Monday, February 6, 2012

Just blowing smoke or essential pronunciation practice ritual?

(Caveat Emptor: If you as an instructor have serious issues with even reading a model piece from an outfit that provides custom essays for college students for a fee, you may want to avoid the link above! If you have never seen one of these "rhetorical pirates" in action, you may enjoy just checking out the sell, regardless. )

I stumbled onto this stock, freshman English-level essay on "Sacred Pipe Ritual" some time ago on the "" site. There are many like it out there. This particular essay does list the  "standard" set of ritual parameters of the pipe ceremony seen in many cultures world wide. What it highlights for us is the structure and functions of ritual in general. As noted in earlier posts, the EHIEP system is, on the one hand, highly ritualistic, using haptic video to lead learners (in the complete system) through around 30, 20-30 minute, fixed routines--8 done in class, 24 done as homework. Within the routines are a number of functions, from general learning readiness to anchoring of the essential sounds and sound patterns of English. Those functions are then readied to be carried over into the classroom or personal practice. Note the parallels between the "pipe" ritual elements and what has been described in earlier posts as the key elements of HICP work:

  • The pipe becomes the sole focus or center of attention, representing the center of the cosmos. (That may be stretching the analogy a bit!)
  • The design on the pipe bowl often resembles the trachea.
  • The gestures in the ritual are predominately pointing, either in the four directions or toward participants.
  • The two parts of the pipe, bowl and stem are ritually joined together, creating strong symbolism, especially of connection to nature and potency. (The parallel there to haptic events is striking--and worth a later post!)
  • The symbolism of the four directions has many manifestations, but, in essence, East relates to birth; West, to death; South to earth (or female/mother); North, to the sun (or male). From the several earlier posts on the phonaesthetics of the visual field and placement of sound patterns within them, the convergence is striking--assuming that the vowel matrix is positioned so that front vowels are to the right, versus the standard IPA left to right orientation.
  • Finally, the physical presence of the smoke can take on any number of symbolic functions in unifying the experience for the participants. (There is a great deal of smoke and mirrors in the field today!)
Going back to the previous post. Once you have articulated your approach to pronunciation systematically, examine the ritual inherent in it and how that should relate to integration into spontaneous speech. That is where we are headed today with the accessibility of virtual technology. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! 

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