Unit 2 The sounds of English

Unit 2 The sounds of English
What are the major defining features that
natural languages possess?
Major contents
Linguistics and its branches
Vowels and consonants
Phones, phonemes, and allophones
Phonological rules
English syllables
Stress, tone, and intonation
3.1 Linguistics and its branches
In 1916, Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in
General Linguistics was published, which
marked the beginning of modern linguistics.
 written language
 prescriptive
Modern linguistics
spoken language
Branches of linguistics
Core branches:
phonetics, phonology,
Peripheral branches (hyphenated ones) :
neurolinguistics, etc.
applied linguistics:
language testing, stylistics, discourse analysis,
text linguistics, computation linguistics, etc.
Phonetics vs. phonology
The study of sounds used in speech (i.e. speech
sounds) falls under the scope of both phonetics
and phonology.
Phonetics deals mainly with the characteristics
of human speech sounds and sound-making,
provides methods for the description,
classification, and transcription of the speech
Phonology is concerned with the exploration of
the patterns governing sound combinations.
Branches of phonetics
a. articulatory phonetics, which studies
speech organs and how speech sounds are
made (articulated) by the vocal organs.
[our major concern]
b. acoustic phonetics, which studies the
physical properties of speech sounds.
c. auditory phonetics, which studies the
perception of speech sounds.
3.2 vowels and consonants
In pronouncing consonants, the
airstream from the lungs through the
mouth is totally or partially obstructed
somewhere along the path.
 In pronouncing vowels, the airstream
is not obstructed anywhere along the
a. Functionally, vowels are the basis
of syllables.
b. Physically, vowels are musical.
c. Articulatorily, for vowels, airstream
is not obstructed, and speech organs
are tense.
P. 38 No. 1
Classification of English vowels
i) the height of tongue raising(high, mid, low)
ii) the position of the highest part of the
tongue(front, central, back)
iii) the degree of lip-rounding (rounded, unrounded)
iv) long or short
v) tense or lax
P. 28 Figure 2.2
Vowel description
/i:/: high, front, unrounded, long, tense
/i/: high, front, unrounded, short, lax
/α:/: low, back, unrounded, long, tense
/c:/: mid, back, rounded, long, tense
//: mid, central, unrounded, lax
/:/: mid, central, unrounded, long, tense
Practice: Describe the sound /u:/and /æ/.
/u:/ : high, back, rounded, tense, long
/æ/: low, front, unrounded, lax
Classifying English consonants
i) manner of articulation(degree of
obstruction: complete, partial or a
mere narrowing)
ii) place f articulation(the parts of vocal
tongue involved in the production)
P. 29 Table 2.2
3.3 Phones, phonemes, and allophones
Phonology is the study of sound patterns of
language( i.e. how sounds are arranged to form
meaningful units) and the function of each sound.
It reveals what are the possible combinations of
sounds in a language and explains why certain
words take the form they do.
Phone 音素
phone: the smallest perceptible discrete
segment of sound in a stream of speech
i) phonetic unit
ii) not distinctive of meaning
iii) physical as heard or produced
iv) marked with [ ]
Phoneme 音位
the minimal unit in the sound system of a
language. With phonemes, we establish the
patterns of organization within the infinitely
large number of sounds. Each language can be
shown to operate with a relatively small
number of phonemes (15-80). No two
languages have the same phonemic system.
Phoneme 音位
i) phonological unit
ii) distinctive of meaning
iii) abstract, not physical
iv) marked with / /.
Discuss: P. 33 No. 1
Three requirements for identifying minimal pairs:
1) different in meaning;
2) only one phoneme different;
3) the different phonemes occur in the same
phonetic environment.
Minimal set: pat, mat, bat, fat, cat, hat, etc.
Allophone 音位变体
allophone: phonic variants/realizations of a
 A phoneme is realized as allophone 1+allophone
e.g. /p/=[ ph ] + [ p ] + [ p¬ ] (unreleased)
/l/ = [ l ] + [ ł ]
PP. 33-34
No. 2
No. 4
3.4 Phonological rules
Phonological patterning is rule-governed. [blik]
and [kilb], though not found in English, can be
possible combinations, while [kbil] or [lkib]
cannot. Sequential rules are those that account
for the combination of sounds in a particular
language. They are language-specific, as in the
following cases:
* [tlait] [iltrit]
Sequential rule
If three consonants should cluster together at
the beginning of a word, the combination
should follow the order/sequence below:
a. The first phoneme must be /s/
b. The second phoneme must be /p/, /t/ or /k/
c. The third phoneme must be /l/, /r/, or /w/.
spring, string, squirrel, split, screen
Consonant clusters in English at the
initial position:
Ex. split, spring, strike, sphragistics, squeal
Question: What about the consonant cluster in
the final position?
Assimilation rule
A sound may change by assimilating/copying a
feature of a sequential/neighboring sound, e.g.
impossible, irresistible, illegal [in-]
PP. 34-35 No. 5
Question: What other examples?
sink /since
pan cake
sun glasses
five past seven
has to
Deletion rule
A sound may be deleted even though it may be
orthographically represented.
P. 35 No. 7
3.5 English Syllables
3.6 Stress, tone, and intonation
Segmental phonology
Suprasegmental phonology
Suprasegmental phonemes:
stress, tone and intonation
Word stress/sentence stress
 Primary stress/secondary stress
 Stress of compounds:
‵blackbird / black ‵bird;
‵greenhouse / green ‵ house
 Sentence stress
Depending on the relative importance of the
words; contrastive stress
Mark the stress pattern for the following
two sentences:
a. Jane is a good student that everybody
b. You use “the”, not “a”, before the name of
a musical instrument.
Tone (声调)
Different rates of vibration produce
different frequencies, which are termed as
different pitches. Pitch variations are
distinctive of meaning.
In some languages like Chinese, pitch
variations are called tones. Languages
using tones are tone languages.
When pitch, stress and length variations are
tied to the sentence, they combine to
become known as intonation.
Three major types of English intonation:
 a. falling tone/tune
 b. rising tone/tune
 c. fall-rise tone/tune
Read the following paragraph, using the
right intonation.
Do you know how much college students sleep a night?
Research finds that they sleep an average of six to seven
hours a night. Last month, the University of Michigan
held a national conference on sleep, stress, depression
and college students. It was concluded that sleep
deprivation can hurt academic performance and increase
 Find
(or even invent) a story
or joke created on phonetic
 P. 39 No. 3,4
 P. 40 No. 7

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