Phonetics:
Vowel articulation, transcription
LING 200
Spring 2003
Reading: Files 3.3, 3.6
Manner of articulation
• How close are lower and upper
articulator?
– Relatively close: consonants
– Relatively far apart: vowels
Vowels
Can differ in:
• Vowel ‘quality’
– Height: high, mid, low
– Backness: front, central, back
– Labiality (lip rounding): rounded,
unrounded
• Vowel quantity: long, short
A five vowel inventory
Spanish
(place of articulation)
front
central
back
(manner of
articulation)
high
i
u
mid
e
o
low
A
Spanish vowels
front
high
mid
low
central
[misA]
‘Mass’
[mesA]
‘table’
back
[musA]
‘muse’
[moskA]
‘housefly’
[mAsA]
‘dough’
Phonetic description of vowels
•
•
•
•
•
[i] = high front unrounded vowel
[e] = mid front unrounded vowel
[o] = mid back rounded vowel
[u] = high back rounded vowel
[A] = low central (-back) unrounded
vowel
– cf. [a] = low front unrounded vowel
Another five vowel inventory
Mandarin (Chinese)
[ü] = high front rounded vowel
[] = mid central unrounded vowel
front
high
i
central back
ü
u
mid

low
A
Mandarin vowel quality
front
high
mid
central back
unrnd
rnd
unrnd
rnd
[l]
[lü]
[lû]
‘advantage’
‘green’
‘road’
[l]
happy’
low
[lA]
‘spicy’
[  ] = high falling tone (see File 3.7)
Vowel quantity: Sahaptin
[:] = long
[] = high central unrounded vowel
[i] = high front unrounded vowel
[i:] = long high front unrounded vowel
high
low
front
central
back
i i:

u u:
A A:
Sahaptin short vowels
high
low
front
central
back
[latít]
‘flower’
[/tt] ‘tooth’ [/tút] ‘your
father’
[/kAk] ‘your
(maternal)
uncle’
[/] = glottal stop; [ ] = stress (see File 3.7)
Sahaptin short vs. long vowels
short
long
[sts’At] 'night'
[sts’A:t] 'dark'
[pišíš] 'paternal aunt' [ci:š] 'water'
[pyuš] 'snake'
[pu:š] 'juniper'
English vowels
• English, a Germanic language
• Proto-Germanic vowels
i i:
e e:
u u:
o:
A
• Historical length > 'tense'/'lax' contrast
– Long vowels > tense
– Short vowels > lax
English vowels
North Atlantic English (UK, Ireland):
front
central
back
unrounded
unrounded
rounded
high
i
lower-high 
u

mid
higher-mid
o


lower-mid
low
e
E


A
The vowel space
i
u


e
o
E



a
A 
English vowels
A speaker from Southern England:
high
front
central
back
unrounded
unrounded
rounded
[bid] bead
[bud] booed
lower-high [bd] bid
[bdst] Buddhist
higher-mid
[bed] bayed
[bod] bode
lower-mid
[bEd] bed
[bd] bud
[bd] bawd
low
[bd] bad
[bAd] bard
[bA] bah
[bdi] body
English vowels
• Sound changes in N. America. What
happened to []:
– ,  > (‘merged as’)  (East)
• []: body, bawd, [A]: bah
– , A > A (East, Midwest)
• [A]: body, bah, []: bawd
– , A,  > A (West)
• [A]: body, bah, bawd
English vowels
• More [A], [] pairs
– hock vs. hawk
• [hAk] [hk] or
• [hAk]
[hAk]
– cot vs.
– Polly vs.
– Don vs.
caught
Paulie
dawn
?
English vowels
Western North America
front
central
back
unrounded
unrounded
rounded
high
i

u

mid
e
E

o
()
low

A
English vowels
• Diphthongs: 2 vowel qualities
– [Aw] = [a]: [hAwd] (how’d)
– [Ay] = [a]: [hAyd] (hide)
– [oy] = [o]: [toyd] (toyed)
• For many speakers, [e], [o] are diphthongs
– [ey] = [e]
– [ow] = [o]
English vowels
• Stressed and unstressed syllables
– verbs:
nouns:
– to [riEkt]
a [ríEkt] (reject)
– to [protEst]
a [prótEst] (protest)
to [prótEst]
English vowels
[] only occurs in unstressed syllables
stressed: []
unstressed: []
cup [kp]
hiccup [hkp]
cud [kd]
wicked [wkd]
cut [kt]
racket [rkt]
English vowels
• [] + nasals, liquids
• For many speakers,
– [r] = [r] [pkr]
–[l] = [l] [pkl]
– [n] = [n] [Tkn]
– [m] = [m] [rDm]
[ ] = syllabic
picker
pickle
thicken
rhythm
English vowels
In Western North America, [] only before [r]:
•[mr] more
•[mor] mower
•[mAr] mar
English vowels: rhotic nuclei
Rhotic nuclei ([V+r] combinations) in North American English
front
central
back
[ur]
high
[r]
mid
[Er]
low
[r] = [r]
[Ar]
[r]
English vowels: rhotic nuclei
In most of England, syllable-final [r] > [] or 
beer
bare
bard
bored
bird
boor
W. N. Amer.
S. England
[br]
[bEr]
[bArd]
[brd]
[brd]
[bur]
[b]
[bE]
[bAd]
[bd]
[bd]
[b]
Transcription practice
•
•
•
•
•
•
fish
scrimmage
schism
asthma
azalea
mayonnaise
Transcription practice
•
•
•
•
•
•
fish
scrimmage
schism
asthma
azalea
mayonnaise
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Phonetics - University of Washington