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DAN  MATE-EBeU 
ENGLISH  PHONETICS 
AND 
PHONOLOGICAL THEORY 
20
th 
Century Approaches 

Edi,tlllra  Universitlit
ii 
din 
2003  -
Referentiotiintifici; Com.dr.:IleanaBaCiu
• < •
Conf.dr.AndreiA.Avram
.::;
10ErutumUniversitllf;;dinBucur-e¢
$05.Panduri,90-92,Bucure:lti-76235;TelefonIFax:410.23.84
E-mail:editUra@unibuc.ro
Internet:www.editura.unibuc.ro
Tebnoredactare romputerizati.: Victoria lacob
Deserierea CW • Nationale
I
MATEESCU,DAN
English phODotiO aDd pbODOlogiaJ an.lIT- 20·tb
century I DM Mateescu
I
  Univci.sifApi din Bucnre¢.
I
2002
208p.
Bibliogr.
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ISDN973·;75-670-6
SlLlll'34
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JJ
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Heavenandearthshallpassaway, butmywordsshallnotpass
away.(Matthew,24,35)
fI
PaloDins:Whatdoyouread,mylord?
Hamlet:Word.'!,words,words(Hamlet, n,2)
[J
The other (project) was a scheme for entirely abolishing all
wordswhatsoever: andthiswasurgedas agreatadvantageinpointof
healtha< well asbrevity.For, itisplain, thateverywordwe.<peak: is
1
in.some degree a diminution of our lungs by corrosion; and
consequentlycontributestotheshorteningofourlives. Anexpedient
Walttheo:efore offered, that since words are only names for things, it
[I
willbemoreconvenientforallmentocanyaboutthem, suchthings
were necessary to express the particnlar business they are to
discourseon.(Swift,Gulliver's Travels. A Voyage ta BaInibarbi)
II
Laparole a ete donnee al'homme pour deguiser sapensee.
(Talleyrand)
I
The Bystanders generaUy: He wants promotion, he does.
Takingdownpeople'swords.
TheGentl==Howdoyoudothat,ifImayask? 
,I
The Note Taker: Simply phonetics. The science ofspeech.
That's my profession: also my hobby. Happy is the man who can

I
(G.B.Shaw,Pygmalion, I, 1)
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CONTENTS
;- Ack:lI.QwledgemeJ1is  ............ ......... , ••.... ".w••••• w."..........u ......  3 " ... ......................w_ •••• 
Chapter1:IntroductloR................................................................................. .. 13
1.1.Language- 8.fundamentaldirnenaionofourexistence ..........._ 13
1.2. The lostparadise ofthe original linguistic unit;y. The Babel
mythandsubsequentnostalgia..........,._..•....... ,  ...... _ .....  w_......  ..  15
1.3. Language as  sound  andmeaning. The linguistic sign.
mmddeSaussureandLouisHjelmsJev ._.......................... _.... 17
1.4.Languageintheprocessof COl)llIllmication .•.....•..•.•••.•............. 24
1.5.Ll!I1gUageandwriting .............................................................. 27
Cbnpter2: Artlcula/;)ry. AlIdit<Jry amiAcoustic Phonetics. PllOnology  ..... 33
2.1.Phoneticsandphonology......................................................... . .33
2.2.Articulatoryphnnclic. ............................................................. . 35
2.3.Auditoryphnnetics.................................................................... 43
2.4.Acousticphonetics.................................................................... 47
2.5.Synchronic,diachronic,comparativephonology..•................_. 54
2.6.  Vaneties of English. The intern.tional .pread of Engli.h.
Regional variation. Accents. StmdardEnglish and Received
Pronunciation.. .._ .....    ••••••, .......... 54 _ ................w ••••• ,._.... • _ ......._
2.7. SoundChange. The  gnp betweenspelling and pronunciation.
The lntEmoJ:ilmal PbonotiJ: j\lphabet. Homonyms., homo-
phones,homogruphs....._....__................................._ ......_ ... ....... 59
Chapter3, The Soumis of Englblt.  COlUDnants  ana Vowek  An Artieu-
lirtbry CIossf/iC<tlio" andJ)escripwm. Acoustic Correloies  .."...... 63
3.1. Consonants mid  Vowels. Traditional distinctions. Chomsky
andHalle'sSPBdefinition ..........................._..............•.•........ 63
32. Criteria fur  consonant classification. Vocal cord vibration.
Sonority .•.....••......•••.•• : ............................................................  .  66
3.3.MannerofarticulatiOlLPlosives.Fricative •.Affricates...•.•...... 67
3.4. Sonorants.Th.Approxinumts:glidesandliquids ................... . 69
3.5.OralandnasaJarticulation ........................................................ 70
3.6.ForceofartiClllatian....................__............,.............,_ ................ 70
3.7,PlaceofarticuJn1ion..................., .............................................. 7]
3.8.The DescriptioDofEngJishcou.sonanrs ......,.....................,...."". 74
7

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74
81
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77
D.TheF..ngJjshAifricates .............__...__.................. __................ 85
t

Chapter 4: The  Vowelll  of Ehglal..  AN  ArticNkrIury CJ_flCIdiol1. 
Acoustic  Correlates.  Tl..  Pescription  _ DislriJJJlIinn  of 
.. English MotlOpllthongs cmdPiphthongs  .:..:................................. . 89
4.LTheVowels:Critnria furClitssification .................................... 89
t
4.2.TheCardinalVowelCbru1s ..............__..... __............................... 94
-
4.3. EngJisb VoWels. The descciptiollanddistribution ofBIlgllsh
monophthl>ngsllJ1ddiph1l:uJngs ................................................ 98
A- BIlg:l:ishsimple1'Owels ..,..................................................... 98
..BIlgllshli'ontllowels ....................................................... 98
h. BIlg:l:ishba<:kvowels ..... ,............................................... lOO
..;
'1
c- Englishcentralvowels ......................_.......................... 102
f
B.BIlg'lishdiphthongs .................................._........................ 104
..('.en!ringdiphthongs ...................,................................... !O5
b.Dipbtbongstofv ...................................................... 107
...
c.Dipbtbollflsto/ul .................................................... 108
C.Englishlripbtbongs.....................'"..................................... 109
.
Chapter S:  .PltonologiJ:nJ  sUuc.iJne:  Tile 1'Iwneme  _ its uIIophones. 
,
-
f
SegmenJal spec!ft::JUjon'  Distinctive FI!IJW:res  in -various phunl)- . 

/QgiJ:nJ llU!ories  ............................................................................... III
5.1. .lndividual. sounds classesofsounds.Thephoneme and
w' 
itscontrastivefuncuon .................  _ .. _ ....... ...._,.. .. ...w •••••••••••  111
i
5.2.Allopb<:roes. Complementarydistributionandfreevariation : 114
5.3.Thepbooologicalidiosyru;rnsyof/ingulst:icsystl:ms............. . 116
5.4.Jlroatiand:rum-owtranscription ._........................................ .. 118
w
5.5.Segmenlalilildsupra'regntelllalphonemes .............................. 118
5.6. m:i:.limsl!lIlitoflingulst:icilIlal......isto1he<\nmd/e of
:1
distmctivateatures..........................._........................_.......... 119
5.7.JakobsonandHalle'sfeatoresystem ................................... .. 123
L
5.8. ClIDmskyandHalle'si!istiru;tive:teatw:os .............................. . 126
i
5.9.LaLlefuged'sfualuresystmn .................................................. .. 132
5.10. The·use<offeatures for segmenlalspecification arid for tile
desoriptionofpbollillogicalprocesses.........._....... :........., ...... 138
......
:1
Cb"Pl<!r 6: Se;:mental clumge:  ill! ou/line ofsume of the 1/I0>t common 
1'11lmDIogicIJiprocesses  .................................................................. 141
6.1. iloundsinCOllnectedspeech.Coatticulallan............................. 141
 
;1 
6,2.FeztnreChanges.As.similation.Dif.ferenttypesofassimilation- 143
63.Voicinganddevoicing-.-.. ..-......................•, ...-......... 144
6.4.Nasalization .............................................................................. 146
1,,,-,::
8
6.5.Palatalization ............................................................................
149
6.6. L£1liIlOl1S lH1dfortitions ............,................................................
152
6.7.Delitionsand insertions'........................................................_."'
154
6.8.Metatlresis .................................................................................
157
Chapter7:lJe}'IJ1Ul ilie seglni!nI.· SyUnbI. !drUeture in Ellglis/,  ....................
7.1.  The Syllable; a furu:lam<mtal phouologioal unit in any
159
lIlI!guage.A tenmtilledefinition.............................................. .
159
7.2. Thestructureofthe->yllable.PhonotactieCllll&trafuts.............. .
162
7.3Theimportanceofsegmentalsonorityforlbe->yllablestructure
171
7.4.Coustraiotsononsets •··............ .•__••...".h.......__._............_.••,.
173
7.5.Constraintsoncoda.< ................................................................
177
7.6.Syllabicconsonants. Non-vocalicnuclei ..................................
182
7.-7. SyllabificationinEnglish .........................................................
182
Chapter8: Supra.vegnreJJLa/ PIIOROInW: Stress, Rf,ytltm, lntonatwn  ..........
8.!.StessIlIld prominencc: Thepbonemic(COlltn!Stive) functionof
187
stress........................................................................................
8.2. Free stress and fixe,d stress. The predictability ofaccentual
187
patterns ....................................................................................
189
8.3.Metricpaltems........................., ................................................
190
8.4.MOIphologicalprocessesandstress ..................................
191
8.5.Primaryand secondarystrcss....................................................
192
8.6. Weakandstrongfonns.
193
8.7. Rhythm ....................................; .............................................. ..
194
8.8.Intonationalcontoun;.ThcirP"'!:1lllrticvalue ..........................
195
l1lbliogT<pi.y  .....................................: .............................................................
199
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

It has long been a custom to prefix to any product of our rrrind 

a long (if not altogether endless) list of grateful thanks to the people 
  ~
who have assisted the author in bringing the respective work into the 
world.  However long  the  list  may  be,  the  author  is  usually  careful 
1
and  cautiously  adds  that  if someone  was  left  out,  this  was  only 
because ofan unexplainable and unpardonable slip of the memory or 
because,  if  exhauStive,  the  list  would  never  end,  indeed. 
Consequently,  excuses  are  made  in advance  to  prevent reactions  as  I 
that  of the  evil  (because  disgruntled)  fairy  in the  famous  Sleeping 
Beauty  story.  The  list  is  also  an  opportunity  of  displaying  the 
numerous intellectual affinities that the authors have and a wonderful 

occasion  of  introducing  their  family  to  the  potential  . reader, 
undoubtedly ignorant of the author's luck of having such unique and 
wonderful people around. 
I
Though my intellectual and emotional debts are as great as  any 
person's,  I  would :rather  not  begin  by thanking  Plato  and  my  great-
grandparents for their contnlmtion in shaping my rrrind  or my being. I 
will  mention  only three  persons  to whom I  feel  immensely indebted 

not only for their help  during the various stages in the composition of 
this book, but also for the fact tha(they have always stood by me "in 
my  most need"  as  Knowledge  allegedly  stands  by Everyman.  I  am 

grateful to professor Alexandra Comilescu for  her constant affection, 
generous  friendship  and  uninterrupted  guidance;  to  professor  ileana 
Baciu for her friendship,  encouragement and advice;  and last, but not 

least,  to  Andrei  A.  AvraIn  for  being  a  living  proof  that  selfless 
friendship, nobility of character and intellectual excellence can coexist 
in the same person. 


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CHAPTER 1
INTRObUcn:ON
1.1.  Language':'- a fundamental dimension ofour
existence
Thestudyof!an,,"Uage haS been11   O l L ~ preoccupationwith
moreorlessprofessionalresearchersforthousandsof years.Sincethe
earliest times, much before the birth of linglli<>tics as a distinct
scholaIly diBcipline, people have been'aware ofthe essential role
1anguage plays not only in their evtnyday life, but also as a
clJaracteristic :feature  of mankind,  radically differe.ntiating huwan
beings from other species of the animal kingdom. The earliest
religiousorsacredtextsrecordtheimportancegivenby ourancestors
to language andtheirconsciousness ofthefuet thathumanexistence
itselfcannot be conceived ofoutside the domain oflanguage. Ifwe
weretorefuronlyto the biblical tradition, tile,verybeginningofthe
BOOK of the Genesis recordsthefact thatthe act ofcreationitselfis
intimatelyfuJked tospeech.TheC!e.!Itionoflighiisachievedthrougha
speechactwhileallthesubsequentstages of creationareprecededby
God'sfommJatingHisideaabout whatHewas goingtoachieve, the
creation proper only taking place,a.fu:r God pronounces the magic
furtnula: "Let thcre be... "I  The newly created realities need names
and God,  explicitly satisfied  with His work, duly proceeds to the
naming ofHis world. Creationis therefore preceded by, perl'onned
through, and followed by, a linguistic expression, which thus
anticipates, mate1ializ"sandcompletesit After thecreationofman,
1 "AndGodsaid'Letfuerebelight'andthe",W311Iighi" __ .»AndGodsaid
'Letthem be a firmamJmt'...All1I  God  madethe finnamenL__All1I  God CI1I1ed the
fi:rmameJJtHoav""n(Genesis,I,4.6,7,8)
13 
God createdthe other living.creatures and askedmanto find names
forthenL2 ThusAdam, whoisroade"iotheimageof God"takes over
from Him the important role of iostitutiog realities by means·of
language. The very act  ofcreationcannotconsequentlybe separated
from that ofnaming whatever has come to have existence, sioce
without a name the newly created realities don't achieve a full 
ontological status. The  Gospel of Saint John notoriously begins by.
equatingthedivioecreatorof theuniversewiththe"word",theGreek
wordlogos (word) beiogactuallya synonymfor God(moreprecisely
for one ofthe Persons iothe Trinity, His son, Jesus ChriSt), for the
source ofwhatever exists.' The essence of themythseemsthusto be
.tha1thewholeworldaroundusis language-basedand thatlangoageis
actually the very source ofthe existence ofthe wbole universe. A
universe outside language, a universe wbere realities .don't have
names,seemstobeanutterimpossibility.
The fact  that lan"auage acts as a fundamental link  between
oUrselvesandtheworldaroundusand thatiotheabsenceof language 
ourrelationtotheUniverseandtoourfellowsisdramaticallyimpaired
issomethingthatpeoplehavebeen(a11eastiotoitively)awareof since
thebeginning ofhistory. Suffice itto mentionthat different coltures
seemtoassociate speechproblemswithiotellectualdeficiencies. See,
for example,·the meaniog ofdunib (stupid) in English orthe pretty
similar situation ofwords like ''brubllit'' or ''fonf'ioRomanianThe
originoflan"ouage(believedto bedivineiomostancientcoltures),the
relationbetweenlanguage andthinking, the questionif wecantbiok
withoutthehelp oflanguage(andif wecan,whatkind ofthinkingis
that), the manner io which human beings (who are not, obviously,
bornwiththe abilityto speak, but·have, however, anionatecapacity
2 "Andoutofthegroundthe LordGod·furrnedeverybeastofthefield, and
everyfowlof tim air; andbroughtthemlIDtoAdHmtosee_ hewouldcall them:
and  whatsoever  Adam  culled  every  living  creature,  that  was  the n   m ~ thereof'" 
(Genesis,2,19) .
3 "In the beginningwas the Word, andthe Word was with God, andthe
Wordwas God. TheWordwasin the beginningwith God. Allthethingsweremade
by him;andwithoulhimWlISnatanythingmadethat wasmade"(John, 1,1-3)
-, 

for langUage acquisition) come, with an amAzing rapidity, to 
SIlccessfullyuse language, beginningwiththeveryfirst stages of their 
existence(theaCquisitionof languageactuallyparallelsthebirthof the 

child's self-conSciousness and the latter can hardly be imagioed 
withouttheformer)havepuzzledresearchersforcenturiesandnoneof 
these questions has actoally received a satisfactory and universally 
I
acceptedanswer.
I
1.2. The lost paradise of the original linguistic
unity. The Babel myth and subsequent
nostalgia

Scientists and students of language have been confronted, 
sioeetheearliesttimes,withanapparentparadox:ontheonehand,the 

diversity of the languages spoken all over the world (several 
thousandsareknown)isreallyimpressive, onthe otherhand, iospite 
of the enormous differences among human idioms, they display 

striking and  fhndmnental similarities. To quote agaio the biblical 
tradition,thefamous legendof theBabeltowerspeaksaboutaunique, 
origioallangoage,spokenby thefirstgenetationsofhumans.(Genesis, 
I
11). It was only God'sjealousyandHis fear thathuman beiogs, if 
united, couldreallysucceediotheirattemptofbuildinga towerthat 
should reach heaven, representing thus a real and very dangerous 
I
challenge to divioe powerthat put an endto the golden age ofthe 
lioguistic unity ofmankind.
4
No longerspeakingthe sameidiomand 
failing thus to understand one another and to SIlccessfully 
I
co=unicate among them, humanbeiogs ceased to be a significant
threatto God. Their·languageis"confounded"andtheyare"seattered
upontheface ofallthe earth". The unitaryvision ofthe universe of
I
the golden age waS  thus lost forever and the uniiyiog and coherent
I
4 "And the Lord said 'Behold, the people fu one and  they have one
language... and now nothing  will be restrained from them, which they have
imaginedtodo. Go to, letUS  go down, andthereconfuundtheirlanguages, thatthey
may notunderstandone. anothera speecb'  <l  (Genesis,  II, 6-7) 

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image and understanding af!heworld aroUlld us wasreplaced by  a
kaleidoscopic,multi-celouredone.
5
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Otb.e.mess has not always been a source ofCQ!WCl:ll or of
nostalgiafurthelostunity.It .has oftenbeenassumedtorepresentthe
mark  of orunistakab1e identity, the basis ofproud superiority in
relation to !he oiliers. The ancient Greeb_considered their own
language as ilie supreme manifesta.tion af human :intellect  and the
mostappropriatetool:for undetstimdingand copingwiththeuniverse.
The other nations, speaking languages different from  Greek  were
called "barbarian".Linguisticdifference(andhypotOOtica1sUperiority)
was thus thefoundation ofnational pride, theve.ty essenceofwhat
made their_ruct:i:on distinct from and  better ethan the others. The
etymologyof theworditselfappartlIltlyleadsustoa rootmeaning"to
stammer". Tlw foreigner wasiliensomeoneunable to speakproperly,
hisidiomwasanimpertectvehicleforhumanilieught

The inilie[lISthaIf of the20thcentury,of creating- an
arti:ficial language, universally spoken (esperamo) was jn fact a
reflectionof theancientBabelmyth,anexpression-ofilienostalgiafor
ilie lostonitaIyworldof iliebeginnings. Thedivine    seemedto
be, however, still very powerful and initial eniliusiasm soon gave
place to discouragement infrout ofilie obvious failure ofilie whole
enterprise,confrontedwithenormousdifficulties.
The Babel "syndrome" also manifested itself when,
errthusiasticaboutthediscoveriesofcomparativelinguistic;;atthe end
u
of the 19 • century and havingcollectedirrefutable evideucethat the
!i  as Umberto Eco remarks in a documented study deYoted to
the "utopia ofaperfuctlanguage", the diversi1;Y oflruxnan languages-llJldeven
races -had  alreody been !lllIDtiou.e<lin aprevious chapter ofthe GenesiS and
should Dot neccssa.ci1y be viowed as au expression of divine punishment and
constitute • sou"", offrustration. As  Boo point! out (Eco, 7.002), Dl.ready in 
Genesis 10,5, • linguistic andtribal distinctioni. eslRhlishedby God; "By tlrese
were theisles ofthe Gentiles dividedin their lands; everyone afterhi. tongue,
aftertheirfamilies,in tbeirnations.

0:   tlutin an interesting Te\fer'Sal .of fhe :in  modtnn
timesGreekispecceiwdassomesoitof exotic,inCOII!prel!eDBiblelanguage.See,for
mstmcetheEnglish"){]JTession: "!hm'sGreektoIlle"or!heSpanishworn"gringo"
which isapparently"cOlTIlptedfurmofgriego =Greek.
16
history of many languagesspokenonearthcouldbetracedbackto a
relatively reduced 1lJIlIlber ofproto-languages (the rtudy ofTndo-
European seemed  to yield .very- encouraging rc:.'Illts) many people
believed that  scientists rulght go eveu :further back in history  and
discoverthe original unique language of mythical timesmuchinthe
same way in which paleontologists l1J8JJIlged to ":reCPustru:ct" -the
skeletonsof ofmanyan'extinet-speciesstartingfroma
fewscafuJJ:edbones.
7
- TIle beliefofmany20
th
centorylinguistsintheexistenceofa
"universalgt'l!ll:!InaJ:'andtheireffortsto(re)constructitatealsointhe
traditionof thelI!1Cientbelief thatlnunanbeingsusedtospeakoneand
ilie sarnelanguageandthatilielanguages wehavetodayate t\l.."toally
"splinters" ofilie original one, apparently lost for ever. Striking
fimdamentalsimilaritiesamongvariousJinguisticsystemscontinueto
panmoxlcallycoexistwithirreducible
1.3.  Language as sound and meaning. The
linguisticsign
If poop1e have been long intuitively awaxe ofthe twofold
mrture  of language. (in other -words of ilie fact that when we
communicate through language we' actually use sozmds to convey
meanings), itwasthe Swiss1in!"ui,,-tFerdinanddeSaussurewhofirst
gavea coherentand  scientificintfl!:pretationofiangIlllge as a system
ofsigns. fuSaussure'stheory, linguistic signs have a dnal structure,
thetwosidesoftile signbeinginextricablylinked(themetaphorthe
Swisslinguistusesisthat  ofa"sheet of paperthe_two sidesof which
1 Thereiscurrently""'Ystronggenetic evideuceaboutthoamazingunityof
allllJnnmkiud. Geneticists lliat in"I'm. offueapparentdiversityof
theropn:seubltives"fmsnlcjndllviDJ!invsri"""parIS of1heworld,all hUlllaRbeings
display a 1'fl1IIlIIkably common genetic that elUl  be traced back to  a
reducedJIIllllberofindMdnals,originallylivingin Afii<;a. Tl:Ushas beencontrasted
to the gOWltic <fur..-.i1;Y ofnthor onin:wl species, such as apes. We mayvery well
presume,then, lliat thesefureJidhe:rl; ofall lmmaos spokea CUlJ1lllOI1language,much
jil;uin thebiblicalmythw1llcbthus.eemstohavestrong8l1pJlortin realJ1;Y.
17
••
are practicaJ1y  inseparable). For Saussure,  any linguilllic sign is made 
up  of a signifumt iEn.,aUsh:  signifier). tIu!t is an "acoulllic ima"ae"  (the 
phonolol.,>ical  "skeleton"  of  the  word)  and  a  signifie (English: 
signified), or a concept, to which the respective acoustic image sends.' 
Vile  shoUld not mistake, however, Saussures's" image acoustiqne" for 
the real sourids  we produce when we utter a .word.  The Swiss linguist:-
himself  warns  against  possible  misinteI]lCCtations  of  his' theory. 
In  spite  of being  mare  «concrete»  1ban  the  cancept,  the  acoustic 
image  is  primarily  a  pSYChologic  and  not  a  material  reality,  which 
is  proved,  he  argues,  by  the  £act  tIu!t  we  C/lll  speak  to  ow:selves 
without  actUally  articulating  the  words  whose  aconstic  image  is  only 
present in our mind.' 
Two  are  the  essential  feafures  of  the' linguistic  sign  in 
Sa:ussure's  opinion:  its  arbitrariness  and  the linearity of the  signifier. 
The  "arbitrariness"  of the  linguistic  sign  has  been  one  of the  most 
fiunoll5  and heatedly debated of Sanssnre'ScQI1cepts.  What he aebJally 
understands  by the  arbitr.n:iness  of the sign is the arbitrariness  of the 
relation  holding  between  its  constituent  Parts.  the  signifier  and  the 
signified.  'This  link  is  arbill:aty  in .the  sense  that there  is no  reason 
whatsoever  for  which  a  particular  string  of  sounds  should  be 
associated  with  a  certain  meaning.  On  the  other  hand,  S!!JlSSUIe 
cautiously  wm:ns  against  any  mislll1derstanding  of biB  te:rminology. 
The  associstion  between  the  acoustic  image  and  the  concept  is
arbitrllr-y in  the  sense  that  it lacks motiva1imL; it is  not  arhitrmy, 
however,  in  the  scMe  t!wt  it  depends  Dn  the  free.  choice  of the 
speakers.  In reality,  he  argues,  we  have  the  veIy opposite  sitnstion: 
once  this  association  established,  it  becomes  immutable; that  is  it 
cannot  be  changed.  Langn.ages  tend to  be  VeIy  conservative  systems 
and  it is not up to 'any  ofthe speakers in a linguistic commlllJity, and, 
indeed,  not  even  to  the  eritire  collectivity  itself;  to  clIange  the 
association  between  the  sigtiifiers  and the. sigcifif',ds  in the  Jan.,nuage 
.  Ii  *Le sig;n.e  linguistique unit non un.e rooSt: et un noIO, mats un concept et
une image acoUJ1rique."  (SalW;u:re: 1965 :  98) 
9"(L'image RCaustique) n'cst pas Ie son lJllItenel, chose puremeut physique, 
mm.  l'empreinte  psycbique  de  ce  son,  la reprtsenmtion  que  nons  en  donne  Ie 
temoignage de. nos sens.
d
(Sauasure: 1965 :98) 

they  use.  For  any  linguilllic  community  language  is  somethihg 
inherited,  functioning  on  the  basis  of I""""  which  the  users  of the 
language cannot modify.  Ibis doesn't mean,  of course, 1bat languages 

are  fossilized  systems,  .given  Once  and  for  all.  The  changes  they 
undergo, however, take place over long periods of time and it is only,,-
historical  perspective  thai  enables  U5  tn  identify  and  analyze  these 

changes.  Even  so,  no  linguistic  change  C/lll. be  ·given  a  "birth 
certificate"  where the  eli:.act  time  of its  coming  into  being  and  those 
who "fafh.ered" it are mentioned.10 

As fur as  the arbitrariness  of the  linguistic  sign is  concemed, 
two are,  accordi.ng to the Swiss linguist, the situations in which We  can 
talk  about  some  sort  of ·match  between the  acoustic  image  and  the 

concept it is associated with: the onoma:topoeias and the exclamations. 
Within the  fIrst  category,  Saussure  distinguishes  between words th!lt 
contain  suggestive  sounds  ("des  sonorites  suggestives")  which  can 

very well be the haphazaid result of phonetic changes,  and "gennine" 
  in the  of which we can also  speak only about an 
approximate  and  partly  conventiional  imitation  of  the  sounds  in 

nature.  As  for' what  he  calls  eKclamations  (mteljections),  their 
varia:tion,  if we  compare  different  languages,  proves that  we cannot 
actually  tn1k about  motivation.  And  even  if we  admit  that the  two 
I
categories  mentioned  above :represent  special situations,  their limited 
rromber  and ml!rginal position in the language  will not allow them in 
be considered significant exceptions to the general rule. 
I
As pointed OIIt  above;  Saussure's postulation of the notion  of 
arbitrariness sparlred a great deal ofcontroversy.  The relation between 
the sounds that make up the word and the meaning that word has was 
[
not, of courne,  a  Sllbject that the  Swiss  linguist analyzed for the :first 
time.  As early  as  in Plato'8  dialogue  Craty/()s. Socrates  asks  if the 
names  we  use  for  things  are  selected so  that they  correspond  to  the 
f
nature  of the  things  they  refur  to  or  if this  selection  is  entirely 
10 "A n'imp"""  quelle  opaque  et  si baut  que  nous  re:tllDmiOnS,  1.  langue 
apparaIt tonjattrS  comme un bCtitage  da  l'epoque precedenre. L'acre par leque],  a un 
II 
moment donne,  les IIlDIS senUcm distributs  Rill(  cllos.., par 1_1 un e<mtmt  secait 
passe  entre  105  concepts  et les  inJages  acoustiques  - cet  actc,  DOUS  pouvaDS  Ie 
concevoir, llltlis il n'ajaznals <ill! tonstare. "  (S=: 1965 :98) 

19 
If' 



J
arbitrary.  While  Cralylos  supports  the  first  point  of  view, 
Hennog=es, SOcTates' othednterlocutar favours ilie second one. The 
philoSQpher  do"sn't. explicitly opt far any offu" alternati:ves,  offering 
:instead a number of more,ar less doubtful etymologies.  The notion of 
arbitrariness  ali  lack. of  motivation  postulated  by  Saussure  was 
subsequently refined by 1i.nguists. It was argued·that there is some sort· 
of motivation  in the  .use of any  lexical  item.  What  we  should talk
;I
about  w :rather  fJ:urt this· motivation  can  have  dtlferent  degrees  of 
obviousness.  A dtlfenmce  was  established  between  absolute. or
... 
cxttmlal motivation, lying in the very nature of the acoustic image tbat 
somehow  suggests  the  meaning  of the  word,  a  case  illustrated by
 
onomatopoeic words and interjwtions (Saussure's objection that there 

1
are  differences  between various J.an.,auage5  - in order to express pain, 
for  instance,  a  Romanian will  say "au" while an English.man willsay 
1
rather  "ouch",  the  word  that  is  used to  iuuMe  a  dog's  barking is
- "ham"  in  Romanian,  "woof' in English  and  "oua" in French - was 
dismissed  ali  irrelevant)  and relative  or inl:=al motivation where the
:.
...
meaning  of the  word can be  analyzed  starting  from  its  structure in
which  case  we  can.' talk  about  morpho\ogk.al,  semantic  or  phonetic 
motivation.The  morphological  structure  of  derived  and compound 
;I
-
words  ean thus  offer  a  clue  to  their  meaningY  Since we know,  fur 
instance the meaning  of both the word home and the  suffix -less we 
will be able' to  analyze the meaning of homeless. Compounds will be a 

more  difficult  ease  smce  some  of them  are,  indeed,  semantically 
t:ranspar=t _ everybody will be able to understailll that a taxi drive:r is 
someone  who  drives  ·a  taxi,  and a  hothouse is  some  sort  of 
cOl1lltruetion  where  a  high  temperatore  is  preserved  inside' - oilier
....
:I 
compounds  are opaque, b1.nce obvioUJlly" hot dog is not a dog that.is 
hot and  a  Ted herring is not  a  red fish. Even in such  Cases  it CIlll  be 
argued  that  an  eiy!llological  analysis  of the  word  can. lead  to  a
...
successful  inl:crpretation of the  word -as  it  will uncover  the  semantic 
:'. 

"'"  II It should be noticed, however,  tba! such analyses  account for Ihe W:rj ill
which  tile  word  was  fanned  (derived  or  compounded),  but  Ihe  ultimate 
componen:ts oftho word free n:i.Orpbemes  or:affixes - still remain umnotivated in
,# 
tbe Sanssuriall sense. 
:1
2(1
changes  the  word  underwent.  Thus  a  word  tlmt  was  fozmed  on  the 
basis  of a  metaphor  becomes  a  fossiliZed  expression  and  the  initial 
motivation is'lost.  Phonetic changes  also  alter the  structure  of words 
and again initial  motivation is lost It is  difficult  for  an Englislunan 
who  is  ignorant  of the  etymology  of the  word  to  link the: modern 
English word rely to  the  Latin Tcligare and to  see that it is related to 
rally too. The motivation is also lost jfsome words are not inherited or 
. are  lost  in the history of a  Ianguage.  Any Romanian will understand 
the  word  oie:r (,shepherd) as  referring  to  someone  taking  care  of oi
(s/wep, plural), while its synonympticurar will not be easily related to 
the  Latin word pecora (sheep)  as  tins  word  was not  inherited  in
Romanian. An inteJ;eSting l?ut  somehow opposite  caSe,  will be thafof 
the  so-called  "folk  etYmologies"  which  represent  attempts  of  a 
linguistic'  community  to'  aSsign  some  sort  of  motivation  to  an 
otherwise  opaque  fomJ by  modi:fY.ing- the  phonetic  structure of the 
word and making it similar to other words in the language.  Thus  the 
French  word  ecrevisse becamtl cray fish in English.  An interesting 
ease  ill the  ung:ramriIatical  :furm  tran(s)versa instead  of  traversa
(cross), a word ofPrench origin (traverser) in Romanian. 'Ibc word ill
mispronounced  by  analogy  with  other  Latinate  words  in Romanian 
where the pre;fix trCUlS (across) appears. However, in this way the real 
origin  of the  word  is uncovered,  smce  it was  initially  formed  from 
  and 1I1!.rSllS.
The second essential  feature that  defines  the  sign and that is 
IliscllllSlld  by  is  the  linearity  of the  signifier.  By  this,  the 
Swiss  lingmsts  U!ldeJ::,lands  ffiiifliOi:1i in  articulatoy  terms  and  in 
auditory ones the signifier is ebaraCnmzed  by duration.  This duration 
is unidimensional and is conventionally represented as a line including 
the  successive mOrot::rl!s  in time. It takes time to  utter a word and it 
takes  time  to  perceive  and  'QIlderstand  it.  The producing  and  the 
analysis  of the  signifier  are  procesies  that  unfold  in  time,  that  are 
made up of  successive  stages:  On  the  contrary,  the  signified  is
something  of which we  have  an  instan:taneons  perception.  We 'tan 
compare this  to  am perception of visual  signs which is simultaneous 
and multidimensional.  This is more  obvious,  SaussllTe  argues,  if we 
21
tilink  of tile  written  aspect  of languages.  Jwy writing  convention  is, 
indeed, based on tile principle of linearity. 
Ferdinand  de  Sl!l.lS.rore's  COUTS de linguistique, generaJe
(published a couple ofyears after his death, ill 1915) by several of his 
students,  marked  a  turning point in the historY  of modern  . 
find  his  themy of tile  linguistic  sign  (tilough ninch refined  by  otiler' 
linguists)  remained  a  cornerstone  fur  all  subsequent  tileories  of 
reference.  It is partica.darly relevant for understanding the  importance 
and role of phonetics  amOng  ofuer linguistic  disciplines.  As  we  sb.all 
see  la1er,  since  phonetics  is concerned with tile  study of soullI:lS•.inl 
doIllJl:in is clearly iliat oftile signifi
ant
.
Another  linguist's  contn1iution  to  tile  underntandillg  of tile 
linguistic  sign  is particularly relevant  for  am discussion:  the  Danish 
linguist  LOllis  I:!jcl:mslcv,  the  most outstmding representative  of tile 
glossemstic school.  Hjelmslev,  too,  descnlle.s  the linguistic  sign as  a 
binary reelity.  He distinguishes  between tile  leveIs  of <rrpression and 
  ro'!Wy to.  SausS!rr:f

sigriified,
respectively.  f.notiler  essential  dichotOIny  Hjcl:mslev  uses,  starting 
-frC;m  predecessor,  is  tilat between substance and form.
The  linguistic  sign,  he  argues,  is  not  just  the  relstion  between  a 
siguifier and a signified, but tile relation between expression fonn and 
content  fuIIIL  The  tenninology. used  can  be  misleading  and  it  is 
necessary to point out thatform is Ilnderstood, ill tilis view, as tile way 
in which  a  language  structures  the  continuum  represented  by  what 
B;j ehuslev  ealls sense at botil the expresslon and  content level.  Each 
12
form thus established is necessarily assoCiated with IfUbstance.

u:  Criticizing.Snussure's  tileory.that stresses the importance  of  fornt a.o.; an 
ideal reality, organizilig a  snbstllDOO ("0_ combinaisOn"  i. e. between 
the  signifier- 3l1d tbe  signified  produit me forme,  non  une  Satl.'lSllI'e., 
Ciwrs, p.  157).  Hjelmslev  _  it,  by  pointing  out Ibst we  Cl!ll  spcllk not only 
aboot  a  necessary  solidarity  between  ""P""',ian  and  content,  but,  at  each  lovaL 
about  an  equally necessm:y  solidarity between  form  and substance.  By. segmenting 
!be  continuum  of sense  at  each  level  - expression  and  content,  respectively  - a 
language  creates form:'!  necessario/ associated wifu substlmee  and  by that very fact 
fonu and substBnce depend an each other. "La fonc:tion semrotique est en elle-m&ne 
uno  solidnriti: expression  at contMII sant solidllires  et!le presupposent run I'autre. 
Une  expression n'est expreSSion  que parce  qU'el1e  est:  l'expression  conteou.  et 
.1 

We  can  iIlustrnte  Hjcl:mslev's  tileOIy  by  concrete  examples 
pertaining  to  wbat  he  calls  tile  level  of expresslon  and  the  level  of 
content respectively.  Both English and Romanian,  fur  instance,  have 
]] 
fi:o;nt vowels. The fuct fuat .English has four front vowel phonemes and 
&it Ro;:;';;:;;an has  only two is a result of the different ways in which 
the  two  language-systems  structure  the  same  expression  continuum 
II 
(sense. ill I:!je1mslev's terminology). Each/arm (phoneme ill our case) 
:is necessarily associated with a  certain phonetic substance. All hturIall 
beings  have  the  same anatomical  features,  but while  an  Engli,hm.an 

will tell you that he has ten toes and tenfingers a Romanian will speak 
about his twenty degete. Again,  a  different  segmenting  operates, this 
time attheconceptoallevel (tile level ofcontent), in tile two bmguage-

systems,:respectivelyY  The  idea that in any system  represented by a 
language  we .deal  with  di:l'furent  segmentations  of  an  amorphous 
continuum  at .bo1h  the  level  of expreSsion  and  at  that  of furm  is 

I
un  cOntenu  n'est  cOl'ltcnu  que parce  qu'iI  est  contenu  d'lmC  expression.#.  Si  nous 
oonservons  la terminoJogie  de  Saussilrc, it DOllS  Iaut aIors  bien  vojr - et e'est' ainsi 
qu'jJ  limt comprerulre  son point de we - que la substance depend exclusivement de 
Ia forme  et qu'on ne pee! en ""cun ellS  lui pre!er d'oxistence ind<!pendante."Le sens 
_t chaque  fuis  la  substance  d'!ll1c  furme  noweUe  et  n'a  d'autte  existence 

possible que d'8t:re  ]a substance d'uuc funne  Noos reconna.issoflS  done 
dans  Ie  proces du  contt!l1ll me forme sp6cifique.  Ia forme du ctmlemt, qui  est 
indCpendmtte du sens avec lequel elle se trouve dans un  rapport mbitraire  et qu?elle 
transfurme en substance du OOllteIIU.·  1968; 72-76) 

"  Ffjelmslev's classiJ:;al  example is that of the colour spectrum. Comparing 
French to  Cymric, Ffjelmslev poinls  out that  the two  languages  operate  different 
segmentB1Jons.  Thus  vert in  French  is  ei!!:ter  K"'JII"'fd or  glas in  Cymric,  bleu
correspnds  to  glas> grts to  either  gillS or  l1w.Yd and  hrun to  llwyd. There  is  no 

overlapping between !!:te fQllDS  recognized by the two languages respectively: 
r'  . 
.. 
vert 
bleu 
gris
-
I:rrun 
gwyrdd 
gIns 
-_. 
Ilwyd 


(Hjelruslcv, 1968, TI)


')"
.:-:J
JII
J
essential in Hjelmslev's theory. 14 Any significant unit or any fOIlll at
'I
both the level of expression and the level ofcontent is thus defined by
the contrast in which it stands with all the other units in the
Saussure had already llsed the teon diffirence when describing this

-
fundamental property ofall languages. 15
J
...
1.4. Language in the process of communication
Language is obviously the main system available for us, not
II
only for knowing the world and understanding it, but also for
accumulating, ;,toring and communicating information. Language can
-
thus be understood as the main system we have ror communicating
among 11S. All the other SYstems of conveying infoImation are actually
b-dSed Oil this essential, fundamental one, Communication by means of
;.
...
lan"uuage can thus be understood as a complex process actoally
:1
consisting of several stages. Ally act of communication basically takes
place between two participants: on the one.band we the source of
...
the information" the person who has to communicaJ:e something, the
sc:nder of the message that contains the infonnation" and on the other
hand we need a second' party, the recipient, the addressee of
...
t
the message, the beneficiary of ,the communication act, in 'other
words the p'erson(s) 10 whom the information contained in the
message is addressed.
....
I
t
Since the sender has to convey a message, and the transmission
is to take place on the basis of a system of signs (a code), the :first
....
.. Coci no.. montre que h>s d,ux fonctifu qui collln!Ctent Ia fonetion
J
semiotique: l'exptession el Jo conIImU enJrent dans Ie.rname rapport avec elle. C'est
--
seulrunent en verin de 1. fonction sCmiotique ([U'ils roOsteD! et qu'an peut los
designer avec precision comme Ia fi>nne du conlmu et Ia fmme de l'cxp.....ioll. De
roOme, c'est en verta de 1a funne du conllIDU et de 1. forme de l'cxpression
seulement qu'existent 1. substance du conrenu et Ia substance de fl>ll:pression qui
apparaissoot ql.land on prPjette la iinme sur Ie sens, COlllIIle un filet tendu projelIe
I
...
son orub", sur Ul1e sndilce ininterIDmpuo. (1968:81)
15 "Tout ce qui precede ",vienl it <tiro quo dans 1. langue il n'y • que de.,
dif!i!rences... Un systeme linguistique est une sene de iliflerences de SODS

combin!!es avec uno stlrie de differences d'idees," (1965:166)
'.
24
thing tim scnder has to do is to e,ncode or codifY his message, in other
words to render the contents of the message by means of the signs of
the respeetive code (the language) .1be next stage is obviously
represented by the traru;mission of the message proper, which can
achieved in several ;wa.ys (depending of the type of communication;
e.g. written or ornl).: ()nee the message reaclws the recipient, the
process should unfold in the opposite direction. That is, the message
g!,uqo the re<.-ipient in an encoded funn so that the recipient has t(J
decom; it and grasp its meaning.16 ,
Remembering Saussure's theory of the linguistic sign and of
the act of communication" we can refine the analysis above and say
thet the encoding and decoding processes themse1veli consist of
scv:ern1 stages, respectively. When he wants to convey his message,
the sender has to select the concepts (notions) he wants to transmit.
For instance, if he wants to conv"!i' trui jrrfOITllJltion that "the door is
open
n
lIe .should select the approprilrte words sending to the concepts
of   the quality of "being" and the idea of "openness". This
would represent the first stage ofthe encoding of the message, namely
l{i Rcfcrti.ng to the way in which a:.:ummmication is Saussure
dllitinguishes llI!lODg p-'YchologicaJ. physiological and plrysical processes: the tirs!
ca!egmy woUld include the menUd """"';alion between the cODcept and its acoustic
image in lbe brain of the spealrnr and. convmse)y, lbe a"locialian between the
aroustic ;mage that was conveyed to the Iistener and me cooGept in the latter's brain.
Physiological proc".ses will lrn:;lude the moobanisms of phorurtion (articulation of
lb. words) as :fur as the speaker is concerned, and audition, respective1Jl, in the case
of1he listener. 11>0 prupa",0ati0ll ofsound _ves from the speakers spooch organs to
the listenoc'. andilmy ".)'Slmn is • plrysical process. Saus..ore schomatially
rep_ tho process lib this, the two participants actWg .. speaker/Jislener by
turns (1965:28);
Audition
Concept .
, '
tJ, ,
[
.
lmagtt
Phonation

<- Phonation
[
Concept
'. J
lIn:;:coLL,nque
-+ Audition

25
,
"
:
,I 
the semarmc encoding. Then the  respective words  should  be  given  a 
fann  in accordimce with the rules' ofgrammar.  It is  obvious that ifwe 
say  "fue  door  WI2

  open"  instead  of "Ine  door  is  open"  we do  oot 
convey  the SIIlrul  idea:  The  correct  choice  of fue  approprlJ!:te tense 
funn pertains to  the domain (lfmorpbology.  It;.on theother hand" we 
say  "door  open  the  is",  the  fOIm  of  the  message  is  clearly' 
ungrn:mma:tical  since ,it blatantly  violafes  the  roles  of syntlUt  (word 
order in the  givencase). ,Both  morphological encoding and syntactic
encoding can be considered as stages ofwhai we can call grammatical
encoding. Once it has llI1  appropriate irnmmaticaI furm,  the message 
hasto be give!).  a phoJ).etic  sbape, in other words the ideas  wehave to 
  must be put into  sounils.  nuslast  type of encoding is called 
phomlogicaZ encodtng. Some  linguists describe  the  translating  of 
concepts  irrfn  words  and  the  assigning  of a  phonological  shape  to 
fuose  words  respectively  as  two  different  types  of articulation and
they  speak  about  the' double arliculation oj the Iang>Ulge. Thos, 
according  to  Andre  Martinet,  the  first  articulation  of language  will
include  the  segmenting  of the  conteJlt  level  by a  given  language-
system  and the  association  of acoustic  images  to  the  concepts
obtained. The minimal  units for 1hisarticula:tion are the Words, having 
both  meaning  and  a  phonetic  stroctore.  The  next  articulation  will
imply the  segmcntatio;' of the  aconstic  image  into  corxtrostiv'e  units, 
the  phonemes.  Though  devoid  of meaning  themselves,  these units 
have the eSseutiaI function  of keeping different words apart Martinet 
convincingly argues that Iaognages display remarkable economy at fue 
level of the Second articulation since aconstic images are decomposed 
into' a  limitedmnnber of significant units, !he sfstemmak1rig  use of 
the  latter's  eJd:J;aotdinary  combinatorlal  possibilities  instead of 
associal:ing each acoustic image to a different unit 17 
A&rthe 1:zan8mission ofthetneS.'lage, therecipienthasto decode
it, petfumring the same operations, but inthe opposite order, IlB fust has 
to  decode the message phonologically,  then to  decode itgJ;amn:latically 
and then. semantically, reaching thllS the actoaIinfurmational contllllt 
11 Martinet.  1970:13-15.  These  notions  will  be llUbsequeutly  explained  in
further detaiL 
Summariring,  we  can  say  that  the  communication  process 
'takesplace'ai:cording to !he' following  pattern: 
I
, 1.Semantic en'coding oftbe 
me....  age 
2.Grammatical encoding ofthe 
message  _ 
3. PhonolOgical enroding ofthe 
message
I
I

I

I
Recipient ofthe
message
L  Phonological decoding ofthe 
mess.age
2.Grammatical decoding oftne 
message
3.Semantic decoding ofthe 
message 

TranSD:J..ission message
- 1.5. Language and writing 
:-,' -The importance  of  language  and  of  stody fur  the 
undetsJaniling  of what  essentially  characterizes  our  very  nature  as 
hI/man  Beings  cannot  be  overestimated.  By  means  of the language 
immans not only co=icate ina fuller and more efficient way thao 
any  other species,"  but  they  are  in  fact  the  only  creatures  1hst can 
tmnsrnit  information  from  a  generation  to  fue  following  ones.  We 
have  sO':fur discussed  lin",auiatic  colIlInunicaUon  only in  its oral  form 
(which·iS;  ofcourse, relevant for fue Sllldyofphonetics), but for many 
thoilsanrui of years now human beings have communicatedina written 
fOmi  as- well.  While  speech  was probably  an  essential  faculty  that
cl:laracterized ',humans  from -the  first stages  of their  existence  as  a 
di:!ierent  species  from  !be  rest  of  the  arrimaI  kingdom,  writing 
"  Scientists have  elCtensiveJy  studied'various means  !lJrough wbich  anhnals 
communicate  with  one  another.  Though  they have  sometimes  been  loosely  called 
''Jan&nages", tile di:ffi:nmt modalities used by eer1ain species ofm!llll!llals  or bybirds 
in onlc:r  to  c:ommunlcate  can  in no  way be  cOI1lp>red  to  tb.  complex  lin"onistic 
system ofcommunication humans USe. 
27 

-)' 
:...
1· L
[I
;J 

:J 







... 
cl
certainly appeared much laler in the history of mBrildud The  earliest
records ofhlllJllilL'l tr;ying to express their thougb!s inwriting date back
...
to only several  thousand yea:rs ago. Even today there are many
- languages that do not haVe a written folJD.. The "invention" of writing 
was essential in. the process of '!rIlD1llllittig inforroation over gl;eat
t  distances, both ill spare and in t:i.ole. It played a,tremendous role in the
development and evolution of hmnan: ci'Jilization as it is mainlY
-I
through written recoxds  that info=ation abo1;lt civilizations that have
long been extinct managed to reach us. Sueh is the importance of
.J
writing in modem t:i.oles that we tend to neglect its :relatively younger
J
age. We forget 1;)lat many languages in the past and even at present
were (or are) exclusively spoken lllld that writing is, after all, a
secondary and relatively less important system of symbolization19in the
absence of which linguistic systems can function very well. The
prestige of writing is so great that the written furm of the word 1
....

influences oW: Jllental representation of the word and we often tend to
reverse the natural precedent speaking has over writing and to
consider writing as being primOrdial and speaking only secondarY,

This  is due, as Saussure points ont to the fuct that  graphic symbols
tend to make a more lasting impression on our -intellect than the
 
sounds we hear. TheY give ,UH  the illusion of soliditY and permanence 
when, in reality, grapbic Conventions are by fur more superficial and
rI 
irrelevant fOf the basic :fual:utes of the Ianguage.2Q 
II
';'M;+- 1e
. 19 Our own. language, Rom:miarr is  (somehOW   an el<iIIDP 
that illustrateS tliis point. The earlieSt surviving 1l>lI1 in Romanlan daleS from 1521
but the historY ofthe hmguage itSelf stretclles baCkman:y =1""bero", that
iI 
r..:.: 
,. The ex;unple of Rl:>nI3trim _ be again qu<>t.ed. The Slo.voni<> alphabet
was used  unti1lhe second' half of tb;> 19'" C<lIltllIY when  tb;> Ro)Illlll  alphabet was
adopted. Turlrish abandOned its tra<litiOllal writing :in the 20'" centmy and adopted
IlwRoman aiphabet, Ino. These chtll1ge., did nut in 3IIy wa:y modify the jjIDdamentaI
cbaractmisti of 1he two languages, ROJ]1lllliim ..... the same Rom"",," language
- cs
t
even when 1M Cyrilic alphabot was used, while Turldsh ","""ins I!ll AJt»ic language
in  SJ';:' of its  1lSing lhe i«>ml!llce alphabet, An  unfortunate lllusi:rllDon of the
carre of sanssure'. lheory about lhe undeserved and decePtive preeminence
\..j cillC5S
of writing  was  the ;;tecile <lobate  about the spelling of the CllllInll high vowel of
Rmnanian. A rational'siIDpJification was recently reverted and ii replaced i  in non-
initial positio", as u; was aTb"'cd that 1h. Romance chmcter oflhe language is better ure
rendered by t'lC former sign than by the la_. One can omy remember Sauss " I 
''''
·1 n 
In spite of the awarent diversity between types of graphic
symbolism used in  various languages, linguists distinguish only
betWeen two different kjnd, of writing: ideographic and phonetic, 'The
ierIi;inology is suggestive oJ; their fui:t<:larll"ental
r
,rdeQgrapbic writing, uscs  ideograms for the  graphic
"representation of lingnistic sign. The graphelne tries to represent the
word in its entirety, the idea that it expresses. Ideographs in the strict
"interpretation of the  term have" no connection with  the phonetic
struct:ure of the linguistic sign." They are exclusively associamd with
the first articulation' as described above. Chinese is a classic'aI example
of a language uSing  sur.h  writing. Linguists often quote amonp;  the
advantages of ideographic writing thc fuGt that in  spite of the
eIlOllIlDUS dialectel vari;;!jr  displayed by a language as Chinese,
writing constitutes 1I  elemruit. People speakiog different
diaiecls of the language can" f""'1muu icate by referring to ideographs
common to all varisnts of the language. Phonetic writing attempts to
give .a representation of fuc "phonetic structure of the word. It  is 
therefure linked to the second articulation as described above.
bonetic
writing can, in its turn, be of two 1cinds: syllabic or
alplulbetic. In. the formet case we deal with conventions for
representing the syllable structure of the words, while in the latter the
graphic 1;!IDd to represent the phonemes as minimal uuits at
the expression level." However, we will see that, for reasons that are
going to be explained in·the next not even in the case of the
latter tyjje ofwriting is there "a'one to one cOlTespondence between the
phonological stmcture of and the graphic signs we use to
represent'them. This leiulS 11s"io the conclusion that no actual system
of writing is  an exact illllS1ration of either of the two lIllljor classes
descnlJed 8bove. Ideographic writing can also use ideograms that lost
words, "" an iromc and jIDllI1OllllOry co.tnmem of such situations: "QllJl.qd  il y a
dilsaocord elJlre ill lalJgut: et l'mthogrnphe, Ie dtbat est toujour.; difficile atraDcher
pour tout que Ie lino
uuiste
; truris comme cclui-ci pas VOlx an chapitre; la
fonne 6crite a presque mtalement Ie (lessu'" (J965: 47)
29
their  initial  value  and  have  acquired  a  phonetic  character.  Chinese 
pictogrnms and Egyptian hieroglyphs oirer such examples?l 
ff we  consider the  evolution of writing we  C811 
notice  a  !J:1lIl3ition  ;from  rurect,  more  or  less  concrete  systems  of 
represetrtatiorui to increasingly abstract (thougll  simpler) 
ones.  The manner in which human  beings tried tn convey their ideas  . 
using  graphic  represeittations  was  futally  vety  rudimentary  in.  1he 
beginning.  The earliest syStems  of writing (if we  can  speak of 
writing)  were  actually  visual  representations  of what  men  saw.  The 
scenes  of11lmtil)g,  for instance,  painted on cave walls, ate considered 
1he  first  a:tternpts  of human  beings. to  give  their thoughts  a  grnphic 
form.  Later s1ag<:s  in the  development of writing proper included the 
appearance of various systems  of so  called pierorial writing, in which 
the  symbols,  initialJy  figurative  representations  of reality,  came  to 
di&l'Iay  an.  increasingly  highee  degree  of abstmctness.  Cm:teifonns 
used  in Mesopotamia  illustrate  a  gmrluaI  trallliition  from  the  direct 
represerrtation of ol:!iects to the more abstract representation of words 
and  finally  syllables.  Egyptian  hieroglyphs  constitute  the  most 
spectacular  type  of ideogrnphic writing.  With the tomsition from the 
earlie&i hi.:roglyphs to later vanRnts  of hieratic and demotic (popular) 
script we witness  an effort towards simplification which is paralleled 
by  a  greater  abstractness  of the  representation  and  the  loss  'of  the 
plJre1y  figurative  cha:rn.cter  of writing.  But  even  in  the  =  of 
hieroglyphic  writing  proper  the  system  interestingly  and  uiriquely 
combines pictoiial representations with conventions suggestive of the 
phonetic  strueture  of the  words.  This  is  also  the  case  of Chinese 
writing.  the only Stln'iving example of an ancient ideogrnphic writing 
in 1he mod= world.  Even  Chim:se  writing,.  however,  use  of 
many  graphic  synibols  tlim  have - a  phonetic  characier.  (Japanese 
interestingly  combines  C'hinese.  ideograms  with  graphic 
representations illustrating the structure of the Japanese langua",ae).  As 
pointed  out  earlier  alI  ideographic  types  of writing  tend  to  acqnire 
phonetic characteristics because ofthe  difficulties  ofbandJing 
21 SllUssure  spoaks  of the  "mixed"  character  such  systems  of writing 
acquire. (1965:47) 
a  system  which  uneconnmically  represents  concepts  rather  than  a 
1
more limited number ofphonological units. 
It was for this very reason that the "invention» of the alphabet 
by  the  early  Semitic  civilization  of the  Phoenicians  represented  an 
:1
extraordinary  step  forward.  The  alphabct  created  by the  Phoenicians 
was later modified by the Hebrews and the G:reeks, the Greek alphabet 
lying in its tum at the basis ofthe Roman and of1he Slavonic (Cyrilic) 
[I
ones.  Alphabetic writing had the  enormous  advantage  of economy as 
it  made  use  of  a.  cmnpara:lively  much. -more  reduced  number  of 
symbols (about 30}hy means ofwhich practically all the words in the 
[I
language  could  be  represented.  This  was  due  to  the  :fact  that  at  the 
expression  level languages are remarlaibly organized and economical 
systems  as  we  are  going  to  see  in  a  subsequent  chapter.  The-
t
simplification  of  the  system  was  paralleled  by  an  ineteased 
abstractness  as  the  link  between  the  graphic  representation  and  the 
li:nguistic  sign  was  lost,  the  script  reDdeting  sounds  rather  than 
I
meanings.  The  roost  economical  and  abstract  kind  of writing  ever 
invented,  alphabetic  writing  is  cUlre1lfly  used  by  the  overwheltning 
majority of present-day civ'ilizations. 
I
Of the  two  essential  compone.nts that constitute  the linguistic 
sign,  the  present  book,  which  analyzes  different  Rspects  of,  and 
theories about, the production and interpretation of'l'eech    will 
I
obviously  deal  with  the  signifier  Or  the  expression  level  The 
fQliowing  chapter  is  devoted  to  a.  more  detailed  presentation  of the 
linguistic  disciplines  stodying  speech  production,  trmlsmission  and 
I
perception. 




• 

,I
CHAPTER  2 


ARTrCUI..ATORY,  jilCOUSTrC AND 
AUDITORY  PHONETICS.  PHONOlOGY 

2.1. Phonetics and phonology 


Two  tt:l:ll:ls  are  (often  loosely)  used  to  refer  to  linguistic 
disciplines studying ·fbat part of the linguistic sign which de Sanssure 
called the  acoustic  image: phonetics and phonology. The importance 

of sounds  as  vclricIes  of meaning  is  something  people  have  been 
aware  of for  tliousiUIds  of years.  However,  syst!lmatic  studies  on the 
speech  sounds  ·cmlji- appeared  with  the  development  of  modem 
-I
sciences.  The  texin  phonetics used  in  CO!lllection  with  such  studies 
=  from  Greek  and  its  origins  CIlIl  be  Iraced  back  to  the  verb 
phOnein, to speak. in its tutn related to  phone, sournt  The end of the 
-
18
th 
century witnessed  a  revival  of the interest in the studying of the 
somids  of  various  language.q  and  the  introduction  of  the  term 

phoflOlogy. The  IaUer  comes  to  be,  bowever,  distinguished from  the 
-
former  only  more  than  a  ce:ntUIy  later  with  the  development  of 
structuralism  which  emphasizes  the  essential  contrastive  role  of 

classes of sounds which lire labeled phonBmes. Ibe terms continue to 
-
be used. however, indiscriminately until the prestige ofphonology as a 
distind  discipline  is  finally  established  in the  first  balf of the  20
th 
century. Though there is no universally accepted point of view about a 
'I
clear-cut border line betw"'-:n 1fu, respective. domains of phonetics and 
:1
,," 
phonology as,  indeed,  we  c>innot  talk  about  a  pbonological  system 
ignoring the phonetic aspects  it involves ana,  on the  other band,  any 
phonetic  approach  shonld  take  into  accouut the phonological  system 
.... 
r,
thai  is  represented  by any  language,  most linguists  will agree  aho LIt 
SOIIW fundameutal distinctions between the two. 
'-I 
33 
Phonetics will be almost unanimously acknowlec!ged to be the 
linguistic science which studies speech sounds: the way in which they 
are  produced (uttered,  articulated),' the  way  in.  which  they  are 
perceived, their  physical chiracteristics,  etc.  Therefore,  it  is  these 
more  "palpable",  measurable  aspects  of  the  phonic  aspects  of. 
language thet.constitote the domain of phonetins. On' the other band, it  • 
is  obvious,  however,  even  for  those  whose  perception of lil::i",anistic 
phenomena is rather of an empirical  and not of a  very scholarly kind, 
that when cornmunica:ting verbally, though they are producing a wide 
vanely  of  sounds,  people  are  actna1ly  "aware"  .of  using  a 
comparatively  drastically  limited  set  of sounds,  in other  words  that . 
they tend to disregard the obvious (mOre or less important) differences 
between the way in wbich  sounds  are uttered  and  have in mind only 
classes of sounds that perfurm  a  certain  function  in language;  From 
this  new perspective,  it is not the sounds as  such that are impozt,mt. 
but rather the role they have in linguistic communication.  As we shall 
see  later,  diffi:rent  languages  operate  different  distinctiOIlS  and 
stroctorc  in di.fferont ways the more or less  common stock of sounds 
thet  can  be  round  in  various  idioms.  It  is  precisely  Ibi!>  ru,-pect  of 
sounds  that is of interest for pho7lf}logy, which. is  !bus understood to 
study not so much the sounds as such, but rather clas5e$  of sounds that 
have  a  certtrin  function  in the  stroct-ure  of a  given  Iimguage,

This 
distinction  will  be  further  analyzed  in the  chapter  dealing  with  the 
phoneme..
We have alreadY said that phonetics is concerned with various 
aspects  relev-dllt  fur  the  physical  characteristics  of sounds.  Several 
lmmches  of phonetics can further be distinguiShed,  depending' on the 
narrower  domain  of interest  of the  respective field.  Thus,  one of the 
most important branches of phonetiCli  is articulata", phonetics which. 
studies  the  way in which h11lIJJll1  beings articulate  or utter the sounds 
they make use ofin verbal communication. 
,  Note  llJat  what  we  refured 1<)  as  phouetlc,  alphaht:tie  Mitlng- actuall¥ 
tends  to  represont these  elMses  of so""c\s.  That  is  why  peoplll  using  tlIis  twe  of 
writing have  at least  some :intu:itive  awareness ,of the  phonological  structure -of their 
l;mgllage. 
oJ 
2.2. Articulatory phonetics 
~  
Articulatory phonetics is a branch of phonetics whicb is  largely 
based  On  data  provided  by  other  sciences,  among  which  the  most 
1
important  are  ~ anatomy  and  physiology.  This  is .a  result  of the 
fuet  that human beings  do  not possess  organs that are exclusively used 
to. produce sp<iech sounds, all organs involved in the uttering of sounds 
1
having  in filet,  primarily,· other  functions:  digestive,  respiratory,  etc. 

This  actually  raises  interesting  questions  about  whether. we  had  been 
bom  (destined,  "prugremrned")  to  speak  or  speech  developed  rather 
1
accidentally  - anyWay,  comparatively  later  - in  the  evolution  of 
mankind.  Therefure,  fundsrnental  physiological  processes  like  those 
mentioned  above  take  place  sinlultaneously  or  alternatively  with  tl:i.e 
I
pIUduction ofspeech sounds.  We can hardly think of speaking as being 
separated  frOln  the  activity  of breathing,  1lS  the  air that is  breathed in 
and  om of the lWlgs has a crucial role in>thc process of uttering sounds. 
j
Breathing  is a  rhythmic  .process  inchaling  two  successive  stages: 
inspiJ:ation  and  expiration.  It  is  during  the  latter  phase  that  speech 
production takes place in most languages. Because we speak while we 
i
expel  the  air  from  our  lungs,  the  sounds  that  we  produce  are  called 
egressive. The  continuous  altc:rnation  between  inspiration  and 
-
expiration fundsrnentally shapes the rhythmicity of oUI spee"h. 
I
We have already mentioned the fact that oral  communication is 
bMed  on  sound  waves  produced  by  the  human  body.  The  ioitial 
moment of this rather camplex process is the expelling of the air from 
j
our lungs. The lungs can therefore be considered the very place where 
speech  production  originates.  The' airstremn  follows  a  road  that  is 
called  the  vocal- tract. We  will  follow  this  tract  of the  air  that  is 
expelled from the lungs  om of the body.  As we  are  going to  see, this 

tract includes  segments of the  ref>l'iratory and digestive tracts and the 
physiology  of  speaking  is  therefore  intimately  linked  to  the 

,  W. em  arguably  speak  about speech  organs  for:rning  a  SYS!l::m,  though, 
teclmically speaking, di!f=orgaos ofspeech are actually part ofdifferent syste!llJl 
in our body. As pointed out above, ·nom: of these  organs perti:>tms a vital function as 
Ii
It spee"" organ.  irs main function  rniher mat per:funned !lS  part of  the  other, 
truly vital system. 
Ii
-., 
35 
-


••


physiologyoftherespectivevitalprocesses.The.!unll!! i!l!e pairorgans,
situated inside the thomcic cavity (the chest). They are farmed of
three,  respectivelytwo spongylobes (the leftlungis smallerbecause

ofthevicinityof theheartwithinthethoraciccavity).Thecapacityof
the lungs (that is the totat amoWlf ofair thatthey canconlainis:,of
about 4500-5000 cm
3
(4.5-5 litres) in an adult person, the capacity
-'
beirigglillerally slightlysuperiorinthe caseofmale persons.The so-

,  . 
J
calledvital capacity (that is the mrucima1  amount ofairthat can be
exchanged with. the environment during breathing is ofabout 3500-
4000 em'.In otherwords,we cannevercompletelyempty ourlungs
ofair  during expiration. During nonnal breathing, however, only
about 10-15% orthevitalcapacityisused, thatis thequa:nJity ofair 
"I 
that isexchangedamoWlfstoabout400-500em'.Theactofspeaking
requiresa greaterrespirato;:yeffortandconsequentlytheamountof air
increases to up  to 30-80% ofthe vital  capacity (30-40% during
-
expiration and 45-80% during inspiration). VariatiollS are due to
different position ofthe body, to the quality, quantity and intensity
(lowlm:ss).<>f-thesoundswe art1<:wm.Breathingisacomplexprocess
...
'J 
thatessentiallyconsistsilltlle exchaogeofairbetween ourbodyand
th.e environment. Itleads to the oxygenation ofourbody  and  to the
-
;1
II 
expnlsion of the carbon dioxide resulting from the processes of
combustionwithin ourbody. It isbasicallyachievedbythesuccessive
eAl'anding and compressing ofthe  volume ofthetwo lungs, lhe air 
.... 
beirig sucked in  andpushed outrespectively. This n..oppeDS because 
the thoracic caVity itselfmodifies its volUlllC, a complex system of 
•.,
bones' (the ribs), :muscles ,(of which the mmlt important are the

intercostal ones, that eoordinate the movements ofthe ribs, llhd the . 
..
diaphragm, that reprcsellts the floor of the tharacic cavity) and 

membranes'(pleurae).bcinginvolvedin theprocess.Th.e  entireprocess
is controlledbytherespiratorycentresinthebrain.
.-
3
:1
Fromea.chof thelungs abroncJiial tube starts.Atoneend,the
ramifications ofthese tl1bes spread inside the spongy mass ofthe
-
;1
3 TheIIelVOUSsyslllm(and!hebr<riD, primarily)also playanIlSSIllIlial roloin!he .
process ofsouMarticulation:Thedescriptionof the wayin wbicil1hebrainconlrols1he
speech. u"""""ismdoesnotlie,howeY«,within the scopeoffuis (seealsop.42) .
·1 
36 
pulmonic lobes. They are called bronchioles and their role is to
distribute and  collectthe airinto andfrom theinnermost of
the lungs, These exchanges are made at the level ofsmall air sacs
called 'alveoli and  represent the ultiina:te ramifications of the
bronchioles.At theotherend,thetwobronchialtubesarejoinedatthe
basisof thetrachea, ortheWindpipe.
TIle Windpipe bas .a  tubular cartilaginous 5lructure (its
components area numberofcartilages:heldtogetherbyJ:lleIIIl:irdJl(lUS
tissue)md isabout10emlongaiul emio diwnelrc. Its e1asti.city
and thepositionof the larynx canresultio importantvariationsio the
actual length ofthe organ. The"latteris anessential segment ofthe
.respiratory system but does not play an active role in speech
production. .
All we continueourjourneywecome anotherorganthat
hasacrncialroleintheprocessofsPc:8k.ing: thelaryrlX. Thelatterisa
c.artil.aginouspyramidalOIg-dllcharacterizedbya rcmmkablestructural
complexityandsituatedat thetopof thetrachea.As allspeechorgans,
itprimarily performsavitalrole,namelyitactsasavalvethatcloses, 
thns  blocking the entrance to the windpipe and preventing food or 
drink from enteringtherespi:rntory ducts while we are eating4TImy 
areinlltead directed downthepharynxandtheesophagus. Thelarynx 
ist1!c firstspeechorganproperalongthetractthat  wearefollowing, 
as it    with the outgoing st:ream  of air  (which, so far, has 
followed way :rather unirnpededly) and·establishes some ofthe 
essentialfeaturesofthesoundsthatweprodUCe.However,itil; notthe 
larynx proper (that is the organ inits eIitircty) that perfOl1llS this 
imporbmtrole withinthespeechmeC:ha:!lirun. buttwomuscularfulds 
iuside it, called the vocal cords. As mentioned above, the larynx
consists ofa number ofcartilaginous· b1riIctures that illtlc"l"act ill an
ingeniOllswayenablingthclarynxtopcifu1DJ itsimportantrespiratory
and  articulatory functions. Thethyroid'cartilageismadeoftwo  (left
and right) rectangular fiat pJates that faIm· an angle anteriorly,
resemblingthecoversofa bookthat isnotentirelyopen. Theaperture
< A complex system ofvlllves similarly prevents air frOID entering our
digwtive tube during inspiration,
37
of the angle, oriented posteriorly, varies with the sex..  It is a right angle 
in men  (90°)  while  in women  it  is. 120°.  The  angle  is more  visible, 
because  more  acute,  in  the  farmer  sitnation  and  the  cartilage  is 
popularly  known  as  "Adam's  applc".  Posteriorly,  each of the plates 
bas twa  hams (an inferior and a  superior  one)  called: cornua, thTOl,lgll 
which the thyroid cartilage is COlll1ected with the ericoid one. The joint. 
that the two  cartilages  fonn,  resembling a  sort of hioges,  allows the 
cricoid  one  to  move· anteriorly  and  posteriorly  with· respect  to  the 
. .
thyroid one, 1frug controlling the degree of tension in the vocal  cords. 
One  of the  main  functions  of the thyroid  cartilage  is  to protect the 
larynx and particularly the vocal cords.  The cricoid cartilage is  made 
of a ring-shaped  structure,  situated  Ill1teriorly  and  of a  blade  situated 
posteriorly  and  represents  the  base  of  the  larynx,  controlling 
co=unication with the trachea.  On top  of its  blade,  on the left and 
right  side  respectively,  another  pair  of cartilages  are  situated:  the 
arytenoid  ones.  The last· important  cartilage  in" the  process  of 
phcmation  or speech  production  is  the epiglottis  which  is  a  spoon-
shaped"cartilage  also  playing  an  important  role  in keeping  the  fOod 
away :from the respiratory tract.  It is  between the arytenoid cartilages 
and the  thyroid  cartilage .that  the  two  vocal  cord. mentioned above 
stretch.  The mcal cords  are  each made of a  so-called vocal  ligament 
and a vocal muscle.  They are  covered  in mucous  membranes  or "kin 
folds also klIDwn as the vocal folds. They connect the lowl'J: part oHhe 
thyroid  caitiJage  to  the anterior  part  of the  arytenoid  cartilages"  The" 
opening  between the  folds  and the  arytenoid  eartilages" represents the 
glottal  aperture,  more  co=only called the glottis.  The  length  ofthe 
vocal folds  varies with the age and the sex. They become  at the 
age  of puberty  and  are  longer  in men  (24-26  =) than  in w"Omen 
(17-20 mm). During"breathing , the two folds part, letting the air come 
into  the  larynx or go  aut. During phan;mon they come closer, having 
an important role  in establishing some of the main  chm:acteristics  of 
the  sounds  we  articulate.  By the  pretty  complex  action of adjacent 
anatomical  strUctures  (the cartilages described above and a number of 
laryngeal  muscles)  the two vocal  cord"  ean  be  brought  together  or 
parted.  They  thus  interfere  to  various  extents  with  the  outgoing 

 
I
airstream.  They Clll1 obstruct the passage completely, as in the  case of 
the  so-called  glottal stop  (see  below,  when a  detailed  description  of 
consonants  is  given),  or their participation in the  uttering of a  given 
I
sound  can be mjnjmal  (as  in the  case  of trumy  hissing  The 
rapid and  intenni:tten:t opening and  closing  of the vocal  cords,  which 
results in the vibration ofthe tWo  orgdllS, plays a key role in aile ofthe  ]
most important phonetic processes, that of voicing.  Thus,  vowels and 
vowel-like  sounds,  as  well  as  a  number  of consonants,  are  produced 
with  the vib,,!tiori  of  fue  cords  and  are  consequently  v('Jiced.  The ]
absence  of vibration in the vocal cords  is  characteristic  for voiceless 
obstruents.  (More details  about the process me given  the following 
Chapter). The amplitude ofthe vibration is also essential for the degree 
I
ofloudness of the voice: thns the intensity of the sound that is uttered 
depends  On  the pressore of the air that is !""P"lled. The rate at which 
the vocal cords .vibrate has also  importabt consequences  as  far as  the 
I
pitch of the  voice  is  concerned;  this  is  closely linked to the preSsure 
exerted  On  the vocal  cards.  When" we  'produce  acute  (high-pitched  or 
shrill))  sounds the vocal cords come closer to each other, while duting 
I
the  articulation of grave  sounds" the  vocal  cords  leave  a  greater space 
between them.  (Further details will be given below, when tbe acoustic 
characteristics ofsounds are  discussed.) 
I
The Jlext stop on our way along the vocal  tract is the pharynx, 
an organ  siruated  at  a kind of cros.<:rooos  along the  above-mentioned 
tract.  It doesn't  play  an active  p"art  in the  articmlation  of sounds  its  I
main role being to link the  and the rest of the lower respiratory 
system  to its  upper  part,  thus"" functioning  as  an  air passage  during 
breathing. It is also an important segment in the digestive apparatus" as  I
it  plays  an  essential  role.  in  deglutition  (the  swallowing  of food)" 
The pharynx branches into  two  cavities  that  act  as  resonators  for  fue 
air stream that fue  vocal  cordB  make vibrate:  the nasal cavity and the  I
oral cavity. 
Before discussing the two respective cavities, it is important to 
I
mention the role played  duting  articulation  by the  velum  or the  soft 
pamte.  The  velum  is  the  contimJation  of the roof of the  mouth also 
called  the  palate.  The  harder,  bonY. structure  situated  towards  the 
I
39 
I



ro.'terior ofthe  with 1;he velum.into the rear part ofthe 
mouth.  The'latter's  position  at  the  back  of the  mouth can anow the 
airstream  to  ,###BOT_TEXT### o";t  through  either the mouili  or the  nose  or through 
I) 
both at the slii:QZ :time,  Thus, ifthe velini is raised, blo!±ing the nasal 
cavity,  the air is  directed  out through tfu:  mouth and the sounds  thus  . 


,  produced  will  be  oral sounds.  If the  vclum  is  lowered;  we  can' 
articulate either nasal sounds, if the air is C}..'Pe1led  excluSively via the 
cavity, or nasalized sounds if, in spite of the lowered poSition of 
the velUm,  the air is still allowed to  go out through the mouth as well 
as  through  the  If we  nip  our  nostrils  or  if the nasal  cevity  is 
bloc:kl'\d  ):lecause  of a  cold,  hay  rever,  etc,  we  can  easily  notice .the 
[J 
importance of the nasal cavity as  a resonator and the way in which its 
blocl\ini affects  nonnal  speech production. The distinction nru;a1/oral 
is  essential  in all  languages  and  it will further  be  discussed  when  a 
detaile<i analysis of both English cousonants and vowels is ·given. 
We  have  mentioned 'above  the  oral  cavity  as  one  of the  two 

possible  outlets  fur  the  airstream that  is expelled by.our respiratory 
system.  The  or.u  cavity  plays  an  easen:tial  role  in phonation as  it is 
here that the niain features  of the sounds that we articulate are uttered. 
[I 
Tli.e  cavity itsc:lf acts  as a  resonator,  and we can modify its  shape and 
[J 
volume,  thus  modifYing  the  acoustic  features  of  the  sounds  we 
produce,  while  various  orl,'llllS  that  delimit  the  oral  cavity' or  are 
included in it (the tongue) are active or passive participants in the act 
of phonatio'a  if W,?  follow the airatrearn out through the mouth (oral 
cavity) we can  notice the above-mentioned organs tWit play an
rJ 
important rore:in the process of sound articalation.  . 
Undoubtedly,  the  most  important  of all is  the  tongye, which 
plays  a crociai role in oral  commonication, the very fupt that in many 
languages  Romance languages) the same  word  is used 
...
r.
il 
to  refer  to  both,th.e  anatomical  orgaIl,and lang'.Ulge  as a  fundamental 
human activity  that in many  cultures the two concepts  came 
to be  assimilated  or at least considered to be inseparable.  'Ihe tongue 
.... 
is  actually    in the articulation of most bpeech  sOll11l1s,  either 
through "'" active or a  more passi:ve participation. It is a
[J 
muscUlar,  eJctreroely  mobile  and  versatile. org..m  (by  far  the  most 
:1
40 
dynmnic  of, all  speech  orgaus)  and  :it  plays  an  essentiai  roJe  in  the 
producing of COIlSOnants,  while'its poSition  in the mouth is also  very 
important for differentiating among various  classes  of vowels.  When 
an  articulatory  classification .of speech  sounils  is  given  below,  the 
upper  surlllce  of the  tongue  will  be  "divided ",  far  practical  and, 
didactic purposes, into sewnli parts: a) its fore part, made up of the tip
(apf!X) and  the blade; b) the.front. and  back part (the  dorsum) - the 
label  is often applied to front  and back tosether.  and  c)  the 
root (radix) of the tongue (the remmost and lowest part of the  organ, 
situated infront of the laryngo-p.haIynx·lind the epiglottis. The sides or 
ri:ms ofthe tongue also play an'important role in the l:lI:WiDg ofcertain 
sotlllds.  (As we are going to 'see"in a  subsequent ciJapter,  the  varioui 
parts of the tongue lend their names to the sounds they help produce: 
thus,  sounds uttered with the participation ofthe tip of the tongne will 
be called apical- from the Latin word apex, meaning top or cll:tremity 
- thOse in the production of which the blade is involved will  be called 
laminaI - from  the  Latin  word.  lamina having  the  same  meaning  -
whiJe the back part of the body ofilie tongue, the lhrsum. will give its 
name to dorsal sounds, produced in the velar region.) 
The  tongue  is  a  mobile articulator  (the term  active is  usually 
used) that influences the way in which sounds are produced, But more 
often than not it  does that with the help  of other articulators (fixed or 
mobile i.c. passive or active) as  well. like the  roof of the mouth  (the 
palate),  the  lips  or  the  teeth.  The palate css<mt:ia1ly  consists  of two 
parts; the hardpalate and the soft palate or the velum. We haw ShaMl 
the important role played by the velum in differentiating between  the 
articalation  of oral  and  nasal  The hard  palate  in front  of it 
functions as a fixed '(passive) articulator. Not less important are, at the 
other end of the mouth, the teeth and the lips. Just behind the teeth we 
can  notice  the  alveolar ridge (the  ridge  of the  gums  of the  upper 
teeth).  While  the upper teeth ace fixed,  the lower jaw (the mandible) 
is mobile  and its  constant moving  permanently modifies  the size and 
shape  of the oral  aperture.  The lips also  play all important role in the 
articulation ofsome COllSonants by interacting  with each other or with 
4J 
the upper teeth and their position ( rounded or &1JfWl) is also relevant
for differentiating b<;f:weell twO rOlljOr clasSes of vowels. Tney are
pretty mobile articulatof.;, though far less so than the tongue. Just like
the tQngue, Yie.J.d .a of configurations..The lower lip
o
. <:"""   with ..@Per to );1!X'dllceiabi -dental sounds,
the two lips to articu1atebilabi91 sounds, while lip position·
(rounded or spreadY is essential in deter:mlning one of the basic
con:figurn1ions. of"owels..
Our brief and fufally schematic presentation. of &-peech
production has consciously neglected the essenlilll role the brain plays
in the articulation of sounds .. Speech produc,iion is a process that can
be observed qUite easily as the major artioUtators lend themselves to
direct and detailed scientific observation. We should not forget,
however, that our presentation above is obviously partial, since all
articulatory processes are controlled b)' the brain and we cannot
imagine any kind .of activity of the articulators without the
participation of the brain that actually comrd!s the entire process of
speech production. We chose to leave aside the discession of the part
played by the brain in the physiology of articulation only because the
complexity of the analysis would have taken us too fur away from the
purpose of this study.
Note: The grepb represent<; a sagittal
mid-section through the vncn:tlJ11ct. The
vocal cords ore repIllscaled by a circle
at the level oftlle larynx, the is..
in a neutral. resting position.
.J
:1
2.3. Auditory phonetics
If articulatory phonetics studies ilie way in which speech
rJ
sounds are produced, auditory phonetics focuses on the perception of
sounds or the way in which sounds are heard and interpreted.'
Remembering our conventional division of linguistic communication
fI
into several stages of a process unfolding between two parties, the
sender of ilie message and its addressee, we may say that while
articulatory phonetics is mainly concerned with the speaker, auditory
II
phonetics deals wiili the oilier important participant in verbal
communication., the It is again, obviously, a field of linguistic
study which bas to rely heavily on biology and more specifically on
J
anatomy and physiology. We should say frOIIl the very beginning,
however, that the mechanism and physiology of sound perception is a
much hazier field that the correspondjng processes related to the
I
utrering of the respective sounds. This is so because speech production
.is a process that takes place roughly along the respiratory tract which
is. c;omparatively, much to observe and study iharl·the b:rain
I
where most processesJink:ed to speech perception and analysis occur.
Our presentation so fur has already revealed a fimdamental
characteristic of acoustic pho.netics wbich essentially differentiutes it
I
from both artiCulatory and acolllmc phonetics: its lack of unit)'. We are
.in filet dealing with two distinct operations which,. however, are
closely interrelated end influence each other: on ilie one hand we can
I
talk about audition proper, that is the perception of sounds by our
auditory apparatus and the transfom:ring of the info.rmation into. a
neural sign aud its sending to the brain and, on the oilier hand, we can
I
talk about the avalysis of fuis infounation by the brain wbich
everdually leads to the decoding of the message, the understanding of
the verbal message.' When discussing the auditory system we can
I
5 It is obvious. even al: au intlli!ive fual: hearing someone'. words and
unrlets!lmJ:lln fuem &8 two quite cli.ffilrent processes. They are ebronOlogica.lty distinct,
since we can 1lIlk about two BOd !bey also diffir in 1l1!Irirc since fuey
I
inv<Ilve cli.ffilrent .<>P!lM!IirmS of the hrnln- We sibould not make the IllisIllk<\. however, of
sepa:rating them sjncf; as we are going to see below, our undersfim,ding of
wbatwe hear ess<:ntialJy influenoos tho process of hearing itselE
I
43



consequently talk about its peripheral and its central part, respectively. 
We  shall  have a  closer look  at both these processes  and try 1:0  Show

why  they  are  both  clearly  distinct  and  at  the  same  time  they  are 
ciOHely,related. 
.. Before  the  sounds  we perceive  are  processed  and  interpreted 

by the' bra:irl; 'the first anatomical org-.m thejr encounter is the ear.  The. 
ear haS 'a 'complex  structure and  its  basic auditorl funcl:ions  include 
the perception ofauditory stimuli, their analysis and their transmission

further  on to  ilie brain.  We can identifY three  components:  the 'jut!!", 
the middle and  the  inner year.  The ourer ear is  mainly repIeStIDtOO by 
the auricle or the pinna and ilie auditory meatus or the ourer ear canal. 

The  auricle  ,is ,the  ouly  visible  part  of the  ear,  constituting  its 
outermost part,  the  segment of ilie organ projectingQutside the skulL 
It  does  not play  an essential role in  audition,  whick-is proved, by the

fact that ilie  removing  of ihe pinna does not substantially damage our 
auditory capacity.  The-auricle rather plays a  protective roklo! the =1: 
of the ear aud it also helps us locilize sounds:'!fhe meatus, or the onter 

ear canal is a  tubular structure playing 11 double roll:::  it, too, protects 
ilie neltl segments of the ear - particularly the middle ear - aud it also 
functions  as  a  resonator  for the sound  waves that  enter  our auditory 

system:.  The middle ear is a eavity wi1hin the skall including a number 
of little  anatomical structures that have an irDportmt role in audition. 
One  of them is  the  eardrum.  This  is  a  diaphragm  or  membrane  to 
[J 
which  soOOd  waves  are  directed  from  'outside  and  which  vibrates, 
acting  as  both' a  filter  and  a trnnsrnitter  of the  ineoming sounds.  The 

middle ear also eorrtalns a few tiny bones: the mallet, the anvil and the 
stirrup.  The  pressure  of  the  air  entering  our  auditory  sjstem  is 
converted  by  ilie .vibration  of the  membrane  (ilie  eardrum)  and  ilie 

elaborate movement of the little bones  iliat  act as  some sort of lever 
&ysterii  into  mcchanical movement which is  further  conveyed  to  the 
oval  window,  a  structure  placed  at  the  interfuce  of ilie  middle  and 

inner  ear.  As  pointed  ont  above,  th«  middle, ear plays  an, important 
[I

[J 
•  We should not forget  that the em (more  eXllCtly  llle  inner  ear)  also plays 
an  essential part in  our body's  capacity of keeping ils balance.  As this  functioIl of 
the ear obviously lies out'1ide tbe scope of!his book we are not going to discUSS it. 
44

protection  role.  The  mnscles  associated  with  the  three  little  bo,ne5 
above' eontmet in 'a  reflex movement when sounds having a 
too  higll intensity  reach  the  ear.  Thus  the  impact  of the  too  Loud 
sounds is reduced and the mcchaniSlll diminishes the force with which 
the movement is transmitted to  the struchrres  of the inner ear. It i, in 
the middle  ear .too,  thiit  a  natrow duct or tube  opens.  Known as the 
Eustachian  tobe  it connects  ilie  middle  to,  the  pharynx.  Its  main 
role  is  to  act as  an  outlet pcrruitting the  air to  circulate  between ille 
pharynX aud the ear, thus helping preserve .the required a:mount  of arr 
pressW:c inside the middle ear.  The neltl segment is  ilie inner ear,  the 
main element of which is the eochlea, a  cjl.vity filled  with liquid.  The 
inner  ear  also  includes  the vestibule  of the  ear  and  the  semicircular' 
canals., The vestibule represents ilie central part of the labyriuth of the 
ear and it gives aCcess to the cochlea The, cocblea is a coil-like organ, 
  ".  . 
100king1iJre the shell ofa snail At each oEthe two {--nds  of the cochlea 
there is an oval window, while the  itself eontains a liquid. fuside 
the  cochlea there  are two  melllbranes:  the  vestibular membrane  and 
the basilar mCll1brane.  It is the latter that plays a  central role in the act 
of audition.  Also  essential  in  the process  of hearing is  the  so-called 
organ of Corti. inside the cochlea,  a  slruetore that is  the real auditory 
receptor.  Simplifying lllot, we  Can describe the physiology of audition 
inside  the inner ear as follows:  the mechanical movement of the little 
bony structores of the middle ear (ilie mallet, the anvil and the stirrup) 
is  transmitted  through  the  oval  window  to  the  liquid  inside  the 
snaiHike structure of the cocblea; this causes the basilar membmne to 
vibmte:  the  membrane is  stiffur at  CJ11e  and  than  at  the  other,  which 
makes  it vibrate differently, depending on the'pitch of the sounds that 
are  received.  Thus,  low-frequency  (grave)  sounds  will make  vibrdte 
the  membrdllc  at  the  1es8  stiff  (upper)  end,  while  high-frequen.cy 
(aruIc) sounds 1vill cause thc lower and stiffer end of the membrane to 
vibrate.  The  cells  of the  organ  of·Corti.· a. highly  sensitive  structure 
hecause it :i:n.clndes .many'qiliate cells that detect the slightest vibrating 
movement,  convert  these  vibrations  into  n.eural  signals  that  are 
tranmnitted  via  the  auditory  nerves  to  the  central  receptor  and 
controller ofthe en1rre prOcess, the brain.  ' 
45 
The  way  in  which  the  hUlIlaIl  brain  processes  auditory 
infi:mna:tion  arul,  in  general,  the  mental  processes  linked  to  speech 
P"Xception  and  production  are  still  largely  unlmown.  'What  is  clear, 
however,  regarding  the  perception  of  sounds  by  man's  auditory 
system.,  is  that  the  buman ear  can  only  hear  sounds  having  certain 
amplitudes  and :frequencies.  If the  amplitudes. and frequencies  of the 
respective  sound  waves  are  lower thM  the  range  p=-ptible by the 
ear, they are simply not beard. If, on the contrary, they are higher, the 
sensation  they  give  is  one  of  pain,  the  pressure  exerted  on  the 
eardrlllTlS  being  tuo  great.  These  aspects  are  going  to  be' discussed 
below when the  physical properties of sounds are aualyzeJ. As to the 
psycho logicai processes  involved by the interpretation  of the  sounds 
we  hear,  our  knowledge  is  even  more  limited.  It  is  obvious  that 
hearing  proper  goes  haud  in haud  with  the  nndersf:a:t1ili  of  the 
sounds  we  perceive  in  the  sense  of organizing  them  according  to 
pattemll  already  existing  in our mind  and distu"bntiog  them  into  the 
famous  acou&llc  irrlIIges  that Saussore  spoke of.  It is at this level that 
audition proper intermingles with psychological processes heMuse our 
brain decodes, interprets, cla.sifies and arranges the respective sounds 
according to the linguistic (phonological) patterns already eristing in 
our  mind.

It is  intuitively  obvious  that  if we  listen  to  someone 
speaking an uriknown language it:will be very diflicrdt fur US  not only 
to  understand  what  they  say  (this  is  out  of the  question  given  the 
premise we sfmted from) but we will have great, often insurmountable 
difficrdties  in idcntH'ying the  actna1  sounds the person produced.  The 
immediate,  reflex  reaCtion  qf our  brain  will  be  tu' assimihrt.e  the 
respective  SOUllds  to  the ones whose mental images already exists in 
our brain, according to  a  very conunon cognitive  reaction of hUlIlallS 
Listening  is,  ofl'e.- oJ!,  an essential part of our ttlalllCring • 
C<li1llin  l.angwtge.  In order  to  actually  undorstmJd whlll:  'OIlleone  sa;ys  in •  given 
we need tl>  be accustomed to Jhe phonological structute afthe respectuive  ' 
language.  'This  will  ""able US  to oonect:ly  interpret - acoustically speaking ,- even 
phonological  _  whose  ",eaniug  is  unknown  to  us.  Conveisely,  when 
$oJll,6Oue  mispronouoces  a  word  we  know  - say,  in Our  own mother tongue  -:- 0l.R' 
mind will  lIlltllllIlllically crmect tho roil;rnb>  and we  will be able to  nnd".."tand 111. 
word the speaker meant to utter in spite of its actual faulty pronnncigtion  (see,  millO, 
note 5 above). 
]
". 
that  always .have  the  tendency  to  relate,  compare  and  contrast  new 
information  to  already J,::nOWR  infOl'Ill!ltion.  Our  discussion  of  the 
phonemcin a subsequent chapter will    this in further detaiL 

;: -
2.4. Acoustic phonetics 

The branch of phonetics that studies the physical parametres of 
speech SQunds  is called  aCQustic phonetics. It is the most "technical" 
of  all  disciplines  that  are  concerned  with  the  mtdy  of  verbal 

commLttJica:tion.  The  data it bandles  are the most  concrete,  palpable, 
easily  measurable  ones  that  can  be  encountered  in the  domain  of 
phonetics  in  general.'  The  most  impo:rt.ant  principle  of physics  on  il 
which  verbal  oornmllnica:ti911  is  based  is  that  VJ.btating  bodies  send 
waves that are propagated in·the env:iroi:ty:teut.  Our articlliatory 
produce a number of vibnrtiOl1$;  these VIbrations need a mediUlIl to be  I 
tr.a:r:!Jil.nitted  through. The medinro through V\lhich  speech sounds travel 
is  tJ.<rual1y  the  air. '@<perimeuts  .have  proved  that  if we  try  to 
communicate in vacuum the  sounds that we produce filii  to reach the  I 
addressee  since  they  lack  a  medium  through  which  they  can 
PIOpl!ga1e.)  Classical prototypes of a  vibrating body that are normally 
referred  to  ill  order  to  describe  the  W!fY  in  V\lhich  verbal  I 
commun.ication is achieved include the pendulum  or the tuning fork.. 
"When  the  funner is set in motion or the  latter is  struck,  they  vibrate 
commmtly.  The  pendulum  or  each  of the  prongs  of the  tuning  fork 

ruDve  in one di=tion and then  back to the' starting point and then in 
the opposite (\irection to roughly the same extent and the movement is 
contioued  decreasingly  until  the. vihrarion  dies  out  completely.  It  is 

because friction  with the  environment that  the  movement  eventually 
dies  out.  Ideally,  if the  VIorating  body  were  placed  in  vacuum  the 
=gy  of  the  initial  irnpnlse  would  be  kept  constant  and  the 

•ifit is  ilifllcult to onalym ui.  to caretillly observe 1IIe "Peech organs 
in the process ofproducing wrious soundS, 1he acoustic :features  of soUlids are more 
I
easily  observable.  The  sounds  we produce  can' be  recorded.  tlreir  features  can be 
!!lll\ly?.ed,  we  Can  even provide  graphics  representing  the  sounds  we  a:rticulare  by 
me:ans  of special machines (see "the di'icus$ion below) 

47 



movement would continue for ever. However, as the vibrating body is
1
surrounded by its movement is'1:!:llIlSD1itted  to the air molecules
around. that vibrate accordingly. The vibration of1he pendulum or of
-
the prong of the tu:ni:og furk can be represented graphically by a
sinusoidal curve. The vertical axis  or the ordin;rt:e will measure the
amplitude or intensity of the SQUDd. while the. horizontal one, or the
1
..

abscissa will measure the duration in time oftile vibration. . .
If the distance from tile point of rest is greater, we say the
amplitude of the vibration is higher. This is related to the aruount of
... 
energy that is traIllilIlitted through the  air by means  of the resPective
sound wave. The higher the  amplitude i ~   the louder the sound. The

conventional way in which we refer to  the  intensity or loudness or
'I
.-
ampJi:tude of sounds is tIlat of using the decibel scale. The decibel
scale does not express the absolute intensity of a sound, but the ratio
between the intensity of a sound and a reference intensity. Thus, ifwe
... 

want to compare the intensity of two sounds, we take the logarithm to
the base 10 of their ratio aod multiply it by 10. For instance, ifa sOlIDd
is 1000 times more intense than alJother, it means 1:baf  10 bas to be
J
*, 
raised to the power 3 1JJ get the ratio between them. If we multiply 3
by lOwe get 30, therefore the difference between the two sounds is of
3a decibels (dB). If a sound is a billion times more intense than
another, this means that their ratio. is  10 raised to the power 9, so 1he
dilference between them is of 9 multiplied by 10, that is 0£90 decibels
(dB). Tho reference value fur the decibel scale is the standard intensity
1
....
of a sound which has a fixed value close to·the audible limit of sound.
(Ihis'value is .10,16 watts per square centimetre). Therefore, if we say

that a sound is 40 decibels it means it is  ten ihousaod times more
- intenSe than ihe standerd reft:rence value.
A complete' movement, thin  is one starting  from tile initial
;.
point going as far as the IJlllXimum amplitude, ,thw back to the point
of rest aod beyond it to the maximum amplitude in the opposite
-
direction and fulally back again to 1he point of reat is  called a cycle.

lhe higher thc· number of cycles per unit of time (second) is, the

0..;
higher thefrequency of the vibration is. The time it takes for a cycle to
be compkted is called the period of the  vibration. Frequency is
"';
t 48
measured in cycles per second (cps) or Hertz. Sounds having a
com;timt period (in other words sounds displaying a regular vibration)
are called periodic sounds. The typical example for this kind of sounds
are musical sounds. However, in the case of other sounds, snccessive
periods vary and these sounds are called aperiodic. In reality, periodic
vibrations are seldom simple, the vibration being of a more complex
kind than that rL-presented by  the simple sinusoidal wave (or sine
"I'II1;lve) deseribed above. A  vibrating body oscillates or vibrates at
various intensitie.', the ensuing vibration of the entire body being a
wave that is not si]rusoidal and will differ from any of the simple sine
waves of which it is the result. The sinnsoidal components of aoy
complex periodic sound are  called the harmnnics of the respective
sound. The higher harmonics are integral multiples of the 10WCb1:
harmonic which is  called 1he fo,ndamental frequency or the
fondamentaI of the resPective sound. Thus, if a sound has as its
fundamental frequency 200 cps and one of its higher harmonics is of,
say, 400 cps, we say that.;the latter is the 2
nd
harmonic of the sound
since it is twice bigher than the fundemental. A  harmonic having the
frequency of 800 cps will be 1he 4th harmonic of1he sound, as it is four
times higher than the fundamental. We should always specify
therefore, in the case of periodic sounds, which are the frcqncocy and
amplitude of its funda1:nental and of its higher hru:monies. It is also
important to note that though the various mtes of vibra1ion will result
in a given timbre (tonality) of the sound. which is different from any 
of 1he harmonics, it will  always be the fundemental that es"entially
defines (give., 1he quality of) a given sound. This kind of specification
that include., the fundamental and -the hru:monics of a sound is called
1hc spectrum oftlie respective sound.
An essential feature of any sound is its pitch. Pitch is, roughly
.-peaking, the way in which we perceive the frequency of a SOUlld, it
in other words the pc.:rceptoal correlate of the frequency of that sound,
We can say that the higher 1he fundemental frequency of a sound will
be, the higher the pitch of fue respective sound is, or nuher that we
perceive the sound as having a higher pitch. This  correlation is not,
however, linear as there is not always a direct proportionality between
the frequency of a sound and our perception of that frequency. Pitch
has a very important role in intonation as we shall see later. Pitch
differs a lot from one speaker to another. Women, for instance, have
shriller voices than men, therefore the pitch of their utterances will he
higher.
9
How is it then that we recognize a sound as being "the same"
even if it is pronounced by persons whose voices have very .different .
pitches? The answer is that though the fundamental and the number of
harmonics differ, obviously, in the two cases (the one with a lower
pitch having a lower number of harmonics) the shape of the spectrum
of ·the two sounds is pretty much the same in the sense that the
harmonics with the greatest ainplitude are at about the same frequency
in both cascs.· While vowels and sonorants have spectra which
resemble those of periodic sounds (of the kind mUsical sounds are),
obstruents, and particularly the voiceless ones, are aperiodic sounds.
which malces them pretty similar to pure noises.
Three are them the essential acoustic parametres that
characterize a given sound (a sound having a certain quality): its
ampliIude or intensity - that we perceive as loudness; its frequency,
that we perceive as pitch. and its duration. A given sound. therefore,
say the vowel lei, can be pronounced with vru;ious degrees of
intensity, the amplitude varies therefore, but fundamentally the sound
is the same. In spite of frequency variations (that we perceive as
variations in pitch) in the pronunciation ofthe above-mentioned vowel
by different persons, we will still identify the "same" sound. We can
also vmy the length of the vowel and we will still say that the sound'
hasn't fundamentally changed its quality. The anatomy and
physiology of both the articn1a:tion and audition processes draStically
limit the range of sounds that we can produce and perceive,
respectively. In words we cm only utter sounds within a eertain
range of intensity and loudness and their dmation is also limited.
Conversely, our auditory system is able to perceive and analyze
9 The frequency of vocal cord vibration ranges, generally. between 80 and
200 Hz in men, whlle the vibration of women's vocal cords can reach 400 Hz (see
Ladefoged. 1975: 163)'
sounds whose frequency and intensity are situated between certain
values and whose duration is limited-
The vibrations of a body can be transmitted, often with a
higher·:amplitude, by a phenomenon called resonance. Certain bodies
have the property of transmitting vibrations in this way and they are
called resonators: It is enough to think ofmusical instnnnents and this
physical proceSs becomes clear for everybody. Ifwe take a violin, for
instance, the strings play the role of vibrating bodies, while the body
of the instrument acts as a resonator. And this is trne not only for
string instruments, but for wind instruments as well. Ifwe take a flute
or a bassoon, we shall easily see 1:hi.t the air that is pushed into the
instrument when we blow:it makes vibrate the air already existing
inside the instrument and the body of the instrument plays again the
role ofresonator. .
A similar process can be   in the case of speech.
Remembering am description of the main articulators above we shall
again mention the glottis as the first essential segment of the speech
tract that shapes the sounds .tha\ we produce. The vocal cords have the
role of vibrating bodies while tbe pharynx, the oral and the nasal
cavities, respectively; act as resonators. The versatility of these
cavities (notably the oral cavity) that can easily modify their shape
and degree of aperture, the mobility of the tongue and the complexity
of the human speech producing mechanism enable human beings to
articulate a remarkable variety of sounds in terms of their acoustic
:features. The initially weak vibrations of the vocal cords, having a
wide range of frequencies, are taken over and amplified by the above
mentioned resonators. The amplitude and frequency of the sounds that
ate further transmitted by the resonators depend very much on the size
and shape of these resonators. Resonance does not characterize,
however; only cavities that modify the acoustic features of a sound.
Vibrating.bodies themseives.are characterized by various degrees of
resonance:cResonatws can. amplify or damp the fonnarrts of the given
sound. by :enhancing or suppressing various frequencies. This
accounts for the wide -.variety in the parameteres of sounds different
human beings are able to produce. Each of the features of the
50
51




articulators ofan individual has an impact on the types  of sounds that 
individual utters_  The musicality ofthe sounds that we producc-largely 
depends  on  the  characteristics of our phonatory- system,  too.  Vowels, 
for  irist"'lce,  have  distinct  and  constant  patterns  of resonance  (the 
resonating- cavities  assume  certain shapes  whenever a  given  sound is 
uttered) and thus  we  Can  always  recognize the .respective sound by its
-
'.
distinctive mark. The various positions of the soft palate will di:rect the 
air through  either the onu or the IlIl.Sl!l  cavity or through both offuem. 
-.
This will give the sounds We produce a nasal or an oral character. As
pointed out above, the shape and degree ofOjJ<mIJeSS  ofthe mouth can 
vaJY,  The  ton.,aue,  the  lips,  the  teeth,  the  moyement of the  Inaudible 
...  can  also  influence  speech  prodtu:tion  assigning  various  acoustic: 
characteristics  to  the  sounds  we  articulate.  The  qualities  of  the 

vibrating  bodies  themselves  (in  om:  case  the  vocal  cords)  largely 
'I
...  iniluence the timbre of the sound that is produced- Speech p<m:eption 
also  fundamentally  relies  on  the  vibrating  chruacteristics  of various 
membranes,  on  the  possibility  of transmitting  these  vibrations  and"-
....  converting  them  into  neural  impulses.  Certain  segments  of  the 
auditory- system,  too,  act  as  resonators,  amplifying  the basic  features
:-1 of the  sounds  that reach  our ear,  or,  on ilie -con1raly,  damping these 
'- sounds,  ofren  in  order  to  protect  oui  auditory- organs,  (s-"e  the 
;1
discussion ofaudition above). 
As we have said, acoustic phonetics is the b:ranch ofphonetics 
rl
-
where data lire most liable to ll1e.asmemems,  quantification,  etc. ITwe 
can  hardly  think  of apparatuses  being  used in  other linguistic  fields 
like sYntax  or  semantics, for instance, the situati.on  is different in the 
case  of   as  scientists  have  devised v..n()w insirum<:llts  that 
are used to provide _an  "image" ofthe way in which peOple speak find

graphics  representing  the  sounds  we  produce.  Such  an :iru.irument  k 
the .acolMtic spectrograph, au  appliance  similar  in  marry  ways  to  a
'"" 
seismograph,  or to  an electrocardiograph (devices ihat record seismic 
'I
and  heart  activity  respectively).  It  marks  on  paper  the  vibrations 
.... 
caused  by  &1'eoch  sound  production.  The  graphs  they  produ<;e  are 
called spectrograms and represent  the  frequency  of the  sound on the 

vertical  and  its  duration  on  the  horizontal.  'The  darker  bands  in the 
1<J
52
'·1
spectrogram are called the formants of the respective sounds and they 
represent the frequencies at which a greater amount of energy is spent. 
Normally,  two  or tbra fonnants"  at  the  most  are  used  to  describe  a 
certain sound. Formants are essential for tire aJXrIlStic representaJion of 
sounds and all voiced sounds have a fbnuan£ structare. 
Different  classes  of sounds  have,  as  shown  above,  di:ffurent 
acoustic parametres._ We have  already meutioned  the :fact ihat,  of the 
twO  major classes  of sounds,  vowels  and  ==ts, the fOmler  are 
closer,  acOll&1iCally  b'Peaking,  to  musical  sounds,  their  vibration 
comcs  closer  to  the  ideal  line  of the  periodic  constant  vibration. 
Vow"!s  in their tum have  distinct  aconstic features.  Front vowels  for 
- , 
inStance,  are  acute  sounds,  displaying  higher  frequencies  in  their 
second £o=t (between 1800 and 2300 eps),  w1rile  back vowels ore, 
cOinpar.d.lvelY,  graver sounds,  their second formant ranging  between 
800  and  1009  cps.  We  can  also  distiilguiab  between  compact  and 
dj:j'fuse  vowels,  depynding on the way in which the main fo=ts are 
close  to -=h othei  or  ore  wider' apart in the  spectrum  of the  sound.
."  .  ' 
ThpS, low  or open vowels have  their  funnants  grouped  toward.q  the 
middle of the  spectrum and axe  consequerrtly  compact,  while high or 
clOllC  vowels  are  diffuse.  the  distance  between  their  fOIl:IJJmts  being 
greater. Consoillmts, on the oilier band, can be clearly distinguished on 
the  basis  of their acoustic  features.  Non-p,:ripheral  (dental,  alveolar, 
alveopalatal,  palatal)  sounds  are  !,cutc,  as their formants  axe  situated 
among  the  uppe.r  freqnencies  of  the  spectnJm,  while  pLnpheral 
consonants  are' grave,  as  their  formants  are situated among the lower 
frequencies-of the spectrum.
1Q 
I. :rm:,  was made by Ialrobsan and Halle (1956), who introduced 
the  respeclivr.  Iioatmes,  actIJ£Igrave to  diffenmtiare  betwom  periphcira!  and  non-
peripheral  consolll!l:llR  Acoustic  param"tu:"  of sounds  played  an  important mI. in 
sev<lIii1  notorious  atttmplS  made  by wrious  phonologistli  b:>  eSlablish. a  list of so-
called distinctive.fua1nres.  JaJcobson and Halle's clBssification notably  uses acoustic 
charncteristics b:> describe the femures. More detailS  will be givOJI mthis book ill the 
chapter discussing di'/tin<1ive features. 
53 
I
~
~ I
_. 
(though  arguably  so,  since  we  can  hardly  speak  about  a  unique 
2;5. SynchrOniC, diachronic, comparative phonology 
. We have SO  fur exatriined  the interest of phoneticianS  in what 
may. be  called  the  production,  the  perception  and  the  physical 
characteristics  of  sounds  and  we  have  briefly  presentee! various 
doro.;iio.s'  of phonetics  dealing  with  the  respective  dam: articulatary, 
aud:il:ory and  acoustic  Pboni:rtics. LangtlllgeB,  however,  are  not  given 
once for  ever and they are  sUbject to change as all h=things are. 
Of course  that changes  affecting  a  certain  language  are  not  easily 
noticeable  over  a  shari;  period. of time  and  if we  want  to  collect 
relevant  data regarding  these  phenomena we  often have  to  :refer  to 
periods  of one  or  severa}  centuries.  Pronunciation  changes  too  and 
though we  do not have recordings  of the way in which people spoke 
centuries  ago,  specia1L<rts  can, however,  "reconstruct" the  manner in 
which words used to  be pronounced in the past. klinguistiC approach 
that is interested in data that pertain to the evolution or changes in the 
pronunciation  of  a  given  language  over  a  longer  period  of  time
belongs to  the domain of histarical or diachronic phonology. If, on the 
contr;lljT,  the phonetician's  approach focuses  on aspects  linked to the 
phonological system of a  language at a  given moment in its  evolution 
we say that his or her approach is synchroniC and  can be subscribed to 
what is called.SJlnc/vonic phonology. Ifa  phonetician'S analysis  deals 
with  aspects  regardi.ne  the  pronunciation  of different  languages  or 
even ofdialects or regional  varieties· of ohe and the same Ia:ngOage, in
other words ifbe' or she is interested in comparing phonetic feattireS of  . 
different linguistic systems, the t!,speetive approach belongs to what is 
called  comparati:ve phonology.
2.6. Varieties  of English. The international spread 
or  English.  Regionid  variation.  Aeeents. 
Standard English and Received Pronunciation 
Ifthere are people who claim that Chinese rather than English 
is  the  language  that haq ·the  largest nlJ1Ilber  of speakers  in the world 
laD.oauage  spoken by the  1.2 -billion  Chinese)  English  is  indisputably 
the lllilst widely spread language  on earth,  as  it is  practically spoken 

on  all continents,  either  as  mother  tongne  or  first  language  or  as  a 
second  language  (oflen  an  official  isnguage  in  the  respective 
countries) by hundreds ofmillions of people. A  language having such 

It wide  geographical' spread  cannot be  fWlIlcted to  be  "the  same" in 
.4 
places  tens  of thousands  of kilometres  apart.  hI  other  words,  we 
cannot imagine that people in Sydney, Calcutta,  Vancouver, Toronto, 

Los  Angeles,  the FaJ.kland  Islands,  Dar  es  Salasrn,  Harare, 
Johannesburg,  Cork,  Glasgow,  York, Manchester. London or Victoria 
speak  the  same  "kind"  of English.  The  d:iJ'furences  are  n.:n  always-
I
proportional-to the dist:ances,  since  General American  (the  variety  of 
American Eng1ish !bat is dialectallY. ncu1n!1, that is it is not influenced 
by the  souythern  or eastern  AmeriClm  accents  and  is  spoken by the 
I
majority of the population of the USA; .it is usually abbreviated GA) is 
much  closer  to  stlmdard British  English  (see  the  explanation  of the 
ll
term below)  than are  some  of the  northern  accents  spoken  on  ilie 
I
very  island  of  Britain.  1bis  is  so  because  dialectal  (or  regional) 
variation is typical of any language, not only of languages having suCh
a  reJl.larkable  geographical  spread  as  English.  The  fact  that  English 
I
came into  contact _  as  a  consequence of the werldwide extent of the 
. British colonial empire _.  with  a wide variety of languages  spoken by 
native populations in variollS parts of the werld only contributed to an 
I
even  greater  diversification  of  the  varieties  of  English  that  are 
currently  spoken  all  over  the  world.  Therefore,  the  distinctions 
mentioned  above  can  be  of different  kinds,  pertaining  either  to the  I
already  mentioned regi anal  varistion,  or  to  the  separate  evolution  of 
the  language  in  different  parts  of the  world  to  which  geographical 
distances  and  cultural  fuetOIS largely  contributed.  hi many cases,  the  I
interaction between English  and  one  or several  localla:nguages  gave 
birtb  to so-called pidgins.  Variation can aiso be noticed at individual 
I
It We Use tl:u:.: terril accent with the sense of promlOclntion Wical  of a
certlin. dialect (regiolllll varillnt) ofa given lall,!!uage. 
(;
55 
.. 



[I 



II 





rJ 
FI 
level  and  the  kind  of  English  spoken  by  a  certain  person  often 
illustrales  his  or  her  educational  and  social  bacl<:ground,  a  situation 
particul.arly  relevant  in  a  conservative  country  like  Britain.  where 
social  and  cultural  differences  are  more  important than in other parts 
of the  world.  Diffurences  between  the  varieties  of English  pertain, 
n.atur-.illy,  not  only to  the voc;WularY  or grai:m;oar,  but,  essentially,. to 
pronunciation  as  well.  They  are  never  that  imporlallt,  however,  to 
justify the  of "  d.i:ffurent "llinguage" and those speaking 
abont an "American" langaage, for example, are doing it either out of 
ignorance,  or  of "patriotism",  or  because  of  commereia1  interests 
(more  people  would be  intaJ:ested  in being  taught  "American"  than 
"English",  for  instance).  If variation  in  the  case  of  individual 
languages  is a  natural  and  co.mmon phenomenon,  and 
adn:rinistratively it can hardly be accepted. Attempts at 
and normalization, .at preserving the  unity and  even the 'Jrurity"12  of 
the  language  represent  therefure  a  constant  concem  fur  different 
official bodies  md institutions in various countries. If this is easier to 
achieve  at  the  level  of the  writtcm  language,  dilficnlties  are  much. 
greater  in  the  case  of  the  spoken  language.  Even  at  this  level, 
however,  the  need  for  a  standardized,. more  or  less  universallY 
acceptable  and  recognizable  variant  is: even  greater  in  the  case  of 
English  than  in  that  of  other  languages,  since  this  is  the  official 
language of many countries in the world and is the most -widely used 
lan"ouage  in international  conferences, meetings,  etc,  being the main 
Jan.,ouage  used by UN  organizations  and ba;ving  become  since Warld 
War JI  a kind of lingua franca of contemporary world.  A  variety  of 
English  ignoring  the  naluo3l  diversity.  of  various  dia).ects  or 
geograpmcalinational  varian1.ll  of  the  1!wgaage  thus  gradually 
established itself as the standard version of the language. This variety 
ofEnglish is  largely based on the southem dialects of the  language, 
around  which  the  literary'  laoguage  had  been  formed,  and  its 
12 French  are  notorious  for  their  often  exaggerated  efforls  to.  protect 
ODd  preserve  the    of their  lal:Igullge.  Si:milar  atlelllp1S,  less  consistent  and 
systematic  and  having  little  if any scieotific  fuundation  - and  consequently being 
pure pul:tiwl demagogy  have been made in our country.  teo. 
56 
pronunciation  is  commonly  known  as  Received PronullciaJiofL 111"
ernc.rgence  of a  southern  dialect  to  this predominant position can be 
historically.  explained  by  the  political,  economic  and  cultural 
importance  of London  ever  since  early Middle Ages.  The  language 
spoken  at Court by the royal f:amily  and their refined  entourage  WdS 
early  invested. with  all  the  respect,  authority  and  iriiluence  that  a 
model  needs.  Being the  language  of the  educated upper  segments  of 
the.  iEngIioili  society,  it  was  perceived  as  the  correct version  of the 
_language,  in  opposition  to  other  accents  that  were  consequently 
regsrdcd  as  corrupted  forms  of  the  norm.  The  two  traditional 
lmivt.Jrsities,  Oxford  and: Cambridge. and,  in more  recent  times,  the 
public schools largely contribnted to the growing prestige of Received 
Pronunciation. The very term received suggests the idea of the geDerai 
acceptance  of this  variety of Engli1!J:t.  The  invention of the  radio  IlI!d 
the  adopting  of RP by the BBC also  pliyeld  an important role  in the 
imposing ofRP as the socially desirable norm for the p:ronunciation of 
the Janguage.  It also  account9  fur  RP being known  as  BBC English. 
This  prestige  of RP  is  not linguistically motivated  but is  essentially 
rooted in: tradition and in the anthority of the educational systt-."IIl  and 
of  the  upper  classes,  since  it  has  been  for  a  long  tim"  the 
prommciation mught in schooL descnoed by English dictionaries and
.  ,  . 
phonetic books, .disseminated through the media, ll.'lCd by the educated 
people in academic circles, in public speeches,  conferences,  etc.  It 
in one word, the kind  of English having the highest social and crdtural 
Sl!Jllls  and that any ''reb-pectable'' person is supposed to use.
13 
Starting 
as  the  accent  of a  limited  social  segment  and  having  the  essential 
features  of a  southc:rn accent, RP transcended social and geographical 
limits and  came  to  be  recogxrized  as  the  correct  variant  of  the 
Ian.,OUBge,  the  norm  as  regards  pronunciation.  As  mentioned  above, 
more  than  other  couniries,  Engiand  is  a  placel  where  accent  still 
1)  It  should  be  that;,  aCC01"ding  to  statispcs.  RP  is 
characteristic  ouly  of about 3%  of the  overall  nmul>er  of speakers  of the  English 
language,  thm  many  I!lltive  speakors  will  consider  it  affected  and  that  foreigu 
sp6llkers  rarely  acqulre  it rorrectJ;y.  For most people  it  functions  as  an ideal target 
rather fhao  an actual mealJ."  ofcrunmunicatiou. 
57 
an important index to lhe social and educational
background ofthe speaker. This largely accollIJis :fur lhe survival of
RP 'as the standard pIOllunci1ltion Ilf the ilmguage in spite of its
stati.Stic insignificance descnoed inthenot"before. WilhinRPitaeif,
however, three main types can be di,;<linguished: conservative RP,
generalRPandadvancedRP.ConservativeRi'ischaracteristic·forthe
oldergenerations ofRP andis!hevariantmost resistantta
Advanced RP, on the contrary typifies a:J:temptB to obange
witliin RP and may be suggestive offuture evolutions within RP.
General RPis!hemostwidelyused,keepingthebel;mcebetween!he
conServative and!heinnovativetendencieswithinlheaccent.1tis!he
RPvariant!hat iscommonlyusedby!hemecfu..
Asfortheotherdialectalpronunciations of BritishEnglishwe
will mention only some ofthe most important Cockney enjoys a
certain notoriety asit the accentusedinthesouth, notablyin!he
London region and typifies the pronunciation of whal: was
. .
ttaditionally called the working class. Some ofthe most striking
ahal:acteristics ofCockney arethatitreplaces voiceless stops by the
glottal stop and widenslhediphthong [elJ to [m]. Several acoonta of
southernandsoufu.easternEnglandarecollectivelyknownas Estuary
England. Northern dialects, whlclJ inclUde accents of Northern
rmgllmd and uf Scotland are, generally, motie {r is pronounced in
orpre-consonantalposition;e.g.inwordSlikecaror
pa:rt), while !he,central openvowel [A] is. generally pronounced as
some.sort of (u]. hish people speak English with avery distinct
acceot.Ifwee,dendouroutlooktovarietiesof Englishspokenoutside
the BritjsJl isles invarious regions ofthe world that were foIIIU'irly
inCludedintheBritishEmpire,AmericanrmgIishwillofcoursehave
an: outstandingposition, Americansformingthelarge.s!. communityof
nativeEnglishspeakers intheworld V.arious l.!ihels willbeattached
todifferentvarieties of thelanguage,thathaveborrowedthenameof
the respective countries or geographical regions: Australian'Englisl:t,
Indian English, Canadian English etc. Further snbdivisions are, of
coprae, possible, taking into account linguistic diversification eveo.
wilhinlhevarictiesmentionedabove.
j
I .

'I
2.7. SoundChange. Thegapbetweenspellingand
pronunciation.' The International Phonetic
Alphabet. Homonyms, homophones,
homographs .
]
As shoWn above, the invention of alphabetic writing
]
represented a huge step forwm-d onthe way to a simplified graphic 
symbolization ofthe words ofspoken languages. Early systems of 
spelling were gt:nerally based on a one-to-one correspondence 
l
..
'
betweenthe graphicrepresentation and the spokenlanguage, in other 
Words alielindthe samesound (or, raiher,phoneme, as we .hallsee 
later) 'Was'always represented by One and the same graphic symbol 
iI
(letter)andagraphi.csymbolcouldonlybepronouncedinoneway. ea 
one-to-oDe relation). However,.,as the prommciation of =y 
    underwentimportant changes aJ.ong centuries, the spelling 
I
didnotalwayskeepthepacewiththesetransformations. Theexample 
of, English is, .probably, the most relevant, among the modem 
Euiopean languages at"1eastTothedismayofforeign stodeuts of the 
I
language, but probably no less to that of p:rim.aty school native 
sPeakers as well,thegapcreatedbetweenthepronunciationofwords 
and ortbogrophy in modem English is sometimes stunning; even 
I
consonants, a usually safer ground than vowels, .can sometimes 
reserve unpleasant smprises. How can an average English speaker 
account for !he variation from a velarplosive to a palata-Alveolar 
I
affricate or fricative in examples like get [get], gem [d3em] and 
gendarme [30;nda=J or give [gTV], gipsy [<tIPSI] and gi'te [3
i
:t] 
respectively? Whyshouldoneandthesamegroupofletters- ch- be 
read in three different ways in words lilre child (IfaIId], charade

[fa'ra:dI and character ('kemkta]?Howcanweaccountforthefact 
thatwordS like four, cliff, laugh, pharmacy and lieutenant use five 
j
difrerent ways for representing one and the same sound; Iff? The
""planationthatpresent-day English ,,.pell:ing actually represents (or,
anyway, ismuclJ closerto) the pronunciation oflatemiddleEnglish
i
canharrllysweetenthepillThegrimreali1ywearcconfrontedwithis
thstwchavetoseparatelylearnthepronunciationandthespellingof
i
59

 









[) 
II 
[J 
fJ 
[) 
rl 
,the  words of the language as  any correspondence we might be tempted 
to  establish  between  :the  two  can  prove  utterly  misieading,14 
Suggestions  have  .1)een  made  to  simpli:fjr  English  orthography  and 
"tune"  it  to  :the  prommciation  of :the  words.  It  is  precisely  tile 
m.1raordioo:ry variel)' of  the language mentioned above :that seems  t!l 
be,  however,  one  of the major  in this  direction,  as;  it has
been argued,  spelling T<i1;nains  one of the  major 'ml;:lllL'l  of prest.'rving 
:the  lmity  of  the  language.  If it  were  adapted  to  the  way  people 
pronounce the words, then one and the same word could have, so IDBllY 
spellings that different users ofEnglish could hardly recognize it. 
o  The need was felt,  :then, for  a handier, illore  accessible system 
of graphic representation of the sounds  that should  somehow parallel 
the  normal  spelling  but  be  based  on  a  more  logical,  one-to-one 
correspendence with  the phonemic  of the lan,,<>uage.    idea 
of a  so-called phonetic alphabet was thus bom. At the end ofthe  19
th 
century a  group of phoneticillIlS  led  by a  French linguist, Paul Passy, 
created the lllternatiOnal Phonetic Association and devised a system of 
.  graphic  representation  of soUnds  that was  actllally :the  first 
alphabet.  Gradually, :thc  system was enriched and inJproved  50  that it 
soould not  be  linked to  any, particular language,  but rather  be  apt to 
represent  graphically' :the  pronunciation  of  words  in  any  langrmge 
On  earth.  Since  the  members  of the  association  cmne  from 
countries  where  the  Latin  alphabet  is  used  (which  is,  anyway,  the 
predominant alphabet on most of:the five continents ofthe world), the 
symbols  used  by  the  newly  devised  phonatic  alphabet  are  mainly 
taken  from  this  alphabet.  Diacritics  ru:c  some/:imes  used tu  represent 
cet1l1in -sounds. As far as English is concerned, sarne of  sotiruis (the 
interdental fricatives,  for  iIlb"tance)  lID'  represented by symbolS  taken 
from  the' Greek  alphabet,  the  respective  sounds  being  round  in the 
Greek  language  as' well.  Ever  since  the  first  phonetic  alphabet  was 
created,  'one  of  the  main  tasks  of  the  International  Phonetic 
J4  Ber<Ulrd  Shaw's  furuous  ,,,,,,,,,,tic  suggesliOIl  that English people should. 
be consist<mt  alld  ,poll  tlte  word fish  3R  ghoti  (gb  to  represent 1he  sound {  as  in 
laugh. 0  to roprese.nt tit. "owol I  as in women and ti 10  represent tile paialo-al"eolar 
fricative Jas iumWOl1)  is quoted by all plronoticimlS 
60 
Association has been to  keep  it updated,  enriching and adapting  it  to 
the  various  diifurent  idioms  as  well  as  to  publicize  :the  changes 
brought  to  the  alphabet.  The  alphabet  of the  International  Phonetic 
Associati.on.  commonly. cclled  the  InternationaLphonetic Alphabet is 
the  one ,COllV",,-qon4lY  used  by  all major  language  dictionar;ies  aud 
encyclopediaSin 9.t:4BX.1:O repreSf.,.nt the pronunciation ofbo:th common 
and proper  proved to he an extremely useful  tool,  as it 
has the major advairtagc  of uSlng one and only one '(always :the same) 
symbol for the srune sound disregarding thus spelling peculiarities that 
are often SO  PUZl1.!iug and misleading for students of a  language woose 
orthography  is  essentis1ly  based  on  eJymological  principles, 
Conventionally, :the  graphic  symbols  used to represent pronunciation 
are placed between square btacl<ets. 
The di51ance  existing betweeu. the pronunciation of words Il11d 

their spelling  creates  a  special problem in ymguages like English, one 
that is  unknown to  languages  like  Romanian where  spelling is based; 
on a phonemic principle.  Ail languages  have  words  that have  similar 
pronunciations. but  have  entirely' diff=ntmeanings. "They  have' 
different  diffi:rent meamngs  and  their  phonetic  similari1:)r  is. 
due  to  sound  changes  undergone  by  words  that  were  originally 
entirely distinct.  These words  are called homonyms, the word coming 
UUID  Greek  their  Samenes;  (Ok.. ' homos  =  same).  Ali 
homonyms have both :the same pronunciation and' same spelling io' 
a  language like:  Romanian:  e.g.  mare (adj.,  big) and mare  (n.•  sea),  a 
semiina. (to  resemble)  and a 8emtina (to  sow), pot (1
st 
pers  sg.  and  3'" 
pern, pI.  of:the present iodicanve  of the  verb  II pUlea,  can)  and pot. 
(stake  in  a  g"d!Ile  of cards),  cearii  3

person sg,  and  plurdl  present, 
and  cearii (war). ,!he diiI=.n.ce  between  spelling  and. 
pronunciation in English introduces a further distinction as  may 
have  similar  and  be  homopk,nes  (or  I 
leJdcal items)' but have differ'OIlt  Two English words will be 
then homoDyrOOus,  strictly speaking, if:they are not only homophones, 
but they are also homographs (:they  arc spelt in the  same way).  Thus, 
the modal verb riiOji is.a homonym of the noUn  May (:the mon:th ofthc, 
61 
year)orthe:noun  type isahOJIlOnymof theverbtype astheyarehoth
homophones and homograpb.q, while pairs ofwords lJke  pray aod
prey, meat andmeet, sow sew, will only,behomophonesbutnot
genuille homonyms as'they are notalso bomogrnpbs. We cancome
, 'theopposiresituation,Wl:w.n twowordsare  butare 
pronounceddifferently:e.g.row (or;;b;irn)'aDdrow (the
"weapon) and bow (the'synonym ofbend); $OW theverbandsow the
femalepig.
'CHAPTER  3 
THE SOUNDS OF ENGLISH. CONSONANTS
AND VOWELS. AN ARTICULATORY ,
CLASSIFICATION AND DESCRIPTION
OF CONSONANTS. ,
CORRELATES
3.1. Consonants and Vowels. Traditional
distinctions. Chomsky and Halle's SPE
definition
The previous chapterhas provided a briefdescription ofthe 
humanphonatorysysteminsistingonthemain articulatoryorgansand 
t;lifferentiating between passive and active articulators. Articulatory 
phoneticshasbeendefined   thatJl.l.Jldies.1hf' 
soundS ofa language from thepoint ofviewoftheiJ:)U1LeolatioI.l....gf 
themannerin whichtheycometobeproduceg,utttrred!:1Y  thel!P.eliker. 
TheneXt ChliPters  oftlilsbookwill giv.;:u;;;descriptionand ' 
., 
classificationofthesoundaof Englishin articulatoryterms,presenting
alsosomeacousticcorrelatesoflliemajorclassesofsounds.
When tJyjng  to describe the, sounds ofEnglish- or ofany
language for that  matter  - one should, start with the  ttaditional
distinction between two major classes of sounds: v(JWels and
consonants., respectively. Thereis, ofcourse, no universally acce;pted
definition" for - is there any subject upon which
grammar:ians Will'agree, after all? butwe  canresort, atlastforthe
beginning, to etymology, to explain what people - in an intuitive
rather thanscholarly manner-,have always under.srood by the two
concepts. The worovowel comesfrom.the Latin worovocaiis, which
ic itsturnderives,fromvox, vocis, meaningword, voice, (cf.alsoRom.
6" .1
----


•  t< 
vocaJif) In  other  words,  we  always  percelve  Ivowels',  as  sound 
  --
intimately relaied to the feature of voicedness:  a vowellS a sound thai 


must be produced with vocal cord  '&t tlrls'is  a featuii-tri.iii
characterizes  some  sOWldS- is  something  thai  will  be 
discussed  a  little  bit  later.  On  the  other  band,  the  word 
- again,  on a  strictly etymological b/liiis - thai the
iJ
doesn't have an articulatory autollomy, 0:;:,  to put it differently, 
that  it pas  to sound tQ&-etber  (La:,  COnB017L1llS, present parrticiple  of 
consonare cf also Lat. consOM, Rom. consoanli) or.  in. 
association  with  other  SOUllds.  This  iH  again  somerhin,i(tlia-Cwe  are 
somehow intuitively aware of. or at least we were taught thai this was
the  case  as·  early  as  during  our  first  language  classes  in  primary
.... 
schooL  Thai this  is  a  definition that causes  some serious problems is 
again sometlring thai will be soon discussed-
:1
As  pointed  out  before,  these  etymological  references  are  not

:1
very  helpful  in  llllderstanding  the  true  nature  of the  dlfferences 
betweOll fhe two classes of sounds.  Though always voiced" vowels are 
by no means the only voiced sounds in a  l!l.l1llU"ge.  On fhe other hand, 
,--
sounds  that  don't  have  consonantal  features,  may  very  well  be
;1
pronounced together with other  Further difficulties are created 
by fhe  ambiguous nature of certain sounds that have both vocalic and 
.... 

conson.autal features. 
TIle  soroewhaJ:  intuitive  criteria  (seldom  explicitly expressed, 
howeveri had to be replaced by systematio and  consiStent attempts at 
.... 

defi:n:ing the true nature ofthe  between the two classes. 
According  to  Ferdinand  de  Sau:;sure,  what  distinguishes 
vowels  fram  consonants  is  the higher  degree  of aperture  of the  oral
.... 

cavity.  From  an  articulatory  point  of view,  the  two  classes  are  not, 
however,  essentially  di:ffurent.  It  is  only  from  an  acou..otic  point  of 
view  that  ·distinctions  are  relevant;  the  laryngeal  sound  being
- amplified by the oral eavity that Dmctidns primarily as a  resonator in 
rl
... 
I  KOllllcth Pilre notes that "frequently fur desGripiWn of langtUlgt'" 1he 
;1
division  is assumed,  with no  attempt In defiM it. Tl)e distinctiOIL is  ofhm 
as ifit were  with every solllld belonging to one or the otlrer oftl!e groups" 
 
(1943: 66) 
64
'I


./ 
!
I, 



the .case  of vowels,  while  in the  case  of consonants  it r,,-duces  the 
resonance  of the laryngeal  souru:ls,  It noise-like effect being produeed 
by fhe In:tercession of oral articulatOrs.

LeOl1llTd  Bloomfield  defines  vowels  as  "modifications  of 
voice-sOlmd that involve no closure, :fi:ictiDn, or contact ofthe tongue or 
lips"  while  conso1ll'll1tS  (thai include  stops,  trills,  nasals  and 
laterals)  are  "the other" sounds. Bloomfield i:leplares the way in which 
the twa labels, vowels and consonants respectively, are used and argues 
that in. the description of individuBl1anguages it is convenient to use the 
terIns  in a  cliffurent  w:ay  and  to  supple:n:tlmt  !his  distinction  made  in 
artk.-ulatory 1etms. He suggesi.s that the distinction should be refined by 
adding two more classes: sonan/s and ;-emivoweL,', (1935: l02)  , 
Arguing in favOlU'  of a slrict delimitation betweL"Il fhe phonetic 
(articulatoJy and acoustic)  descriptions of souru:ls  and their phonemic, 
contrastive  value  in  a  given  context,;  J'ike'  distinguishes  between 
contoid and vocoid sound.q,  a  division exclusively based on phonetic 
charaeter:i:>1ies thai parallels the distinction consonants/vowels iliat are 
"categories of sounds, not as deten:nined by fheir own phonetic nature, 
hut  according  to  their.  grouping  in  speci:lic  syllable  contextual 
functions", . Aecording  to  tlris  interprataiion  we  can  talk  about 
univernal,  purely  phonetic  fua'tores  of· conroids  aurl  vocoi ds 
respectively,  while  each  particular  langllflgc  (phonological  system) 
will dclineate itS own classes ofconsommts and vowels. 
1. La fomml. d'une voyell. est ."a,c!:fmlellt comparable a  celie de n'irnporte 
quelle  COIlSOllil.  s=Au point de  we de "articulation  buccal",  il n'y a  pas de 
dJstinctian  a:fitire.  Scul  I'cffot  a£cOIllltiqUll  est  difierent.  Passe  1m  certain  degr. 
d'aperture, la bouche .tbru:tiom:te  principalc;twmt comme resona:teUr. Le timbre dtt 
son l..-ynge "Ppi1fldt pleineinen1 et la'bruit buccal.'ei!iu:e. Plu!!  Ia bouche 50 ferroe, 
plus Ie son bIIYllg&est:intercepti. (1965: 75) 
'"A phonetic sYstem should be able,  wiJirin  the limits ofthe aecnracy and 
finesse  of its  articulaWty,  acoustic,  ru- imitation-labo! procedures,  to  d"scribe  my 
sound in isolation., or in: nanse;n.sc syllablcs, or as cut from: the continuum of speech,
without the necessity ofreftu:ring to othct sounds in 11m context to :find crltz.ria for its 
classtlic:ation. A  phonetic sci""ce should be .ble In define IIIld  de$noe its own  uriits 
by its  Oml  dattt. ••  If 1he  phanetic.ian ;fj,,;t dolilnits supposed mticnlatory classes by 
phonnmlc  team.res,  haw  can  be  thon  dc=ibe  the  phonemes  with  articulatory 
mel:bods? Any such  a!tcmPt  presents  a  Vicious  circle  of phonemics  10  phonetics ID 
phonemics, with the phonetician stllrting at phonmmcs.n  (1943: 78) 
65 
Many  conttmlponuy liDguistic.studies follow C'homsky and
Halle (The Sound Pattern of English, 1968) in   the fact
that the mmndistinctionhetweenvowels andCOIlSOrumts consists in
the.filet that  while weuttera voweltheoutgoing8irl:tream does not
meetanymajorohstacleorconstrictioninits way fromthelungsout
ofthemouth, andthe articulation ofthe sound allows spontanOOtlS 
voicing,whereasthearticulationofa consonantalwaysinvolvessome
kindofblockingof theairstream.
4
·
Oncewehavedecidedthatconsonantsare soundsthatinvolve
a smeture (llllmlwing, wlrich can sometimes lead to a complete
Obstruction)of!he vocaltract,wewilleasilynotic.ethatwhatwehave
just decided·to call consonants are far from being a homogeneous
elass. On the otherhil!ld, itis obvious thatconsoruu.rts will bemore
readily described io articolatory terms  than.vowels since  itwill be
definitelyeasiertopoiuttotheprecise organsinvolvedin theprocess
of articulation and to the place where the above mentioned
constrictiontakesplace.
3.2. Criteria for consolllant classification. Vocal
cordvibration.Sonority
Traditionally, the three basic criteria llsed in the articulatory
descriptiooof a soundan: vocal cord vibration (voicing),theplace of
articulation andthemanner ofarticulation.
. As fuas voicingisconcerned, mtmtionhasbeenmade in the 
chapter describing the articulatory organs that the vocal·cords 
represent a key  element in the articulation ofspeech  sOlllldi Ifthe 
cords vibrate when we produce a sollnd, the sound thus·uttered is 
< Vocalic sounds are defined as sounds "prodnced ...nIt an oral caYity in 
wruch the mostramcalconsnictimtdoesnotOlCceed!bat flJllllliin thehigh'Iowels [i} 
and [u)andwith vocalcordsfuatarepositionedso as toallowspontmoousvoicing;
in producingllOIlvocalic ao,mils one or bofuoffuL"Se conditions me not s.dsfied."
CQnsOlla.ntal  so1.ll'l<ls  a:re:  dt--..:fi'ned as sounds "producecL with a radical obstruction in
the region of 'the -rocal tract; nonconsonanbll sounds are produced
withoutsuchanobstruction"(191ill:302)
calleda voiced sound (Rom. sonar). If, onthecontrary, the soundis 
utterec1'witholit vocal· cord vibration. th!'1l we are tal.king about a
VOiceless sound· CRam. surd). Wehavcalretldy saidthatallvowelsare
voiced, while'is regards consonants, they fall into thetwocategories
mentioned".nove.
Voicingis not,however, theonlyparameterthat canbeusedto
classifjr consonants and other I.:riter:ia ",111 also be used to eross-
classifY this prettynumerous and heterogeneous ofsOllJJ.ds. If 
Vloration  ofthe vocal cords constitutes an important. cinerion for
differentiating among various sounds, the outgoing airstream. may
makethetWo cavities(oral ornasal)mentionedinthesecondchapter
vibxllte. TItis generatesan acousticphenomenonwe arefumilj'ar with 
from everyda;y life, namelyresonance. The lrigher or lowerlevel of
resonanceproducedwhen a sound is  uttered results into a higher or
lower degree of prominence or sonority and leads to a majar
distinction betWeen two classes of -consonants: sonorallts and
obstruents. Sonorants;;n,ofcourse, becalled thosesounds havinga
1rigber ofsonoril;y and :resonance, while obstruents will be
thoseconsonantscharacterizedbyacomparativelylowersonorityand
involvingamuchlowerresoIl!!nce(if a:ny). Thelevelofsonoritybeiog
higherin thecaseofsonarants (the vowelsthemselveswillhold the
highestpositirniona sonorityscale),theywillconsequentlybevowel
or vowel-like sounds. The obsttuents wiU be those sounds having
predominantlyconsonanlal features, the classincludingtheso called


genuineor.trueCOnsOlWlts. In English,aU sonorantsarevoiced,while
obs!IllentsmaybevoicedOJ: voiceless.
,

I
3.3. Manner of articulation. Plosives. Fricatives.

Affricates


.Tmeconsonants or obstitrents can then be classified taking
intoaccount.mannerofarticulationfeatores. Consonantshavealready
beendefinedas'soundsproduced byobstructingthevocaltractw:hile
expclling the .airs1re3m from the lungs. The way in  which  this
obstruction is  ac1rieved can be of difrerent kinds. If a sound is 
h/l 
67









[J 
[J 

[J 
'1 
produced  with  a  complete  closure  of the  vocal  tract  fullowed  by  a 
sudden release ofthe air,  the articulation is accompanied bya  burst, a 
sort  of explosioIL  Such  so).lIidS  are  consequ=tly called plostves.  As 
fu"  articulation involves a total Obstnicti01i (occlusion)  ofthe'trac(ali 
alternative flame  for  such a  coiJs01lll1lt is that of stop    (jcluzivii). 
It should  be m=tioned,  however,  that the two. tenDs  are  not ,exactly 
synonymous,  s()unds  are  stops  (the:  air  stream is  blocked) 
but are not plosive smmils  a:i 'their articUlatIon  is not accompanied by 
an  explosive  burst.  We must remember,  fu=,  tfurt t:1:W 'articulation  of 
any plosive  sound includes  three  distinct phases: dming the :first one, 
often  called  the  approach,  the  articulators  are  moving  together; 
preparing to  plock the  airstream;  during the  S!'COM  stage,  called  the 
hold  or  closure,  the  articulators  completely  block  the  speech  tract 
preventing  the air  to  go  out and  contributing thus to  builcting  up the 
pressure  of the  airstream;  during  the  third  and last  stage,  called  the 
release,  or plosion,  the speech  organs  move swiftly,  releasing the air 
with an explosion. 
If the  stricture  or  narrowing  of  the  tract  does  not  result, 
however,  in a  complete blockage  and  11 narrow passage is  left for the 
air to  go  out, the pressure building up in the  case of plosives is absent 
and the sound is uttered  with a  sudderiburst,  but continuously, the 
articuJation being accompanied by friction between the a:in;tream:  and 
the  speech  organs.  Such  sounds' are  therefure  called fricatives.  A 
major  distinction  between  the  latter  and  the  stops  is  that  they  are 
conlinuani,  noruibrupt  sounds  and  their  articulation  can  be,  at  least 
theoretically,  continued mdefinitely. 
The last maj or  group  of consonants  that  can be  identified  on 
the  basis  of the  triannet  of  articUlation  is  that  of  the  affricates. 
Affiicates  combine the features  of the two previou,s classes of sounds, 
since  their  articulation  starts  like  that  of a  ploSive,  by a  complete 
. blockage of the airstream,  but continues  l.ilre  that of a  as the  ' 
,.n"xt stage does  not involve an abrupt release  Of the air,  but a  gradual 
one.  The symbols used in the phonetic transcription of these sooods in 
English are,  as  we shall see,  somehow suggestive  of their ambiguous, 
hybrid nature. 
68 
3.4.  Sonorants.  The  Approximants:  glides  aJill] 
liquids 
Not all continuant sounds are produced, however, with friction, 
as  is  the  case  of fricatives,  mentioned  above.  There  are  sounds  in 
English (and  other IBlloouages  as well,  of course)  the pronunciation of 
which  dol'S  not involve  a  major  obstruction  m  the  speech  tract  and 
does  not  produce  the  auditory  effect  ,of  friction  that  characterize 
fricatives.  Such  sounds  are  co=only  called  approrirnants  or 
frictionless  continuants.  The glides and the liquids are the two major
-! 
subclasses ofapproximants. 
Tne glides are sounds such as [wJand fj]  in English words like 
wife  and  young.  Articulatorily,' they  have  a  predDminimtly  vocalic 
character since no maj or obstacle can be.identified when analyzing the 
way  'in  which  these  sounds  are  If this  is  a  :feature  that 
emphaSizes  their vocalic  character,  their distribution is  not,  however, 
that ofa vowel; they can never be syllable nuclei (they are not syllabic 
in  SPE  terminology)  and  they  always  precede  a  genuine  vowel. 
Because  of their  dual nature they  are  traditionally  called  semivowels 
or semiconsonants,  the very coexistence  of the two  names  suggesting 
the  uncertainty  and  hesitation: of  specialists,  confronted  with  their 
ambiguous lllIfure. A  more detailed description of glides will, be given 
later, when diphthongs are discussed. 
Liquids  constitute  an  important  subclass  of sonorants.  Their 
high  level  of sonority  places  them,  like  the  glides  and  the  nasals, 
between  vowels  and  genuine  consonants.  Liquids  can  be  lateral 
sounds  like  [I] - the  name  comes  from' the  fact  that  when  we  utter 
these  sounds  the  air is  released  laterally  on one  or both  sides  of the 
tongue  - or rhona like  [rJ  - the Dame  comes  from  the  Greek  word 
rho, ,designating 'the  Jetter  R  in  the  Greek  alphabet  1f in  standard 
EngliSh'the sound'has the featureS  of an approxllnant, more exactly of 
a  glidf>.like  sound,  being  produced  without  any  kind  of friction,  in 
certaii:t  dialeCts  of'ErigJish  when this  sound  is  uttered  the  tongue  is 
placed  agaIDst  the  alveolar  ridge  and  caused to  vibrate,  generating  a 
69 
sonorous, intermittent sound a.q !he tongue touches the paSlrive
articrtlatorquicklyandrepeatedly,interruptingtheoutgoingairstream.
Itis the kind of[r]thatappears inSpanishwords likeRodrigo, real,
etc. or in the interjection brrrrl that accompanies a shivering
sensation..Itis called the rolled ortrilled [rJ.Ifwhenthe sowtd is
uttered the tongue rapidly touches with only one movement the
post-alveolarregionwehavea tap orflap typeof thotic.If thetipof
the tongueis drawn even further back" thethotic thus articulated is
calledretroflex.
3.5.Omlandnasalarticulation
A different criterion that can he used to distinguish among
sOlmds is !heposition ofilie velum or softpalate (see.in Chapter2
abovethedescriptionof themainarticulstoryorgans).Jfthevelnmis
lowered,thus allowingthe air1:0 escape throughthe ll!!Slll cavity, we
aredealingwithanasal sound.Ifitisraised,blockingthenasaleavity
andlettingtheairoutthroughtheom!cavity(themouth)thesoundis
called oral. English nasal con.qonants are stops as the airstream is
caznplerely blocked when these·cODSorumts are uttered, but they are
notconsideredpIomvesounds as tqairrelease stagediffersfrom.that
ofom! stops. Nasal sounds are son=tsandof·allthemembers of
tlrisclasstheydh'Playthelowestdegreeof sonority. AsfurasEnglish
vowelsareconcerned,nasalityisa contextualfeature as we aregoing
toseelater.
3.6.Forceofarticulation
Anotherparnmererdifferentiating·amongobstruentsisfarceof
articulation. A greater llrtlculatory effort and a greater air pr!)Ssure
requiredbya gre!rterJ:esistance attheplaceofarticulation(wherethe
constriction takes place)   soundscalledfortis consonants
whileIenis consonants arethose obstruents the articula:ti.on ofwhich
requires a comparativelylessereffurtanda lowerairpressUTethan.in
"' 
thecaseoftheirfortiscountexparts.Thedurationofarticulationisalso ]
longerinthecaseoffortis soundsthaninthecaseoftheLenis ones.In
a voiced I voiceless pair, suchas [t] I Cd], for instance, the feature
fortis always characterizes thevoiceless consonant, while the voiced [J
oneilllani •.
I
Ifwe.considerthe.mctiliatthesourceoftheairstreamthathaq
fJ
anessential role inproducingthe sounds are the lungs, thenwe can
I
say that all the sounds of English are pulmonic (Latin puima,
,
i
pztlmollls, m.eaning Zuni). The direction ofthe airstream isfrom the
[J
;
lungs out ofthe body, in other words we always speak during the
,
I expiiation, notduringthe iospiiationphase ofbreathing. Therefore,
,
the sounds of Engli'lh are also egressive. There are, however,
fI
languages wherethe sounds are ingressive'as they are uttered while
thespeakersbreathein.
I
3.7•.Placeof articulation
i
I
I
'1
We have so far examined English consonants taking into
I
I
account the manner iri which they are articulated. Another equally
!
:i:mpo.rtJmtcriterionwecanllSe inclassitYingEngli'lhconsonantsis the
place where the obstruction is aclrieved, the plare ofarticula:ti.on. A  I
,
,
tfurtinction has already been drawn between active and passive
i
articuJatars, which started from the comparatively higher or lower
I
I
degreeofmobilityof theorgansInvolved.inthearticulati01l. Aswe are
going to see, the :lk1Il1es giv<..'I1 to different classes of consonants
identified onthe basis oftheirplace ofarticuiationare actuallyUl!ren

from the names ofthe very organs involved in the articulation a.nd
I
creatingtheobstructionorconstrictionalongthebuccaltractInalmost
all cases itis thepaqsivearticulatorthatlendsitsillInJe tothe It
willbeuseful,therefore,torememberthebriefdescrivtionofthespeech
. .
I
tractgiveninthe:previouschapterofthiscourse.
Weshallrememberthatif westartfrom'the exterior, the first
I
IlIticulatoryorgansWe comeacross methelips. Thesoundsproduced
withtheparticipationof thelipsasactivearticulators arecalledlabial
J
71

70


sounds  (from  the  Latin word  labium" meaning  lip). If bofh  lips  are 
used  to  utte<r  the  sounds,  the teml b.1abial is used.  J?nglish  bilabials

include  plosive  obstruents  like  [P]  and  [b),  nasal  stops  like  [Ill]  and 
glides like [wJ. 
]  Some sounds are articulated with the'help of both the lips  (the 
lower  one,  more  precisely)  and  the  (upper)  teeth,  Such' .sounds  are 
called  labio-dental sounds  (the  word  dental  comell  from  the  Latin

word dens, dentis, meaning tooth).  The English  fabio-dentals are the , 
fricatives  [t] and [v].  ' '  "  '  , 

The dental SOllllds  are  the  sounrls  in the production  of which 
the  teeth participate as passive  articulators.  The  ouly English  derrt:als 
are  the  frica:tivcs  {O]  and  [6],  which  are  interdentd sound; or, more 

exactly,  apico-interdental solIllds  (the term comes from the teclmical 
word apex, desigca:tiog the tip  of the tongue,  which participates as an 
active articulator). 

The sounds produced in the region immediately behind the teeth 
by placing the  tip  of the  toD.gue  against the  alveoliu- ridge  are  called 
alveolar sounds,  afulr the name  of the passive  articulator. If the active 

one  (the  tongue,  that  is  its  apex)  is  also  specified,  we can call  them 
apico-aiveolar. The class includes plosiveobstruents like [tJ  and [dJ - it 
is  to  be  noted  that,  unlike  their  'Romanian  counterparts,  whiCh  are 
dental,  the  English  solIllds  are more  :  IJaSals  like  [n],  lateral 

liquids like [IJ, rhoties like [r], fricative obstruents like [s]  and [z]. 


Alveopalatal sounds 'are pronounced with the tip of the tongue 
aga:inst  the  alveopala:ta1  region,  just belrind  the  alveolar ridge;  in the 
vicinity  of  the  hard  palate.  (A  further  distinction  is 
som<;:times  made between  sounds,  articulated just behind 
the  'alveolar  ridge  like  the  approximant, [J]  and  pdat,o-a/veolar
[J 
sounds,  articulated  further  back.  closer  to  the  palatal  region).  We 
include here sounds  like the  fricatives  [jJ  and  t3],as  well as the two, 

EnglishaIDica1:e phonemes, [ifl and [d3].  ", .  ..
Retroflex sounds  are  pronounced  with  the  tip  of the  tongue 
curled  back  and  touching  the  roof  of the  mouth  just  behind  the 
poslIllveolar region. 
cl 72 
The  only  English  palatal phoneme  is  the  approxlmant  [jJ,  a 
glide.  However, ' mimy 'soUnds"  come" fa  have  'a  secondary  palatal 
.. articulation  due  to  the  'phenomenon  of coarticuiation  which  will  be 
discu,sed later, 

Dorsal sounds  :will  include  those' sounds  produced  with  the 
body of the ton"oue  dorsum - aglrinst the region of the  soft palate or 
velum or in the uvular region. Consequelilly, they 'are  called velar.
and 'Wu!ar sound,  rCl>l'ectively.  Only the former class is  represented 
in  Engiish.  It includes  velar  nasal  stops  )ike  [:g]  and  velar  ploslve

0bstruents.Jike [k] and [g].


Further  back  we  COme  across  the  pharyngeal region  but, 
Engl:iI;lldoesn't have any pharyngeal phonemes. 

SOllllds  produced in the region  of the glottis are  called glottal
sounds. English has two glottal. phonemes, the glottal, stop  [1]  and the 
:fi:icatiye  [!>].  The latter differs  from its  Romanian counterpart 
as  its pl'Ommciation is more retracted, the English [11]  being actually a 
hissing sound, articulated by spreading the vocal folds  and letting the 
air pass ont through the giottis.  ' 


The  following  lable"  surrunarizes  the  classification  of 
consonants  using  the  place  of  articulation  specifications.  It  also 
mentions  the  passive  and  the  active  articulator  for  each  group  of 
sounds. It iB  from the fOIlnCf that the articulatezy label is derived, 
Typeofconsonant- .Passive articulator Active articulator

place ofarticulation 
Bilabial  both Iios  '  both lips
Labiodental upperteoth  lower lip 
Jnter(don1l'll)  f£e!h  ton11.lIC tiJJiblade 
Alveolar  alveolar      WlWle tivlblade 
AlveopalutaliPalaf:o..  alveolar rjdge ahd hllmpaJaie  tongue blade 
alveolarlPQstalvealar
Retro.flex blmlpalote  tongue tip 
Palatal  hardpalare  ton!!Ue blade  _ 
Velar  saftpalate(velum)  tougue body (  .... L 
Uvular  uvula  tonG11e  body 
Pharyngeal  wall  '  '  IDngue root 
Glottal !lltt}'llg.al)  larynx  , 
73 
3.8.TheDescriptionof EnglishConsonants
l-Iaving examined the maID criteria we can use to classify
consonants from M articulatory point ofview, we can noW briefly
describetheconsonantphonemesof English.
A. TheApproxim
ants
1. TheGlides. Therearetwo SOlIDds inEnglish, [w] and [j],
baving vowel-like features as far as therr articulation is
concerned, butwhichdifferfrom theirvowelcounterparts
[u] and[i]respectively throughtheirdistribution,force of
articulation and length. WheIi we articulate a glide the
articulatory organs start byproducinga vowel-like souod,
butthentheyimmediatelychangetheirpositiontoproduce
another souod. It is to the gliding that accompanies their
articulationthatthese soundsowetheirname.Aswehave
seen earlier. precisely because oftheir ambiguous nature
theyare also calledsemivowels orsemicoTlSonants. Unlike
vowels. they cannot occur in syllable-final position, can
never precede a consonant and are always followed by a
genuinevocalicsound.
a. [w] is a labio-velar.roundedsound.Atthebeginning.its
articulationis simi1artothatof thevowel[u].butthen the
speech organs shift to a different position to utter a
different vocalic sound. The distribution of1he.sound
includes syfu,),le-initiaI position before almost any
engliShvowel(e.g. win [wm], weed [wi.:d], wet [wet],
wag [wcegj, work [wa:k], won [WN!],woo [wu:]. wood
[wud], walk, [wD:k] warider  
(e,g.wczy). Before[r]. (e.g. write) the soundisno longer
.pronounced. [w] canalsooccurafter aplosivc(e.g. twin,
.. queen) or a fricative consonant (e.g. swine). It cim be
rendered graphically either by the letter w (the most
commoncase)(e.g.sweet) orbyn(e.g.quite).
b. OJ isanunroundedpalata).semivowel.Theinitialstage
.ofitspri>imnciationis quite·similartothatof theshort
vowel [I], but then the 'sound glides to a different
vocalic value. Like [w]; OJ cannot occur in final
position (as a quite similar.palatal sound very often
does inRomanian). is never followed by a consonant
and occurs in front ofback, central andfront vowels.
,
(e.g.yes, young, youth). It,canbepreeededbyaplosive
(e.g. tune) ora fricative (e.g.fome). Thesoundmaybe
,
spelty (as inyear) while-in words speltwithn.ne,m,
ew, enandeanreadasthelongvowel [n:] thepalatal
sound is often inserted. Vte insertion is obligatory if.
the preceding consonantis: an oralplosive (p, b,t, d,
k, g), a nasalstop (m,n),alabio-dentalfricative (f, v)
or a glottal one (h). A word like beauty can only be
read [bju:tr] and not [bu;tr]. Cf. also: pure, bureau,
tUlip, deuce, .queue, argue, mule, neutrar. forious,
reV1Ie, huge. The palatal'solIDd is not inserted after
affricates or after [r] or 0] preceded by a consonant:
cht<>t', June, rude, clue. When[1] is notprecededbya
consonant or when the sound preceding [u:] is an
alveolar fricative [s, z] or a dental one, the usage
varies: cf. suit [sjn:t], br¢ also [sn:t]. In words like
.-<.<
unite, unique. university,' etc, where n forms the
syllable alone the vowel:is always preceded by the
semivowel:[jn:nalt].
2. The Liquids. These are approximant sounds. produced in
.the alveolar and postalveolar:region and include several
variantsof thelateral [1] andoftherhode [r].
,
I
a. Thelateral [1]. The.mainvariants of[I] are a so-called 
"clear"[1] and a "dark"
,
Theclear [1] is distributed 
inprevocalicpositions.Wh=thissoundis articulated, 
thetipofthetonguetouchhsthealveolarridgeandthe 
,
airisreleasedeitherunilaterallyoronbothsidesofthe
active articulator. The part ofthe tongue also
75
'Ill
,.
.  !  A  rolled  [rl  'common  in  northern  dialects  and  in
,J 

raises  towards  the hard palate.  Words like  lake  [leikJ, 
look  [Iuk], flute  [flu:t],  lurid  [tjund]  delight  [dJIaIt]

illUb1:ra:te  the  duitributiOll  <:>f the  consonant in  syllable-
;)
initial  position' or  after  a  plosive  plot  [plot],  ,Hake 
_[bIeik],  clean  [kIi:n] ,  glue  [gIn:}  or  a   
lslot],fly [flai] and in front oiayowal or the glide [j] 
_TlID  dark  [I]  distributed  in  worq.-finalpositioll  or 
_-before a  consonant. As·in the case 0 the clear [I]  the tip

..-of the tongue  touches  the  alveolar ridge  and the all- is 
[I 
released latera.l1y,  but now it is the body of the tongue 
that  raises  the  soft  palate, . modifying  the 
resonance  of the  sound  and  giving  it  a, more  "stifled" 
:1 
.  cb.aracter.  Words  like  kill  [kilJ,  role' [ro:IJ,  belfiy 
[bclfnJ, belt [belt], silk [SIlkJ  illustrate the distribution 
of the  sound either at the end of the word (syllable) ot 

before a consonant. 
[I
_The phoneme is spelt either I or nin: words like link or 
. call,  for  In  many  words,  however,  before 
LI 
.'  plosive. sounds- like  [k]  or  [dJ  - cf.  chal/r.  could;  or 
. before  nasals  like  [m]  or  [nJ - cf calm,  Lincoln;  the 
labio-dental fricatives  [fJ  and  [v1-:- cr.  caif,  cal:ves;  the 
lateral sound is:not pronounced. 
[I 
b.  The  rhode  [1'1.  The  clru;s  includes  several  variants 
which are prettY different both in articulll10ry terms and 
in auditory ef!l;lbt.  . 
LI 
The RP  [J]  is africtionless conti1'1wmt, articnlated very 
mnc\:;.  like a  fricative, but friction  does not aec-ompany 
the  production  of the  so-and.  'I'he.-tip  of the  tOIlouue
[J 
slightly touclIDs  the  back  of the  alveolar  riti"ae,  while 
.the body ofthe-tongue 1£ lowinthemouth. 
[I 
. A  flapped  [r]  is  nsed  by  many _speakers  of English, 
especislly when it occurs at the begitmiD.g ofunstressed 
syllables.  The tongue. rapidly  the alveolar ridge 
;1
with a tap.  ' 
,-

76 
Scotlatid.  It mprodUced  by a  quick succession of flaps, 
the  tongue  rePeatedly 'and  rapidiy touching the alveolar 
ridge  and  vi'hmting  against  it  -This  sound  is  not 
characteristic for RP. 
The  letter  r  or  double  rr  reproduces  the  sound 
grapbically:  right,  barren  In  postvocalic  word- or 
syllable-final  position  the  sonnd  is  not pronounced  ir) 
standard  English  cf.  car,  party.  If the  word  is, 
however, followed by a  vowel,  [rJ  is reinserted: the car 
is mine. The same insertion fakes place when an affix is 
attached to a base ending in'a (noIITlally)  silent [r]: Ifear 
[Ina]  !hearing  [lnan.I)];  Moor  [mDs}  lMoOlish 
[mDsnJ]. This type of [rl is called "linking r". 
II. The English Stops 
L  The  oral  plosives.  In llmns  of their  place  of articulation 
they are bilabial, alveolar and velar. 
a.  [PJ  is  a  voiceless,  bilabial, fortis  plosiv
e
.  Its  variants 
include  an  aspirated  pIomve  if the  consonant  is 
followed  by  a  stressed  vowel  and  occurs  in syllabJe-
initial  position.  Being a  bilabial  stop,  [P]  is produced 
by completely blocking the airstream at the level of the 
Jip.g  and  by  suddenly  releasing  the  air  with  an 
explosion.  EXCL'Pt  for  .the  a<;pirated  variant,  the 
phoneme is pretty similar to its Romanian cOllllterpart. 
It  is  distributed  in  initial,  inedial  and  final  pooition: 
pane, appear,  lip.  It is  p: plane  or  pp5;  opposite 
5  Doubling the consonants is strictly a problem of spelling conveutiou in 
English.  The  BlIglish  language  does  not  have  double  (geminate)  consonants. 
Compare &gliSh innate Emert]  to Rotnanian innHscut [tnnaskutj. 
77 
I
and only exCeptionally  gbinhiccough, The letter p  is 
silent when followed by another obstruent or a nasal in 
word-initial position: psalm,pti!rodactyl,pneumatic.
b [bJ  is the voiced, leniscounterpart of [p]. Voicing and, 
force  of articulation  are  the  'f"mures  that  contra.'rt  the 
two  phonemes,  (b J being like [p1a  bilabial sound.  It is 
distributed  inall  three  basic  positions;  initial,  medial 
and  final:  bet, above, cab. It  is  spelt  b:  about or 
bb:abbot  The  letter issilent infum1. position aft.er m.:
limb, crumb, dumb and infront  of t  inwords  of Latin 
origin where the  sound ha, 10lig been lost: debt, d(JIJ.bt,
subtle. The  variants  of  [b]  include partially devoiced 
allophones  in  initial  position:  big, blo:w, bring and 
laterally  or  nasally  released  allophones  when  [bJ  is
followed by the  lateral 1;  blessor bya IlllSal  consonant: 
ribbon.It is not audtbly  infinal position: rib,
c. [tJ  is  a  voiceless, apico·alveolar, fortispJosive.  Like 
[P],  it  has an  aspiIated  -variant  that  0= before  , 
vowels  when  the  phoneme  is  distributed  in 
syllable-initial  position:  tube. If preceded  by  s" 
however,  [t] is unaspi:r:rted:  stain. Its,dlstribution 
includes allbasic positions: try,attain,pit,It islaterally 
or  nasally  released  iffonowed  by (IJ or  by  a  nasal' 
consonant,  repectively:  little, written, utmost. The 
English  phoneme is more retracted  than its Romanian 
counterpart  whicb  is rather  a  derrtal sound.  Ii is  spelt 
with t:toe,with tt: cutteror with th: Thomas,1'ht:mI£iS.
d [d]  is the VOiced., lenis rounterpart of [fl,  voicing  and 
force  of articulation  differentiating  between,  the  two 
somu:ls  that share the same place of  articulation inthe 
alveolar wmon. Both [tJ and Cd]  can become dentalized 
inthe  vicinity  of the  dental  fricatives,  in words  like 
eighth and  tireadth The  sound  is  distributed  in
,I 
initial, medial and finalposition; dime,addition,pad.It

, is ' partially; d;;;"oiced ' :in ,initial  position:  duke and 
aevoibed 'infinal p()sition;  road.)t is 
if by  [I):  riddle llI1dnasally  releaSed  if
[J
fonowed  by  [ID) or  fn]:  admit, It  is  spelt  d: 
reador dd: adder.
II
e. [k) is a  voiceless, dorsa-velar, fortis, plosive ,sound, 
articulated  with  the  dorsum  of the ton"crue  against the 
soft palate. Like theother voiceless plosives  [I
above,  it  has  an  aspirated  -variant  ifthe  sound  is
distributed  in syllable-initial  position,  in, front  'of a 
stressed vowel:  cat. [1<]  is  distributed :ininitial,  medial 
[J 
and fi.n.al position:  coat, accuse, sack. It  can  be 
'''l-&l1Ow!!d  by  a  nasal  consonant  and  be  consequently 
"nasaily'released: thicken bytl:te tateralJiquid and be 
il 
:'j;, ""'laterally released: fickle. Inspelling,  the  sound  be 
"'represented  by  the  letter  c  (e.g.  comb) or  by  cc  (e,g. 
accuse), by'k (e,g.  kill), by  cl<  (e.g. pick), by  ch  (e.g. 

,architect), by  qn  (e.g.  queen). As  in RomanillIl"  the 
[ks]  can  be  rendered  by  the  letter  x(e.g. 
extre1!<e"1. In  words  like muscle and  knave the letters  c 
I
an k  are silent 
f [gJ  is the voiced., lenispair of [kJ  and it has basically the 
I
same  fua:tures  as  its  Romanian  counterpart.  It  is 
"  distributed  in  initial,  and final  position:  game, 
begin, rag. It,  allophones  include  partially  devoiced 
I
wrriants  in initial  position:  gain, devoiced  variants  in 
, :final position;  dog, laterallyreleased,  when followed  by 
[11: giggleand :nasally released  when  followed  by  rm]: 
I
",.dogmatic. In    the consonant ean be  rendered by 
,g: get by  gg:  begged, or  by  g  followed  by  h,'  as  ill 
,,:,  ghastly, ,by  nil,  ne  or  ni,  35  in  guarantee, guess or 
I
  Ifnjuist, "respectively.  The  voiced  counterpart  of [Ie;], 
[gz] can >ilso be rendered by l::inwords like example. 
I
79 
)

g. The glottal stop [1] isa glottal, voiceless, fortis sound
produced in the glottal region.by bringiIJg  the· vocal
cords together ·and·then, sepanrting them, thus
[J 
completely.blocking and then sudJie:oly releasing the
airstream.  It  ~ a soundthathas  belm COlIlPared witha
slight couglL It appears in:;yllable-:final position
]
especiallywhenitseparatestwoadjacerrtvowelsthatare
notpart cif the same syllable em  a bialUS):"geography
[c!3I'?ografI]or between a vowel and a syllable-:final
voiceless 5'to]l or affricate that it reinforces.. In  saroe
accents (notablyCockDey), itreplaceS voicelessplosives
like [k] and [t] at the, end ofa syllable. E.g. sick guy
11
LI 
[sr'lgaI]or quite right [kwal'lIaItl
iJ
[J
Acoustically, English voiced plosives can be
distinguished from their voiceless counterparts by
having a lowfrequency component deten:nlned bythe
featurevoice.The:releasestagesofthethreeclasss
es
of

stopsintenns' ofplaceof articulation: bilabial,alveo1m'
andvelar, respectively,differasregardsthenoiseburst
they produce. Alveo1m' plosives display higher
frequencies (3000-4000 qis) thanthe bilabial  (around
.360cps)and velarones(around700cps),
[I  .2. TheNasalstops.
it 
aIm]is a bilabial, voiced, lenis, :nasal stop, As inthe
case of all nasal sonorants, when  we articula:te this
sound the velum'is lowered, blockingthe  oral'cavifY
[J
andlettingthe airescape throughthe:nose. TIiere are
no ,differences between the  English sound and  its
Ro:manian counterpart- [m] is distributed, in all basic
[I 
positions: initial,Illedialand:final: make, remote, dim.
It canbespeltwith m ormm:come, commO'fl. ~ t should
be said, however, that English does not ~ a
sequence oftwo nasal sounds in the same syllable,
words like  solemn and hymn differing from their
Romanian counterparts as the lastnasal sound is 110t
[I
'.
80
pronounced. If an affix. is added, nevertheless, that
begins with",Ia vowel,.,the second COnsOrulllt  is
recovered. Compare solemn [solem] to solemnity
[solemIiIJI ].
b.  [n]   ~ analveolar, voiced, lenis, nasal stop. Theplaceof
. irrticulafion is  similar.to thatof [1] andCd], but[n] is a
nasal sound,  00 the airis released throughthelJl)se  IIIld
not through the mouth..It- :is..sitnilar to its Raroanian
counterpart Itis distributed'in ruJ..1hree  basicpositions "
initial.medialand :final: name; renown.. can... It isspeltXl 
orun:dean, annual. The,soundiselidedin:finalposition
after  fm], but  recovered in, derived words: damn,
danrnation. (Seeelsa solemn andsolemnity above).

c.  WJ isa velar, voiced, lenis, :nasal stop.Itoccursin the
vicinityofthevelaroralplosivesinwords likelink or
"'Tong. Itistobenotedthatinpresent -dayEnglishthe
ve1m' oral plosive in  the last word is no lunger
pronounced,butwecanfind,thevelarnasalinfrontof
[g] inconnectedspeechinsequenceslikeI can get it.
A  similarsound canbefoundinROIIlllDian, inwords
likebondi, ranga, butin ourlanguageitdoesnothave
aphonemic, contrastive value; As pointed out above,
this phoneme has a limited distribution: it always
precedes the voiceless velar plosive or occurs in
syllable-finalpositioninfrontofanelided[g].
C.TheEnglishFricatives
Fricatives are, as weremember, sounds'thatare produced
by narrowing the speech tract and letiilig'the air  out, B
process which is accompanied by fiiction and in some
cases·byahissingsoun<i
[f}  is a,labiq-derrtal, voiceless, fortis corurorumt. It is
producedbypressingthelowerlip against theupperteeth
81
and forcing -the air out between them..  The sound is similar 
to  its Romanian counterpart.  The Sound =be spelt f.:..  as  in 
fine,  fllare,  fringe,  feud,  loq{.  sf[f/e,  if - as- in effort,  snuff,
ph -- as inphysics, b'1'aph,  Qreven-gh'-: as-in enough.  tough-
The word lieutenant [Ief'tenant] is 3 particular case. 
[v1. is the voiced, lanis pair of [fj with :which it sh= the 
place (Iabio- dental) and manner (fricative) ofarticulatioIL 
It is  important to  remember  that the English  sound  is  a 
labio-dental  and  not  a  bilabial  fricative  (as  its  Spanish 
col1Iltcrpart,  for  instance).  It  .hils  exactly  the  same 
characteristics  as the Rormmian soimd. -It is ~   p e l t with the 
letter v.  (ExceptitJDally,  by ph in  Stephen,  nephew and fin 
oj)- Certain  English  nouns  voice  their  lal:iio-demru  final 
fricative when  they pluralize  displaying the aiternance  ffv: 
e.g.  leaf I  leaves,  wife/wives.  DeriVlrtionai  affixes can also 
voice the final consonant;  lifelliven. 
[6]  is  an  interdental,  voiceless,  fortis  mcative.  The 
phoneme  does  not  havc  lII1'f distnbution.al  vllliants.  It 
occ1ll:S  in  word-initial,  medial  and  final  position.  It  is 
produced with the tip ofthe  tongue  between the teeth, the 
air escaping through the pass"g" in between. It is a  sound 
cfuiicult  to  pronounce  for Romanian  speakers  who  often 
rni.stake  it  for  [s]  or  even  ftJ.  The  sound  exists  in  ofuet 
European  !anguages  too,  -such  as  Spanish  or  Greek,  the 
symbol  used  in the  IPA  alphabL1:  being  in  fact  borrowed 
from  the  Greek  alphabet  The  sound  is  rendered 
graphically by h:  e.g.  thm,  method,  patlt  Ihesound often 
occurs  in clusters  difficult  to  pronoll!Jce:  eighths  [eJ.tes], 
depths  [dep6s], lengths {le!le.j. 
[0]  is  the  voiced pair  of [01  (;cine  an  interdental,  voiced, 
lenis  fricative.  ill initial  position  it is  only  distributed  in 
grammatical  wo:n:ls  .'lUCh  as  OOmonstrative.<:  this.  that. 
th.ese,  those,  there;  articles:  the;  adveibs:  thlLr.  It  oecum 
n ~
.freely in medial  position:  brother,  bother,  rather,  heathen. 
In fin.al  position  it_ often represents  the  voicing  of [eJ  in. 
pInrals  like  mouths  ImaulizJ,  wreaths  [rl:l'iz]  which  may 
prove -difficult to pronmmce, or in derived wo:n:ls  like  bath 
(ba: 0]  (noun)lbathe  (belil]  (verb)  or  breath  [breeJ  (n.)! 
bNiathe  [iJl:i:l'iJ  (v.).  The  sOlmd  is always  spelt th,  like its  -
voiceless COU1lterpart 
[sJ is an alvcolar, voiceless, fortis  fricative, produced with 
the blade of  the tongue  against the alveolar ridge,  a  sound 
quite  similar  to  its  Romanian  counterpart.  It is  a  hissing 
sound  distributed  in all major positions:  at fue  beginning, 
within  WJil  at  the  end  of a  word,.  It  is  in  fuet  the  onlY 
obstruent  sound  in  English  that  can  occur  in  front  of 
another obstruent, provided-the latter is voiceless: e. g. spot. 
stop,  skin.  [5]  is the plural aIfamorph for nouns ending in a 
.;voiceless  consonant  as  well  as  the  allomorph  of the  3'd 
pl;ISon  .inguiar present indicative  morpheme.  It is  spelt s, 
58  or  c  in front  of e,  i  or y:. e.g.  sour,  say,  hiss,  assign, 
ceiling,  cellar,  cigarette.  precise,  cypress,  bicycle. 
Sometimes the spelling can be see, sci or scy (e.g.  science, 
scent,  scene,  scythe). s is silent in words like corps,  island. 
viscount. 
[zJ  is the voiced,  lenis"  alveolar fucative  thet  corresponds 
to  the  voiceless  [5].  It  is  quite  similar  to  its  Romania.n 
couo:t:erpart.  but it plays  a  more  important role  in English 
". it is one of the =inallomOl:Pb..  of the plural IIlorpheme 
(distnbuted after a.  voiced colJSOIJl!ll:t  or  a vowel).  Like its 
voiceless counterpart, [z]  is a hissing sound, produced with 
a  .high-pitched  frictioIL  Because  when  these  sounds  are 
articuln:ted _the  air  is  expelled  furough  a  narrow  groove 
along the middle of the blade they are also  called  grooved 
fricatives.  Together  with the .more  retracted,  alveo-palatal 
fricatives  and  with  the  affricate  sounds  they  are  called 
sibilants. The sound is  spelt z. It is often spelt s  when the 
83 
L' 

[) 
11 
[J 
I) 








• 

,  sound  does  not  occur  in  initial  positon  e.g.  nose,  eosy, 
desire),  and,  exceptionally,  tz:  io tzar.  Sioiilarly,  when it
]
maIks  the  plural  of nouns ending in a  voiced sound  (e.g. 
boys,  balls,  ribs)  or when it is the voiced allomorph of the 
  person  singular present  indicative  of verbs  ending in a

voiced  sound  (e.g.  plays,  calls,  'adds)  the  spelling  is s. 
Exceptionally,  the  sound can be  spelt double  S5  io Words 

like dissolve, possess.
(1]  is an alveopalatru,  voiceless.  fortis  fricative  consonant. 
The  uttering  f  this SOUIld  should  not  raise  any  particular 

problems  for  Romanians  as  its  articulatory  :fuaj:u:res  are 

similar to those of its  counterpart in Romanian  The blade 
of  the  tongne  is  raised  against  the  :region'  behind  the 
alveolar ridge .and the  alr is forced  out through a  groove  a 
little  wider  1:hao  in  the  case  of  [s],  its  more  fronted 
counterpart  mis  distributed in all three main positions io

the word.  It is oflen !>'Pelt sh in words like shoe,  cushion or
LJI 
push. It  em  also  be spelt  s  (e.g.  sure,  sugar)  or  5S  (e.g. 
pressure,  mission) or ci (ancient,  delicioZlS),  sci (conscioZlS)
1
ce  (ocean),  si  (pension,  mansion),  ti (f:uition,  retribution). 
.". 
'1 
It is a variant of [sj] in words J.ike is.s;ue,  tissue. In wordq of
French origin the  sound is spelt cl1:.c(zampagne,  charade, 
charge.,  moustache,  attache.  The  same  spelling  is  used io
proper  names  like  Charlotte.  Chicago..  Chicoutimi.
-
:1
Michigan. 
J
[31  is  the  voiced counterpart  of m· It  is  an .alveopalatal, 
v<)iceci.,  lenis  fricative  and  is  pronounced  VeJY much like 
the corresponding Bomid in Romar:Wm.  It is Tlot,  hov.>evcr,  a 
very common sound in English as  it occurs inainly in loan 
(particularly French) words. It is never distributed io initial
J
position,  but  it  can  occur  in medial  (pleasure.  treasure. 
iJ 
measure)  oefmal  position  (garage,  prestige).  It can  be 
spelt either s when followed by u  (visual) or i (decision); or 
z if followed by u  (seizure)  or ge (ml13sage;espionage).lll 
"'
I
84 
words  like  casual  the  alternative  pronunciation  [zj]  is 
possible,  while  io other  cases  the  fricative  is  replaced  by 
the:affiicatefd3]  (e.g. garage). 
" . .:, ... 
[h] is a glotml fticative in English. a voiceless, fortis  sOllnd 
produced .J:lJ)etting the  air pass  freely  through the mouth 
. durillg  ""Fimtion.  Thus,  its  placc  of articulation  in the 
g1ottal.regial;1  is 'more  retracted  than  io the  of the 
, Romanian  so!ll1d "Whl<;ili is mther  a  velar  sound,  closer  to 
.the '¥ariant 'OCClIIling  in  Scottish  English:  loch  [lox].  A 
,. palatalized version,is ,wed when the soundis followed by a 
palatal:  -humane'  [hjnmem].  Unlike  in  most  Romance, 
Ianguagcs,h'freely  occurs  in initial  position  in English: 
home,  hiss;' hut. "Dropping the  h's .,  is  even  Considered  a 
sign of lack: of education.  In f! small-number Of words the 
sound  is,  however,  dropped  even  in  standard  English  in
both  in inltilil  and  medial  position:  hour,  heir.  honour, 
honest,  vehicle.  annihilale.  It is.al.qo  common  (even  for 
edUCated people to  drop  the initial h  io Ullll1ressed  (weak) 
foims  of th'epersonal pronDona  (he.  him) possessives  (his.
;her-ror the'Verb have h  is also silent io final position in the 
'inteijection  qh or  io words  like  shah. The conservative 
&-pe:tJ:fug  of :ti;'gusb:  has  preserved  the  letter  b  after  r  in
words  of Greek ,origin where no  b  sound  or  aspiration  is
heaH,l'nowadays  (rhapsody,  rhetoric.  rheumatism,  rhinal, 
rhinoceros, rhombus.  rhyme, rhythm). 
D.  The English Ajfriclltes 
The affricate phonemes  of English are  [in and  [dij. They 
,differ, their  Romanian  counterparts  as  they  can  be 
distri.buted in all three basic positions (including the word-
, fi:nald:me)  and  can  be  followed  by any  vowel.  Therefore, 
"..  jheYi,are  far  less  palatslized  than  the  corresponding 
Romanian soundq  that mm.i be followed  by  either  e  or i,
Even  when  they  are  followed  by  i and  e  the  English 
affricates  differ  considerably  from  the  corresponding 
85 
. n_ 1) 
r R 
-1 
r
t;v  I e,o  I s,z  1[.3
  I I -t:J
,
]
]
]
II
LI
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
I
sounds  in Romania:p.  In order  to  realize the  difference 
betWeen the English sounds and their RoIllllIlian 
it  is  enOllffl  to  compare the  Etw)i.'lh  word chin to  tlle 
RoJllJlDian cin or the  English gem to the ROJl)Jl1liangem.
[ill is a voiceless. lbrtis, alveo-palatal'so
l1l1d 
produced VJitll 
the blade of tlle tongue r.Used against the region just behind 
tlle alveolar ridge. As in the case of any affricate souna, its 
articulation starts like tlmt of a plosive  in our  [t]-
by  completely.  blocking  the  outgoing  airstteaIn and then 
continues by  a  gradual release  of the air,  as  fur a  fricative 
rn: The  vcry  symbol  used  in the  II'A  alphabet  for  the 
IlOtation of the  sound  suggests  tlle  mixed· na:tuJ:O  of tlle 
affiicate.  We  should make a  difference, however, between 
the  affricate  proper  (pitch [Pltf]  and  the  sequence  of the 
plosive and the fricative [tl + [f] (courtship [k::>:tJlPl,  right
shoe [nutIn:D. The phoneme is :represented graphically by 
ell:  (charrJr, chinchilla. rich) or tcll (kitchen, bitch) or by t
followed  by  11 (creature, culture) when the  plosivc  is 
paJ.alalizerl.  In  words  like  habitual., sancruary the 
pronunci;rtion  witll  a:p.  affricate  is  .a  varian:t  of  [til 
Exceptionally,  we  can  have  ce  or  cz  as  grapbic 
represeniaJions of the sound in (violon) cello or Czech
[d3l  is  the  voiced  counterpart  of  [tn, being  an  alveo-
palatal, voiced, leniS, affricate  consonant:  It  can  be 
rendered grapbically by j in eitller initial or medial position 
in words  like justice, John, rejoice, pyjamas, by  gl'  in all
basic  positions:  gesture.' agent. sage, by  gi in ,initUll  and 
medial  pm,ilion:  girciffe, rigid; and gy in initial  position: 
gymn.asti . In cerlllin words it can be spelt d  followed by
cs
II: graduaL individual, procedure/aI. In all  these  cases, 
however,  there  is  an  alternative  pronunciation  [dj].  In a 
number of proper nanJl'S or common nnUllS  origiruJ.ti.ng  in
proper  J11lmes  ch is  read  [d."l]: NorwiCh, Greenwich,
Sisanriwich. Another  spelling  can  be  dg  in words  like 
ridge or edge.
'.
;
I
,
I
I
i
I
I
,
I
I
.1
I
The following table su:m:marizes the infoIDlation about1he articulatory 
'features ofihe Englisli consonants: 
Bila. iLahil.>  Den- Alve- ALvea-lra!- Velar  Uvnl·  Phalyn- Cllnt-
I bial  d<llltall-tal  oIM  I poJatnl  atal  ar  geal  tal 
I p. b  t, d  k, g ? 

1m
Nasal 
Trill
I Flap 
I Fricative 
I
Lateral 
' Appr<>'fimrort 
-I .'j
Affricate 
h


,,"

"1
~
'I 
.... 
-I 
 
1
Wi 
1
-
:1
-
:1
-
i
'.1
,... 
1
... 
'I


CHAPTER  4 
y-
THE  voWELSOFENGUSH. 
AN  ARTICULATORY  CLASSIFICATION. 
ACOUSTIC  CORRELATES.  THE  DESCRIPTION 
AND  DISTRIBUTION ·OF  ENGLISH 
MONOPHTHONGS  AND  DIPHTHONGS 
4.1. The Vowels. Criteria far Classification 
The chapter  before has  exl!IIl.irie!J,  ilie  consonant  phonemes  of 
English  from  ll1l  :ilII.irolatmy  perspective.  After  trying  to  establish  a 
gerueral  borderline  between  Ihe  two  major  classes  of  soWlds 
consonanl5  and  vowels  :respectively  - by  po,tulaiing  some  major 
articulatory  distinctions  between  iliem,  an  attewpt  was  made  to 
analyze  English  consonanl5  in  ,detail,  discussing  /he  distinctions 
among  iliem  as  well  as  contrasting. them  with  the  corresponding 
sounds of Rom.maIl. 
We  will  remember  ilien  that  if consonants  are  distingnished
.  . 
from vowels preciselY on the  basis  of an.artieulatory feature  that all of 
Ihem  arguably  share  - a  pJace  aloog  t\le-.  speech  tract  where  the 
airstream  meets  a  truY
or 
obstacle  or  constriction  .- it  wOllld  be  vexy 
difficult to  describe  vowels  in the  same 1:eIIIlS  as it will  nO  longer be 
possible to identifY  a  "place  of articulation".  Articulatory criteda can 
be,  indeed.  used to  chlssiiY vowels  but they v;ill be  less  relevant or,  in 
any  case,  of a  di:ffutent type 1han in the  case  of consonants.  Acoustic 
and  ewen. auditory  features  on the  oilier  J:!aP.d  will  play  a  much  morc 
importaot role in accuratelydescribing.:vowels-
as 
vowels  are  sonorous 
sounds, displayingihe highest Jevels ofresonance ofall speech sounds . 
89 
Vowels,  like  consonants,  will  differ  in terms of quality - the 
acoustic  features "wilI  differ  from  one vowel ro  another  depending on 
the  position  of the  arliculators,  but in a  way  which is  distinct  from 
what  we  have  seen in the  case  of consonants  where  there  is  another 
type  of interaction between the various speech organs - and in tenns
of qunntity or duration _.  again  in a  way distinet from consonants  as 
vowel. are all sonorous, continuant sounds. 
The quality of a  vowel is given by"!4e way in which the tongue 
_  the  main articulator,  as  in the "case  of  - is positioned in 
" the  mouth and by the  activity  of the lips/'Pbis position of the tongue 
modifies  the" shape  of the  resonating  cavities  above  the  Jarynx  and 
decisively  influences  the  quality  of the  resulting  sound.  'The  great
mobility  of the  tongue  and  the  absence  of any  definite  place  of 
obstrru::tion  . - as in  the  ease of consonants  - acCO\IDts fur  the  great 
variety  of vowels  that can be funnd" in any language  and  for the filet 
that -vowels  rather than  consonants are more  intimately  linked to the 
peculiar nmure of each and  every \angnage.  It will be therefure much 
more difficult for a stodent ofa foreign language to acquire the correCt 
features ofthe vowel system)ltan those ofthe COllsonant system ofthe 
respective language" 
Three will  be then the criteria that can be used to  distinguish
among vowe1s  on  an articulatOJ'y  basis:" the position of the tongue in" 
the mouth - high or low OIl  the vertical axis and fronted or retracted
on the" horizontal axis - and the position ofthe lips. Many Janguages 
wilt" also  recognize a  funclional  distinction between vowels prodUced 
by letting  the  air  out  either through the  nasa! cavity  or through the 
oral one.  " 
Tongue height. Ifwe consider the position of the tongue in the 
mouth we can identifY two ex:treII1e situations: one in which the: body of 
the tongue is  raised, almost touclJiog the roof of the oral cavily and in"
this  case  we  will  be  dealing  with  high or  dose vowels  - the  llame 
clearly refers to the position ofthe tongue high in the mouth or close to 
the palate- and the opposite position  when the body of the  tongue is 
.J 

very law in the mouth leaving the cavity wide open as in the case when 
the doator wants to  examine our tolJllils  and  aaks  us  to  say  "ah ".  The 
-vowels  funs  produred  will  be  called  open or  low vowels  since  the 
tongue is lowered in the month and the oral cavity is open. Ifthe tongue 
II 
is placed in an ;ntennediate position,  raised  only  halfway  against the 
]iaIate, we  shall call  the  vowels  mid vowels.  A  further,  more  renned 
[I
distinction will di:lferentiate between two groups  of mid vowels:  close-
mid/mid close or  half-close or  high-midlmid high \TOwels aIld  open-
mid/mid open or half-open or law-midlmid low "VOwels. 
II 
Tongue frontnesslbackness. If we consider the  position of the 
tongue  along  the  horizontal axis  we  can  identifY  three classes  of-
vowels:  front vowels  - uttered  with  the  front  part  of the  tongue  I
I
highest:,  central vowels  if it  is" rather the  central part of the tongue 
I
i
that is highest, modifYing the shape of thc:.articuJator and back vowels 
- the rear part ofthe    is involved in articulation.  11 
The  position of lhe lips. As I  have  mentioned  earlier,  the
I

position  of  the  lips  is  another  major  criterion  that  is  used  0  I
distinguish among vowels.  When we pronounce a vowel,  our lips can 
be  rounded, and  then the resultIDg  sound  will  be  rounded, or they 
.can  be  spread and  then  we  shill  say  that  the  vowel  that  we  have  I
articulated  is  unrolmded. As we  are  going  to  see  later,  roundness 
may  be  more  or less relevant,  depending  on the  patticular language 
we are talking abouL 
I
TIle  cavity  through  which  the  air is "released - oral or nasal
establishes  an impOr1l1Ilt  distinction  between  oral and  nasal vowels.  I
There  are  nasal  or nasalized  vowels  in all Ianguages,  but  again  this
distinction  will  be  more  important  in  languages  like,  say,  French, 
where it has a functional;  contrasti-ve, phonemic value, than in English  I
or in Romanian where the feature is just contextual. More will be said 
about that later: 
";,. 
I
As mentioned abo'<ie, quantity is  an impOrlnnt feature  th.rt  we 
have  to  take into  account  when  we  discuss  not  only  consonantal 
I
91 

--
.,
..
sounds, but vocalic oues as welL ill fact, this is a feature tbat is much
1
more important for vowels, because when we 1lllk about duration in
consonants we can contrast:, fur instance, non-dur.mve sounds of the
-
plosive 1:ype to cootiunant sounds of the kind fricatives ate or sbwle
to geminate consonants, while in the = of vowels much more
... 
refined distinctioll.'l can be established amongVlLTiOUS soun.cls. The f.u::t
'. 
that vowels vary in length is something we can intuitively become

aware of ifwe con'!:ra.h1: the vowel ofped [pi:!] for instance, to that of
pill [pdJ. As we aJ1I  going to see  later, however, the contrnst betwct;ll
-
the two vowels is not limited simply to durdlion and, moreover, vowel
1
lengthis very much a contextual feature. Thus, what we consider to be
-
members of one imd the same phoneme, the long vowel [i:] will vary
considerably in length in words like sea, seed and seat. It is obvious

even for a phonetically less trained ear that the vowel is longer in case
rl 
....  it occurs in syllable-fimil position and it becomes shorter and shorter 
depending On the voicedness ,or the voicelessness of the following
coll.'lonant. The picture becomes even IllOre complex if we compare
the preceding contexts to seal, .ean or Seem. On the other hand al!-tbe
".
occurrences of [i:] mentioned above will be kept apart from the
il 
variants of the short vowel [1] in words like Sid, sit. sill or sin which
,  ,
.... 
differ in their tum in length depending 0:(1  the nature of the fullowing
COllSonant. We shall then say that vowel lengthis not always a reliable
distinctive feature when we try to contrast vowels - since iUs so much
,II
;1 
.... 
influenced by the context. Other featntes will be  added to obtain a
more refined and closer to reality representation. 'Ine next featntes we
are gOing to examine will  then be the degree of muscular tension
-
involved in articulation and theposition ofthe root ofthe tongue:
rl
Muscular ten.sjon can varY considerably when we produce

-
different vocalic sounds and 1his is  something we can easily, become
aware of when we contr.ast the long voWel [i:] in seat and the  short
one [1] in sit, the examples analyzed above. Long vowels
;.., 
conventionally marked in the  IPA alphabet by a colon - are always
associated with a higher degn:e of mUSC!Ilar tension in the speech
,I
organs involved in their articulatiolL We will say that these vowels are
tense, since the articulators are so when we utter them. Conversely,
...

92
when we "'exanrine  thc way the vowel of sit" ia produced, the
articulatory organs are jess strained,  laxenDap. in the previous case.
We will consequently de."t:r:ibe the.'le vowels as being 1m:. As we s.hall
see later, unlike in Romanian,' vowel ,duration. associated with
tell5eness, has a phonemic, contrastive value: 10. Englisb.
The  position of the tongue root., The more advanced Or
reil!lcted position of the root of the ton,.,<>ue differentiates between
vowels having diffMent degrees ofoperwflSS. 'The vowels pronounced
with the ,root ofthe tongue pushed forwHn:l;Qfits normal position will
be- specified "" advanced ,tongue root ,,(.4TR} vowels. Conversely,
non-advanced tsngue root vowels will  be., articulated with the  root.
of the tongue in its common. resting position. The first group of
vowels will be comparatively tenser and higher than the vowels in the
second group . 
Vowel quantity - dur.moll; length - combines with stability of
articulation to make the distinction between simple or "pure" vowels
or monophthongs On the one hwld  iiip'hthongs on the other.
Monophthongs are rompmatively shorter voweis that preserve the
same quality throughout the entire duratioriof tbeir articulation. A 
,diphthong combines two different vocalic elements joined together in
a unique articulatory effort and eonseque,ntlybeing part of the same
syllabic' unit In any diphthong on;:' of 'Vocalic elements will be
atronger than the other, from, which or towards vibicl1 the
pronunciation glides. Ifthe weaker element. comes first and we have a
glide towards'the domIDant vocalic; ellm1e.nt, the diphthong is a rising
one: it is the kind ofdiphthong we have in Romanian words like iatac,
iulrire, iepure, ioua[? meandre., cbdalli etc: Thi!; js a type of diphthong
that  does not exist in Engliilh,  a langulIge that only has falling
diphthongs. that is diphthongs in which the glifle is from the dominant
vocalic. element to the weaker one_.{-e.i boy. biiy in English or bal
in Rmriimian- N.B. these exampl\ls:do .not sUggest that the diphthongs
in the two 11mguagcs are identical!). It is   c!ifficult to deCide when
we deal with a genuine diphthong (that--is.a"sequence of two vowels
pronounced together) and  when we deal with a sequence of a vowel
93
and a glide fur instance. In ofuer words, shall we describe the vocalic
element in buy as  the diphthOng :u or shall we roilier interpret it as fue
vowel a followed by fue glide j? Many linguists opt for fue seeond
variant and some will  go as far as interpreting long vowels like i: in 
beat for instance as a succession of r+-j. The dl.13:3lion of fue glide ean
constitute fue basis for a differentiation, suice gl ides will  argoabiy
take shorter to pronounce than fue second vocalic element in a flIlIing
diphfuong. If the  vowel is very short, however. it is often difficult do
distinguish it from tbe glide. The scope of tbis m:udy will not allow us
to go into further detail, so for the sake of simplicity we will adopt the" 
widely embraced approach that considers long vowels monoplrthnngs
and vocalic sequences as that of buy genuine diphlhongs.
4.2. The Cardinal Vowel Charts
As we have mentioned above. vowels are sounds more difficult
tu define in articulatory termS  than consonants and tbe nmnber of
vowels iliat can be ptoduced by human speech organs is fairly great.
In  his  Ouiline of English Phonetics (1918, reprinted in 1987). fue
famous English phonetician Daniel Jones c1airus that "a good ear can
distinguish well over fifty  vowels, exclusive of nasalized vowel'!,
vowels pronounced wifu retroflex modification, etc." (p. 29) If was
fuen necessary to devise a conventional system 1hat could be used for
a more aCL-urate specification of vowel features. On fuc ba.;ru; of some
of fue most impoi:tant criteria mentioned above a cardinal Vl1IIIcl chari
was drawn (Daniel Jones had It  major contribution to "it) that
established some reference points to which the feajm:es of any vowcl
in BIIY laoguage spoken on earth could be related. As cardinal: points
are used for our geographicorieoJ:atiOn, so cardinal vowels were
meant to help phoneticians more accurately :find  fueir way in fue
thicket of vocal1c sounds. And just like in the case of cardinill points
on fue compass, lhe cazrlinlll vowel positions were just abstract, ideal
constructions which did not descnoe any existing, real voweL The 
basic coord.inatei; used in estsblishing 1he cardinul vowel positions
were 1he vertical axis witll "fue opposition higbllow (close/open) and"
the horizontal axis  wifu the  opposition front/back. The idea was to
J
]
establish extreme positions for vowel quality aod  use them as a
reference system for all tbe other voweIB. The hun:um oral cavity was
represented under fue furrn of a trapezoid, conventionally facing left.
[I 
CI""e

1
I
lIalf-close
3
4
Back
-A  II 
Ii a1f...p en 
6" 

The primary cardinal
5
Open
I
vowel chart.
cardinal vowel 1is fue highest and the most fronted vowel that
can be ideally produced by lhe hun:um phooatory system. It is .IOll.iked
in the IP  A  alphabet by fue symbol [i]; fue Engli'lh vowel of sill does I 
not exactly correspond to tbis position, being in filet more retracted
and more open. The diametrically opposed position is tbat of vowel 5,
which is  fue lowest (most open) back vowel, for which the  I 
conventiOnal notation [a] is used. Now tbat two oftbe basic positions
are established we can proceed to the identification of lhe remaining
comers of 1he trapezoid. Starting from vowell, by gradually I 
increasing 1he apertnre between the tongue and 1he roof of the mouth
we obtain fue lowest front vowel [a]. In between, the intermediate

I
cardinal position ofl mid-close vowel [e]- and 3 -mid-open vowel
[E] are established. Conversely, by  raising fue tongue from position 4
We can obtain increasingly closer vowels until we get to position 8 [n]
wbich is fue bighest cardinal back vowel. In between, position 6 an 7
I  I 
are held by the back mid-open vowel [()1and by fue back mid-dose
1 vowel [01 respectively. t 

I I 
Though, as I have mentioned, 1he cardinal vowels are ideal
constructions, we can establish their closest equivalents among the


95

]
J
real-world vowels. Thus, according to Daniel Jones (19&7:35), the
following.:orrespondences can be established.
] 1. Cardinal vowel (iJ: the nearest equivalent: the vowel i in the
French word sf.
Cardinal vowel [e1: the nearest equivalent: 1he vowt:1 e ofthe
Franch wordthi
3. Cardinal vowel [s]: 1he nearest equivalent: 1he vowel e of1he
J
French word mime.
4. Cardinal vowel [a]: the nearest equivalent: the vowel a ofille
French word la
~  
5. Cardinal'vowel [,,]: the nearest equivalent: 1he vowel a of the
French wordpate, or the vowel of1he English word l(Jt
1
pronounced without lip rounding.
6. Cardinal vowel [0]: ille nearest equivalent: ille vowel ~ in the
Gennan word Sonne.
J
7. Cardinal vowel [0]: the nearest equivalent: the vowel 0 ofthe
J
French word rose.
ll. Cardinal vowel En]: ille nearest equivalent: the vowel u in the
German word gut.
The eight vowel positions thus established form the so-called
[J
primary vowel chart. Notice that five of the vowels are pronouooed
with spread lips and are consequently unrounded; while, three of ilie
back vowels are rounded vowels. Ifwe modifY the feature rounded for
1
all the eight vowels and pronounce the first five with rounded lips and
... the last three with spread lips we obtain the secondary cardinal vowel
chari which is the' reverse of the :first in terms of ·the feature
[J
roundedlunround.ed. Thus, in this newly-established set all front
vowels are round. Sillce ExJ.gIish does' not have any front rounded
voWels,.this cl1a:rt is not relevant for the study of the vocalic system of
Engiish. We shOuld romember, however, that if in English '(and in
1
... Romanian, actually) the features front and unro1.lIlrled alwayS go
. together, this is not the case of all languages, French and German
r.
having each a IlllIIlber offront r,ounded vowels.
od
96
'J .
CLOSE
16[w]
9
HALF-CLOSE
15 Iv]
[0]
10
HALF-OPEN
14 (!-..] BACK
FRONT
[O'l] 11
(unrounded) .
(rounded)
13 [0] (rounded)
[eE]
12 opEN
11", sec.ondary cardmal vowel chart
Though the c1amrlcal standard vowel chart only includes the
eight primary vowels, the central vowels are also commonly included
inpresent-day representations ofthe chart.
The central lowest position is herd by a variety of 3. iliat does
not exist in standard English. A little hlgher, in a rnid-opcn position,
",,1: :find the vowel rAt which frequently appellTS in English words like
utter, cut, etc.
If we raise the tongue higher in 1he mouth, narrowing the
passage left. for the air to go out between the body of the tongue and
the roof of the mouth we get ilie central mid vowel [aJ. The position
adopted by the'tongue when we articulate this sound is cousidered to
be the neittiaI, reSting position, 1he vowel being actually placed right
in the centre of the imaginmy space we have constructed to represent
the oral cavity wliere sounds are produced. The vowel is commonly
called schwa [fwal with a Hebrew word used to designate a diacritic
marking a missil;lg vowel. It is a very common vowel in many
European languages, not only in English, and its parlicular importance
fur the Engiish language lies in the filet that it appeaIs very frequently
in syllables where the vocalic element is not stressed. 1M lonl'ft teuse
and,always stressed [3:J is the highest English central vowel. Even
closer than it is the cardinal It], a vOWljl close to the Romaoisn one in
gand [glnd], which does not exist inEngu.sh..
97
4.3. English Vowels. The description and 
distribution ofEnglish monophthongs and
diphthongs
Having established the vowel chart  as  a  basic syl!lllm  of
reference we cannow proceed to a briefdescription ofthevowel
phonemes ofl:\nglishandoftheirdistributionin a  Il1IlllIler similarto
thatusedin thecaseof consonants.
A TheEnglishsimple ("pure'')vowels ormonophthongs. 
a. English front  vowels. There are four front vowel
phonemesinEnglisll: [i;], [1], Eel andEre]

1.  [I: Jisa close(high),long,tense,unroundedvoweL The
I" 
duration of [i:] can be compared to that of the

Roinrurill11 vowel in plural nouns Jike genii  and the

sound is roughly similar to the Frenchvowel ofthe
Frenchword precise, though. notso close. The vowel I 
·1
is distributed inall tbree basicpositions: word-initial:
I
eal't;  word-medial; dean  ,and word-fma1: sea.  As 
alreadymentioned, itis longerif it occurs insyllable j 
final positionandshorterifitisfollowed by avoiced

,"oood, the shortestvariants beittgthose followedby a
voiceless ob:rtruent. If followed by a  msal stop  it is

nasalized: e.g. bean,  beam.  It is  spelt e; economy. 
remark,  or ee: eel,  see,  feet,  or ea each,  seal,  plea. 
Other possible spellings are ie: fiend"  .ai:  seizing,  i:
machine,  or, ey:kRy,- ay:qutly rid:1,  eo:
people, oe: Oedipus oreaa:Beauchamp [bi:!Jam] 
2 [1]. This is  amoreretractedfrolltvowel, andits.degree
ofopenness  is close to  thatofthe cardinalhalf-close
position. [1] isa.hart,lax,unroundclvowel,itsleciQth
" a
varying, as ill  the case of the preceding vowel,
according to the 'natlJre ofthe following consonant.
:.. 
The length decreases if the following sound is


voiceless. It is distributed inall  three basic positions:
initial. medial and final: ink,  kill.  aptly.  After the
schwa,itisthecommonestEnglishvowelinunstressed

positions. The vowel is spelt i  (e.g. ill.  tick)  or y;
syntax, party. Otherb-pellings arepossibleaswell,asin
the exceptional examples miJTUie  [lnIIllt]  eNE. The ..
fI
adjectivehaving thesamespellingisread [mamju:t],
private  [pr.......-tJ, wom"n  [WUDlnl As  it co:ro:monly
  a reduped.ullstressedvowel, other'l'ellings

arealso possible for instanceday  [del] isreducedto 
[dtJ in the names ofthe days ofthe week: Friday 
[fr.lldt] . 

3. (e] Ibisisa short,lax,ull!"undedvowelwhosedegree 
ofopennessisintermediarebetweencardinalhalf-close 

and ha1f-open. It is a common vowel in English, 
distributed ini.n.itial position: end,  or' medialpORition: 
tell.  It never'occurs in word-final position as it is 

normally reduced to [11 or [a] if it is unstressed or 
diphthongizesto[el] inloanwordslikeattache, fi=e 
or cafe if it is stressed.. It can occur, nevertheless, in 

syilshle-final positioo, UIlder stress, as in  telegraph 
[teb,,"l'af],peril  [penI). The vowelis spelt either e in 
words,likeelf, foil,  oreainlead (n. plumb),head or 

bread.  It can  be exceptionallyspe1t a  in ate  (the p"-<:t 
tenseofeat), many,  a1'!)I, Thames or Pall Mall 

4. [re] is  thelowestfront vowel ofEnglish. Itisa short,
lax,unrounded vowel, a littlehigherthanthecardinal
vowel [a]. Itisa vetycommonvowelin Englishand, 

COnll:ary to theperception ofmany roreif}l1 learners of 
English, it ashort,notalongvowel.In fact,thebasic 
di.ffim,nce betweenthisVOWT::1 andtheprecedingoneis 

the degree of apeuness, [re] being lower. Romanian 
speakersof Englishfind itparticularlydifficulttomake 
99
• 


the  difference  between  the  two  vowels  (which  is  a 
contrastive,  phonemic  one)  simply  because  Romanian

does  not  recognize  this  contrast  between  front  low 
vowels  as  being  a  functional  one,  Constant  trallring 
can,  however,  lead  to  a  correct  pronllllciali
on 
of the

Ellglish  sound.  The· vowel  is  cfu.lTIOuted  in syUabJe-
initial,  medial  and  final  position  (e_g_  ant.[rent],  cat
(kret1, rapid [t""pld]), but not in word-final position. It 
tiormllY

is  usually  spelt  a:  act, fat, and  only  exc,.,"P ai; 
plait [plret], plaid [piled). 

b_  English back vowels.  Th= are  five  back vowel  pho-
nemes iostandardEnglish: [a:J,  [ol,To:], [0]  and [u:] 

1- [a:]  in RP  does not coincide with cardinal vowel  5  [a] 
uoded 
It  is  a  more·  advanced,  low,  long,  tense,  unro 
vowel.  It is distributed in all three basic positions:  are,

cart, far- It is normally spelt by the lcller II.  followed by 

a silent r  in syllabIc or word-final poiition:  jar. carpet.
It  is  often  fOllowed  by  Ii silent 1 in  words  like palm,
calm, balm- sometimes f  of ff can folloW:  after. staff;
II 
Of  58;  pass, class. or  s  or  n  followed  by  another 
consonant: pasl, de:mand; or tb in word-final position: 
path, balh Of,  exceptionally,  othedeuers:  aunt [a:nt],
oa 
Berkeley [ba:khl,  hearth [ba:eJ,  father [fa:  ], 
sergeant. [sa:cant],  memoir [mem
wa
:],  barrage

[brera:3J-
2  [8]  is  agenuine back vowcl in RP. It is short, lax, open 

and slightly rouoded. It is only distributed in initial and 
.1
medial position: on, pot, and novel in final  pob'ition- In 
SOlDe  accents ofBngIish the vowel is pronotJJJCed prettY 
close to fue  cardinal vo··;vel  5  [a]. In some varieties  of 
Arncrican English it is still open and a little bit fromed, 
ooniing very close to [0:]  so that it is often difficult to

(iistingUish  pot from  part, for  instance.  Tne  vowel  is 
u.qrmlly spelt 0_  Other spellings are po""ible;  0", "  and 
aU in rare oases like cough,. want, or laurel_
3_  [:n:]  is  closer  and  longer  than  [0]- It is  a  long,  tellse 
vowel,  more  rounded than  [0),  the  degree  of aperture 
being  between  open  and  half-open.  The  vowel  is 
·distributed  in all  threc  basic  positions:  awful, caught,
flaw- It is usually  spelt  either  aw  Of  au:  awl, drawll,
thaw, august, taught. The sequence or is  also «,ad  [:"1 
ifit occurs  in final position or is followed by eifuer a 
consonant  or  a  &'i\ent  c:  for, sore, port. The  sound  is 
exceptionally  spelt  00  in floor, door, oa  in  board;.
broad, coarse and  hoard, ongh  in  (n)ought, sought,
wrought, and  Ii in water or  wrath and  on  in  course,
source.
4_  [u]  is  a  short, lax, rounded vowel  which  is 
wnsider.ilily  closer  than  [o:)  its  degree  of aperture 
being a littlc bit higher than the cardinal half-close. The 


vowel  never  occurs  in  initial  position  and  only 
exceptionally io final position,  io the weak,  mi.'!!ressed 
fonn  of the  preposition to, the  verb do Of  the pronoun 
who_We can fuen say that its  tfu;tnlJunon  is restricted 
to  medial  position.  The  usual  spelling  for  [0]  is  the 
letter u in words like push, cushion, pull, put_ The lelter 
o can also represent the souod after w: wolf, Worcester.
In quite  a  few  words double  00 is fue  spelling for fue

souud, followed by k: look, book; by t:foot, sool, by d: 
wood, stood; by the lateIai  1:  wool, or a  nasal:  room,
broom, groom; on  appears as the  spelling ofthe sound 
in verbal forms lik:f!  would. could, should.
5_  [n:]  is fue bighest barik vowel of English- It is  a  long,
tense., roun.de:d vowel.  It  occurs  in  all  three  basic 
positions, though pretty infrequeutly in Urinal  position: 
oom, oomph, ooze, ugh, uhlan; rude, baboon. crew,
~  
100 
101 
:. 
chew, tatoo. Romanian speakers of English-should -position. It is  usually"Pelt-either n: WIder, but, or0:
iJ
rememberthatilie vowel is closer andtenser thanilie 
come, from. honey; in anumberof wordsitisspeltOll:
precedingsoundforwhichitmustnotbemistaken.The
courage, southern, rough, tough, andexceptionally 00 
[J
SOundjRusuallyspelt11 or00: rule, root, taboo. 0 can in blood andflood and oe  in does. Many Romanian
bethe spellingof[11:1  in :fiIllU positioninthe stressed
speakers of English find u difficult to acquire the
farms ofto, who, etc, and inthe.noun ado. In words
correct pr()I1unciation of [I\.J mistaking it for some
likerQUte, through, routine, soup, douche, thewoodis 
variantofa-oro.

'1'elt O1t.  In: shoe, canoe, manoeuvre it  :rendered by
oe. Thesoundisoftenprecededbythepalatal[j] which
2 [a]isthecommonestEnglishvowel.Itisa central,mid,
lax, unrounded vowel- theschwa mentionedbefore- [)
is optionally inserted in wordslikesuit [su..'1fsjll:tJ or
for the pronunciation ofwhichthe tongue adopts the
fruit [frn:tlfrjn:t], and obligatorilyin beauty andits 
deriVatives,infeud. music, mutiny, deluge, etc.
neutral position in  relation to which all the other
articulatory positions can, be described. The vowel· ]
We can ellBily notice that all English front vowels are
freely occms in all basic positiOIl.', but only in
UDTounded, while the  back   withthe exception ofra;] whichis
unstressed syllables: aside. collide. rather. Its
pronunciationdoesn'tnon:rl'allymiseanyproblemfura ;)
not, strictly speaking, R back vowel, since its pronunciation in 
Romanian speaker of English. It  should be noted, 
standardEnglishisa littlemoreadvancedthanthatofcardinalvowel 
however,thatoneof themostdifficulttoacquireof the 
5 '{a] - display differentdegrees ofroundness. This  meansthatonly 
the primary can:linal  vowel chartis relevantforEnglish, lIS there axe
phonological features ofEnglishis the change ofthe

no frontroundedvowels orback uarounded vowels in thi s langua!le 
vowel quality- with the stress shift (in  a way 
comparabletoRussian). Thus, mostEnglishvowels,if
(at in RP) 
,


unstressed, will be reduced to schwa ouly to resume

c. Engli'lh central vowels. There are three  central vowel their basic value if the stress shifts back onthem: cf

phonemesinEnglish:[I\.J, [a]and[a:].
Satan [_tan],Balanic [satsentk], Batsnlsm[serta=l
i  orfatal  [fertal], [futreJrt1],fatalism[fertahzm].Itwould

1. [A] (JV.B. For technical reasans. I have followed Daniel , 

besuperlluous tolistall tJ:ie  possible spellings of[sa],
Jones and the majority ofphonetic transcription" in use sincethevowelcanbe,as havesaid,thereducedform
in choosing this symbol to represent the vowel of the !  ofany simple vowel or even diphthong (seefatality,
I
lsnglish word cut; however, strictly speaking. this

above) in English andcanconsequentlyberenderedin 
symbol -is used in the IPA alphabet to represent writing by any vowel letter with the exception ofy
secondary cardinal vowel 14. the unrounded whichonlyrepresentsthe·semivowelj  orthevoweli. 

counterpart of primary cardinal vowel 6 [a] see
above) is a central half-QjJell, shon:;, lax,  unrounded
3. [3:]isa central,mid,long, centralvoweL Itisthe
vowel. It  is the lowest standard English vowel anais  .tensecoimterpartof theschwa.andsinceitollIyoccurs
I
distributed in word-initial and medial position: utter, in stresseU syllables, in complementary distribution
subtle. It never occurs in word or syllable-fmal withth,,-precedingvowel,somephoneticians,including
,1###BOT_TEXT###quot; 

103

I
!I
Daniel Jones, argue tbl!t the two sounds are positional less prominent vowel in the diphthong that transfomls it into a
variants of the s'ame niid central vowel phoneme: It is . semivocalie element 'There is, for instance, a difference, both in
I
distributed all tl:Jrce basic positions, veIY ofum in quanti1;Y and quali1;Y between the second vocalic clement in the
monosyllabic words: err, first, curtain, for, refer. It is English diphthong [aJ] - that occurs, say, in the word buy, and the
commanly spelt ir, Ill', cr, CYI yr in :final p0sitiun or semivoV'rel UJ in the Spanish mterjection ayl [aj].
]
followed by a consonant or ear. when followed by a- .According to the position ofthe more prominent .element in the
consonant bird, burn, fortI, myrtle, learn. 0t1rer diphthong we havc already divided diphthongs into falling diphthongs
spellings incJude our in words like courtesy, journal, - if the prominant element comes :fin;1; - and rising diphthongs - ifthe
jow-ney, scourge, and, exceptionally, 0 in colonel. !ess'prominen1 element <;:DIDeS first. All Englishdiphthongll belong to
lhe rust categOIY, as it hils already been pointed out Diphthongs can
Here arc the English simple' vowels -or monophthongs then be opening diphthongs if the degree of aperture ;:w:reases with
[I
i
distributed conlrasiively in the same context: the glide or closing diphthongs if the less proniinent vowel is closer
i than 'the fust. We can also di:ffeJ:entiate between wide diphthonis _ .
a. the front vowels: eat [hi:t], bit [hlt], bet [bet], bat [hret]
i
those in which the glide implies a more':radical movement of the
b. the central vowels: Burt [bs .. fj, but [bet] the weak,
J
I speech organs (e.g. [al]) and narrow diphthongs - if the two vocalic
uru;tressed fo!Ill, butt [bAt]
[I
ekments occnpy neighboltring positipns (e.g. ["']) on the vowel crum.
c. the back vowels: boot [bn:t1, butch [butIJ, bought
I
,
'There are also centring diphthongs - if the glide is from a marginal
[bo:t), bot [bot}, Bart [ba;t).
vowel in the vowel chart·.. eithL'T back or front - to a central voweL
(See the furee English diphthoIlgs gliding towards schwa; [1a] in dear,
We can now 5w:nmarize the inf01mation we have on the English .I
[sa] in cJuziJ' and (oaJ iu moor - to which We should add [00], no
] simple vowels (monophthongs) and include jt in the following lable:
!
longer met in prescnt-day standard English).
,---------
'I
Front Central - Back
Tense La:Jc I TellS. La:Jc Tense Lax
Higb/close i: 1 u: \J
Mid e a: a
'"
 
_re
-
---!::.--
0;
"
[I
A The centring diphthong." [la], [sa], [ua], [39]
[I
a. [la] is a centring, falling, narrow, opening diphthong
tbl!t starts at about the position of the short, lax [1] and
glides towards schwa. The diphthong is distributed in
[I
all three basic positions: ear, deer, tier. If the first
element of the diphthong does not have the normal
B. The English diphthongs.
prominence and length, it can be reduced to a glide ana
1
Diphthongs have already been described as sequences of two the diphthong is changed into De]. There are severdl
vowels pronounced together, the two vocalic eJeJl1<mts being members possible &'Pellings for the diphthong: eel' as in deer,
of the same. syllable. We have shown that it is often difficult to peer or career; ea(r) as in ear, weary, idea, (ear (n.
a genuine diphthong from a sequence of a vowel and a "lacrima"), beard, eir 3H in weird, leI' as injierce or
J
semivowel, tbl!t we can ofbm proncuru::e diphthongs Jllld ev(UI long pierce, ere as in here or mere. Exceptionally we Clill
vowels as such sequences it is often the shortvr duration of the have ia in mediae/), labia(l), genial, ell as in
HiS
104
museum,  in as  in  delirium;  co as :in theory  and
theology;  e a.q :in hero  or inthe diphthorrgized version
of [i:]:serious,  serial. 
b. [lID] is a centring,  falling;  narrow,  in most cases
opening diphthong. ThedegreeDfopennessof the
clement varies, in. some dialects ofEnglish!he sound
being quite close ro rae]. In the more conservative
prODllllciations. closer to RP, Ihe articulation ofthe
diphiliong starts somewhereinthe vicinityofcardinal
vowel2 [sJ. Thenfollows a glidetowardsa Vllfiant of
.the schwa. TherearedialectsWhere theglideto [a] is
veryshortandsometimesthediphthongischanged:into
a monophthong, !l long, tense vowel [s:]. The
diphthongisdistributed:inallthreebasicpositions:air, 
scarce,  fore.  Itcanbespeltair:air,  fair,  chair,  dairy, 
fairy;  are:fare,  mare,  care,  care;  ear.bear,  wear,  tear 
(v.); acr: aerial,  aeroplane;  ere:there;  eir:their,  heir. 
In words likeprayer,  layer,  mayor,  the spellingisay
followed by either oror el". Thevowel ofMary  and
derived words suab as Maryland  or Maryport  is
nonuaUydiphthongi7.edto[saJ.
c. [De] is a centring, falling, narrow, openingdiphiliong.
If in1hecaseof 1hetwodiphthongsanaiy7.edbeforethe
glidewasfrom!lfrontvoweltowards1hccentre of the
imaginary vowel chart, :in the case of [Del the
articulation starts with a fairly hack, close vowel [nJ.
[1)8] is' distributedonly:inworo-medial.:jewelorword-
finalposition:sure.  Themostconimonspell:ings ofthe
dipb1hong are: nre and oor- endure,  mature,  cure, 
pure (wordswberethesemivowel(j]isinsertedbefore
the diph1hong), sure,  poor,  moor,  orill'folloWed by
othervowelsthane: curious,  duration. Ina numberof
caseswecanhavethespellingon: our,  gourd,  bourse, 
Thediphlhongcanalsooccurinwurdswherethesuffix
lHli
I
]
eris attached.to a base endingin [{j)n]fewer,  newer, 
chewer,  

d. [06] isadiphthongthatbas notsurvived:inpresent-day
RP. It used to render the vowel ofwords likefloor, 
door, shore) coarse) hoars;e
1
oar,  course ]
now pronounced [0:]. It still does that in various
dialects of English,though·the gcneraltendencyseems
to be to monophthongize such diphthongs. This has
fl
beenthereteof [Da] as whichinmanyvariants of
Englishi.pronounced[0:] inwordslikepoor,  sure etc.
)
B.  Thediphthongsto[1]: [all,[0'), [el]
a.  [m] i< a. faIling"  wide,  Closing  diphthong. It is the
J
diphthong that actually implies the amplest articulatory
movement of the speech organs tbat shift from the
position ofan open vowel which is :fuirly central (the
I
position vari",. !Jetween cardinal vowels 5 and 4) to a
:fuml:, close, lax vowel (not far :from the position of
cardinalvowel l.Historically,thcvoweloriginatesin[i:],
I
that subsequently lowered to [eI), thm centred and
lowered again to :finally become [81]. The diphthong is
distributed in all tim:e basic positions: isle  [all]; bite 
[baIt),cry fkrm}.Itcan.bespeltiasinice, dime,  loci, cry
I
aindyke, fly, orieasindie,  jie, pie, orininflectedforms:
spies,  spied;  ye as in dye,  fye; ei a, in height,  either, 
I
neither;  and, elCceptionally nyinbuy,  guy.  Note also the 
pronunciationofl!)'(e)  [m],eye [m] andaisle [all]. 
I
b. (Ol] isafalling, wide, closing diphthong.Itstartsfroma 
back,midvowel,situatedbetweencardinalvowels6an 
7 and endsina :front, close, lax vowel, somewherein 
I
the vicini1y ofcardinal vowel 1. Like the preceding 
diphthong, it also involves an ample articulatory 
movementfrom a backvowelto the front partofthe
I
107
i'
J  imaginarY  vowel  chart.  1ti5  distributed  in  all  three 
basic positions: ointment; boil, tOY· It can be spelt either 

oi: oil, tailor oy:  cryster, Boyle, coy.
-
c:. [.,,]  is  a  jalling, nan'O'W, closing diphthong.  It starts 
with a  front,  mid vowel - cardinal  vQwels  2 
...

[eJ  and  ::I  [Il]  and  glides  to  a  higher  vowel  value, 
closing.  Often  the  second  el=e:nJ:  is  very  -short,

somelin:ws  6Vell  dropped, the diphthong being reduced 
to  II  long  vowel  monophthong  [6:].  10  Cockney  the 
diphthong starts with a  lower and central vowel, being 

pronounced  [At]:  late  [lAtt],  say  [SAl],  day  [ew].  The 
...  diphthong  is  distributed  in  all  three  basic  positions: 
eight; plate,  play.  It  can be spclt  a:  ace, lace; ai:  aid,
maid; ay:  4Jffl,  clay; ei:  eight, reign, ey:  they, grey, ea:

break, steak. Exceptioniilly,  there  axe  like
-
gaol [Cetl],  bass [betS},  gauge [gmC],  halfpenny
'I 
[Iuupm}.  'The mpbiliong also  OCCU1li  in a SIDall number 
of French loan words  ending in et or e:  ballet, bouquet.
-
chalet, cafe, fiance, attache, resume.

,...; 
c. 
The  diphthongs  to  [\)].  There  are  two  diphthongs  in RP 
endiog in Ii glide to [0]:  [ao] and [au].
rI 
:1
.... 
a. [ao]  is  the  counterpart  of  [et]  in the  back area  of the 
vowel  chart  The  diphthong  starts  with  Ii  cmttral  mid 
vowel  and  glides  to  a  back  close  one·  It is  a  fulling, 
narrow,  closing  dipbl:hong.  It is  distributed in all three
.... 
basic  pnsiuons:  old, gold, flow, It has  various spellings: 

(I: old, sold, no; oa:  oak, roast, oe:  toe, ow: 0'Wl'l,  /awWn,
row; ou:  pOllltry, dough; eau:  beau, bureau, and,
... 
exceptionallY, au: gauche; 00: brooch; ew: sew; oh: ok
 
b.  [aD]  is a/alling, wick, closing drphthong.It starts1lS an 

- open,  fairly  front  vow"l  em  the  vicinity  of  cardinal 
vowel  4)  and glides  towards  [01  It is distributed  in all 
-

108 
three  basic positions:  ouch, loud, bough. It can be  ,pelt 
by  ou: oust, doubt, plough,or ow: owl, howl, how and, 
exceptionally eo in MacLeod.
Here  are  the  English  complex  vowels  (diphthongs) 
distributed contrastively in the same context: 
a)  centring  diphl:hongs:  beer   bear [bse],  boor
[bua], boar [boe] 
b)  diphthongs to [1];  blJiY [ba I], boy   bay [bel] 
c)  diphthongs to [0]: baw, beau [bau]; boW, bough [bau] 
English  triphtJumgs. The  very  ex1:rtence  of  tciphthongs  in 
present-day  English is  a  controversial  problem.  There  is  hardly  any 
phonetic evidence for the surival of the fi;spcctive structures at lea<;\; in 
RP.  The controversisl sequences occur wbefore the rhotic  r  when the 
DOn-centrig  diphthongs  are  followed  by  schwa.  Thus  em], [01],  [ell, 
["u],[au]  become  [ala],  [::n.a],  [em],  [aoo],  [aua]  infre,  employer,
layer, mower,pawer. As ROGa and Johnson point out (1999:  200-201), 
the  actual  pronunciation  of these  vocalic  sequences  tends  either  to 
. break  them  into  the  diphthong  and  the  following  simple  vowel 
. (schwa)  _  e.g  b)lyer  [bal-£>],  or  to  redUce  the  diphthong  to  a  si:mpJe 
vowel !OllOWL-il  by schwa  e.g.  buyer  [baa],  T riphthongal  sequences 
are quite  common in Romanian :as  proved by  examples  Iik.e  leoarcii,
aripioarii, beai, vreall, t'-td. mwll, luau, miet, leoaicii. (Vasiliu. 
1965:  134) 
CHAPTER'5 
PHONOL.OGICAL.  STRUCTURE: 
THE PHONEME  AND  THE  AL.L.OPHONE. 
SE6MENTAL.  SPECIFICAnON: 
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES 
IN V ARIQUS  PHONOL.OGICAL.  THEORIES 
5.1. Individual sounds  and  classes  of sounds.  The 
phouem

and its contrastive function 
The  precOOing  chapters  o:ffi:rcd  a  tentative  description  of 
English  sounds  from' an:  articulatory  perspective,  aiso  providing 
cermm  acoustic  correlates  of  consonants  and  particularly  vowels, 
From  the  very  beginning' of the  book  we  lIsed  the  word  smma to 
loosely refer to  one  of the two  sides  of the  Saussurian sign.  the  onc 
,  that the  Swiss linguist called le signifje. However, this is not the way 
in which phonologists, and, indeed, our own brllin, deal with 'the wide 
varietY  of gj.gniii.ers that a given linguistic system includes. It is  clear 
that human beings ptOOuce a great varietY of sounds, but only a part of 
them are genuine speeCh sounds, that is sounds that are used  for verbal 
communication  and  are  consequently  of  interest  for  the  present 
discussion. With our inventory drastically limited, can we still say that 
all sounds that we  prodlwe when we speak are  interpreted as  actually 
discrete  and  entirely  di:ffi:rent  phonetic  sequences?  If this  were  the 
case  we would have  indeed  great  difficulties  in  dealing  with :mch  a 
wide varietY  (in :taet.  theoretically  an infinite number of sounds)  that 
we  articula:te.  A  closl;!:  analysis  of the  phonation process  will reveal 
that,  indeed,  different  speakers  pronouncing,  say,  the  word pen will 
foil  to  identically pronounce its  component parts,  the sounds  p,  "  and 
111 
~  



l


11 









.. 





I

,


II 





<I 
n,  respectively.  Even  more,  one  and  the  same  speaker,  if asked  to 
prOllOu:ru::e  the  respective  word  10  tiInf:s  will  actually  produce  ten 
almost lmperceptibly  diffu:rent  VlIriants.  1he usc  of phonographs  bas 
provided visiblr; evidence for this noW lmqu<'.stionable reality. 
The  question  that  we  have  to  ask  ournelves  thfill  is  this:  do 
these  differ=ces really  matter?  Are tliey  signillGant  fur  us,  or do  we 
rather'tend to  overlook the  above  mentioned  variations  and  interpret 
the  respective segment as' identical,  or,  indeed,  irrelevantly  different, 
each  and every tllue we perceive it? Besides,  it is intuitively pbvious 
for anyone that the sound p  in  the English word pill is different :from 
the  "same"  sound  in spill. In the  .first  case the  foree  JJf the  plosive 
sound is  greater and a sort of "h" sound.accompilDies its arti.,1llatiou. 
This phonetic phenomfillon  is  celled  aspiration. Notlring  of.the kind 
happens in the sooooocase, Again, if asked whether we deal with the 
same  sound  in  the  two  words  any  speaker  of English will  give  an 
affirmative  am;wer  without  any hesitation  and  nobody  will  question 
the sameness of the two  sounds in spite of their obvious dissimilarity. 
How  come  that we  are  so  careless  and  neglect soch  often important 
di:flerences, while if asked to compare the sound p inpill to the sound 
b  in  bill - another  case  where  we  obviously  deal  with  sounds  that 
differ - we will immediately say that the two sounds are distinct? Are 
there  cliffurent  types  of diffeiences  sO  to  say?  Are  some  differences 
more important than others? These !night seem pretty trivial 
at  :frrst  glance,  but  the  answer  that  linguists  gave,to  them  actually 
maiked a taming point ill the history of linguistic disciplines. What we 
actually  operate  with  - it :baS  been  explained  - is  not  individual,. 
separate,  ll1lrejJC'ltable units,  but:ruther categories.  We know tbts from 
ancient philosophers  -' in particular  from  Aristotle  - and 
makes  no  exception  in tbi.,  respect  Linguists  have  argued th.erefure, 
that in the case of the sOlmd p  inpill and spill respectively,  as well as
in  the  case  of  different  people's  or  one  and  the  same  person's 
pronuriciation  of the  same  word, in spite  of the  obvious  differences, 
our rcind tends to group  all the Vl!riants of the p  soond in one and the 
s=category.  When we compare the initial sounds ofpm and bill on 
1!2 
the  other band,  the  differences  are  no  longer  neglected  and the  two 
sounds  are allotied to two different  categOries.  What is the reasOIJ  we 
do that for?  D:  is a jUnctional Dne,  it was azgued  The two  words pill
and  biZI are  distinguished  as  discrete  words  precisely  because  the 
interpretation  of the two  sounds  is  different.  (A good parallel  would 
probably be one we  are all  fumiliar  with and is linked to our primmy 
.  school memories., We  were all  asked  to COD1pare  two drdwings - two 
representations  of a human  being,  let's  say,  that  differ  in  only  Ope, 
,  often  slightly perooptible  detail:  a  square  button  opposed to. a  rou'nd 
one,  maybe.  Those  buttons having d.ifferent  shapes that keep  the two 
drawings apart are the phonemes of our situation). The two sounds we 
are  talking  about  have  a  ccmtrastive value,  they  establish  an' 
opposition, they  keep  apart  the  two  wDrds,  their  difference  actually 
resolts in a  semantic difference.  Tbc presence or absence of aspiration 
in  the  -different varlanis  of p  as  well  as'The  variations that  we  may 
perceive  when  we  compare  soccessive  pronunciations  of  the 
respective  words  are    or  we  com.ider  them  to  be  so  as 
loog as  the meaning  of the word the sound is part of is  :interpreted as 
being the  same.  Our intellect then apparently  works on two  different 
planes. Areal one where the differences between the actoal sounds are 
pen::eived.  and an ideal  one, where these diffi:rences are analyzed and 
are either considered to be irIlportant,  or functional, or contrastive and 
are  consequently  recognij..ed,  or,  on  thc  contrary,  are  interpreted  as 
uuimportant  and  overlooked.  It  is  the  historic  merit  of structural 
linguistics  to have postulated this  distinction  and  to.  have iutrod!roed 
the notion of Invariant in grantIIlaI.  On the ideal plane, then, we work 
with  such  abstract  constructs,  categories  that  don't  have  11 concrete 
reality  :md  to  which  the  concrete,  actually  occurring  s01lIlds  a."C 
allocated. The abstract construct was calledphoneme. Tile symbols for 
phonemes are put in stashes:  /pI and Ibl in our examples above.  The 
materializa:ti.ons,  in",tan:t:iations,  realizations  of a  phone:me  in  actual 
. speecl:t were called its allophof/e.s. The symbols fur allophones are put 
in square brackets;  [P]and [po] in our examples above for the aspirated 
and unaspirnted variant< ofIpl. respectively. 
113 
5.2.  Allopbones.  Complementary  distribution  and 
free variation 
Phonemes are then theoretical coILStrUCbl,  classes of sounds the 
members  of  which  display  obvious  phonetic  similarities  the 
differenees  among ille  respective members  being never contrastive or 
functionaL  As soon  as,  in  a  given  linguistic  context,  this  difference 
beoomes  :functional  and  :iepresents  the  basis  on  wbi<;h  a  sematUic 
contrast  achieved, it ceases to be allophonic andbecomesphlmemic,
in other  words the  respective  sounds  are members  of distinct classes 
(phonemes)  . 
. It should  be  noticed that  allophoniC  differences  or variations 
can  be  of different  kinds.  If they :result  from  the  occurrence  of the 
phoneme  in di:ffurent  environments  or contexts  (we  will  call  this  the 
distribution of  the  respective  phoneme)  -we  will  talk  about 
distributional variation and  we  WIll  say  that  the  allophones  are  in 
complementary distribution. The  word  "complementary'"  actnally 
refers  to  the  fact  film  the  contexts  in  which  the  allophones  of a  . 
phoneme  appear  can  never  be  the  same  and  they  cover  the  whole 
ronge  of possible environments  in  which the  sound can occur (fur an 
:malogous  situation  think  of complementaiy  angles  in geometry).  In
other words,  in a  given context X  only a  certain allophone will occur, 
while in another context Y, another allophone is expected to occur and
X  and Y  are the  only contem in  wbich the allophones  can occnr.  It
follows  from  this  thet  the  occ= of allophones is  always 
predictable since in a  certain context we  can only expect one and only 
one  realization  of the  phoneme.  In our  particular  example,  in'  the 
context  of pill - the  voiceless  plosive  Ipl is followed  by a  stressed 
vowel  and is in  syllable-mitial position - we  can safely  say that the 
aspirated allophone[P"J  will  eoroe up. If; on the other hand, p  is not 
  and is preceded by s  as  in·spill, we  can  safely predict 
that  the  llnaspirated  variant  of  p  will  occur.  The occurrence  of 
differurrt phonemes ;.<;, on the contrary, totally unpl-edictable it is 
the  VCIy  fundamental  characteristic  of  phonelIles  that  they  'are 
contrasted in one and the same  context. ThL'l"e  is  no way in which we
can predict therefure that in the  context -d we  will havepill. nil, chill
1\d 
gill. Jin sill, kill, mill, hill. dill or till (the list can continue).  Any 
two  words - such as pill and bill, =tioned above,  or kill and  hill,
etc.  that help us discover which sounds have a contrastive value in a
given lan.,ouage are said to form a minimal pair. Tlle follOwing criteria 
must be met by the  in order that they form a_minimal  pair: 
they should have the same number of sounds, and these sounds should 
be  identical.  With  the  only  exception  of the  contrasting  sound  thai 
should be distributed  in the  same  context  in both words;  the  words 
JllllSt also have di.:ffi:re:nt meanings. 
If variation  is  not  associated  with positioning,  and  is  rather 
unpredictable,  without  being phonemic  however,  we  talk  about free
variation or random variation. One type  of nrndom variation that we 
eneollllter  is  when we  compare  different  realizations  of one  and the 
same  phoneme  by various  speBkers  or in the  speech of one  and  the 
same person in di:ffi:rent  situations. It differs  from the preceding type 
because  it  is context·free  and  it  differs  from  phonemic  variation 
because  it is  not  contrastive.  To  give  an  example,  if a  person 
h -
pronounces the word rock as  -ar [rok  ], then.we taIk.&lJout
free variation..  We can have a  different type  of free ""nation when We
deal  with  realizations  of  different  phonemes  m  the  same  context 
withont  a  change of meaning.  E.g.:  li:1 and  lei in the  re.spective 
pronunciations of economics: Ii:kan::mnksl VS.  lekanoDl1ksI; or leI and 
lell in the respective pronunciations ofagain fagenl VB. lagent!.
W:rth this  we  have  actllally  bighl:ighted  the  basic  strategy 
through  which we can  brjng  out  the  contrast  between  two  different 
phonemic  tmtities:  in  aile  and  the same  context  we  replace or 
suhstitute one element for another  and analyze the  effect this  has  on 
the meaning of the entire  sequence.  The method is predictably called 
suhstitution term often Ilsed is commutation) and it represents 
the  main  strntegy through  wbich  structnralist  grammarians 
emphasim:!  in language.  Having  established this,  we  can 
refine  our  <:If the  Sanssmian sign.  What the  linguist 
called Ie ;tiimfiflnt is  W::tu;,ny a  string ofphonemes and not of sounds, 
iuext:ricahly to acertain notion or concept  So we can say thai 
at  the  leve!" of the  sig"ifianr languages  perfOttD  a  truly  remarkable 
thing.  fustead  of selecting  an  acoustic  image  (to  use the  Saus..'l'1lrian 
115 



J

:1
-
...
t
..
t

,1 
....


11 
....
il 
.... 
rl 
....
...
t
'. 
telln) for each andeveryconceptintheS)'Stml- [P] fur cat,  fD] for
mouse,  etc - they actually combine a'limited set ofphonemes and
obtain a sufficiemtlylargenumberof signifo:mts furalltheconceptsin
thelanguage.By exploitingthe combinatorialpossibilitiesof elements
_ and anyone having elementary mathematical knowledge will be
aware that these are enonnous- languages manageto be extremely
economical. Imagine what·rerrible offort wOlud  be needed to  learn
thousands ofdifferentsoundsthatwouldsymbolizetheconceptsof a
language! Jf  tbis is  perl'Olllled al. the !"vel of.speech, the same
tendenl-"y can be noticed inthe evolution'ofwriting: from various
primitiVe symbolic representations htlIllll11 writing developed to
systems representing the syllabJes of   while the alphabetic
writing tends to a rePresentation ofthephonemes ofthe language. I 
usedtheword"tends"becauseeveninthe 'rellingsystemsthatcome
closestto a one-to-one representationofthephonemessuchathingis 
not achieved. (In  Romanian, fur iIJStlmce, the phoneme Ik1  can  be 
rendered by either the letter c or by ch if distributed before a front
vowel, or even by  q  in the eonsen'lltive spelling ofcertain  Latin
words: e.g. requiem The letter c, on the other. hand, will get an
affricate reading if fullowed immediately by one.ofthe two front
vowels). TheIPA  alphabetis  suchall alphabet, butitis  notusedto
spelltheword,;ofally language.(Seechapter2above).
5.3.  The phonological idiosyncrasy of linguistic
systems
Another imvortantreality becomes evident for us: if lilllDan
.  . 
beings are biologicallyaptto produce aWide  (butstillfuiite) variety
of speech sounds, each natural language will  operate a· pa..'i::icular
seJection and  choose a  set ofsounds that are  :functional within the
respective linguistic sy:,'tern. It follows from that  that diffl'fences
whichare considered"important''' (:functional, contrastive,phonemic)
byacertainlanguage,may:tiot' beconsideredin thesamewaybyother
languages. An example at band is vowel  length.  It is evident thaJ:
vowels have different lengths in both Romanian'and English. But
llG
while inRomanian vowel lengthdoesn'tplayanyrole, in killglish it
clearly does so, since itis  vowel length that <fu.1:ingllishes, say, seat 
from sit.  AnoUler ex.ample ofthedifferentinterpretation ofthe same 
phonetic reality by the two languages is the treatment ofthe velar
nasal  liD. Any ofRo:rrunrianif asked to carefhUy arutlyzethe
. sound speltnin bandii and banco respectivelywill acknowledge the
d:ifi:i:rence but will not consider it an important one, becaose in 
RomanianthedistinctionbetweenthealveoJarnasal andthevelarone
isnever contt-alrtive or :functional. In English, however, it is, as
miIJirnal pairslikesin [smJ andsing [SIU] prove. Consequently,w4ile
Romanian treats the two sounds as allaphnnes ofthe same llllSal
phoneme, In!,  English  will grant both en] and [IJl the st3.tus  of
allophonesoftwodi:ftere1ltnasalphonemes,In! andI :g  i.r:espectively:
Aspiration, mentioned above, is another good example. While in 
English it doesn't have a phonemic value as it  is ",;sociated to 
positional variants of one and the saine  phoneme, in  Hindi, for
example, it is the baR;s ofa phonemic contrast since pal with an
llllllSpirated plosive means to  take care of, whilepha{(pronounced
withaspiration)meansthe edgeofaknife(Spencer, J996:5).
Remembering diedistinctionbetweenphoneticsaru1 phonology
discussed inthesecondcihllpter ofthebook,wecannowsay thatwhile
phooeticsdealswiththemoreorless nnivernalchBtactecisticsofsounds
(inarticula1ory, acousticorauditoryterms)phonologywill ratherfoGUs
ontheparticularway inwhichthesoundsystemsof di:ffurentlanguages
.  .  . 
arcorganized.Thepbonologicalrules,constraints,thesoundpatternsof
a given lin,,"llistic system  will then be the domain of phonology .
SimpJ:i:fying, we ean say that  pho:wtics deals with actual sounds and
their characteristics,whilephonologywill beconcernedwithmattersof 
a more abstract nature;, it analyses phonemes, phonemic features
phonological patterning. We will actually see that  the boundary
betweenthetwo  disciplinesis farfrom beingso clear-cutaswewould
likeittobe sinceitis impossibletospeakofthephoneticcharacteristics
ofsounds outside'ofa pbono1ogicalwrrtextand onthe otherhandwe
cat100t talk about phonological processes without making use ofthe
phoneticcharacteristicsofsound,;.
117
5.4.Broadandnan"oW tralll.Scriptiol'l
Anotherdistinction shonld be made in this context. Wehave
talked ina previous chapter aboot various ways ofrepresenting the
sOllndq ofa language inwriting and welooselycalledthemphonetic
transcriptions, What we actually represent'by a system as that
designedbytheIP  A  are .thephonemes ofa given language- and itis 
more appropriate to call this a phonemiC trOl1Scription, usually
rendered betweenslashes, Theterm ftroad transcription is alsoused,
to show that it  tends 0 ignore the details and represent of
sounds rather than SOlmds proper. By contrast, a traoscription that
alros to fu.i:thfully theallophonicvariantsofthephoriemes and
provideasmuchinformationaspossibleaboutthe'Olrod.,thatactually
occur in a  given context will be called a  narrow, or  phonelic
transcription. SUCh a trdllScription is conventionally put in square
bracket<; [ J. Since'fur reasOI1'l  of economy, bot often quite
confusmgly, the same graphlc symbo(is usedfor both the phoneme
and its allophonic variants, various diacritics or additional symbols
canbeusedtomakethediff:brence. Forinstance, whilethephoneme
!pi is represented by the letter p, its aspirated allophone will  be
rendered by the same symbol followed by a small b:  ph,  while the
unaspirated one by p-.  'The symbol that we chose to represent the
phoneme will  always he  the  one representing its  most wid""-pread
allophone. This aCcolmts for the fact thattheunaspiratedratherthan
the ""pirated allophone ofIpl i., represented by its  graphic symbol.
simi!ai:ly, English vowel phonemes will be represented by the
symbolsoftheiroralandnottheirnasalallophones,etc.
5.5.Segmentalandsnprasegmentalphonemes
Wehavesofurdescribedthesoundsof English.wetriedton,;t
gome of their main articulatory features, we even postnlated the
existence of cla..ses ofsoundS that we called phonemes ana  we
discllssen tb.em in functional terms emphasizing their contra.qtive
value. Boteven whenwetalked about classes of sounds (phonemes)

]
weconsideredthemasactuallydefininguniquepll!>DoJogical unitsin
  of thepiiimeticvariationsdisplayedbytheirrespectivemembers
which we cho= to  ignore. We can say then  that we analyzed
[J
individual, separate scgm<>ntJ, poouologicn1 units m i.90lation. The
studyofsuchsegmentsoutsideofa: largerphonologicalcontextisthe
.domainof segmental phonology. Manychangesundergonebysounds,
many m language, many phonological processes, actually
f) 
takeplaceorcanbe ooticedl!t ahigherlevel,a levelthatwillinvolve
sequences orstrings ofsounds, or evenofwords aod phrdSes. Tlris 
1[1
will be the domain ofsuprasegmental phonnlogy and part ofthe

.following chapters will  be de";oted to a brief analysis of such
phenomena Stress, rhythm., intonation are obviously such
[J
phonological realities.that:manifest themselves at a suprasegmental
level. Sire.. and intonation contours can even have phonemic
(contrastive) value since only diffe:rence in stress placement
establishes the distinctionbetween envoy(the noun) aodenvoy (the ;1 
verb). 'Q1e same word, phrase orsentencepronouncedwith different
intonational contours could expreBS su:q:rriSe, satisfaction, matter-of-
factneBS. Thelastchapterof·thebookwill discusssuch CllSes in
;) 
detail.
)
5.6.Fromtheminimal'unitoflinguisticanalysisto
thebundleof distinctive
I
The "discovery"of thephonemetbrilledlinguistsenormously.
Scholarsworkinginthedomainofhumanitieshavealwayslivedwith
the <:orupJex ofthe  extraordinary achievements oftheir colleagues
I
studyingexactornaturalsciences.Ifmathematicians walkedonsuch
arigorousandstrictlyorganizedgroUnd, ifhiologlst.JikeLinnewere
able tu so convincinglyclassify andexpJaintheextraordinaryvariety

ofliving creatures why should lin,,"llistics and literary sciences, for
example, workwithvague andslipperyconcepts? Couldn'tempirical
observationbeorganized inthisfield too, couldn'tgeneralprinciples

he  enounced andrules he  discovered and formalized just as inthe
domains of, say, physics oralgebra?Andif this wasnotpossibledid
119 

• 
J
J
sciences, after all? So that when the phoneme was "discovered" an
analogy-struck the mind of enthusiastic researchers. ff languages were
rnultHayered systelJ1S of levels that were hieran::hlciilly and
isomorphically organized _- in·other words the elernertts of OIli' level
could be analyzed (etymologically decomposed) into   elemenll;
at the -inferior level and SQ on will the lowest level is
""
il
-
reached; hadn't linguists actnally bit the iJ.l!imate illid smallcist unit in
1
language - the phoneme? If pliysicists and chern ists had discovered
-
the atom, the mjnim.l sllUcture in the universe that could not be
further decomposed (the reality later proved to be -bitterly
J
disappointing), wasn't the status of the phoneme in linguistics exactly
;1
the same?
ff we remember the presentation in the first -chapter of this
book of the stages in the process of communication. the reasoning
.... roughly went along the following lines: sentences could be analyzed
into phrases at the syntactic level, that could be further split into
1
words and morphemes at the morphological level to be finally
l,; decomposed mm.·phonemes at the-phonological leveL The phoneme
would be then the minimal unit in Ian"ouage. Unlike words,
1
morphemes, phrases and sentences at the superordinate levels it will
-
be itself devoid of mesni:ng, since Ie signiru.nt is ouly accidentally a
unique phoneme, but rather a combination or string of phonemes, but
.1
-will have an essential mk (a contrastive one as we saw) in keeping
....
apart semantically different sequences.
Nevertheless, from the perspective on the phoneme presented
above,this newly found atom of lan,,"llilge didn't seem to have much
t
....
t
substance after all To say that p inpot is oot n in not =y, of course,
be important, but it is not very illll1.llinating about the true nature of
either p or n, since it amounts to saying what p and n are IWt:rather
;..... 
than. what they arc. ff we agree that thq arc different, is this
difference purely functional, Of does it rather have some phonetic
"wstallcc as well? And if it does, what is it based on? How are tlwy
;I
I.,,;
t
different after all? In t= of our discussion of the two soUnds we
-will say that most of their characteristics or features are comrnon;with
the .exception of one importmlt feature: voicing or vocal cord
....
vibrmi:m. However, acknowledging the tact that each phoneme could
I
120
be analyzed (that is dee...mposed) in tcnns of characteristic features
actually amounted to dOrn,g- away with -the myth of the atomic
phoneme. The unbreakable -atom could a:ftri all be split into
COlIlpOllent features. Thus it came to have subs1ance and be
understood not ouly in :fi.mct:ional terms - its oppositional value - but
also as a combination or, to use the established terin, a bundle of
distinctive features. -'What does diStinctiVe mean? Some ofthe features
we _mentioned <::arlier seem to be more relevant tbJm others, in certain
=u1exts at least, since /pi and Ib /- to refer to the actual example we
discllssed before - haw lots of features in common (plosive, bilabial,
obstruent sounds) and only differ in:. one; because this feature that 1
differentiates or distinguishes them, it was called distinctive feature. I
Now that the concept of phoneme unbreakability was dead, -
linguists enthusiastically set about inventory:ing and describing the
distinctive features, the new minimal uni!, at the phonological leve.l.
(phonology was again a pioneer in the' field. as the ''filshion''
subsequently spread to other linguistic disCiplines - see componential
analysis in semantics, for instance). This actually became one of the
.'
lIlain tasks of phonologists: identifYing the L"Xact set of features that
are relevant for any language and describing the way these features
arc relevant far phonological processes. It proved to be, however, a
_di£fj,,-u]t task since there Were several criteria that could be used in
analy-Lfug the features (articulatory, ac.oustic, auditory) and some
features wt>re particularly relevant for some languages whlle in other
languages not ouly they not distinctive, but could not be
identified at all when examining the phOIWInes of the respective
langtlages. Should specialists conti.uue to aim at designing a set of
universal features or ratbffi. - start from the idea of the highly
idiosyncratic character of each language and design individual sets Of
features? As the idea of language universals was very dear to lingllurts
lllld, moreover, there was rimcb empirical support for such a
hypothesis, a universal set of features was established - based on
fundamental simi.iJlrities among laognages ..; while some other featw:cs
were h-pecified as being relevant for a more limited number of
languages. (As we are going to see later, a feature like guttural will
not be relevant for any European language; but this is not the case of
121
only  suCh  "exotic"  features.  Nasality,  fur  instJm<:e  is  distinetive  and 
h11S  a. phon=ic  value  when  we  analyze  FrenCh  vowels,  wbiIe  in 
languages  such  as  Romanian  and  English  it  is  a  purely  cantextllal 
feature that characterizes lIliophones of vowel phonemes distributed :in 
a nasal enviromnent).  . 
Smce phonemes  had  an  oppositional' value  and  the  contrasts 
they established seemed to be ofa binary kind (ofthe type either  ... or) 
the features were - at least initially·  devised:in the same WHY.  When 
i we' talk  about  binary oppositions,  we  have  in mind a  polarity.  The 
[
Irespective  feature  has  two  poles  and  an element charaeterized  by it 
only be situated at one  of the poles.  To  give a  clearer ex:arnple, I 
will refer to a ·semantic opposition of this kind: dead/alive. Along the 
fuatmc  "endowed with life" we call only encounter the two  situations 
mentioned above.  If·someth:ing is alive,  !han it is not dead and if it is 
dead, it is not alive. No intermediate degrees are allowed as inthe case 
of the oppositiou coldlbot where it is clear that if something is not hot 
it doesn't necessarily fullow that it is  cold: it ean be wann,  cool,  ete. 
Tliis'  is  a  i:ed.iiCfive: perSpeCflve  anil  there  are  very  few -natural  or 
linguistic phenomena that can. accurately be described in these terms. 
Reality is much more complex, allowing for infinite degrees and it can 
be rarely reduced to an either ... or opposition. Many features were felt 
as being more accurately descnoable in terms of scalar values. InStead 
of heaving two poles - the  values  of the  fuarure,  a  hierarchy 
of intmmediate  degrees was introduced.  Therefore,  instead of the +/-
opposition  deSC!1oed  above, many fe_ were  later described using 
the  symbol  a that mm:k:ed  a  variable degree  of the  Characteristic  (see 
the opposition higb/low in vo_ls, discussed in a previous cruWter). It 
doesn't only have  the two  poles as  it allows for  different degrees  of 
aperture:  mid, high-nUd,  open-mid voweL'l).  However,  it seemed very 
convenient and efficient to overlook such  and simplify mattLT.l 
by  oilly allowing the features  to be  5]Y'vCified  by either + or -. Along 
the featore  [voice], for example, we have two values or specificatious, 
the fumrer  symbol  clearly marking the presence of the :feature, .while 
the  latter  made;  its  absence.  Thus  the  voiceless  plosive  /pI will be 
specified  [-voice], while  its  voiced  counterpart  fbI will  receive  the 
,. 
!.' 
]
specification [+voiceJ. Still,  some features  are not really analyzable in 
binary temis  at·all.  How are  we to  reduce ,the  multitude  of places  of 
articulation  of consonants  to  binary  oppositions?  Can  we  say,  for 
]
example,  that  a  sonnd  is  non..ruveolar?  There  is  no  such  place  of 
articulation,  so  ":non-alveolar"  can I;i:tean  bilabial,  palatal,  velar,  etc. 
Place  of articulation  features  thus  do  not  bave  just  two  values  or 
]
'" 
spe,,:ifica;tions.  Therefore,  a  specitica;tion suCh as  [-alveolar]  would be 
.' 
me!lningl. ess.  Clearly  establish  oppositions  ofl. 
the  type  presented  above  and  were  consillered;  m  litter  approaclies,/ 
[J
  as they only had one value Or specification. 
Most ofthe rema:ining part of the chapter will be  devoted to a 
sketchy presen1ation  of the  distinctive  features  in various  influential 
[I
approaches. 
5.7. JakobsOD aDd Halle's feature system 
fI 
.. Traditionally;  speech  sounds  were  almost  exclusively 
Il-
descnoed in articulatory terms,  in' a  way very much similar to that we 
nsed  in the  preceding  chapters  of this  book.  The  reason.  for  which 
articulatory  rather  than  acoustic  Or  auditory 'characteristic  prevailed 
I
and for  whiCh  articUlatory phonetics has had a  longer history than its 
younger sisters, acoustic and auditory phonetics are Obvious and bave 
been  cursorily  mentioned  in  the  introductory  chapters  of this  book. 
Intuitively we  are more readily aware of the way we articulate  sounds 

- we  can  even  touch,  feel,  watCh  our  speeCh  organ..  perform  the 
necessary movements  for  producing lhe reqnired  sounds.  Befure the 
recent development of teclmDlogica! means by whiCh sounds could be 

represented,  visnalized,  mapped  on  complex  diagrams  we  could 
hardly  speak  of acoustic  phonetics  as  II  discipline  on  its  own right 
I
AuditoI}'  phonetics,  as  it  involves  psyChological  and  even 
phy"iological processes that are  still largely  unclear, bas always been 
a shadier ground.  With the developmeut of the phoneme theory and of 
I
the structuralist approaChes to language, the identification and analysis 
of distiuctive' features  wittiessed a  sudden boom.  The inflneutial wDrl, 

123
• 


rl
....  ' 

1
.... 

1
.... 
'I
... 

.... 
[I 
.... 


""" 
..... 
,. 

th 
of the Prague School linguists in the fusI:  decades  of the 20  century 
was  echoed  later by, one  of the  most di;fuiguished representatives  of 
the  school,  Roman  Jakobson,  who  published  in  1952  a  book 
eo-authored by (3un:rlaI'Fant and  Morris.1Iille,  entitled Preliminaries
to Speech Analysis. It was  the  first  major  attempt  by  the  structural 
school of linguistics  to  give  a comprehensive imd  articulate,  coherent 
piatore  0  ,the  distinctivl;  fea;!mes  in  language.  Four  years  later, 
Jakobson  and  Hall" ,xefitl.ed  ,:t\le  theory  in  their  Fundamentals of
Language (1956).  and  Halle's  fuatureS  depllIt  from  the 
traditional  approacl1es  as  1Jley  attempt  t6  describe  sounds  from  an 
acoustic  (and  occasionally auditory)  perSpective  (which were  simply 
not  avirilable,  previously,  as  I  have  poiIitt:

out).  The  principle  of 
mnanty  was  for  the  first  time  clearly  stipulated.  The  features  were 
described as  being  universal rafuer than language  specific.  They also 

tried to bridge the gap between the traditionally iIreconciiabl  classes 
of vowels  and  consonants  by  finding  or  at  least  attempting  to  find 
common denominators for fueir respective descriptions. Amplitude (or 
lomw.e!i&);' flRtlh- {ar  frequenCY)  and  duration  (length)  are·-the  three 
coordinateS that define  speech  sounds.  Largely relying  on data  made 
available by technical developments, the authors built up a  system of 
fua:tureS  that  they  tabulated  'll1d, baptized  the  feal:Ul:e, matrix  of the  ' 
respectiv,,:phonemes.  Thus,  Jllllking  use 'ofonlY nine  binary features, 
they gave a tentative description of all the phonemes of English. niese 
were:  ' 
1. vocalic/non-vocalic 
2. consonantaJinon-con:;onatal 
3. compac!1diffuse 
4. rg.avel acute 
5. flat/plain 
6, nasal/oral 
7. tensellax 
8.  contiuwmtlinterropted 
9.  stridentJmcllo

Most  features  belonged  to  a  more  comprehensive  category. 
calied sonority features.
124 
'The  fust  two;'  1J()calicirw1'J--vocalic and  consonantal/non-
consonantal obviously  distinguish  between  vowels  and   
Acoustically,  [+vocalic] sollnds  were  described  as  having  a  well-
detiued  formant  structure,  wb,ile  articn1atorily they  are  characte.rized 
by  vvc:"i  cord  vib,'a:i:ion  and  free  passage  of  the  airstream. 
Acousrically,  COilSOIJlilltril  sounds were  characterized  by a  lowering in 
the  fuRt  fimnant,  while  articn1atorily  an  obstrnction  is  met  by  the 
outgoing  airstream.  While  vowels  were  descr:ibed  as  [+vocalic;
-consonantal] COllSOnants  received  the  specification  [+consonantal;
vocalic]. The  latt:ral  1  (and,  later,  the  other  liquid,  r)  was 
controvL'TSially  as  [+vocalic; +consonantal] while the glottal 
fricative h received the specification [- vocalic; - consonantal], a label 
also used for, gJides: 
The  feature  compactldlfJUse, supposedly  common  to  both 
vowels  and ,consonants,  distiIiguishes  between  open and low vowels 
and front  and back (post-alveolar) consonants respectively.  The name 
ofthe featme'cmnes from its acoustic chardCterization. Diffuse   
bave  energy  spread  widely  (d:i:ffusely)  across  the  spectrum,  while  in 
the case  of compact  sounds  the  energy  is  conccutrateil  in the  central 
area  of the.  auditory  sPOOtruin  (it· is . compact):  Articulatorily,  the 
rliffuse  sou.iJ.il.i (close  vowels  and  frout  consonants)  are  clli-u:acterized 
by  a    shape  of.the resonator (the  oral  civi1y),  while 
compact  sounds  (open  vowels  and  poatalveolar  consonants)  are 
char!lllterized by a forward-flanged shape ofthe resonator. 
Within  the  opposition  nasal/oral" J+nasal] sounds  are 
characteriz.ed acoustically  by a  re<luction  of the intensi1y of the sound 
the presence of II nasal formant  and a  damping of the oral  ones, wbile 
articulatorily  we witoess a  blocking of the oral  ca:v:i1y  and  the release 
ofthe airtbrough fue nasal  ca:vi1y. 

The  fuature  continriantiintlJ1'rupted (abrupt) keens  apart 
fricative  sounds  the  pronunciation  of  which,  as we  saw,  can  be 
COntillned  indefinitely,  from  stops  which  are  characterized  in 
articulatory  terms  by  instantaneous  release.  Acoustically,  stop 
125 
  sounds  are  characterized by  a  sudden spread  of energy 
OVCI a wide freqnency region. 
Stridentlmellaw  is a fcallJre  that differentiates among affricates 
and grooved fucatives (labio-denta1, alveolar and a1vea-palatal) on the 
one hand - they are all-[+.rtridentJ  and slit"fricatives  (the dentalOOllS) 
which  are  [-l>'tridentJ.  Acoustically,  strident  sounds  have- irregular 
wave  forms  and  articulatorily  they  are  rougb-edged  because  of all 
add:itional  obstruction  fu,II;  increases  turbulence  at  the place  of 
articulation.  We  will remember that  strident  sounds  will :require  the 
insertion of a vowel between them and the "-s morpheme. 
Protensity  features  are  only  represented  by  the  feature 
tense/lax.  The  [+tenseJ  specification  characterizes  soundswhlch  are 
mticulated  with  a  greater  effort.  AcoUlltically  they  evince  a  great<:r 
spread  of e;o.ergy  in the  specuum  IUld  ru.ve  a  longer durati.on,  while 
articulatorily  they  rcqniIe  a  greater  deformation  of the  vocal  trllCl 
Voiccle.ss-=nants will be thus specified, while voiced ones will be 
described as [-tense]. 
TonalllJl  features  include  the  grave/acute  and  flat/plain 
oppositions. The former characterizes boj:h vowels and consonant!; and 
distinguishes  back  vowels  from  front  ones  and  "peripheral"  from 
"centra!"  oonsonants.  [+grave]  sounds  are  characterized  acoUlltically 
by  a  low  pitch (frequency)  and  include  back vowels  and  labial  and 
velar  Consonants.  Acute -sounds  will  display  higher  ftetiuencies  and 
include front vowels, dental, alveolar and palatal consonants. 
The  full/plain  opposition  corrtraats  rounded  to  unrounded 
vowels.  [+flat}  sounds  display  acoUstically  a  lowering  of the higher 
formant and are articulatorily characterized by lip rounding. 
5.8. Chomsky a.nd Balle'S distinctive features 
Within  a  fundamentally  different theoretical  furnework Dlany 
of the distinctions proposed by Jakobson and Halle  can be tecognized 

in  Noam  Chomsk;y  and  Moms  Halle's  Sound  Pattern  of English 

(1968),  a  book t!Jat  represented a turning point in the development of 
phonological  theory in the 20
w
century.  The phonological analysis  is 
carried out from, a generative perspective, which radically mod:ifies the 

i.nterpreta:tions  of. the_  phonological  processes.  1he  task  of  the 
phonologist was  not longer to  identify and  classilY the  elements  in  a 
given corpus,  but railicr  to  devise  a  system  of rules  that  explain  the  1
<  ... 
phonological  structure  of  sentences  and  the  phonOlogical  changes 
u:r:ide!:gone  by  vaious -segments.  The  classical  variant  of American 
Stru:cturnlis:m  often  called  Item  and  Arrangement  phonOlogy  was  1 
repudiated in favour of a flexible system that should allow the linguist 

to  explain  the  phonological  structure  of  a  given  language.  From 
essentially  and  descriptive,  the  model tends  to  become 
fI 
explanatory.  Generative  transformational  grammar  was  a  h,ter 
development of earlier  sttuctura1ist  tlJi:Qries  in the  20

century,  of 
w.hich it is in many ways a  continuation,  but from which it essentially 

departs  in  some  fundamental  aspects.  At  the  time  when  SPE  was 
publiShed, most generativiSl:S  woura ifiJl accept the -Standard-model of 
the  late  fifties  and  early  sixties  which  considered  the  syntactic 

component  as  cen:tral  within  grammar  while  the  serrumtic  and 
phonological  coIDpOJl!)ll,ts  were  jnterpretative  ones.  1he pbonological 
- component was structured much l.ikl: the syntactic one. An underlying  J 
representation was postulated  which  consisted  of a  string  of highly 
ablltract  phonological segmenta  t!Jat  were  converted by phonological 
roles  into  sw:face  representations  that mirrored pretty faifufully  the  I 
actual pronunciation  of phonetic  sequences.  We will come back later 
in this  chapter to this  type of interpretation of phonological changes. 
The features  used  by  Chomsk;y  and  Halle  were  defined  primro::ily  in  I 
articulatory  terms  and  not  in  acoustic  ones  as  they  were  in  the 
Jakobsonian  nwdeL  'This  was  not  a  return  to  the  'tradition",  but  a 
rei.nterpretation  of most  of Jakobson's  festores.  Chomsl'Y  and Halle 

them..elves  argue  that the priority given to  an articulatory  description 
is  a  circumstantial  one rather  than  one  pertaining to  tlre  essence  of 
I
their tl::teoretical approach (1968:  299). The feattrres .-. more numerous 
than Jakobson's-were subdivided into five  groups. 
J
127 
• 
a)sonorantlnonsonorant(obstruent)
1. Majorclassfeatures: 
b)vocalidnonvtic:aJiC 
c) consonantal/non-consonantal
a)coronallnon
coronal
2. Cavityfearures:
b)anrerior/nananreri
or
c)bodyof thelOnguefeatureS:'
1) higbJnonhigh
2)low/nonlow
3)backlnonback
d) roundedlnonround
ed
) e)distribute<llnondi.stno
uted
'\. L1)coveredlnoncovered
g)glottalcoDStrictions
h)secOndaryapertures:
1) nasaJ/nonnasal
2)lateral/no
nlateral
3.Mannerofarticulationfeatures;
a)continuantlnoncontinuan
t
(stop)
"/
b)instantaneous/delayedrelease
c) supplementmymo
vements
1) suction
2)press=
d) tenselnontense(lax)
a) heightened  
4. SoureefeaJ:ures:
b) voicedlnonvoicOO
c) stridimtlnoDStrident
a);1reSS
5.prosodiefeatures: 
b)pitch 
c)leDe.ath
Herefollows abriefpresentati"noftheSPEdistinctiveteamre":
1. Major class features dealt with the fundamental
vocaliclnorrvocalic and consonantaV,wnevnsonantal distinctions. A,
explainedearlierin this book, the distinctionsuggested by Chomsky
andHallewasessentiallyan articulatory-one: theuttering ofvowels
did not involve anymajor obstruction in the wayofthe airbtream,
while a major constri"tion at some point along the vocal tract was
always associated with the articulation ofconsorumts. Just as with
Jakobson,liquids were describedas being [+consomintal; +vocalic],
glides were [-consonantal; -vocalic], a combination offeaturestbat
$0 cbiiacteriZCdtheglottalfricativebandtheglottalstop?
Thedistinctionsorwrant!obstruent was introducedtheformer
being described as sounds allowing spontaneous voicing. Vowels, (
lifidcs, liquids and nHsals were naturally included. though itlS-not
clear Why h lind the glottal stop receivedthe same speci:fieation. A
refinement ofthese feaJ:urcs issuggestedin the epilogueofthe book
where vowels are described as syllabic and vocoid (vowel-like in
nature) while glides are cbHracteri.zed rwrl-syllabic and voeoid.
'Thu.q, the articulatory'similarity'between 'vowels and glides is
captured, the difference beingone ofdistribution (inthe,position of
I
syllablenuclei- seethe onsy1Ii6fe). " 
I Syllabiclrwnsyllabia. "Consonants are-described as confOids 
i
'j (consolll!Dt-like in nature) lind vowels as vocoids while the same
distinction,syllabiclno11S)'llabic thatdifferentiatedbetweenvowelsand
,glides operdles in the case ofconsonantstoo. It keeps apart syllabic
consonants (nasals and 'liquids) and nonsyffabie ones (the hue
consonants or obstruelIts). We must mention that +/- syllabiC is a
di.ffi:rcnttypeof feature sinceitref€ .-'!s tothepossibilityof oceurrence
(distIibution) ofa sound ina givenposition (context)- i.e. syllable
nucleus.Thatis why theintroductionofibisfeaturewasconsideredby
manyphonologists to be a shortco_ofthe SPE system as it is
based ona criterion that differs from themainly articulatory critt,,na
thatoperateinthecaseoftheotherfeatures.
2. Cavity features weteessentiallyplaceof articulationfeatures.
a) Coronal sounds (a new feaJ:urc actually originating in
Jalrobson's grave/acute opposition) were dermed as
soundsproducOOwiththebladeofthetonguer.nsedfrom
128
129
the  neutral position (dental, alveolar, palato-a1veolar
consonants) .
.b) Anterior sounds (anomerapparentlynewfuature, which
can, however, be associated to.Jakobson's compact! 
diffose  one) were sounds prpduced in front of the
palato-alveolarregion.
c) The body  of the  tongue  flatures  actually dist:inoauished
amongvowels having di:ffu:rer!t  degrees  ofaperture as It 
resultofthehigherorlowerpositionof thetungueinthe
mouth.Itwas,however,extended,notveryconvincingly,
to [_ anterior;  -coronal]  consonants and,  as it was 
obvious that it was  irrelevant for coronal and anterior
sOUIldS, theauthorsarguedthatitcouldbeatleastusedto
describe "subsidiary consonantal·articulations such as
palatalization,vela:rlza:tionandpharyngealization".
d) The feature roinidedlWlT'ouru1ed  made a distinction
between .SOllllds (priIJ:l}l:cily vowels) pronOlmced with
eitherroundedorspreadlips.
e) The feature distributedhwrulistributed  difll::rentiate 
between soundsproducedwith a Constrictionthatextends
fur a coru.iderable distmice alongthe  direction ofme air
flow, and sounds articulated with a constriction.mat
extendsoulyfora shortdi,;tanceinthediJ:ectionof meair
flow. Apicalfrom lamina!mal:retroflexfromnonretrofiex
consonants,respectivelyatethusdistinguished. .
f}  The feature cOlleredlnoncovered :refers tomepositionof
thepharyngeal walls: intheca ..e ofcoveredsoundsthe
walls arenarrowedandtensed,whilenoneoveredsounds
arearticulatedwithoutSuchIt narrowingortensing.
g) glottal constrictions  involvefue complete closure offue
glottiS. 
h)  The features involving secondary  apertures  mainly
differentiatebetween: .
J. nasallnonnnsal sOlmds,fueoppositionbeingbasedon
fue different cawes nasal and oral  respectively
throughwhichmeairisreleased.
"J 
2.  laterallnonlateral  sounds, the oppoSItIOn  

again based onfue type ofrelease: the airis Or is
notallowedtoflowlaterally.

3.  Manner  of articulation  foatures  essentially .distinguished
betweenstopsand fiicatives onmeonehandmalplosives
andaffricatesonmeother.

a) contiF111Lmtinoncarrtinuant.  Continuant sounds are pro-
duced with  aprim!!ly constriction iliat does not entirely
:w
blocktheairflow,wbiIethearticulationofnoncontiDllant

sounds(stops)involvessuchacompleteclosure.
h)    release/delayed release  is a featurethat
[J
keeps apart plosives from afllicates. It  refers fuen to 
soundsproducedwith a complete closure ofthetract,
but which differ in the manner of the release:
[J
instantaneous or abrupt in the case ofplosives and
delayedinmecaseofafllic:ates.
The two  featureas men combine to describe fue respective
fI
consonant classes. Stops are characterized a' [-continuant; 
+;nstantaneous  release],  while fiicatives are [+continuant)  and
afllieatesare [-continuant; +delayedreleaseJ. 

c) srrppl=taxy movemen:ts characterise sounds
articulated with two simultaneons c1osnres, such as 
clicks,the ortheglottalizedsounds.

d) The featnre tense/Iax parallels thefeature long/short in
vowels andvaicelesslvoiced inconsonants.Itdescribes
the higher or lower muscular articulatory effort
I
requiredbyfueutteringoftherespectivesound.
4. Oflliesourcefoatures 
I
a) the heightened .rnhglottal pressure feature acco1mtsfor
aspirationinfuetensevoicelessstops.
b) voiced/unvoiced is a fundamental feature characteristic

of sounds in any language and has already been
discussedindetail.
131

• 
'
,
0) the feature stridentlllonstrfdeni was  described as  being
"marked acoustically by grea1l.or (or lower) noisine$"
and restricted to obstruent cOntinUilllts and affiicates.
Ofthefonner class,thedentalfricatives ofEnglishare
nonstrident,whilethealveolaronesarestrident
5,  ,Prosodic feature:;  W<.."J:e oulylisted,withoutbeingdescribed
since as fue authorspufit;. "ourinvestigations of these featureshave,
notprogressedtoapointwhereadiscussioninprintyrouldbeuseful".
MostofChomskyandHalle's fuatures arestill widelyused in
phonological theorY even at present. Phonologists have, however,
becomeincreasinglyawareoftheinadequatenessof thebinaryprinciple
especiaJJy in the situations when a more refined a.naiysis of a
phonologicalrealitywas needed. Evenwith CbomskyandHallesome
ofthe fea1:tlretJ were'not binarY and a feature like syllalJic  was ofa
totally di:ffurcnt nature as pointed out above. Inl!tead ofthe initial
polarities, hierarchies orscales were built tomore accurately dCS'-'Iibe
the characteristics of phonemes. In order to explain syllable
constituency, !he initial binary opposition obstruent/sonorall!  'MIS
, abandonedinfavomofascaleofsonority(seethecbapteronsyllable).
5.9.Ladefoged'sfeaturesystem
.PeterLadefuged,oneof themostdistinguishedphoneticiansof
the 20'" century, established an eqnally well-known system of
features. Theinitial highlytheoreticalstancewasoftendepartedfrom
and a morepragmatic approachwaS adopted·as phonologistsfelt the.
need to adapt their system to the phonetic reality. Ladefoged's
distllctive featw:es are essentiallydescribedinarticulatorY i.etms and
are not all binarY, many of them. being multivalued feamrc;s. Hero
followsasuccintpresentationofLadefoged'sfeaturesystem!
l. Tbefeature glottalic,  inLadefoged'swords, "specifiesthe
aiJ:sIream, by quantifYing the movement, ifany, oifthe
..
132
glottis." Therearc threephonologicalpossibilities for this 
fuature: 
a)[ejeclive], wh<..-ntheglottisismovingupward; 
b)[pulmonic], Whenfuereisnomovementof fueglottis; 
c)[implosive], whentheglottismovesdownward. 
2. TIle feature velaric "specifies the degree ofuse ofvelaric
aiJ:sIream mechanism in a sound". The phonological
possibilitiesforspecifYingsoundsare:
a) [+click] 
b) [-click] 
Thefeature·canthenbeusedas a binary onetodistinguish
phonemesincertainJanguages.
3. The feature voice,  for which.Ladefoged also suggests the
termglottalstricturedescribeSthedegreeof approximation
of the llJ}'tenoid·cartilages. (see above the subchapter
dealffig with articulatory~   liUld-:the physiology of
speech 'productiou). Ladcfoged identifies five different
values for a language like Beis, spoken in Sudan.
However, most langUaj?;es, he acknowledges, will ollty
distinguishtwovalues [+voice]  and[-voice]  ,espectively:
a) [glottal stop] 
b) [laryngealizedJ 
c) [VOice] 
d) fJnurmur] 
e) [voicelesy] 
4..The :feature aspiration  specifies the relation between
voicingandthetiroing ofarticulationorthetllrte: ofonset
ofarticulationwithrespecttoreleaseof articl1latio.1L There
arethreevaluesthatcim e,1:abJishoppositions:
a) [aspiratedJ 
b) [una.lpiratedj 
c) [voice] 
133
5. Tirefeatureplace ~ s p e   i f i e s thedi'ltaIlcefromtheglottisto
the first maximum constriction ofthe vocal tract". TIre
maximum number ofdiffert."Jlt places ofarticulation that
can be found inanylanguage spokenin the world is six...
There are, however, contrasts between adjacent terms
[bilabial]  and [labiOdental],  [labiode(l!al]  and [dental],  so
Lagdefhgedestablisheselevenvaluesfurthisfea1in:e:
a) [bilabial] 
b) [labiodental] 
c) [dental] 
d) lalveolar] 
e) {retroflex] 
f) (palato-alveolar] 
g) [palatal] 
h) [velar] 
i) [uvular] 
j) (pharyngeal] 
Ie) [glottal] 
6. Thefeaturelabial describesthedegreeof approximationof
thecentresofthelips.It hastwovalues;
a) [+labial]  forsoundslike[p,b,m]
b) [-labial] 
7. TIre feature stop  or articulatory  stricture  refers to the
degree of articulatory elosure. Ladefoged difrerentiates
he:tv.'e<lt1 thr".ephonologicalpossibilitiesfotthis:feature:
a) [stop] 
b) [fricative] 
c) [approximant] 
8. Thefeature nasal refers to the degree oflowering ofthe
softpalate.Therearetwophonologicalpossibilitiesforthis 
feature: 
a) [+nasal] 
b) [-nasal] 
9. Thefeature lateral measures the degree oflateralityorthe
proportionof theairstreamthat ~ flowingoverthesideof
thetongue.Languagesdistinguish betweentwovalues:
a) [+lateral] 
b) [-lateral] 
!D. The feature trill  refers to the degree ofvibration ofan
articulator.As anarticulatorcan be eithervibratingornot
vibratingtherecanbeonlytwovalues,respectively:
a) [+trill] 
b) [-trill] 
1 L Thefeature tap  has as apossible scaletherate ofmove-
mentof.anarticulator. Itisalso described in binaryterw.s,
as havingtwovalues;
a) [+tapj 
b) [-tap] 
12. The fcalure sonorant,  as described by Ladefoged differs
:from the others as'it is defined in acoustic and not
"physiological»{i.e.articulatory) torrns. Likethepreceding
feattiresit has twovalues:
a) [+sonorantJ 
b) [-sonorant] 
With the help of this feature, Ladefoged explains the
peculiar'situation ofconsonants that become syllabic in
Engiish. Thus, if a [+sonorant]  is distributed in final
position after a [stop]  or a [fricative]  it becomes
[+syllabic]. 
13. The feature sibilant.  is defined in acoustic terms as
specifingtheamountofbigh-:frequencyenergyandmaking
adifferencebetweenden1alfricatives ontheonehand[f, v,
fl, oJ and alveolar andpalato-alveolarfricatives [s, z,J, 3]
on the other·hand. It explains vowel epenthesis in the
plural Or thethirdpersonsingularof the presntindicative
34
135


of Englliili verbs,thevowelbeinginsertedifthe]m,1: sound
beforethe affix is a [+sibila/lfl sound. There aretbentwo
1'._ 
valuesforthisfeature:
III 
a) (+sibilant] 
J
b) [-sibilant] 
14.Thefea11lre grm'e  isalso acousticallybased and"speciij.es
theaIIlOunt ofacousticeneq,.es intheloweras opposedto
t
theupper:frequencies". As  webave showed above inthe
subchapterdevotedtotheacousticfeatures ofsounds,this
fea11lre differentiatesbetWeenconsonantsarticulatedatthe
.extremities ofthe vocal tract (labial. andvclars) that are
[+grave]  and alveolar and palato-alveolar CODsonants that
-
are [-grave].  Ladefoged explains the. diachronic
\I 
transformation ofthe OldEnglishvelarfrica:tive [x] into
I,;:; 

the Modem English labio-dental [f]  in words like rough 
and tough  by the similarity between the two classes of
fcic..ti'fflS that are'both [+grave].  There  is  no articulatory·
reasonforwlllchsuchchangeshouldhavehllppenedandit 
is only in acoustic terlllS  that we.can account for it, he
:II.,
_d
(I  argues.lTherearetwovaluesforthefeature:
a) [+grave] 

b) (-grave] 

[I 
15. The fea11lre height  was introdured  by L!1def
o
ged to
differentiate among yowels. It is a fua:ture that does not
normallYlenditselfto a binarY interpretationas there are
.... 
several degrees of aperture that are rele-vant for'vowel
description. In  mo;'t languages there are at1cast three
1  values.Ladefogedlistsfour:
.... 
a)[4height] 


,.,  I  ForaninterestingdiscussiOll ofa similarchangein Romanian seeAndrei
A=probleme  de  etimologie,  2000, p. 37 fL  The change ofpo- into co- in
Ro)llallian isexplainedbythetwoplosives,fue labial [p1and1he velar [kl sharing
-
thefeature[+grave]. 
:I 
136
.b) [3 height] 
c) [2height] 
d)  [J height] 
As  he remarks, the physical scale correspoutling to the
vowel in articulatmy terms is  the inverse of the
frequencyof thefirstformant.
16. Thefea11lre backis appliedforvowel   andcan 
bedefinedinacoustictermsastheinverseofthedifference
betweenthe fi-cqnency offormanttwo andthatofformant
one. Vowels are generally distinguished in temJs  ofthe
binarity: 
a) [+ backJ
b) [-back]
though Ladefuged acknowledges the possibility of a
ternarydistinction: 
[front],[central] and[back].
17. Round is another feature used for the specification of
vowelsanditrefers to the degree ofrountling ofthe lips.
As in En.glish the fuature. [+back] is associated with
[+roun.c.iJ,  thatis, if we kuowthat a vowel is  [+backJ  we
can safely predict iliat it is  also [+round] (with the
exceptionofthevowel[o:Jthatis[+back]  but [-rozwi)  the
fea11lre is redWldant for English yowels. The feature is 
binarYanditsvaluesare; 
a) [+back]
b) [-back] 
18. The feature wide describes variations inthe width ofthe
pharynx.andisabinaryfeature,too,itsvaluesbeing:
a) [+Wide]
b)  [-wide]
Ladefogeddescribesitas beingpredictablefromthevalues 
of otherfeatures,forinstanceheight. 
137
19. Another essentially vocalic feature is rhotacized.  1t  mea-
sures an acoustic property, namely the lowering ofthe
frequencyof thethirdformant.Ithastwospecifications:
a) [+rhotacizedJ 
b) [-rhotacizetij 
20. Thelastfeaturein Ladefoged'ssystemissyllabic:IthasnD
correspondingphysicalseale.It hastwovalues:
a) [+J]lZZabic] 
b) [-J]lllabic] 
5.10. Tbe use of for segmental
specification and for the description of
pbonologicalprocesses
Thefeatures werenotdevised,construedanddescribedjustfor
the sake of ennclli:I).g the conceptual inventory handled by
phoneticians and phonologists. From the very beginning they  were
meantto adequately describethe segmentaluDits atthephonological
levelandtocastlightonvariousphonologicalalternationsorchanges.
The description ofa segment shoiIld include as many featureS as
necessarytokeepitapartfromanyothersegmentinihelanguage.The
overallnwnberoffeatures itselfwasconsideredto betheminimal set
needed.toprovidedistinctdescriptionsforeachandeveryphoneroeof
thelanguage(inotherwords,notwodiffereotsegmeotsshouldgetthe
same description). Segments wereconsideredcombiimtions (bundles)
offeatures, each feature working as a bipolar axis aloItg which an
opposition could be achieved. Thus, if Ipl can be contrasted to fbI
alongthefeature[+1- voiced], bothlabial.plosives canbecontrastedto
another labial stop, ImJ,  along the feature [+1·  nasal].  The complete
specification ofa segment was only used tokeep it apart ii:iJm any
otherphoneme inthe language. Somefeatures, itwasnoticed, could
be, however, inferred from otheri;. For instance if we know that a
segment is [+vocalic]  and [-consonantal]  (avowel, thatis), features
 
[)
like [+voicedJ  automatically resultfronithe previous ones, since we 
knowthatallvowels arevoiced.In thecase of Englishvowelswecan 
alsoadd[- nasal]  sincetherearenonasaJ.vowelphonemesinEnglish, 
[)
Englishvowelsbeingonlycontextuallynasalized. Suchfeatures inthe 
specification ofa segment that canbe inferred fromthe others and 
need not be included in a mjnimal specification ofthe respective 
[)
segmentare calledredundantfeatures. A rulethathelpsus enrichthe 
specificationof a segment with its redundant features is called a 
redundancy rule. 
The adding, deletion or cbanging of fea1llres during a

phonological process (transformation, change) are considered to be
the result of the application of certsin phonological  roles.  A
[I
transformation affects certain  elements ina given context. The
bringing about that transformation can apply automatically, that is 
wheneverthe conditions for its applicationare met and then we call 
aboutanobligatory change. Otherchanges can,however, beoptional,  I 
that is the application ofthe rule depends on the rate ofspeaking, 
style, etc. Deletiorul offergoodexamplesin thisrespect. Thedeletion 
[I
ofthe  velar befure the nasal is  obligatory in (k)nife  in present-day 
English, while the  deletion ofthe final COrulonant cluster in the 
conjunction is optional in bread a(nd)  butter.  There is an ordering 
constraint  for the application ofphonological rules, in other words  I 
theydon'tapply atrandombutonlyina certsinsuccession, sincethe 
applicationofarulecancreatetheconditiorulforanotherruleto apply 
or, onthecontrary, canlimitorevenblocktheapplication ofanother 

rule altogether. In the first case wetalkaboutafeeding  order;  in the 
secondcasewehaveableeding order. 

Here is the co=onest way in which the representation of 
transformationsorstructuralchangesisformalized: 
I
X-+Y/A-B
where X is the target of; or the element affected by, the
transformation, the  arrow symbolizes the transformation, Y is  the
I
result ofthe transfonnation, the slash separates the change proper
from the context where it takes place, the dash symbolizing the

139

• 

position of the  changed  element,  A  being its left-hand context,  that is 
whatever  precedes  it  and  B  its  rightchand  context,  that  is  whatever 
...
 
comes  after it.  To  give  a conerete exampie, ifwe want to show that n 
OOcomes  1)  if it  is  followed  by  k  or  g  we  will  represent  this
transfonuation thus: 
I
.... 
  -k 

_  IT 

where  n  is  X  of our  former  notation  (the  element  affected  by the
- change), 1)  is Y,  the result of the transformation, and k  and g are B, the 
right-hand  context  Notice  that  we  disregmded  A.  the  left-hand 
conteJ..-t,  as  it is  irrelevant for  our'transformation.  The phonemes  will
...
r'
not,  however,  be  represented  by  their  IPA  symbols,  but  distinctive 
features  will  be  used  instead to  specify the respective  segments  and 
t  show  what  transfonnations  they  undergo.  The  following  chapter, 
... 

devoted  to  some  of the  most  co=on phonological  processes  that 
occur in connected speech will examine in furth6r  detail  such changes 
in tenus of the distinctive features that are modified. 
rc;,d
...

I
...; 
:1
..; 
I

;1
ow 
I
... 

CHAPTER  6 
SEGMENTAL  CHANGE: 
AN  OUTUNE OF  .sOME 
OF  THE  MOST COMMON 
PHONOLOGICAL  PROCESSES 
6.1. Sounds in connected speech. 'Coarticulation 
We  have  so  far  described  variouS  sounds,  we  analyzed  and 
classified  consonants,  vowels  and  other  classes  and  subclasses  of 
sounds.  We  even  talked  about  functional  classes  of sounds  that  we 
labeled  phonemes  and  further  decomposed  into  distinctive  features, 
We  have,  nevertheless,  spoken  only about  individual' sounds.  When 
we  talked  about  groups, or  classes  of  we  actually  operated 
, various generalizations extending the features  of a particular sound to 
a  hypothetical  superordinate  category.  This  means  that  our  analysis 
only  dealt  with isolated  sounds,  sounds  that  we picked  up  as  we  do 
with a beetle that we keep in an insectariurn,  and we examine hoping 
to  draw from its individual cha:racteristics  conclusions about the traits 
ofits  entire family or species. However, this is not how speech works . 
We saw from the very beginning of this book that speech is a'd:Yill=ic 
process  and that wh= human beings  talk they do  not utter each  and 
every  sound  separately,  but  deliver  a  continuous  flow  of soundS  that 
are  actually  often  difficult  to  distinguish  for  au  ear  that  is  not 
accustomed  to  the  phonology  of the  respective  language.  It  was 
actually  one  of  our  first  examples  of  the  diffurent  concerns  pf 
phonetics  and  phonology,  as  it was  clear that  when  we  listen to  an 
unknown  idiom  our mind  cannot understand  what the  ellT  perceives, 
which in fact  demonstrates that,  mentally, we  operate with classes  of 
141
sounds  (the  phonemes  we  described  earlier)  arranged  in  patterns 
ohserving  language-specific  rules,  and  not  with  unique,  individual 
somids,  Since  sOImds  come  one  after  another  in  a  rspid  and  hardly 
intbropted  succession,  it  is  clear  thai  their  respective  features 
influence  one  another.  This is something that intuitively,  too, we are 
readily  aware  of.  When  we  disL.'11SSed'  the  allophones  as 
materializations  of the phonemes,  we  saw  that  the  context  or  the 
distribution can often have an iulportant influence on the way a sound 
is  actually pronounced.  Some other examples will cle>n:ly  demonstrate 
that tbis is indeed the case. 
If we  examine  the  pronunciation  of the  voiced  labiodental 
fricative  in the sequence give  boats  [giv  bauts], and we contrnst it to 
the  sequence give peace  [gif pi:s]  we will easily notice that while in 
the first case [v]  is fully voiced, in the second it is rather, pronounced 
as  some  ldnd  of  [fl. What  could  be  the  reason  for  such  a 
metamorphosis?  TIns is the question mnchof this chapter is  going to 
address and try to answer. 
A closer  analysis.  of the  example  above  will  lead  n8  to  the 
conclusion  that  the  only'  way we  can  account  for  the  different 
pronunciation of what we atill consider to be the s.ame phoneme is the 
enviromnent or context of QCCl.UTeIlce of the respective phonetic mrit.
When followed  by  [b],  which is a  yoiced sound.  the labial fticative 
remains  fully  voiced..  When followed  by the  voiceless  counte.rpart  of
[b], namely  [Pl, the fticative  becomes itself voiceless. It is  clear that 
the  feature  or  specification  [-voice]  of  [P]  bas  somehow  been 
transfetred to the preceding sound.  This is a  cOmmon phenorn.enon in 
aU  languageS  and  in  the  light  of  our  introductory  discussion  it .is 
natoral that the pronunciation of a  sound should influence the way in 
which we pronounce  a neighbourini sound. e,'Pecial.Iy when we speak 
at a  f",,1:  rate.  Ilecau.e the two  sounds,  [v]  lIDd  [p]  in our ,case"  have 
become in a  way similar to each other -' they have coIl1C  to  share the 
specification  [-voice]  which  they  don't  normally  do  we  call  this 
process' assimilation.  It is  sometimes  loosely  called  coartiduIation, 
though the latter term strictly-refers to the fact that, when pronounced, 
certain  sounds  are  uttered "together and thus it actnally  describes  the 
cmme ofassimilatioIL 
j
]
6.2.,1!'eamre Changes. Assimilation. Different types 
of 
1
Assimilation  can be  of several kinds.  As it always involves a 
transfer of feature(s)  between  two  neighbouring  segments  we  can 
conventionally mark the  two  successive  sounds  by X  and Y. Taking 
[I
into  account  the  direction  of the  process,  we  can  then  talk about 
prognssive  afsimilation  if the latter  works  forwards  (conventionally 
from left to right, thai is from X to Y) or, in other words, ifthe feature 
[)
passes. from  a  sound  to  the  following  one.  If we  have  the  opposite 
elL"",  as in our example before - backwards, from right to left, from  Y
to  X - we have regressive  assimilation.  Vcry often there is a  mutual ' 
[J
influence between the two sounds and then we speak about reciprocal 
assimilation.  In this  latter  case  the, two  sounds  can  fuse  completely 
and give birth to  a  different sound;  fhls  t;ype  of assimilation is called 
[I
coalescence.  The  various  possibilities  are illnstra1ed  below.  The 
direction ofthe arrow indicates the direction ofthe feature movement 
11
X..".Y  progressive assimilation (X "lends" a fuatore to Y) 
X<- Y regressive assimilation (X"bonuws" a feature from Y) 
)
Y <->X reciprocal assimilation 
X ... Y  coa1es<;ence (X and Y merge into a different sound Z)
J
.I-
Z
)
If we  consider  the  extent  to  which  the  features  of a  segment 
influence  the  features  of an  adjacent  one  we can  talk  about partial 
assimilation    some  of the features  are  transferred,  or  total  or 
I
c011plete  assimilation ,if one  of the sounds hecomes indistinguishable 
from the other. 
In certain cases assimilation cao he  diachronically  established 
I
and  consequently obligatory,  in others it can be optional  it appears, 
say,  in mpid,  careless  speech,  hut  when we  till<. at a  lower rate  and 
J
143 
11 

'I 
I.f 
'I
-
1
:  ...... 
!I
... 
1
1..;;;
<I
... 
,I 
~
rl 
'""' 
...
rI 
,I
.., 


rl 
;... 
,I 
more  carefully  Illld  distinctly prono= the "sounds,  it may  not  take 
place  at  all.  Thus,  in  the  example  above,  we  can  separate  the 
prontu;lciation  of the  verb  from that  of the  following  noun and  thus 
prevent  assimilation  from  taking  place.  The  adjective  ,';ure,  on  the 
other .hand,  can  only be Pronounced  wrJJ  a palatoalveolar fricative  in 
present-day English,  a  sound  that  results from" the  coalescence  of the 
alveolar [s] and the palatal fl1. 
Bemg a v£;ry  common process in f11lY  language: .- so lmportsnt 
that  the  v£;ry  fact  that  the  t= coarticulation,  that  is  pronouncing 
sounds  together,  has  become a  (not very adequate)  synonym for it -
assimilation can iovolve the transfer of different types offeatures.  In a 
very  influeJ:ltii!  approach  in  phonology,  ca1Jed  autosegmental 
phonology  preci.sely  because  features  are  granted  an  autonomous 
status,  features  are cou:,idered to spread from one segment to  another. 
D«pending  on the  type  of :feature  that  spreads  from  one  segment to 
another we can talk about  several major type8  of assimiIa:tion such as 
assimilative processes involving voicing, nasal  or oral release, manner 
of articulation :features and plowe ofarticulation features. 
6.3. Voicing and devoicing 
Assimilation  involving  the "feature  {+!- yoicej.  In a  certain 
en"Vironment we can  consequently witness the voicing or 4evoicing of 
a segment RD!lllillian typically voices the alveolar.  frll::ative  [s]  before 
a  voic!,d  soond  as  words  of Frencih  origin  like  zbtr  (from  sblre)  or 
ZlIelt (from .welte) prove. 
English  plural  and  past  tense  allomOIpby  is  phonologically 
conditioned.  In  other  words,  111e  fODll  adopted  by  clther  the  pluml 
morpheme  s  or "the  past  tense  morpheme  ed  depends  on  the 
pbonological  enviromnent and  we  sho1lId  have  an  agreement  in the 
feature  voice  between the root  and the  affix.  We will  remember that 
within a very influential approacb in phonology - the generative Oll" -
the phonological" compooent was considered to   o n s i ~ i of two  distinct 
Jevels:  an underlying  one,  where  311  underlying representation  (UK) 
,vas  provided 3lld  a  surface one where a  surface  representation  (SR) 
144 
of the respective  structure was given.  The transition from  the deeper, 
underlyiog  representation  whicb  was  coIlliidered  to  be  basic  to  the 
surfiice  one whicih  was considered to  be  derived,  was perfonned by a 
numb""  ofpiionolo:,>i= rules that converted the DR into the SR 
Underlying 
Representation 
Pbonological  ,j.  1111c5 
"Surface 
Representation 
In the  case  we are  tliscussing we bave two  options.  Either  we 
consider the fottn [s]  as basic and derive the voiced allomoxphfrom it, 
or  we  consider  the  voiced  form  to  be  the  one  appea:rittg "in  the 
underlying  representation  and  postulate  that  the  voiceless  variant  is 
derived from it. For reasons  that will  become clear later oD,  we  will 
cboose tl:ie second variant We will then say that in the case ofa noun 
ending in a  voiced sound (with the  exception of the  voiced sibilants 
[z], [3]  and [q;;]) - say, l:>id.,-when we add the plmal morpheme that is 
voiced, bee""."" th.= i ~ agreement in the feature  [voice) in both the 
last sound  of the  base  and the  suffix,  the  underJying  representation 
sUl'fitces  as such, without undergoing lillY change. I:t;,  however, we add 
the same suffix to a noun ending in a voiceless plosive or, in a number 
"of ca.<es, in the voiceless fricative  [f] ~ e.g.  bit, or roof, respeetively -
because  the Im,-t sound of the noun is voiceless, a process of devoicing 
takes place as fue  suffix is assimilated by the voiceless obstruent in the 
root inthe root. 
fgnd7.]
fgndJ +  [z]
.-+ 
+voice  +voke  z  -+  z 
no change 
145 

[gntJ +  [z]
flclif] +  [zl 
-voice  +voice  -
progressive assimilation
  [grzts]
--+  [klifsJ
z --+  s
d(!:IJoicing
In the case  of other nouns ending  in [1],  however,  the -process 
has  the  opposite  effect,  that  is  the  fricative  is  voiced  by  the  plural 
morpbmnc. Consider fuc- funnntion of the plumI of wolfand wife;
[self] +  [z] 
-)- [selvz]
fll1!fJ +  fz}  --+  [larv.zJ
-voice  +voice  /--+v 
regressive assimilation voicing
A  similar process  of  of the inflexion by the root 
applies  when we  add  a past tense mOl:pherne  to  a voiced  or voiceless 
root.  (Stems  ending  in  t  and  d  corJStitute  an  exception;  see  the 
illustration  of vowel  epenlhesis  below).  Again  we  will  con.'lider  the 
voiced  fOIm.  of the  Su:ffi:x  to he basic. Thll,'l,  for  the paa:!  of the 
verbs rob and sip we will get the fullowing derivations: 
!gra?h] +  [ d] -?  !graN}]
+voice  +voiee  d-? d
no change 
[np1 +  Cd]
-)-
[nptJ
-Voice  -l,""oice  d-? t
progressive assi:m:i1ation _ t:levoicing
6.4. Nasalization 
Assimilation can  affect the nature of the  release,  /UlSaliza(frm
frequently  modifying  the  pronunciation  of  English  vowels.  -'Illis 
bappens  when  the  vowel  is  followed  by a  nasal  consonant;  e.g.  bin,
le.an, man, :roan. We  should  remember,however,  that  all  Englhh 
vowel  phanewes  .are  oral  that  llllSality  is only  a  contextual, 
allophonic  feature  in English  vowels  (remember,  that  in French,  for 
insance,  nasal  vowels  are  phonemes  in their  own right  as  mioimal 
pairs like ptite /pat /--pente /pat!,  trait Itre/ - train Itr£!, robe Irobl
- rhombe lrib/- contrasted on the basis of=ality, clearly prove). 
Assimilation  can  affect  the  place  of articulation as  well.  Nasal 
sounds  often  assimilaie  to  the  place  of articulation  of the  following 
plosive. The case ofthe Latin prefix in is illustrative. When fullowed by 
a root  beginning wttli a liquid - III or lei it was  assi:tirila1ed  by the 
respective  liquid.  Latin  words  like  illegitimus, illiteratus, illicilus or 
irrationalis, irregullJris and  irreligiosus exempli:fjr  the  process.  The 
nasal/ml in the root also  assimilated the consonant of the prefix:  e.g. 
immaterialis, immaturus, immediatus, fmmemoriaZis. Notice  that  the 
pro=s led to  the creation of geminate (double) consonants in the Latin 
words.  The  geminate  consonant  was  preserved  in modem  Rowance 
languages  sucl:t  as  Freneh  in  correspo:nding  words  like  illlfgittme
lille3ifun1,  illettrtf, illicite; irratiOJ1IJeI limlsjona1l,  irr6gulier
irreligrew;; immat€riellimmaterj&J!,  immature, immediat, immtfmorie.l.
However,  in English and Romanian  the  consonant didn't survive as  a 
geminate  one,  the  current  Pugli sh  spelling  with  a  double  conS01lll1lt 
suggesting  the- origin  of the  word rather than its  aetna! pronunciation. 
ltg. in  English:  illegitimate Irled;;rtrm:d/, illiterate, illicit; irrational
I.meJanell,  Irregular,: irrelegiQl/S; fmmateriaV Imatianel/,  immature,
'immediate, immemorial. Rommrian  follows  the  same  pattern  in  this 
respect:  i/egitim:, /licit  imaterial, imatw, tmediat, imemorial, irafional,
iregularitate_Here fullows fue illustration ofthe process in Latin: 
[m J-'+ [zIl  /  '#  --[I'lateral] 
iIIegitimus, illiteratus, illieims
[ In]  --+  [ 1r] /  If - [+consonantal] 
[+approximantJ 
[-lateral] 
irrationalis, irregularis, irreIigiosus
147 
;. 


[J 
II 
,.
r-





.1 


146 
[m} -+ [1/11] / # - [+consonantal1
[+nosal1
[-coronal]
[+anll:ri
or
1
  immaturUS, lmJ'/!f!diail/S, immemorialis
When followed by a bilabial obstruent, Inl in the prefix.
assimilates to 1m! in all the languages mentioned above. A siinilirr
process takes place w)1en the sound in the prefix is fullowed by a velar
obstruent iu the base: In! changes imo lui. Here are some examples
from English and Romanian:
Romanian
English
[In] [1m] / if - [+conso
nantal
]
[-vocalic]
[ +instani:aneous release]
[-coronal]
[+anterior]
impossible, imbed
imposibil, imbatabil
[ m } -+ [ '!J} / 1/ - [+consonantal1
[-SODorant]
[-anterior]
[-coronal}
incapabil, ingrf.lliWt/ine
incoherent; inglorious
The relations above formalize the phonological tr.msfor-
roations undergone by the prefix in ...vhen followed by dilferent types
of consonants. The symbol # marks worci boundaries, in other words,
the begiJ:ming and the end of a word. In our particular cases, it shoWS
that the coDJ>onant assimilating the na,al in the prefix is w.ordcinitiaL
Word uoundary is an important concept introduced by Chomsky.and
Halle's Sound Pattern of English that the scope of this book doesn't
allow me to discuss in detail.
14&
Notice, however, the different behaviour of another negative
prefix inEnglish:, WJ-, in similar contexts. Assimilation doesn't work in
any of th= across the boll1ldary and the nasal in the prefix
remains unch!mged.
111'1 + !pI: unpredictable
un + Ib/: unbelievable
un + Im/: unmentionable
un + !If: unlawful .
un + IrI: unrepresentative
un + IkI: unclear (alv(,olar. uot velar nasal]
un + Ig/: ungovernable (alveolar, not v:clar nasal)
6.S. Palatalization
Another type of.assimilation to {lie place of articulation that is
very frequent in both English and RomaniJm is palatalization. We can
hardly overest:imJrte . the importance of this type of assimilation. It
ranges from contex:tna1 allophonic variants of non-palatal phonemc.' to
different types of col;llescence, the palatal semivowel and the
preceding sound met'ging into an entircly new phonetic unit.
In Romanian, the palamlization of obstruents (plosives,
fricatives and affiicates) nasals or liquids can rn.a.rlc number, gender or
person oppositions in the noun, the ruljective or the verb:
lup/IJIP, rupmq!, hriblhriY, sorb/sorY bilabial plos1ves
grof/grof', grav/graV labiodental fricatives
cf3e:/1I/dy:rri, an/ad nasal stops
poVpol; liquids
149
alveolar fricative 
huhurezliruhurei
paJatoalveolar fricative 
najlna[j
affricate
hotslhoti
velar fricative 
paroh/parOli·
Alveolar  obstments· get  a  more  retracted  articulatiQn  and 
coal<;sce with the palatal sound  merging into  a palaJ:aJ.ized  alveolar or  . 
alveopalatalJi:icative or affricate: 
alveolar fiicative 
cadlea!
paIatoalveolar fricative 
pas/ptI/j, treaz/trej
affricate
pot/pot!!
A palatalized affricate also resuhs from  the coalescence of the 
inI1ection with a velar plosive: 
treldtrelf
j
; merglmerctf.
PaIatalized  coronals  and  velars  also  appear  in  inflected 
fonns like: 
coronals
rel(j, minctf, wei
velar
p ErluT!, urd, ridi/!
In  English,  too,  we can have palatalized allophones d  almost 
all consonant phonemes - obstruerri:s, nasals and liquids - as in 
pure [pljus] tribunal [trru:t.ijunal]  bilabial plosives 
tuna [t'PJR9j duke [dijn:k]  alveolar plosives 
future [£ljntJs], view [v!ju:]  labiodental fiicatives 
suitor [:;ljntaJj reS1UJ1£ [.r-rz;ljum]  alveolar 
cure Odiue], regular [regijula)  velar plosives 
huge [

Related Interests

U:d3]  glottal fricative 
immune nuclei [Il
i
juldrm]  nasal stops 
illuminate [IFjummert]  liquids 
Notice  that,  however,  the  change  can be  phonemic  and  the 
coalescence  of an  alveolar  sound  with  the  palatal  semivowel  - in 
 

'  . 

]. , 
most· cases  as  a  result  of  affixation  - can  result  either  into  a 
palaroalveolar sound: 
t+j -->.J: create/creation [knert] /  [kne:rfn] ,  [J
d+j -+  3: divide! division [drvaId] !  [drvI31l] 
s-/j -->  J:  presslpressure [pres] /  [pre]a], 
z+j -->  3: seize/seizure [.si;z] / [5i;3"]  [J 
OI  into  an  affricate  and  .in  this  case  palatalization  is  also  called 
a;/frication:
!l 
t+j -->  1f  : create/creature [knert] /  Ou-i:lfaJ 
d+j -->  ct;:  grade/gradual [gre:rd] /  [grrect;nal]; 
f)
proceed/procedure [prasi:dJ /  [presi:ct;a] 
Sometimes,  when  have a  sequence  of an  alveolar plosive 
and the affricate sound we can have two parallel fonus,  both of them 
it 
.acceptable:  tine  with  the  palatalized  plosive  and  one  with  the 
affricate sound: 
;t
sanctuary [slel)ktjuen]  /  [SlelJktfllerr];  habitual [habrtjDaI]/ 
[habrtfllsl] 
graduate (gr.edjuet]  I [gr::ect;uat];  individual [mdrvIdjualjl 
t
[mdrvlct;ualJ 
We  witness  the  same  altemation  in  sequences  where  an 
I
alveolar fiicative  can be  changed either into its palatalized  version or 
into a more retracted palatoalveolar fricative: 
,I issue [ISjn:] /  [rIm] 
Rounding is  a  type  of  IlSsimilation  involving  !1lIlIll1er  of 
artierdation  features.  It  affects  sounds  that  are  contextually 

pronounced  with  rou:Oded  lips  because  of the  vicinity  of f1  rounded 
vowal  or the  rounded  glide  [wJ.  Consider, for instance examples like 
twin, too, dwell, door where  the  alveolar plosives  are  rounded  and, 

consequently,  a  rounded  allophOne  will  occur  when  the  phoneme  is 
distributed in the above mentioned positions. 


151 
• 

[I 
Dissimilation is  the  opposite  of !he  phonological  process  we 
have  been  discussiDg  SO  fur;  in a  given  environmClll.  two  sounds tllJlt 

have  simi.lar  features  come  to  be  utterly  distincL  Again,  from  a 
diachronic  perspective  Greek  offers  some  illustnllions  of the  process 
(Spencer,  1996:59).  Thus,  in  a  sequence  that  used  to  include  two 
plosives, the first one loses its [+instnntaneous Ielease] feature changing 
into a fricative and thus becoming dissimilar to the following cine: 
fJ 
lepW "seven"-r 1eftJ>i
/oldol "eight" ..-). /onol 

Assimilatictn  and  dissimilation  are  not,  of comse,  the  only 
phonological  transformations  affecting  sound  sequences.  10  the 
following  lines we will exaroine  how other transformations ·affect the

features ofphonetic segments in certain environments. 

6.6. LenitioJ)s  
These  are  phonological  processes  that involve  changes  in  the
1
-
force  of articulation feature fortisllenis. Thus, the  change from Ancient 
it 
Greek  dental  and  respectively  velar  aspirated  plosives  to.  dental  and 
:respectively  velar  fricatives  iJlustral:es  the  process  of lenition  Since 
plosi involve a greater articula!:ory effort than fricatives. 

-
ves 
E.g.: Itbalassa / "sea" -r /6alassal 
f!J:!'TI,ma! "colom:" ..-). Inmnal· 
Ibiblos/ "book" ..-)./vivlos/
... 


Conversly, ./ortitions involve  a  crumge  from  a  weaker  sound 
(say, a  voiOOd  stop),  to  a  sound involving a greater ariiculstory effort 
(a  voiceless  stop).  It  is  compulBo.ryin  German  to  devoice  and 
consequently  strengthen  the  pronunciation  of  syllable-final  voiced 
stops.  Consider the following examples: 
Tag [ta:kl  "day" Yo.  Tage [b:ga) "days" 
Weg lve:k]  "way" VB;  lve:ga) "ways" 
'.
[I 

)-
A  similar  process  in  vowels  will involve  the  changing  of a 
tense  vowel  into  a  lax one  or a  lax one  into  a  tense  one.  We talk in 
such cases  of the phonological processes  of laxing and,  respectively, 
tensing. Diaclu:onical1y,  these Pl'Ocesses  had a  rollior influence on the 
pronunciation of English vowels,  but the scope  of this  book will not 
allow Us to  go.  into  details.  Suffice it to say that many Boglish derived 
words illustrate the phenomeno.JL  If we compare the adjective sublime
and the noun sublimity or the verb st4fice to the adjective sufficient we 
vim  easily  notice  that  the  first  member  of  each  pair  includeS  a 
diphthong  (a  tense  vowel),  while  the  inflected  word  has  a  lax 
monophthong  in  the  root  According to  Chomsky and  Halle,  this  is 
explained by the  existence in the  UJJ.derlying representation  of a  tepsc 
vowel  which  SIlJfuces  as  "11Ch  (diphthongized,  in :fuet)  in the  of 
the first mcwbers of the pairs, and undergoes Ii process oflaxing in the 
derived word. 
V.R. subllm'  +  I2J ->  sablann 
•. ,.
+  rtr  sabbmrtr  laring
Conversely,  in  the  pair,  courage - courageous, we  have  a 
common  underlying  lax  vowel  which  is  left  unchanged  in  the  first 
word,  but UJJ.dergoes  tensing and  diphthongization in thl' derived one; 
(1968: 73)  , 
V.R. korrege  -> korrege  +I2J -+  kArrd3 
:-> korAge + os  ....  karerd;;as  tensing
Derivatiou can  not only the modification  of vowels  iu 
the  root,  as  in  the  examples  above,  but  also  cause  consonani.al 
alternations  in the morpheme  the  affix is  attached  to.  Thus,  in pairs 
like  penniUpennissive,  ·demoer"df/democraey,  . include/inelus;:"e 
decide/decisive  or  fanatic!:fimatiCism,  medic/medicine  we  notice  the 
replacement  of  d  by  s.  In  the  examples  discussed  above  under 
assimilation. the high vowel in the affix coalesced  with  theconsolliint 
in the root and the process resulted into a palatoalveolar sound.  Since 
these  changes  are  caused by roOl:phological· processes  and  the nature 
153 
'1 
ofthe affix that is attached to  the base is ess=tial for the phonological 
transformations,  we are actually at  the'interfilce between morphology 
and  ptionology  in a  territory  1hat  is  often  c;.a1led  morpho  phonology, 
morphophonemic. or lexical phonology. 
Lengthening  and  shortening  of  vowels.  are  very  frequent 
processes  and  we  have  already  mentioned  that .p.gJish  vowels  have 
shorter  allophones  when  followed  by  voiceless· sounds  and  longer 
ones ifthe context of the vowel is voiced (see,  above, the comparison 
between bit and bid and beat and bead). 
Aspiration  is  also  an  important  change  that  affects  English 
voiceless  plosives  in syllable-initial position,  when they are followed 
by  a  stressed  vowel.  In  English  the  change  is  allophonic  and 
conditioned  by  the  distribution  of  the  sound,  as  we  have  just 
remembered.  It  is  an  antomatic,  obligatory  change  and  fuilure  to 
pronounce the plosives  with an  aspiration will  be perceived by native 
spealcers  ofEngliSh as a mark offoreign accent. 
6.7. Delitions and insertions 
Phonological  changes  can  have  drastic  results  in  certain 
environments  leading to  the  complete dropping  of a  sound in a  given 
context.  This process is called deletion m:  elision. It may affect vowels 
and  then  we  talk  about  vowel elision  or  it  may have  consonants  as 
target and then we obviously deal with consommt elision. It may be an 
optional proc= if the  speaker  drops  the  sound  only  for articUlating 
the phonetic sequence more easily,  or it can be obligatory; iftriggered 
by the phonotzctics ofthe respective langwi.,oc  (see below 'the  chapter 
on syllable).  The  latter case  can be noticed in loan· words  which are 
adapted to the requirements ofthe  they are borrowed into Of, 
  when the phonotactic constraints  of a  certain lan"ouage 
change in time. 
EliSion can be formally represented thus: 
1 "4 
:1 
x  ->  flJl A-B 
rl
where flJ  represents fire fact that the sound is lost. 
[J
;aere are a few concrete examples: 
vowel elision;  IJUDvasrtrl  -> IjullIVartr/  Ipahsl -> IplIs/ 
[J
optional 
Lat.  ''tabula'' --? O.F. "table"--? Eng./tcrbll
diachronic 
jJ
consonant elision:  Ipaustmanl 
optional 
.... 
Ipausmenl 
,iJ
OR cniht lknil't] 
..... 
knight [11m]
diachronic 
iJ
Notice that the conservative spelling ofEnglish still represents 
sounds  that have no  longer  been  pronounced for  centuries.  The  first 
example for each case illustrates optional, contextual elision, While the 

diachronic ones are, of course obligatory. 
}I
The  opposite  of deletion Or  elision is  insertion or epenthesis. 
Again,  depending on the kind of sound that is inserted we  can have 
consonant Or  vowel ·insertion.  This is a process that also  takes place 
because in a  certain context a phonetic sequence is  either difficult to 

pronounce or violates the phonotactic rules of the language and then 
a  vowel  is  introduced  to  break  up  the  unacceptable  consonant 
clusters  while  a  glide  or  a  consonant  can  be  inserted  to  separate 

Sequences  of  vowels  that  Would  be  difficult  to  pronounce  in 
succession with a hiatus. 
I
Here  is  the  general 
fOrmalized  representation  of  an
epenthetic  process: 

0-+ X  I A-B 
I
155 
• 

A. Vowei jm;extiop: 


We  will  remember  fuat  "Vowel  insertion  is very- cororoo  in 
Engli<ili in morphological processes when the past tense ed mOrPh<;:me 
is  added to  a base ending in either  t  or d  or the plural morpheme s  is-
added to a base ending in a sibilant. 

[tm) + [z)  ->  [tai1:l'z) ->  [tzkszzJ
vowel insertion:  .

(morphophono1ogy) 
vowel epenthesis
pluraZi>ratio


[kalaui]  + [d] ->  [kalauId]...,.  [kalauIui] 
[rent1+  [d 1  ->  [rentd ]  ...,.  [rentui] 
past terlSe formation  vowel epenthesis 
;1
Tbilissi
vowel insertion: 
... 
GdaDSk 
'I
Other  languages  illustrate  the 
ItabIlIs
Ii 
-> 
19adanski
-> 
ce 
same  process.  For  iDStall  , 
because the sequence IfIPl is not ,accepted in syllable initial position is
..... 
Spanish,  an  epenthetic  lei  is  inserted  befureit  escudn,  esperanza, 
it 
Espai1a.  estar,  Esteban. 
-
B. CoIlSODant insertion:
rl A  common ex:arople  in English is the furm an adoptecI by the I' 

.... 
indefinite  article in front  of words beginning with a. vowel: lID act, an 
octopUS 'etc.  Notice that in front  of glides  no epenthetic  oonsonant is 
introduced: a year [a ja], a wi/e  [a-waIfl. However, ifthe vlOrd begins 
able
- with a  mute h, then the consonant is,inserted: an how, an honaur
mall,  an heir. The Greek prefix a, "not", "without", displays the same 
:1
behaviour;  atrophy.  aboulia,  amorphous.  apathy, aphasia.  but
... 
anarchy,  (.lJJtJigesic,  anharmoniC,  anhydrOW].  anaesthetic . 
The  latter  are  all  cases  of  diachronic, obligatory  insertion.
1
'-
Contextually,  in certain accents  of English, the rhotic  r  is  optionally 
inserted to break up Ii hiains. This is called au "intruSive r". 
as
I saw it [ ax SOl:1'  It]; the flaw  is too serioUS [fl:J:

n;tu:srarr  1·
'I
... 
'I
156 
When it is followed by a vowel, the syllable-final rhone, which 
is  narrnally  dropped  in  non-rhonc _  accents,  is  commonly 
"resuscitated".  This  r  is called  "linking"  r (see,  also,  the  description 
ofthe moties above, in Chapter 3): 
The  car is mine f1<a:r lZUlamj.  YOW' answer [j:J:r a:nsQ] 
6.8. M(,.-j;athcsis 
Reversing  the  order  of sounds  or  groups  of sounds :within  a 
word  is  a  process  that  is  called  metathesis.  It  can  be  based  on  a 
diacll:ronic  process,  as  the  frequently  cited  English  bird  and  horse 
which come from DE brid and hros respective!? or, in Frenchfromage 
which comes from  the LaLformaticus (compare the Italianformagio, 
that  doesn't  display  the  change),  or  in Romanian  castravete  whieh 
comes from the Bulgarian trastavei or the  alternative variants pritoci 
andpitroci, a verb referring to a technology for producing wine. It can 
also be the result of misprOtrU11Ciation.  See the name of the Romanian 
village  of  Potigraju,  clearly  coming  from  Tipogrq!U  "printer". 
Caragiale's  works  represent  a  rich  source  of  similar  examples  of 
metathetical  mispronunciations.  His  uneducated  characters  often 
mispronounce words that arc u.nknown or sound exotic to  them.  E.g.: 
proper names like Galibardi im.'lead  of Garibaldi (Conu Leonida fafa 
'cu reacp1.l1'l£{l)  or Marcu Aoleriu instf:ad  of Marc  Aureliu  (0 noapte 
jurtU1Wasii); cororoon nouns like zavragii (Conu Leonida), plebicist or 
rerTUlllErape (0 scrisoare pierdutii). 
Here is the general represen1ation of metathesis: 
AB  ....  BA  I X,-Y 
157 
CHAPTER 7
BEYOND THE SEGMENT:
SYLLABLE STRUCTURE IN ENGLISH
7.1. The Syllable: a     phonological unit
in any language. A tentative definition
SylJllbles are something we are I!lllde aware of from the very
first days we go to school. The fust verse we learn by heart, the first
words we learn to spell are inex:t!:;icably linked to syllables and
syllabificatiO
lL
If somebody asks ns-about the s1:rJ1d;Uro of a foreign
word, or of a word we might not have acquired too- well we may be
unce!tam about the sounds that make it up, but we'll definitely be on a
safer ground and feel more at ease if asked how many sylliibles that
word has. Scholar> have proved that even a child's initial efforts to
articulate and memorize the phonetic stroctures of the words of its
mother tongoe are closely linked to the sylJllbic configurations of
those words. Historically speaking, fue first attelllpts human beings
made to give fueir thoughts a graphic form - see the first chapter of
this course where different types of writing were briefly described -
were fundatnentally associated v,n.fu syllHbles since it was the syllables
of words rather than their compotrent sounds/phonemes that the
earliest forms of writing tried to render.
Why is the syllabiC rather than the phonological structure of the
words more obvious fur us? What mikes then syllables so important in
any huml!ll language, what is their I!lllgic role that seelIlS to transecnd
that of fue mere souruls which as we know from de S!!J.1SSUIC - are
iutimately linked _to the concepiS the wordsflinguistic signs -stand for?
These are some ofthe question.. we are going to try to answer.
159




I
-
I
-
I
.... 
I
... 
;1
lIiw. 
I
..."...
I
.... 
I
-
I
... 

In  spite  of  what  bas  just  been  mentioned,  paradoxically 
enough,  if we are  asked  to  give  a  definition of the syllable we might 
encounter serious difficulties. And this goes not only for laymen in the 
field,  but  for  phoneticians  or  specialists  as  well.  Or  particularly  for 
them,  since  common  people  cannot  be  reasonably  expected.  to  have 
more  than  an  intuitive perception  of the  syllabic  structure  of words, 
while  scholars,  who  are  supposed  to  be  able"  to  provide  a "learned 
explanaiion for  everything they  study,  have failed to reacl1 a  mjnjmal 
consensus  on the  basis  of which a  scientifically valid and acceptable 
dcfinition of the syllable can be given. 
Criteria  that  can  be  used  to  define  syllables  are  of  several 
kinds.  What  we  are  actually  awar"  of  when  We  talk  :iliout  our 
consciousness  of the  syllabic  structure  of words  is  the  fuet  that  the 
flow of human voice is not a monotonous  and constant one,  but there 
are  important variations in the intensity,  loudness, resonance,  quantity 
(duration,  length)  of he soUhds that make up the sonorous  stream that 
helps  US  communicate  verbally.  Acoustically  speaking,  and  then 
auditorily, since we talk: of our perception of the respective feature, we 
make a distinction between sounds that are more sonorous than others 
or, in other words, sounds that resonate differently in either the oral or 
nasal  cavity  when  we  utter -them.  In previous  chapters,  mention has 
been  made  of resonance  and  the  correlative  feature  of sonority  in 
various  sounds  and  we  have  established  that  these  parametreS  are 
essential  when  we  try  to  understand  the  difference  between  vowels 
and  consonants,  for  instance,  or  between  several  subclasses  of 
consonants,  such "as  the  obstroents  and the  sonorants.  A  comparison 
was  made  earlier between the way in which  we articulate  sounds and 
these  sounds are propagated in the air on the  one hand and the .Way"in 
which  musical  sounds  are  produced  and  transmitted  in  the 
environment on the other hand. If we think of a  string inStrument, the 
violin  for  iristance,  we  may  say  1ha1  the  vocal  cords  and "the  other 
articulators  can be compared to  the strings that also nave an essential 
role  in the production of the  respective  sounds,  while the mouth and 
the nasal  cavity  playa role  similar to  that  of the  wooden r e s o ~   e
box  of the instrument.  Of all  the  sounds  that  buman  beings produce 
when  they  communicate,  voweJs"  are  the  closest  to  musical  sounds. 
160 
There  are several features  that vowels have on the basis  of which this 
similarity can be established.  Probably  the most important  one is the 
one that is relevant for oUr present discussion, namely the high degree 
of  sonority  or  sonorousness  these  sounds  have,  as  well  as  their 
continuous  and  constant  natgre  and  the  absence  of any  secondary, 
parasite  acoustic  effect  - this  is  due  to  the  fuet  that  there  is  no 
constriction along the  speech tract when these  sounds  are  articulated-
Vowels  can  then  be  said  to  be  the  "purest"  sounds  human  beings 
produce  when  they  talk. By  contrast,  most  consonants  (and 
particularly  obstruents)  will  sound  rather  lilce  noises  since  the 
obstruction along the vocal tract has various "impure" audito:ry  effects 
- the articulation can be accompanied by friction, by an implosion etc._ 
Once we have established the  grounds  for the preeminence  of 
vowels  over  the  other  speech  sounds,  it  will  be  easier  for  us  to 
understand  their  particular  importance  in  the  make-up  of syllables. 
The  flow  or  stream  of sounds  that  we  produce  when  we  speak  and 
which is  pr0p<tgated  through the  air to  reach  the  auditory  system  of 
our  conversational  partners  can then  be  analyzed  as  a  succession  of 
varioUs  vocalic  and  consonantal  sounds that follow  after  one  another 
almost uninterruptedly. However, we have just mentioned the -fact that 
this  flow is not a constant, invariable one and we all know that when 
we  speak  Or  we  listen  to  someone  speaking  what  we  call  the 
modulations  of the human  voice  follow  certain rules  of the language 
ofwhich we are normally intuitively aware. 
One  fundamental  division  would  be  the  Saussurian  one,  the 
one  thai  is  semantically_  based  and  establishes  certain  boundaries  -
often almost imperceptible phonetically - where each and every word 
(linguistic sign) begins or ends. Similar segmentations can be operated 
at higher or  lower  levels.  At a  superorrlinate  level  we  cao talk  about 
rhythmic groups, stress patterns, and  intonation within  the  more 
inclusive  syntactic  sequences  of  a  phrase  or  even  an  utterance 
(sentence).  The phenomenon playing an essential role will be stress as 
we are going to see in a subsequent chapter about prosody. And just as 
in the caSe  of syllable  structure,  everything  will fundamentally  be  a 
-queStion  of promineiJee. On a  subordinate level,  we  can identifY the 
syllables  that make up  the  word  and if We  continue  our analysis,  the 
161 
componentpbonemes.Syllable di:visiort orsyllabification andsyllable
structure inEnglishwillbetk! mainconce:t:llof thefullowingpages.
WehaveSO fur poin1i:d outtheremarkable similarityexisting
among ail the languages sp<i{eo inthe world, emphasizingthe fuct
thatnO matterhownnfarrrilimrace:ttain languageisorsoundsto   we
will still be abJe on an intuitiVe basis to identifY the number af 
sylw;es  in a given  enuncilltion if not  their exact strUcture. (The 
distinetion is importantandmevantforourdiscussion.sinceitis not 
the exact compositionofthe>  sequt..'"llOOS thatwe perecive,
butthenumber af prominet1ll units). Havinginmind eve:rytlring we
llllve saidsofur, wecansafeb'saythatwehaveidentifiedaneof the
language universals, so mnchcherished bygrammarians,namelythe
syllabicstrncture ofourutterances.Ourjoyofdiscoveringsomething
thatrepresents a. common denominator ofall hun:wn idioms will be,
however, verysoontempererilbytherea.1iziltionthatthesyllapJe isat
the  very core ofthe peculiar and idiosyncratic nature ofeach and
every language. It is, to a .large extent, the unit canying  the very
blueprint ofeachparticularlIlnguage.  Just lIS  theDNAstructures in
our cells cany ihe genetie-infunnation t!iat makes us unique,
l1nmistaIcable individuals, tI¥:  struc:tme ofthe syJlables ofa given
Jangua"aewill fundamentallyconinlmtetothephonologicalidentityof
the respective language. The rules i.uu:le:rlyiog the syllable
configurationin· eachparlicoJa:r language aregenerallyreferredto-as
the  constraints or phonntac1ic constraints governing the-syllable
structureofthere."Pectivel1uJjg1mges (theten:n comesfromtheGIeek
words phone, meaning voice, sound, and taktikt!, meaning art of
placing, particularly troops).They will be  examinedin detailfurther
onas furasthestructure  syllablesis concerned. '
7.2. The strnctwre of the.syllahle. Phonotacnc
constraints
Before weproceed, I:l!Dwever, to a more detailed examination
ofthesyllablesofEnglish weshouldfirstsayafewmorethingsabout
the structure ofIIYllahles in general. As  I have already poioted out,
__I 
.).
thereisnogenerallyaccepteddefinitionofa syllablesinceThe criteria
'-
wecanusecanbeso·differllllt. Somethingt!iateverybodywillaccept 
will  be, however, that prominence plays an irsportant part in 
identifyingthe  numb""ofsyllabJes inanutterllllce. Aswehaveseen. 
I1 
vowelsarethemostsonoroussoundshumanbeingsproduceand when
weareaskf:d tocountthesyllablesinagivenword,pluaseorsentence
what we are aimmlIy counting is  roughly the number ofvocalic ] 
segments- simpleorcomplex- thatoccurinthatsequenceofsounds.
The presence ofa vowel or ofa sound having a high degree of
sonority will then be an obligatory element in the configuration of
[J
what we call a syllable. I have mentioned other sonorous sounds 
beside the vowel because, as we are guingto see, English syJlables 
can m:guahly contain, as theirmost sonorous element, other sounds -
[I
-thatvowels.
SincethevoweJ - oranotherhighlysonoroussound- is atthe
COreofthesyllable,itis calledthenucleus ofthatsyllable.ThesOlmds
]
either preceding the vowel or coming after it are necessarily less
sonorous thanthe vowels and unlike the nucleus they are optional
elemecis inthemake-up ofthe syllable. The basic configuration or
,)
template of an English syllable will be therefore (C)V(C) - the
parentheses mru:king the optional character ofthe presence of the 
consonants in the  respective positiollS. The part of the syllable 
J
preceding the  nucleus is c.alled the onset ofthe syllable. The non -
vocalic elements comingafter thenuclells are calledthe coda ofthe 
syllable.Thenucleusandthe codatogetherareoftenreferredtoas The. 
J
rfQnne ofThe syllable by analogy with The last part ofa word that
rhymeswith theendofThewordinthenextlineinapieceofpoetry.It
is,l1owevc:r,tbenucleus,thatistheessentialpartofthe rhymeandof
)
the wholesyllable, asIhavealreadypointedoutThepreeminenceof
thenuclensovertheother in thesyllablehasbeenlikenedto
tlm:t  ofheads over the other elements in a syntactic structure. In  a
J
conventional tree-like representation ofthe  strncture ofa syllable We 
will thenhavetoshowthatthepositionof thenucleusillhierarchically
more importmrtthan"that ofeither the Oll.Sct or the coda. Thus, the
I
rhyme willbethefirstprojeetionofthennclens,-the node optionally
dominatinga coda,whilethemaximumprojectionwillbe thesyllable
1
'0

• 
OJ



itself,  having  an  optional  onset  in sister  position ro  the  rhyme;  the 
standard representrrtion  of a  syllable in a:  tree-Jilre  diagra:/Jl  wjlllook 
like  that:  (S  stands  for  Syllable, 0  for  Onset, R  for  Rhyme, N  for 
Nucleus and Co for Coda).



"" 
/1
o  R 
1\ 

NCo 
The  structure  of the  syllaWe  bel in the  wurd  belfry or  the 
monosyllabic word bell will look like that: 
I  s
'-
/1 
1 \ 
I
... 
o  R 
f ~
bel
:1

... 
A  more  complex  syllable  like  [sprmt]  will  have  this 
represeotation:
I
.... 
,  S 
/1
I
.... 
O\f\ 
.  N  Co
:1 ,  I  l\
... 
/
iJ prl.Tll
:1 All the syllables representeq. above are syllables contajning all
... 
three  el=ents  (onset,  nucleus,  coda)  of the  type  eve. As  I  l:Ia
ve 
pointed  out  earlier,  we  can  very well  have  syllables  in English the! 
don't have  any  coda; in other words,  they end in the nucleus. that is
I
.... 

164 
the  eI"ment d me syllable. A  syllable that doesn't have a  coda 
and <.-onsequently  in a  v o ~   having  !he struclUre  (C)V,  is  called 
an  open syllable.  One  having  a  coda  and  therefore  ending  in  a 
coosonant  - ofthe type (C)VC is eal1ed II closed syllable. The kiod of 
syllable that is preponderant in a givenlanguage leaves its prim 00 the 
acoustic  featllres  of the  respective  idiom.  For  instance,  the  higher 
degree  of musiCality  of Romance. languages - such as Italian, to  give 
only  one  ex.atnple - is  largely  due  to  the fact  that,  statistiClllly,  opeD 
sy!1ables  are  inore  nnmerous  iu  these  languages  trum  in  Germimlc 
languages,  snch  as  English  or  German  itself,  where  the  number  of 
closed syllables is dominant 
The  syllables  analyzed  above  are  all  closed syllables.  An open 
syllable will be fur instance [mel] in either the monosyllabic word maY
or the polysyllabic maiden. Here is the tree diagram ofthe syllable: 

/1
° 
f\

f
TIl e I
English  syllllbles  can  also  have  no  onset  and  hegin  directly 
wjfu the nucleus. liere is such a closed syllable; [opt] 



/\
NCo 
I  1\ 
.0 p t
If h1lCh  a  syllable  is  open,  it  wjll  only  haYe  a  nucleus  (the 
vowel),  as [eo]  in  the  monosyllabic  noun  air or  the  polysyllabic 
aerial. .
165 
1
s
I
R
I
N
1\
e e
In previOUS chapters dedicated to the description of the
consonants and vowels of English, we have seen that qumrt1ty or
duration is an important feature of consonants and especially vowels.
A distinction "made 1Jet;We<!U short and long vowels and this
distinction is relevant for the discussion of syllables as well. A
syllable that is open and ends in a short vowel will be called a light
  Its general description will be CV. Ifthe syllable is still open,
but the vowel in its nucleus is long or is a diphthong, it will be called a
hea10' syllable. representation is CV: (we remember that the colon
is conventionally used to mark long vowels) or CVV (for a
diphthong). Any closed syllable, no matter hOW I!lllllY consonants will
its coda include is called a heavy syllable, too. In other words, we will
say 1hat heavy syllables have /JraJ'lchlng rhymes" The mature that
distinguishes the two kinds ofsyllable above is called weight:
fi. openheavy syllable CVV
b. closed heavy syllable yec
c. light syllable Cy
S
S
I
/1
R
0 R
1\
I NCo
N
1
1\
\
1\
t
::>
p
met
b.
a.
L.
'"
,""
s
/1
o R

I
N
I
s "
1
c.
1
Vowel quantity helps, as we have seen, distinguish open li gilt
syllables from open heavy syllables. We can conventionally consider
]
the duration of a long vowel or of the diphthong to be twice as lox\g as "
the duration of a short monophthong. Consequently, we can. enrich our
analy.is of the syllable with a supplementary level that will not refer
II
to the quality of the vowels (or even consonants; me
considered to have thc duration of a short monophthong), but to their
quantity. TIlls is particulDr1y helpful in understanding certain
II
diachronic processes that altered the pronunciation of various English
vowels, by either changing long vowels into diphthongs or taming
diphthongs into long monophthongs. It is not the pmpose of this book
]
"to give a detailed of such diachronic transfonnations, but it
will be useful to remember the conventional repre.<:entation" of, this
additional level, that we are going to call lier, 1hat representS the
J
quantity of the sounds in a syllable. As it is duration that it describes,
the name USIl.a1ly employed for it is the timing tier, to distin.,ouiSh it
from the next and last tier, the one that actnally gives the value of the
I
respective sounds and which is called the melDdy tier. If we use the
letter X to note the conventional duration of a time unit (a consonant
OT a short vowel), a diphthong, a long vowel or a geminate consonant )
will be represented by two XX. The skeletal time slots that we mark
by X and are not included in the omet are also called moras. Here are
,
)
some examples:
The syllable [pot] will be represented like that;
I
167
1
• 


/1
o  R

/\

N  Co 
-
1  I


x  x  x 
tim.ing tier 
·1  I  1

t melody tier
P "
By contrast,  [po:t]  will  be  represented  with  a  nucleus  twice 

longer than the one before, 
-

[.,1 
o
/1
R
"
... 
1\ 
<I
NCo 
1\  \ 
.... 
X  Jq.  X 
I  V  I 
p 0:  t
';1
... 
".
On the  other hand,  [mern] will have a  diphthoo,g  as a  nucleus 
"  and wi1lbe represented as follows:
1

;.# 

/1
..., 
f  1\ 
NCo
1  1\  \
... 
Xxxx 
I  II  I 
'.
;1
'"  <11  11
-
The representation of [tfa:ts] will look like that:
~  
,.?",. 

168 

/1
o  R
J\co 
1 1\  1\ 
x  xx xx 
/\  V  I) 
t I a:  t s
Notice that the two elements making up the affricate - the,stop 
and the fricative - occupy  a  single time  slot on the time tier and are 
rep:resentoo  separately  on  the  melody  tier,  wbile  each  segment  in a· 
consonant cluster 15  allcrttCd a diffurent tUne unit. 
Now  that' we  have  examined  some  of  the  basic  syllable 
configurations, let us have a  eloser look at the poonotactics ofEnglisb, 
other words at the way in whiCh the English language structures its 
syllables. We wi1l remeroher from the very beginnjng that English is a 
language  having  a  syllabic  structure  of the  type  (C)V{C).  (This  is 
exactly  the  stiucnire  of the  RoJllllnian  syllable).  This  generafu;ation 
capture..  the  reality  that in English  as  in Romanian both  onsets  and 
codas are optional  elements and that we can have syllables  like,  say, 
fi-, i-. if- in Engliih and lfUl-, a-. am- in Romanian. In other words, the 
IIl.llJdmum  syllable  mmplate  will  be  allowed  in  Romanian.  This 
":freedom" is common to  many languages in the world, but it is by no 
means a  unive:rmd"phonotaclic  feature,  There  are  languages that  will 
accept no coda,  or, in other words, that will only have open syllables. 
Other languages  will have  codas,  but the  onset may be obUgato1Y  or 
not. Theoretically, there are $epossibilities: 
L  The  onset  is  obliglltolY  and  the  coda  is  not  accepted:  the 
syllable  will  be  of the type  CV; this  is  actually  the most 
commori type  of syllable  in  any  language.  It is .the  basic 
. syllabic  structure,  the  one  people  first  acquire  in infancy 
when they .start  to  speak.  That is why it :is  often called the 

-c
u, 
core   Itis,however,theonlypossiblepattemonly
in aSIIlallnumberof languages (Senufoin Africaand Hua
in PapuaNew Guinea, ( Roca: 1999: 247). Japanese, too,
comes very close to   With very few exceptions,
Japanese willnotaccepttwoconsonants comingin arow,
sO  that in  all loan words a  vowel,will be inserted to
separatethemembersofaconso:nantcluster.Thus,English
words like ChristmaS, grotesque and text will become
kurisu , gurotesuku and teJ<:;isutO, respectively in 
masu
Japanese. This vowel insertion is in accordance withthe
phon01acticconstraintsof Japanese.
2. Theonsetis obligatoryandthecodaisaccepted.Thisisa
syllable structure ofthetype ev(C) andis found in=y
lan"auages (Arabic, for instance) a.q  anobligatory syllable
structure ortemplate.
3. The onset is not obligatory, butno coda is accepted (the
syllables are  all open). The  stIUC1JlIe  ofthe syllables in
these languages (Maori in New l..ealand or certain
languagesinSouthAmerica)willco:nsequenllybe (C)V.
4. The onset and :the coda are neither obligatory nor
prolulJited, inotherwmdsthey are bothoptioonl and the
syllabletemplatewillbe,(C)V(C). Asalreadypointed·aut,
this is  the type oflanguage bothEnglish aild  Rom=ian
belong to. We are left with five other exclusively
theoretical possibilities, ,s.i:nce  nO language  ar;b.lalIy
conformstoeitherpattern.
s. There m:e no onsets in thatlanguage, in other words thc
syllablewillalwaysstart withitsvocalicnucleus:V(C)
6. The coda'is obligator)" or, inother words,  there areonly
closedsyllablesinthatlanguage:(C)VC.
7, Allsyllablesinthatlanguage'aremaximalsyllables both
theonsetandthecodaareobligator)':eve 
8, Allsyllablesm:eminimal:bothcodas andonsetsareprobl-
bited,consequently,thelanguagehas noconsonants:V. 
9, All syllables are closed and the onset is exclnded - the 
reverseofthecoresyllable:VC.

7.3 Theimportance of segmentalsonorityfor the
syllablestructure

We have already shown that prominence or sonority is a
feature that creates a hifffWChy among speech sounds, the vowels
occupyingthehighestpositiononthescale.Thenucleusorthevowel

ofthesyllableisthenthemostsonorouselementwithinthe syllable, 
orthesonority peak ofthesyllable,alltheotherconsonantalelements 
ineithertheonsetorthecodabeingsituatedlowerill thehiernrchy.If 

we were to represent the variation in sonority ofthe sounds in an 
utterance we will get something of an undulating, sinuous 
representation with ups and doWns, generated bythe succession of' 
J
vowel nuclei and consonantal onsets and codas. On the scale of
sonority mc:n:ti.oned above,theJrighestpositionwill beheldbyvowels,
thencome.the glides and liquids folloWed by the nasals as the least

sonorous ofthe sonorarzts. Amongthe obstruents, thefricatives and
theaffricates are a degreehigher thantheplosives, whichare atthe
bottomofthescale.Withineachclassofobstruents,voicedsoundsare

ohviously more sonorous than their voiceless counterparts, while an
openvowelwillhemoresonorous thana midoneandthelatterwill
have a higher degree ofsonoritythan a close one. Here is how !he

,above mentioned scale looks (the biggerthe figure on the left, the
higherthedegreeofsonority):

6.Vowels
5.Glides
SONORAl'.'TS I 
4.Liquids
(6-3)

J.Nasals
2 Fricativesl Affricates
OBSTRUENTS

1.Plosives
(2-1)

171 

I
I
I
Thescale abovewillbeofmuchhelpto usin. explai:n.i:n.g the
strategy on the basis ofwhich synables are constructed in variouS
languages andinEnglishin.particular.ThellIlffie weusefurtheway
in which the sounds are m:dered in a linguistic sf.IUl:;tllIe is, as we
c
I
mentioned above,;phorwtactiC8  and it is highly langUage lPec:ifi ,
though, of course, some geneial principleS :represent !angulI.ge
I
universals.
Havingestablishedthatthepeakofsonorityin. asyllableisits
nucleuswhich is ashortorlongmonophthongoradiphthong (we'll
seethatinEnglish, someother sounds thatoccupyhighpositio)lll on
thesonorityscalequitaketheplaceofvowels as syUableDllelei) we
are goin.gto have a closerlookatthemannerinwhichtheo)lllet and I
...
I
the coda ofanEnglishsyllable,respectively, callbestructnred.Even
withouthavingany linguistictrainingmostpeoplewillintuitivelybe
aware ofthe taet thai a succession ofSOllllds like plgndvr cannot
I
t:: 
occupy the syllable initial position in. any language, not only in. 
English. On the other hand, while words like vlo.gji,  vrajii,  zgardli, 
zgura,  §tiulete,  §peracltl,  §111otrU,  cneaz,  psihoIogie  etc., are perfectly
acceptableinRoroani.an,noEnglishwordbeginSwithvI, w,zg, Jt.Jp.

Jm, kn,  p£.  ConVL"I"Sely, Englishaffricates calloccur insyllable final
1:. position as CodllB ofthose syllahles -catch.  bridge  • while in
RoJ;naniantheyInustbefollowed either bya paIntal soundora front
vowel:mod, regi,  micii,  legii.

The examples above show that ell languages impose
constrai:n.:ts onbothsyllableonsetsandcodas· Someofthemseemto
be universal. that is ell languages will rule out certain seqoonces,

otherS are language-lPecific. After a briefreview oftherestrictions
imposed by English'on its onsets and codas we'll see how these
restrictions operateandhowsyllabledivisionorcertainphonological
I
....
tJ;allllfQOJll!.lions will take care that these constrai:n.:ts should be
observed. What we are going to analyze will be how unacceptable
consonantal sequences will be split by either syllabification: or by
I
I
.... vowel insertion. We'll scan the word and'if several nuclei.are
.ideotified, theintervocalic consonallts will be assigned to either the
codaoftheprecedingsyllable ortheonsetofthefolloWing one.We
'-

172
willcallthisthe:,yllabijicatio7l algorithl'T"  Inorderthatthis operation
of paming take plane accunrt:ely we'11 .have to decide if onset
formation or codafurmalion ismore important, inother   ifa
sequence ofconsonantscanbeIIDceptably splitin. severalways, shall
we give more importance to the formation Of the onset of the
following syllable or to the coda ofthe preceding one? As we are
goingto see, onsetshavepriOlityovercodas,presumablybecausethe
coresyllabicstructoreisCVinanylanguage.
7.4.Constraintsononsets
One-c.011s0nnnt onsets. Ifwe examinetheconstraintsimposed
onEnglishone-consonantonsetsweshallnoticethatonlytwoEnglish
sounds cannot be distrtlmted insYllabic-initial position: :t) and 3·
:fur as the :firet one is concerned, the constraint is natora1 siucethe
soundonlyoccursinEnglishwhenfollowedbyavelarstop,k org (in
the latter case, g is no longer pronounced and survived only in
spelli:n.g). As :fur as 3 is concerned., it is a rare SOlmd in. English
anyway and is only distributed in·words offoreign origin- usually
.French; c.g. genilarme  • .Notice, however, that the constraint refers
rathertoword·initialpositionsitIec the verYwordusual, used above,
provesthatinpolysyllabicwordsthesoundcanoccuratthebeginning
ofa syllable as is the ease ofthe second oftheword -sual
[3U
al
] or the second one of measure  pleasure,  etc: .ure [3
a
j.
AccordingtoSpencer(1997:83),thedeote1 voicedfricative[0]isina
,pecialpositionsinceitonly appearsatthebeginning ofthewordin
"grammatical"words likethe qefinite article the,  tb.e: demonstratives
this,  that,  these,  those,  there, .etc. However. ifwe consider syllable-
initial positionin. general,Jtcanbe:the onset ofsyllablesfm:med by
the addi:n.g ofthe suffix -ingto verbs ending in [0] like breathe  or
bathe, oritcanbetheonsetof1iYllableshavinganasalasnucleusasis
tb.e: easeofthelal.1oneofrhythm  [ri-om]'heathen [bi:..('jn]ete .
,
173
Clusters  of two  C011Sonants.  If we  have  a  succession  of two 
consonants  Of  a  two-consonant  cllL<rter,  the  picture  is  a  little  more 
complex.  While sequences liIce  pI or ff will be accepted, as proved by 
words likeplot orframe, m  or ill or vr will be ruled out. We'll need to 
have a closer look at these cases and understand whllt rules opera:te in 
variOUs  cases.  A  useful  fu:si: step  will  be  to  refer  to  the.  sehle  of 
sononty presented above. We will remernber 1hat the (vocalic) nucleus 
is the peak of sonority within the  syllable  and that,  consequently, the 
consonants  in  the  onset will have to  represent  an  ascending scale  of 
50nority before the  vowel  and  once  the peak·is reached we'lI have a 
descendant  scale  from  the  peak  downwards  within  the  onset  This 
seems to  be the explanation for the  fuct  that the sequence  ro is roled 
out,  since we would have a decrease in the degree ofsonority from the 
liquid r(4) to  the nasal n(3). This  appears  to  be a  role that tranSCends 
the  boundaries  of.a single language,  since nei:lher :RonlalJ:ilm nor any 
other European llInguage at least will accept such a sequence,  and  we 
can safely prediLi twit this is a lingUistic: universal. It has actually been 
proved  to  be  so  and  E.  Selkirk  called  it the  Sonority  Setp1l!ncing 
Generalization. 
An  overview  of the  possible  combinations  in two-consonant 
vowel clusterS in English will rapidly lead us to the  thai: the 
only two.obstrwmt sequences allowed by English are those that have s 
as  Ii  first  member.  We  will  see,  however,  that not  all  S+Obstruent 
combi:Datiore  are  allowed. If the first consonant is an obStruent other 
thari  s,  then  the  only  combinations  allowed  are  those  in.  which the 
second  is ei:Iher a liquid (J orr) or a glide (j orw). We will 
see  that  even  this'  .picture  pres&rts  seve:rnl  gaps.  Leaving  the 
combination.s  including s  for later,  we  can smnrnmize  what  we  have 
said  by  representing  the  possible  ()bstfuent+liquid  combinations  as 
follows. The combinations that are not italicized are IIlled out:. 
fr 81  (}r .vI 
sr  11  .f hl  br
leI'  }l
pl  pr  tl  iT  k1 
gr  vI 
vr  ill  6r  zl  zr3l3J:
bI br  ill  dr gl 
II 
]
Thus,  words  liIce please,  blot, prime,  brim,  train,  drink,  climb, 
glue,  crew,  grace,  }ly,  freak,  throw,  slot,  shrink are  perfectly  'well-
furmcd,  while  tl,  dl,  vI,  w,  B I,  (fl, cr,  j'I, ,3l,  3J'  are  impossible  in 
[J
English. Romanian allows all  well·folllled Englim onsets; pUc,: prost, 
bleg.  brici,  tre;'· 'drag.  clasic,  glas,  crac,  gros, }leac, fresce,  slobod, 
with the exception of {}r  and jf (the interdental fricative does DDt \:ocist 
]
in Romanian, . wb1le  the  second  sequence occurs  only in loan words, 
esp.cciaJly German; §Tapnel).  Additionally, vI and w  are licensed:  see 
words  like:  vlagii.  wease,  though  such combinations  tend  to be rare 
I
and  are  restricted  (especially  fue  fonner)  to  a  couple  of 
words  and  Slav proper names.  The  situation  of zI,  hI,  hr is  sirriilar: 
zloatii,  zlot.  hla:midt'i,  hrean. 
[I 
If we  continue. our  analysis  by  examining  the  possible 
obstruent+glide combinations, we will get the fullowiug pictore:  ! 

pj  pw  tj tw  kj kw jJ fw  fJj  ew .sj  sw  .Ii  Iw  hj  hw 
bj  bw  dj dw  gj  gw  1j  vw  5j  {'Jw  zw  3i  3W 

Thus, words liIce, pure,  tzme:,  twist;  cure,  queen, foture,   
thwart.  suitable,  sweet,  hue.  beauty, duty,  dwell,  iIrgue,  Gwen,  reView 
I
are good examples of the licensing ofthe respective sequences. lfj is a 
special  case,  since  its  oetmrence  is  limited  to  a  couple  of words  of 
French origin like view,  revue. The best proofthet this sequence is not 
I
considered a. natnral one in EngliSh is that the French phrase dejii 1'" is 
read  [de3il:vn.:].  3W  is  in a  quite  ·similar  situation"  its  distribUtion 
being  in  fuct  limited  in  Englisli  to  the  French  loan  bour;/;eois 
I
/'bml3Wo:l  and  its  derivatives.  3W  .is  here  rlistributed  in  syllable· 
initial, but DDt in word-initial posiri.on. 
I
Ifthe first position. is occupied by a nasal (other than :g
as we saw,  is actually the only English consonant that cannot appear 
in oreets) we can have·fue following combinations,  of which only mj 
I
(mute)  and '!if (rruclear)  llTC licensed; 
mI  lJ1l'  mj  row  n1  m  nj  ,nw 

175 
.. 



Tn Romanian, the above mentioned onsets are not Ii<:ensed,
while words beginning with mr and mr like mreo:ji1 or mlapinii are
very rare.
. The' fiLet that only liquids or glides are allowed after
obsriruents and that a nasal can only be followed. by a glide lead,s us to
another' phonotactic rule operating on English onsets, namely that the
distance in sonority the first and second element in the onset
must of at least two degrees. Thus, plosives only have 1 on our
scale of sonority and :fricatives 2, while liquids (4) and glides (5) are
situate4 two to four degrees higher and consequently the Jiequeru:es
plosiveljricative -f liquid/glide are allo __d. Sequences of nasals and
liquids ,like mr and nl (3; 4) or offricatives and nasals like vn andfin
(2;3) obviously violate this rule and are consequently ruled out. We
will call this rule the minimal sonority distance.
We are left with the two-obscruent clusters, the first consonant
of which can only be s. It is clear that sequences like sf or sf which
are perfectly acceptable in English raise serious problems as to the
applicability ofthe rules that we enonnced before. 1be former violates
the minimal sonority distance principle, since s and f are both
fricatives and are consequently on a par as fur as sonority is
concerned. Ivforeover, s+plosive sequences as st mentioned above
actually contravene the fundamental Sonority Sequencing
Generalization,' which we asswned to be a rule ofUniversal Grmnmar,
because we have a downfall in sonority from 2 to L Since the
frameWork of the present discussion does not  allow us to go into Ii 
detailed explanation,. we will say that s represents a particular Case. It
should be noticed that s can ooly be followed by a voiceless plosive or
the voiceless iiicative f sp; st, sk, if. spot, stick sky, sphinx. There
should be, therefore, an agreement in the feature voice between the
first. and second obstruent. s can also be fullowed by a nasal: .m or 8m
in  like srutke or smear. This time the sonority
is observed. The caseS where s is followed by a liquid or semivowel
have been presented above.
Three-consonant onsets. Such sequences will  be restricted to
licensed two-consonant onsets .preceded by the voiceless fricative s.
The latter will, however, impose some additional restrictions, as we
will remember that s can only be followed by a voiceless sound in 
two-consonant onsets. 1n  other words not only the sequence of
consonant 2' and consonant 3 should be a valid one, but also s + 
consonant 2. Therefore, only spl, syr, str, skr will  be allowed, as
words like splinter, spray, strong, screw prove, while sbl, sbr, stir,
sgr, sar will be ruled out. Though kl,jl andfr are accepted and so are
sk and :if, the sequences skJ, # and ffr are not. Romanian accepts all
well-folllled . English onsets: splina, spre, strident, scroafo and,
additionally, sid: sclav and -r/i": -r/i"untat: In the sequence stir the initial
sound is voieed: zdrel£ ztiraviin. Ifthe third position is occupied by a
glide we get the following accepted combinations in English: spj, sij,
skj, slew: spurious, stwient. skewer, sqzmsh. Notice that stw which is in
principle acceptable (as both sf at tw are licensed) does never occur.
Summarizing, we can present the possible com.binations in the
following table:
pi pr pj IT  tj
5 spleen spray spwne straw stew
tw  kl  \u-

•  screw
kj
skew

sq:

 
75. Constraints on codas
Simple codas. If we consider one-consonant codas, or simple
codas in Englisb we will notice that with the exception of the two
glides, w and j, of h and of r - in non-rhotic accents, any English .
non-vocalic. segment can be distributed in final position. 3 will  be
again a special case as it only occurs in French loan words as
garage, mirage, espionage, camDujlage, massage, barrage, prestige,
beige, cortege. rouge.
Complex codas.' Even a superficial look at the possible
consonantal combinations in syllable-final position - in other words in
the last (optional) element of the syllable, the coda - will show that
176 
177
-
,constrainJis aremuchlaxer1hlm inthecaseof onsets.Ifinprinciplethe
SonoritySequencingGeneralizationi.,  observed,inthesensethatthe
syllable contour decreases in sonority at the end, we  cannot say the
samel:l:liug abouttheMinirna1 SonorityDistance,aswordsIDceapt for
instanceprove,wherethe twovoicelessstopsdisplaytltesame degree
ofsonorily. Statistics can be confusingandexhaustive computations
as  thosepetformedby Pilrlog,thoughhavingthegreat merit
ofcoverimIgfuewhole i:ange of combinations,Jeaveuswiththefueling
ofdiscomfort1hat we·always experience when  confronted With bare
figures: <lur intellect is pUZ71ed, but am tmdersfRnding of the
phenomenonis hardlyadvanced.Welearn thatEnglish allows86 
twu-conOOl1!llltcombination.. in syllable codas, While Romanian only
liccl15es liD. By  contrwst, 41 such cambinlltiollS are possible in the
Englishaosets, whilein Romanianfue isalmostdoUble: 75.
ThisisinkeepingwithompreviousassertionthatRomancelanguages
(and, cOllSequently, Romanian,. too) seem to favour open syllables
while inGermanic languages (Englishincluded) closedsyllables are
statisticalyprepondeJ:lUlt. We'm:e left,however, witha largeamount
ofdatatitat we will havetobandleinasatisfuctory,plalL'libleway.If 
weleaveasidethe word-final consonantalclusterstbatarearesultof
the lIlo1]Jhological processof affixation- e.g. aged [e:rl'f3dJ ordepth 
[dep9J and werestrict ouranalysistomOIphologicallysimplewords
wifuoutexaminingfuecomplexones,thepietureismucbsimplified.
Wewill comeacrossa fuirlylargenumberof casesthatappear
to blatalllly violate fue Sonority Sequencing GeD.eraIizaf;ion as fueY
seemtobe made up ofa  succession ofanobstruflntanda nasal  Or a
liquid. C.cnsequ<lIItlyfue sonorityseemstoberisingin.thecoda; e.g.
dn:· hidden  [brdnJ; zm:  schism  [likr1mJ; tl: cattle [kretl]; tIl: ndd{e
[ndlJ am:!, in thalic accents  br:  sabre  [setbr.]. TI.tese will  be
dealt'with\ate;:,whenwedi.'leussnon-vocalicnucleiinHnglish.
We are le.ft wifu a illirly reduced. number of possible
combinationsthatwewilltentativelygroupasfollows:
  the liquid lisfullowed byanotherconsooant. second
consonantcanbea labialoralveolarnasalas inrealm and
J
kiln oralmostanyobstruenthelp,  bulb,  kilt. cold,  bulk,  golf, 
]
valve  [Iv],  health  [191, else  [Is], Charles  [hI, Welsh  [ln,
milch [It[], divulge [ld3J.
[J
b)fuerhoticr shares thesamecontextsin rhoticaccents:firm, 
fern,' carp, Curb,  cart,  card,  cork,  dwarf,  carve  [rv], hearth 
frO]. 'horse  [rs],Mars  [n1, harsh  ern.  birch  [rtf[, dirge 
[J
(rct31, and,additionally,rg:burg. 
c) nasalsfollowed by.an  obstruentthetsbaresthesameplace' [) 
ofarticnlation:  mp, mf,  nt,  lUi, ns,  nz,  nt;;  11<.8, .gk: camp; 
lymph, ant,  and, lens.  cleanse,  pinch,  range.  link.  Notice.
thatintlte sequences mb andJ}g, fue lastsoundwas  lostin 
fI
modernEnglish:dumb [dAm],sing [lInJ];
d) sequeoces oftWo ubstruents: a non-coronal stop fullowed
iJ
byacoronal Jeept,  pact [M], orafricativefollowed by
a coron.al stop: least,  rift;  a plosive followed by s:  oops, 
tax [ks].
:1
e) In lIloIpho]ogically complex codas s can follow any
voiceless obstruent (wifu tlteexception of1he  strident ,I
coronal soundq,fue sibilants [s,  z,;; 3,If, q!f])  to fannthe
plural ofnoun.< or the 3,d person singular offue present
indicative ofverbs, whlle z does the S!!me after voiced J 
and sonorants; t  futms the past tense offue
regular verbs' andisaddedaftervoicelessobstruents,while
d dOes.tbe      1hing aftervoicedobstruentsandSODarants. J
Neither sound can be reduplicated, in such cases an
epen1hetic vowel being needed. [0, too, appears in 
mOIphologically compiex codas, eifuer as a derivational I 
suffix; length  [lege1, depth  [depe] - in  width  [mdo] we 
haveitavoicedpair- orasanaffrxfOrming ordiIi.als: tenth 
/ten6],flfth [rue]. I 
I
179
.. 

J

Three-consonant codas. Mo!phDlogically  simple  codas 
including three  consonant<;  can  be fonned either of a  nasal  followed
11  by two  obstruents:  against rust],  /yn:x: [:!)ks],  atfjunct, [:glt1,  prompt
[m(p)t],  attempt [m(p)t]  - notice  that  in  the  case  of mpt the  oral 
plosive, which shares the place ofarticnJation with the preceding nasal 

,  . 
. is  normally  dropped  - or  of rare  sequences  of. three  obl>1:rUents,  of 
which  the  second  is. s: text [lest], amidst [dst). Mo!phologic.ally 
complex: codas will include the .two-consonant licensed combinations 

followed  by  one  of  the  phonological  realizations  of  the  affixes 
I  mentioned in the previous paragraph:  [.I', z, t, d, e, ~   E.g. helped[1pt]. 
.  We can even have combinations ofaffixes tiepins [P0s]. 

Four-consonant codas. They  can  only  be  mo!phologically 
complex, being made up of a  well-formed coda of the kind we met in 

the  preceding  paragraph  to  which  an  affix  is  added  - s  or  t: 
thousandths [nd98];  instincts [:gkts],  tempts. [mpts], glimpsed [mpst]. 
Notice,  however,  that  since  sur:ili  clusters  are  difficult  to  pronounce, 
some oftb.e consonants are often dropped: e.g.[gInnst1, [temts1 
J  7.6. Syllabic consonants. Non-vocalic nuclei 

In a  previous paragraph we mentioned the quite large number 
of cases where sequences of an obstruent and a nasal or a liquid could 
not be accepted to  be part of a  well-fonned coda as  they .vIOlated.  the 
fimdrunemtal principle of Sonority Sequencing. Indeed, ifwe consider, 
fur instance, the wordfiddle and we analyse it as a mono,yllabic word 
whose  onset contains the fricative j, while  the  nucleus is.repreilented 
by  the vowel  I and the.coCia by the tWo-consoilanl:  chistenil, we will 
obviously  have  problems  with  the  latter  sequence  since  instead  of 
having a  full in sonority in the coda we witness  an increase .from the 
voiced  obstruent d to the liquid l. Such examples  are  quite  nmnerous 
in  English  and  a  widely  accepted  solution  is  to  postulate  the 
possibility that in some cases not only vowels, but CCltain· sonorants -'-
·Uquids and nasals, more precisely - can represent fue peak of sonority 
180 
and  co=£j1IDIltIy  the nucleus  of the syllabIc.  Thus,  the  word  topple,
instead  of  being  inti:Ipreted.  as  a  monosyllabic  one  and  get  the 
following representation: 

/1 

o  R 
~ \co 
I  /\ 
t ()  p l
will be divided into two syllables and represented funs; 
S  S 
/1  /1 
r~ I 



t ()  p l
'The  same  intC!pTe:tmon  will  be  assigned  to  sequences  of 
obstruent+ liquid llike supple [SA-pl],  table [ter-biJ,  cattle [kae-tl], 
fiddle [ft-dl); sickle [SI-kIJ, bagel [her-gIl, siffie [SI -fij, shovel [fA-vI], 
castle [ka:....I], hazel [beI1'J]  or obstruent+nasal m: chasm [k:re---zmJ, 
rhythm. [ri-om];  obstruen1+nasal n: deepen [di:-pn], ribbon [n-bn], 
cotton [ko  -tn],  ridden [n-dn],  bacon .[ber-lm],  waggon [me-gn], 
soften [s:>-fu],  raven [reI-vn],  fasten [fa;-sn],  brazen [},reE-_], 
heathen [bi:-Iln]  cushion [kn-Jn],  vision [vi:-3IlJ.  In  motic  accent<;, 
the liquid r can aIsa be asyllahle nucleus: brother [brA-Or]. 
In  all  the  cases  above  we  deal  with  non-vocalic  element<; 
(sonorants:  nasals  OT glides),  occupy.ing  the position  of the  nucleUs. 
Such consonants are called syllabiC consonants, Their relatively high 
degree of sonority allows them to replace Ihe vowels in fbis  otherwise 
typically  vocalic  position.  Most  languages  (Romanian  included)  do 
181 
not have syllabic cOnsonants,  but English is not unique in this respect, 
Czech for  instance  being another language that includes  such sounds. 
(See  above,  io  Chapter  5,  the  discussion  of the  feature  +1- syllabic
introduced by Chomsky and Halle in SPE in 1968). 
7.7. Syllabification in English 
Having  examined the  structure  of the three  main components 
of the  syllabI e,  the  nucleus,  the  coda  and  the  rhyme  - of which, 
however,  it is  only the nucleus iliat is obligatory,  let US  have a look at 
how  syllabification  or  the  division  of words  ioto  syllables  works. 
Trivial  as the  matter  might  look,  it  is  a  process  that  has  major 
implications  not only on  the  way in which we  write  the  words  when 
we'arrive at the end ofthe line - this is probably the sitnation in which 
most people  become  aware  of the  pheoomenon and this awareness  is 
cultivated from  their  fitst  school years  - but also  on somc  important 
phonological  processes.  StrnrIge  as  it  might  seem,  we  will see  that 
syllabification  which  is  a  phonologlcal  process,  does  not  always 
parallel  the  division  of words  into  syllables  in  wriring,  a  process 
whose  rules  take  into  account  rather  tIie  rllOIphological  structurc  of 
words. Ifwe deal with a monosyllabic word - a  syllable that is also  a 
word,  our strategy will be rather  simple.  The vowel  or  the rtucleus is 
the peak of sonority around which the whole syllable is structmed and 
consequently all consonants ur non-vocalic  elements  preceding it will 
be  parsed  to  th"  onset  and  whatcver  comes  after  the  nucleus. will 
belong to the coda.  What are we going to  do, however, ifthe word has 
more  than  one  syllable?  We  will  pretty  easily  iderrti:fY  the  syllable 
nuclei  but how are we  going to  parse'the intervocalic or internucleic 
elements?  Shall  they  be allotted  to  the  codas  or  the  onsets· of the 
syllables  that we  try to  fami? In other words, if we have to  syllabify 
rector, shall we divide it by parsiog the two consonants to' the cOda of 
the first syllable, shall we split them between the two syllables or shall 
we parse them  both  to  the  onset of the  second syllable? Here are the 
three possible configurations: 
c) 

/1 




r e 
c. 

f.J 
[) 
11

~  


/1 
.1
(If 
J
k t a
Jbelast of the three solutions-c) [re-kta] clearly contravenes 
I
the phonotactic  rules  of English that we have just reviewed, since its 
second syllable has  an unacceptable  onset in English: kt.  We are  left 
with  variants  a)  and  b)  which  are  both  in accordance  with  the  rules 
I
mentioned  above.  Phonological  evidence  that  the  scope  of this  book 
will not  allow  us  to  present  even  briefly is  in favour  of the  second 
variant.  Indeed,  languages  apparently  tend  to  give  priority  to  the 

fonnation  of onsets  over  coda  formation.  Several  hypotheses  have 

183 
• 
J
beenfurnmla1eci, ofwbichonewasmentionedbefore,namelythatthi.s
J
isprobablYinkeepingwith thetemplateofthelllliversalcore,,,llable
J
CV. The rise in sonorityin the onset appears to bemoreirnpo:rtmt
thanthefullinthecodaThisisalso provedbythefactthatthereare
languagesthatprohibitthecoda- allsyllablesareopen- butthereare
J
no iangllllges that prohibit the onset.'We will·C(}llsequeintly. adopt a'
syllabi:fica:tion algorithmthatwillgivepriorityto onsetfoonationand
we willcalltheprinciple that is observed Ons<."1: Maximization. This
J
conId betranslated thus: wheneverwehave a number ofconsollllIIts
.between two syllable nuclei. we will group together the maximum
numberofconsonants.thatform anacceptable onsetaccordingtothe
phonotactics of therespectivelanguage andtheremainingnumberof
JI
consonantswillbeincludedinthecodaoftheprecedingsyillable.
-
Thus, the syllabification of the word conscript will look
1
likethis:
'-
s s
/1 /1
il 
a R
a R
-
I
1\
N Co
 
rI 
i I I
I I /\
skl"Ipt
k  ""
The reasonwhywesplitthe intervocalic consonantclusterin
this waywasthatsfr wasthemaJtitnal .1ructure acceptedbyEnffish
phonotacticsasavalid ODS(.-t (mf/" isrnledontbythesernles).
Thus, n  went to the cOda ofthe first syllable, wbile sf/"  formed the
oDSelofthesecond.
A word like venture  is  syllabified thus (remember that
affricates, because they are considered to be mongrel sounds, _are
conventionally represented by a stop and a fricative in the IPA
transcriptions): .
HIt:'

s
/J 
/1
o  R o R

f J I I 
v  e  n 
If  a 
Asmentioned above, syllabificationdoesn'talwaysmIrrorthe
morphological structore ofwonis as the n=example _ tainted _ 
proves:

s
/1 /1
a  R
. /\ 
R
J\
r
N
/
Co ,
'. }\/0 
/
t  e  In 
tId 
The word is a complex one, :made up ofthe verb taint,  to
whichthepasttensemorphemecdisadded.Thisis howwedividethe
word in writing, tal.'ing into consideration the two morphemes that
makeitup. PhonologicaJJy, however,whenwe5yllabi:/ytheword,the
obstruent t goesto the onset of tbe secondsyllable. An even clearer
example of the fact that syllabification doesn't overlap the
morphological structore ofwords is the diffurent behaviour oftwo
morphologically identical words: helpful  Lhelpful]  and helpless 
[hclple.].Hereishowmetwowordssyllabify: 
s
s
// //
a  R
o R
1\

I  1\ NCo
NCo
1 /\
I I
h  e  I p 

u I 
1&5
s

/1 
o
/1
R
o  R
1\
1\
NCo 
I I
I I
1/
NCo 

e
h e I I 
s
The  difference.  li""  in  the  fuet  that  while  pf is  not  a  valid 
syllable onset and,  consequently, the two consonants are split between 
. the two syllables, pI is a  licensed syllable onset and therefore ilie two 
consonants  are  parsed  to  the  onset  of  the  second   
Morphologically, however, "'" have the same base help, to which two 
suffixes  _  ful and  less respectively  are attached.  In writing,  both 
suffixes  are  separated  from  the  base  if we  have  to  divide  the  word. 
Romanian is in the same situation as the gerunziu furm of the verb a
urea: urclind will  be  divided  in writiog  lll'c4riti, following  the 
morphological  structure  of the  word,  while  phonologically  we  will 
have the following struct1tte:  [ur.kkldJ· 
"I

CHAPTER  8  ,. 

SUPRASEGNIENT AI..S; STRESS,
J
BHYTHNI, INTONATION 
]
S.l  Stess  and  prominence.  The  phonemic 
(contrative) function of stress 
[J
. In ilie preceding chapter we conducted OUT analysis  beyond the 
limit  of phonological  units  and described  syllables  as  scqu<'lnces  of 
[J
sounds  establishing  a  collocation  relationship  between  the  elements 
they were marle  up  of.  With 1his  we  went beyond the  limit  of mere 
segments  and  entered  the  domain  of suprasegmental phonology.  By 
assuming syllables  to  be  hierarchical  struetures,  combinations  of 
II
sounds  in  which  some  elements  (the  nucleus)  were  more  important 
than others,  we  departed  from·  the  strictly  linear  representation  of 
phonological combinations and adopted a non-linear approach.  I
The last chapter of1his studi;s concerned with such notions as 
stress, rhythm and intonation. As we are soon going to see - a fact that 
is obvious even intuitively - suchphonological realities are relevant at  I
a level  of a higher complexity than 1het of ilie  mere segment and are 
considered to  be typical suprasegmentals. Another tenn used to  refer 
to  them is prosodic  elements.  Prosody is a  word coming :from  Gxeek  I
and  referring  roughly  to  the  musicalitY  of  phonetic  sequences. 
Etymology  i. relevant in this  case  since,  as  we are  going  to  see,  we 
will be  able  to  dra:w  numerous  parallela  between tonality  in human  I
speech and 1nIJa1i1y in musie.  Such prosodic elements are  often called 
metrical elements  and we can speale  01metrical phonology analyzing 
such suprasegmenW phenomena. A  pal:anel is drawn here with poetry  I
where the  metre is an essential element when we discuss the prosodic 
I
187 
-



structure of verse. The scope oHhis book will a,,<nrin not allow ns to go 
.mto very many details,  but some  elementary information in this field 

is  essential for anyone wishing to  have even a  very general image of 
the sound structures ofEng:li.sh.. 
It would be difficult maybe even for  a specialist to give a  very 

accurate  definition of stress, but even a  schoolchild will be intuitively 
aware'that when we talk  about stress in a  word  or in more' complex 
structures we talk in :tact  prominence, or emphasis, that is parts 

of that word or structures  are perceived as  haviug a lligher degree of 
prominence  in comparison to  the  others.  Thus,  if asked  wht,re  :the 
accent  or  stress  fiills  in a  word like,  say,  t1mic  [tjunik],  an English 
pupil will unhesitaiingly  answer "on tha first syllable", while if asked 
the  same  question  about  :the  corresponding  word  in French,  /unique

(tynikJ  a  French schoolchild will say:  "on the second syllable". 1£we 
-
carefully  examine  the  two  words  we  will  see,  indeed,  that besides  a 
minor  difference  in  the  vocalic  sequence 'of  the  first  syllable  - Ii 

semivowel  and  a  bacl;:,  high,  unrounded  vowel  in, English  and  :the 
corresponding  front,  high,  rounded  vowel  in  French,  the  main 
c;liffurence  between the two words lies  in the placement of stress. The

answers  of  the  two  clrlldren  will  be  also  ,:relevant  for  the 

suprasegmental nature of stress, since they would perceive accent as  a 
phenomcnon  affecting  syllables.  not  mere  sounds.  A  suggestive 
representation  Of  the  di:fl:erent  aecentua1  pattern  of the  two  words, 
could  be  the  fullowing,  where  the  embolderu:;<i  k:tters  represent  the 
more  PlXlmment  Sequence  of sounds:  tunic;  tunique  (the  last  two 
letl.c:rS  ofthe French word don't have any phonetic materialization). 

Though  not  easy  to  define,  this  prominence  we  are  t:pking
-
about bas  certain acoustic correlDtes. A  :;tressed syllable will be  heard 
louder, and  therefure  be  characterized  by  Ii  higher  intensity or 

I
L;;; 
amplitwie, will have a  longer  duration, will display a  change in pitch
orfrequency,

The  example  above  contrasted  stress  plac<>.ment  ill  two 
different  languages.  1£ we  try  to  do  the  SOUle  thing within the same 
linguistic  system we will notice  some interesting facts,  Compare, for 
instance,  the  two  possible  prdnUllciatioDs  - due  to  the  difference  in 
'" 
188
'I'
stress placement of the ROIllWlian  verb urcii "climb".  1£ we  place the 
stress on the first    and read it urea, we interpret it as the 1hird 
person  singular  indicative  present  fonn;  u:  however,  we  place  the 
.  , 
stress  on  the  sooond  syllable,  and  read  it urea,  we  !mve  the  third 
person singular,afthe'indicative simple perfect fann.  A  pretty similar 
example  would be fentillfema, the reading with the suess on the frrst 
syllable  interpreting the  sequence  as  a  noun (":feint",  "dodge")  while 
tha reading with the stress on the 1ast syllable  it as  the third 
person ,,'ingullir sitnple-perfect of the corresponding verb ("he feinted" 
"he  dodged").  The  obvious  conclusion is  that  stress  bas  contrastive, 
phonemic  value' as  segments like  p  and b  had  in our analysis  in the 
:fifth  chapter,  and  that  we  CIIll  cons:i<k:r  it,  in certain  sit1Ja1ions,  a 
suprasegmental  phoneme.  Our enthusiasm will be  soon tempered  by 
the  observation·that  these  are  rare  cases  in  Romanian,  a  language 
where  stress  seldom  perfurros such a  :function.  If we tum to  English, 
however,  plenty' :of examples  will  came  up,  underlying  the  decisive 
role  played  by'the  stress  in  distinguiabing  members  of verb/noun 
pain;,  fonned  by  the, extremely productive - :in  English - process  of 
e.g.  inc.-ea.se (v) I increase (n); implant (v) I implant (n); 
dispute (v); dispute (n); contrast (v);  contrast (n). 
8.2. Free "Stress  and fixed stress. The predictability 
of accentual patterns 
Before we get a closer look at this contrastive value of stress in 
English  we  should  say  a  :few  general  things  about  stress  in  this 
language.  Unfortunately for foreign stud,,-nts  of the language, Engli.'lil, 
like  Romau;sll,  is  a  lIlngllage  where  stress  placement is  completely 
unpredictable.  We CIIll therefore  say that in such languages we have a 
free: stress system.. In langnages like Hungarian, or Czech, for instance, 
stress  always  :faIJs  on the  first  syllable  of the  word.  In  Frencb  and 
Turkish,  it is the last syllable that is  always  stressed,  while,in Polish 
the  laSt ,but  one.  Such  laJJgl.lllges  are  systems that  have positiorul1ly
fired stress. In  there  are  strict  rules  for  stress  placement 
189 
either on  the last or on the penultimate (last but one) syllable and  all 
the exce:Pfions are marked grnphically. 
It should  also  be  pointed  out  that  stress, is a  relational  and 
gradual  ("aiUte,  siDee  we, described  it  in terms  of prominence  of 
certain  elemen!s  in  comparison' to  others.  Therefure,  there  are lID
absolute  degrees - lllJ'OtimaI  stress  and no stress, at all - and we can 
only  say that somestroctures  display this  feature  to  a  greater eldent 
th!lIl  other.  This  is  even more  obvious  in F.nglish  where,  as  we  are 
going to see, we will have to define several degrees ofstress. 
8.3. Metric patterns 
As  mentioned  above,  the  term metric  structure  Cffi1 be used 
when  discussing  stress  and  rhythmical  patterns,  a  terminology 
borrowed from  the  analysis  of verse  structure.  The  basic  metrical 
structure in poetry is the foot.  It can contain two  or several  syllables, 
but siuce English word. don't tend to  be excessively long:we win only 
refer  to two- or three-syllable  structures.  A  dissyllabic  structure with 
the accent on the :first syllable, is called a trochee. Ifin a two-syllable 
foot the stress f"lIs  on the  second syllable we  talk about BI1 iamb.  In
three-,yllable patterns we can have the accent on the :first one and then
we have a dactyl,  on the second one - an amphihrar:h,  Or on tbe last 
one  - an  anapest.  Here  are' some  examples  of  English  words 
displaying the respective metric ,imctures. 
COllJlltry, coree, Florence, Venice  + - trochee' 
hare!, decide, BIaZll, Berlin  - + iamb 
comforting, infidel, Coventry, Binningbam  + - dactyl 
distinction, employer, Calcutta, Toronto  - + - amphibrach
nominee, cang-.;roo, Montreal, Tennessee  '- - + anapest 
In English,  stress placemeut is  not ooly unpredictable,  as.the 
examples above prove. We can test the mohllity of the accent on even 
longer wQrds: 
,J 
four syllables with the stress on tbe first: in:tri.ca.cy, cu.sto.mary;  ]
four syllables with the stress on tbe second: re.ci.pro.ca1, pa.ra.me.ire; 
four syllables with tbe stress on the third: con.fi.den..tial; dis.po:si.tion 
four  syllables  with  the  stress  on  tbe  last:      ]
mis.a.ppre.hend; 
. :frve  syll"bles  with  tbe  stress  on  the  third:  com.ple.men.ta.ry, 
con.sti.tu.tio.nal, re.gu.la.ri.1y; 
fI
five  syllables  with  the  stress  on  the  fourth:  re.pre.sen.ta.tion, 
i.ma.gi.na.tion, llILder.dc.ve.Iopped; 
mOTe tblIn five syllables: un.de.si.ra.bi.Ii.ty.  [J 
S.4. Morphologieal processes and stress shift  [J 
It  can  establish  contrasts  like  those  mentioned 
previously and,  even more, the shift of the stress triggers a  change  in  [J 
the value  of the vowels  of the sequence.  This happens mostly  dining 
morpholOgical  processes  such  as  affixation.  Affixes  are  of  two 
categories:  a)  affixes  that do  not modify the  accen1Ual  pattern  of the 
fI 
base  and  affixes  that trigger  ,'tress  shift  in  the  base.  Chomsky  and 
Halle  (1968:  66-67)  distinguished  between  word  boundaries  #  that 
blocked the operationofphoIlDlogical roles and fOllnB.tive  boundaries 

+ that  do  not  block  phonological  processes.  Thus,  tbe  word fatal 
['fertal]  has  the  stress  .on  the  :first  syllable,  which  contains  a 
diphthong,  that is  a  teese  vowel  having the  dumtion  of two skeletal 
I
slots  (inoras)  on  the  timing  tier.  The  second  syllable,  which  is  not 
stressed, has a short, lax 'vowel - schwa. Ifwe derive the wordfatality 
[fu'trelrtr] with the suffix ity,  the stress shifts onto the second syllable  I
and the vowel in the first  one  becomes lax,  is reduced  to  schwa and 
occupies  just  one  slot  on the  timing  tier.  The  vowel  of the  second 
syllable, now under stress, gets a new phonetic value, as it is no longer 
I
reduced  to  sChwa.  This  is co'nsisteut  with what  we  bow about the 
distn'bution anaJ which, _  will remember, onJy occurs in unstressed 
I
syllables.  This means that the boundary between the suffix ity and the 
verb is a foJ:Illlitive boundary + and not a word bonnrlary #. 
I
191 








I
.... 

,.
... 
....
II 
!I
...... 

I
.... 

8.5. Primary and secondary stress 
What makes  the  acquUing  of the correct pronunciation of the 
English words  extremely difficult for foreign speakers is that English 
has  several  degrees  of word  stress.  All words  have  a primary stress, 
whose  placement  is  totally  UDpIooictable,  as  .we  have  seeD..  fu 
addition.,  long  words  in  piJrticular  have  a  secondary stress 
(phonologists  also  distinguish  a  tertiary stress,  but fur  the purpose  of 
our  discussion,  we  will  just  restrict  our  presentation  to  the  :first 
tWo  types  of  stress).  Though  we  are  not  always  aware  of  the 
existence  of this  secondary  stress  its  presence  is  clearly  fult  by  the 
blocking  of  vowel  reduction.  Thus,  according  to  the  I'rinciples 
enounced  above,  we would  expect  all  the  vowels  of the  six-syllable 
word  that  occur  in  unstressed  syllables  (syllables  1  .  .2,3,5,6) 
im.par.ti.aIUy [nn-,pa:-JI-'re-h-tr] to be reduced to schwa. However, 
we  notice  that  the  vowel  in  the  second  syllable,  fur  from  being 
reduced to  schwa is  a  long,  reUse  vowel.  The fact that the  vowel has 
managed  to  preserve  its  value  though  primary stress  doesn't fall  on 
that  syllable  is  explained  by  the  fact  that the  second  syllable  of the 
word bears a secondary stress that we conventionally mark by,. 
We have seen how stress can playa phonemic role, contrasting 
lexical  pairs verb/noun, for  instance.  At a  more  complex level  stress 
may  establish  oppositions between  compounds and phrases. Thus  in 
me  sequence English teacher, if we assign primary stress  to  thefust 
word  and  the  second  word bears  a  weaker· stress  (a tertiary one,  in 
filct)  we interpret this as  a  compoundm=ing "a teacher of English". 
I:t;  however,  in the. same  sequence,  we  assign  primary  stress  to  the 
word teacher and a  secondary stress to EDglish,  we  interpret this as  a 
phrase  meaning "a teacher  who  is  English".  Without  analyzing  such 
cases  in detail  (they are  very. co=on) we  will  say that they  be 
accoUDted  for  in terms  of stress placement roles  that  assign primary
stress on the left in compounds and on the right innoUIl pm:ases.
192 
8.6.  Weak and strong forms.  Vowel  redllctioDl.  and 
deJition 
Stress  or  emphasis  also  plays  an  important  role  in  the 
selection  of  the  so  called  strong and  weak. forms  of  many 
"grammatical" words  of English.  They  are  thus  called  because  it is 
not their lexical content that primarily matters,  but the role they have 
in the  sentence.  ('VVe will remember,  however,  the general  tendency 
of "schwa"  to  replace  any  English ·vowel  in  unstressed  syllable. 
Vowel reduction is not,  therefore,  a  process  restricted to  the weak 
forms of a limited set of words.) 
AUXiliary verbs like  do, have, be, will, shall, modals like  can
and  must, prepositions, pronouns, possessives and  adverbs have 
parallel forms:  a  strong one,  when the word is stressed or emphasis is 
placed on it, and a weak one, When the word is not under stress or any 
kind  of emphasis.  The  latter  form  usually  has  its  vowel  reduced  to 
schwa  (only  [1]  is  not  reduced  to  schwa)  if not  elided  altogether, 
elision often applying to many of the consonants of the word, too.  The 
auxiliary have for instance, whose strong form is h.rev,  can be reduced 
to  hay  or  even  simply  the  fiicative  consonant  v.  Here  are.  some 
examples: 
I  saw them, not yon. vs. I  don't like th(e)m. 
  Yes,  I  can.  Vs.  I  c(a)n·tell  you an interesting 
story. 
  I have obeyed yo1+, I  swear. Have you met my 
wife? They've left. 
Where  are  you  going  to?  I'm  going  to 
LondolL 
Who  are  you  waiting·for?  I'm  waiting  for 
John 
[a;]-7[a] Are you taking me for  a fool?  They're trylllg 
to help  . 
193 
Notice  in  the  examples  above  that.  if the·  pfeposition  is 
stranded, it is always stressed and consequently the form thI!lt occurs is 
always the strong one. 
8.7. Rhythm 
In  order to  batter  explain the  notion  of rhythm. we should go 
back to  our previous references to poetry and to metric unita A. metric 
foot  in  poetry  was, we  will  remember,  a  sequence  of  syllables 
including a  stressed one and a  couple of other syllables thI!lt were not 
stressed.  The  skillful  combination  of  such  S1.rt1GttITes  results  into 
different  rhythmic  patterns.  Rhythm,  flwn,  as  in mu.oUc,  is  based  on 
combinations  of  louder  and  weaker  segments,  strong  beats  which 
occur at regular intervals  of time.  Anyone  listening  to  recordings  of 
spoken  English  and  spoken  RolllllIlian  will  innnediately  notice  an 
important  and  striking  difference  between  the  two  langnages.  They 
actually  typify  two  different  categories  of languages.  m.Romanian, 
syllables,  whether  stressed  or  not,  tend  to  have  roughly  the  same 
durati(JI!.  In: English,  UIlBtressed  syllables  not  only have their vowels 
reduced Ii' we saw ahove, bnt their  duration  is  severely  shortened.  A 
stressed  syllable  bas  roughly  the  sl!TIle  duration  as  the  several 
unstressed  syllable  following  it WIlli  the next aooentual peak·fulloWll. 
The  acamltic  impression that an  English  utterance  gives  is  one  of Ii 
sequence  having  g<ome  strong,  heavily  marlced  units  (the  stressed 
syllables)  around which file  mnch less  important unstressed syllables 
are  clustered.  While  in  RomaniJm  filere  is  a  certain  feeli{!g'  of < 
monotonY,equally  long  syllables  wming one  after  another  in 
humdrum succession, mEnglish, the tTansttion from stressed segments 
to  a  number  of  unstressed  segments  thI!lt  have  togelherlhe  same 
duration  as  the  stressed  one,  giving the  fuelli;Jg  that  they  have  been 
compressed,  COnveys  the  lmguage  a  certain Il1llSicaJ  character..Since 
languages  like  Romanian  have  rhythmic  patterns  based  on  the 
,yllable,  that  has  all  equal  duration,  <  irrespective  of  .its 
stressed/unstressed  character,  file  type  of rhythm that they display is 
lJ 
]
called syllable-timed. In the other type oflanguage  of which English 
is  illustrative  - the  time  unit  is  not the  syllable,  but  the  stressed 
syllable.  Such a  type  of rb:Ythm  is consequently called stress-timed. It 
]
..
is  this  type  of rhythm  - and  not  stress  alone  - that  is  also  largely  '. 
responsible  for the reduction  of vowels in English UllStl"essed syllable 
which are thus sl:tortened to fit the narrow time slots left fur them. The 
]
con=! use of thcse rhythmic patterns is one of the things thI!lt are most 
difficult to  aeqtrire  for  a foreign  learner  of English and the improper 
extension  to  English  of different  Ihytbmic  patterns  borrowed  from 
]
one's  mother  tongue  is  one  of the  elements  that  a  native  English 
speakers will immediately recognize as indicative of a fureign 3CceD.t. 

8.8. Intonational contours. Their pragmatic value 
II
Variation  in  pitch  leads  to  different  intonational  contours. 
Intonation is an essential suprasegmental element in any language 8J1d 
it  can <Dave,.  as  already  pointed  out,  eoIJtnlstive  values,  the  same 
II
utterance,  though  preserving  the  same  demotational  meaning, 
suggesting  diffurant  attitodes  of the  speaker  if di:ffurCllt  intonational 
contours are used.  There are  langoages in Asia (Chinese for instance) 
fI
Where pite  h  variation changes file very meaning of the ward. Thus, the 
same  phonetic  sequence  (signifiant) is  associated  to  different 
meanings (signifies) ifvarious pitch changes are used.  Such languages 
I
are <called  tone languages.  The  systematic  character  of intonation is 
also important to mention,  in tbe sense that within a  certain linguistic 
system  a  certain intonational  pattem will  be llSed  and recognized  by 
I
the  speakers  of that  langnage  as bB:ving  a  given  function.  Thus,  a 
:rising intonational contour will characterize intcnogative structures or 
utterances,  OJ;'  will  express  smpcise  dissatisfllction,  etc.  In languages 
I
like Romariian for instance intonation is the  only  element that marks 
the contrast between an    sentence  (a rising  contour)  and 
itq  a:fli:rnlative  counterpart E.g.:  EI a venit cu ea'l t(illterrogative) VB. 
I
EI a venit cu ea. -I{affirmative).  Several tone groups  are distinguished 
in  English  h)r phoneticians  Thus,  J.  D.  O'Connor  and  G.  F.  Arnold 

195 
• 

I
(1973)  discriminate  among  ten tone  groups  characterized  bydistinct 
I
pitch variatiol1S.  It is iroprtant to :remember that it is the nucleus ofthe
stressed syllable that is always the locus ofiliat change in pitch: 
I
1.  The Low Drop contains  falling  nuclear  tones  and  sounds 
definite  and  complete  and·  can  be .used  in "statements, 
wh-questi.ons"  (that  sotmd  serious.,  intense  and  urgent)
I
yes-no  questions  (when  the speaker  sounds  serious),  in 
commands. 
2.  The  same  completeness  and  definiteness  is  suggested  by
the High Drop, hut the speaker no lon.,oer sOll11ds detached,

the tone  group suggesting invo.!vement through    ~ greater 
variation in pitch.
I
3.  The  Take-Off is  nsed  in  statements  that  iirvite  the 
contribution  of  the  listener  to  the  conversation.  In
questions  it  is  often used  to  invite  the  listener  to  repeat
I
what he or she has just said. It implies a low rise inpitch. 
4.  The  Low-Bounce is  an  intonational  contollT,  that  is  also 
based  on a  low rise in the nucleus,  statements "uttered with

this  intonational  contour  sounding  soothing,  rcasl>llrirlg. 
:1
Questions  asked  :in  this  way  express  the interest  of the 
listener. 
S.  The"!;,Witchback includes a  full-rise  intonational pattern..  It
is used in statements to ex:press contrast, while in questions 
it  expresses  astonishment.  Commands  having  this

intomrtional  contour  contain  a  Wll11ling  note,  while 
interjections e'....press scorn. 
6.  The Long Jump has a  high fall  nuclear tone and shares the 
:1
definiteness  aill!  completeness  of  falling  intorumonal 
....
contours, expressing, in addition to the high drop.preSt.'71ted 
above,  a  note  of  protest  Commands  sound  rather as

recommendations than as genuine orders.  , 

7.  The  High-Bounce is  character:ized  by  a  high  rise  in  the 
nucleus,  being a  typical  interrogative pattern in European 
lan"cruages. 
I
196 
8.  'rue  Jacknife is  a  risecfiill  intonational  pattern,  expressing 
definiteness,  completeness  and  often  the  fact  that  the 
speaker is impressed or awed. 
9.  The High Dive includes Iihigh faIl  followed by a  low 
It is  used when  it is  the  first part  of Iiword group  that 
contains an importaot idea and not its second,  which  is of 
sccon1lazy importaoc:e. 
10.  11:J.e  Terrace mainbins Iilevel intonation and is typically 
used to express non-finality. 
"
,J
[J 

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... .J
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Linduu,  Mona. 1978.  V_sf Features. Language. 54: 541- 563. 
fJ 
Makkai,  Valerie  Becker  (ed.).  1972.  Phonological TheOfJ'.  Evohllion ond Current
Practice. New York:: Holt, Rinehart and Wmston,
[J
Malmberg, Berti!.  1963. Phonetics. New York: Dover Publicanons. 
Martioet, Andre.  1970. Elements de linguistfgue gewirafe. Paris: Armand Colin. 
II
Andre.  1982.  Linguistique histari"". et linguistique generale. Slatkine: 
Geneve,  Pluis: Champion. 
Mortimer, Colin.  1985. Elements ojPrommciation. SixJ:hprinting  19.9. Cambridge: 
J
CamUridge Uw"='byPress 
Mounin,  (',00_'.  1999.  islario lingvisticii. Paideia.  (OriginaUy 
published  as  Ifl.rtaire de III lirtgui.lltlque ties origines 1m  xxeme sleele in  I 
1967 and  La lmgulstique duJaeme siecl. in 1972). 
O'Connor,  I. D.  1967.  Better English Pro1tUJtclati,m. Reprinted  1979.  Carobtidge: 
J
Cambridge University Press. 
O'Connor, J. D.  1973. Phonelics. Harmondsworth: P'IDguin Books. 
I
O'Connor, 1.  D.  and G.  F. Arnold.  1973. inlanat/Of' ojColloqUial English. Second 
Eillrion, Fifth impression 1978.  Landon:  Longman. 

203 
• 

Palmer,  Harold  E- 1961.  Everyday Se:ntence.r in Spoken English. Cambri<!!,>e' 

W. Hoffer & SODS

Papilian,  YielDr.  1982..  Anatamia omului. Vol II: Spltmholog;a. Bucure§ti'  Editura 
didactid  pedagogicil. 
Piirlog,  H.  1997.  English Phonetics and Phonology. Bucur""ti:  All  Publishing 
House. 

Piaget.  Jeao.  and  Noam  Chomsky.  1988.  Teorii ale liediajuluL Toori! ale Irwiifiirii;
Dez:bmerea dintre Jean Fiaget fi Haarn ChoMsky. Edilma 
Politica.  (Originally published in Frenchiu 1992 ""  Theories du iengage:

Thew;"" de i'llpprenJi.r.oge: L. debat entre Jeatt Fiaget at Hoarn Chomsky
organise et recueillipar MassimO PiatelliPalm.tnfni).

Pike,  Kenneth  L.  1958.  Phonetics. Six1h  prialmg  (first printing 1943). Ann  Arbor: 
University ofMichigan Press. 
Robins, R. H.  1990. A Short History ofLinguistics. 3'" CditiOll  (1" edition, published 

1967), Loudo,,: Longman. 
Roca, Iggy.  1994. Generative Plwnalogy. LondOll: Routledge. 
I
-
Rocll, Iggy ned W)'ll Johnson.  1999. A Course in Phonology. Oxfurd: Blackwell 
Rocoric--Alexandrescu,  A.  1968.  Fonostalistica limb!! romane. Buc"""1ti:  Editura 


Rosetti.  AI.  1967.  Introd:ui;ere in f"",fica. Ed!;!.  a  patra.  Bucuni¢:  Editura 
ptica. 

Rosetti,  AL  1963. 13/orio limb!i romane. Editura pentru Lit:eratlllii. 

Sala,  Manus  (coord.).  2001.  Enciclopedia iimbif ramUne. Bucurc¢:  Univ""" 
enciclopedic. 
Sapir, Edwnrd.  19:1.1. Language. New,York: HarcourtBrace. 
Saussure,  Ferdinand 'de,  1965.  Ci:nlrs d.-linguistique generale. Paris:  FayoL  (First
published in 1915) . 
...


Scalise,  Sergio.  I 984:'Generaltlle MorpholOgy. Dordrecbt: Faris. 
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-
204
Solkitk, ,EliBabeth.198D.  111. Phrase PhallOlog.' ofEnglish and French, New York: 
GarlHlld, 
Selkirk. Elisahcth.1984. Phonology and Syntax: the Relation between Sound and
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Sp""""', Andrew,  1990. Morphologlcal Theory. Oxford: Blackwell. 
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,  Stanley, Ri."=<!. 1967. "RedWldancy Rules in Pbonolo/lY." Language 43:393-435
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(cds.),  Perspectives on the Studj of Speech. pp.  1-38,  Hillsdale, .NJ; 
Lawrence Erlbaum. 
Srockwell,  R.  P.  mld  R  K.  S.  Macaulay  (cds.).  1972.  Linguistic Change and
Generative     Indiana University Press.
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Faris.
Trask,. R. L. 1996w A Diet/onory of Phonetics and Phonology. London and New
Yorl<:  Routledge. 
Trubw..i<oy,  Nilrolai  Principles ofPlwnology. 1969. (First published  in Gcnnan  as 
Griul/ufige der Phonologie in  1939).  Berkele3c  University  Qf Califurni. 
Press. 
van  der lluls1;  Harrz and Nmval Smith  (ods.).  1982.  The Structure ofPhonological
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Yasilin, E. 1965.  Fonelogio limM romaw. Bncure;.1i: Editura $tiin!ificlL 
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Press. 
205 
... "'--------_ -

Related Interests

  open"  instead  of "Ine  door  is  open"  we do  oot 
convey  the SIIlrul  idea:  The  correct  choice  of fue  approprlJ!:te tense 
funn pertains to  the domain (lfmorpbology.  It;.on theother hand" we 
say  "door  open  the  is",  the  fOIm  of  the  message  is  clearly' 
ungrn:mma:tical  since ,it blatantly  violafes  the  roles  of syntlUt  (word 
order in the  givencase). ,Both  morphological encoding and syntactic
encoding can be considered as stages ofwhai we can call grammatical
encoding. Once it has llI1  appropriate irnmmaticaI furm,  the message 
hasto be give!).  a phoJ).etic  sbape, in other words the ideas  wehave to 
  must be put into  sounils.  nuslast  type of encoding is called 
phomlogicaZ encodtng. Some  linguists describe  the  translating  of 
concepts  irrfn  words  and  the  assigning  of a  phonological  shape  to 
fuose  words  respectively  as  two  different  types  of articulation and
they  speak  about  the' double arliculation oj the Iang>Ulge. Thos, 
according  to  Andre  Martinet,  the  first  articulation  of language  will
include  the  segmenting  of the  conteJlt  level  by a  given  language-
system  and the  association  of acoustic  images  to  the  concepts
obtained. The minimal  units for 1hisarticula:tion are the Words, having 
both  meaning  and  a  phonetic  stroctore.  The  next  articulation  will
imply the  segmcntatio;' of the  aconstic  image  into  corxtrostiv'e  units, 
the  phonemes.  Though  devoid  of meaning  themselves,  these units 
have the eSseutiaI function  of keeping different words apart Martinet 
convincingly argues that Iaognages display remarkable economy at fue 
level of the Second articulation since aconstic images are decomposed 
into' a  limitedmnnber of significant units, !he sfstemmak1rig  use of 
the  latter's  eJd:J;aotdinary  combinatorlal  possibilities  instead of 
associal:ing each acoustic image to a different unit 17 
A&rthe 1:zan8mission ofthetneS.'lage, therecipienthasto decode
it, petfumring the same operations, but inthe opposite order, IlB fust has 
to  decode the message phonologically,  then to  decode itgJ;amn:latically 
and then. semantically, reaching thllS the actoaIinfurmational contllllt 
11 Martinet.  1970:13-15.  These  notions  will  be llUbsequeutly  explained  in
further detaiL 
Summariring,  we  can  say  that  the  communication  process 
'takesplace'ai:cording to !he' following  pattern: 
I
, 1.Semantic en'coding oftbe 
me....  age 
2.Grammatical encoding ofthe 
message  _ 
3. PhonolOgical enroding ofthe 
message
I
I

I

I
Recipient ofthe
message
L  Phonological decoding ofthe 
mess.age
2.Grammatical decoding oftne 
message
3.Semantic decoding ofthe 
message 

TranSD:J..ission message
- 1.5. Language and writing 
:-,' -The importance  of  language  and  of  stody fur  the 
undetsJaniling  of what  essentially  characterizes  our  very  nature  as 
hI/man  Beings  cannot  be  overestimated.  By  means  of the language 
immans not only co=icate ina fuller and more efficient way thao 
any  other species,"  but  they  are  in  fact  the  only  creatures  1hst can 
tmnsrnit  information  from  a  generation  to  fue  following  ones.  We 
have  sO':fur discussed  lin",auiatic  colIlInunicaUon  only in  its oral  form 
(which·iS;  ofcourse, relevant for fue Sllldyofphonetics), but for many 
thoilsanrui of years now human beings have communicatedina written 
fOmi  as- well.  While  speech  was probably  an  essential  faculty  that
cl:laracterized ',humans  from -the  first stages  of their  existence  as  a 
di:!ierent  species  from  !be  rest  of  the  arrimaI  kingdom,  writing 
"  Scientists have  elCtensiveJy  studied'various means  !lJrough wbich  anhnals 
communicate  with  one  another.  Though  they have  sometimes  been  loosely  called 
''Jan&nages", tile di:ffi:nmt modalities used by eer1ain species ofm!llll!llals  or bybirds 
in onlc:r  to  c:ommunlcate  can  in no  way be  cOI1lp>red  to  tb.  complex  lin"onistic 
system ofcommunication humans USe. 
27 

-)' 
:...
1· L
[I
;J 

:J 







... 
cl
certainly appeared much laler in the history of mBrildud The  earliest
records ofhlllJllilL'l tr;ying to express their thougb!s inwriting date back
...
to only several  thousand yea:rs ago. Even today there are many
- languages that do not haVe a written folJD.. The "invention" of writing 
was essential in. the process of '!rIlD1llllittig inforroation over gl;eat
t  distances, both ill spare and in t:i.ole. It played a,tremendous role in the
development and evolution of hmnan: ci'Jilization as it is mainlY
-I
through written recoxds  that info=ation abo1;lt civilizations that have
long been extinct managed to reach us. Sueh is the importance of
.J
writing in modem t:i.oles that we tend to neglect its :relatively younger
J
age. We forget 1;)lat many languages in the past and even at present
were (or are) exclusively spoken lllld that writing is, after all, a
secondary and relatively less important system of symbolization19in the
absence of which linguistic systems can function very well. The
prestige of writing is so great that the written furm of the word 1
....

influences oW: Jllental representation of the word and we often tend to
reverse the natural precedent speaking has over writing and to
consider writing as being primOrdial and speaking only secondarY,

This  is due, as Saussure points ont to the fuct that  graphic symbols
tend to make a more lasting impression on our -intellect than the
 
sounds we hear. TheY give ,UH  the illusion of soliditY and permanence 
when, in reality, grapbic Conventions are by fur more superficial and
rI 
irrelevant fOf the basic :fual:utes of the Ianguage.2Q 
II
';'M;+- 1e
. 19 Our own. language, Rom:miarr is  (somehOW   an el<iIIDP 
that illustrateS tliis point. The earlieSt surviving 1l>lI1 in Romanlan daleS from 1521
but the historY ofthe hmguage itSelf stretclles baCkman:y =1""bero", that
iI 
r..:.: 
,. The ex;unple of Rl:>nI3trim _ be again qu<>t.ed. The Slo.voni<> alphabet
was used  unti1lhe second' half of tb;> 19'" C<lIltllIY when  tb;> Ro)Illlll  alphabet was
adopted. Turlrish abandOned its tra<litiOllal writing :in the 20'" centmy and adopted
IlwRoman aiphabet, Ino. These chtll1ge., did nut in 3IIy wa:y modify the jjIDdamentaI
cbaractmisti of 1he two languages, ROJ]1lllliim ..... the same Rom"",," language
- cs
t
even when 1M Cyrilic alphabot was used, while Turldsh ","""ins I!ll AJt»ic language
in  SJ';:' of its  1lSing lhe i«>ml!llce alphabet, An  unfortunate lllusi:rllDon of the
carre of sanssure'. lheory about lhe undeserved and decePtive preeminence
\..j cillC5S
of writing  was  the ;;tecile <lobate  about the spelling of the CllllInll high vowel of
Rmnanian. A rational'siIDpJification was recently reverted and ii replaced i  in non-
initial positio", as u; was aTb"'cd that 1h. Romance chmcter oflhe language is better ure
rendered by t'lC former sign than by the la_. One can omy remember Sauss " I 
''''
·1 n 
In spite of the awarent diversity between types of graphic
symbolism used in  various languages, linguists distinguish only
betWeen two different kjnd, of writing: ideographic and phonetic, 'The
ierIi;inology is suggestive oJ; their fui:t<:larll"ental
r
,rdeQgrapbic writing, uscs  ideograms for the  graphic
"representation of lingnistic sign. The graphelne tries to represent the
word in its entirety, the idea that it expresses. Ideographs in the strict
"interpretation of the  term have" no connection with  the phonetic
struct:ure of the linguistic sign." They are exclusively associamd with
the first articulation' as described above. Chinese is a classic'aI example
of a language uSing  sur.h  writing. Linguists often quote amonp;  the
advantages of ideographic writing thc fuGt that in  spite of the
eIlOllIlDUS dialectel vari;;!jr  displayed by a language as Chinese,
writing constitutes 1I  elemruit. People speakiog different
diaiecls of the language can" f""'1muu icate by referring to ideographs
common to all varisnts of the language. Phonetic writing attempts to
give .a representation of fuc "phonetic structure of the word. It  is 
therefure linked to the second articulation as described above.
bonetic
writing can, in its turn, be of two 1cinds: syllabic or
alplulbetic. In. the formet case we deal with conventions for
representing the syllable structure of the words, while in the latter the
graphic 1;!IDd to represent the phonemes as minimal uuits at
the expression level." However, we will see that, for reasons that are
going to be explained in·the next not even in the case of the
latter tyjje ofwriting is there "a'one to one cOlTespondence between the
phonological stmcture of and the graphic signs we use to
represent'them. This leiulS 11s"io the conclusion that no actual system
of writing is  an exact illllS1ration of either of the two lIllljor classes
descnlJed 8bove. Ideographic writing can also use ideograms that lost
words, "" an iromc and jIDllI1OllllOry co.tnmem of such situations: "QllJl.qd  il y a
dilsaocord elJlre ill lalJgut: et l'mthogrnphe, Ie dtbat est toujour.; difficile atraDcher
pour tout que Ie lino
uuiste
; truris comme cclui-ci pas VOlx an chapitre; la
fonne 6crite a presque mtalement Ie (lessu'" (J965: 47)
29
their  initial  value  and  have  acquired  a  phonetic  character.  Chinese 
pictogrnms and Egyptian hieroglyphs oirer such examples?l 
ff we  consider the  evolution of writing we  C811 
notice  a  !J:1lIl3ition  ;from  rurect,  more  or  less  concrete  systems  of 
represetrtatiorui to increasingly abstract (thougll  simpler) 
ones.  The manner in which human  beings tried tn convey their ideas  . 
using  graphic  represeittations  was  futally  vety  rudimentary  in.  1he 
beginning.  The earliest syStems  of writing (if we  can  speak of 
writing)  were  actually  visual  representations  of what  men  saw.  The 
scenes  of11lmtil)g,  for instance,  painted on cave walls, ate considered 
1he  first  a:tternpts  of human  beings. to  give  their thoughts  a  grnphic 
form.  Later s1ag<:s  in the  development of writing proper included the 
appearance of various systems  of so  called pierorial writing, in which 
the  symbols,  initialJy  figurative  representations  of reality,  came  to 
di&l'Iay  an.  increasingly  highee  degree  of abstmctness.  Cm:teifonns 
used  in Mesopotamia  illustrate  a  gmrluaI  trallliition  from  the  direct 
represerrtation of ol:!iects to the more abstract representation of words 
and  finally  syllables.  Egyptian  hieroglyphs  constitute  the  most 
spectacular  type  of ideogrnphic writing.  With the tomsition from the 
earlie&i hi.:roglyphs to later vanRnts  of hieratic and demotic (popular) 
script we witness  an effort towards simplification which is paralleled 
by  a  greater  abstractness  of the  representation  and  the  loss  'of  the 
plJre1y  figurative  cha:rn.cter  of writing.  But  even  in  the  =  of 
hieroglyphic  writing  proper  the  system  interestingly  and  uiriquely 
combines pictoiial representations with conventions suggestive of the 
phonetic  strueture  of the  words.  This  is  also  the  case  of Chinese 
writing.  the only Stln'iving example of an ancient ideogrnphic writing 
in 1he mod= world.  Even  Chim:se  writing,.  however,  use  of 
many  graphic  synibols  tlim  have - a  phonetic  characier.  (Japanese 
interestingly  combines  C'hinese.  ideograms  with  graphic 
representations illustrating the structure of the Japanese langua",ae).  As 
pointed  out  earlier  alI  ideographic  types  of writing  tend  to  acqnire 
phonetic characteristics because ofthe  difficulties  ofbandJing 
21 SllUssure  spoaks  of the  "mixed"  character  such  systems  of writing 
acquire. (1965:47) 
a  system  which  uneconnmically  represents  concepts  rather  than  a 
1
more limited number ofphonological units. 
It was for this very reason that the "invention» of the alphabet 
by  the  early  Semitic  civilization  of the  Phoenicians  represented  an 
:1
extraordinary  step  forward.  The  alphabct  created  by the  Phoenicians 
was later modified by the Hebrews and the G:reeks, the Greek alphabet 
lying in its tum at the basis ofthe Roman and of1he Slavonic (Cyrilic) 
[I
ones.  Alphabetic writing had the  enormous  advantage  of economy as 
it  made  use  of  a.  cmnpara:lively  much. -more  reduced  number  of 
symbols (about 30}hy means ofwhich practically all the words in the 
[I
language  could  be  represented.  This  was  due  to  the  :fact  that  at  the 
expression  level languages are remarlaibly organized and economical 
systems  as  we  are  going  to  see  in  a  subsequent  chapter.  The-
t
simplification  of  the  system  was  paralleled  by  an  ineteased 
abstractness  as  the  link  between  the  graphic  representation  and  the 
li:nguistic  sign  was  lost,  the  script  reDdeting  sounds  rather  than 
I
meanings.  The  roost  economical  and  abstract  kind  of writing  ever 
invented,  alphabetic  writing  is  cUlre1lfly  used  by  the  overwheltning 
majority of present-day civ'ilizations. 
I
Of the  two  essential  compone.nts that constitute  the linguistic 
sign,  the  present  book,  which  analyzes  different  Rspects  of,  and 
theories about, the production and interpretation of'l'eech    will 
I
obviously  deal  with  the  signifier  Or  the  expression  level  The 
fQliowing  chapter  is  devoted  to  a.  more  detailed  presentation  of the 
linguistic  disciplines  stodying  speech  production,  trmlsmission  and 
I
perception. 




• 

,I
CHAPTER  2 


ARTrCUI..ATORY,  jilCOUSTrC AND 
AUDITORY  PHONETICS.  PHONOlOGY 

2.1. Phonetics and phonology 


Two  tt:l:ll:ls  are  (often  loosely)  used  to  refer  to  linguistic 
disciplines studying ·fbat part of the linguistic sign which de Sanssure 
called the  acoustic  image: phonetics and phonology. The importance 

of sounds  as  vclricIes  of meaning  is  something  people  have  been 
aware  of for  tliousiUIds  of years.  However,  syst!lmatic  studies  on the 
speech  sounds  ·cmlji- appeared  with  the  development  of  modem 
-I
sciences.  The  texin  phonetics used  in  CO!lllection  with  such  studies 
=  from  Greek  and  its  origins  CIlIl  be  Iraced  back  to  the  verb 
phOnein, to speak. in its tutn related to  phone, sournt  The end of the 
-
18
th 
century witnessed  a  revival  of the interest in the studying of the 
somids  of  various  language.q  and  the  introduction  of  the  term 

phoflOlogy. The  IaUer  comes  to  be,  bowever,  distinguished from  the 
-
former  only  more  than  a  ce:ntUIy  later  with  the  development  of 
structuralism  which  emphasizes  the  essential  contrastive  role  of 

classes of sounds which lire labeled phonBmes. Ibe terms continue to 
-
be used. however, indiscriminately until the prestige ofphonology as a 
distind  discipline  is  finally  established  in the  first  balf of the  20
th 
century. Though there is no universally accepted point of view about a 
'I
clear-cut border line betw"'-:n 1fu, respective. domains of phonetics and 
:1
,," 
phonology as,  indeed,  we  c>innot  talk  about  a  pbonological  system 
ignoring the phonetic aspects  it involves ana,  on the  other band,  any 
phonetic  approach  shonld  take  into  accouut the phonological  system 
.... 
r,
thai  is  represented  by any  language,  most linguists  will agree  aho LIt 
SOIIW fundameutal distinctions between the two. 
'-I 
33 
Phonetics will be almost unanimously acknowlec!ged to be the 
linguistic science which studies speech sounds: the way in which they 
are  produced (uttered,  articulated),' the  way  in.  which  they  are 
perceived, their  physical chiracteristics,  etc.  Therefore,  it  is  these 
more  "palpable",  measurable  aspects  of  the  phonic  aspects  of. 
language thet.constitote the domain of phonetins. On' the other band, it  • 
is  obvious,  however,  even  for  those  whose  perception of lil::i",anistic 
phenomena is rather of an empirical  and not of a  very scholarly kind, 
that when cornmunica:ting verbally, though they are producing a wide 
vanely  of  sounds,  people  are  actna1ly  "aware"  .of  using  a 
comparatively  drastically  limited  set  of sounds,  in other  words  that . 
they tend to disregard the obvious (mOre or less important) differences 
between the way in wbich  sounds  are uttered  and  have in mind only 
classes of sounds that perfurm  a  certain  function  in language;  From 
this  new perspective,  it is not the sounds as  such that are impozt,mt. 
but rather the role they have in linguistic communication.  As we shall 
see  later,  diffi:rent  languages  operate  different  distinctiOIlS  and 
stroctorc  in di.fferont ways the more or less  common stock of sounds 
thet  can  be  round  in  various  idioms.  It  is  precisely  Ibi!>  ru,-pect  of 
sounds  that is of interest for pho7lf}logy, which. is  !bus understood to 
study not so much the sounds as such, but rather clas5e$  of sounds that 
have  a  certtrin  function  in the  stroct-ure  of a  given  Iimguage,

This 
distinction  will  be  further  analyzed  in the  chapter  dealing  with  the 
phoneme..
We have alreadY said that phonetics is concerned with various 
aspects  relev-dllt  fur  the  physical  characteristics  of sounds.  Several 
lmmches  of phonetics can further be distinguiShed,  depending' on the 
narrower  domain  of interest  of the  respective field.  Thus,  one of the 
most important branches of phonetiCli  is articulata", phonetics which. 
studies  the  way in which h11lIJJll1  beings articulate  or utter the sounds 
they make use ofin verbal communication. 
,  Note  llJat  what  we  refured 1<)  as  phouetlc,  alphaht:tie  Mitlng- actuall¥ 
tends  to  represont these  elMses  of so""c\s.  That  is  why  peoplll  using  tlIis  twe  of 
writing have  at least  some :intu:itive  awareness ,of the  phonological  structure -of their 
l;mgllage. 
oJ 
2.2. Articulatory phonetics 
~  
Articulatory phonetics is a branch of phonetics whicb is  largely 
based  On  data  provided  by  other  sciences,  among  which  the  most 
1
important  are  ~ anatomy  and  physiology.  This  is .a  result  of the 
fuet  that human beings  do  not possess  organs that are exclusively used 
to. produce sp<iech sounds, all organs involved in the uttering of sounds 
1
having  in filet,  primarily,· other  functions:  digestive,  respiratory,  etc. 

This  actually  raises  interesting  questions  about  whether. we  had  been 
bom  (destined,  "prugremrned")  to  speak  or  speech  developed  rather 
1
accidentally  - anyWay,  comparatively  later  - in  the  evolution  of 
mankind.  Therefure,  fundsrnental  physiological  processes  like  those 
mentioned  above  take  place  sinlultaneously  or  alternatively  with  tl:i.e 
I
pIUduction ofspeech sounds.  We can hardly think of speaking as being 
separated  frOln  the  activity  of breathing,  1lS  the  air that is  breathed in 
and  om of the lWlgs has a crucial role in>thc process of uttering sounds. 
j
Breathing  is a  rhythmic  .process  inchaling  two  successive  stages: 
inspiJ:ation  and  expiration.  It  is  during  the  latter  phase  that  speech 
production takes place in most languages. Because we speak while we 
i
expel  the  air  from  our  lungs,  the  sounds  that  we  produce  are  called 
egressive. The  continuous  altc:rnation  between  inspiration  and 
-
expiration fundsrnentally shapes the rhythmicity of oUI spee"h. 
I
We have already mentioned the fact that oral  communication is 
bMed  on  sound  waves  produced  by  the  human  body.  The  ioitial 
moment of this rather camplex process is the expelling of the air from 
j
our lungs. The lungs can therefore be considered the very place where 
speech  production  originates.  The' airstremn  follows  a  road  that  is 
called  the  vocal- tract. We  will  follow  this  tract  of the  air  that  is 
expelled from the lungs  om of the body.  As we  are  going to  see, this 

tract includes  segments of the  ref>l'iratory and digestive tracts and the 
physiology  of  speaking  is  therefore  intimately  linked  to  the 

,  W. em  arguably  speak  about speech  organs  for:rning  a  SYS!l::m,  though, 
teclmically speaking, di!f=orgaos ofspeech are actually part ofdifferent syste!llJl 
in our body. As pointed out above, ·nom: of these  organs perti:>tms a vital function as 
Ii
It spee"" organ.  irs main function  rniher mat per:funned !lS  part of  the  other, 
truly vital system. 
Ii
-., 
35 
-


••


physiologyoftherespectivevitalprocesses.The.!unll!! i!l!e pairorgans,
situated inside the thomcic cavity (the chest). They are farmed of
three,  respectivelytwo spongylobes (the leftlungis smallerbecause

ofthevicinityof theheartwithinthethoraciccavity).Thecapacityof
the lungs (that is the totat amoWlf ofair thatthey canconlainis:,of
about 4500-5000 cm
3
(4.5-5 litres) in an adult person, the capacity
-'
beirigglillerally slightlysuperiorinthe caseofmale persons.The so-

,  . 
J
calledvital capacity (that is the mrucima1  amount ofairthat can be
exchanged with. the environment during breathing is ofabout 3500-
4000 em'.In otherwords,we cannevercompletelyempty ourlungs
ofair  during expiration. During nonnal breathing, however, only
about 10-15% orthevitalcapacityisused, thatis thequa:nJity ofair 
"I 
that isexchangedamoWlfstoabout400-500em'.Theactofspeaking
requiresa greaterrespirato;:yeffortandconsequentlytheamountof air
increases to up  to 30-80% ofthe vital  capacity (30-40% during
-
expiration and 45-80% during inspiration). VariatiollS are due to
different position ofthe body, to the quality, quantity and intensity
(lowlm:ss).<>f-thesoundswe art1<:wm.Breathingisacomplexprocess
...
'J 
thatessentiallyconsistsilltlle exchaogeofairbetween ourbodyand
th.e environment. Itleads to the oxygenation ofourbody  and  to the
-
;1
II 
expnlsion of the carbon dioxide resulting from the processes of
combustionwithin ourbody. It isbasicallyachievedbythesuccessive
eAl'anding and compressing ofthe  volume ofthetwo lungs, lhe air 
.... 
beirig sucked in  andpushed outrespectively. This n..oppeDS because 
the thoracic caVity itselfmodifies its volUlllC, a complex system of 
•.,
bones' (the ribs), :muscles ,(of which the mmlt important are the

intercostal ones, that eoordinate the movements ofthe ribs, llhd the . 
..
diaphragm, that reprcsellts the floor of the tharacic cavity) and 

membranes'(pleurae).bcinginvolvedin theprocess.Th.e  entireprocess
is controlledbytherespiratorycentresinthebrain.
.-
3
:1
Fromea.chof thelungs abroncJiial tube starts.Atoneend,the
ramifications ofthese tl1bes spread inside the spongy mass ofthe
-
;1
3 TheIIelVOUSsyslllm(and!hebr<riD, primarily)also playanIlSSIllIlial roloin!he .
process ofsouMarticulation:Thedescriptionof the wayin wbicil1hebrainconlrols1he
speech. u"""""ismdoesnotlie,howeY«,within the scopeoffuis (seealsop.42) .
·1 
36 
pulmonic lobes. They are called bronchioles and their role is to
distribute and  collectthe airinto andfrom theinnermost of
the lungs, These exchanges are made at the level ofsmall air sacs
called 'alveoli and  represent the ultiina:te ramifications of the
bronchioles.At theotherend,thetwobronchialtubesarejoinedatthe
basisof thetrachea, ortheWindpipe.
TIle Windpipe bas .a  tubular cartilaginous 5lructure (its
components area numberofcartilages:heldtogetherbyJ:lleIIIl:irdJl(lUS
tissue)md isabout10emlongaiul emio diwnelrc. Its e1asti.city
and thepositionof the larynx canresultio importantvariationsio the
actual length ofthe organ. The"latteris anessential segment ofthe
.respiratory system but does not play an active role in speech
production. .
All we continueourjourneywecome anotherorganthat
hasacrncialroleintheprocessofsPc:8k.ing: thelaryrlX. Thelatterisa
c.artil.aginouspyramidalOIg-dllcharacterizedbya rcmmkablestructural
complexityandsituatedat thetopof thetrachea.As allspeechorgans,
itprimarily performsavitalrole,namelyitactsasavalvethatcloses, 
thns  blocking the entrance to the windpipe and preventing food or 
drink from enteringtherespi:rntory ducts while we are eating4TImy 
areinlltead directed downthepharynxandtheesophagus. Thelarynx 
ist1!c firstspeechorganproperalongthetractthat  wearefollowing, 
as it    with the outgoing st:ream  of air  (which, so far, has 
followed way :rather unirnpededly) and·establishes some ofthe 
essentialfeaturesofthesoundsthatweprodUCe.However,itil; notthe 
larynx proper (that is the organ inits eIitircty) that perfOl1llS this 
imporbmtrole withinthespeechmeC:ha:!lirun. buttwomuscularfulds 
iuside it, called the vocal cords. As mentioned above, the larynx
consists ofa number ofcartilaginous· b1riIctures that illtlc"l"act ill an
ingeniOllswayenablingthclarynxtopcifu1DJ itsimportantrespiratory
and  articulatory functions. Thethyroid'cartilageismadeoftwo  (left
and right) rectangular fiat pJates that faIm· an angle anteriorly,
resemblingthecoversofa bookthat isnotentirelyopen. Theaperture
< A complex system ofvlllves similarly prevents air frOID entering our
digwtive tube during inspiration,
37
of the angle, oriented posteriorly, varies with the sex..  It is a right angle 
in men  (90°)  while  in women  it  is. 120°.  The  angle  is more  visible, 
because  more  acute,  in  the  farmer  sitnation  and  the  cartilage  is 
popularly  known  as  "Adam's  applc".  Posteriorly,  each of the plates 
bas twa  hams (an inferior and a  superior  one)  called: cornua, thTOl,lgll 
which the thyroid cartilage is COlll1ected with the ericoid one. The joint. 
that the two  cartilages  fonn,  resembling a  sort of hioges,  allows the 
cricoid  one  to  move· anteriorly  and  posteriorly  with· respect  to  the 
. .
thyroid one, 1frug controlling the degree of tension in the vocal  cords. 
One  of the  main  functions  of the thyroid  cartilage  is  to protect the 
larynx and particularly the vocal cords.  The cricoid cartilage is  made 
of a ring-shaped  structure,  situated  Ill1teriorly  and  of a  blade  situated 
posteriorly  and  represents  the  base  of  the  larynx,  controlling 
co=unication with the trachea.  On top  of its  blade,  on the left and 
right  side  respectively,  another  pair  of cartilages  are  situated:  the 
arytenoid  ones.  The last· important  cartilage  in" the  process  of 
phcmation  or speech  production  is  the epiglottis  which  is  a  spoon-
shaped"cartilage  also  playing  an  important  role  in keeping  the  fOod 
away :from the respiratory tract.  It is  between the arytenoid cartilages 
and the  thyroid  cartilage .that  the  two  vocal  cord. mentioned above 
stretch.  The mcal cords  are  each made of a  so-called vocal  ligament 
and a vocal muscle.  They are  covered  in mucous  membranes  or "kin 
folds also klIDwn as the vocal folds. They connect the lowl'J: part oHhe 
thyroid  caitiJage  to  the anterior  part  of the  arytenoid  cartilages"  The" 
opening  between the  folds  and the  arytenoid  eartilages" represents the 
glottal  aperture,  more  co=only called the glottis.  The  length  ofthe 
vocal folds  varies with the age and the sex. They become  at the 
age  of puberty  and  are  longer  in men  (24-26  =) than  in w"Omen 
(17-20 mm). During"breathing , the two folds part, letting the air come 
into  the  larynx or go  aut. During phan;mon they come closer, having 
an important role  in establishing some of the main  chm:acteristics  of 
the  sounds  we  articulate.  By the  pretty  complex  action of adjacent 
anatomical  strUctures  (the cartilages described above and a number of 
laryngeal  muscles)  the two vocal  cord"  ean  be  brought  together  or 
parted.  They  thus  interfere  to  various  extents  with  the  outgoing 

 
I
airstream.  They Clll1 obstruct the passage completely, as in the  case of 
the  so-called  glottal stop  (see  below,  when a  detailed  description  of 
consonants  is  given),  or their participation in the  uttering of a  given 
I
sound  can be mjnjmal  (as  in the  case  of trumy  hissing  The 
rapid and  intenni:tten:t opening and  closing  of the vocal  cords,  which 
results in the vibration ofthe tWo  orgdllS, plays a key role in aile ofthe  ]
most important phonetic processes, that of voicing.  Thus,  vowels and 
vowel-like  sounds,  as  well  as  a  number  of consonants,  are  produced 
with  the vib,,!tiori  of  fue  cords  and  are  consequently  v('Jiced.  The ]
absence  of vibration in the vocal cords  is  characteristic  for voiceless 
obstruents.  (More details  about the process me given  the following 
Chapter). The amplitude ofthe vibration is also essential for the degree 
I
ofloudness of the voice: thns the intensity of the sound that is uttered 
depends  On  the pressore of the air that is !""P"lled. The rate at which 
the vocal cords .vibrate has also  importabt consequences  as  far as  the 
I
pitch of the  voice  is  concerned;  this  is  closely linked to the preSsure 
exerted  On  the vocal  cards.  When" we  'produce  acute  (high-pitched  or 
shrill))  sounds the vocal cords come closer to each other, while duting 
I
the  articulation of grave  sounds" the  vocal  cords  leave  a  greater space 
between them.  (Further details will be given below, when tbe acoustic 
characteristics ofsounds are  discussed.) 
I
The Jlext stop on our way along the vocal  tract is the pharynx, 
an organ  siruated  at  a kind of cros.<:rooos  along the  above-mentioned 
tract.  It doesn't  play  a