sounds

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ING507 Linguistics
The Nature of Language
LECTURE 4: THE SOUNDS OF LANGUAGE
The sounds of language
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you
On hiccough, thorough, lough and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word,
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead –
For goodness sake don’t call it “deed”!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
T. S.W. quoted in Mackay (1970)
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The sounds of language (cont’d)

The sounds of spoken English do not match up with the letters of
written English (i.e. there is no one sound - one symbol principle).

If we cannot use the letters of the alphabet in a consistent way to
represent the sounds we produce, how can we describe the sounds
of a language like English?

One solution is to produce a separate alphabet with symbols that
represent sounds. Such a set of symbols does exist and is called the
phonetic alphabet.

We will look at how these symbols are used to represent both the
consonant and vowel sounds of English words.
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Phonetics

Phonetics is defined as the study of the characteristics of speech
sounds. It provides methods for their description, classification
and transcription.

Our main interest will be in articulatory phonetics, which is the
study of how speech sounds are made, or articulated.

Other areas of study are acoustic phonetics, which deals with
the physical properties of speech as sound waves in the air, and
auditory phonetics (or perceptual phonetics) which deals with
the perception, via the ear, of speech sounds.
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Voiced and voiceless sounds

Speech sounds are produced using the fairly complex oral
equipment that humans have.

We start with the air pushed out by the lungs up through the trachea
(or windpipe) to the larynx. Inside the larynx are your vocal folds (or
vocal cords), which take two basic positions.

When the vocal folds are spread apart, the air from the lungs passes
between them unimpeded. Sounds produced in this way are described
as voiceless.

When the vocal folds are drawn together, the air from the lungs
repeatedly pushes them apart as it passes through, creating a
vibration effect. Sounds produced in this way are voiced.
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How to make speech sounds?
s
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Voiced and voiceless sounds
(cont’d)

The distinction can be felt physically if you:
(i)
place a fingertip on top of your Adam’s apple (i.e. the part of your
larynx you can feel in your neck below your chin)
(ii)
then produce sounds such as Z-Z-Z-Z or V-V-V-V. Since these are
voiced sounds, you should be able to feel some vibration.
(iii)
Keeping your fingertip in the same position, now make the sounds
S-S-S-S or F-F-F-F. Because these are voiceless sounds, there should
be no vibration.
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Place of articulation

Most consonant sounds are produced by using the tongue and
other parts of the mouth to constrict the shape of the oral cavity
through which the air is passing.

The terms used to describe many sounds are those which denote
the place of articulation of the sound: that is, the
location inside the mouth at which the constriction
takes place.

If you crack a head right down the middle, you will
be able to see which parts of the oral cavity are
crucially involved in speech production.
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Place of articulation (cont’d):
Consonants

We begin using the symbols of the phonetic alphabet for specific
sounds. These symbols will be within square brackets [ ].

Bilabial sounds: These are sounds produced using both upper and
lower lips. The initial sounds in the words pan, ban and man are all
bilabials.


pan [p] - ___________

ban [b] - ___________

man [m] - ___________
Are there any other sounds that are bilabial in English?
___________________________________.
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Place of articulation (cont’d)


Labiodental sounds: These are sounds made with the upper teeth
and the lower lip. The initial sounds of the words fan and van and
the final sounds in the words safe and save are labiodentals.

fan [f] - ____________

van [v] - ____________

Note that the final sound in the word cough, and the initial sound in
photo, despite the spelling differences, are both pronounced as [f].
Interdental sounds: These sounds are formed with the tongue tip
between the teeth. The first sound of thin and the last sound of bath
are both interdentals. The initial sounds of the and thus are interdent.

thin [θ] - ____________

bath [θ]
/
the [ð] - ___________
thus [ð]
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Place of articulation (cont’d)

Alveolar sounds: These are sounds made with the front part of the
tongue touching the alveolar ridge, which is the rough, bony ridge
behind and above the upper teeth.

The initial sounds in tip, dip, sip, zip and nut are all alveolars.


tip [t] - ______________ / dip [d] - _______________ / ride [r] - _________

sip [s] - ______________ / zip [z] - ________________

nut [n] - _____________ / lip [l] - ________________
Alveo-palatal (palatal) sounds: Sounds produced with the tongue
and the palate (i.e. the roof of mouth) are called alveo-palatals.

shout [ʃ] - ______________ / treasure [ʒ] - _________ / yes [j] - _________

child [ʧ] - ______________ / joke [ʤ] - _____________
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Place of articulation (cont’d)


Velar sounds: Sounds produced with the back of the tongue
against the velum (i.e. soft palate) are called velars. The initial
sounds in kid and car, go and gun, and the final sound in sing are
velar.

go [g] - ______________ / car [k] - _______________

sing [ŋ] - ______________ / tongue [ŋ] - _____________
Glottal sounds: The glottis (the space between vocal folds) is open.
No active use of the tongue and other parts of the mouth

house [h] - ______________ / who [h] - _______________
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English consonant chart

Having described in some detail the place of articulation of English
consonant sounds, we can summarize the basic information in the
chart.
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Manner of articulation

We can describe the sounds in terms of how they are articulated.
Such a description is necessary if we want to be able to distinguish
between the sounds that we have placed in the same category.

[d] and [z] are both voiced alveolar sounds. How do they differ?


They differ in the manner they are pronounced.
Stops: These sounds are produced by “stopping” the air stream very
briefly then letting it go abruptly. The sounds [p], [b], [t], [d], [k], [g]
are all stop sounds.

dime [d] – voiced alveolar stop

pet [p] - ______________________
/
gun [g] - ______________________
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Manner of articulation (cont’d)


Fricatives: These sounds are formed by almost blocking the air stream
and having the air push through the very narrow opening. The set of
sounds [f], [v], [θ], [ð], [s], [z], [ʃ], [ʒ] are fricatives.

ship [ʃ] – voiceless, palatal fricative

pleasure [ʒ] - voiced palatal fricative

thank [θ] - ____________________

zebra [z] - _____________________
Affricates: These sounds are made by a brief stopping of the air stream
with an obstructed release which causes some friction. The initial
sounds in chin and jeep.

chin [ʧ]– voiceless, palatal affricate

jeep [ʤ] - voiced palatal affricate
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Manner of articulation (cont’d)


Nasals: These sounds are made by lowering the velum and the air
stream is allowed to flow out through the nose. There are three nasal
sounds in English: [m], [n] and [ŋ]. They are all voiced.

map [m] – voiced bilabial nasal

night [n] – voiced alveolar nasal

thing [ŋ] – voiced vrlar nasal
Liquids: The initial sounds in lead and read are described as liquids.

The [l] sound is called a lateral liquid and is formed by letting the air
stream flow around the sides of the tongue.

The [r] sound is called a ‘retroflex’ and is formed with the tongue tip
raised and curled back near the alveolar ridge.
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Manner of articulation (cont’d)


Glides: These sounds are typically produced with the tongue in
motion (i.e. gliding) to or from the position of a vowel and are
sometimes called semi-vowels. The sounds [w] and [j] are described
as glides. They are both voiced.

we [w] – voiced bilabial glide

yes [j] – voiced palatal glide
Flaps: If you pronounce the word butter as “budder”, then you are
making a flap. It is represented by [D] or sometimes [ɾ]. This sound is
produced by the tongue tip tapping the alveolar ridge briefly.

No differnce between the words ladder and latter.

What are the two ways to pronounce the word bottle?
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Vowels

The consonant sounds are mostly articulated via closure or
obstruction in the vocal tract. Vowel sounds, on the other hand, are
produced with a relatively free flow of air.

Are vowels typically voiced or voiceless? _______________

To describe vowel sounds, we consider the way in which the tongue
influences the shape through which the airflow must pass.

To talk about a place of articulation, we think of the space inside
the mouth as having a front versus a back and a high versus a low
area.
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Vowels (cont’d)
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j
Vowels: how do you articulate
these sounds?

seat / beat

sit / bit

set / bet

sat / bat

soot / boot

book / put

sort / port

walk / talk

listen / subtle
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Vowels (cont’d)

seat / beat [i] – high, front vowel

sit / bit
[ɪ] – high front vowel

set / bet
[ɛ] – mid front vowel

sat / bat
[æ] – low front vowel

soot / boot [u] – high back vowel

book / put [ʊ] – high back vowel

sort / port
[ɔ] – mid back vowel

walk / talk
[ɑ] – low back vowel

listen / subtle [ə] – mid central vowel
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Vowels: diphthongs

In addition to single vowel sounds, we produce sounds that consist
of a combination of two vowel sounds, known as diphthongs.

When we produce diphthongs, our vocal organs move from one
position [a] to another [ɪ] as we produce the sound [aɪ], as in hi or
bye. The movement in this diphthong is from low towards high front.

We can use movement from low towards high back, combining [a]
and [ʊ] to produce the sound [aʊ], as in cow and bow.
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Vowels: diphthongs (cont’d)
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
While the vowels [e], [a] and [o] are used as single sounds in other
languages, and in some other varieties of English, they are only typically
used as the first sounds of diphthongs in American English.

my / pie – [aɪ]

cow / how – [aʊ]

late / say – [eɪ]
_____________________________________

throw / crow – [oʊ]
High

coy / toy – [ɔɪ]
Front
Mid
Central
Back
I
ʊ
e
o
ɔ
Low
a
Vowels: diphthongs (cont’d)

How to articulate these diphthongs?

buy / I / sigh

bough / doubt

bait / eight / great

boat / explode

boy / noise
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