Phonetics of English

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Phonetics of English

1.Classification of English consonants
2.Classification of English vowels
3.Modifications of consonants and vowels
4.British and American pronunciation models. Most distinctive features of American English pronunciation 5.Suprasegmental phonetics

1. Classification of English consonants
Russian phoneticians classify consonants according to the following principles: i) degree of noise; ii) place of articulation; iii) manner of articulation; iv) position of the soft palate; v) force of articulation. (I) There are few ways of seeing situation concerning the classification of English consonants. According to V.A. Vassilyev primary importance should be given to the type of obstruction and the manner of production noise. On this ground he distinguishes two large classes: a) occlusive, in the production of which a complete obstruction is formed; b) constrictive, in the production of which an in complete obstruction is formed. Each of the two classes is subdivided into noise consonants and sonorants. Another point of view is shared by a group of Russian phoneticians. They suggest that the first and basic principle of classification should be degree of noise. Such consideration leads to dividing English consonants into two general kinds: a) noise consonants; b) sonorants. There are no sonorants in the classifications suggested by British and American scholars. D. Jones and H. Gleason, for example, give separate groups of nasals [m, n, ŋ], lateral [l] and semi-vowels, or glides [w, r, j (y)]. B. Bloch and G. Trager besides nasals and lateral give trilled [r]. According to Russian phoneticians sonorants are considered to be consonants from articulatory, acoustic and phonological point of view. (II) The place of articulation. This principle of classification is rather universal. English consonants are divided into: a) lingual; b) labial; c) glottal. There is, however, controversy about terming the active organs of speech. Russian phoneticians divide the tongue into the following parts: (1) front with the tip, (2) middle, and (3) back. A. Gimson’s terms differ from those used by Russian phoneticians: apical is equivalent to forelingual; frontal is equivalent to mediolingual; dorsum is the whole upper area of the tongue. (III) Russian scholars consider the principle of classification according to the manner of articulation to be one of the most important. They suggest a classification from the point of view of the closure. It may be: (1) complete closure, then occlusive consonants are produced; (2) incomplete closure, then constrictive consonants are produced; (3) the combination of the two closures, then occlusive-constrictive consonants, or affricates, are produced; (4) intermittent closure, then rolled, or trilled consonants are produced. A. Gimson, H. Gleason, D. Jones and other foreign phoneticians include in the manner of noise production groups of lateral, nasals, and semi-vowels which do not belong to a single class. Russian phoneticians subdivide consonants into unicentral (pronounced with one focus) and bicentral (pronounced with two foci), according to the number of noise producing centers, or foci. According to the shape of narrowing constrictive consonants and affricates are subdivided into sounds with flat narrowing and round narrowing. (IV) According to the position of the soft palate all consonants are subdivided into oral and nasal. When the soft palate is raised oral consonants are produced; when the soft palate is lowered nasal consonants are produced. (V) According to the force of articulation consonants may be fortis and lenis. This characteristic is connected with the work of the vocal cords: voiceless consonants are strong and voiced are weak.

2. Classification of English vowels
The first linguist who tried to describe and classify vowels for all languages was D. Jones. He devised the system of 8 Cardinal Vowels.

Fig. 1
The system of Cardinal Vowels is an...
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