Chapter 3: The Sounds of English. Consonants and Vowels. An Articu-latory Classification and Description. Acoustic Correlates 3.1. Consonants and Vowels. Traditional distinctions. Chomsky and Halle’s SPE definition 3.2. Criteria for consonant classification. Vocal cord vibration. Sonority 3.3. Manner of articulation. Plosives. Fricatives. Affricates 3.4. Sonorants. The Approximants: glides and liquids 3.5. Oral and nasal articulation 3.6. Force of articulation 3.7. Place of articulation 3.8. The Description of English consonants A. The Approximants B. The English Stops C. The English Fricatives D. The English Affricates
3.8. The Description of English Consonants
Having examined the main criteria we can use to classify consonants from an articulatory point of view, we can now briefly describe the consonant phonemes of English. A. The Approximants 1. The Glides. There are two sounds in English, [w] and [j], having vowel-like features as far as their articulation is concerned, but which differ from their vowel counterparts [u] and [i] respectively through their distribution, force of articulation and length. When we articulate a glide the articulatory organs start by producing a vowel-like sound, but then they immediately change their position to produce another sound. It is to the gliding that accompanies their articulation that these sounds owe their name. As we have seen earlier, precisely because of their ambiguous nature they are also called semivowels or semiconsonants. Unlike vowels, they cannot occur in syllable-final position, can never precede a consonant and are always followed by a genuine vocalic sound. a. [w] is a labio-velar, rounded sound. At the beginning, its articulation is similar to that of the vowel [u], but then the speech organs shift to a different position to utter a different vocalic sound. The distribution of the sound includes syllable-initial position before almost any English vowel (e.g. win [w4n], weed [wi:d], wet [wet], wag [wæg], work [wf:k], won [w∧n],woo [wu:], wood [wυd], walk, [w]:k] wander [w]ndc],) or a diphthong (e.g.
way). Before [r], (e.g. write) the sound is no longer pronounced. [w] can also occur after a plosive (e.g. twin, queen) or a fricative consonant (e.g. swine). It can be rendered graphically either by the letter w (the most common case) (e.g. sweet) or by u (e.g. quite). b. [j] is an unrounded palatal semivowel. The initial stage of its pronunciation is quite similar to that of the short vowel [w], but then the sound glides to a different vocalic value. Like [w], [j] cannot occur in final position (as a quite similar palatal sound very often does in Romanian), is never followed by a consonant and occurs in front of back, central and front vowels. (e.g. yes, young, youth). It can be preceded by a plosive (e.g. tune) or a fricative (e.g. fume). The sound may be spelt y (as in year) while in words spelt with u, ue, ui, ew, eu and eau read as the long vowel [u:] the palatal sound is often inserted. The insertion is obligatory if the preceding consonant is: an oral plosive (p, b, t, d, k, g), a nasal stop (m, n), a labio-dental fricative (f, v) or a glottal one (h). A word like beauty can only be read [bju:tw] and not [bu:tw]. Cf. also: pure, bureau, tulip, deuce, queue, argue, mule, neutral, furious, revue, huge. The palatal sound is not inserted after affricates or after [r] or [l] preceded by a consonant: chew, June, rude, clue. When [l] is not preceded by a consonant or when the sound preceding [u:] is an alveolar fricative [s, z] or a dental one, the usage varies: cf. suit [sju:t], but also [su:t]. In words like unite, unique, university, etc, where u forms the syllable alone the vowel is always preceded by the semivowel: [ju:naıt]. 2. The Liquids. These are approximant sounds, produced in the alveolar and postalveolar region and include several variants of the lateral [l] and of the rhotic [r]. a. The lateral [l]. The main variants of [l] are a so-called “clear”...
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