Phonetics & Phonology of
How & Why We Speak the Way
Dr. Latricia Trites
Fulbright Yilan Project 2008-2009
What is Phonetics?
• Phonetics is the study of speech sounds.
– Articulatory phonetics – how speech sounds are
– Acoustic phonetics – the transmission and
physical properties of speech sounds
– Auditory phonetics – perception of speech
• Phonetic transcriptions – one sound = one
• The descriptions of the sounds we call consonants
are based on the human articulatory system (lungs
to pump air in and out, vocal folds, oral cavity
including tongue and lips, and nasal cavity).
• Consonants are described using 3 characteristics:
– vocal quality (voiced/voiceless)
– point of articulation
– manner of articulation
Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop p b t d k g h ʔ
Fricative f v θ ð s z ʃ ʒ
Affricate ʧ ʤ
Nasal m n ŋ
Glide ʍ w y
• Place of articulation, manner of articulation and
voicing are not useful when trying to describe
• Vowels are all made in the mouth (place), with
little or no air flow constriction (manner) and are
always voiced in English
• So the system that describes vowels does so in
terms 4 characteristics:
– tongue placement
– tongue height
– lip rounding
• /a /ɪ
• / /ɔɪ
• /a /ʊ
Minor (if at all)
• /e /ɪ
• /o /ʊ
Suprasegmentals! What are those?
– High vowels shorter than low vowels
– Voiceless consonants longer than voiced consonants
– Voiceless fricatives longest
– Length is influenced by the surrounding sounds
– Can change meaning in some languages (like Chinese)
– Stressed syllables more prominent than unstressed ones
– Stressed syllables usually contain tense vowels
– Stressed syllables are often longer
– Unstressed syllables reduce vowel
– Rising and falling intonation can change meaning
What is Phonology?
• Phonology is how speech sounds are organized
and affect one another in pronunciation.
• Key terms:
– Phone – sound that is actually heard [ ]
– Phoneme – more theoretical (idea) of a sound / /
– Allophone – nondistinctive realization of the same
• This organization is explained in phonological
Different Types of Phonological
• Overlapping Distribution – different sound in
same environment (ex. /th
ap/ vs. /ph
• Contrastive distribution – changing sound
changes meaning (ex. /mæn/ vs./mɪn/).
• Complementary distribution – sounds in a
language never found in the same phonetic
environment (ex. /th
ap/ vs. /path
• Free variation – two sounds that occur in
overlapping environments but doesn’t change
meaning (ex. /ɪnpʊt/ vs. / ɪmpʊt /).
*Italics indicates sound variant that cannot occur in the English language
• Aspiration Rule: Voiceless stops are aspirated at
the beginning of a stressed syllable.
• Liquid/Glide Devoicing: Liquids/Glides become
voiceless when they follow a voiceless stop,
fricative, or affricate.
• Vowel Lengthening: Vowels are lengthened when
they come before a voiced consonant.
• Flapping: When a /t/ or /d/ is preceded by a vowel
and followed by a vowel, it becomes flapped (ex.
bitter, butter, batter, ladder, letter, beauty,
Common Phonological Rules
• Assimilation – becomes like the neighboring
sound (ex. hippo)
– Palatization (ex. Don’t you, Won’t you)
– r coloring (ex. fur, bird, party) often seen as /ɚ/or/ɝ/
– Nasal coloring
• Dissimilation (ex. fifth, sixth)
• Insertion (ex. dance, strength, hamster)
• Deletion (ex. chocolate, interesting)
Important Information to Remember
1. There are EXCEPTIONS to every rule in
2. English speakers, like all other languages
try to say things as quickly and easily as
3. Every region and dialect will have
variations in speech patterns; however, it
is important to foster correct
pronunciation instead of bad habits.
• Be consistent with one symbol = one sound.
• Remember that “bo po mo fo” is used to teach
Mandarin, not English, because the language is
built on syllables, English is a sound/symbol
language, not built on syllables.
• Help students understand how sounds are made.
• Help students learn to sound out words instead of
just listen and repeat.
• Be aware of common mistakes based on first
language that students tend to make: dropping
final consonants, confusing /l/ and /r/, inserting /ә/,
pronouncing all vowels as tense vowels.
• Remember that there are useful websites where
you can find correct pronunciation of English
• How can we use this phonetic information
and the phonological rules to teach phonics
• Using your regular textbook, take 10 - 15
minutes to design a phonics activity that
incorporates some of the information
Bergmann, A., Hall, K.C., & Ross, S. H. (Eds.). (2007).
Language files: Materials for an introduction to language
& linguistics (10th ed.). Columbus, OH: Ohio State
Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., & Goodwin, J. (1996).
Teaching pronunciation: A reference for teachers of
English to speakers of other languages. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
International Phonetic Association http://