Introduction to Linguistic (4)
The Sounds of Language
• The general study of the characteristics of speech
sounds is called phonetics.
• It consists of articulatory phonetics, which is the
study of how speech sounds are made or
• Acoustic phonetics, which deals with the physical
properties of speech as sound waves ‘in the air.’
• Auditory or perceptual phonetics, which deals
with the perception, via the ear, of speech
Voiced and Voiceless Sounds (1)
• In articulatory phonetics, we investigate how
speech sounds are produced using the fairly
complex oral equipment we have.
• We start with the air pushed out by the lungs
up through the trachea (the windpipe) to the
• Inside the larynx our vocal cords take two
Voiced and Voiceless Sounds (2)
1. When the vocal cords are spread apart, the
air from the lungs passes between them
unimpeded. Sounds produced in this way are
described as voiceless.
2. When the vocal cords are drawn together,
the air from the lungs repeatedly pushes
them apart as it passes through, creating a
vibration. Sounds produced in this way are
described as voiced.
Place of Articulation (1)
– These are sounds formed
using both lips.
– The initial sounds in the
words pat, bat and mat are
– They are represented by the
symbols [p], which is
voiceless, and [b] and [m],
which are voiced.
– The [w] sound found at the
beginning of way, walk and
world is also a bilabial.
Place of Articulation (2)
– These are sounds formed with the upper teeth and
the lower lip.
– The initial sounds of the words fat and vat and the
final sounds in the words safe and save are
– They are represented by the symbol [f], which is
voiceless, and [v], which is voiced.
– Notice that the final sounds of laugh and cough, and
the initial sound of photo, despite the spelling
differences, are all pronounced [f]
Place of Articulation (3)
– These sounds are formed with the tongue tip behind
the upper front teeth.
– The term ‘interdental’ is sometimes used to describe
a manner of pronunciation with the tongue tip
between the upper and lower teeth.
– The initial sound of thin and the final sound of bath
are both voiceless dentals. The symbol used for this
sound is [T].
– The voiced dental is dental is represented by the
symbol [D] and is found in the pronunciation of the
initial sound of thus and the final sound of bathe.
Place of Articulation (4)
– These are sounds formed with the front part of the tongue on
the alveolar ridge, which is the rough, bony ridge immediately
behind the upper teeth.
– The initial sounds in top, dip, sit, zoo and nut are all alveolars.
The symbols for these sounds are quite easily remembered –
[t], [d], [s], [z], [n].
– Of these, [t] and [s] are voiceless, whereas [d], [z] and [n] are
– Notice also that despite the different spelling of knot and not,
both these words are pronounced with [n] as the initial sound.
– Other alveolars are the [l] sound found at the beginning of
words such as lap and lit, and [r] sound at the beginning of
right, write and rip.
Place of Articulation (5a)
– If you feel back behind the alveolar ridge, you should
find a hard part in the roof of your mouth. This called
– Sounds which are produced with the tongue at the
very front of the palate, near the alveolar ridge, are
– Examples are the initial sounds in the words shoot
and child, which are voiceless. Although there are
two letters in the spelling of ‘sh’ and ‘ch,’ the sounds
are represented by the single phonetic symbols [S]
Place of Articulation (5b)
– One of the voiced alveo-palatal sounds, represented
by the symbol [Z], is not very common in English, but
can be found as the middle consonant sound in
words like treasure and pleasure, or the final sound
– The other voiced alveo-palatal sound is represented
as [D] and is the initial sound in words like joke and
gem. The word judge and the name George both
begin and end with the sound [D], despite the
obvious differences in spelling.
Place of Articulation (6)
– One sound which is produced with the tongue in
the middle of the palate is the [j] sound to be
found at the beginning of words like and you.
Place of Articulation (7a)
– Further back in the roof of the mouth, beyond the hard
palate, you will find a soft area which is called the soft palate,
or the velum. Sounds produced with the back of the tongue
against the velum are called velars.
– There is a voiceless velar sound, represented by the symbol
[k], which occurs not only in kid and kill, but also the initial
sound in car and cold. Despite the variety in spelling, this [k]
sound is both the initial and final sound in the words cook,
kick, and coke.
– The voiced velar sound to be heard at the beginning of words
like go, gun and give is represented by [g]. This is also the
final sound in words like bag, mug and, despite the spelling,
Place of Articulation (7b)
• One other voiced velar is represented by the
symbol [Î]. In English, this sound is normally
written as the two letters ‘ng’.
• So the [Î] sound is at the end of sing, sang
and, despite the spelling, tongue. It will occur
twice in the form ringing.
• Be careful not to be misled by the spelling –
the word bang ends with the [Î] sound only.
There is no [g] sound in this word.
Place of Articulation (8a)
– There are two other sounds which produced without the
active use of the tongue and other parts of the mouth.
– One is the sound [h] which occurs at the beginning of have
and house, and for most speakers, as the first sound in who
and whose. This sound is usually described as a voiceless
– When the glottal is open, as in the production of other
voiceless sounds, but there is no manipulation of their passing
out through the mouth, the sound produced is that
represented by [h].
Place of Articulation (8b)
– When the glottis is closed completely, very briefly, and
then released, the resulting sound is called a glottal stop.
– This sound occurs in many dialects of English, but does not
have a written form in the Roman alphabet. The symbol
used in phonetic transcription [?].
– You can produce this sound if you try to say the words
butter or bottle without pronouncing the -tt- sound in the
– In Britain, this sound is considered to be a characteristic
aspect of Cockney speech, and in the USA, of the speech of
many New Yorkers.
Manner of Articulation (1)
• So far, we have concentrated on describing
consonant sound in terms of where they are
articulated. We can, of course, describe the
same sounds in terms of how they are
• For example, we can say that [t] and [s] are
both voiceless alveolar sounds.
Manner of Articulation (2)
– Of the sounds we have already mentioned, the set
[p], [b], [t], [d], [k], [g], [?] are all produced by
some form of complete ‘stopping’ of the airstream
(very briefly) and then letting it go abruptly.
– For example, a full description of the [t] sound at
the beginning of a word like ten is as a ‘voiceless
alveolar stop’. On occasion, only the manner of
articulation is mentioned, as when it is said that
the word bed, begins and ends with ‘voiced stop.’
Manner of Articulation (3)
– The manner of articulation used in producing the
set of sounds [f], [v], [T], [D], [s], [z], [S], [Z]
involves almost blocking the airstream, and having
the air push through the narrow opening. As the
air is pushed through, a type of friction is
produced and the resulting sounds are called
– For example, a word like fish will begin and end
with ‘voiceless fricatives’. The word those will
begin and end with the ‘voiced fricatives’.
Manner of Articulation (4)
– If you combine a brief stopping of the airstream
with an obstructed release with causes some
friction, you will be able to produce the sounds [T]
– For example, the words cheap and jeep, in the firs
of these, there is a ‘voiceless affricate’ and in the
second a ‘voiced affricate’.
Manner of Articulation (5)
– Most sounds are produced orally, with the velum
raised, preventing airflow entering the nasal
cavity. However, when the velum is lowered and
the airflow is allowed to flow out through the
nose to produce [m], [n] and [Î], the sounds are
described as nasals.
– These three sounds are all voiced. Words like
morning, knitting and name begin and end with
Manner of Articulation (6)
– The initial sounds in the word led and red are
generally described as liquids.
– The [l] sound is formed by letting the airstream
flow around the side of tongue as it makes contact
with the alveolar ridge.
– The [r] sound is formed with the tongue tip raised
and curled back behind alveolar ridge.
Manner of Articulation (7)
– The sounds [w] and [y] are produced very much as
– They are called glides, or ‘semi-vowels’. In
pronunciation, they are usually produced with
tongue moving, or ‘gliding’, to or from a position
associated with a neighboring vowel sound.
– They are both voiced. Glides occurs at the
beginning of wet, we, you and yes.
While the consonant sounds are
mostly articulated via closure or
obstruction in the vocal tract,
vowel sounds are produced with
a relatively free flow air.
To describe vowel sounds, we
consider the way in which the
tongue influences the ‘shape’
through which the airflow must
pass. Because these sounds are
not so easily defined in terms of
place and manner of articulation,
we use labels which serve to
indicate how each vowel sounds
in relation to the others.
• Diphthongs consists of two single vowel
sounds. Note that in each case they begin with
a vowel sound and end with a glide.
• With the majority of single vowel sounds, the
vocal organs remain relatively steady, but in
pronouncing diphthongs, we move from one
vocalic position to another.
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