Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Languages are just plain neat. Sometimes you can run across a word or an expression in one language that conveys a thought you can only convey very clumsily in another. Sometimes the sounds which occur in one language are notably different from the sounds of another and fall upon the unacquainted ear almost like music. One lovely phoneme (among a good many others) which we don't have in English is /tl/. As in Tlingit, from Alaska (and also, I believe, in Nahuatl from Mexico). I was fooling around on the 'net yesterday and was delighted at the amount of material available for those who would like an introduction to Tlingit, for example, this flash-powered chart of the Tlingit alphabet. You can listen to the sound of each phoneme there, as well as to the sounds of words which begin with any given letter. For more extended listening, there are the archived lessons from KHNS Radio in Alaska. I have only listened to one so far, and it was quite short (5 minutes or so) and manageable--and I did learn, at any rate how the word "Tlingit" itself is pronounced, thus the current fascination with /tl/.