March 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
Humans play with things … usually until they break them. Luckily language is made out of pretty tough stuff and even though it can be broken it can always be put together.
Linguists are interested in the games people play with language as often they reveal what speakers know but down’t know what they know about language.
Here a young a woman is teaching us how to speak Gibberish, a quite typical language game in that it breaks up words into component parts – syllables, and even smaller bits and pieces.
A syllable can be described as having a tree like structure as demosntrated below:
The highest branching node splits into an onset to the left and a rhyme to the right. The onset is home to consonants (C) that precede the vowel in the syllable/ English allows clusters of three consonants in the onset as can be found in words like scratch, splash, straw.
The rhyme consists of the vowel – the central and in fact usually only obligatory element to the syllable – hence the branch labelled nucleus, and the consonants that come after it in the coda. Again English allows a number of consonants in the coda, i.e., strengths.
Watch and learn gibberish. It’s a pretty fun language game. Notice how she talks about letters in the way she describes the placement of the fake bits of language, but in doing so she is aware at some level of the structure of syllables: