Letters to the Editor SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 3 Contents A Student’s Guide to the History of Linguistics Based on Example Sentences—Franz Neumayer

Internship at Phonetics Lab X
The Case of the Uvular Nasal

John Fredrickson

As part of my internship at the renowned Phonetics Lab X in Topeka,
I kept a detailed lab notebook. This is an excerpt from that notebook.

I was sitting at my desk, it was a Monday, my first day in the lab. I was preparing some experimental materials. I heard my name called from down the hall, “Fredrickson!” I rushed into the lab director’s office adjacent to mine. The nameplate on her door said “Dr. Alexandrine.”

She was hanging up the phone as I entered. ”Fredrickson, we’ve got an emergency at City Hall. An enraged employee is holding the mayor hostage.”

She was grave, “the employee is an intern with a difficult-to-pronounce name. When he completed some filing for the mayor, the mayor said ‘good job, [munisal]’. But it’s actually pronounced [muɴisal], with a uvular nasal. The Police Chief said the intern demanded the name correctly pronounced or else...”

“Or else what?” I asked.

We raced to City Hall, the Phonetics Lab X van’s siren blaring. The director brought the van to a screeching halt at the steps of the building. I jumped out and ran up the stairs, the police giving me directions on where to go. I could hear yelling as I ran towards the mayor’s office, “Fine, if no one will show me the respect I deserve!

I burst through the doors, “[muɴisal no:::::]!”

But I wasn’t face-to-face with a crazed intern. I was in a medium-sized room and Dr. Alexandrine was sitting in front of me. “Quick, brave, thinking on your feet. I think you will fit in well at our lab.”

I stammered. She explained that it was a routine test they staged with all the new lab interns. There was no crisis, no deranged intern, no mayor in danger. At the time I felt disappointed, but I didn’t realize then how useful this test would be.

Letters to the Editor
A Student’s Guide to the History of Linguistics Based on Example SentencesFranz Neumayer
SpecGram Vol CLXII, No 3 Contents