Note: I hate coding my GIFs for IPA characters, and I've been looking for alternatives. This month, as an experiment, I'm coding my IPA GIFs into the text as always, but also coding in FONT FACE calls to the SIL Doulos 93 fonts, which are downloadable for free from For this to work, you must have the SIL fonts installed on your machine. For good measure, I'm also putting in symbol names from Pullum and Ladusaw (1996) (the 2nd edition of Phonetic Symbol Guide. Please let me know what works and what doesn't, especially if you have old versions of Internet Explorer, any version of Netscape or any other browser, or if you're working on any kind of Mac or Linux machine. Merci.

Solution for February 2002

"Racoons don't hibernate."

[], [], TURNED R
Here's the thing about approximants--they're articulated similarly to vowels, but they behave like consonants in a string. So this is obviously sonorant and voiced, having formants (resonances) and striations. Note the transistions in the following vowel, which show you that the F3 in the voew is continuous with the very very low F3 in the consonant. The low F1 doesn't tell you much, the extremely low F2 might tel you back and round, but that F3 in the middle-F2 range is a dead give-away for approximant /r/ in American English. (I respectfully remind you all that even though I'm in Canada now, my dialect is definitely US, and western US at that.)

[], [Q], ASH
(I prefer 'AE LIGATURE' to 'ASH', but who am I to argue with Pullum and Ladusaw?) (Does anybody remember what a runic AESC actually looks like?) Okay, The F1 in this latter part of this vowel (the steadier part, relatively unaffected by the transition from the preceding sound) is highish, suggesting a lowish vowel. The F2 is sort of ambivalent, and the F3 is a little low. So we're looking at a mid-to-low vowel, of a non-back variety. For me, that can only be []- [Q]-ASH, or [], [E], EPSILON. It'll turn out to be one or the other.

[k], [k], LOWER-CASE K
This is mushy, being vaguely fricative througout. I'm wondering if I'm developing neuromotor problem. Anyway, if one assumes this isn't a fricative (it would have to be /h/, although it's probably closer to a [x], but that's not a useful guess in English), one would have to note the sudden dip in F3 in the last bit of the preceding vowel (F3 hits its high point around 200 msec in and before you get to 250 it drops again), and the relative stability of F2 (at least it doesn't drop obviously), suggesting a velar pinch. If this were alveolar, there would be no explanation for the dropping F3, and if it were labial we'd expect F2 and F1 to drop a little more. Once the idea of [k] comes to mind, we cna find other evidence that might support that--the 'burst' if that's what you want to call it might be double. It's definitely centered around the mid-F2 to F3 range, as is the following aspiration. This all suggests [k], if weakly.

(Pullum and Ladusaw don't name this symbol explicitly. Under [h] LOWER-CASE H, they mention "Used as a right superscript, it is the official IPA diacritic for aspirated sounds." (p. 72). They are of course correct. However, since the acoustic cue for aspiration is distinct both from the closed phase of a stop, and for that matter the transient release of a stop, I always segment aspiration separately. This is something I should resolve, one way or another.) Aspiration. relatively low amplitude (usually) noise, following (usually) the release of a stop consonant before the onset of voicing. That's what we've got here.

[u], [u], LOWER-CASE U
Low F1, high vowel. Low F2, round vowel. This is frankly as low an F2 as I've ever produced for this vowel. I wonder what I was doing that day.

[n], [n], LOWER-CASE N
The only evidence that there's something going on here is the sudden change int he 'quality' of F1. At about 525 msec, something happens to the F1. Also the harmonics seem to flatten out (that's that slanty stuff going on in the preceding vowel), and the evidence of a nasal zero/antiformant creeps in. Not a lot to go on, but hypothesizing a nasal moment or something in here helps explain the change from the first half to the second half of this stretch of voiced stuff. Maybe it's just nasality, and there isn't a lot in the way of nasal stop here. But whatever.

[z], [z], LOWER-CASE Z
(Where I come from, this letter is called "ZEE", but in Canada and elsewhere, it's called "ZED". "ZED" is the older form, but it's the only letter name that has both a consonantal onset and a closing consonant. Think about it. "EFF" "EM" "BEE" "KAY" "AITCH". "ZED"? Pfft.) Weak frication, would have been easy to miss. But it's there, and it's very high. Alveolar sibiliants have very high frequency energy--the loudest noise is centered around 6-8kHz or even higher. When I was transcribing the image, I though this was voiced, but it sure doesn't look that way. Technically, probably a devoiced [z] or a weakly fricated [s].

[d], [d], LOWER-CASE D
This is very short for a full-fledged stop. I might have transcribed it as a flap ([], [R], FISH-HOOK R, but it has a fairly strong release. Again technically voiceless. I don't know what I was thinking. Well, I do, but I should have been thinking about actual cues, not phonemics of English.. Note the highish transitions into the following vowel, suggesting high 'loci' for F2 and F3, suggesting alveolar. Also the short VOT is filled with high-frequency (alveolar-looking) noise.

(One of the advantages of using the SIL fonts is the full suite of diacritics, which are messy to do by hand. on the other hand, naming the resulting symbol(s) in words gets to be a mouthful.) The vowel here is clearly dynamic. There are some clues to work with, though. The F1 has an extremum (a moment of maximum displacement in one direction or another) just before 800 msec, and the F2 has an extremum just after 800 msec. This suggest to me that there are two targets, or something like that, in this stretch of vowel. The earlier one is middish and sort of back, the second one is higher than middish and very back/round. Search through your lexicon of English vowels, and you'll come up with something that is a reflex of /o/.

[n], [n], LOWER-CASE N
Okay I admit it. I'm definitely cheating here. I believe that There is another 'moment' in this stretch ov vowe,k, where F3 gets fuzzy and changes frequency. That's the only thing to motivate a nasal here. Mea culpa.

[t], [t], LOWER-CASE T
Again, this could be a flap, except for the fairly clear burst. Or it might have been glottalized/unreleased, except for that damn burst. Don't believe anything they tell you in baby phonetics, cuz it won't be true when you look at it on a spectrogram.

[h], [h], LOWER-CASE H
This is very strong for an /h/ noise. It looks a little like a weak [], [S], ESH, but then I'd expect both the high frequencies to be less loud (dark) and the frequencies below 1200 Hz or so to be absent. I cna convince myself that the energy here has some formant structure, which would be more characteristic of /h/. On the other hand, having decided it's an /h/, it may be particularly loud, long, and distinct from the following vowel due to its initialness in a) a stressed syllable, b) a word, and c) a verb phrase. Fortition, don't you know. This is something I'm going to look at over the next few years, using a small corpus I hope to collect over the summer.

This is quite short for this diphthong, but the F1 clearly goes from high to low (moves from a low vowel to a high one), and the F2 clearly rises (moving from backer to fronter, although it's moderately front even at the beginning). Again, searching for the possible diphthongs for my English, /ai/ is the best bet.

[b], [b], LOWER-CASE B
Please noteice that at the end of the preceding vowel, in the 10 msec or so approaching 1100, the F2 takes a sharp dive. The F3 also lowers quite a bit, though neither as sharply or dramatically as F2. Anyway. the low 'loci' of these transitions suggest (bi)labial. This one really is voiced, thank heaven.

Even though this is moving, it definitely is /r/ like throughout, owing to the F3 being low. At the begninning of this vowel, the F3 is more or less at the same frequency as the /r/ earlier in the utterance. Note the difference in F2 frequency--some people require F2 and F3 to be close together. I don't know how they explain the othero ne. I think the F3 is low, and then as the F2 moves between its onset (bilabially-locused) transition to its higher offset (alveolarly-locussed) transition, it pushes the F3 out of the way. How people for whom the F3 is a side-cavity pole and not a perturbation of the main-cavity F3 explain this, I don't know. It must have something to do with the coupling, but why it should work this way I'm not sure. Anyway, this is a syllabic /r/, and the fact that it isn't flat' is explainable by the competing needs of the surrounding consonants.

[n], [n], LOWER-CASE N
There's definitely a nasal here. It's voiced, and sonorant/resonant, but it definitely has lower energy than a vowel, and it even has a zero. Sinc there's not a lot to compare it to, it's hard to identify its place features, so just mark it as a Nasal and go on.

I convinced myself that the F1 moves between mid to low (i.e. vowel moves mid to high), but looking at the spectrogram now, I'm less sure. The badnwidht certainly changes, but so does the voice quality, which might be what's going on. The F2 starts highish and moves higher, suggesting front-to-fronter in vowels. How many vowels can you think of that routinely move front-to-fronter? There you go.

Not a lot in the way of clues, except the aspiration looks like it follows an aveolar, for the reasons suggested earlier.