Basic Phonology of English
Christine Tanner
WGU
September 2011
Voiced Sounds
• Voiced sounds are made when air is forced past
the vocal cords, causing them to vibrate (CelceMurcia, 2001).
• This phenomenon happens to the consonants of
a language.
– There are two easy ways to tell if a word is “voiced”
(Celce-Murcia, 2001).
• Place your hand on your throat while you speak. If a word or
sound makes your hand vibrate, it is voiced.
• Place your hands over your ears and listen for the vibration.
Voiced Sounds
(Edwards, 2003, p. 28)
Voiced Sounds
This is a chart of Voiced Sounds from
http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phoneti
cs/english/frameset.html
Voiceless Words
• Voiceless sounds are made when air is forced
past the vocal cords without the vocal cords
vibrating (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
– There are two easy ways to tell if a sound is
“voiceless” (Celce-Murcia, 2001).
• Place your hand on your throat while you speak. If a
sound does not make your hand vibrate, it is voiceless.
• Place your hands over your ears and listen for the air
“whooshing” out of your mouth.
Voiceless Sounds
(Edwards, 2003, p. 28)
Voiceless Sounds
This is a chart of Voiceless Sounds from
http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phoneti
cs/english/frameset.html
Places of Articulation
• According to Celce-Murcia (2001, p.42), the
articulators are the “more movable part of the
articulatory system.”
• Celce-Murcia (2001, p.42) also says that the
“place of articulation is where the contact
with the articulators occurs.”
Places of Articulation
• Let’s take a look these places of articulation…
Places of Articulation
(Edwards, 2003, p. 25)
Places of Articulation
• Oral cavity = mouth
• Nasal passageway = nose
• Main articulators = lower lip and parts of the
tongue
• Uvula = the small flap of skin at the back of
your mouth
• Velum = soft palate (when the hard palate
becomes softer)
Celce-Murcia (2001)
Places of Articulation
• Alveolar Ridge = the upper jaw bone
• Nasal cavity = above the soft and hard palates;
resonating chamber
• Mandible = the lower jaw bone
• Tongue tip = part of the tongue closest to the
teeth
• Tongue back = the part of the tongue below the
soft palate
• Tongue blade = the rest of the tongue; in
between the tongue tip and the tongue back
Articulatory Anatomy (n.d.)
Manner of Articulation
• Manner of articulation refers to how the
airflow changes when someone tries to make
a sound – based upon the obstacles the air
makes within the places of articulation (CelceMurcia, 2001).
• There are two main groups (Celce-Murcia,
2001):
– Obstruents
– sonorants
Manner of Articulation: Obstruents
• Obstruents:
– Stops (or plosives) are what the name implies –
the air is stopped before it can be released. This
causes the air to build behind both lips before it is
finally released.
• Words that contain stops/plosives:
– Bought - /b/ sound
– Pad - /p/ sound
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Manner of Articulation: Obstruents
• Fricatives are words that build friction in the
places of articulation. This friction happens
because two of the places used to create this
sound approach each other and come close to
touching – but do not touch.
– Words that contain fricatives:
• Thing, fish, violin
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Manner of Articulation: Obstruents
• Affricates are a sound combination of a stop
plus a fricative. Air pressure builds (like a stop)
and then is released through a narrowed
passage (like a fricative).
– Words that contain fricatives:
• Judge, chipper, and chisel
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Manner of Articulation: Sonorants
• Approximants are where the airflow moves
without much obstruction.
– Types of approximants
• Liquids
• Glides/Semivowels
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Manner of Articulation: Sonorants
• The liquids are /l/ and /r/. “[T]he airstream
flows along the sides of the tongue”
• Glides or semivowels are /y/ and /w/. These
act a lot like the liquid sounds but they can be
consonants in words with syllable-initial
position or the can represent vowel sounds in
dipthongs.
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Manner of Articulation
(Edwards, 2003, p. 32)
Manner of Articulation
(Edwards, 2003, p. 30)
Features Which Do Not Distinguish
Phonemes: Syllabic vs. Nonsyllabic
• Syllabic is when a consonant sounds like a
vowel. /n/ and /l/ tend to follow this pattern
more so than other letters.
• Some examples from Celce-Murcia (2001, p.
67) include:
– Kitten
– Little
– tunnel
Features Which Do Not Distinguish
Phonemes: Syllabic vs. Nonsyllabic
• If a syllabic sound has the possibility to sound
vowel-like, then nonsyllabic sounds continue
to function as consonants.
– Examples:
• Cat
• Chrissi
Features Which Do Not Distinguish
Phonemes: Stress vs. Nonstress
• Stress is where you put the emphasis in a
word. The stress helps to clearly state which
word/sound is being pronounced.
– Read and read are the written the same. In the
following sentences, where the stressed letter is
changes how the word is pronounced.
• I read the book. (nonstressed)
• I (will) read the book. (stressed)
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Features Which Do Not Distinguish
Phonemes: Aspiration vs. Nonaspiration
• Aspirated means that there is a small puff of
air that builds up before the sound is released,
mainly due to a stop or plosive. “Pa” is
aspirated. If you put your hand in front of your
mouth when you say “pa,” you can feel a
strong puff of air exit the lips.
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Features Which Do Not Distinguish
Phonemes: Aspiration vs. Nonaspiration
• A sound is nonaspirated when there is no such
build up and explosion of air from the mouth.
Putting an “s” in front of “pa” to make “spa”
smooths out the /p/ sound, softening the puff
of air from your mouth.
(Celce-Murcia, 2001)
Importance of Understanding
Characteristics of Speech
• Knowing the characteristics of speech will
enable ELL teachers to better teach English to
their students.
• Teachers can help students directly with
pronunciation errors – especially the most
common pronunciation errors.
– This will help students build self-confidence in
their abilities to speak.
(Lightbrown, 2006)
Effects of Understanding
Characteristics of Speech on Learning
• Students will have more confidence in their
abilities and be more willing to take further
steps in their language learning.
• Students are aware of their errors and can
invent ways to work around their errors – with
the focus being on communication.
– This can help students be more understandable to
their peers and others around them –even if they
still have a strong accent.
References
• Articulatory Anatomy. (n.d.) The University of Iowa.
Retrieved September 11, 2011 from
http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/anatomy.htm
• Celce-Murcia, M.A. (Ed.). (2001). Teaching English as a
second or foreign language (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle &
Heinle Publishers.
• Edwards, H.T. (2003). Applied phonetics: The sounds of
American English (3rd ed.). Thomson Delmar Learning.
• Lightbrown, P.M., & Spada, N. (2006). How Languages are
Learned (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford Univserity Press.
• Phonetics: The Sounds of American English. (n.d.) The
University of Iowa. Retrieved September 11, 2011 from
http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/fram
eset.html
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Basic Phonology of English