What would Goldilocks do?


I’ve been reading about linear predictive coding (LPC) and the need to adjust LPC coefficients in order to get the most accurate estimation of formant frequencies. Huh? … I’m not sure. Or should I say I’m not sure yet? Acoustic speech analysis is complicated. 

I certainly didn’t set out to read about LPC. My understanding is superficial and scattered, but – for now at least – that’s just fine; it’s not yet clear what my PhD will investigate, exactly, let alone what acoustic analyses will be involved. Rather, I stumbled across a section about LPC in an introductory book on sociophonetics by Erik Thomas1. This book is a purchase I do not regret. It’s like a well-curated, guided degustation: accessible, comprehensive, and (intellectually) delicious.

On page 43, in the middle of a jargon-heavy section about adjusting LPC coefficients, one sentence caught my attention:

“When this situation arises, make sure you’re like Goldilocks and choose the one that’s just right.” 1 (p. 43).

Thomas is talking about LPC, sure, but reader’s liberty lets me interpret this analogy in a much broader sense. Make sure you’re like Goldilocks and choose the one that’s just right. Indeed, why do anything else?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a story that, like many children’s stories, offers some kind of moral lesson. Usual interpretation seems to revolve around the consequences of breaking social rules (don’t invade others’ spaces, don’t eat others’ food, yada-yada), but Thomas has reminded me of another lesson the story offers: the value of trying things out (porridge, chairs, beds… theories, methods, tools… jobs, cities, lovers), without hesitation, reservation, or shame, in the pursuit of finding one that fits. It was a little risky, sure, and a few bears got upset along the way, but Goldilocks’ persistence was rewarded with a full stomach, restful sleep, a bit of adrenaline, and a good story to boot!

So, in times of discontent – when the porridge (though cooked according to instructions) is a little too hot; when things just don’t fit who we are or what we want – perhaps we need to ask a simple question: what would Goldilocks do?


1Thomas, Erik R.  2011.  Sociophonetics: An Introduction.  Basingstoke, U.K./New York: Palgrave.

Photo credit: elearningindustry.com

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