Chapter 4: The Vowels of English. An Articulatory Classification. Acoustic Correlates. The Description and Distribution of English Monophthongs and Diphthongs 4.1. The Vowels. Criteria for Classification 4.2. The Cardinal Vowel Charts 4.3. English Vowels. The description and distribution of English monophthongs and diphthongs A. English simple vowels a. English front vowels b. English back vowels c. English central vowels B. English diphthongs a. Centring diphthongs b. Diphthongs to /w/ c. Diphthongs to / Ÿ/ C. English triphthongs
4.3. English Vowels. The description and distribution of Englishmonophthongs and diphthongs Having established the vowel chart as a basic system of reference we can now proceed to a brief description of the vowel phonemes of English and of their distribution in a manner similar to that used in the case of consonants. A. The English simple (“pure”) vowels or monophthongs. a. English front vowels. There are four front vowel phonemes in English: [i:], [ı], [e] and [æ] 1. [i:] is a close (high), long, tense, unrounded vowel. The duration of [i:] can be compared to that of the Romanian vowel in plural nouns like genii and the sound is roughly similar to the French vowel of the French word précise, though not so close. The vowel is distributed in all three basic positions: word-initial: east; word-medial: dean and word-final: sea. As already mentioned, it is longer if it occurs in syllable final position and shorter if it is followed by a voiced sound, the shortest variants being those followed by a voiceless obstruent. If followed by a nasal stop it is nasalized: e.g. bean, beam. It is spelt e: economy, remark, or ee: eel, see, feet, or ea each, seal, plea. Other possible spellings are ie: fiend, ei: seizing, i: machine, or, exceptionally: ey: key; ay: quay [ki:], eo: people, oe: Oedipus or eau: Beauchamp [bi:±cm]
. This is a more retracted front vowel, and its degree of openness is close to that of the cardinal half-close position.  is a short, lax, unrounded vowel, its length varying, as in the case of the preceding vowel, according to the nature of the following consonant. The length decreases if the following sound is voiceless. It is distributed in all three basic positions: initial, medial and final: ink, kill, aptly. After the schwa, it is the commonest English vowel in unstressed positions. The vowel is spelt i (e.g. ill, tick) or y; syntax, party. Other spellings are possible as well, as in the exceptional examples minute [mınıt] (NB. The adjective having the same spelling is read [maınju:t], private [praıvıt], women [wımın]. As it commonly represents a reduced unstressed vowel, other spellings are also possible – for instance day [deı] is reduced to [dı] in the names of the days of the week: Friday [fraıdı]
3. [e] This is a short, lax, unrounded vowel whose degree of openness is intermediate between cardinal half-close and half-open. It is a common vowel in English, distributed in initial position: end, or medial position: tell. It never occurs in word-final position as it is normally reduced to [ı] or [c] if it is unstressed or diphthongizes to [eı] in loan words like attaché, fiancé or café if it is stressed. It can occur, nevertheless, in syllable-final position, under stress, as in telegraph [telıgraf], peril [perıl]. The vowel is spelt either e in words like elf, fell, or ea in lead (n. = plumb), head or bread. It can be exceptionally spelt a in ate (the past tense of eat), many, any, Thames or Pall Mall. 4. [æ] is the lowest front vowel of English. It is a short, lax, unrounded vowel, a little higher than the cardinal vowel [a]. It is a very common vowel in English and, contrary to the perception of many foreign learners of English, it is a short, not a long vowel. In fact, the basic difference between this vowel and the preceding one is the degree of openness, [æ] being lower. Romanian speakers of English find it particularly difficult to make the difference...
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