After my post on “Toy Story 3,” Jennifer Besser sent me a link to Nicole LaPorte’s piece on The Daily Beast about the creative culture at Pixar, which “operates like an atelier, nurturing artists and keeping them in the fold.”

I wasn’t familiar with the word “atelier,” so I punched up the app on my iPhone and typed in the word. Instantly, the definition popped up: “a workshop or studio, esp. of an artist, artisan, or designer.” I noticed a little speaker icon next to the phonetic spelling of the word. When I clicked it, a female voice pronounced “atelier” for me.

Now that’s cool.

Then I started wondering whether this was some great new speech software that combines syllabic sounds to form entire words — the kind Roger Ebert’s been crowing about — or did this voice talent have the sit in a studio and properly read thousands of words into a database? If so, she surely began with the simplest words, but how long before she got to words that only appear in the National Spelling Bee like, for example, “atelier”?

Anyone know?