PHONETICS The study of the sound system of all languages is called phonetics.

For words to have meanings, they must be made up of different sounds so that they are distinctive. English, for instance, depending on the variety to which it belongs is made up of 40 contrastive sounds, while only 26 alphabet letters exist to represent the sounds of English language. To have one symbol representing one distinct sound, the International Phonetic Alphabet was developed. How is speech produced? Most speech sounds are formed when air passes through the larynx past the vocal folds.

This sound is modified in the nose, throat and oral cavity to produce the distinctive sounds of all the languages. All of the sounds of English are produced through this process called the pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism. However, some languages like Kpelle, spoken in Liberia, have sounds made through the intake of air, which is modified as the air goes through the mouth, a process

called the ingressive airstream mechanism. suck in air as you release your lips and make a [b] sound. Press your lips together as if you were going to make the [b] sound. They are produced by three mechanisms:  Voicing-the vibration of the vocal folds  Manner of articulation-modification of the airstream as it travels through the larynx and mouth  Place of articulation-the movement of articulators where the main modification of the airstream takes place Voicing When air rushes out of the lungs and pushes past the closed glottis. This is different from the egressive [b]. [k] and [g]. This distinctive vibration is known as voicing. This [b] is the first sound in the Kpelle word banan (camp kitchen). but instead of sending air out of your mouth. the vocal folds vibrate. There are many other sets of sounds that only differ by this feature of vibration. These sets of sounds are known as minimal pairs. Examples of minimal pairs include [t] and [d]. [s] and [z]. It is one of the three features humans use to distinguish the sounds of their languages. . The consonants Consonants are sounds made by obstructing the airstream in differing ways after it leaves the lungs. the folds open and shut rapidly causing a vibration. except that for [z]. For instance. the sound [s] is made in exactly the same way as the sound [z].

It can occur in American English expressions in non-word expressions such as: Uh-oh Uh-uh Uh-huh Whoops No Yes You can also say these words with your lips closed in which case the sound that comes out approximates: M?m Mhm The glottal stop occurs in varieties of Cockney English where it systematically replaces the [t] sound in words like bottle [bo?l]. Airstream may be allowed to flow without obstruction by any articulators as it travels out of the larynx It may be partially or completely obstructed at different places in the mouth and throat. When these sounds occur at the end of a syllable or word. like in the word step. which is not in a paired set occurs only in some varieties of English. Stops or Plosives Stops or plosives occur when. they are unaspirated. . for the words tight and kite. meaning that the puff of air associated with aspirated sounds is greatly reduced. A little puff of air explodes from the mouth when the consonant is released. English speakers use three sets of consonants made in three places in the mouth [p] and [b] are made with the lips closing completely to block the air which is then released [t] and [d] which are produced when the tongue blocks the air from escaping at the alveolar ridge [k] and [g] are produced when the back of the tongue rises to close off the air at the back of the mouth. The articulators are:  Lips-labials  Teeth-dental or interdental  Alveolar ridge-raised part of the mouth above the teeth  Palate-top of mouth  Velum-the extreme back of the roof of the mouth For instance. and the back of the tongue is raised towards the back of the mouth for the word kite Manner of articulation The third aspect of making a consonant is how the airstream is blocked and released in the vocal cavity. the only difference in pronunciation is that the front of the tongue is touching the alveolar ridge when the word begins.Place of articulation A second descriptor of consonants is to note which articulator. in combination with the tongue. Another stop. like in the word pepper. the air cavity is completely blocked for a short time before it is released. Variations in stop sounds Aspiration occurs whenever [p] or another voiceless stop are the first sound in a word or syllable. It is called the glottal stop. is used to modify the airstream to produce a particular consonant. in the production of a consonant.

that is the [d] ending. If the root ends in [t]. the word walk ([k] being an unvoiced sound) gets the voiceless [t]. For instance. but it is not normal English pronunciation. mistake and [z] as in zip.Switch the normal pronunciation of the words pat and stop. Slight changes in tongue position can also make a noticeable difference in the pronunciation of stops. roam-roamED For a root word that ends in an unvoiced sound. with the movement of air generally causing a hissing or rushing sound. Latin American Spanish speakers block the airstream at the teeth and not the alveolar ridge. It is the final sound in the root word. For instance. when making the [t] and [d] sounds. Example. When the velum is lowered. which determines the ending the word will take in the past tense.    If the root ends in a voiced sound (the vocal folds vibrate). the air coming up from the lungs escapes through the nasal cavity instead of through the mouth . It is possible to aspirate the final stop in [p]. English has pairs of voiced and unvoiced fricatives at several places of articulation: Labiodental fricative Interdental fricative Voiced alveolar ridge [f] [v] [ ] theta as in ‘though’ [ ] eth as in thought. Example. buzzard. Fricative consonants are formed by bringing two articulators close together and forcing the air through the remaining space. [s] as in sip. The sounds created when the air passes over the velum and out through the nose are called nasal sounds. Try finding out the endings for the following: Xerox Fedex Sob Count load Oral and nasal stops At the very back of the mouth is the velum. elect-elect[Id]. ring Fricatives Fricatives are another manner of articulation. zoo . Stops and the past tense in English Past tense endings in English are produced systematically. This is one of the many differences that contributes to their accents when speaking another language such as English. trucks. Example. the [t] suffix is used. record-record[Id]. English has three nasal stops: [m]---voiced bilabial stop [n]----voiced alveolar stop [ng]---sing. then the suffix that gets added will also be voiced. then a vowel [Id] is used to make it easier to say. which is moveable. The same is done for root words ending in [d].

[h]. they can stand alone. as in hot is unvoiced. These sounds are produced with little or no obstruction of the airstream: Glides Liquids Vowels Written English has only six vowel letters. Labiodental. measure. alveolar. Vowels differ from consonants in that the airstream is never blocked or even seriously constricted by the articulators. palatal. thus making these sounds a combination of a stop and fricative: [ʈʃ] church [dʒ] judge Liquids and Glides The final two categories for English manner of articulation are the liquids and glides. genre The final point of articulation to create fricative sounds is the glottis. Airstream passes without obstruction or modification through the glottis and out of the mouth. glottal Affricates A third manner of articulation is created when the airstream is stopped for a very brief instant at the palate and then forced through a narrow space. middle or back spread. Unlike most consonants. Classification of vowels Vowels are classified by some basic features:    Tongue height Part of the tongue being raised Shape of lips high. [ʃ] ship [ʒ] pleasure. . leisure. interdental. but it actually has 11 or mor vowel sounds that are commonly pronounced by speakers of varieties of English across the world. The fricative.Two sounds are produced with the tongue raised towards the centre of the palate which differ only by voicing. and duration the vowel is held. both voiced [w] wet [l] let [r] red palatal [j] yellow (both are voiced) Other descriptors can include tenseness and laxness depending on the muscular tension used to produce them. mid or low in the mouth tip. neutral or round bilabial alveolar.

For example. Vowel symbol examples: Diphthongs Three very common vowel sounds in English are known as the diphthongs.The vowel chart The vowel chart is made to roughly approximate the shape of the tongue with the tip of the tongue represented at the left side of the chart. They are a combination of two sounds (a vowel + glide) resulting in a single unit: [aw] [aj] [ɔj] flout I toy cow fly toil cloud wide moist Vowel length In English. vowel length is not a contrastive feature. the double or single iteration of a vowel changes the meaning: Tapaan sinut puistossa Tapan sinut pusitossa I will meet you in the park I will kill you in the park . in Finnish.

Aspects include: Length. intonation. Intonation. stress Length Difference in vowel length can depend on how different vowels are articulated. in English long and short consonants within words are not differentiated. tone. consonants. Vowel length can change meanings: Hawaiian Kau to place Kāu to belong to you Kala to forgive Kāla money Ka lā the sun In English. While in Japanese. if you were to pronounce beat the same as bead. syllable. Sometimes two segments may differ in how long they are held while everything else remains the same. the pronunciation could sound strange but the meaning would remain the same. word. which combine to produce syllable. length distinctions exist for both consonant and vowels. syllable structure. stress . Lowe vowels (mouth open wide) and high vowels (little movement needed) take less time to articulate.Vowel duration bit/beet bet/bait food/foot Suprasegmentals Aspects of speech that influence stretches of sound longer than a single segment are known as suprasegmentals. Segments are vowels. sentence.







For instance. pat-bat Changing [p] and [b] within these words results in a change of meaning. By contrast. For instance. but it has worked quite well in English. For example. Further. Similarly. Whereas. it follows an established sound pattern as seen in the third example. Individual languages are analyzed to determine which sound units are used and which patterns they form-the language’s sound system. par-bar. [i] and [e] are important sounds in English they help to distinguish between pin and pen. Phonemes are transcribed not within square brackets but within forward slashes /p/. and thus no one pronounces sounds in exactly the same way as anyone else. This approach has its limitations as it can be difficult to find pairs of words. For example. much of this variation is discounted by us as we interact with fellow speakers. consider the following: Ngfri Rkba fring tark firing bark Although the second word has no established meaning in English. There are 44 important (distinguishable) sound units in English. A simple methodology to demonstrate this. Ngfri or Rkba is not a recognized pattern in the English language. phonology studies the way in which speakers of a language systematically use a selection of these sounds in order to express meaning. and see whether a different meaning resulted. some languages such as Rotokas in Pacific Islands use only 11. we soon come across sounds that do not change the meaning. which is the minimal pairs test. no two speakers have anatomically identical vocal tracts. Identifying phonemes Certain sounds cause changes in the meaning of a word or phrase. replace one sound by another. but in fact they have . whereas other sounds do not. /b/. there may be much variation in sounds produced by speakers of the same language.’ They seem the same. English has 44. tin and ten.Phonology The aim of phonology is to discover the principles that govern the way sounds are organized in languages. Xu in southern Africa has 141. consider: Pan-ban. On the other hand. consider the consonants at the beginning of ‘shoe’ and ‘she. While acoustically. etc Identifying allophones When we try to work out the inventory of phonemes in a language using this approach. phonetics is the study of all possible speech sounds. when we make substitutions. The human vocal apparatus can produce a wide range of sounds. Considerable variation exists also in the sounds produced by a single speaker. is to take a word. but only a small number of these are used in a language as units to construct all of its words and sentences. Therefore. The difference between phonetics and phonology can be seen from another point of view. These units are called phonemes. and to explain the variations that occur. it has the possibility of gaining meaning. /t/.

and pulmonic egressive. These phonetic variants of a phoneme are known as allophones. Vowels (V) are now defiend as units which can occur on their own. [p] is unvoiced and bilabial so we note it as [-voice] and [-nasal] Identifying syllables In a phonological approach. Examples of plural allomorphs include the difference between ‘pots’ and ‘taxes. in order to explain how sets of sounds are related. or structural. There is no word in English beginning with shtr. These meanings can be either lexical.very different sound qualities. They differ only in that /p// is voiceless and /b/ is voiced. In English. Typical sequences in the English language are CV see. which we can represent as/f/. we can combine /s+t+r/ to produce words such as string. both are allophones of the single phoneme /l/. but it turns up in two different phonetic shapes or variant forms. Syllables are seen as combinations of vowels and consonants. e. For shoe. the lips are rounded. we focus on the way sounds combine in a language to produce typical sequences. using the articulatory criteria. these are pronunciation changing rather than meaning changing differences. oral. the lips are spread. for example. An allomorph is a different phonological version of a morpheme. There is only one phoneme here. for she. plosive. or which appear at the centre of a sequence of sounds. as well as manner (plosive vs fricative) and place of articulation. in that they provide information. /p/ and /b/ are both bilabial. If we now change substitute one of these sounds for the other. Consonants (C ) are units which cannot occur on their own or which appear at the edge of a sequence. because of the influence of the following [u] vowel. The allomorph is a bound morpheme that only occurs in order to modify a stem word. CVC hat. Identifying distinctive features We need to recognize smaller units than the individual phoneme. For instance. has three morphemes: in-toler-ant. /p/ and /z/ differ in voicing. An example of this is the break in unbreakable. such as plurality or time. in the two words. There are several types of morpheme. This commonly occurs when the letters performing the same function. English can have as many as three consonants before a vowel. ‘Toler’ is the root stem indicating the ability to endure or embrace something. Not all combinations of consonant and vowel can occur in a language.’ The studying of allomorphs is part of the studying of morphology in linguistics. A morpheme is a basic unit of representing meaning in a language. Intolerant. We can use the – and + signs to indicate the absence and presence of distinctive features in these phonemes. we do not get a change of meaning-only a rather strange sounding pronunciation.g Hawaiian). strip but we cannot put together /f/ with /t/ and /r/. All three elements of intolerant are lexical morphemes. morphemes such as ‘toler’ in tolerant are bound morphemes because they cannot exist unless modified by other morphemes. Some languages use only V or CV syllables (e. Simply. CCVC stop and CVCC pots. This occurs when the surface detail of the morpheme is different. On the other hand. but the deeper meaning remains the same. CCCVC strap and sprig. Free morphemes can exist as a word in their own right.g [n] is voiced and nasal so we note it as [+voiced] and [+nasal]. . The ‘in’ morpheme means that there is no tolerance and the ‘ant’ at the end indicates someone who is intolerant. Although the first ‘l’ is pronounced much further forward in the mouth than the second ‘l’. /p/ and /g/ differ in voicing and being bilabial vs velar. produce a different sound or use different letters. Consider leaf and pool. strum. We can see this by comparing any two contrasting phonemes in English.

.must be a vowel. If you knew all the speech sounds present in a language you still wouldn't be able to make words without knowing the phonotactic constraints operating in that language. both of which are from Latin. The regular past tense allomorph is ‘-ed. defines what sound combinations may and may not occur in a language. or plosive + sonorant b.) Phonological rules can also be used to describe sound alternations that regularly occur in connected speech.’ Like with the plurals. The alternation between [p] and [f] is historical and not productive in the language. The first is a phonetic [-ed]. no liquid.’ ‘dogs’ and ‘taxes’ when spoken aloud.) Phonological rules can be used to describe historical change (change of [p] to [f] in Germanic). The rules state the environment in which one sound or class of sounds changes into another. knowing the natural classes of sounds helps in describing the complementary environments of allophones of the same phoneme. For example. Irregular morphemes are also allomorphs. And they might be quite different than the phonological processes that occurred in the language's history (e. The ‘es’ of taxes. 1. Here are some phonotactic constraints of English: a.’ There is a difference in sound between ‘wanted. These rules are shorthand notations for various sound relationships. b. (Sometimes a historical change can be underway in the present [∑] to [w] for example. Bill's pack.difference in sound of the ‘s’ in ‘pots.) Word/syllable final: no [h] c. Jacques.’ This can occur through the merger of dialects. called a phonotactic constraint. . Phonotactic rules could be called phonetic syntax. or rules of sound change.’ ‘fired’ and ‘dashed. A regular allomorph can have different sounds. silly name. For example the sound at the end of /sing/ occurs only in syllable-final position.) Word/syllable initial: no [N]. a. the alternation between [p] and [ph] is productive and occurs as a regular part of speech. Thinking in terms of phonetic features also facilitates the writing of phonological rules.) Another type of phonological rule. the second [d] and the third [t]. but father --> Bill's father. pater --> father. And understanding phonetic features and natural classes helps one to write out various types of pholological rules.and of vowel nasalization in English--silly. 2. only specific types of clusters: s + voiceless plosive + liquid. This means the irregular plural found in ‘sheep’ and ‘fish’ are also allomorphs of ‘s. historical ones. yellow mask).) Word/syllable medial-.g. For instance. The ‘s’ in ‘pots’ sounds like a phonetic [-s]. as the regressive voicing assimilation rule in Russian. Phonological notation can describe both types of sound changes--the productive. can be replaced with another. and the nonproductive. In language studies. whether written or pronounced. John's towel-. etc.’ It can also occur when loan words are imported from another language such as with the difference between datum and data. sometimes a change that happened in history can still be productive in a language. not *Bill's pather). contemporary ones. each variation has a different sound while appearing to be the same on paper. with the ‘e’ used to separate the ‘x’ and ‘s. sheep will be the plural of sheep and will not be replaced with sheeps or sheepen.’ is a phonetic [<<="" p=""> Dative morphemes used with verbs can also become allomorphs. [h] can only occur in syllable initial position. Each allomorph is fixed in position. towel. Zhanna."). while the ‘s’ in ‘dogs’ is more of a phonetic [-z]. Another phonotactic constraint prevents [Z] from occurring at the beginning or at the end of native English words (this rule might be changing under the influence of borrowed foreign names such as "Zsa-Zsa.’ Phonological rule writing Patterns of interaction between speech sounds in a language can be described formally by writing phonological rules. This means that one form. Such processes occur every time people speak. which produced ‘children. or s + sonorant. such immovability is called ‘complimentary distribution. (Give an example of the rule of loss of aspiration--pack.

Let's classify these type of changes on phonological grounds. mountain. 2) Segment deletion or addition rules (a whole sound is added or subtracted) French. [charp]. You will recall that in fusional languages. [squill]. Such is also the case with many borrowings from Yiddish that contain consonsant clusters beginning with the sound [sh]: schmooze. although mot could be a word. Often. schmuck. shlep. nuclear. In English we have Tom but no mot. shlok. the morphemes alter their phonetic shape to accommodate the sound of adjacent morphemes. Foreign borrowings often cause changes in phonotactic rules (just like they can lead to the adoption of a new phoneme). Georgian: dzrokhi/rdze. Such foreign borrowings often eventually result in changes in a language's phonotactic rules. [A]. [m]. Adding schwa between sibilants when adding the English plural ending: boxes. Sven and a few other words from Scandinavian languages. As a final example. and tma hair.: autumn. The following word initial clusters have dropped out of English: [kn]. they are potential words--perhaps someone will tomorrow use [charp] to describe the green mutant potato chip found at the bottom of a bag of chips. . b) Dissimilation rules (the feature deleted is present in an adjacent segment) deletion of aspiration after [s]. [xl]. These are examples of a rule randomly applied. athlete/"athalete". Other phonological rules describe the changes that occur in sounds when they are brought together. Lengthening of English consonants before voiced obstruents. For an example of a metathesis rule regularly applied. Due to the influence of the original French. For instance both English and Georgian have the sound segments [t]. a) Assimilation rules (the feature added is present in an adjacent segment) nasalization of English vowels before nasals. but no tom or mot. 3) Metathesis rule reorders the segments that are present: ask/aks. mta or tma. [xr]. Sound combinations that could not possibly be English words might very well be words in another language. These rules may be classified according to the type of phonetic change that occurs. "nucular". 1) Feature deletion or addition rules. autumnal. These are called accidental gaps in the vocabulary of a language. also Eng. notice that the name Schmidt from German entered the language even though it violated the phonotactic rules of English. Every language has its own unique set of phonotactic constraints. see also the example from Hebrew on p 250. gn]. Assimilation and dissimilation may be progressive (velarization of English [l]) or regressive (nasality in English vowels). many people pronounce a final [Z] instead of [dZ] in garage. In Georgian we have mta. Also note the sound combination [sv] in svelte.Phonotactic constraints gradually change through time (just like the number of phonemes changes through time). combinations of sounds that are allowed by the phonotactic rules of a language are not actually used as words: [zib].

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