During the course of learning English, it is crucial for the teacher to make sure that the students are familiar with the fact that the sounds in Polish language differ in pronunciation from English ones .I would like to focus on Received Pronunciation that is usually taught in Poland. The aim is to show the major problems on particular sounds by the comparisons of specific issues in both languages. I would like to describe the sound system of English, but it should be remembered that such a description forms only a part of the total description of a language. My attempt is to focus on articulatory phonetics , which is the most accessible branch of phonetics. Within the current approach to language teaching, it is essential to make students aware of what is relevant in spoken English. The learners are not only supposed to know the phonetic transcription and the organs of speech but also to have some knowledge of the manner of articulation and the place of articulation, voicing. In addition to this, they ought to be presented with language data and expected to arrive at some generalizations by providing them the necessary practise in mastering the knowledge of English descriptive phonetics.
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Received Pronunciation (RP) is a wide world spread form of pronunciation of the English language, which has been long perceived as uniquely prestigious amongst British accents. It is associated with the south -east, where most RP-speakers live or work, but it can be found anywhere in the country. Accents usually tell us where a person is from; RP tells us only about a person’s social or educational background. It is probably the most widely studied and most widely described variety of spoken English in the world. Although recent estimates suggest only 2% of the UK population speak it, RP is used as a model of pronunciation in teaching English as a foreign language.
What we usually have in mind when we talk about teaching pronunciation is the fact, that casual speech phenomena display a considerable amount of dialectical and individual variation. The students ,therefore ,ought to be presented with major features of general British pronunciation :first general introduction ,then problems on particular sounds or processes, and, finally, some exercises on corresponding phonetics phenomena in Polish , followed by the comparison of the specific issues in both languages. For the purposes of this discussion, the knowledge of the pronunciation differences will be taken to mean mastering the spoken English.
Chapter 1. Phonetics-general picture
Phonetics is a branch of linguistics, which deals with speech sounds. It refers to a way the word is spoken, or the manner in which someone utters a world. All languages have their own unique sounds systems. The phonetics of a language concerns the concrete characteristics (articulatory, acoustics, auditory) of the sounds used in languages. Articulatory phonetics deals with the articulation of the speech sounds that are the activity of speech organs in the course of speaking. Acoustics phonetics deals with the disturbances of a molecule during the transmission of speech. Auditory phonetics is concerned with the perception of speech. The focus is on articulatory phonetics. It consists of segmental phonetics (how we pronounce individual sounds and their variety in different contents), suprasegmental (prosodic) which deals with stress, intonation and rhythm. All ordinary sounds of English are produced with the outgoing stream of air. The stream of air produced by the lungs goes into the trachea, at the top of which the larynx is situated. Inside the larynx, whose protruding front is known as the Adam’s apple, the vocal cords are found. When they vibrate, sounds, which are produced, are voiced when they are wide opened, the sounds are voiceless. The opening between the vocal cords is called the glottis. When the stream of air has passed through the larynx, it enters the cavity formed between the base of the tongue and the back wall of the throat. The cavity is known as pharyngeal cavity. At the base of the tongue is the epiglottis. Thanks to it, the food passes to the oesophagus and not to the trachea. At the top of the throat, there is a forking of air passage: the air can pass out through the nasal cavities or through the oral cavity. This depends on the position of the velum. When it is raised ,the way to the nasal cavities is blocked and the air escapes through the oral cavity. When it is lowered, the air may go out through the nasal cavities. In the former case, oral sounds are produced, in the latter, nasal sounds. At the lower end of velum, a small movable appendage is known as the uvula. Both the velum and the uvula are parts of the palate, also called the roof of the mouth. At the front of the month, the bony structure forms the hard palate. In the foremost part of it just behind the upper teeth, there is a prominent ridge called as the alveolar ridge. The major speech organ in the month is the tongue. Phonetically speaking its surface is divided into the tip, the front, the blade, and the back. Finally, speech sounds may be modified by the shape of the lips.
The term organs of speech refer to all those parts of human body, which are connected in various ways with the production of speech. Most of them are only secondarily concerned with speech production-their primary functions are to do eating, chewing and swallowing food, and respiration. The figure 1 below shows a section through the body indicating the major organs, which contribute to the speech process.
Despite the fact that speech is relatively continuous flow, we are accustomed to thinking of it as sounds, or as sequences of sounds
1.3 Classification of sounds
The division into consonants and vowels belongs to the most intuitively obvious to the nonprofessional. It is also among the most misliding. To a casual question of “how many vowels are there in English”, phonetically native speakers (also native speakers) would tend to answer-five: a, e, I, o, u. This answer, which is of course phonetically incorrect, can be understood (and to some extend excused) in the light of the powerful effect of writing in literature societies like those of Great Britain or Poland. While there may indeed be five vowel- letters in the Roman alphabet, on which most European languages base their writing system, there are many more vowel- sounds in English, as it will be discussed below (Sobkowiak 2001) The English and Polish sounds are classified in terms of:
1. manner of articulation
2. place of articulation
In articulatory phonetics, the manner of articulation describes how the tongue, lips, and other speech organs are involved in making a sound make contact. The concept is only used for the production of consonants .The place of articulation of a consonant is the point of contact, where an obstruction occurs in the vocal tract.
On the basis of voicing, consonants are divided into `voiced consonants’ and `voiceless consonants’. Voiced consonants are those, which are articulated with the vibration of the vocal cords. . Voiceless consonants are articulated without vibration of vocal cords or it may be said that during the production of voiceless consonants vocal cords are kept apart. The manner of articulation describes the different types of obstructions made by the articulators. These obstructions may be total, intermittent, and partial or may merely constitute a narrowing sufficient to cause friction.
Vowels are the sounds that are produced with an approximation without any obstruction in the air passage among all articulators, only tongue is prominent in their production. All vowel sounds are voiced and all of them are `oral’ as during the production of them, the soft palate is raised and hence the nasal cavity is completely blocked.
Polish learners of English often have problems mastering consonants and vowels of English. Although there are some sounds that have close equivalent in Polish, most of the English sounds are different and some do not exist in Polish.
1.4 Classification of English consonants
According to the manner of articulation, English consonants are divided into unobstructed (nasals, retroflexes, laterals, glides), obstacle (fricatives), closure (plosives and affricates).
On the basis of the place of articulation, consonants are divided as
bilabial (or labial), labio-dental, dental, alveolar, palatal, velar, and glottal. Table 1 shows this classification
This table shows that many of the cells are not filled. There are, for example, no dental nasals, post-alveolar glides, or palatal fricatives. The very restricted use that English (and similarly other languages) is making of the articulatory space has important consequences for speaking and understanding. If all cells were filled, even minute variations in production might cause gross misunderstanding. ( Sobkowiak 2001)
A consonant is produced when the air stream is restricted or stopped at some point between the vocal cords and the lips. A description of English consonants must also take into account the following aspects of their articulation: The force of articulation .A voiceless/voiced pair of consonants is distinguished by not only the presence or absence of voice but also by the degree of breath and muscular energy involved in the articulation. Those consonants that are usually voiced tend to be articulated with relatively weak energy, whereas those, which are always voiceless, are relatively strong. In the former case, lenis sounds are produced, in the latter, fortis sounds.
The action of the vocal cords. At any place of articulation, a consonantal articulation may be voiced or voiceless. The position of the soft palate. When it is raised, the airstream passes through the mouth, and oral sounds are produced, when it is lowered, allowing the passage of air through the nose the sounds are classified as nasals or nasalized.
The obstruction made by the organs may be total, intermittent, or partial, or may merely constitute a narrowing sufficient to cause friction. The chief types of articulation, in decreasing degrees of closure, are as follows:
1. Complete closure.
Plosive.A complete closure is made at some point in the vocal tract, behind which the air pressure builds up and can be released explosively, e.g./p,b,t,k,g/
Affricate. A complete closure is made at some point in the mouth, behind which the air pressure builds up; the separation of the organs is however slow compared with that of a plosive,so that friction is characteristic second element of the sound,e.g./tâˆ«,dÐ·/
Nasal. A complete closure is made at some point in the mouth but, the soft palete being lowered, the air escapes through the nose. These sounds are continuants and, in the voiced form, have no noise component; they are, to this extent, vowel like, e, g. /m,n, Å‹/.
2. Intermiitent closure.
Retroflex (trill or roll) A series of rapid intermittent closures made by flexible organ on a firmer surface, or a single tap as there are many variants of English /r/ sound.
3. Partial closure.
Lateral.A partial (but firm) closure is made at some point in the mouth, the airstream being allowed to escape on both sides of the contact.These sounds may be continuat and frictionless and therefore vowel-like,e.g./l,â€¡/
Fricative.Two organs approximate to such an extend that the air stream passes between them with friction,e.g./f,v, âˆ‚,Î¸, âˆ«,Ð·,s,z,h/
5.Narrowing without friction.
Approximant(or frictionless continuant ) . A narrowing is made in the month, but the narrowing is not sufficient to cause friction.In being frictionless and continuant glides are vowel-like; however, they function phonologically as consonants, i.g. they appear at the edges of syllables. (Gibson’s pronunciation of English 1994)
Finally, there are glides .As the term suggests, these are gliding sounds, fast transition from one tongue position to another, e.g. /j, w/
As it was mentioned, earlier consonants are made by moving one articulator towards another. In fact, it is usually just two articulators that shape the quality of a given sound. The sounds are identified in the following way:
1. Bilabial .The two lips are involved as the articulators, e.g./p,b,m/.
2. Labiodental .The lower lip articulates against the upper teeth,e.g./f,v/
3. Dental .The tip of the tongue articulates with the upper teeth, e. g/âˆ‚,Î¸/
4. Alveolar. The tip or the blade of the tongue articulated with the alveolar ridge, e.g./t ,d, l, n ,s ,z/.
5.Post-alveolar. The tip of the tongue articulates with the rear part of the alveolar ridge,e.g./ tâˆ«,dÐ·, âˆ«,Ð·,r/
6. Palatal.The front of the tongue articulates against the hard palete,e.g./j/.
7.Velar.The back of the tongue articulates with the soft palete,e.g./k,g, Å‹/
8.Glottal.An obstruction ,or a narrowing causing friction but no vibration,between the vocal folds,e.g./h/.
In the case of some consonantal sounds, there may be a secondary place of articulation in addition to the primary. Thus, in the so called ‘dark’/Å‚/, as the end of pull, in addition to the partial alveolar contact, there is an essencial raising of the back of the tongue towards the velum (velarization); or, again, some post-alveolar articulations of /Å-/ are accompanied by slight lip-rounding (labialization).The place of primary articulation is that of greatest stricture, that which gives rise to the greatest obstruction to the airflow. The secondary articulation exhibits a stricture of lesser rank. Where there are two coextensive strictures of equal rank, an example of double articulation results. (Gimson’s Pronunciation of English 1994).
1.5 Classification of Polish consonants
As far as vowels are concerned, the description should include the following factors:
– The source of energy;
– The direction of the air stream;
– The position of the soft palate;
– The length;
– The tenseness;
– The position of the tongue;
– The shape of the lips.
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