Friday, March 6, 2020

Phonetics

Consonants
Consonants are produced as air from the lungs is pushed through the glottis (the opening between the vocal cords) and out the mouth. They are classified according to voicing, aspiration, nasal/oral sounds, places of articulation and manners of articulation. Voicing is whether the vocal folds vibrate or not. The sound /s/ is called voiceless because there is no vibration, and the sound /z/ is called voiced because the vocal folds do vibrate (you can feel on your neck if there is vibration.) Only three sounds in English have aspiration, the sounds /b/, /p/ and /t/. An extra puff of air is pushed out when these sounds begin a word or stressed syllable. Hold a piece of paper close to your mouth when saying the words pin and spin. You should notice extra air when you say pin. Aspiration is indicated in writing with a superscript h, as in /pʰ/. Nasal sounds are produced when the velum (the soft palate located in the back of the roof of the mouth) is lowered and air is passed through the nose and mouth. Oral sounds are produced when the velum is raised and air passes only through the mouth.

Places of Articulation
Bilabial: lips together
Labiodental: lower lip against front teeth
Interdental: tongue between teeth
Alveolar: tongue near alveolar ridge on roof of mouth (in between teeth
and hard palate)
Postalveolar: tongue towards soft palate
Palatal: tongue on hard palate
Velar: tongue near velum
Glottal: space between vocal folds

The following sound is not found in the English language, although it is common in languages such as French and Arabic:
Uvular: raise back of tongue to uvula (the appendage hanging down from the velum)

Manners of Articulation
Stop: obstruct airstream completely
Fricative: partial obstruction with friction
Affricate: stop airstream, then release
Approximants: partial obstruction, no friction, similar to vowels

You should practice saying the sounds of the English alphabet to see if you can identify the places of articulation in the mouth. The sounds are described by voicing, place, and then manner of articulation, so the sound /j/ would be called a voiced palatal glide and the sound /s/ would be called a voiceless alveolar fricative.

 BilabialLabiodentalInterdentalAlveolarPostalveolarPalatalVelarGlottal
Stop / Plosive

p
b

  

t
d

  

k
g

 
Nasal (stop)

m

  

n

  

ŋ

 
Fricative 

f
v

θ
ð

s
z

ʃ
ʒ

  

h

Affricate    


   
Approximant

ʍ
w

   ɹ 

j

ʍ
w

 
Lateral Approximant   

l

    

For rows that have two consonants, the top consonant is voiceless and the bottom consonant is voiced. Nasal stops are all voiced, as are liquids. The sound /j/ is also voiced. If sounds are in two places on the chart, that means they can be pronounced either way.

Vowels
Vowels are produced by a continuous airstream and all are voiced (at least in English - Japanese does have voiceless vowels, however). They are classified according to height of the tongue, part of tongue involved, and position of the lips. The tongue can be high, mid, or low; and the part of the tongue used can be front, central or back. Only four vowels are produced with rounded lips and only four vowels are considered tense instead of lax. The sound /a/ would be written as a low back lax unrounded vowel. Many languages also have vowels called diphthongs, a sequence of two sounds, vowel + glide. Examples in English include oy in boy and ow in cow. In addition, vowels can be nasalized when they occur before nasal consonants. A diacritic mark [~] is placed over the vowel to show this. The vowel sounds in bee and bean are considered different because the sound in bean is nasalized.

  Part of Tongue
  FrontCentralBack
Tongue
Height
High / Close

i
ɪ

 

u
ʊ

Close-Mid
Open-Mid

e
ɛ

ə
ʌ

o
ɔ

Low / Open

æ

 

a

The bold vowels are tense, and the italic vowels are rounded. English also includes the diphthongs: [aj] as in bite, [aw] as in cow, and [oj] as in boy. These diphthongs can also be transcribed as [aɪ], [aʊ], and [ɔɪ].

For a full IPA chart with integrated sound, please visit this International Phonetic Alphabet site. If you're looking for a way to type IPA symbols online, please visit ipa.typeit.org

Major Classes of Sounds (Distinctive Features)
All of the classes of sounds described above can be put into more general classes that include the patterning of sounds in the world's languages. Continuant sounds indicate a continuous airflow, while non-continuant sounds indicate total obstruction of the airstream. Obstruent sounds do not allow air to escape through the nose, while sonorant sounds have a relatively free airflow through the mouth or nose. The following table summarizes this information:

 ObstruentSonorant
Continuantfricativesliquids, glides, vowels
Non-Continuantoral stops, affricatesnasal stops

Major Class Features
[+ Consonantal] consonants
[- Consonantal] vowels

[+Sonorant] nasals, liquids, glides, vowels
[- Sonorant] stops, fricatives, affricates (obstruents)

[+ Approximant] glides [j, w]
[- Approximant] everything else

Voice Features
[+ Voice] voiced
[- Voice] voiceless

[+ Spread Glottis] aspirated [pʰ, tʰ, kʰ]
[- Spread Glottis] unaspirated

[+ Constricted Glottis] ejectives, implosives
[- Constricted Glottis] everything else

Manner Features
[+ Continuant] fricatives [f, v, s, z, š, ž, θ, ð]
[- Continuant] stops [p, b, t, d, k, g, ʔ]

[+ Nasal] nasal consonants [m, n, ŋ]
[- Nasal] all oral consonants

[+ Lateral] [l]
[- Lateral] [r]

[+ Delayed Release] affricates [č, ǰ]
[- Delayed Release] stops [p, b, t, d, k, g, ʔ]

[+ Strident] “noisy” fricatives [f, v, s, z, š, ž]
[- Strident] [?, ð, h]

Place Features
[Labial] involves lips [f, v, p, b, w]

[Coronal] alveolar ridge to palate [θ, ð, s, z, t, d, š, ž, n, r, l]
[+ Anterior] interdentals and true alveolars
[- Anterior] retroflex and palatals [š, ž, č, ǰ, j]

[Dorsal] from velum back [k, g, ŋ]

[Glottal] in larynx [h, ʔ]

Vowels
Height [± high] [± low]
Backness [± back]
Lip Rounding [± round]
Tenseness [± tense]

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