Title: Alan Lomax and linguist Edith Trager Johnson discuss linguistic variables in Cantometric codings (part 1)
Date recorded: 1984
Date recorded: 1984
Physical form: Cassette Tape
Tape number: T3852
Track Number: 1
Archive ID: T3852a
Belongs to: Trager Johnson/Lomax/Kulig, 1984
Note: Edith Trager Johnson questions Alan Lomax about omissions of Asian languages, Hungarian, and Lapps from his samples. Alan replies that he didn't have listenable tapes in those areas. If Lapp language is Finno-Ugric, why are they classed with Asia. Alan Lomax: Their song style goes with Siberia. More questions about language classification. Alan Lomax wants to ask Edith Trager how she feels about his findings and methods. Edith Trager wonders if it is fair to contrast languages like French with many vowels with languages that have only five vowels. Alan Lomax: It is not a question of fairness to the language but of what kind of question you are interested in answering - questions about social vectors rather than acoustic ones. Edith Trager: People are going to be troubled by the jump about words. Alan Lomax: That's another kind of study. Edith Trager: People will say "It is legitimate to make that leap?" Alan Lomax: Well, it's a strong correlation in singing between particles and social vectors. Question is how do you strengthen or disprove it. We used your phonotactics. I looked at big chunks with big chunks on the social scale. It's not a jump. This is a first hypothesis, correlating high fronting with other parameters. The problem is that linguists don't take songs very seriously, you've got to prove it in speech. That is the problem. Could we procede with a simpler system that didn't need highly trained linguists, say kids in college, to check back consonants as opposed to front? What kind of system would it be, could it be taught from tapes? Edith Trager: It's the only feasible way, surely| video tapes, too. Alan Lomax asks about computers. Edith Trager says that unlimited speech recognition doesn't exist yet. Alan Lomax wants to simplify the system to deal with only salient areas of phonology. Edith Trager says she will have to sleep on the problelm. Carol Kulig asks if she has heard their tapes. Edith Trager answers, "Not since Alan lived in [Greenwich] Village." She looks at the data. "High front vowels can be kept together. This is 'vocoding.' West Coast English makes no distinction between "ah" and "aw," don and dawn come out don. Put ah and aw together. Diphthongs?" Alan Lomax: We split them. At another level ay, oy, and aw work as single vowels. Edith Trager: More distinctions can be made in central and back consonants because it's a bigger area. Coding Alan Lomax: The English language is mostly in the middle central - like other aspects of English, we've found. A comparison of ratios of front, mid, to back sounds. Working for Alan Lomax is Fred Tong from Taiwan, one of the editors of Socio-linguistics Newsletter. Henry Fonteneau describes Christmas dinner at his uncle's. His father was an accordion player. As a boy he wanted a Christmas trumpet. People said he was going to be a musician because he wanted to play a different instrument. Fiddle was his real love. It was hard to get hold of a real violin. Mother's first cousin was a fiddle player. Made first fiddle from cigar box. Began to play at age seven and by age 11 was good enough to play at dances with his father. Alan Lomax: Do Fonteneaus have some Indian blood? Henry Fonteneau: That's what I've heard, but I've never investigated it much. The story of Amede. He was a different kind of man from his daddy. He never got married. He would come around with his accordion and play and if they had a little leftover, they would give it to him. He was four foot high and the last of his family. He played for a lot of white dances, that's how he went crazy. Some people were terrible. They beat him up so bad. Amede played for a white dance. It was hot and he had forgotten his handkerchief. He asked for a piece of rag. One girl gave him a white handkerchief. No one said anything but they didn't like it. When he got home they beat him up so bad he had to play dead. He crawled to Margontel and where they took him to the doctor. They moved his brain. In his old age it might kill him all of a sudden. Audio fragment from American Patchwork film. Alan Lomax: Maybe we'll learn to have joyous, spontaneous funerals that last six hours.
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About the session: A discussion between Alan Lomax and linguist Edith Trager Johnson about linguistic variables in Cantometric codings.
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