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 […]

An Apology For Rabbit Holes

Laura Barrett   It’s true, I do find myself apologizing for my tendency to wander off topic, picking up some apparently tangential thread and tracing it back to the extent of my knowledge on the subject. However, I’m not planning on making an apology of that sort here, but rather an apologia, or defense of the pedagogical value of departing from the outline. Apology, by the way, comes to English from Greek (and subsequently Latin) apologia, which breaks down pretty easily into apo– “from” + logos “word” or “speech.” The original meaning was a spoken defense, and that meaning […]

Why the Detail Model Had to Go

(Roots, part III) The teaching of any prescriptive speech pattern as some sort of basis or ‘neutral’ will inevitably encode privilege and elitism, alienate actors from nonstandard speech backgrounds, and actively impede the acquisition of accurate and detailed perception and the ability to subtly adapt one’s own speech and accent.     It’s been a ridiculous fourteen months since I last posted. Even worse, at the end of that post, I teased the next part of the story, promising to write soon about Why the Detail Model Had to Go. Better late than never, I suppose. This is that post. […]

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 […]


I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about the roots of this work. Unitarian Universalists like to talk about roots and wings. Roots ground you, connect you to where you’ve come from and what’s important. They form your support system and give you structure, organization, stability, and sustenance. Wings carry you aloft. They are those things that inspire you, that lift you up and out into the world and into ever widening circles of possibility. Individuals, families, and communities all need both roots and wings to flourish and thrive[1]. I think rich, coherent bodies of work, like Knight Thompson Speechwork, […]

    This is the KTSpeechblog We have so many avenues for communicating to a wider audience and amongst ourselves; what is it that a blog can do that isn’t handled by Facebook, or by Vastavox or by countless other speech/accent/phonetics blogs? Our hope is that this is a place where an idea can be proposed, and articulated with a little care, and the members of this community can weigh in to discuss it. It will be up to our blog authors to set out questions and challenges that can stimulate a conversation, but should also be a place where people who have […]

General American Revisited

  I want to share with you a short series of long e-mails between Erik Singer and me on the subject of how to deal with the desire of students to learn some form of “General American.” Erik began the discussion with a thoughtful and thought-provoking e-mail to Phil and me, from which he has given me permission to quote at length: I’ve been having an interesting year, and wanted to share some thoughts with you. Should either of you have the time and inclination to respond, it goes without saying that I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts […]