Unit 2 The sounds of English

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Transcript Unit 2 The sounds of English

Unit 2 The sounds of English

 Review  What are the major defining features that natural languages possess?

Major contents

      3.1 Linguistics and its branches 3.2 Vowels and consonants 3.3 Phones, phonemes, and allophones 3.4 Phonological rules 3.5 English syllables 3.6 Stress, tone, and intonation

3.1 Linguistics and its branches

 In 1916, Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics was published, which marked the beginning of modern linguistics.

Summary  Traditional linguistics  parole  written language   diachronic prescriptive  atomism  particularity individuality Modern linguistics langue spoken language synchronic descriptive structuralism universality

Branches of linguistics

Core branches:

phonetics, (pragmatics) phonology, semantics, syntax,

Peripheral branches

(hyphenated ones)


socio-linguistics, linguistics, etc.

psycho-linguistics, neuro-

applied linguistics:

language testing, stylistics, discourse analysis, text linguistics, computation linguistics, etc.

Phonetics vs. phonology

 The study of

sounds used in speech (i.e. speech sounds

) falls under the scope of both phonetics and phonology .  Phonetics deals mainly with the characteristics of human speech sounds and sound-making, provides methods for the description, classification, and transcription of the speech sounds .

 Phonology is concerned with the exploration of the patterns governing sound combinations .

Branches of phonetics


articulatory phonetics , which studies speech organs and how speech sounds are made (articulated) by the vocal organs.

[our major concern] b.

acoustic phonetics , which studies the physical properties of speech sounds.


auditory phonetics , which studies the perception of speech sounds.

3.2 vowels and consonants

 In pronouncing consonants, the airstream from the lungs through the mouth is totally or partially obstructed somewhere along the path.

 In pronouncing vowels, the airstream is not obstructed anywhere along the path.

a. Functionally, vowels are the basis of syllables.

b. Physically, vowels are musical.

c. Articulatorily, for vowels, airstream is not obstructed, and speech organs are tense.

Discuss: P. 38 No. 1

Classification of English vowels Criteria

i) the height of tongue raising(high, mid, low) ii) the position of the highest part of the tongue(front, central, back) iii) the degree of lip-rounding (rounded, unrounded) iv) long or short v) tense or lax

P. 28 Figure 2.2

Vowel description /i:/: high, front, unrounded, long, tense /i/: high, front, unrounded, short, lax / α :/: low, back, unrounded, long, tense /c:/: mid, back, rounded, long, tense /  /: mid, central, unrounded, lax /  :/: mid, central, unrounded, long, tense Practice : Describe the sound /u:/and / æ /.

 /u:/ : high, back, rounded, tense, long  / æ /: low, front, unrounded, lax

Classifying English consonants


i) manner of articulation(degree of obstruction: complete, partial or a mere narrowing) ii) place f articulation(the parts of vocal tongue involved in the production)

P. 29 Table 2.2

3.3 Phones, phonemes, and allophones  Phonology is the study of sound patterns of language( i.e. how sounds are arranged to form meaningful units) and the function of each sound.

It reveals what are the possible combinations of sounds in a language and explains why certain words take the form they do.


音素  phone: the smallest perceptible discrete segment of sound in a stream of speech i) phonetic unit ii) not distinctive of meaning iii) physical as heard or produced iv) marked with [ ]



音位  the minimal unit in the sound system of a language. With phonemes, we establish the patterns of organization within the infinitely large number of sounds. Each language can be shown to operate with a relatively small number of phonemes (15-80).

No languages have the same phonemic system.



音位 i) phonological unit ii) distinctive of meaning iii) abstract, not physical iv) marked with / /.

Discuss: P. 33 No. 1

 Three requirements for identifying minimal pairs: 1) different in meaning; 2) only one phoneme different; 3) the different phonemes occur in the same phonetic environment.

 Minimal set: pat, mat, bat, fat, cat, hat, etc.



音位变体  allophone: phonic variants/realizations of a phoneme  A phoneme is realized as allophone 1+allophone 2+….

e.g. /p/=[ p h ] + [ p ] + [ p ¬ /l/ = [ l ] + [ ł ] ] (unreleased)


 PP. 33-34 No. 2 No. 4

3.4 Phonological rules

 Phonological patterning is rule-governed. [blik] and [kilb], though not found in English, can be possible combinations, while [kbil] or [lkib] cannot. Sequential rules are those that account for the combination of sounds in a particular language. They are language-specific, as in the following cases:  * [tlait] [iltrit]

Sequential rule

 If three consonants should cluster together at the beginning of a word, the combination should follow the order/sequence below:  a. The first phoneme must be /s/  b. The second phoneme must be /p/, /t/ or /k/  c. The third phoneme must be /l/, /r/, or /w/.

spring, string, squirrel, split, screen

Consonant clusters in English at the initial position: /s/ /p/ /t/ /f/ /k/ /l/ /r/ /w/ Ex. split, spring, strike, sphragistics, squeal Question : What about the consonant cluster in the final position?

Assimilation rule

A sound may change by assimilating/copying a feature of a sequential/neighboring sound , e.g.

impossible, irresistible, illegal [in-]  PP. 34-35 No. 5       Question : What other examples? sink /since pan cake sun glasses five past seven has to

Deletion rule

 A sound may be deleted even though it may be orthographically represented.

 P. 35 No. 7

3.5 English Syllables

syllable onset rime nuclear coda consonant(s) vowel consonant(s)

3.6 Stress, tone, and intonation

Segmental phonology

Suprasegmental phonology Suprasegmental phonemes:

stress, tone and intonation


 Word stress/sentence stress  Primary stress/secondary stress  Stress of compounds: ‵ blackbird / black ‵ bird; ‵ greenhouse / green ‵ house  Sentence stress Depending on the relative importance of the words; contrastive stress


 Mark the stress pattern for the following two sentences: a. Jane is a good student that everybody likes.

b. You use “ the ” , not “ a ” , before the name of a musical instrument.

Tone (

声调)  Different rates of vibration produce different frequencies, which are termed as different pitches.

Pitch distinctive of meaning.

variations are  In some languages like Chinese, pitch variations are called tones. Languages using tones are tone languages.


 When pitch, stress and length variations are tied to the sentence, they combine to become known as intonation.

Three major types of English intonation:  a. falling tone/tune  b. rising tone/tune  c. fall-rise tone/tune

right intonation.


Read the following paragraph, using the

Do you know how much college students sleep a night? Research finds that they sleep an average of six to seven hours a night. Last month, the University of Michigan held a national conference on sleep, stress, depression and college students. It was concluded that sleep deprivation can hurt academic performance and increase stress.


Find (or even invent) a story or joke created on phonetic basis.

P. 39 No. 3,4

P. 40 No. 7