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Consonants

Consonants

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Published by: api-25993079 on Oct 14, 2008
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English Phonetics:
Consonants (i)
1
1.1 Airstream and Articulation

Speech sounds are made by modifying an airstream. The air- stream we will be concerned with in this book involves the passage of air from the lungs out through theoral and nasal cavities (see \ufb01gure 1). There are manypoints at which that stream of air can be modi\ufb01ed, and severalways in which it can be modi\ufb01ed (i.e. constricted in some way). The \ufb01rst point at which the \ufb02ow of air can be modi\ufb01ed, as it passes from the lungs, is in thelarynx (you can feel the front of this, the Adam\u2019s apple, protruding slightly at the front of your throat; see \ufb01gure 1), in which are located the vocal folds (or vocalcords). The vocal folds may lie open, in which case the airstream passes through them unimpeded. Viewed from above, the vocal folds, when they lie open, look like this:

Open vocal folds
The vocal folds may be brought together so that they are closed,
and no air may \ufb02ow through them from the lungs:
English Phonetics: Consonants (i)
2
Closed vocal folds

One way in which the outgoing stream of air may be modi\ufb01ed is by applying a certain level of constant muscular pressure suf\ufb01cient to close the vocal folds along their length, but only just; the build- up of air pressure underneath this closure is suf\ufb01cient, given the degree of muscular pressure, to force that closure open, but the air pressure then drops, and the muscular pressure causes the folds to close again. The sequence is then repeated, very rapidly, and results in what is called vocal fold vibration. You should be able to feel this vibration if you put your \ufb01ngers to your larynx and produce the sound which is written as <z> in the wordhazy (although you will probably also feel vibration elsewhere in your head). Sounds which are produced with this vocal fold vibration are said to bevoiced sounds, whereas sounds produced without such vibration are said to bevoiceless.

To transcribe speech sounds, phoneticians use the International Phonetic Alphabet (the IPA: see \ufb01gure 2); the IPA symbol for the sound written <z> inhazy is [z]. You should be able to feel the pres- ence of vibration in [z] if you put your \ufb01ngers to your larynx and produce [z], then [s] (as inmiss), then [z] again: [z] is voiced, whereas [s] is voiceless. This distinction will constitute the \ufb01rst of three descriptive parameters by means of which we will describe a given consonantal speech sound: we will say, for any given conson- ant, whether it is voiced or voiceless.

1.2 Place of Articulation
We will refer to the points at which the \ufb02ow of air can be modi\ufb01ed
as places of articulation. We have just identi\ufb01ed the vocal folds as

a place of articulation; since the space between the vocal cords is referred to as the glottis, we will refer to sounds produced at this place of articulation asglottal sounds. There are many other places of articulation; we will identify a further seven.

Firstly, sounds in which the air\ufb02ow is modi\ufb01ed by forming a con-
striction between the lower lip and the upper lip are referred to as
bilabialsounds. An example is the \ufb01rst sound inpit.
English Phonetics: Consonants (i)
3
A bilabial sound: the \ufb01rst sound inpit

Secondly, sounds in which there is a constriction between the lower lip and the upper teeth are referred to aslabio-dental sounds. An example is the \ufb01rst sound in\ufb01t.

A labio-dental sound: the \ufb01rst sound in\ufb01t

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