July 25th, 2006

ozarque figure

Words and tunes and mismatch....

Have you seen the Cingular commercial running on tv right now that sets the words of a mother and daughter to tunes that contradict the words' messages?

Where the daughter says "WHY do you insist on TREATING me like an ADULT???!" and the mother says, "Because YOU insist on ACTING like one!" Where the closing line is the daughter running up the stairs with her new cell phone saying "YOUVE NEVer hated me, and you NEVER WILL!!!"

(I'm sure haven't quoted the lines with total perfection, especially for placement of the stresses, but I think I'm close enough to be clear.)

I'm delighted to see and hear this commercial. The idea of the mass media doing something that might provide a little information about the importance of intonation in American English pleases me a lot. I just wish I had access to some kind of accurate national research study that would tell me how people are reacting to it, with nice tidy percentages. I'd like to know how many people hear words that fit the tune instead of the words that are really being used -- and would be surprised to know that they didn't hear correctly -- and how many people find the commercial baffling, and how many are as delighted with it as I am, and so on through the possibilities.

I'm waiting for Language Log to tackle this one and maybe provide spectrograms.....