Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Researches in experimental phonetics
Scripture, Edward Wheeler
these only the “upper pulley” appears in the figure. A belt from the 
upper pulley turns the recording disc. A belt from the lower pulley 
turns a “ rotating tube,” in which there is a screw that moves the recording 
disc sidewise; in this way the recording point is made to trace a spiral 
line from the outside to the center. To permit the side-movement of 
the recording disc the belt passes through a “ belt spanner” with weight, 
which allows the belt to lengthen and yet keeps it always at the same 
tension. The “belt tightener” for the belt from the lower pulley is pro¬ 
vided with a spring that keeps the tension constant. For many purposes 
it is desirable to have the recording point trace one revolution in a circle 
and not make a spiral; for this the belt tightener is loosened so that the 
rotating tube remains still. 
With this apparatus a single wave can be selected from the curve 
and can be repeated indefinitely on the zinc strip; the gramophone disc 
then produces continuously the sound of that wave. Beginning with 
the first wave, we thus make a disc, one line of which will produce indefi¬ 
nitely the sound of the first wave, another line the sound of the second 
wave, etc. In this way we have an acoustic analysis—for the ear!— 
of each element in the vowel. For example, we are thus able to hear 
separately the 25 different vowels that are present in the record of [c] 
in “get” with 25 waves. Innumerable debated problems can in this 
way be settled immediately. For example, what is the vowel in “not” 
in the case of a certain speaker? The word is recorded on a gramophone 
disc in natural conversation, and the curve is traced off; then a single 
wave or a group of waves is etched on a zinc strip and traced repeatedly 
on the gramophone disc; the disc then speaks the vowel continuously 
as long as desired and affords an opportunity for deciding its resem¬ 
blance to [o], [a], or [a]. When this has been done for a number of persons 
whose speech is recognized as having the standard pronunciation, the 
proper phonetic spelling of “not” can be settled. We are quite safe in 
asserting that very many—or most—of the short vowels are incorrectly 
indicated in the dictionaries. By the speech curves and by this appara¬ 
tus it will be possible to settle the correct pronunciations. 
There is still another application of interest, namely, an inquiry con¬ 
cerning the sounds of arbitrary curves. For example, what is the sound of 
a zigzag line or of a zigzag with one element shorter than the others? What 
is the sound of a curve composed of alternating positive and negative semi¬ 
circles? Just as each musical instrument and each vowel records its own 
peculiar curve, so each peculiar curve will produce a special sound; from 
curves not like those of known musical instruments or vowels we may 
expect sounds representing musical instruments that do not exist.


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