First, sorry to hear about the painful
aspect of your condition. I hope it won't last long.
Speech defects due to dental problems are
not necessarily serious unless you happen to lose _most_ of your upper teeth.
Human articulatory skills are surprisingly adaptable, and the tongue soon learns
by trial and error to use whatever dental structure is left to produce or at
least to do a passable imitation of the desired acoustic effect. If it hits upon
the right configuration, a new habit develops quickly (you'll have to unlearn it
with your new teeth in place, but that should be easy too). The tongue, as you
certainly know, is a very busy organ, always counting the teeth and checking
their condition when not otherwised engaged.
Perhaps this flexibility isn't so
surprising after all, considering how often our ancestors had to speak with very
incomplete teeth. Even if caries was less widespread in the past than it is now,
other oral diseases were common, and eating bread from flour mixed with
pulverised minerals from querns or millstones was a bit like chewing
sandpaper as regards its effect on tooth enamel.
Then, there is a lot of redundancy in the
phonetic encoding of phonemes. The actual range of articulations and acoustic
realisations corresponding to any given phoneme is often fairly wide. All
speakers have their little idiosyncrasies (which is one of the reasons why we're
able to recognise a familiar individual voice), and a minor speech defect such
as a slight lisp normally passes unnoticed. Do you really use your upper canines
and premolars to make the "th" fricatives? Then they are probably slightly
lateral (a bit like Welsh <ll>), aren't they?
Piotor knows me. I confess to all of you I have had all of my
front teeth extracted in the process of receiving some rather expensive
Doing eff and vee are not that difficult. Thorn/edh are
also easy. Why? Well, I still have the teeth to the left and right of the
canines, upper and lower, as well as the upper canines (my lower canines
are still dry sockets; they were messy and still painful extractions).
I brux when I'm awake (I have Tourette Syndrome), and both of my
parents and all of my five siblings resent the sound of me grinding my
teeth into expensive dentistry.
Well, Piotr, I think you have some
questions about what my tougue is doing to to North Midlands (Standard) AmE.
So do I. Ask me. Teach me.
Without one's front teeth, the only real loss
I know of is the Spanish interdental fricative (English has thorn and edh;
Spanish has theta). But I have my side teeth, and it's actually fake-able.
All these dentals: that you can do them without the teeth raises
My family knows of my present ugly conditon. Piotr, give me
questions to ask them! What is my current phonological disability! Tell me
what noises I should attempt without any serious teeth.