What’s in a Pedagogy?

In talking with Master Teacher Andrea Caban about Knight-Thompson Speechwork and how we teach it, I’ve begun to reflect on what a pedagogy is. Erik and Phil have both written extensively on the pedagogy of Knight-Thompson Speechwork, its origins and its principles. But Andrea and I have also been talking about its other aspects, the aspects that are slipperier to write about, harder to enumerate, eagerer(?) to avoid lists and charts and diagrams. We bandied about the ideas of “hard” versus “soft” teaching principles, or maybe the “form” versus the “content” of the pedagogy. That distinction got me thinking about […]

Writing a Book on Accents

  From Tyler: I’ve been thinking lately about writing a book on accent acquisition. Which has mostly resulted in me thinking about the challenges associated with writing a book on accent acquisition. And I’ll say up front: I know other Knight-Thompson teachers are laboring away at this very same idea, most of them much further along than I am. This blog post in no way aims to undermine their efforts, but rather explore the goals and challenges associated with accent acquisition education that arise when I think of writing a book on the subject. I’d love to have current authors’ […]

Actors Be Damned! (or: What I Don’t Think)—What Is the Value of (Super) Narrow Transcription?

All actors should learn narrow transcription. And I mean super narrow, with multiple diacritics hanging off of every symbol like crazed Christmas ornaments. All teachers and coaches should employ similarly narrow transcription in all their prepared materials, and whenever taking or giving phonetic notes. They should not water down the detail even when preparing materials for or giving notes to actors who don’t know any phonetics. If these actors can’t handle it, well, that’s just too bad. They should have paid attention in speech class. No. I’m pretty sure some people think that’s what I believe. I don’t. I think […]

What is the Value of Broad Transcription?

This blog post is an open inquiry: what is the value of teaching broad transcription to actors these days? Every fall, I teach phonetics to my first-year acting students at Rutgers. Every fall, we go through the empty consonant chart, attempting to make each possible physical action – both voiced and unvoiced – in each individual cell. This physical exploration usually goes smoothly – sorting through the resulting consonant sounds as either familiar or unfamiliar depending on whether it’s a sound that actually occurs in some human language and on what languages my students speak – until we get to […]

Collecting accents

I wrote a thing. Two things, I guess: two short texts for eliciting useful accent samples. Here they are: Dali’s Last Hurrah* What frosty land is this? How was its fate decided? Coal-black mountains loom; Glassy pools reflect their huge, queer forms. A bird-like woman searches slowly through the trees; Flocks of trembling sparrows cluster about blood-red barns. I feel the flashing claws of chalk-white terror rip at my breath. My courage fails. A furious, hoarse voice whispers from the inky shadows, “He knew his duty. We cannot be afraid.” Fighting a fog of sudden nightmare visions— Savage lambs, Fork-tongued […]

Roots, Part II

  The other day I wrote a bit about some of the intellectual and linguistic foundations of Knight-Thompson Speechwork. Today I’d like to write a bit about how Dudley found his way from there to here, as it were, and a bit about why KTS-based speech classes spend so much more time on vocal tract explorations, play, and teaching (the entirety of) the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) than traditional speech classes do.   When Dudley trained as an actor, at Yale Drama in the early 1960s, there wasn’t much in the way of speech training as we’d recognize it today. […]

Rhoticity, Part Two: Symbol Confusion

  This post is a part two of an answer to a question posed by Kim Mappleswitch. Part one is here. As a reminder, Kim writes: At The High Standards Academy of Dramatic Art (HSADA) we’re required to teach Standard Stage as a basis for learning IPA. I have asked the faculty here how they teach the /ɜ˞/ sound. On one hand – it’s that the tongue tip stays behind the lower teeth and on the other hand it’s that the tongue tip is not on the lower teeth, but rather “floats” because the body of the tongue is slightly […]

Narrow transcription

Many, perhaps most people who come and take a Knight-Thompson workshop have already studied phonetics before in some form. Many have also done some phonetic transcription, though for the most part what people have done is quite broad (and even prescriptive in purpose!) and so is more like phonemic transcription than phonetic transcription. And then, of course, there are those who come to the workshops completely fresh, not having studied phonetics before in any form. Though KTS is much more than just phonetics, of course, narrow, descriptive phonetic transcription is a key element of the work. A high degree of […]

Corrections to Speaking With Skill

  SPEAKING WITH SKILL, 2ND EDITION, 1ST DRAFT Now that Speaking with Skill is readily available worldwide just in time for holiday gift-giving, I could allow a sigh of relief to flow egressively from my alveolar sacs; were it not for the fact that I managed to distribute liberally—throughout its pages—words,  sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs that need to be changed. Others might call these “errors” or “omissions” or “stupidities,” and some reviewer undoubtedly will, but I consider the opportunity to fix them an ongoing retirement “hobby.” I offer therefore the following four corrections to the text. This is just […]