Tag Archives: phonetics

Speaking out for Science

Coming up this Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people around the world will join voices for the March for Science. (The main March will be in Washington, DC, and there are 512 satellite marches planned. I’ll be going to the Boston one.)

Soon after I heard about the march, I not only planned to go, but started working on a design for a t-shirt and sign. As I am a linguist, I wanted to represent speech and language sciences. I made a recording of myself saying my slogan, “speaking out for science,” and put together a graphic with the (orthographic) text, a waveform, and a phonetic transcription in IPA. I put up a draft of my design on Facebook, and got some feedback from other linguists on my transcription. I made a new recording with some clearer articulation, and put up a new image and transcription. I finalized a couple versions of my design (one with a spectrogram), and set up a storefront on TeePublic (an online t-shirt store), and lo and behold, several people ordered shirts!


A couple of weeks or so later, a (linguist) friend of mine shared a photo of herself in her new shirt. There was lots of gratifying positive feedback, but also a few other (linguist) friends of hers said things like “that’s not how I’d say that,” as well as “that’s not how I’d transcribe that!” There was much back and forth about both articulation and use of diacritics. (Mostly centered around the release of stop consonants, if you want to know the nitty gritty.)

While I admittedly at first felt a bit deflated to have the design I’d made for fun get feedback that felt harsher than what I’ve seen from anonymous reviewers on a conference abstract, I realized that there was an opening for a new variation on the design. Because this is what scientists do. We discuss our methods and our data with our peers, and we revise accordingly.


So I made some revisions. Whereas the possible variation in saying a simple 4-word phrase at first seemed like an obstacle to get around in choosing a representative production to use for my design, I realized that it was an opportunity for a new design to reflect the variation itself. And so I asked my friends and those friends of friends who’d been part of the discussion to submit recordings of themselves saying the phrase, with the option of sending their own transcription. My new design has 7 different productions of the phrase “speaking out for science,” along with a new sub-slogan: “No matter how you say it, science matters.”

And I had another idea for a design to include more languages. I especially wanted to include a non-spoken language. I consulted with a Deaf friend on how best to represent the word science in ASL (American Sign Language). With her guidance, I consulted a few references (including video), and drew and adjusted a diagram to represent the word. I also included 26 other languages, in addition to English. (And I had to consult others again for help with a few of the languages with non-Roman script, including one friend in Abu Dhabi, and another in Bangladesh.)

And so it is that I have 4 different design variations. I have put together some files that are available for downloading and printing, free for personal use, should anyone else want to use them. (I’m planning on making a couple of two-sided signs, each with 2 of the different designs.) Variations of the designs are also available on t-shirts and on some other stuff on TeePublic.

Below are the files, formatted for printing on 18″x 24″ (but scaleable). The png files have a transparent background. Images were created using Praat and Illustrator.

  • Speaking out for Science: Single speaker waveform [pdf png]
  • Speaking out for Science: Single speaker with spectrogram [pdf png ]
  • Speaking out for Science: multi-speaker [pdf png]
  • Speaking out for Science: multilingual [pdf png ]

Let me know if you decide to use one of my signs. And let me know if you have any suggestions for future versions! (Help me get more voices and more languages. For science!) You can always email me at alejna99 “at” gmail.com.

Edited 4/18/2017: I have updated the pdf and png files to hopefully fix font issues that may come up on different computers. Please do let me know if you run into problems with any of the files!