Aspiration of Stops by English Language Teachers
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Published: Tue, 13 Mar 2018
Pronunciation is producing sounds to convey meanings or code. It demands a greater level of attention to the particular sounds of a language, aspects of speech, voice quality etc. It is very important in our communication. In affective and better encoding of speech sounds it is necessary to have a standard pronunciation. It also helps the listener to decode the message easily.
But due to different factors there can be different pronunciations of one language. This difference in pronunciation forms different accents of that language. English has more accents than other languages. Because of being a global language, it has become necessary to have ability to communicate in English for every nation to survive in the world. So, there are many accents of English used by different people who use it as a first or a second language.
There are two main accents of English: American English (AE) and British English (BE). In addition to these there are other accents as well that show the characteristics of the area of the speakers in which they live and affect of first language of the speakers. But most prestigious of them is Received Pronunciation (PP) because of the reason that this is the accent of the British elite class (traditional upper class) and is understood in a fairly wide region.
English language came in Indian subcontinent in 1600 with British people. It has a great influence in this area from that period to the present day. But in spite of such a long history in Indian sub-continent, it is still a second or third language of most of the people. Because of the influence of the accents of national and regional languages, the accent of Asian speakers is different from RP of British people. This is because of the difference in pronunciation of different sounds in their first language.
Stops are aspirated at initial position in English and before stressed syllables but not after /s/ or at final position. But rules for aspiration are different in Pakistani languages especially in Urdu from that of English. As being native speakers of Urdu their articulators are set according to their native language. Their articulators become conditioned according to the sounds present in their native language. So, because of this difference they find it difficult to produce these sounds like native English speakers can do in RP. They also don’t have understanding of the rules that native speakers adopt while producing these sounds and there is a difference in adoption of rules of aspiration in English and Urdu as well. So, it also creates a hurdle in aspiration production in English on their part
It is very important for perspective English Language Teachers to observe the rules of aspiration of Received Pronunciation as they have to train their students in speaking English in a better way and having exact pronunciation of sounds is required on their part.
1.1 Statement of the problem:
A study to explore the factors for the usage and non-usage of aspiration while speaking stops by Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers.
The purpose of this study is to find out:
1: the usual practice of Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers in aspiration of stops while speaking English.
2: the interference of rules of aspirated stops of L1 by Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers in pronunciation of English aspirated stops.
3: the effect of demographical factors on aspiration by Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers while speaking English.
Ho 1: There is no importance of observing the rules of aspiration by Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers.
Ho 2: There is no interference of L1 rules in aspiration of stops in L2.
Ho 3: There is no relationship in demographical data and aspiration of stops in L2.
1.4 Research questions:
1) Do rules of aspiration in Pakistani languages have any interference on pronunciation of Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers?
2) Does Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers follow the same rules of aspiration while producing English stops as English native speakers do?
3) Does Pakistani perspective English Language Teachers pronounce the aspirated sounds while reading them in paragraph in the same way as they pronounce them in isolation?
1.5 Significance of the study
This study is an attempt to find out the common practice of Pakistanis in use of aspiration in English stops. The research will introduce the phenomenon of aspiration with Pakistanis who either aspirate or not aspirate the sounds.
The study will also help to find out the interference of native languages of Pakistanis in English aspiration production and will identify the reasons why Pakistanis don’t aspirate the sounds.
It will help native English speakers develop a better thinking about Pakistanis and to tolerate their mistakes of aspiration while English speaking.
The study will also help to find out features of L1 that effect L2 pronunciation and thus will help Pakistanis to find out solution of the problem how they can minimize the effect of these features.
1) Keeping in view the shortage of time and other resources available for the study, the study was delimited to read a short paragraph and ten, ten single syllable words in isolation with /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds in word initial, medial and final position.
2) Due to time, financial and other constraints the study was delimited to forty students of English of master level from University of the Punjab.
3) Due to the requirement of the study we have delimited our study to take 50% students who are the students of department of English Language and Literature and 50% students are those who are the students of Department of English Language Teaching and Linguistics.
The current research is survey type research and descriptive in nature. It is a quantitative research. Population of this research is all Pakistani English Language Teachers. Sample of the research is forty students of two departments of University of the Punjab : these are: Department of English Language and Literature and Department of English Language Teaching and Linguistics. Convenient type of sampling is being used in it.
Interview was being conducted from 40 students to collect the data from the departments mentioned above. Some single syllable words were being chosen with aspirated stops /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds in syllable initial, medial and final positions and a paragraph was constructed out of these words to check aspiration in words separately and in paragraph while speaking in a flow as well. Subjects read those words and paragraph aloud. Demographical data was also being collected from the sample. Two close ended questions were being asked at the end as well. Interviews were being recorded on cell phone. Then it was being analyzed through qualitative way. CD of data is attached with thesis.
2. Literature Review
Introduction to Aspiration.
The study of aspiration is an important part of phonology studies. There are various interpretations as to what the phenomenon of aspiration is. Laver (1994) defines it as a process in which after the opening of lips for releasing consonant, there is silence for a short time. Only a little sound of breath going out of mouth can be heard at that time. This phenomenon is called aspiration.
While pronouncing /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds there is a delay before the next sound starts. During this delay air flows out like a puff with a sound of discharging the air (Kenworhty, 2000). So, aspiration is always accompanied by a delay in the flow of air and aspirated sound is the sound that is created while discharging the air during this delay.
During this delay in air flow and creation of sound while discharging the air, our articulatory organs have to put more force and moving out of air also demands more effort on our part than pronouncing other usual sounds. Yavas (2006) also describes this and says that in aspirated /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds our muscles have to put more force to pronounce them. They also demand greater level of pressure from oral organs and when we release the air to pronounce them, we have to put more effort for our breath to release.
Aspiration is not the phenomenon that is related to pronouncing one sound only rather other factors are also involved in it. One of them is that aspiration is always present in voiceless sounds provided that the voiceless sounds follow some voiced sound. Second is that the aspirated sound mostly occurs in the initial position of a syllable. So, Aspiration is always present between two sounds that are in an order in the initial position of a syllable provided that one sound of them is voiceless and the other is voiced one. The first sound that is voiceless is always aspirated (Laver, 1994).
Third factor is that in aspiration the preceding sound of the aspirated sound is delayed and half lost. Most of the time we find the delay of 30-40 msecs there and the preceding sound becomes shorter than usual. During this delay we find some whispering sound that is usually voicelessness. “Aspiration is a feature which can manifest a co-ordinatory relationship between a voiceless segment and a following voiced segment at the leading edge of a syllable. In aspiration, the onset of voicing for the second of the two segments is delayed for an audible period of 30-40 msecs or more beyond the end of the medial phase of the preceding segment, giving an onset to the second segment that has a phonatory state that is sometimes whisper but more usually voicelessness.” (Laver, 1996: p. 348)
Fourth factor is that while producing first voiceless sound our articulators take the shape of second sound and are ready to pronounce it. The sound during this delay for our articulators to take the shape for second sound is known as aspiration. It is because of adopting the particular shape by our articulators for being ready to pronounce the second voiced segment between a voiceless and a following voiced segment that the aspiration can be heard. From this we come to the fact that while producing first segment our articulators are already in position for producing the second segment or they are becoming ready to produce second segment (Laver, 1996).
Fifth factor is that when air rushes out after opening the stop, a little sound is heard. The sound is called aspiration. Ladefoged (2001) says about aspiration “There is a spike indicating the burst of noise that occurs when the stop closure is released, followed by a period of very small semirandom variations during the aspiration.” (Ladefoged: p. 44)
Phonetic Diacritics for Transcribing Aspiration.
Different symbols are being used in different ways for representing aspiration and to transcribe it. These symbols differ as to what degree aspiration is strong and according to devoicing as well. Laver (1996) describes some phonetic diacritics that are mostly being used. He says that for transcribing aspiration, the phonetic diacritic is a small superscript ‘h’ that is placed to the right of the aspirated segment, as in the word ‘pan’ /phan/. We can also phonetically transcribe a more extreme degree of aspiration by writing the [h] symbol on the line instead of a superscript diacritic like [phan]. We can also use a superscript symbol that show initial devoicing and is used only in single syllable words as [p0an] to represent aspirated relationship as a third alternative approach to the transcriptional problem.
So, mostly we use three symbols 1) superscript ‘h’ 2) ‘h’ on line and 3) ‘0′ symbol to represent initial devoicing. These transcriptional symbols help us to produce aspiration correctly like native speakers.
2.2 Aspiration in Different Languages of the World.
The phenomenon of aspiration is not same in all the languages of the world rather it varies from language to language but one thing that is same in most of the languages is that aspiration is created because of different allophones of one sound and we feel silence and delay in producing voiceless stops. The phenomenon is also always present within the syllable. Laver (1996) describes that the phenomenon of aspiration is found in many languages of the world. In this phenomenon there are different allophonic representations of one sound and there is silence after this sound. This occurs within the syllable and voiceless sound comes relatively late.
As the sounds of each language are produced differently because of their intensity and the degree of intensity of all sounds varies from language to language, so while producing aspirated sounds in different languages we use different articulators and the degree of intensity of the sound produced also varies. In English when /t/ is aspirated, the sound is produced with a puff of air and the tip of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge. In Spanish aspirated /t/ is again produced with puff of air but tip of the tongue touches the back part of the upper side of the front teeth (Fries, 1963).
Because of this change in the degree of intensity of sounds, two accents of one language can also be different. It can also affect the production of sound and changes its duration. It brings some changes in the phenomenon of aspiration as well. “The relative degree of aspiration can also serve to differentiate two accents of the same language. Fengtong (1989: p. 63) comments that initial voiceless stops in the Chengtu (Szechuanese) accent of Chinese are ‘produced with a longer puff of air’ than in the case of comparable stops in the Beijing accent” (Laver, 1994: p.353).
In some languages stops are neither aspirated nor unaspirated but are moderately aspirated. “Some languages exploit aspiration to achieve triple distinctions, between unaspirated, moderately aspirated and strongly aspirated segments. Korean is one example (Abberton 1972: p. 71)” (Laver, 1994: p.353).
In some languages the sounds are not aspirated that are being aspirated in other languages. And the rules for aspiration sounds at different positions like at initial, medial and final positions also differ from language to language. In most Germanic languages, including Danish, English and German, stops are sometimes aspirated and sometimes they are not aspirated in initial position. But in Dutch, Afrikaans, Yiddish, Russian, Spanish, and Polish languages speakers don’t aspirate the sounds in initial positions (Helgason, & Ringen, 2008). Ashby and Maidment (2005) also describe the same thing. According to them in English a brief /h/ like segment follows explosion and the sound is aspirated when the stop occurs at initial position. But in other languages stops always don’t follow /h/ like segment and are not aspirated in initial position (Laver, 1996).
Rules of aspiration also very from language to language. Like in some languages it is sometimes aspirated and sometimes unaspirated at initial position but in Ossetic language it is always aspirated in initial position. In final position stops are mostly unaspirated in English but in Ossetic it is again aspirated if it comes before some vowel or /r/ sound. Odden (2005) describes aspiration in Ossetic and says that we see aspiration in voiceless stops in Ossetic (Caucasus). In Ossetic aspirated consonants are different from plain consonants when they occur in some words at the end of the syllable. In addition to this many other rules also tell about presence of aspiration. One of them is that native Ossetic speakers aspirate the voiceless consonant sound when it occurs in initial position of some word. Second is that they aspirate the sound when some vowel comes after it at the end of the word. Thirdly, it is aspirated when it follows /r/ and the sound occurs at the end of the word (Odden, 2005).
Aspiration in English
“In English, [t] and [th] are predictable variants of a single abstract segment, a phoneme, which we represent as /t/. Predictable variants are termed allophones – the sounds are in complementary distribution because the context where one variant appears is the complement of the context where the other sound appears.” (Odden, 2005: p.44)
In English, sometimes we aspirate voiceless stops /p/ /t/ /k/ sounds and sometimes we don’t. When they come in beginning of some words, we aspirate them but when they occur after /s/ sound, we don’t aspirate them. Both of allophonic representations of same sound neither show any contrast nor do they change the meaning. (Din, 1983)
We aspirate the voiceless stops when they occur in word-initial position in stressed syllables, like in ‘take’ /thek/. But another dimension of this rule is that we also aspirate these sounds when they come in initial positions and in these initial-positions there is stress on voiceless stops, like in ‘appeal’ /——-/.(Yavas, 2006)
The phenomenon of aspiration is not very simple in English. Sometimes voiceless stops /p/, /t/ and /k/ are not aspirated even if there are vowels before and after them and occur in initial position of a syllable as well. This is because of stress pattern. If there is no stress on the vowel preceding consonant, we don’t aspirate it in English and is pronounced as unaspirated consonants. (Odden, 2005)
So, it can be said that presence or absence of stress before voiceless stops is very important in presence or absence of aspiration. Odden (2005) describes the rule of aspiration in English in following words: “voiceless stops become aspirated at the beginning of a stressed syllablea.” (Odden, p. 46)
If voiceless stops occur in unstressed syllables, aspiration there is weak and the sound is produced like an unaspirated stop, like in ‘vacuum /——–/. Aspiration is also weak if voiceless stops precede some ‘syllabic consonant’ like in ‘pickle /pikl/. Third point where aspiration is weak is the stage where voiceless stops come in final position and on that position they are released. (Yavas, 2006)
There can also be the condition in English that some sound is not being aspirated in one form of a word but is aspirated in other form of the same word. It can also be because of stress pattern in other form of that word. Like when certain words change from verb (root) to noun, stress pattern also changes within the syllable as in ‘apply /aphlay/’ to ‘application /aplakheysn/’ and because of this stress shift aspiration also shifts. Here, aspiration is absent from already aspirated stop and may be shift to some other stop. In the same way, we add –ee with English verbs to form object nouns. As –ee is a suffix that is always stressed, so if it follows voiceless stop, the stop is aspirated but it is not aspirated in the form of verb (root) like in attack ‘/athak/’ to attackee ‘/athakhi/’ (Odden, 2005).
It is because of the rule that the voiceless stop is aspirated if it follows stressed vowel that the pronunciation of a word can be subject to change from situation to situation. “Even in native English words, unaspirated stops can show the effect of the aspiration rule in hyper-slow, syllable-by-syllable pronunciation. Notice that in the normal pronunciation of happy [hapiy], only the first syllable is stressed and therefore [p] remains unaspirated. However, if this word is pronounced very slowly, drawing out each vowel, then both syllables become stressed, and as predicted the stop p is aspirated – [ha::] . . . [phi::y].” (Odden, 2005: p. 47)
Aspiration in Pakistani Languages.
In Hindi (that is Persianized form of Urdu (Rehman, 1991)), Gujrati and Marathi if we aspirate the sound, a new phoneme is created. The word that is aspirated can be distinguished from the word that is not aspirated because the phenomenon of aspiration changes the meaning of the word. Like in Hindi /pul/ and /phul/ have different meaning and attribute to two different things. (Singh & Singh, 2006)
Aspirated and unaspirated sounds are different from each other in that they belong to two separate phonemes and this difference in phonemes changes the meanings as well (Din, 1983). There are four types of stop consonant sounds in Hindi. Two of them are voiced aspirated and unaspirated and two are voiceless aspirated and unaspirated. In voiced aspirated sounds glottis is closed and closure period is also short that assists vibration to produce. In voiceless unaspirated sounds glottis is open that helps voicelessness. Here, tension in vocal folds is also a little higher. In voiced aspirated sounds glottis is closed when articulators are closing but it is open before and after the voiced sound that assists aspiration to produce. In voiceless aspiration sounds in the entire duration of consonant production glottis is wide open that helps voicelessness and we can notice aspiration over there. (Kagaya, & Hirose, 1975)
“Hockett (1955) says on languages of India: Sanskrit, and certain modern languages, such as Hindustani, are often said to have four types of stops: voiceless and voiced, intersecting unaspirated and aspirated. But in both named cases the aspirated (be it voiced or voiceless) is rather patently simply the phoneme /h/, which recurs elsewhere: this leaves just a two-way manner contrast.” (Yadav, N.D)
Difference of Aspiration in English and Pakistani Languages.
In English language stops can be distinguished from each other on the basis of voicing and place of articulation, like in English /b/ /p/ are labio, /t/ /d/ are alveolar and /k/ /g/ are velar and from them /p/ /t/ /k/ are voiceless /b/ /d/ /g/ are voiced. But in Hindi stops can be distinguished by voicing, aspiration and manner of articulation on the same place of articulation as they are in English. Like /p/ /t/ /k/ are voiceless unaspirated but /ph/ /th/ /kh/ are voiceless aspirated./b/ /d/ /g/ are voiced unaspirated but /bh/ /dh/ /gh/ are voiced aspirated. (Singh & Singh, 2006; Kagaya & Hirose, 1975)So, stops are not distinguished on the basis of aspiration in English but in Urdu, stops are distinguished on the basis of aspiration.
Factors for the usage and non-usage of aspiration.
Being second language learners of English, Pakistani speakers do not know the rules of aspiration in English fully. So, it is difficult for them to follow these rules. Din (1983) describes that in English /p/ and /ph/ belong to same phoneme but in Urdu they belong to two different phonemes. So, this is not the problem that Urdu speakers can’t make sounds but problem is that they can’t make proper sound in its right place like native speakers make.
Urdu speakers don’t aspirate voiceless stops when they come in initial position because they don’t see /h/ orthographically written over there. But if they see /h/ orthographically written they aspirate it even if it comes after some voiced sound like in ‘ghost’, it is aspirated as there is /h/ after /g/ (Din, 1983). So, for Urdu speakers aspirated sounds must follow /h/ because in Urdu there is /h/ after aspirated sounds and they over generalize the rule of Urdu in English.
In Hindi (that is Persianized form of Urdu (Rehman, 1991)) there are aspirated as well as unaspirated stops at all positions even in word initial position and after /s/ as well. So, the rules of aspiration in Urdu are change to a greater level from that in English. Take the example of /pal/ that means want and /phal/ that means fruit. A native English speaker will pronounce both the words in the same way that is /phal/. This is not correct according to Urdu rules of aspiration. The pronunciation of /pal/ in Urdu violates the rule of aspiration in English according to which at initial level stop is always aspirated. (Odden, 2005). Rehman summarizes it by saying that aspiration in English is allophonic but in Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi it is phonemic. “The implications of these features of Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi for the pronunciation of English are that orthographic p is taken to stand for L1 phone [p]. Since these L1s do not have an allophonic but a phonemic distinction between [p] and [ph], these speakers do not notice the allophones in English too.” (Rehman, 1990: p. 25)
Procedure and methodology:
This chapter consists on procedure and methodology that was adopted to conduct the study. The chapter includes design/nature of the study, population, sample of the study, sampling technique, instrument, construction of the instrument, data collection and validity of instrument.
Design/nature of the study:
This study is descriptive (qualitative) which deals “aspiration of stops in English by Pakistani Perspective English Language Teachers” An Interview was used in this research to collect the data about the aspiration of stops in English.
Population of this study was the students of master level of University of the Punjab.
Sample of the Study
Sample of the research was forty students from two departments of University of The Punjab. 20 students were being selected from each department Departments of this sample were CELTL (IER) and Department Of English Language and Literature.
Keeping in view the requirements of the study, convenient sampling technique was being used for selecting the sample.
Interview was being constructed to collect the data. Thirty words were being chosen with aspirated stops /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds in syllable initial, medial and final positions and a paragraph was constructed out of these words to check aspiration in words separately and in paragraph while speaking in a flow as well. Demographical data was also being collected from the sample. Two close ended questions were being asked at the end and interview was recorded on cell phone.
Construction of the Instrument
Firstly, thirty single syllable words were chosen with /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds in syllable initial, medial and final position. Out of these thirty words, ten words are with /p/ sound and four of them are those in which /p/ sound comes in syllable initial position. Three words are with syllable medial position out of which in two words /p/ sound is not aspirated as it comes after /s/ sound and in one word /p/ sound is aspirated. Three words are with syllable final position.
Ten, ten words are with /t/ and /k/ sounds also. Four, four of them are with aspirated sounds in syllable initial position. Three, three words are with stops in syllable medial and three, three are also with syllable final position.
Then out of these thirty words a short and easy to read paragraph was constructed that made sense of an event as well. Demographical data like name, gender, age, department, level, international exposure for English, medium of instruction, English language speaking course and interaction with natives was also being added with keeping in mind that this can also affect on aspiration production by students. At the end two close ended questions were also being constructed about their own views.
Data was collected personally by the researcher. Before examining the aspiration the subjects were satisfactorily briefed about how they have to give demographical data and read the passage and words. Then they were being told the phenomenon of aspiration if they didn’t know it. After that two close ended questions were being asked. The whole interview was recorded on cell phone.
Validity of the instrument
To check the validity of the instrument, researcher consulted it with two language expert.
4. Data Analysis and discussion
This chapter deals with the analysis of data and further discusses the, trying to give some interpretations.
Mean Percentage According to Aspiration in Initial, Medial and Final Position as in RP in Paragraph
At initial position Pakistani perspective ELT teachers show greater difference with RP in aspirated stops. Mean Percentage of aspirated stops at initial position is 8.96% that should be 100%. At medial position 91.67% subjects show the same results as in RP. 8.33% subjects don’t observe the rules of RP and over generalize the rules. At fi8nal position 92.87% subjects don’t aspirate the sounds and show same results as in RP but 7.13% subjects deviate from the rules of RP.
Mean Percentage According to Aspiration in Initial, Medial and Final Position as in RP in Isolated Words
At initial position Pakistani perspective ELT teachers show greater difference with RP in aspirated stops while speaking in isolated words. Mean Percentage of aspirated stops at initial position is 26.24% that should be 100%. At medial position 85.75% subjects show the same results as in RP. 14.25% subjects don’t observe the rules of RP and over generalize the rules. At fi8nal position 89.20% subjects don’t aspirate the sounds and show same results as in RP but 10.80% subjects deviate from the rules of RP.
Difference of Mean Percentage According to Aspiration in Initial, Medial and Final Position as in RP in Isolated Words and in paragraph
Mean % of paragraph
Mean % of isolated words
More subjects aspirate the sounds when they occur at initial position while speaking in isolated words than in paragraph. But at medial and final positions fewer subjects observe the rules of RP in isolated words as compared to in paragraph.
Table of Demographical Data According to Answer ‘YES’
English Language Course
Interaction with Natives
Would Aspirate Intentionally?
Very few subjects have international exposure of English speaking. Half of the people (20 out of 40) have English medium back ground. Most of the subjects (34 out of 40) like to aspirate the sounds intentionally after learning the rules of RP and most of the subjects (26 out of 40) say that there would be communication gap in the absence of aspiration.
Table of Demographical Data According to Answer ‘NO’
English Language Course
Interaction with Natives
Would Aspirate Intentionally?
Most of the subjects don’t have international exposure of English speaking. Half of the people (20 out of 40) have English medium back ground. Very few people (6 out of 40) don’t like to aspirate sounds and some subjects (14 out of 40) say that there would be no communication gap in the absence of aspiration.
Summery, Findings Conclusion and Recommendations
The present study is mainly designed to explore the factors for the usage and non usage of aspiration by Pakistani perspective ELT teachers with the view of taking L1 interference as a main factor. Demographical factors are also being studied and their effect on aspiration of stops in L2 has also being checked.
Rules of aspiration of RP at initial medial and final positions are being described and common practice of Pakistani perspective ELT teachers is being discussed and to what extent or degree they observe the rules of RP are
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