14 December 2011

Learning the IPA

There is a cartoon called Penny and Aggie where the two main characters have just started university, and it tracks their experiences in attending a course in introductory linguistics. Here is an extract from one of them, in which the professor explains that there are 107 symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). (See here for the full strip.)There are a couple of things I did not understand in this cartoon until I saw them discussed in Language Log (here).
  • The green IPA symbols appearing behind the student are a direct allusion to the 'green rain' from The Matrix.
  • The student is probably panicking because she has just discovered that she cannot enter the IPA on her tablet.
Now, I have seen The Matrix, but I did not pick up the allusion; and I just assumed that she was panicking because she had to learn so many new symbols. It seems there are rather a lot of things in the modern world which I need help in understanding!

I just hope my students at UBD don't panic so much when I introduce the IPA to them.