Emoticons XD

Yes, I have found ways to use this sticker when facebook messaging with my friends, don’t ask me how 😛
Make up a caption for him and leave it in the comment section!

Has my generation been negatively impacted by emoticons and texting? No, not everyone has. Emoticons do come in handy sometimes 🙂

I got my first cell phone in eighth grade.  It was a simple flip phone that took forever to text with. But then again, that was the era when ppl made txts short.  I don’t think the intended use for texting was to tell your friends your whole life story, but nonetheless I do this myself from time to time.

Emoticons have come a long way from the simple smiley face. Why is this? Probably because people realized that by texting they are missing something. Something that would automatically be present if you were talking face-to-face (or even on the phone) with someone. Prosody.

Prosody is the rhythm and intonation of speech. This simply cannot be achieved through written communication, whether it be text messages, essays, or books. Using emoticons seems to be a start to fixing this problem. Now there are so many kinds of faces people include in their written messages to imitate what their own faces would look like during a face-to-face encounter. At some point we have all come across messages where we weren’t sure if our friend was being sarcastic or not.  You don’t know whether to reply with a laugh or an “are you ok?”.  Basically emoticons save busy college students like us from having to pick up a phone. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth.

Emoticons are great but just promise me one thing: you won’t hide behind a colon and close parenthesis for your whole life. Get out there and remember there is a telephone function on your smartphone! You won’t lose prosody that way!


early emoticons

NSSLHA- One Step Toward Our Future


I’m sitting in one of my first college classes last Fall, LCD 100. After going through the syllabus for the semester, my professor draws our attention to the announcement on the chalkboard…NSSLHA Meeting, New Members Welcome, Free Pizza. Free pizza is always good, right? I knew going into college that I wanted to get involved in things on campus, not just run home all the time when classes were done for the day.  I also knew I wanted to major in Communication Sciences and Disorders. I’m so glad I took that first step and went to the meeting!

NSSLHA stands for the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  It is much more than just another club on campus, it is an association, a family of students most of whom are interested in becoming Speech-Language Pathologists or Audiologists.  The meetings give members a great insight to the world of applying to graduate school including writing your personal statement, preparing for the daunting GREs, and even hearing from former NSSLHA members about their graduate school experiences.  Members also participate in various walks in our area such as the Autism Speaks Walk and the Walk for Hearing. We hold multiple themed bake sales throughout the year in the Dining Hall (and everything is really delicious, I’m not just saying that). The proceeds from the last bake sale were donated to an organization called ARTZ, an art therapy program for people with dementia.

Over the past week, this year’s President of the Queens College Chapter of NSSLHA, Marina Vazura and Vice President, Stephanie Bonowicz were kind enough to answer a few questions I had:


Why did you make the decision to join NSSLHA as members and then to run for your respective positions on the board?

Marina: I was always involved in extracurricular activities and when I heard that a club for my major existed, I was eager to join. I had so many questions pertaining to graduate school and NSSLHA happened to have all the answers. Through my involvement, I began to have ideas that I wanted to implement in the club and that is when I ultimately decided to run for the President position. Although it was intimidating at first, I now think it is the best decision I have ever made. Every day comes with a new learning experience and I am so thankful to have such an incredible board, with individuals who bring unique skills to the team, to share these experiences with. This is why I encourage every member to stay involved with NSSLHA because the involvement will lead to the fruition of new ideas, and furthermore the progression of individual growth like it did for me!

Stephanie: Unlike Marina, I was never involved with anything on campus. I simply went to classes and then went home. The reason I joined NSSLHA as a member was to try to gain friends in my major and to get as much information about it as possible. The experience turned out to be much more valuable than I had ever hoped. The reason I ran for Vice President was because I wanted to help all of our members gain knowledge and feel less stressed about our demanding major. I wanted to make NSSLHA seem like a family rather than a bunch of students competing against one another.


What do you believe is the importance of having this chapter at QC?

Stephanie: Queens College has a very prestigious program for Communication Sciences Disorders. Knowing all of the students that are in the program, I can honestly say that they are some of the most dedicated and hard-working people I have ever met. Having this chapter at Queens College helps provide all of these students with information and a sense of unity.


 Can you tell my readers about the upcoming Glow for the Cure Walk being held on campus?

Stephanie: The Glow for the Cure Walk is something that we are both very proud of and it is something that has never before been done by any club on campus. It is the first ever campus wide organized walk on the Queens College Track. It is taking place November 15 from 4:30-6:30 pm. All proceeds from this walk will be going towards the American Cancer Society. We have a DJ with a light display, a performance from some students from the Music Department, tons of glow in the dark decorations, glow in the dark balloons, and raffle prizes. It is open to both the entire student body as well as the community. We encourage everyone to bring their friends and family to come out, support a great cause, and have some fun!


Why did you decide to enter into the field of Speech-Language Pathology?

Stephanie: I initially started out as a double major in Elementary Education and English with a minor in Music. I was never really truly happy with my intended choice of profession. It was only when I was taking a child, who is a friend of my family, to speech pathology sessions that I was exposed to the field. I was able to participate in sessions and see this child’s language as well as his self-confidence grow.  It was like witnessing a magic trick enfold. It was the best decision of my life to enter this field and I have never been happier.

Marina: If you had asked me this question two years ago, my answer would have probably been much shorter than it is now. I remember when I was a senior in high school and I told my classmates that I was going to major in Speech Language Pathology. They had no idea what that meant, in fact, they still don’t; I find this very amusing. I cannot tell you how many times the pediatrician I worked for would have to remind me via the phone intercom that I spent too much time with the children on the hearing and vision exam. I often felt the need to spend more time with the children with developmental delays as well as the ones who were too young or too shy to follow directions. Every interaction with a child was an opportunity for me to play the role of a Speech Language Pathologist and what I realized is that there always seemed to be a way into making every child compliant. To do this, I had to apply different methods for different children, as what worked for some, did not work for others. It was through those interactions that I truly fell in love with the field. I volunteered at numerous places prior to declaring my major and developed a strong interest in autism. Since then, my curiosity has only grown stronger and I owe that to the LCD faculty.


Can you reflect on this semester and what some of your plans are for NSSLHA for the Spring semester?

Marina: So much to do and… only one more semester to go. One of our goals for this semester was to make NSSLHA a club known campus-wide and we did that by collaborating with other clubs and by planning an event that will involve the entire student body: our Glow for the Cure walk! With the help of over 110 dedicated members, we have been able to raise awareness for many causes and give back to the community through our walks and bake sales. The biggest joy of all has been seeing the attendance rise at every consecutive meeting and we will do our best to continue that trend next semester. We have many projects in mind for next semester one of which is a book drive that will again involve the entire school. We will also be planning our end of the year Awards Ceremony that will be a commemorative dinner for all the members who have dedicated their time into helping NSSLHA reach new heights.



A very special thank you to Marina and Stephanie for taking time out of their busy schedules to be interviewed. I’m so excited for the Glow for the Cure Walk! I encourage everyone to come help NSSLHA support a great cause, the American Cancer Society. Below is the official event flier. See you there!



NYC Makes 21 the Magic Number


Yet again NYC is a pioneer in the world of smoking limitations! The New York City Council vote was held on October 30, 2013.  The amendment was passed—35 to 10– to raise the sales age of cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 years old to 21 years old.  It will also establish that 21 years old is the minimum age for the purchase of electronic cigarettes.  Now all that’s left is for Mayor Bloomberg to sign the bill (which he promises he will do).  According to the Daily News, the legislation will take effect 180 days after it is signed.  This will make NYC the first major city or state in the United States to have a minimum age of 21 for these purchases.

All CUNY campuses have been smoke-free since September 4, 2012.  I think this is certainly a step in the right direction in protecting the health of students and other members of the college communities.  This greatly reduces secondhand smoke which according to the CDC can cause heart disease and lung cancer.  Below is a short video about the CUNY policy.



According to Bloomberg.com, “more than 80% of the city’s adult smokers start before age 21” and “raising the purchase age to 21 will reduce smoking among those 18 to 20 years old by as much as 55 percent.”  I understand that this is merely a prediction, but 55% is still a pretty high number.  Even if the new legislation were to reduce smoking by 25%, it would definitely be worth it.

Hopefully the new NYC legislation will help decrease the number of adult smokers here, which had actually increased between 2010 and 2011.

Why am I so passionate about this topic? Because the effects of smoking on the respiratory system are so detrimental.  The CDC reports that cigarette smoking is “associated with a tenfold increase in the risk of dying from chronic obstructive lung disease.” Growths can occur on the vocal folds affecting the tone of speech and can become cancerous, and tissues in the larynx (voice box) thicken causing an unhealthy raspy voice. Over time your pharynx (throat) becomes so inflamed that it feels like you are breathing through a straw. There is also a decrease in the production of mucus that naturally protects your body from pathogens, so smokers are more vulnerable to colds, the flu, and bronchitis.

Mayor Bloomberg gave this statement after the City Council vote: “By increasing the smoking age to 21 we will help prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking.  It’s critical that we stop young people from smoking before they ever start.”  Makes perfect sense to me!

To be quite honest, I never understood the point of smoking.  Apparently it’s a calming agent for some people, but aren’t there other healthier (and cheaper) avenues to choose from?  Let me know what you think.  Whether you agree with me or not I would love to hear what you have to say!


Vocal Folds and… Airplanes?!


Yep. Those things in your throat that open and close to allow you to speak have an interesting commonality with airplanes.  It’s all about the airflow.  (*side note: vocal folds and vocal cords are the same thing—they are referred to as vocal folds by SLPs and vocal cords by medical professionals)

Bernoulli’s Effect states that an increase in the velocity of a stream of fluid results in a decrease in pressure.  When an airplane picks up speed there is an increase in airflow across the wings.  As the velocity increases more, the pressure below the wings become greater than the pressure from above, allowing lift to occur.  There is an inverse relationship here between pressure and velocity.


Bernoulii’s Effect in airplanes


Basically the same thing happens in your throat (which is weird to think about, but true nonetheless).  The glottis is the space between your vocal folds. When air pressure from your lungs flows up through this narrow passageway when you exhale, the result is an increase in velocity.  Then just like in the airplane example, a drop in air pressure occurs. This causes the vocal folds to be sucked together.  The vocal folds are also aided in this re-closure by their elastic properties. They act kind of like rubber bands, when pulled tight there is an increased closure (less space between them).

The faster your vocal folds vibrate by opening and closing, the higher the pitch of your speech.  Similarly the slower the vibration, the lower the pitch.

All the sounds in the English language are egressive sounds, produced with an outward flow of air from the lungs during exhalation.  Some other languages produce some sounds while inhaling, called ingressive sounds.


Now back to studying for the two midterms I have on Monday!  I hope everyone is having a great semester so far!

Vowels in IPA


There is a legitimate reason for your doctor asking you to say “ah” when examining your throat.  This particular vowel sound keeps your tongue low in your mouth (out of the doctor’s way) and like all vowels, its sound can be held for a long period of time due to the vocal tract being open.

IPA (the International Phonetic Alphabet) is a system of symbols used by Speech-Language Pathologists to standardize the method for recording speech sounds produced by the patient.  If one SLP transcribes a series of speech sounds using IPA, another SLP will easily be able to look at the notes and recognize precisely which sounds were produced.  IPA can also be used to understand the pronunciation of words when learning a foreign language.

English, as you know, has 5 vowels: “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” and “u”. We also know that these vowels are produced in various ways depending on the word they appear in. These different sounds are represented in a vowel quadrilateral on the IPA chart.  The “ah” sound is represented by the symbol in the Back-Low position on the chart below.


This version of the vowel quadrilateral shows the vowel sounds used in American English. The version that appears on the IPA chart shows all vowel sounds for all the world’s languages.


The vowel sounds on this chart are organized based on 4 criteria. They are the height of your tongue (high, mid, low), tongue advancement (front, central, or back in the mouth), tenseness (degree of muscle activity and duration of the sound) and lip configuration (whether or not your lips are rounded).  You can see that so much goes in to the production of vowel sounds! A person with typically developed speech does these things without thinking about them.  When training someone to make a particular sound, they can be instructed on where to position their tongue, etc.

It is important to realize that the number of speech sounds will not always be equal to the number of letters in a word. One symbol corresponds to one sound, NOT LETTER! For example the word “track” has 5 letters but only 4 sounds. It would be transcribed like this: /træk/.  We essentially need to forget about spelling and focus on what we are hearing when we transcribe.

It would be pretty boring for me to give you a list of the sounds and examples of words that exemplify them, so here is the link to a great site that allows you to play around with the sounds. Thanks to my Psycholinguistics professor for sharing this with our class! Click on “monophthongs” at the top, then on either “front”, “central” or “back” to see the various vowel symbols. It also shows you what goes on in the mouth (oral cavity if you want to get technical) and vocal tract during the production of these vowel sounds. There are also examples of words in American English highlighting the sound you are focusing on.

Dialects also play a huge role on the way words sound. Since you focus on the sound when you transcribe, you can get two different transcriptions of the same word when listening to a person from New York City and a person from Boston.  There is no black-and-white transcription for a particular word.  It all depends on the model’s pronunciation.

Change is Good


Words like computeresque (adj), ecomuseum (n), and ringback (n) weren’t around before I was born. Actually they were accepted into the English dictionary as new entries only as far back as 5 years ago, in 2008.  They may have been used before then, but they are now three of the numerous new official entries added by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The OED releases revisions 4 times per year. That’s how fast our language is changing! These include not only new words, but new meanings of existing words. Here you can see the lists of words and explanations behind some of them. From the menu on the left you can search through updates from different months/years.

Phone hacking, believe it or not, has been around for decades already. But it hasn’t always been used to describe the act of “gaining unauthorized access to a person’s phone or data” as we use it today.  According to the OED, in the 1980s and 1990s phone hacking was used as a synonym for another term: phreaking. This meant “the practice of using an electronic device to make long-distance phone calls without paying, or at a reduced rate”. How times have changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if kids now don’t know that long distance calls cost more than local ones.

I feel that most new words that have made it into our lexicon are technology based.  So many rapid changes in that field have happened over the past few years. I remember when I was little, being asked to stop playing games on the computer because my mom was expecting a phone call! Remember a childhood where text was a noun meaning words printed on a page, not a verb meaning to send a message? And when tweet was something only birds did? I do miss that sometimes, but I love that language is constantly evolving. Life would be quite boring if we weren’t creative enough to make new words.


So what are your opinions about language evolution? What’s your favorite new word? Feel free to comment! I promise I read them!


Calvin has the right idea. Some words even change their part of speech and take on new meaning. For example, Google is not only the name of a search engine (noun use), someone can Google something (verb use).

Speech vs. Language

When you hear someone say “I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist” do you think, aren’t they being repetitive by saying both words: speech and language? I never really thought about the differences until recently.

Language is the primary medium of human communication.  It uses socially shared codes to represent concepts we want to convey to each other. These codes are arbitrary, acquired over time.  For example, what comes to mind when you hear the word “dog”?  We all have similar mental representations of this furry animal that walks on 4 legs and barks. But the word dog is not shaped like a dog, nor does it contain any descriptive properties of a dog like the ones just mentioned. These arbitrary codes such as “dog” that make up language help us get our point across pretty quickly.

Speech on the other hand is simply spoken language. It’s the way in which we transmit language to each other. Components that contribute to speech are articulation, fluency and voice. Articulation deals with how speech is formed and how we combine speech sounds to make words.  If each sound was produced one at a time we would sound like a robot (which would be extremely annoying to listen to). Every sound in a word influences the surrounding sounds. Fluency is the smooth flow of communication. Voice can reveal a lot about the person talking and about the message they are getting across. This includes elements such as pitch, stressed/unstressed syllables and loudness.

Speech-Language Pathologists can work with patients who have speech disorders or language disorders (these disorders are distinct things just as speech and language are). I’ll explain what some of those are in later posts. Stay tuned!

Voiceless for a Day

Let me start by saying that I never want to lose my voice again and that I never realized how much I talk in any given day until I lost that privilege. After feeling what it is like to have laryngitis, I learned that verbal communication is extremely difficult to live without. Not impossible, just very challenging.

The task for the day: to complete my homework assignment

The assignment: feel laryngitis for an entire day and reflect on those who do not have a voice

So technically I was able to talk on that Tuesday in September, but I chose to use that day to have laryngitis. I could tell my mom was skeptical that morning when I woke up without a voice because I was perfectly fine the night before. Upon realizing I couldn’t talk she wanted to take me to the doctor. She looked shocked when I shook my head no and wrote on a notepad that I was going to go shopping that day. I encountered my first challenge: she wouldn’t let me leave the house without her!  Here comes the loss of independence.

Our first stop was Kohl’s (I really needed more coffee for our Keurig). When we got to the coffee section I picked out a box of my normal coffee and a box of a new flavor. My mom asked me if I knew I picked up a different flavor and I shook my head yes.  So far no major communication issues. Yay!

This was honestly a really eye opening homework assignment. It’s so hard to not talk!

Next we were off to Strawberry (clothing store). The plan was to go there because I had never been there before, and neither had my mom. I motioned with my hands to her that the junior’s section was downstairs. She followed me and then we each went separate ways looking through the racks of clothing.  I found a cute shirt but stopped myself from saying, “Oh look at this, how cute!” like I normally do. I then realized that shopping was going to be more difficult than I thought. I was becoming uninterested in shopping for probably the first time in my life. I just wanted to go home. Another realization, I was more exhausted from not talking than I would have been on a normal day! I eventually looked at a blazer, and my mom asked, “You have one of those in red? blue?” I shook my head no and pulled out my cell phone to start typing. I typed in the messaging section, “1 pink, 1 green.” She then said “Oh” and I pulled an orange colored one off the rack along with a shirt that I wanted to try on. When I came out of the dressing room to show my mom, she said she didn’t like the combination of the two together but the shirt was nice by itself. At that point I just gave her a frustrated look. I wanted to tell her that I liked the combination and that the mannequin was wearing them together. It was a lost cause since I certainly was not going to pull out a notepad or my phone in the dressing room. We left the store empty-handed.

Do you know how hard it is to watch Wheel of Fortune without a voice? I was soooo close to shouting out the solution to a puzzle, but luckily I stopped myself. When the show ended my mom said, “I feel like I can’t talk because you can’t talk.” What a powerful statement. I wonder if the parents of children with speech delays feel the same way. Do they struggle to talk to their children because they don’t receive feedback? Who is more frustrated, the person trying to receive a message, or the person without verbal capabilities? I think the latter.

Creativity: it’s all in the syntax

Person 1: Tomorrow we are going to my mom’s sister’s dad’s granddaughter’s house for her birthday party.

Person 2: Oh your cousin’s house.

Person 1: Isn’t that what I said?

Tracing through your entire family tree is completely unnecessary in the above situation, but nonetheless, the sentence is grammatically sound. This is one of the properties of language that makes it so interesting to examine. Recursion– with regards to linguistics– is what allows a speaker to continuously add phrases, extending the length and complexity of a sentence.

Constituents are the parts of a sentence that form a single unit, such as noun phrases and verb phrases. Recursion is possible because these constituents are organized hierarchically in a sentence. Here is a visual demonstrating hierarchical structure:

sentence hierarchy

You can see that even though we speak in a linear way (one word right after another) that the phrases are embedded in each other.

The children’s poem “The House that Jack Built” shows recursion in full action.

If too much recursion occurs, the sentence may be hard for the listener to understand. I sure couldn’t remember the beginning phrase of the poem by the time I got to the end!

Languages’ recursive property is only the beginning of the creativity language provides us with. The syntax of every human language consists of a finite set of rules and a finite lexicon. When these two are put together, a speaker can generate an UNLIMITED number of different sentences. Every sentence you will say or hear today is most likely a sentence that you have never said or heard before. Now that is something to sit on. Wow!


Misunderstood (in a wacky way)

How many times have we run into communication glitches with our friends?  You say one thing but your friend understands something completely different.  This often happens because either one word or the whole statement is ambiguous (has more than one meaning).  Sometimes you just can’t avoid it and you come out with some really wacky sentences.

Syntactic ambiguity is when a sequence of words carries a double meaning.  For example, “The chicken is ready to eat.”  Is the chicken going to be the one chowing down or are you going to be eating the chicken?  There really is no way to tell by looking at this sentence alone.  Newspaper headlines also have syntactic ambiguity sometimes, making great material for late night talk shows!  The problem with writing headlines is that you have a minimal amount of space to convey as much information as possible.  Here is one headline: “Lack of Brains Hinders Research.”  We aren’t sure if there is a shortage of physical brains to examine for the experiment or if the people doing the research are not smart enough to continue!

Lexical ambiguity is when one word carries multiple meanings, making the whole thought unclear.  For example, the statement “The fisherman when to the bank.”  Since we are talking about a fisherman, the word “bank” can mean a river bank or the kind of bank you keep your money in.  This sentence alone doesn’t provide enough information to see which one it really is.  Here’s a newspaper headline with lexical ambiguity: “Drunk Gets Nine Months in Violin Case.”  The word “case” is the problem word here.  So basically this person is either going to jail for 9 months after stealing a violin, or the funnier option, has to stay in a physical violin case for 9 months.

Let me know if you run into any funny ambiguities. Leave a comment!

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