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Cyber_Fetus t1_j7euwdi wrote

I’m speaking for Mandarin here as I know it and assuming it applies to at least most other tonal languages.

To avoid complication of different levels of whispering and whether the lack of vocal chord vibration can be compensated for through other means, even with a complete lack of tones the listener could still easily use context clues to understand provided they’re fluent enough in the language. For this reason non-native speakers of tonal languages can often get by using incorrect tones or no tones at all.

If you remove tones, any given word still only has a limited number of other words that would overlap. For an English example, though “bought” and “bot” are pronounced the same [Edit: in at least one major US accent], you distinguish a speaker’s use of one versus the other through context.

There is however likely a higher chance of misinterpretation or confusion, say if I pointed to a tree and said “songshu” contextually both “squirrel” and “pine tree” could fit, but these instances wouldn’t be super common and you could likely just ask for clarification.


PepszczyKohler t1_j7ex8cp wrote

Where are "bought" and "bot" pronounced the same?


Stinky_Flower t1_j7f8zo3 wrote

I bought a twitter bot. Where are they pronounced differently?


abeinszweidrei t1_j7fb7xr wrote

The vocal sound is much longer in bought than in bot. At least the way I speak and hear it usually Edit: also the t is harder in bot


Cyber_Fetus t1_j7gr55f wrote

Edited to clarify that it’s accent dependent. Much of the US and Canada would pronounce them the same, it’s known as cot-caught merger.


InspiredNameHere t1_j7hqok2 wrote

That's so weird. I'm an American and have always used a "aaah" sound when saying cot/bot; whereas I use an 'aww' sound when saying bought/caught.


KBoxter t1_j7fcpne wrote

you have a really weird way of speaking if "bought" and "bot" are the same word


Cyber_Fetus t1_j7fdg54 wrote

Cot-caught merger. It covers a good chunk of the US and Canada, so I wouldn’t exactly call it a “weird way of speaking”. But regardless, it was just an example so if you pronounce them differently I’d hope you can manage to come up with two different words that are pronounced the same in your accent.


neutrinoburrito t1_j7gpufs wrote

Your example is fine and gets the point across. There’s never going to be a perfect example of this since English has so many different nuanced pronunciations of words due to its widespread use. These people are just trying to desperately grasp at a delusion of intellectual superiority through pedantry.


ffenliv t1_j7h71m3 wrote

You're surprisingly ready to jump down that poster's throat without stopping for a moment to consider it might be a regional thing - never mind that there's a named linguistic phenomenon at play as well.

Where I'm from (Ontario, Canada) there's really no difference in sound between those words.


johndburger t1_j7fpycu wrote

> how do they convey tone information without using their vocal cords?

The same way English speakers convey the difference between the [s] and [z] sounds while whispering - through context.

When you whisper the sentence Sue went to the zoo, the first and last words begin with the exact same sound. This is because the only difference between the [z] sound and the [s] sound is that the first is voiced and the second is unvoiced, and all sounds produced while whispering are unvoiced. Nonetheless, it’s not hard to understand what words are intended, because of sentential context.

Similarly, speakers of tonal languages use context to understand whispered utterances.


foodtower t1_j7gjprh wrote

When I whisper "Sue went to the zoo", "Sue" and "zoo" are easily distinguishable to me. For example, if someone overheard me whispering, they would definitely hear "Sue": the s is louder. I understand the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds. The fact that they sound different when I say them means that either 1) my whispering is not totally unvoiced and other people's may not be either, or 2) there are subtle differences between how I pronounce s and z that enable them to be distinguished even with both unvoiced.

Edit: as mentioned in a follow-up comment, recorded waveforms of me whispering Sue and zoo are visibly different too.


johndburger t1_j7grgdj wrote

Or 3) you’re imagining the difference, based on your knowledge of what’s being said, just as listeners do.


Redingold t1_j7zhgav wrote

No, they really are different. It's a smaller difference than voiced vs unvoiced, known as fortis and lenis. Voiced consonants in English are fortis, and are pronounced more forcefully, and unvoiced consonants in English are lenis, and are pronounced less forcefully.


BloodshotPizzaBox t1_j7h8kq6 wrote

I realize "Sue" and "zoo" with slightly different tongue placement (the "s" is just a bit more fronted), which might or might not be distinguishable to a listener. I'd be more convinced if I tested it on someone who had to guess which one I meant without me telling them which I intended, and absent any surrounding context.


TheLostHippos t1_j7fufh2 wrote

You can definitely still create tones while whispering. Its not quite as a easy but I was just testing it and I was still able to make tones. Why wouldn't they be able to? Tones don't mean volume, they are pitch. Volume and Pitch are not the same thing and tones can be easily expressed in whisper.

I don't know why everyone else is talking about context.


Cyber_Fetus t1_j7gru3r wrote

Because there are different levels of whispering, and at an actual total whisper versus just speaking quietly, there’s a complete absence of tone as the vocal chords do not vibrate.


TheLostHippos t1_j7kmc9e wrote

There is still tone and you can adjust it by changing the shape of your mouth. I don't understand why you guys think there is no tone when you can literally adjust the shape of your mouth to create different tones during the word. If you couldn't adjust the sounds coming out, you wouldn't be able to speak at all.

Seriously, I can easily get Wo3 by just adjusting how open my mouth is when I whisper. The larger area created by my mouth opening slightly creates lower frequencies in the whisper.


Cyber_Fetus t1_j7kon94 wrote

> Because of this, implementing speech recognition for whispered speech is more difficult, as the characteristic spectral range needed to detect syllables and words is not given through the total absence of tone.


And again, I literally stated: “To avoid complication of different levels of whispering and whether the lack of vocal chord vibration can be compensated for through other means.” What you’re talking about is included in “compensated for through other means”.