Nautilus

Mumbling Isn’t a Sign of Laziness—It’s a Clever Data-Compression Trick

Far from being a symptom of linguistic indifference or moral decay, mumbling displays an underlying logic similar to the>Photograph by Everett Collection / Shutterstock

any of us have been taught that pronouncing vowels indistinctly and dropping consonants are symptoms of slovenly speech, if not outright disregard for the English language. The Irish that speakers relaxed or dropped sounds in more than 60 percent of words spoken in conversation. Happily, the science of mumbling offers a far less judgmental—and more captivating—account of our imperfectly crisp pronunciations.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus8 min read
Why Our Postwar “Long Peace” Is Fragile
You could be forgiven for balking at the idea that our post-World War II reality represents a “Long Peace.” The phrase, given the prevalence of violent conflict worldwide, sounds more like how Obi-wan Kenobi might describe the period “before the dark
Nautilus6 min read
Can Neuroscience Understand Free Will?
In The Good Place, a cerebral fantasy-comedy TV series, moral philosophy gets teased. On YouTube, the show released a promotional video, “This Is Why Everyone Hates Moral Philosophy,” that gets its title from a line directed at Chidi, a Senegalese pr
Nautilus10 min read
Raising the American Weakling: There are two very different interpretations of our dwindling grip strength.
When she was a practicing occupational therapist, Elizabeth Fain started noticing something odd in her clinic: Her patients were weak. More specifically, their grip strengths, recorded via a hand-held dynamometer, were “not anywhere close to the norm