LINGUIST List 15.323

Thu Jan 29 2004

Disc: New: SARS Spread Through Aspirated Consonants?

Editor for this issue: Sarah Murray <>


  1. R�my Viredaz, Re: 15.290: Spread of SARS through aspirated consonants

Message 1: Re: 15.290: Spread of SARS through aspirated consonants

Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 14:25:43 +0100
From: R�my Viredaz <>
Subject: Re: 15.290: Spread of SARS through aspirated consonants

The Guardian paper (linked to in Linguist 15.290) quotes Dr. Inouye
who, basing on SARS statistics, argues that you have a small chance of
catching SARS in China when spoken to in English, but are safe when
spoken to in Japanese, because of the aspirate stops there are in
English, especially when pronounced with Chinese accent if I
understand correctly.

The original (informal) paper is on

If Dr. Inouye's hypothesis is right, a few remarks could be added.

Even languages without aspirates are not without dangers. The French
language calls 'postillons' (literally, postilions) those infamous
droplets that may escape your mouth, especially when you utter a /p/ ,
the /voiceless/ [fortis, unaspirated] /labial stop/.

Interestingly, the phoneme p is especially infrequent in Japanese, so
that Dr. Inouye's argument would seem to hold.

Personally, I would also beware of languages that have a glottalized

As for the English aspirates, the word 'please', due to its frequency,
must be especially dangerous. And, to make things worse, Chinese are
likely to pronounce "tank you" with a stop.

R�my Viredaz
1, rue Chandieu
CH - 1202 Gen�ve

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