Linguistics: SIL, IPA and dB

The people in the Hebei Province 河北省 cities of Chengde 承德 and Shijiazhuang 石家庄 speak truly standard mandarin, and the people in Beijing like to think of themselves as standard. In any case, my accent is much better than the average Hong Kong’er speaking mandarin, but still a long way off 承德 or 石家庄. I’ve been thinking about using some software tools to help me improve further.

First, there is an amazing organization called SIL International that has mapped out more than 2,550 of the worlds lesser known languages. SIL has developed more than 60 pieces of software to support their linguists in the field, and most of these are available free on their website. Speech Analyzer looks particularly interesting.

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SIL has a “Linguistic Creed” that comes across to me as particularly brilliant.

Linguistic Creed
Benjamin F. Elson, September, 1987

We believe that language is one of God’s most important gifts to man, and of all human characteristics, language is the most distinctly human and the most basic. Without language, culture and civilization would be impossible.

We also believe that any language is capable of being a vehicle for complicated human interaction and complex thought, and can be the basis for a complex culture and civilization.

Therefore, all languages deserve respect and careful study.

As the most uniquely human characteristic a person has, a person’s language is associated with his self-image. Interest in and appreciation of a person’s language is tantamount to interest in and appreciation of the person himself.

All languages are worthy of preservation in written form by means of grammars, dictionaries, and written texts. This should be done as part of the heritage of the human race.

Every language group deserves to see its language in print and to have some literature written in it.

Minority language groups within a larger nation deserve the opportunity of learning to speak, read, and write the national language.

As you dive into linguistics, you’ll find yourself using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) quite frequently. Even the Keyboard Layout for inputing IPA characters as a Mac OS X input method is provided by SIL. If you’re looking for specific instructions to input the IPA fonts, try this tutorial.

Last, curious what decibel levels your ears respond to in different frequency ranges? The University of New South Wales has put together an online hearing test to help you visualize the your equal loudness contours and audiometry. Take a look.

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14 thoughts on “Linguistics: SIL, IPA and dB”

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