[Lingtyp] query: vocal fry, creaky voice and phrase-final phonology

Donald Stilo stilo at eva.mpg.de
Fri Oct 17 12:28:26 UTC 2014

Dear all,

I think viewing this possible term ("vocal fry") as coming from a US juvenile is completely inappropriate. Letting ideology get in the way of genuine scentific issues is not well founded. Prejudging "vocal fry" as coming from US juvenile slang clearly has no research behind it: (1) is it really slang? (2) is it really from the US?  (3) wherever it's from, is it only used by juveniles"? I have been observing this "vocal fry" phenomenon informally for about a decade now and I would say that the epicenter of the phenomenon is Australia, where it's even stronger than in certain speech styles of British women.  (I don't know about New Zealand or South Africa yet). Considering this, and considering that the Australians are really big on incorporating slang into the speech of male and female non-juveniles, perhaps this term has come to us originally from Australia. Having lived with an Australian for 2 years in the 1990's, this vocal fry is a phenomenon I have been trying to master for a long time now because it is so distinctive but still haven't quite managed to get it right. 

David, there is also another phenomenon that you might be interested in but is more phonological than prosodic. In many dialects of Neo-Aramaic when a word begins with an original pharyngal sound the pharyngality (Khan calls it velarity) bleeds (is "bleeds" slang?) through the whole word.  The way the Aramaicists have handled this phenomenon is to mark the whole word for it by adding a superscript + before the word, e.g., See Khan, Geoffrey, 2008. The Jewish Neo-Aramaic Dialect of Urmia (Gorgias Neo-Aramaic Studies 2). Piscataway, NJ:Gorgias Press. (Published in my little home town, btw, and in an area that used to be open fields with pheasants, rabbits, and the occasional deer when I was growing up).

Khan states:
"A further phonemic opposition relates to velarization. Although in many cases the historical background of this can be traced to the original presence of ‘emphatic’ consonants in a word, the phenomenon is suprasegmental and its domain is in principle the entire word. There are a number of minimal pairs of words that differ only in the feature of suprasegmental velarization. In the transcription velarization is marked by the symbol + at the front of the word, e.g."

          drele                   ‘He put’

         +drele                 ‘He scattered’

And a different section he shows how Jewish Urmia Aramaic differs from Jewish Amadia Aramaic which retains the pharyngal phonemes as such:

    J. Urmi: +səhya      vs.   J. Amedia:    ṣəḥya

This phenomenon is also common in Christian Urmia Aramaic (not very intelligible to the Jewish dialect of the same town -- I've done brief fieldwork with both groups in Urmia; the Jewish dialect is now gone and is only moribund in Israel). My point is this: I personally have mastered this pharyngalization in Aramaic and I think I can do creaky voice pretty well but I have not been able to master the Australian vocal fry. So how are they different? I also think that the suggestion of "extra low" intonation is clearly a factor here, at least in "Strine" (Australian), but I still think there is another factor that I have not been able to pin-point (and hence can't quite imitate correctly).

OK, like, well, I gotta split, like, man.  Gotta ****load of Kurdish from Azer-by-cracky-jan to get into my database. Oh, like, wow, dude!


On Oct 17, 2014, at 1:09 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> this comment went only to David Gil, when it was meant for the whole list:
> On Oct 16, 2014, at 5:07 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
>> On Oct 16, 2014, at 4:15 AM, David Gil <gil at eva.mpg.de> wrote:
>>> [to Enrique Bernardez Sanchis]
>>> I agree that terminology is a serious issue, but -- putting aside whatever prejudices some of us may harbour against the US and/or its juveniles -- I don't think that TALKING ABOUT US juveniles necessary signals a desire to BECOME one.  The term "vocal fry" is already in use by non-US non-juveniles (whether it is also in use by US juveniles themselves I do not know).
>> as far as I can see, "vocal fry" originated as a (metaphorical) technical term for a register in singing (and then in speech therapy).  i don't think US juveniles use the term, though i'm not sure what they call it (though i've heard 'gravelly voice").
>>> Incidentally, another colleague of mine just wrote back to me personally asking why we don't simply refer to vocal fry as creaky voice (which I suspect would be more accurate than either laryngealization or extra-low intonation).  My response to him was:  "My impression is that "vocal fry' is used to denote a particular case of creaky voice, in which it spreads over longer stretches of speech, and has no phonemic function.  Sort of like the distinction between intonation and lexical tone, as two distinct manifestations of pitch."
>> David is right on the mark here, I think.  "creaky voice" denotes a state of the glottis (and its accompanying acoustic consequences), so it's useful to have a term for creaky voice spread over stretches of speech ("vocal fry"), parallel to pitch settings over stretches of speech, versus other uses of creaky voice, in particular lexical creak (like lexical pitch) and the descent into creak at the ends of utterances, when thanks to pitch declination in prosodic units, speakers are no longer able to maintain voicing and descend into creak.
>> arnold
> on ordinary-language terms for the phonation (and much else of use), see:
> http://people.duke.edu/~eec10/mendoza_denton_2011_creaky.pdf
> The Semiotic Hitchhiker’s Guide to Creaky Voice: Circulation and Gendered Hardcore in a Chicana/o Gang Persona, by Norma Mendoza-Denton, from the Journal of Linguistic Antropology
> Mendoza-Denton's young informants had no term for the vocal quality (and were puzzled by the question), though they deployed it quite frequently in their speech.
> now David Gil in e-mail asks if the declination effect and its connection to creak is common knowledge -- the answer is yes (i learned about it from Ilse Lehiste some decades ago) -- and whether there's a standard reference on the matter (i'm away from my library, but surely someone on the list can supply a good source).
> arnold
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