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Systems of the language phonetics


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Systems of the language phonetics

  2. 2. In this essay it will be analyze one of the systems of the language,phonetics, in which the aim is try to understand or comprehend the phenomenon ofhuman oral communication by answering questions such as Why oralcommunication over any other mean? How do we produce sounds? How come dowe understand a message? How are sounds represented? All of these questionswill lead to a better and deeper understanding of how phonetics work and how itaffects the way people interact within the society.Humans as social beings rely on the language to communicate and interact withtheir similar; building an entire system of communication just as any other systemof organization they have created (economy, religion, hierarchy). When any othersystem of organization is analyzed it can be tell how humans reached to thatsystem by looking back in time, for example economy can be described since itearliest appearance within the first civilization and it first trade among culture,establishing rules, procedures, vocabulary and even studies about it. And so canlanguage be analyzed in that way.However the difference seems to appear when a deeper study is made to the wayhumans produce an idea which is decoding by the listener generating themagnificent act of communication itself. Now communication can be understood asthe act of sharing information with others by speaking, writing, moving your body orusing any other signals (Freeman et al, 2004), therefore different systems cancover these areas, in this case phonetics.
  3. 3. Phonetics are described as the study of the sounds made by human voice inspeech (Freeman et al, 2004), this system can be contemplated in a physical area(how the sound is produce), in a social aspect (when the message is sent andreceived) and in a theoretical aspect (how are the phonetics understood, analyzedand expressed in a written way). In a physical point of view when it comes the time to study to analyze oralcommunication, it involves pushing air from the lungs up into the mouth and usingthe lisp and tongue to produce different sounds (Freeman et al, 2004). Thisbasically works by the variation that takes place in the vocal tract (between thevocal cords and the lips).Once the sound is produce we are able to pronounce words which represent ideasthat intend to express ideas. Communication itself is rather complex andfascinating, for there is an entire process of understanding a message within asocial context wherein the message can be modified according to certain factors,such as expectations and predictions of common situations or procedures in thecommunication interaction (the listener is able to predict what the speaker is goingto say based on usual social procedures), the usage of gestures or body languagehelps to understand the message (considering that ninety three percent of thecommunication is non-verbal communication), tone of voice (intonation thatexpresses intention, feelings or attitudes towards a situation), assumed knowledge(the assumption that the listener knows what the speaker is talking about, alsoknown as the reference in a conversation) and finally literal or non-literal meaningof expression in the language (Freeman et al, 2004).
  4. 4. Now getting deeper into the study of the sounds produce by humans, it willbe analyzed the phonology of English language wherein concepts such as thephonemes and their representation in written channel affects the way peoplecommunicate. When producing a sound many parts of the human respiratorysystem get involved, which in the context of phonology is called the physiology ofspeech. The way it works consists basically of the air that comes from the lungspassing through the glottal region to the larynx where the vocal cords createvibration to produce voicing sounds. The air still flows from the larynx up to the oralcavity in which the resulting movements of the tongue and lips that are producedgenerate vowels or consonants (Freeman et al, 2004). Are a free obstacle soundVowels as described by Freeman (2004) are a free obstacle sound that can beclassified as short, long and reduced vowels depending on the tension generatedon the oral cavity when pronounced and the shape variations of the vocal tract andthe shape of the lips. Obviously this does not mean that the entire English speakercommunity speaks that way, there are certain variations that might change the waypeople produce phonemes, and it could be geographical variations, culturalvariations and even social class variations. For example in The United Statespronouncing very well the /r/ at the end of words has a positive connotation,whereas omitting this phoneme at the end of words that carry a final /r/ has a badconnotation or it can be inferred by people that the person who is omitting thatsound belong to lower social classes. Short vowels consist of 6 soundsrepresented with one letter in the phonemic transcription chart. Long vowels
  5. 5. consist of seven sounds compound of a vowel and the addition of a specificmovement of the tongue that allows the speaker to extent the sound. Reducedvowels consist of two vowels that are produced with a weaker airflow (Freeman etal, 2004), receiving no stress when they are pronounced. These vowels are knownas schwa and barrel i. Consonants on the contrary are produced by the restrictionof airflow, which depending on where the stop occurs in the vocal tract, can beclassified in different categories. On of them is to describe whether a consonant isvoice or voiceless, and from that criteria it can be also classified in stops, fricatives,affricatives, nasals, liquids and glides. Now, in the strict context of the phonologyknowledge, is it highly recommended of educators to be aware of the production ofvowels for the main reason that when it comes the time to teach children how toproduce a certain sound is really helpful to know the theory behind the productionof a sound so the teacher is able to explain how to produce a phoneme accordingto the parts of the physiology speech that are involved.However it is interesting how David Freeman (2004) describes that the languageproduction is so complex that must be acquired not learned. But how come then,are educators from other countries going to teach a language when their studentswill only learn the language by grammatical rules and worksheet? How do weexpect to acquire a second language if we are not even living in the context wherethe language is lived, changed and produced? Because, a teacher that studies asecond language in a country that only speaks his first language, acquisition of thelanguage is never going to happen. However phonetics do gives people a hand toproduce language, and obviously the educator can go beyond the rules and teachphonetics through context and real life situations. Real language.
  6. 6. BibliographyFreeman D. (2004). Essential Linguistics, Potsmouth, NH: Heinemann. pg 49-73