Here is a curious fact.
My wife Cathy is using Duolingo to learn German; she wants to be able to read sources on Iron Age and Viking costume in the original.
Duolingo takes her through a lot of pronunciation drills.
I’ve learned something by listening to her – which is that somehow, somewhere, I have internalized a very precise understanding of German phonology and phonotactics. As in, I not only know right pronunciation from wrong, I give her detailed advice on how to match Duolingo’s model speaker that we can both tell is correct.
What makes this weird is that I don’t speak German. At all. Nor have I ever lived where it’s spoken; I’ve visited Germany once, German-speaking Switzerland once, and that’s it.
This raises questions in my mind:
1. How the fuck? I mean, I suppose it’s related to my knack for generating names in the style of any specified language, and I could handwave about Markov-chain models, but…how the fuck?
2. What dialect of German have I templated on? Could there be any way to tell?
3. What other entire language phonologies have I swallowed … without … me … actually … noticing …
4. Does this happen to other people?
The human brain is a very odd thing.