Questions and practical tasks on the unit

Федеральное государственное бюджетное образовательное учреждение высшего профессионального образования «Новгородский государственный университет имени Ярослава Мудрого»

Теоретическая фонетика

(курс лекций )

Автор-составитель Александрова О.А.

Великий Новгород 2012

Lecture 1

Phonetics as a Branch of Linguistics

The word “phonetics” is derived from the Greek “        “ (fo:ne:) meaning sound, voice. In modern times phoneticsis often defined as “ the science of speech sounds considered as elements of language”.

It should be emphasized that phonetics is not a separate, independent science. It is a branch of linguistics, like the other branches, such as lexicology and grammar. However, phonetics, being a branch of linguistics, occupies a peculiar position. On the one hand, it is quite independent, and develops according to its own laws. Today the sphere of phonetics is wider and deeper than ever before. The objects of phonetic investigation are the following: phonemes and their distribution in words, their mutual adaptation, stress, syllable formation, intonation, the relation between oral and written speech and a number of other problems.

On the other hand, phonetics is closely connected with a number of other sciences, such as physics (or rather acoustics), biology, physiology and others. The more phonetics develops, the more various branches of science become involved in the field of phonetic investigation.

Phonetics is an essential part of language because it gives language a definite form; — the vocabulary and grammar of a language can function only when the language has phonetic form.

Hence, grammar and vocabulary depend on phonetics; they cannot exist outside of phonetics, because all lexical and grammatical phenomena are expressed phonetically. Thus, although phonetics serves as a means of expressing grammatical and lexical phenom­ena, yet it has laws of its own which are independent of grammar and vocabulary. The following examples will illustrate this:

1. Words are expressed in phonetic form, and can be analysed into sounds. One word may differ from another in one sound only, e. g. big [bIg], bag [bxg], bog [bog].

2. The three main forms of the irregular verbs in English, which are the result of a long historical development of the English language, are also expressed in phonetic form, and differ from one another
because of vowel alternations -in the root:

 rise — rose — risen [ai || ou || i]; swim — swam — swum [i || x || A]


Branches of Phonetics

Phonetics is not a new science. It was known to the ancient Greeks and to the ancient Hindus. The scientists of that time were concerned with speech sounds only. Phonetics, as an independent science began to develop in western Europe and in Russia only in the 19th century. There was considerable progress and growth in the 20th century - new concepts sprang up, new theories and new schools came into existence, new methods of investigation were developed.

Some new branches of phonetics also appeared. The most important of these are special phonetics and general pho­netics.

Special phonetics may be subdivided into descriptive phonetics and historical phonetics. Descriptive phonetics is concerned with the study of the phonetic structure of one language only, in its static form, at a particular period, synchronically. Historical pho­netics studies the phonetic structure of a lan­guage in its historical development, diachronically.

General phonetics is based on the extensive material which the special phonetics of a great number of languages provides; it is also based on other sciences, such as physics, biology, psychology, speech pathology, etc. On the one hand, general phonetics is based on the data of special phonetics; on the other hand, general phonetics provides valuable theoretical material which enables us to understand clearly and to interpret correctly the different phonetic phenomena of concrete languages.

Experimental and comparative phonetics are frequently considered to be either branches of phonetics or methods of investigation.

Phonetics has a wide sphere of application. It is used in teaching children to read and write their mother tongue. A knowledge of phonetics is indispensable in teaching and learn­ing foreign languages. Phonetics is also used in teaching deaf-mutes to speak, and, in correcting speech defects, in telephony, in broadcasting, in training actors, teachers, singers, etc.


Phonetics and Phonology

Phonetics must be differentiated from phonology. According to the conceptions of the Prague School, phonetics and phonology are two independent branches of science. Phonetics is a biological science, and is concerned with the physical and physiological char­acteristics of speech sounds. Phonology is a linguistic science and is concerned with the social functions of different phonetic phenom­ena. The term "phonology" is now widely used by lin­guists of many countries and refers to that part of linguistics which makes a study of all phonetic phenomena from the point of view of their social significance. Phonology is a convenient term to indicate that section of pho­netics in which the social functions of speech sounds are discussed.

Traditionally, phonetics has dealt with the positions and activities of the parts of the human body that produce speech sounds, with the transition from one position to another, and with the qualities and direction of the air stream that is emitted when a person speaks. All of these considerations come under the heading of articulatory phonetics. Left out of account are the speaker’s brain, which triggers speech acts, and the listener’s brain, which interprets the vocal message. Ideally, phonetics should begin with the study of the encoding of the speech sounds in human brain, and end with the study of their decoding in the hearer’s brain.

To the phonetician no sound is exotic if it is produced by the human speech apparatus and used for communication. To the non-specialist, however, many of the sounds of other languages seem strange.

Practical or normative phonetics studies substance, the material form of phonetic phenomena in relation to meaning.

Theoretical phonetics is mainly concerned with the functioning of phonetic units in the language.

The phonetic system of English is consisted of the following four components: speech sounds, the syllabic structure of words, word stress,and intonation (prosody).These four components constitute what is called the pronunciationof English.

Phonetics studies the sound system of the language that is segmental units (phonemes, allophones); suprasegmental units (word stress, syllabic structure, rhythmic organization, intonation). Phonetics is closely connected with general linguistics but has its own subject matter (Investigation).
Thus, phonetics is divided into two major components: segmental phonetics, which is concerned with individual sounds (i.e. "segments" of speech), their behavior; and suprasegmental phonetics whose domain is the larger units of connected speech: syllables, words, phrases and texts.

Aspects of Speech Sounds

All speech sounds have 4 aspects (mechanisms):
- Articulatoty – it is the way when the sound-producing mechanism is investigated, that is the way the speech sounds are pronounced
- Acoustic – speech sound is a physical phenomenon. It exists in the form of sound waves, which are pronounced by vibrations of the vocal cords. Thus, each sound is characterized by frequency, certain duration. All these items represent acoustic aspect.
- Auditory –sound perception aspect. The listener hears the sound, percepts its acoustic features and the hearing mechanism selects from the acoustic information only what is linguistically important.

- Functional – every language unit performs a certain function in actual speech. Functional aspect deals with these functions.

1. Like any other sounds, speech sounds are communicated to the air in the form of sound waves. Speech sounds have pitch, intensity, timber. Musical tones and noises may be distinguished among them. Speech sounds can be investigated by the same methods as any other sounds and are subject to the same acoustic laws.

2. Speech sounds may also be considered from the biological point of view as phenomena resulting from the activities of "the speech organs". We now consider them to be a complex system of conditioned reflexes governed by and dependent upon the cortex of the cerebral hemispheres. The ability of man to respond by means of speech is what differentiates him from and makes him superior to any other animal. This sphere of human activity was termed the "second signal system" by Prof. I. P. Pavlov.

3. One should be able to determine in what way or ways speech sound can function as significant sound units or phonemes. In like manner, it is not enough to ascertain the exact acoustic value of intonation or any other phonetic phenomenon; it is also necessary to determine its significant role in the language.


Methods of Investigation

The methods of investigation used in phonetics vary, but there are three principal methods: (1) the direct observation method; (2) the linguistic method; (3) the experimental method.

1. The direct observation method comprises three important modes of phonetic analysis: by ear, by sight and bу muscular sensation. Investigation by means of this method can be effective only if the persons employing it have been specially trained to observe the minutest movements of their own and other people's speech organs, and to distinguish the slightest variations in sound quality.

The muscular sensation is developed by constant and regular practice in articulating various sounds. A trained phonetician should be able to pronounce sounds of a given quality (e. g. an open back unrounded vowel, a trilled [r], a fronted [k], etc.), as well to recognize, by means of his highly developed muscular sensa­tion the exact nature of the articulation of any speech sound that he hears.

2. The aim of the linguistic methodof investigation of any concrete phonetic phenomena is to determine in what way all of these phonetic features are used in a language to convey a certain meaning.
The linguistic method utilizes linguistic analysis in observing the actual facts of language and interpreting their social signifi­cance.

3. The experimental method is based, as a rule, upon the use
of special apparatus or instruments, such as the laryngoscope, the
artificial palate, the kymograph, the magnetic tape recorder, the
oscillograph, the spectrograph.

The artificial palate (Fig. 1) is used to ascertain the exact tongue-palate contacts in articulating sounds. This is one of the simplest techniques used in experimentation. An artificial pal­ate is made specially for each exper­imenter or informant according to the exact shape of the individual hard palate. An artificial palate is used in the following way: its under side is first sprinkled with some fine white powder, — chalk, for instance, then it is carefully fitted into the person's mouth, after which a sound is articulated. During this process some of the powder is licked off at the exact point of the tongue-palate contact. The artificial palate is then removed and examined.

The laryngoscope (Fig. 2) is a small circular mirror that is introduced into the pharynx as far back as possible; at the same time a strong light is directed down the throat so that the interior of the upper part of the larynx and the vocal cords are visible.

The magnetic tape recorder is used for recording speech and sounds and then reproducing the speech and sounds exactly.

The oscillograph (Fig. 3) is used for two purposes: (1) to observe oscillograms (Fig. 4) visually upon a screen, and (2) to obtain automatically recorded oscillograms of sound vibrations of any frequency.

The spectrograph (Fig.5) is an apparatus that is used in pho­netics laboratories for obtaining spectrograms (Fig. 6) of speech sounds, chiefly for the purpose of harmonic analysis. A spectrogram shows all important characteristics of phonemes.

The kymograph (Fig. 7) is an apparatus used for recording speech in the form of kymographic tracings on the basis of which the experimenter can ascertain the quality of various sounds.


In accord with these 4 aspects of speech sounds 4 branches are distinguished, each of them has its own method of investigation:

- Articulatoty phonetics - studies (investigates) sound producing mechanism. Its method consists of observing the way in which the air is set in motion, the movements of the speech organs and the coordination of these movements in the production of single sounds and trains of sounds. It borders with anatomy and physiology and the tools for investigating just what the speech organs do are tools which are used in these fields: direct observation, wherever it is possible, e.g. lip movement, some tongue movement; combined with x-ray photography or x-ray cinematography; observation through mirrors as in the laryngoscopic investigation of vocal cord movement, etc.
- Acoustic phonetics -studies the way in which the air vibrates between the speaker’s mouth and the listener’s ear. Has its basic method – instrumental. Speech sounds are investigated by means of operator called spectrograph. Intonation is investigated by intonograph. Acoustic phonetics comes close to studying physics and the tools used in this field enable the investigator to measure and analyse the movement of the air in the terms of acoustics. This generally means introducing a microphone into the speech chain, converting the air movement into corresponding electrical activity and analyzing the result in terms of frequency of vibration and amplitude of vibration in relation to time. The use of such technical devices as spectrograph, intonograph and other sound analyzing and sound synthesizing machines is generally combined with the method of direct observation.
- Auditory phonetics-the branch of phonetics investigating the hearing process. Its interests lie more in the sensation of hearing, which is brain activity, than in the physiological working of the ear or the nervous activity between the ear and the brain. The means by which we discriminate sounds — quality, sensations of pitch, loudness, length, are relevant here. The methods applied in auditory phonetics are those of experimental psychology: experimenting, usually based on different types of auditory tests,
- Functional phonetics – is also termed phonology. Studies the way in which sound phenomena function in a particular language, how they are utilized in that language and what part they play in manifesting the meaningful distinctions of the language. So this is the branch of phonetics that studies the linguistic function of consonant and vowel sounds, syllabic structure, word accent and prosodic features, such as pitch, stress and tempo. In linguistics, function is usually understood to mean discriminatory function, that is, the role of the various elements of the language in the distinguishing of one sequence of sounds, such as a word or a sequence of words, from another of different meaning. The basic method is commutation or substitution (замены), substituting sounds in different environments.


Lecture 2

The Phoneme Theory


To know how sounds are produced by speech organs is not enough to describe and classify them as language units. When we talk about the sounds of a language, the term "sound" can be reted in two rather different ways. In the first place, we can say that [t] and [d] are two different sounds in English, [t] being fortis (voiceless) and [d] being lenis (voiced). We can illustrate this by showing how they contrast with each other to make a difference of meaning in a large number of pairs, such as tie — die, seat —seed, etc. But on the other hand if we listen carefully to the [t] in let us and compare it with the [t] in let them we can hear that the two sounds are also not the same, the [t] of let us is alveolar, while the [t] of let them is dental. In both examples the sounds differ in one articulatory feature only; in the second case the difference between the sounds has functionally no significance. It is perfectly clear that the sense of "sound" in these two cases is different. To avoid this ambiguity, linguists use two separate terms: “phoneme" is used to mean "sound" in its contrastive sense, and “allophone” is used for sounds which are variants of a phoneme: they usually occur in different positions in the word (i.e. in differ­ent environments) and hence cannot contrast with each other, nor be used to make meaningful distinctions.

As you probably know from the course of general linguistics, the definitions of the phoneme vary greatly.

The truly materialistic view of the phoneme was originated by the Soviet linguist L.V.Shcherba. According to L.V.Shcherba the phoneme may be viewed as a functional, material and ab­stract unit.(1) These three aspects of the phoneme are concentrated in the definition of the phoneme suggested by V.A.Vassilyev: The phoneme is a minimal abstract linguistic unit realized in speech in the form of speech sounds opposable to other pho­nemes of the same language to distinguish the meaning of mor­phemes and words.

(1) «... в живой речи произносится значительно большее, чем мы обыкно­венно думаем, количество разнообразных звуков, которые в каждом данном языке объединяются в сравнительно небольшое число звуковых типов, спо­собных дифференцировать слова и их формы, т.е. служить целям человечес­кого общения. Эти звуковые типы и имеются в виду, когда говорят об от­дельных звуках речи. Мы будем называть их фонемами. Реально произноси­мые различные звуки, являющиеся тем частным, в котором реализуется об­щее (фонема), будем называть оттенками фонем...Чем же определяется это общее? Очевидно, именно общением, которое является основной целью языка, т.е. в конечном счете смыслом: единый смысл заставляет нас даже в более или менее разных звуках узнавать одно и то же. Но и дальше, только такое общее важно для нас в лингвистике, кото­рое дифференцирует данную группу (скажем разные 'а') от другой группы, имеющей другой смысл (например, от союза и', произнесенного громко, шепотом и т.д.). Вот это общее и называется фонемой. Таким образом, каждая фонема определяется прежде всего тем, что отличает ее от других фонем того же языка. Благодаря этому все фонемы каждого данного языка образуют единую систему противоположностей, где каждый член определяется серией различных противоположений как отдельных фонем, так и их групп».


Let us consider the phoneme from the point of view of its three aspects. Firstly, the phoneme is a functional unit. It means that the phoneme distinguishes one morpheme from another, one word from an­other or also one utterance from another.

The opposition of phonemes in the same phonetic environ­ment differentiates the meaning of morphemes and words, e.g. said — says, bath — path, light — like.

Sometimes the opposition of phonemes serves to distinguish the meaning of the whole phrases, e.g. He was heard badly — He was hurt badly. Thus we may say that the phoneme can fulfil the distinctive function.

Secondly, the phoneme is material, real and objective. That means that it is realized in speech of all English-speaking people in the form of speech sounds, its allophones.The sets of speech sounds, that is the allophones belonging to the same phoneme are not identical in their articulatory content though there re­mains some phonetic similarity between them.

As you know the phoneme [d] when not affected by the ar­ticulation of the preceding or following sounds is a plosive, forelingual apical, alveolar, lenis stop. This is how it sounds in isolation or in such words as door, down, darling etc., when it retains its typical articulatory characteristics. In this case the consonant [d] is called the principal allophone. The allophones which do not undergo any distinguishable changes in the chain of speech are called principal. At the same time there are quite predictable chanages in the articulation of allophones that occur under the influence of the neighbouring sounds in different phonetic situations. Such allophones are called subsidiary.

E.g. [d] is slightly palatalized before front vowels and the sonorant [j] e.g. deal, day, did, did you.

[d] is pronounced without any plosion before another stop, e.g. bedtime, badpain, good dog; it is pronounced with the nasal plosion before the nasal sonorants [n] and [m], e.g. sudden, admit, could not, could meet; the plosion is lateral before the lateral sonorant [1], e.g. middle, badly, bad light.

These modifications of the phoneme [d] are quite sufficient to demonstrate the articulatory difference between its allophones, though the list of them could be easily extended. If you consider the production of the allophones of the phoneme above you will find that they possess three articulatory features in common, all of them are forelingual lenis stops.

Allo­phones of each phoneme possess a bundle of distinctive features, that makes this phoneme functionally different from all other phonemes of the language concerned. This functionally relevant bundle of articulatory features is called the invariant of the pho­neme. Neither of the articulatory features that form the invariant of the phoneme can be changed without affecting the meaning.

Consequently, though allophones of the same phoneme pos­sess similar articulatory features they may frequently show con­siderable phonetic differences.

But the speech sounds do not corre­spond exactly to the allophone predicted by this or that phonetic environment. They are modified by phonostylistic, dialectal and individual factors. In fact, no speech sounds are absolutely alike.

The listener may pick up a variety of information about the speaker: about the locality he lives in, regional origin, his social status, age and even emotional state (angry, tired, excited), and much other information. Most of this social infor­
mation comes not from phonemic distinctions, but from phonetic

The relationships between the phoneme and the phone (speech sound) may be illustrated by the following scheme:


phonostylistic variation  

Phoneme              allophone                dialectal variation              phone

individual variation 


Thirdly, allophones of the same phoneme, no matter how different their articulation may be, function as the same linguistic unit. The question arises why phonetically naive native speakers seldom observe differences in the actual articulatory qualities between the allophones of the same phonemes.

The reason is that the phonemes have an important function in the language: they differentiate words like tie and die from each other, and to be able to hear and produce phonemic differences is part of what it means to be a competent speaker of the language. Allophones, on the other hand, have no such function: they usually occur in different positions in the word (i.e. in different environments) and hence cannot be opposed to each other to make meaningful distinctions. Sounds which have similar functions in the language tend to be considered the "same" by the community using that language while those which have dif­ferent functions tend to be classed as "different".

The function of phonemes is to distinguish the meaning of morphemes and words. The native speaker does not notice the difference between the allophones of the same pho­neme because this difference does not distinguish meanings.

In other words, native speakers abstract themselves from the difference between the allophones of the same phoneme because it has no functional value. For example, in the Russian word посадит the stressed vowel [a] is more front than it is in the word посадка. It is even more front in the word ся­дет. But Russian-speaking people do not observe this difference because the three vowel sounds belong to the same phoneme and thus the changes in their qualily do not distinguish the meaning. So we have good grounds to state that the phoneme is an abstractlinguistic unit, it is an abstraction from aclual speech sounds, that is allophonic modifications.


On the one hand, the phoneme is objective real, because it is realized in speech in the material form of speech sounds, its allo­phones. On the other hand, it is an abstract language unit. That is why we can look upon the phoneme as a dialectical unity of the material and abstract aspects. All the allophones of the same phoneme have some articulatory features in common, that is all of them possess the same invariant.


The articulatory features which form the invariant of the pho­neme are called distinctive or relevant. To extract relevant fea­ture of the phoneme we have to oppose it to some other pho­neme in the same phonetic context. For example, the words port and court differ in one consonant only, that is the word port has the initial conso­nant [p], and the word court begins with [k]. Both sounds are oc-clusive and fortis, the only difference being that [p] is labial and [k] is backlingual. Therefore it is possible to say that labial and backlingual articulations are relevant in the system of English consonants.

The articulatory features which do not serve to distinguish meaning are called non-distinctive, irrelevant or redundant; for instance, it is impossible in English to oppose an aspirated [p] to a non-aspirated one in the same phonetic context to distinguish meanings. That is why aspiration is a non-distinctive feature of English consonants.

As it has been mentioned above any change in the invariant of the phoneme affects the meaning. Naturally, anyone who studies a foreign language makes mistakes in the articulation of particular sounds. L.V.Shcherba classifies the pronunciation er­rors as phonologicaland phonetic.

If an allophone of some phoneme is replaced by an allophone of a different phoneme the mistake is called phonological, be­cause the meaning of the word is inevitably affected. It happens when one or more relevant features of the phoneme are not real­ized, e.g.: When the vowel [i:] in the word beat becomes slightly more open, more advanced or is no longer diphthongized the word beat may be perceived as quite a different word bit. It is perfectly clear that this type of mistakes is not admitted in teaching pro­nunciation to any type of language learner.

If an allophone of the phoneme is replaced by another allo­phone of the same phoneme the mistake is called phonetic. It happens when the invariant of the pboneme is not modified and consequently the meaning of the word is not affected, e.g.: When the vowel [i:] is fully long in such a word as sheep, for instance, the quality of it remaining the same, the meaning of the word does not change. Nevertheless language learners are advised not to let phonetic mistakes into their pronunciation. If they do make them the degree of their foreign accent will cer­tainly be an obstacle to the listener's perception.




Most linguists have looked upon the phoneme as one of the basic language units. But not all of them have described it in the same way. The majority of them agree that the phoneme serves to distinguish morphemes and words thus being a functional unit. However, some of them de­fine it in purely "psychological" terms, others prefer physically grounded definitions. Some scholars take into consideration only the abstract aspect of the phoneme, others stick only to its mate­riality. This has divided the various "schools" of phonology. There are four main views of the phoneme: psychological, functional, abstract, and physical.

The "psychological" or "mentalistic"view regards the pho­neme as an ideal "mental image" or a target at which the speaker aims. He deviates from this ideal sound partly because an identical repetition of a sound is next to impossible and partly because of the influence exerted by neighbouring sounds. According to this conception allophones of the phoneme are vary­ing materializations of it. This view was originated by the founder of the phoneme theory, the Russian linguist I.A.Baudauin de Courtenay and something like it appears to have been adopted by E.D.Sapir. The same point of view was shared by other linguists, Alf. Sommerfelt for one, who described phonemes as models which speakers seek to reproduce."

The "psychological", or "mentalistic" view of the phoneme was brought back into favour by generative phonology, and the idea of the phoneme as a "target" has recently been revived, al­beit under different terminology by M.Tatham.

It is definitely not possible to establish such ideal sounds which do not exist in reality. For this reason the American linguist L.Bloomfield and his followers rejected the view and the English phonetician D.Jones, while basically favourable to the view preferred in practice to take a "physical" view. This approach to the phoneme as a clearly idealistic one could not be taken up by Soviet linguists.

The so-called "functional" view regards the phoneme as the minimal sound unit by which meanings may be differentiated (without much regard to actually pronounced speech sounds. Meaning differentiation is taken to be a defining characteristic of phonemes. Thus the absence of palatalization in [l] and palatali­zation of [1] in English do not differentiate meanings, and there­fore [l] and [I] cannot be assigned to different phonemes but both form allophones of the phoneme [1]. The same articulatory features of the Russian [л] and [л’] do differentiate meanings, and hence [л] and [л'] must be assigned to different phonemes in Russian, cf. мел — мель, лог — лёг. According to this conception the phoneme is not a family of sounds, since in every sound only a certain number of the articulatory features, that is those which form the invariant of the phoneme, are involved in the dif­ferentiation of meanings. It is the so-called distinctive features of the sound which make up the phoneme corresponding to it. For example, every sound of the English word ladder includes the phonetic feature of lenisness but this feature is distinctive only in the third sound [d], its absence here would give rise to a different word latter, whereas if any other sound becomes fortis the result is merely a peculiar version of ladder. The distinctiveness of such a feature thus depends on the contrast between it and other pos­sible features belonging to the same set, that is the state of the vocal cords. Thus when the above-mentioned features are distinctive, lenisness contrasts with fortisness. Some approaches have taken these oppositions as the basic elements of phonological structure. The functional approach extracts non-distinctive features from the phonemes thus divorcing the phoneme from actually pronounced speech sounds. This view is shared by many linguists: N.Trubetskoy, R.Jakobson, M.Halle.

The functional view of the phoneme gave rise to a branch of linguistics called "phonology" or "phonemics" which is concerned with relationships between contrasting sounds in a language.

A stronger form of the "functional" approach is advocated the so-called "abstract" view of the phoneme, which regards phonemes as essentially independent of the acoustic and physiological properties associated with them, that is of speech sounds. This view of the phoneme was pioneered by L.Hjelmslev and his associates in the Copenhagen Linguistic Circle, H.J.Uldall and K. Togby.

The views of the phoneme discussed above can be qualified idealistic since all of them regard the phoneme as an abstract conception existing in the mind but not in the reality, that is in human speech, speech sounds being only phonetic manifestationis of these conceptions.

The "physical" view regards the phoneme as a "family" of related sounds satisfying certain conditions, notably:

1. The various members of the "family" must show phonetic
similarity to one another, in other words be related in character.

2. No member of the "family" may occur in the same phonetic
context as any other.

The extreme form of the "physical" conception as propounded by D.Jones and shared by B.Bloch and G.Trager ex­cludes it's all reference to non-articulatory criteria in the grouping of sounds into phonemes. And yet it is not easy to see how sounds could be assigned to the same phoneme on any other grounds that substitution of one sound for the other does not give rise to different words and different meaning. This approach may seem to be vulgarly materialistic since it views the phoneme as a group of articulatorily similar sounds without any regard to its functional and abstract aspects.

Summarizing we may state that the materialistic conception of the phoneme first put forward by L.V.Shcherba may be regarded as the most suitable for the purpose of teaching.


Lecture 4
The classification of English consonant sounds

There are two major classes of sounds traditionally distinguished by phoneticians in any language. They are termed consonants and vowels. The distinction is based mainly on auditory effect. Consonants are known to have voice and noise combined, while vowels are sounds consisting of voice only. From the articulatory point of view the difference is due to the work of speech organs. In case of vowels no obstruction is made. In case of consonants various obstructions are made. So consonants are characterized by so-called close articulation that is by a complete, partial or intermittent blockage of the air-passage by an organ or organs. The closure is formed in such a way that the air-stream is blocked or hindered or otherwise gives rise to audible friction. As a result consonants are sounds which have noise as their indispensable and most defining characteristic.

On the articulatory level, each consonant may be identified by stating two general facts about it:

1) what sort of articulatory posture it is formed by;
2) whereabout in the mouth (or pharynx) it is produced.
Besides these major characteristics the particular quality of a consonant may depend on a lot of other factors, that is by what articulatory organ (or organs) an obstruction is made, how vocal cords work at the moment of production, what cavity is used as a resonator, what is the force of articulatory effect and many others.
According to V.A.Vassilyev, primary importance should be given to the type of obstruction and the manner of production of noise. On this ground, he distinguishes two large classes of consonants:
a) occlusive, in the production of which a complete obstruction is formed;
b) constrictive, in the production of which an incomplete obstruction is formed.
The phonological relevance of this feature could be exampled in the following oppositions:
[ti:] – [si:] – tea – sea (occlusive – constructive)
[si:d] – [si:z] – seed – seas (occlusive – constructive)
[pul] – [ful] – pull – full (occlusive – constructive)
[bзut] – [vзut] – boat – vote (occlusive – constructive)
Each of two classes is subdivided into noise consonants and sonorants. The division is based on the factor of prevailing either noise or tone component in the auditory characteristic of a sound. In their turn noise consonants are divided into plosive consonants (or stops) and affricates.

Another point of is that the first and basic principle of classification should be the degree noise. Such consideration leads to dividing English consonants into two general kinds:
A — noise consonants

B — sonorants

in production of sonorants the air passage between the two organs of speech is fairly wide, that is much wider than in the production of noise consonants. As a result, the auditory effect is tone, not noise - [r], [j], [w], for example. They are also characterized by sharply defined formant structure and the total energy of most of them is very high.

The phonological relevance of the degree of noise could be proved by the following oppositions:

[beik] — [meik] bake — make (noise consonant — sonorant)
[vi:l – [wi:l] veal — wheel (noise consonant — sonorant)

Lecture 5

The place of articulation is determined by the active organ of speech against the point of articulation. According to this principle the English consonants are classed into:
1) labial,
2) lingual,
3) glottal.
The class of labial consonants is subdivided into: a) bilabial; b) labio-dental; and among the class of lingual consonants, three subclasses are distinguished; they are: a) forelingual, b) mediolngual and c) backlingual.

[pæn] — [tæn] pan — tan (bilabial - forelingual)
[wai] - [lai] why — lie (bilabial — forelingual)
[weil] - [jeil] weil — yale (bilabial - mediolingual)
[pik] - [kik] pick — kick (bilabial - backlingual)
[les] — [jes] less — yes (forelingual .— mediolingual)
[dei] — [gei] day — gay (forelingual — backlingual)
[sai] - [hai] sigh — high (forelingual — glottal)
[fi:t] - [si:t] feet — seat (labio-dental — forelingual)

Also, American phoneticians specifically distinguish consonants made in dental, interdental, alveolar, palatal, alveopalatal, velar, uvular, pharyngeal, glottal positions.
Another sound property is voiced — voiceless characteristic which depends on the work of the vocal cords. [p, b], [t, d], [k, g], [s, z], [f, v], [∫, ],''[t∫, d ]. All voiced consonants are weak (lenis) and all voiceless consonants are strong (fortis).
Thus it may be said that the oppositions [p — b], [t — d], [k — g], [f — v], [s — z], [∫— ],       [t∫ — d ] are primarily based on energy difference, that is on fortis — lenis articulation, which are their phonologically relevant features. It is for this reason that such characteristics as voiceless — voiced have given place to "fortis" — "lenis" terms.
There is one more articulatory characteristic which is usually included into the set of principles, on the basis of which the English consonants are classified, that is the position of the soft palate. According to this principle, consonants can be oral and nasal. There are relatively few consonantal types in English, which require the lowered position of the soft palate. They are the nasal occlusive sonorants [m], [n] and[ŋ]. They differ from oral plosives in that the soft palate is lowered allowing the escape of air into the nasal cavity.

Fricatives. Fricatives are consonants produced with a continuous airflow through the mouth. English has voiceless and voiced labiodental fricatives at the beginning of the words fat and vat, interdental fricatives heard word initially in words thin and those, alveolar fricatives in sing and zip, and a voiceless alveopalatal fricative in ship. The voiced alveopalatal is rare in English; it is in words like azure, pleasure, and rouge. The voiceless glottal fricative of English is heard in words hotel, hat.
Affricates.When a stop articulation is released, the tongue moves rapidly away from the point of articulation. Some noncontinuant consonants show a slow release of the closure; these sounds are called affricates. English has two affricates. They are hears word initially in church and jump.

Questions and practical tasks on the unit

1. What are the distinguishing features of the consonant sounds from the vowel sounds

     according to their articulation? 

2. What is the relevance of the terms lenis and fortis when speaking about the 

     classification of consonants?

3.What are two general facts and other minor factors to be stated in identifying

consonants and their quality on the articulatory level?

4. What is the V.A. Vasilyev’s classification of consonants according to the type of

     obstruction and the manner of production of noise; and the subdivisions of each of  

these classes? Give examples.

5. What is the role of degree of noise in classifying consonants?

Exemplify your statements.

6. Explain the classification of consonants according to active speech organs against

the point of articulation? Exemplify your statements.

7. What is principle of oral and nasal classification of consonants? List the examples.

8. How many controversial ideas are there about the number of affricates in the English  language? What are they?


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