Book Report: “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”
The Real Sound of Fake Language
In the last post I was telling the story of Richard Feynman speaking fake Italian to real Italian speakers. He loved the sound. Not knowing the language, he ‘spoke’ just the sound. And this story, as written, is a wonderful example of how a text transcript can capture some of the feeling of the sound of language. For many uses of transcripts this is not important: we just need to know the words. But it’s nice to see the possibilities of this kind of verbatim transcription. The story comes alive in the transcript, because of the way the transcriber (Ralph Leighton) used capital letters to convey intonation and accented syllables.
Here’s a quote:
“There was an Italian radio station in Brooklyn, and as a boy I used to listen to it all the time. I LOVed the ROLLing SOUNds going over me, as if I was in the ocean and the waves weren’t very high. I used to sit there and have the water come over me, in this BEAUtiful iTALian.”
There are always choices to be made about how to transcribe spoken language – verbatim, or edited, whether to include information about other sounds, or about the way things are said. In most business transcription, there is no notation of tone of voice or accent, but for storytelling such as this, transcripts for video and film, and in linguistics transcription, transcriptionists can indicate more about the ‘SOUNd’ of the talking, as well as the verbal content.
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- What is Transcription?