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Phonetics and Phonology: Consonants
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Phonetics and Phonology: Consonants

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Comprehensive Exams notes for Phonetics and Phonology (Part 1) on Speech Production and Consonants.

Comprehensive Exams notes for Phonetics and Phonology (Part 1) on Speech Production and Consonants.

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  • 1. Chapter 1: Speech productions and ConsonantsPhonetics and phonology are inextricably intertwined, but the two have a fundamentally differentmeaning. Phonetics is the study of the human speech sound per se. It studies the how to of theproduction, and can be very pedagogically meaningful. Phonology, on the other hand, is the study ofmental organization of the sounds in the brain of native speakers. Phonology deals with the abstractside of speech sound and is language specific, but it can also refer to a general umbrella term to refer tothe study of sound system of a particular language.Phonetics is subdivided into three distinct studies: 1. Articulatory phonetics: the study of how sounds are articulated in the human organs. For example, in phonetics we deal with where the sounds are produced (place of articulation), how they are produced (manner of articulation), how the state of the glottis is (vocal folds vibrating or not), and the state of the velum (raised or lowered). 2. Acoustics phonetics: the study of the physical properties of a sound as transmitted through the air. In acoustic phonetics, we study intensity of the sound, frequency, length, and the like. 3. Auditory phonetics: the study of how sounds are perceived in the human brain, therefore auditory has a bit of connection with phonology.Speech sound is produced by modifying airstream from the initiators. Airstream mechanism is a termthat refers to the method by which apassage of air is modified to produce speech sounds throughcertain initiators. There are three different initiators: the lungs (Pulmonic), glottis (Glotallic), and tongue(Velaric). There are also two possible ways that these three initiators modify the airstream: Ingressive(inhaling the air into the initiator) and Egressive (exhaling the hair from the initiator). Combining the twodifferent terms, we can arrive at six possible airstream mechanisms: 1. Pulmonic Egressive: is a type of airstream mechanism where the air is pushed by the ribs and diaphragm into either the oral cavity or nasal cavity. This is the most common airstream mechanism found in most language in the world. English makes use of this type of airstream mechanism. 2. Pulmonic Ingressive: is a rare type of mechanism whereby the air is inhaled from the mouth into the lungs in the production of speech sounds. 3. GlotallicEgressive: is another rare type of air mechanism where the air column is pushed upward by the glottis. Sounds produced this way are called Ejectives. 4. Glotallic Ingressive: is yet another rare type of air mechanism where the air is rarefied as the glottis moves downward. Sounds produced this way are called Implosives. 5. VelaricEgressive: also a rare type of air mechanism where the air column is pushed out into the mouth by the upward movement of the tongue. Sounds produced this way are also known as spitting. 6. Velaric Ingressive: is an extremely rare type of air mechanism where the air is rarefied by the downward movement of the tongue. Sounds produced this way are called Clicks[ʘ], found in an African Language.
  • 2. In describing any speech sounds phonetically, we could refer them by using four different descriptiveparameters: voicing, place of articulation, manner of articulation, and whether it is nasal or oral sound.Since it is understood that English sounds are pulmonic Egressive (made by pushing the air from thelungs into the oral or nasal cavity, we could leave out the air mechanism as one of the descriptiveparameters). Consonants are produced by involving some degree of constriction in the vocal track, whilevowels are produced with open approximation, where the airflow is freer.1. Voicing / State of glottis:Remember that there can be no speech sounds without modifying the airstream of some sort. There aremany ways in which the air can be modified. The first air modification may occur in larynx. Inside theorgan are vocal folds or vocal cords. The vocal folds may lie open are be wide apart so as to let the airflow through the passage unimpeded, creating avoiceless sound. Or we could have a constant muscularpressure to make a repeated succession of opening and closing these vocal folds, creating a vibrationand thus a voiced sound. One possible variation of air modification is the state in which the vocal foldsare wide apart but there is enough air pressure that sets them vibrating, which in turn produce abreathy voiceas in Behind. Another interesting technique we use with the vocal folds is when they areopen, but one end of them are close enough as to set them vibrating, thus creating a creaky voiceasfound in Hausa / African Language.2. Place of Articulation:This refers to where the sounds are produced or the relationship between the activearticulators (the ones that move, usually the tongue), and the passive articulators (the one thatis still).  Glottal: sounds in which the air is modified by forming a constriction between both vocal folds. In English there are two glottal sounds: [h] and [ʔ], both are voiceless but differ in HOW they are produced.  Bilabials: sounds in which there is a constriction between the upper lip and the lower lip. There are three bilabial sounds in English: [p], [b], and [m], all of which are voiced except the former.  Labio-dentals: sounds in which there is a constriction between the upper teeth and the lower lip such as [f] and [v], where the former is voiceless and the later voiced.  Dentals: sounds in which there is a constriction between the upper teeth and the tip of the tongue, such as: [θ] and [ð], again this is a voiceless and voiced contrast like above.  Alveolars: sounds in which there is a constriction between the tip of blade of the tongue and the roof of the mouth or alveolar ridge. There quite a number of alveolar sounds in English: [t], [s], [d], [n], [ɹ], [l], and [z]. The first two are voiceless, the rest is voiced.
  • 3.  Post-Alveolars: sounds in which there is a constriction between the blade of the tongue and the palato-alveolar such as [ʧ], [ʃ], [Ʒ], and[ʤ].The first two are voiceless, the rest is voiced.  Palatals: sounds in which there is a constriction between the front of the tongue and the hard palate. Only one sound is found in English: [j].  Velars: sounds in which there is a constriction between the back of the tongue and the velum or soft palate, such as: [k], [g], and [ŋ].  Labial-velars: sounds produced by using two different articulators. The first one is the rounded lips, and the second one is the back of the tongue forming a constriction with the velum, one English sound produced this way is [w].3. Manner of Articulation:Manner refers to the degree of constrictions involved in producing the sounds, or how closeboth articulators are to each other. There are three different degrees of constrictions: completeclosure, close approximation, and open approximation. The sounds produced from these threedifferent degrees of constrictions are labeled stops or plosives, fricatives, and approximantsrespectively.  Stops: are sounds that entail a bringing together of two articulators to the point where they are in contact with each other, completely blocking the airflow, then the closure is released quickly causing a sudden outflow of air. There are three known stages in the production of stops:  Closing stage: The two articulators move towards each other.  Closure stage: The two articulators touch each other.  Release stage: The two articulators move away from each other. Interestingly, all stop sounds in English most come in pairs: Bilabial stops: [p] and its voiced counterpart [b] Alveolar stops: [d] and its voice counterpart [t] Velar stops: [g] and its voice counterpart [k] Nasal stops: [m], [n], and [ŋ] Glottal stop: [ʔ] found in many Scottish and Cockney English when pronouncing the middle sound of butter.  Fricatives: are sounds that are formed with a close approximation where two articulators are brought together to the point where they are very close to each other,but not so close that it blocks the airflow. Enough of a gap makes it possible for
  • 4. the air to escape, causing friction. There are quite a handful amount of fricatives found in English: [f], [v], [θ], [ð], [s], [z],[ʃ], [Ʒ], and [h]. Affricates: are sounds that are formed by using a complete closure in the initial stage, but are released slowly as a fricative where friction is produced. The three stages involved in the production of affricates:  Closing stage: the two articulators move towards each other.  Closure stage: the two articulators come in contact with each other.  Release stage: the active articulator does not move away quickly and further apart but quite slowly and are still quite close with the passive articulators, causing friction. Affricates sounds in English include:[ʧ], and [ʤ] Approximants: are sounds with the least radical amount of constriction, where the articulators are close but not too close as to create friction like in fricative. Approximants include: [j], [w], and [ɹ] or all liquids and glides. Glides are vowel-like, and hence have been referred to as semi-vowel. However, phonologically, glides behave like a consonant because they do not form a nucleus in the rhyme section of the syllable. Lateral Approximant: are similar to approximants except that the air escapes not through the central groove of the tongue, but to the sides of the tongue. One sound that can be identified as a lateral approximant is [l] where the blade of the tongue forms a stricture of complete closure (or touches) the alveolar ridge, blocking the air in the central groove, but what counts in the production of the sound is the open approximation between the sides of the tongue and the alveolar ridge, where the air escapes freely. Rhotics: are variant sounds of the same alveolar approximant [ɹ] sound, hence they differ phonetically, but are phonologically similar. There are at least three identifiable rhotic sounds in English:  Alveolar Tap [ɾ] :produced by forming a momentary constriction of complete closure. Taps mostly occur after stops, therefor the sounds is akin to that of alveolar stops. Taps are used mostly by Scots when they utter better, header, etc.  Alveolar Trill [r] :are a series rapid succession of taps where the blade of the tongue vibrates repeatedly against the roof of the mouth, Indonesian speakers use this when they pronounce letterr: kemarin, rasa, ragu.
  • 5.  Alveolar Continuant [ɹ] :is produced by raising the blade of the tongue towards the alveolar ridge, with the sides of the tongue touching molars.4. State of the velum:The state of the velum can attribute a sound whether it is a nasal sound or an oral sound. It isnasal when the velum is lowered, causing the air to escape through the nasal cavity such as:[m], [n], and [ŋ]. All nasal sounds are voiced. Oral sounds, on the other hand, are producedwhen the velum is raised, blocking the nasal cavity and hence escapes through the oral one.Using the four parameter descriptors above, we could thus describe [d] as a voiced, alveolar,stop, and oral sound. Alternatively, [d] may be described as a sound where the air is pushed bythe ribs and diaphragm in the lungs and out into oral cavity because the passage through thenasal cavity is blocked by raising the velum. During its production, the vocal folds are vibratingbecause there is a constant pressure of air that rapidly closes and opens them. Morespecifically, [d] is produced when the tip of the tongue as the active articulator forms a strictureof complete closure with the alveolar ridge in its initial stage, and is quickly released to producea sudden outflow of air.The table below sums up the manner and the place of articulation described so far. Labio- Post- Labial- Bilabial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal dental Alveolar Velar [k],Plosive [t],[d] [ʔ] [p], [b] [g]Nasal [m] [ɱ] [n] [ŋ]Trill / tap [r],[ɾ]Fricative [f], [v] [θ],[ð] [s], [z] [ʃ], [Ʒ] [x] [ʍ] [h]Affricate [ʧ], [ʤ]Approximant [ɹ] [j] [w]Lateral [l]Approximant.
  • 6. Extra notes: 1. Secondary Articulation: Sounds can involve more than two articulators. For example, the sound [l] may be produced with its primary articulators of the tongue and the alveolar ridge, and secondary articulation of the back of the tongue and velum. If the secondary articulator is velum, the process is called velarization as in dark l [ɫ] of the final sound in milk. If the secondary articulator is palatal, the process is known as palatalization and the resulting sound is clear l [lj] as in the initial sound of light. 2. Aspiration: It is a term used to refer to an audible puff of air that is released by a plosive in the initial word or in a stressed syllable. We can say that the bilabial stop in push is aspirated and is transcribed with diacritic [h], while in ship it is unaspirated. 3. Assimilation: Assimilation is a process whereby a sound becomes similar to an adjacent sound. If the sound becomes similar to the sound following it, the process is called regressive assimilation. If the sound is affected by the sound preceding it, it is called progressive assimilation. One example of regressive assimilation is found in the word pamphlet, whereby the bilabial stop [m] becomes labio-dental stop [ɱ] because of the following labio-dental fricative sound [f]. Still another example of regressive assimilation is dental stop [ṉ] which occurs before a dental sound [θ] as in tenth.Questions to be asked: 1. According to the book (Carr, 2009: 13), the continuant [ɹ] is actually post-alveolar, not alveolar. Is this true? 2. In the [Consonant: 3] notes, it says that liquids are produced with open approximation, but glides are not?

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