The Articulatory Phonetics English Language Essay

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Articulatory Phonetics

Articulatory is one among the types of phonetics. It includes the organs of speech; oral, pharyngeal and nasal cavities; articulators, lungs and diaphragm. All speech sounds are made in this area.  None are made outside of it (such as by stomping, hand clapping, snapping of fingers, farting, etc.)

      Theoretically, any sound could be used as a speech sound provided the human vocal tract is capable of producing it and the human ear capable of hearing it.  Actually only a few hundred different sounds or types of sounds occur in languages known to exist today, considerably fewer than the vocal tract is capable of producing. 

Consonantal place of articulation

      The place of articulation is defined in terms of two articulators These may be: lips, teeth, alveolar ridge, tongue tip (apex), tongue blade (laminus), or back of the tongue (dorsum), hard palate, soft palate (velum), uvula, glottis, pharynx, glottis (the "voice box," or cartilaginous structure where the vocal cords are housed).

bilabial [b, p, m, w]

labiodental, [f, v]

interdental, [T, D]

(apico)-dental the tip (or apex) of the tongue and the back teeth:  Spanish [t, d, s, z].

alveolar (apico-or lamino-) tongue and alveolar ridge (compare 'ten' vs. 'tenth'). Examples:  English [t, d, s, z]

postalveolar or palatoalveolar (apico- or lamino-) (English [S]/[Z]),

retroflex (apico-palatal) bottom of the tongue tip and palate, or alveolar ridge:  Midwest English word-initial [«] and [t, d, n] in many Dravidian languages and many languages of Australia.

palatal (apico- or lamino-) (English [j]),  [S]/[Z] in many languages

velar or dorso-velar Eng. [k, g, N]  German [x]  Greek [V]

uvular French [R], also found in many German dialects.  

pharyngeal (constriction of the sides of the throat), 

glottal (glottal stop, the vocal chords are the two articulators. cf. A-ha, bottle, Cockney English 'ave).  [h] is a glottalic fricative sound.

Manner of articulation

      There are several methods of modifying air when producing a consonant, and these methods are called manners of articulation. They are

1) Sounds that completely stop the stream of exhaled air are called plosives:  [d], [t], [b], [p], and [g], [k], glottal stop. 

2) Sound produced by a near complete stoppage of air are called fricatives: [s], [z], [f], [v], [T], [D], [x], [V], [h], pharyngeals.

3) Sometimes a plosive and a fricative will occur together as a single, composite sound called an affricate:  [tS], [ts], [dz], [dZ], [pf]. 

4) All other types of continuant are produced by relatively slight constriction of the oral cavity and are called approximants.  Approximants are those sounds that do not show the same high degree of constriction as fricatives but are more constricted than are vowels. During the production of an approximant, the air flow is smooth rather than turbulent. There are four types of approximants.

a) The glottis is slightly constricted to produce [h], a glottalic approximant.

b) If slight stricture occurs between the roof of the mouth and the tongue a palatal glide is produced [j].  If the constriction is between the two lips, a labiovelar glide is produced.  The glides [j] and [w] are also called semivowels, since they are close to vowels in degree of blockage.

c) If the stricture is in the middle of the mouth, and the air flows out around the sides of the tongue, a lateral is produced.  Laterals, or lateral approximants, are the various l-sounds that occur in language.  In terms of phonetic features, l-sounds are + lateral, while all other sounds are + central.

d) The third type of approximant includes any of the various R-sounds that are not characterized by a flapping or trilling: alveolar and retroflex approximants.  This includes the American English r.

      If the air flow is obstructed only for a brief moment by the touch of the tongue tip against the teeth or alveolar ridge, a tap, or tapped [|] is produced:  cf. Am Engl ladder; British Engl. very. 

      If the tongue tip is actually set in motion by the flow of air so that is vibrates once, a flap or flapped r is produced:  this is the sound of the Spanish single r.  Flaps can even be labio-dental, as in one African language, Margi, spoken in Northern Nigeria.

      If the air flow is set into turbulence several times in quick succession, a trill is produced.  Trills may be alveolar, produced by the apex of the tongue.  

Degree of blockage

      In discussing manner of articulation, it is also relevant to classify consonants according to the total degree of blockage. Remember that all sounds that involve significant stoppage of air in the vocal tract are known as consonants (this distinguishes them from vowel, which are produced by very little blockage of the airstream).  Consonants differ in the manner as well as the degree to which the airstream is blocked. While we are discussing the manner in which air is blocked, we can also classify sounds as to the degree of blockage.

      Plosives, fricatives, and affricates are all sounds made by nearly complete or complete blockage of the airstream.  For this reason they are known collectively as obstruents.

      Consonants produced by less blockage of the airstream are called sonorants.  With little blockage the airstream flows out smoothly, with relatively little turbulence.  There are several types of sonorants, depending upon where the airstream is blocked in the vocal tract and how air flows around the impediment.

      Sonorants are produced using the following manners of articulation:

      1) Sounds produced by stoppage at the vocal tract and release through the nose are called nasals.  The nasals [m], [n], and [ng] have the same point of articulation as the plosives [d], [b], and [g], except that the velum rises and air passes freely through the nose during their production; the oral stoppage is not released.  Plosives are also known as oral stops, to distinguish them from the nasal stops.  All known languages have at least one nasal except for several Salishan languages spoken around the Puget Sound (including Snohomish) 

      The division of consonants into obstruents and sonorants is not absolute.  In some languages, such as Russian, the glide [j] is produced by much more blockage and could almost as easily be called a fricative. 

Also, some l- and r- sounds are definitely fricatives rather than approximants.  Some types of l- and r-sounds are characterized by a highly turbulent flow of air over the tongue, even more than for the trilled [r].

In Czech, besides the regular flapped r, there is a strident trilled and tensed [r] which is much more like an obstruent than a sonorant.

            Because all l- and r- sounds (whether approximant and non-approximant) are produced in the same way--with the the air flowing around or over the tongue like water moving around a solid object--there is a collective term for these sounds:  liquids. Liquids and nasals are sometimes able to carry a syllable.

Some articulatory terminology

Stops (air completely blocked in the oral cavity)-nasal and oral (plosives).

Obstruents (high degree of blockage) include: plosives, fricatives, and affricates.

Sonorants (low degree of blockage)include: nasals and approximants. 

Approximants (the lowest degree of blockage) include: the glottal approximant [h], the glides [j] and [w], and most l- and r-sounds.

Liquid:  all l- and r- sounds, whether fricative or approximant.

Secondary articulation features in consonants

   Lack of release.  Plosives may not be released fully when pronounced at the end of words.  This occurs with English [p} b}, t}, d}, k}, g}]

  Length.  Consonants may be relatively long or short.  Long consonants and vowels are common throughout the world, cf. Finnish, Russian: zhech/szhech to burn;  Italian:  pizza, spaghetti.  Long or double consonants are also known as geminate consonants and are indicated in the IPA by the symbol […].  Geminate plosives and affricates are also known as delayed release consonants.

   Nasal release.  In certain African languages: [dn].

   Palatalization. Concomitant raising of the blade of the tongue toward the palate:  cannon/canyon, do/dew;  common among the sounds of Russian and other East-European languages:  mat/mat'  luk/lyuk.  There are thousands of such doublets in Russian.

   Labialization. Concomitant lip rounding cf. sh in shoe vs. she (IPA uses a superscript w to transcribe labialization) In some languages of Africa the constrast between labialized and non-labialized sounds signal differences in meaning, as in Twi:  ofa´ he finds/ ofwa´ snail.

   Velarization.   The dorsum of the tongue is raised slightly.  Compare the l in wall, all  (velarized or dark l) vs. like, land (continental or light l).  The glide [w] is also slightly velarized. In Russian all non-palatalized consonants are velarized. 

   Pharyngealization.  Concomitant constriction of throat. Afroasiatic languages of north Africa, such as Berber: zurn they are fat/ zghurn they made a pilgrimage.

   Tensing.  The muscles of the articulators can be or lax when pronouncing a sound.  Cf. Korean stops:  Lax unvoiced p, lax voiced b, tense unvoiced pp.  Tensing also occurs in the vocal cords during the production of tensed stops, so tenseness could also have been listed under phonation processes.