Drunken sounds are ‘easy’, but in an unexpected way

The science of acoustics reveals an unexpected possible truth about drunks and language, says this study:

Studying Hard and Easy Sounds with Drunken Speech,” Abby Kaplan [pictured here] (University of Utah), Acoustical Society of America – 161st Meeting Lay Language Papers, Presented Tuesday morning, May 24, 2011, 161st ASA Meeting, Seattle, Washington, Popular version of paper 2aSC33. (Thanks to Jennifer Ouellette for bringing this to our attention.) The author reports:

“This experiment studied whether some sounds are ‘harder’ to say than others – a popular idea, both among linguists and among laypeople, but one that is very difficult to test. The experiment involved having subjects drink a moderate amount of alcohol and then recording their speech, in the hopes that drunken speech would be ‘lazier’ – that is, that people would tend to say more ‘easy’ sounds while they were drunk. The results show that drunken speech has a narrower range of sounds than sober speech does; this is consistent with the idea that people tend to say easier sounds when they’re drunk. However, the results are also surprising: the sounds produced in drunken speech are not always the same as the ones that linguists usually think of as ‘easy’.”