath, Greet, Ayres, Russell, and Steinberg. LELAND: This could be only a committee of the Conference, and not a permanent committee.
AYRES: moved a substitute: That the Conference recommends the use of mechanical devices of recording speech and leaves the choice of such devices to the permanent Committee.
KNOTT: withdrew his original motion.
EDGERTON: Seconded Ayres' motion.
KENYON: Mechanical devices should not be used exclusively, but should be supplemented by all the records which can be gotten.
CHAIR: Kenyon's idea can be further considered under the question of the training of field workers.
AYRES' motion, amended to read as follows, was carried: That the Conference recommends, among other means, the employment of mechanical devices of recording materials for the Dialect Atlas. GREET: The Speak-O-Phone is a mechanical device which can be used easily by an inexperienced person. It was used for three months at Columbia University, in making over 400 records, with no mechanical difficulty. This is a better device than the Dictaphone for rough work.
III. What is the relative importance of pronunciation, morphology, syntax, and vocabulary in constructing a dialect atlas? STURTEVANT, followed by CHAIR: The purpose of this Conference is not to decide matters, but to express opinions. You are urged to express your opinions.
BUCK: Do Questions III and IV need discussion?
MOORE: IV does not. As to III, vocabulary is distinctly secondary for our purpose, and the collection of lexical material would take too