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The branches of phonetics. Application of phonetics

Speech is a very complicated phenomenon, each of its aspects being a separate subject for investigation

1) Articulatory phonetics studies the physiology of speech and the mechanism of sound production. It studies the movements of the speech organs and their coordination in the production of the sounds. So, articulatory phonetics deals with the work of speech apparatus, its organs and their functioning

2) Acoustic phonetics studies the physical features of sounds. It studies the way in which the air vibrates between the speaker’s mouth and the listener’s ear.

3) Auditory phonetics

4) Functional phonetics studies phonetics units as elements of a system in terms of their functions, mutual relations and rules of realization

Applications of phonetics

As a linguistic science, phonetics is naturally connected with other linguistic disciplines, such as grammar, lexicology, stylistics, dialectology and sociolinguistic. Also, phonetics is related to a number of non-linguistic sciences which study the processes of speech production and speech perception.

Here are just a few spheres phonetic investigation results are applied in:

- Communication engineering

- Medicine (speech pathology)

- Psychology

- Psycholinguistics

- Sociolinguistics

- Oratory

- Foreign language teaching


3. Articulatory characteristics of speech sounds: place, organs and manner of articulation, the work of the vocal cords. Coarticulation. Types of assimilation.


Articulatory phonetics is a branch of linguistics which studies the progress of sound production. All speech sounds are produced by means of the speech apparatus. The speech apparatus is principally the same with all people and consist of 3 parts: the lungs (respiratory apparatus), the larynx (which contains the vocal cords) and organs of articulation located in mouth and nasal cavities.

The air stream released by the lungs goes through the wind-pipe and comes to the larynx, which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two elastic folds which may be kept apart or brought together. The opening between them is called the glottis. If the tense vocal cords are brought together, the air stream forcing an opening makes them vibrate and we hear some voice. Such sounds are called voiced. Voiceless sounds are made with the vocal cords kept apart. There is one more state of the vocal cords – the glottal stop. When the vocal cords are brought close together and then opened suddenly by the air stream there comes a sort of coughing noise, a kind of the 'click' of the vocal cords. This sound is called the glottal stop.

The most important organ of speech is the tongue. Phoneticians divide the tongue into four sections, the part which lies opposite the soft palate is called the back of the tongue; the part facing the hard palate is called the front; the one lying under the teeth ridge is known as the blade and its extremity the tip. The central part of the tongue is the area where the front and back meet. The tongue may lie flat or move in the horizontal or vertical directions.

The lips can take up various positions as well. They can be brought firmly together or kept apart neutral, rounded, or protruded forward.

All the organs of speech can be divided into two groups:

1) Active organs of speech, movable and taking an active part in the sound formation:

(a) the vocal cords, which produce voice;

(b) the tongue, which is the most flexible, movable organ;

(c) the lips affecting very considerably the shape of the mouth cavity;

(d) the soft palate with the uvula, directing the stream of air either to the mouth or to the nasal cavity; (e) the back wall of the pharynx contracted for some sounds;

(f) the lower jaw, which movement controls the gap between the teeth and also the disposition of the lips;

(g) the lungs providing air for sounds;

2) Passive organs of speech:

(a) the teeth,

(b) the teeth ridge,

(c) the hard palate and

(d) the walls of the resonators.


In the process of speech production any sound goes through three phases of articulation:

− excursion, i.e. the moment when the speech organs get set to the position necessary to articulate a sound;

- exposure, i.e. the period of time when the speech organs stay in a certain articulatory position;

− recursion, i.e. the moment when the speech organs either return to the state of rest or get ready to articulate another sound.

Speech sounds influence each other in speech flow, thus becoming pronounced in a different way. These modifications of speech sounds are observed both within words and at word boundaries. Such intercourse between sounds in connected speech is termed «coaticulation». Coarticulation results in assimilation, when one of the sounds becomes fully or partially similar to the adjoining sound.

There are 3 types of assimilation:

1) Direction. The influence of the neighboring sounds in English can act in:

- progressive direction. When some articulatory features of the following sound are changed under the influence of the preceding sound, which remains unchanged, assimilation is called progressive

- regressive direction. When the following sound influences the articulation of the preceding one assimilation is called regressive.

- double direction. It means complex mutual influence of the sounds.

2) Degree of completeness. According to its degree, assimilation can be:

- complete (in the case when the two adjoining sounds become alike or merge into one (less shy))

- incomplete (when the likeness of the adjoining sounds is partial (For example, the voiced sounds [w, l, r] are partly devoiced when preceded by the voiceless [p,t, k, s, f, Ố) within words: sweet, place, try))

3) Degree of stability. Many assimilatory phenomena have become obligatory in modern English. Changes which have taken place over a period of time within words are called historical. Besides there are a lot of widely spread but non-obligatory cases of assimilation which can be traced mainly at word boundaries

Here are some more examples of sound changes which can result from coarticulation process:

- labialization

- nasalization

- loss of plosion

- palatalization

- velarization


Articulatory characteristics of sounds:

1) The place of articulation where organs of sounds can come close to each other

2) Organs of articulation

3) The manner of articulation is determined by the of obstruction

4) The position of the soft palate nasal\oral


1) - labial [m] [b] [p] -labio-dental- [v] [f] -inter dental[ θ ] [ ð ] - alveolar [t] [d] [s] [z] [n] [l] -post-alveolar [r] -palatal [j] -velar[g] [k] [ ŋ] -glottal [h]   2) -labial [m] [b] [p] [v] [z] -lingual a) forelingual [t] [d] [s] [z] [ θ ] [ ð ][n] [r] [l] [∫][3 ][ d3] [ t∫ ] b) medialingual [j] c) backlingual [g] [k] [ŋ] - glottal [h]  
3) - plosive(взрывной) [p] [b] [t] [d] [k] [g] -fricative [f] [v][ θ ] [ ð ] [s] [z] [h] [∫][3] -affricative [d3] [ t∫ ] - approximants [w] [l] [r] [j]   4) -oral (all the other sounds) -nasal [m] [n] [ŋ]  


4. Articulatory settings. Articulatory settings in English and Russian: comparison and contrast. Problems of foreign language acquisition.

Although the speech apparatus is the same with all humans, speakers do not use the full of its potential. Every language suggests certain manner of articulation, i.e. certain positions and movements of speech organs used by speakers of this language and tightly connected with its phonetic system. Here we can speak about articulatory settings of a language.

The articulatory settings of a language can be described through the following characteristics:

– activity,
– localization, (eng- back, rus- front)
– typical movements of speech organs. (the tongue - the most active; eng- move from the lower jaw upper alvelour; rus- между зубами)

As for localization, the Russian articulatory settings are the following:

1. The tip of the tongue is positioned against the lower teeth.
2. The middle part of the tongue is a little raised and advanced forward.
3. The lips are a bit protruded.

Finally, the typical movements of the speech organs are the following:

1. The tongue moves forward towards the lower teeth, touching them with the tip.

2. The tongue-tip moves upward towards the hard palate .

3. Light, smooth movements: from position 1 to the vocalic position (dental consonants + front vowels); from position 2 to the vocalic position (palatal consonants + front vowels).

Articulation settings:
1) Statics- neutral position of speech organs ( when the speaker is silent)
2) Dynamics- position of articulation in sound to sound


The Russian articulatory settings:
1) The front of the tongue is raised towards the hard palate
2) The tip of tongue is toward and it touched the lower teeth
3) The lips are slightly rounded

The English articulatory settings:

1) Energetic, forceful articulation

2) The tip of the tongue tends to be back-retracted

3) The lips are spread and pressed against the upper teeth

4) The tip of the tongue is positioned against the lower alveoli and doesn’t touch it

Problems of foreign language acquisition.

The articulatory settings of a language together with its prosody (rhythm and intonation) comprise the phonetic settings of a language. Thus, «good» pronunciation presupposes the right use of both articulatory and prosodic settings. The differences between sounds which do not exist (are not meaningful) in the native language (e.g. long/short vowels in Russian) are not perceived by the learners unless specially worked through. The sound characteristics which do not distinguish meaning remain “unheard” by learners.

Thus, teaching pronunciation appears to be quite a problem. The question is how to teach students new phonetic settings (the one of the TL). Here are a few basic strategies applied in teaching pronunciation today:

− imitation;

− contrasting the SL and TL positions of speech organs;

− familiarizing learners with the new phonetic settings (building the phonetic system of the TL) by focusing on the crucial differences between the systems and contrasting the distinctive features of sounds, rhythm and intonation of the two systems.


5. Phonology: the phoneme and allophone. Complementary and parallel distribution. Distinctive features of phonemes.

The phoneme and allophone.
Phonemic means "relevant to differentiate meanings of words "
Kate-skate pie-spy take-stake
[keit-skate] [pai-spai] [teik-steik]

These aspirated and non-aspirated realizations are allophones of one phoneme. They appear before in different phonetics contexts:
-aspirated consonants appear before stressed vowels unless they are preceded by [s]
-non-aspirated realizations appear when [p] [t] [k] are preceded by [s]

These two allophones are in complementary distribution: they complement each other and belong to the set of allophones of one phoneme.
Although all the allophones are phonetically different, they are not phonologically relevant as they do not differentiate words.
However, for the native speakers of Hindi or Korean the aspirated and non-aspirated plosives are different phonemes be­cause theycan appear in the same phonetic context and differentiate the meanings of words; in Korean they even distinguish non-aspirated, weakly aspirated and strongly aspirated voiceless consonants. Thus in Hindi and Korean [ph] and [p] are different phonemes because they occur in the same context and change the meaning of words:

e.g. Hindi: [pal] = nurture, [phal] =knife blade; [tal] =beat, [thal] =platter.

Conversely, in English and in Russian /r/ and /1/ are different pho­nemes as they can appear in the same phonetic context and cause seman­tic difference:

English: right, light— [rait], [lait];

Russian: ром — лом.

In Korean /r/ and /1/ are allophones of the same phoneme: /1/ appears at the beginning and at the end of the syllable, while /r/ is realized be­tween vowels:

Korean: [mal] horse, [mare] at the horse; [mul] water, [mure] at the water.

This is the way Korean girls sang the once popular song in Russian: Мирион, мирион арих лоз...

Another example: in English the dental voiced fricative /ð/ and the alveolar voiced plosive /d/ are different phonemes: they appear in the same phonetic context and by replacing one for the other we get a dif­ferent word, i.e. bring about a semantic contrast:

English: [dei] day, [ðei] they.
From the point of view of distribution the English sounds /ð/ and /d/ have parallel distribution: both can occur at the beginning, at the end of a word or a syllable and between vowels: this, mother, booth, day, today, Ted.

By contrast, in Castillian Spanish the dental plosive [d] and the dental fricative [ð] are allophones of the phoneme /d/, as they appear in different phonetic con­texts (complementary distribution): the dental fricative is used only between vowels: [naða] nothing, [predo] meadow. In all other contexts the plosive /d/ is used: [dias] days, [andar] to go.

Thus we can conclude that two or more sounds are allophones if they are in complementary distribution and if they are phonetically similar.
Two or more sounds are realizations of different phonemes if they are in parallel distribution and they serve to differentiate words.

Phonetic similarity is a relevant condition for the case of/h/ and /η/ which have complementary distribution because /h/ occurs only at the beginning of a word, in syllable onset; /η/ can occur only at the end of a word, in syllable coda, but because of their phonetic dissimilarity they cannot be allophones of one phoneme.

In phonology the basic method of establishing the phonemic status of a sound is the method of finding minimal pairs. The method suggests finding at least one pair of words which are different in that sound: pitbit, man — men, stick — sticks. When 2 words are identical except for 1 sound which makes a contrast in the meaning of words, they are said to form a minimal pair, and the 2 sounds are different phonemes. The 2 phonemes are distinguished by at least one distinctive (phonemic)feature.
Sounds are then grouped into classes according to the features which are distinctive (phonemic) for the particular language.

In English the following features are distinctive for consonants:

  1. the place of articulation
  2. the manner of articulation
  3. force of articulation
  4. the position of the soft palate

The manner of articulation is determined by the type of obstruction and the manner of noise production.
-affricates- complex consonants: they starts being articulated as plosives or occlusive and end as fricatives. The transition from occlusion to constriction is not noticeable
-approximants take the intermediate position between vowels and consonants as they resemble vowels by the weaker air stream, but on the other hand, they are articulated with quite a significant force of articulation to overcome the obstruction in the mouth cavity( there 4 approximates: central app. [w] [r] [∫]; lateral app.: [l]

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