Burke Ramsey police interview – Reverse Speech

This is an assessment of language-like speech in the reverse speech of Burke Ramsey and the police interviewer during Burke’s police interview as a child.

The examples here represent words that can be perceived, however, in alternatives can be heard in some cases. Therefore, there is no certainty with the offerings presented here.

In situations where there is a reduction in audio quality the possibilities of hearing language not present increases. This is true for forward speech, as it is for reverse speech.

Comprehension of normal speech is aided when applying one’s internal grammar and knowledge of context to the discourse, and by the typically longer examples of speech. The benefit of context and longer sections of speech is not as available in reverse speech as it is in normal speech.  Context and knowledge of the speaker is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can help identify language and meaning, but also create biased expectations and projections into the sounds. Furthermore, reverse speech is not always clearly associated with what is being spoken about in the forward speech.

Although there are linguistically excellent examples of reverse speech, many have inconsistencies phonemically and phonetically. On the surface level they may sound quite accurate, but a closer listening can show that this is not the case. However, if one listens closely to extracts of forward speech one will often hear phonemes that perceptually don’t match the proper phonemes of the word spoken, and the word itself can be quite distorted. Of course, it is things like our internal grammar, the syllable length, key audible phonemes and knowledge of context that help us to ‘reconstruct’ the word and understand what the speaker is saying.

One can opine that reverse speech will often suffer some distortion as it comes in the reversed sound of forward speech uttered consciously. What level of imprecision in sounds is acceptable is something the reverse speech listener will have to decide for himself. However, this can be the difference between what is reverse speech and what is gibberish. Unfortunately, many who are doing reverse speech are not aware of those flaws; this can then make it difficult to judge its level of appropriacy.

Understanding how speech sounds, syllables and words interact with each other in forward speech, and recognizing the effect of audio speech sounds, can help us to reduce errors in reverse speech recognition. Linguistic knowledge is important in ascertaining possibilities and parameters within which to operate.

Forward speech dialogue

BR: I was like laying in bed with my eyes open all night. So I was thinking of what might have happened.

PI: Did you hear Mum and Dad talking?

BR: I just heard Mum like going sicko/psycho.

PI: Going psycho?

BR: Yeah, like go like, you know

PI: Did you go down to see what’s going on?

BR: (?) down, and stayed in bed


BR: Our murder/mother walked around, (the) then they hear the threa[t] [I was like laying in bed with my eyes open all night]  

our mother/murder (op[en all night])

our (n[ight]_ FS [t] does not occur in the RS. There is no evidence of any articulation towards the high front vowel in [I], and with the time period extending a little longer than a shortened cut [I] that could occur before consonant, I won’t claim [I] as a possibility.

mother/murder (op[en all n]ight) [m] comes at [l n]. [rd]/[th] occurs at FS [n]. It sounds most like murder, however, audio quality could mask sounds, and [mother] should be considered possible.

walked (eye[s op]en) The labial [op] gives a sense of [wa]. The FS [s] provides the [ed] ending (this can occur in RS).

around ([m eye]s) [m] can be heard as [n]. [r] can be heard around [y].

(the) then they (lay[in’ in bed with]) FS [b] disappears. At slower speeds one can hear a short syllable before [then] from [with]. It sounds most like [the], and I will accept it as a mis-speaking that often occurs in FS. In [then they], the [in’ in] provides a lengthened [n] which gives [n th]. This then follows normal assimilation of [th] adjacent [n].

hear [lay] some aspiration occurs, and [r] is perceived at [l].

the [like] the alveolar [l] dominated allowing a sense of [t]. Of course, audio quality aids this as well

threa[t] [I was] the fricative of the [s] gives a sense of [th], and the [w] gives a sense of [r]. There is a ;ack of evidence of an unreleased [t] final.


BR: She walks, it’s a walk/this walk. My Mom the/was shit [I just heard Mum like going sicko]  

If this reversal has an association with the previous one, then [murder] may meant to be [mother]. interesting that it mentions ‘walk’ again. Also, see reversal below from the Dr Phil interview in 2016.

she walks [sicko] Before [w] it sounds like there is an [sh] occurring – he produces some vocal noise, however, it is likely the audio is lending something to it. [w] comes from the rounded vowel. [s] comes from [s].

it’s a walk/this walk [it’s] comes from the lengthened [s]; [a] comes from the vowel in [ing]. It may also be [this walk]. [w] comes from the rounded vowel [o], and [k] comes from [g].

my mom  [mum like]  [like] simply sounds like fricative noise. I have assumed [my] here. A general hearing gives one the sense of [my mom].

the/was shit [I just heard] It could also sound like [momma] at this point, however, there is a new word beginning after [mom]. This point is at the end of [heard], and is most like [the], however, [was] is a possibility. The [sh] comes from [j]ust]. An unreleased [t] final is assumed here.


PI: it’s all this [d]enied bullshit [did you go down and see what’s going on?]  

There is no obvious [th]is or [d]enied; however, in spontaneous speech, some elision of these sounds is possible.

it’s all [what’s]

this [see] Elision occurs at [th] with a labial approximate in its place. The failure to articulate [th] would occur in FS.

denied [down] The double syllable effect in [dow-n] give some sense of [denied]. There is no initial [d]; however, assimilation to the preceding [s] is quite possible.

bullshit [did she go]  A sense of [b] is possible on release of FS g[o].. The [g] is silent and di[d] is silent. [ll] is not there, however, in spontaneous speech this is possible.

Before the beginning of this reversal is a word that can sound like [murder

murder  [going on] This can be heard in different ways, therefore there is uncertainty. Sense of [m] is at [n]. Sense of [r] occurs around [ng]. Sense of [d] occurs at the release and onset of FS [o] and [i] respectively. [er] occurs at [o]. The [g] is silent.

One has to separate it from the following sibilant sound to get a better sense of it.


BR: Nervous, cried [… down, and stayed in bed]

Nervous [stayed in bed] [nerv] comes at [n bed] with FS [d] providing the alveolar alternative of [n], and [b] providing sense of [v]. [s] comes at [st].

cried The initial is ambiguous. It may simply be [n], however, [c] is presented as a possibility. A sense of [r] occurs at [w].  [d] occurs at [d].


I have included here one from Burke’s 2016 interview with Dr Phil.

RS: Mom out there. Remember answer  

FS: The [first thing I remember is my Mom] bursting in my room really frantic saying like oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, running around my room looking for Jon Benet.

There is no [b] in “remember”, however I think this does not exclude it as the documented reversal.

This could either indicate coaching from his parents when he was a child, or refer to a self-rehearsed response to his mother. Note that other reversals may refer to his mother walking around while he was in his bedroom.


One gets from this the sense of someone (Mom?) walking around. Using the word [shit] with [Mom] could either refer to her feeling ‘pyscho’ at JonBenet missing, or alternatively, Burke’s unease that she was walking around that night. He does seem to say that (he?) is [nervous].

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