A. VOWEL : Vowels and the Characteristics of Vowel Sounds əʊ i a e ɔ: u æ o
Definitions of Vowels: “Vowel is a speech sound in which the mouth is open and the tongue is not touching the top of the mouth, the teeth, etc”. (Oxford Learner’s Dictionary).• “Vowel is a speech sound produced by humans when the breath flows out through the mouth without being blocked by the teeth, tongue, or lips”. (Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary).
Vowels are described by the IPA using the three dimensions of: Closeness / Height Frontness Rounding
1. Closeness /Height The closeness category refers to the position of the mandible (open or close); while the height of a vowel refers to the vertical position of the tongue towards the palatal area (low or high). Based on the „closeness‟, there are five variations use to define vowels, such as: open, open-mid, mid, close-mid, and close. Based on the „height‟, there are also five variations use to define vowels. They are: high, mid-high, mid, mid-low, and low.(Instead of using the height category, the vowel sounds in thisdiscussion will be described based on the closeness category).
OPEN Open vowels use a depressedposition of the mandible with a low position of the tongue. Try to pronounce: [ɑ:], [ɒ]
OPEN-MID Open-mid vowels use a partiallydepressed position of the mandible with the tongue position being located half way between the palatal area and the floor of the mouth. Try to pronounce: [e], [ʌ], [ɔ:], [ɜ:]
MID Mid vowel is use a middle position of the mandible with the tongue beinglocated in central position of the palatal area and the floor of the mouth. Try to pronounce: [ə]
CLOSE-MID Closed-mid vowels use a closed mandible position with a tongue position that is locatedhalf way between the palatal area and the floor of the mouth. Try to pronounce diphthongs: [ei], [əʊ]
CLOSE Close vowels use a closed mandible position and a high tongue position. Thetongue actually resting on the alveolar ridge. Try to pronounce: [i:], [i], [u:]
In addition, we will see on vowel chart, several vowels are not clearly defined using the closeness labels. In order to provide clear and descriptive labels for all vowels, phoneticians have agreed on the use of the terms “near-open” and “near-close” to describe the additional vowels. Thus, the closeness description labels will be: open, near-open, open-mid, mid, close- mid, near-close, and close.
2. Frontness Frontness refers to the horizontal position of the tongue in relation to the front or back of the mouth. Generally, the three variations of frontness are front, central, and back.
FRONTThe front vowels are produced by theplacement of the tongue tip in variouspositions from the upper incisors (thefront cutting teeth) to the lower ones. Try to pronounce: [i:], [i], [e], [æ]
CENTRALThe central vowel is produced when the tongue is resting in a neutral position in the oral cavity. Try to pronounce: [ə], [ɜ:]
BACKBack vowels are produced when theback part of the tongue is moved up or down in the velar area. Try to pronounce: [ʌ], [ɑ: ], [ɒ], [ɔ:], [u:]
Similar with the closeness dimensions, several vowels which are not clearly defined using the particular labels (in this case, the frontness labels), will use the terms “near-front” and “near- back” on the chart to describe the additional vowels. Thus, the frontness description labels will be: Front, near-front, central, near-back, and back.
3. Rounding Rounding refers to the position of the lips during the production of the vowel. Thetwo lip positions are rounded and unrounded.
ROUNDED Rounded vowels produced in the rounded position require the lips to be open and protruded to some degree. Try to pronounce: [ɒ], [ɔ:], [u:], [ʊ]Note: /ɒ/ is also used as an alteration by some speakers whose speech is characterized by little or no lip rounding.
UNROUNDEDUnrounded vowels produced in the unrounded position require the lips to be spread and the corners of the mouth retracted to varying degrees. Try to pronounce: [i:], [i], [ɪ], [æ], [e], [ɑ:], [ʌ], [ɜ:], [ə]
Oxford University has established the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as the standard pronunciation of General English. Based on the establishment, some particular symbols and phonetic features in the IPA chart are changed, such as:a. The tense vowels (the vowels require tension in production and are long in duration), followed by length mark ( ː ), or frequently written by colon ( : ).b. The variation of close front unrounded vowel /i/ is added for the pronunciation of particular words (usually used to transcribe the /i/ in the final position of word).c. The symbol of open-mid front unrounded vowel /ℇ/ is changed into /e/. Thus, the English vowels chart will be shown as follow:
Position of the tongue in relation to the parts of the mouth (front – back)Position of (High) the mandible(Open - Close) Shape of the lips OR during the production Vertical of the soundposition ofthe tongue towardsthe palatal area (High – Low) (Low) Chart of The English Vowel Phonetic Symbols based on the English Oxford Dictionary (OED)
The Explanation of Vowels Presentation Format: Similar with consonants, for the purposes of clarity and consistency of the parameters of vowel sounds, generally, it can be determined sequentially based on the three aspects of vowels: ◦ Describe the sound based on the closeness or height; ◦ Describe the sound based on the frontness; and ◦ Describe the sound based on the rounding .Thus, to make a sound parameter of /u:/ for example, we candescribe it as follow: “/u:/ is a close (high) back rounded sound”.
More Descriptions:Vowels: Closeness: Frontness: Rounding: [i:] close front unrounded [i] close front unrounded [ɪ] near-close near-front unrounded [æ] near-open front unrounded [e] open-mid front unrounded [ɑ:] open back unrounded [ʌ] open-mid back unrounded [ɔ:] open-mid back rounded [ɒ] open back rounded [ɜ:] open-mid central unrounded [ə] mid central unrounded [u:] close back rounded [ʊ] near-close near-back rounded
The Phonetic Transcriptions of the English Vowels in Words: PhoneticVowels: Words: Transcriptions: [i:] see /si:/ [i] any /eni/ [ɪ] sit /sɪt/ [æ] hat /hæt/ [e] ten /ten/ [ɑ:] arm /ɑ:(r)m/ [ʌ] cup /kʌp/ [ɔ:] saw /sɔ:/ [ɒ] got /gɒt/ [ɜ:] fur /fɜ:(r)/ [ə] ago /ə‟gəʊ/ [u:] too /tu:/ [ʊ] put /pʊt/
B. DIPHTHONGS :Diphthongs and the Characteristics ofDiphthongs aɪ eə ɪə əʊ eɪ ɔɪ aʊ ʊə
What is a diphthong? “Diphthong is a vowel sound in which the tongue changes position to produce the sound of two vowels”. (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary)• “Diphthong is a single sound produced when two vowels (one dominant in duration and stress, and one reduced in duration and stress), are paired together in a sequence”. (Linda I. House: Introductory Phonetics and
Diphthongs are not included on the IPA charts because they are the result of the pairing two pure vowels. There are eight diphthongs commonly used in English: /eɪ/, /aɪ/, /əʊ/, /aʊ/, /ɔɪ/, /ɪə/, /eə/, and /ʊə/.
It is important to note that the close combination of the two vowels causes each of the vowels to lose its pure quality. For instance, the /ɪ/ in [aɪ] is quite different from the /ɪ/ in [ɪt]. In phonological patterns, diphthongs are labeled using a single “V” (not “VV”) because they act as one sound. Although diphthongs are considered as the combination of two vowels, never put “colon” ( : ) when combine and transcribe them in phonetic symbols.
Because diphthongs are composed of vowels, they are also described using the parameters of closeness (height), frontness, and rounding. The parameters are listed using vowel closeness (height), frontness, and rounding of the first vowel and then followed by the second vowel.Thus, to make a sound parameter of /eɪ/ for example, wecan describe it as:“/eɪ/ is an open-mid, front, unrounded vowel movingto near-close, near-front, unrounded vowel ”.
MoreDescriptions: The First Vowels: The Second Vowels:Diphthongs : Closenes Frontness: Rounding: Closeness: Frontness: Rounding: s: [eɪ] unrounde unrounde open-mid front near-close near-front d d [aɪ] unrounde unrounde open back near-close near-front d d [əʊ] mid central unrounde near-close near-back rounded d [aʊ] unrounde open back near-close near-back rounded d [ɔɪ] unrounde open-mid back rounded near-close near-front d [ɪə] near- unrounde unrounde near-front mid central close d d [eə] unrounde unrounde open-mid front mid central d d [ʊə] near- unrounde near-back rounded mid central close d
The Phonetic Transcriptions of the English Diphthongs inWords: Phonetic Diphthongs: Words: Transcriptions: [eɪ] pay /peɪ/ [aɪ] five /faɪv/ [əʊ] home /həʊm/ [aʊ] now /naʊ/ [ɔɪ] join /dʒɔɪn/ [ɪə] near /nɪə(r)/ [eə] hair /heə(r)/ [ʊə] pure /pjʊə(r)/