Monday, January 25, 2010

Having the audacity to play with audio speed

I have a student in my current class who told me that she simply couldn't understand the audio recordings we're using in class. That's not so unusual, but after working with her for a bit in my office, I came to believe she has an unusual disjunction between her reading ability and listening ability. So I whipped out Audacity and started playing around with the files.

There is an option to change the tempo (i.e., make it slower without changing the pitch), but it introduces an odd distortion to the voice. Instead, I found it better change the speed and then boost the pitch back up. To do this, you begin by opening your file (after you've downloaded and installed Audacity). Step 2 is to select the portion of the file you'd like to slow down. In most cases this will be the whole recording. Step 3 is to click on Effect from the menu bar, and choose change speed, perhaps by 33%. Once this completed, you need to once more click on Effect and then choose change pitch. I found the pitch needed to be boosted slightly more than the amount of the speed reduction (if you can compare those two things). So, a speed change of -33% would require a pitch boost of roughly 43%.

Here's are some samples:
-basic recording
-change tempo
-change speed
-fix pitch

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wonky content clauses

For quite some time I've been noticing clauses of the type exemplified in this sentence: "Mr. McCain was asked what would Republicans do in response." (from the NY Times here). Traditional grammatical description often calls the bolded clause a noun clause, but following the CGEL, and for good reason, I'll call it a content clause.

The thing that's wonky about it, if you haven't noticed, is that interrogative content clauses don't typically undergo subject-auxiliary inversion. That is, you would expect Mr. McCain was asked what Republicans would do in response, with would following the subject instead of preceding it. I hear these on the radio all the time, but they're ephemeral, and I'm rarely positive that what I've heard is reported speech as opposed to a quotation or pseudo-quotation along the lines of Mr. McCain was asked, "what will Republicans do in response."