Brainstorming a Word for my Documentary

So today, I need to brainstorm the word that I'm going to create. I have been meaning to do this for a while, but I consistently have put it off because it feels "easy", like it should be simple. But as soon as I actually start thinking about it, I always realize it's a lot more complicated than I give it credit for. The word is literally the basis of the entire documentary. If it's not interesting-sounding enough, or the definition isn't actually relatable, the documentary won't work. So fuck it, I need to start actually brainstorming.

Research About Language

Before anything else, I need to learn and think about what english words are like. What syllables are they composed of – I don't know, it feels like I'm lacking some general linguistics knowledge.

I'm using this guy's lectures on YouTube to learn about linguistics.

General Info

  • Language is a pairing of form and meaning
  • The cat sits on a mat
    • Sentence to phrase to words to morphemes to phonemes to sound features
  • The study of pronunciation is phonetics
  • The study of sounds is phonology
  • The study of words is morphology
  • The study of the structure of sentences is syntax
  • All known cultures with a large enough percentage of people with normal hearing have auditory-vocal language - languages can be learned without instruction
  • Writing is only 5000 years old
  • Sign is a pairing of a form with a meaning: cat with the meaning of cat
    • Semiotics study how form is linked with meaning
      • Icon: form resembles the meaning: bicycle sign
      • Index: form resembles a result of the meaning: skull sign
      • Symbol: arbitrary meaning
  • Vast majority of language is symbolic
  • Onomatopoeia - iconic
  • Humans language uses displacement - can be about things that aren't immediately present - !!!! fascinating. It's still all present, just more of an approximation of that presence
  • Linguistic units can be recombined to express novel meanings - you can express an infinite number of new ideas by recombining parts
  • Language is a learned system of signs that enables us to communicate an unlimited number of meanings about any topic
  • Descriptive grammar is a description of how a language actually works, prescriptive grammar is someone's ideas about what makes for correct writing
  • Grammatical vs ungrammatical
  • We have an intuitive knowledge of the rules of language


  • Phonetics is about pronunciation
    • Articulatory phonetics is about how people move their articulators to produce linguistic sounds
    • Acoustic phonetics is about the waveforms of linguistic sounds
    • Larynx or vocal box has folds called vocal cords - folds vibrate to produce sound when air passes through them - either open or closed
    • Air comes through to the vocal tract – pharynx, mouth, nasal cavity to modify the buzzing sound - articulators
    • Vocal tract changes shape by moving the articulators to create different sounds
    • Phonation is the production of sounds by the larynx, articulation is the modification of the airflow done by the articulators in the vocal tract
    • A phone is a discrete speech sound
  • 3 types of manner of articulation: stop consonant - total obstruction of airflow, nasal consonant - redirects air into the nasal cavity, fricative consonant - continuous turbulent airflow
  • t is an unvoiced alveolar stop

IDEA: stop consonant should be used in my word

  • retroflex consonants - hindi
  • glottal stop - closing vocal folds entirely - british - "bottle" - "uh oh"
  • dental fricative - tongue between teeth - thick
  • trills
  • Vowels allow for air to flow freely through the oral cavity
  • consonants are constriction of vocal tract to impede airflow

Mind Straw #2: July Six 2023