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Theoretical Phonetics


Lecture 1.

1. The phonetic system of a language.

2 Phonetics as a Branch of Linguistics.

3. Aspects of speech sounds.

4. Phonetics as a science.

5. Branches of phonetics and methods of investigation.

Phonetics studies the sound system of the language that is segmental phonemes word stress syllabic structure and intonation. It is primarily concerned with expression level. It is important in the study of language. It is the most fundamental branch of linguistics; it occupies the equal importance with grammar and lexicology. Phonetics has two main divisions: on the one hand, phonology, the study of the sound patterns of the languages, of how a spoken language functions as a ”code”, and on the other, the study of substance, that carries the code. Before analyzing the linguistic function of phonetic units we need to know how the vocal mechanism acts in producing oral speech and what methods are applied in investigating the material form of the languages that is substance.

Human speech is the result of a highly complicated series of events. The formation of the concepts takes place at a linguistic level that is in the brain of the speaker; this stage may be called psychological. The message formed within the brain is transmitted along the nervous system to the speech organs. The human brain controls the behaviour of the articulating organs which effects in a particular pattern of speech sounds. This second stage may be called physiological. The third stage may be called physical or acoustic. Any communication requires a listener, as well as a speaker. So, the last stages are the reception of the sound waves by the listener’s hearing apparatus, the transmission of the spoken message through the nervous system to the brain and the linguistic interpretation of the information conveyed.

Language is the immediate actuality of thought and the most important means of communication. It exists in two main speech forms: oral and written. In oral speech the substance is phonic, in written speech the substance is graphic. The sound substance forms units of the phonetic system of a language. The phonetic system of a language is a set of phonetic units arranged in an orderly way to replace each other in a given framework. It contains two systems – segmental and suprasegmental. Segmental units are: elem. Sounds, vowels, consonants. Suprasegmental units are: syllables, rhythmical units, intonation groups, utterances.

Aspects of speech sounds. The sound substance has its own independent properties as a physical phenomenon. Moreover, it is a product of human activity. Being created by the speaker, the sound substance indicates the speaker’s personality ( sex, age, individual features), reveals his physiological and emotional state, geographical origin, education, social status and so on. Sound phenomena have different aspects which are closely connected: the articulatory aspect, the acoustic aspect, the auditory aspect and the linguistic aspect. The articulatory aspect. Speech sounds are products of human organs of speech. Sound production is impossible without respiration, which consists of two phases- inspiration and expiration. Expiration, during which sp. sounds are produced, is called phonic expiration. The acoustic aspect. Like any other sound of nature sp. sounds exist in the form of sound waves and have such physical properties as frequency, intensity, duration and spectrum. The auditory aspect. Speech sounds may also be analysed from the point of view of perception. It involves the activity of our hearing mechanism, which can be considered in two ways. On the one hand, it is a physiological mechanism, which reacts to acoustic stimuli. On the other hand, it is also a psychological mechanism, which selects from the great amount of acoustic information only that which is linguistically important. The linguistic aspect. Segmental sounds and prosodic features are linguistic phenomena. Representing language units in actual speech, they perform certain linguistic functions. They constitute meaningful units- morphemes, words, word-forms, utterances.

Phonetics as a science. Phonetics as a branch of linguistics studies sounds in the broad sense, investigating vowels and consonants. It studies the acoustic properties of sounds, the physiological basis of sound production, it occupies itself with the study of the ways in which the sounds are organized into a system of different units. In the 18th century it was considered as a part of grammar. Now phonetics is an independent science with its own theories, methods of investigation, it is closely connected with physiology, biology, physics and other sciences. It is also connected with grammar, lexicology, the history of the language.

Branches of phonetics. The branch of phonetics that studies the way in which the air is set in motion, the movements of the speech organs and the coordination of these movements in the production of single sounds and trains of sounds is called articulatory phonetics. Acoustic phonetics studies the way in which the air vibrates between the speaker’s mouth and the listener’s ear. It presents special interest for research work and applied linguistics. The branch of phonetics investigating the hearing process is known as auditory phonetics. Its interests lie in the sensation of hearing, which is brain activity The means by which we discriminate sounds – quality ,sensations of pitch, loudness, length, are relevant here. Instrumental phonetics were introduced into phonetics in the second half of the last century in order to supplement and to rectify the impressions deriving from the human senses , since these are affected by the limitations of the perceptual mechanism, and in general are rather subjective. Phoneticians cannot act only as describers and classifiers of the material form of phonetic units. They are also interested in the way in which sound phenomena function in a particular language, how they are utilized in that language and what part they play in manifesting the meaningful distinctions of the language The branch of phonetics that studies the linguistic function of consonant and vowel sounds, syllabic structure, word accent and prosodic features, such as pitch, stress and tempo is called phonology. The phonetic system of a language is a set of phonetic units arranged in an orderly way to replace each other in a given framework. It contains two systems, or levels – segmental and suprasegmental, or prosodic, each of which is a specially organized language system with a certain number of its units. Segmental units are elementary sounds, vowels and consonants, which form the vocalic and consonantal subsystems. Prosodic units are syllables, rhythmic units, and intonation groups, utterances, which form subsystems of pitch, stress, rhythm, tempo, and pauses. Segmental and prosodic units serve to form and differentiate units of other subsystems of language, the lexical and grammatical units. General and special phonetics. General phonetics is based on the extensive material that a great number of languages give. The method of studies is linguistic. Special phonetics studies the phonetic system of a particular language. It is subdivided into historical and special. The first studies the development of the phonetic system within the historical development of the language. (the approach is diachronic). The second studies the development of the phonetic system of the language in its static form, as it functions in its present stage (the approach is synchronic). Experimental phonetics is based on the use of different apparators and instruments. The originator of this method is Rousellot, the French phonetician. Besides these branches we can mention comparative , theoretical, practical, socio-phonetics(the ways in which pronunciation interacts with society).

Methods of investigation.

  1. The direct observation method has 3 modes of investigation: by ear, by sight, by muscular sensation. It is rather old and subjective, a person must be specially trained and have a “phonetic ear”.

  2. The linguistic method is based on the extensive material which a number of special phonetics provide for investigation/

  3. The experimental method is used to supply any other investigation by the experimental analysis to define the clearness and correct data of the analysed phonetic phenomena. It is based on the usage of instruments and apparatuses (oscillogragh, intonograph, taperecorder and others).


Lecture 2.


The Phoneme Theory in our country and abroad.

1.The approach of a phoneme in its historical aspect

1a. B. de Courtenay’s theory.

1b. Scerba’s Phoneme theory and other phoneticians’ approach

2. The Phoneme theory abroad

2a; The Prague Phonological School;

2b. The London Phonological School;

2c. The American Phonological School;

2d. The Copenhagen Phonological School.

The Phoneme Theory. The term” phoneme” appeared in the linguistic literature of the 19th century in the works of the French linguist F. de Saussure. According to him a phoneme is defined as a total sum of acoustic impressions and articulatory movements. The linguistic aspect is lacking in this definition. He ignores the sense differentiating function of the phoneme / his phisiologysm / and draws a line between language and speech, considering it as a system of signs, expressing ideas /his psychologism /. His conceptions greatly influenced a great number of linguists and schools.

The phoneme theory came into being in Russia. Its originator was Prof. B. de Courtenay, the founder of the Kazan linguistic school. His work on the phoneme theory may be roughly subdivided into two periods. Firstly, he considered a phoneme to be a component of a morpheme. He stated that one and the same morpheme was always represented by the same combination of sounds.[as in Slavonic languages].He centered his attention mainly on the phenomenon of phonetic and historical alternations. Secondly, he abandoned this conception in the 90th of the XIX century and began to search for a unit not bound by the limits of a morpheme. He defined a phoneme as an idea of a sound which appears in the mind of a speaker before the sound is uttered. A speech sound is an invention of the scientists. What really exists is the perception of a sound, the complex perception of the articulatory movements, muscular sensation and acoustic impressions. This complex perception is a phoneme.

This theory was developed by Prof.Scerba, Krushevsky and by other Soviet and foreign linguists. According to Scerba sounds must be studied not only from the acoustic points of view, but as sounds capable of distinguishing one word of a language from other words of the same language. They fulfill a communicative function in speech. According to Scerba, a phoneme is realized in speech in concrete sound combinations, which he calls allophones. The most typical, which may be pronounced in isolation, represent a speech element, opposed to other sounds. It is “tipichniy ottenok”. The number of phonemes in a given language is defined by the principal members. In English there are 44 phonemes, in Russian – 36. Phonemic variants are very important, because they may develop into new phonemes: O.E.or they may stop functioning the theory of the phoneme was then further developed by Scerba’s disciples. [Zinder]. A phoneme is understood as a historical category. It functions in a language at a certain stage of its development. It may be characterized as a unit of different aspects: 1. its material and objective aspects. It really exists in a language. It is a concrete sound, characterized by definite formation and definite acoustic qualities. It exists independently in the speech of all the members of the community; it does not depend on the will of an individual, it is obligatory for all, as it is a product of the historical development of a given collective body. Thus, it is a social phenomenon. 1. The functional value. The phoneme has two main functions: a) to serve as a material integument of words and morphemes; b) to differentiate the meaning of words, their grammatical forms and morphemes.

2. The phoneme is the result of generalization. It is a dialectical unit of the general and the particular. It is realized in speech in concrete sound combinations as allophones, being at the same time something typical and general when opposed to other phonemes in speech.

The theory of the phoneme is being developed into two main directions in our country: the Moscow linguistic school, the St. Petersburg linguistic school. There are many different linguistic schools of the phoneme abroad: the Prague phonological school, the London phonological school, the American phonological school and the Copenhagen phonological school.

The Phoneme Theory abroad.


The Prague Phonological School.

The phoneme theory was further developed by the Linguistic Society of Prague. The head of the school is N.S. Trubetzkoy. He first became acquainted with the phoneme theory through the works of Baudouin de Courtenay and Scerba. He propounded his phonological views in a number of works, the principal of which is” Grundzuge der Phonologie.” The main points of his theory are: 1. the separation of phonology from phonetics; 2. The theory of phonological oppositions; 3. the theory of the arc-phoneme.

He developed de Saussure’s principle of the separation of speech from language by proclaiming a new science- phonology as distinct from phonetics. According to him, phonology is a linguistic science. It should concern itself with the distinctive features only which are connected with meaning, while phonetics is a biological science, it should concern itself with the sounds of a language, as they are pronounced and as they are heard, without paying any special attention to their function in the language. Trubetzkoy further develops his system of oppositions by giving special prominence to the most essential members: 1. the phoneme, which he defines as a unity of the phonologically relevant features of a sound; 2. the speech sound, which he defines as a unity of all the features, both relevant and irrelevant, of a sound representing the phoneme in connected speech. Some oppositions may be neutralized, the phoneme in the position of neutralization is the arc-phoneme, “a unity of relevant features common to two phonemes”.

The London Phonological School.

It is headed by Prof. D. Jones of London and is concerned with the physical conception of the phoneme. His views are expressed in a number of works. According to him a phoneme is defined as “ a family of sounds in a given language which are related in character and are used in such a way that no one member ever occurs in a word in the same phonetic context as any other member”. He breaks up the phoneme into atoms and considers different features of a phoneme as independent phenomena. He distinguishes tones and tonemes in tone languages, strones and stronemes as different degrees of stress, chrones and chronemes as different length of vowels.His aim is to give a phoneme a purely practical application.

The American Phonological School.

The American phonological school is headed by L.Bloomfield and E. Sapir. Their approach of the phoneme theory is synchronic. They treat the linguistic phenomena from the point of view of structuralism-“ pattern is habit, behavior is culture”. They compare linguistic processes with a fire in a wooden stove , they are invisible. One can judge about what is going on within by an individual’s behavior. The system of the language may be compared with any system of signs, for example, with Morse code.

The Copenhagen Phonological School.

The Copenhagen Trend is known as structuralism. Their treatment of the phoneme is mathematical. They consider the phoneme in mathematical ratios and compare the language with a system of signs. Their approach is synchronical as well.


Lecture 3.

Classification of sounds.

  1. Articulation Basis of the Language.

2. Principles of classification of speech sounds.

3. Classification of English consonants

4. Classification of English vowels..

5. The Diphthong Theory.

Articulation Basis of the Language. Every nation that speaks a certain language has definite and quite obligatory ways of the articulation of the sounds. Sometimes these ways coincide in different languages but more often they are different. The habitual way of the articulation of all the sounds of a definite language is called by the term the articulation basis of the language. The articulation basis of English differs from that of Russian: voiced consonants are less energetic, whereas voiceless ones are much more energetic; the lips do not protrude; the tongue is slightly drawn back. The phonation habits of the native speakers of different languages may differ depending on character of sounds. In all languages speech sounds are traditionally divided into two main types – vowels and consonants.

From the articulatory point of view the main principles of the division are as follows: 1. the presence or absence of obstruction; 2. the distribution of muscular tension; 3. the force of the stream of air coming from the lungs. Vowels are speech sounds based on voice which is modified in the supralaringeal cavities. There is no obstruction in their articulation. The muscular tension is spread evenly throughout the speech organs. The force of the stream of air is rather weak. Consonants are speech sounds in the articulation of which there is an obstruction, the removal of which causes noise, plosion or friction. The muscular tension is concentrated at the place of obstruction. The stream of air is strong. The articulatory boundary between vowels and consonants is not well- marked. There exist speech sounds that occupy an intermediate position between vowels and consonants. These are sonorants [m,n,n,l,w,r,]. The wide passage for the stream of air in the articulation of sonorants means that the oral and nasal cavities are active.

The classification of English consonants.

In the English consonant system there are 24 consonants. The quality of the consonants depends on several aspects: 1. the work of the vocal cords; 2. what cavity is used as a resonator; 3. the force of the articulation and some other factors. There are some principles of consonant classification: 1. the type of obstruction and the manner of production of noise. We distinguish 2 classes of consonants: a) occlusive c., in the production of which a complete obstruction is formed; b) constrictive c., in the production of which an incomplete obstruction is formed. Each of the two classes is subdivided into noise consonants and sonorants. Noise consonants are divided into plosives (or stops) and affricates and constrictive sounds. Sonorants are divided into occlusive and constrictive sounds. Constrictive sonorants may be medial and lateral. Another principle is the place of articulation. Consonants are classed into 1) labial, 2) lingual, 3) glottal. The first class is subdivided into a) bilabial; b) labio- dental; the second class is subdivided into: a) fore lingual, b) mediolingual, c)back lingual. The next principle is the presence or absence of voice which depends on the work of the vocal cords. All voiced consonants are weak (lenis) and all voiceless c. are strong (fortis). The next principle is the position of the soft palate. According to this, E. consonants can be oral and nasal.(m,n,n). According to the stability consonants are monophthongs, diphthongs and diphthongoids.

The classification of English vowels. In the E. vowel system there are 12 vowel monophthongs and 8 or 9 diphthongs. The quality of a vowel depends, first of all, on its stability, on the tongue position, lip position character of the vowel end, length, tenseness. 1. According to this principle E. vowels are subdivided into monophthongs, b) diphthongs, c) diphthongoids.[ I ], [ u ]. According to the position of the tongue vowels are classed from vertical and horizontal planes. From the horizontal plane vowels are divided into : 1. front; 2. front-retracted ; 3.central ; 4. back ; 5. back-advanced. From the vertical plane E. vowels are divided into: 1. close; 2. mid; 3. open. Each class has wide and narrow variations. According to the lip rounding vowels have 3 positions: spread, neutral, rounded. The next point is checkness. All E. short vowels are checked when stressed. The degree of checkness depends on the following consonant. All long vowels are free. According to the length E. vowels are traditionally divided into short and long vowels, it is a historical phenomenon. Besides, there exists the positional length of vowels, depending on the position of a vowel in a word. From the point of view of tenseness all historically long vowels are tense, while short vowels are lax.

The diphthong theory. The phonemic status of English diphthongs is still a question of discussion. Diphthongs are complex units of the two elements which are closely blended together. They are syllabically indivisible,the length of diphthongs is the same as that of English long vowels. In Russian there are no diphthongs, only combinations of sounds where both elements are equally energetic and distinct. English diphthongs consist of two elements, the first of which is a nucleus, strong and distinct; the second is a glide, which is very weak and indistinct. There exist languages where the second element of a diphthong is a nucleus, being strong and distinct, while the first element is weak and indistinct.(Italian, Latvian- piano, ruoka). Such diphthongs are considered to be false and rising, while English diphthongs are considered to be true and falling. There are 8 English diphthongs: close |ie|, |ue|; mid |ou|, |ei|; open |ea|, |oi|, |ai|, |au|. They are characterized according to the tongue position and the position of the lips.


Lecture 4

Pronunciation in English.

1.Pronunciation varieties of British English.

2. The orthoepic norm and the literary norm of pronunciation.

3. Dialects of Great Britain

3a. The Cockney Dialect;

3b. The Southern Dialect;

3c. The Northern Dialect;

3d. The Scottish Dialect.

There exist numerous varieties of pronunciation in any language. The pronunciation of almost every locality in the British Isles has peculiar features that distinguish it from the pronunciation of other localities. Pronunciation is socially influenced. It reflects class distinctions, education and upbringing. The varieties that are spoken by a socially limited number of people and used only in certain localities are called dialects. Dialect speakers have some peculiarities in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammatical structure. Dialect speakers are the less educated part of the population. They enrich the language and make it more lively and fresh. In British E. three main regional types of pronunciation are distinguished in Britain now: Southern, Northern and Scottish. There are also some Irish dialects in Northern Ireland. English has been spoken in Scotland for a long time. Gaelic is still the native language of thousands of speakers from Scotland . Nowadays educated Scottish people speak a form of Scottish Standard English. The orthoepic norm. One of the types of pronunciation which is spoken by the educated people in the capital is recognized as the orthoepic norm. The orthoepic norm is the standard pronunciation adopted by native speakers as the right and proper way of speaking. It is used by the most educated part of the population. The orthoepic norm is based on the variants of pronunciation that are widely used in actual speech, that reflect the main phonetic tendencies and are considered to be acceptable by the educated. Thus, wide currency, conformity to the main phonetic tendencies and social acceptability are the three main conditions that are necessary to be accepted as a norm . The orth.norm must always include a set of stylistic variants of pronunciation. R.P. was accepted as the phonetic norm about a century ago. It is based on the Southern English regional type of pronunciation.

The R. P. is spoken all over Britain by a comparatively small number of Englishmen who have had the most privileged education in the country- public school education. Children are sent there to live at the age 11. They acquire the so–called “ public school accent”, or R.P. As almost all the leading positions in the Cabinet, the armed forces, the judiciary are occupied by those who have had public school education. R. P. is actually a social standard pronunciation of English. It is often referred to as the “prestige accent”. Though R.P. is carefully preserved by the public schools the R.P. of to – day differs in some respects from R.P. used half a century ago. The main changes are as follows: 1. The diphthongization of R.P.[i:] and [u;], see, who. 2. The monophthongization of [ai] and [au], tower, fire. 4. The assimilation of [sj.>s], [zj>z], [tj>ts], [dj>dj]: issue, crozier, situation. 4. The final [b,d.g] are now partially devoiced, but [p, t, k ]] are fortis. 5. The use of intrusive [r], which was carefully avoided before “Asia (r) Africa”, “drama(r) and music”.

They have become well-established nowadays. A. Gimson distinguishes 3 varieties of R.P. to- day. 1) The Conservative R.P., used mainly by the older R.P. speakers. 2) The General R.P. heard on the radio and T.V. that is less conservative and has received all these changes. 3) The Advanced R.P. mainly used by the younger R.P. speakers, (glottal stop). R.P. has accepted many features of the Southern regional type and it is the teaching norm in our country. But there are many educated people in Britain who do not speak R.P., though their E. is good and correct. They speak Standard English with a regional type of pronunciation.

Dialects of England. Roughly speaking dialects of England may be grouped in the following way: Southern dialects (Greater London, Cockney, Kent, Essex and others); 2. Eastern dialects; 3. Northern dialects; 4. Scottish dialects; Western dialects; 5. Dialects of Ireland.

One of the main differences between southern and northern regional types is in the phoneme inventory- the absence or presence of particular phonemes. In most regions there is the ”rhotic”accent. This |r| sound is post-vocalic and is most often heard in Scotland, Ireland and in Southwest of England. In most regions the glottal stop is more widely used than in RP. Many non-speakers use |n| in the suffix “ing “. In most regions “j “is dropped after |t, s|: student,suit, news, tune. Cockney dialect Cockney is a social accent- the speech of working class areas of the Greater London. It has the following peculiarities: lady |laidi|, bag |beg|; city |siti:|; blood |bleid|; oh, no |eu neu|. The sound |h|is very often absent but sometimes appears where they don’t use it in RP: horse |o:s|, have |ev|, but |h| atmospere , honest; the contrast between |th| and |f| , |th| and |v| , |th| and |d| is practically lost ; the sound |l| is often replaced by |v|, in the suffix “ing” they use |n|. the sounds |p,t,k| are strongly aspirated. The sound |t|is strongly aspirated: top |tsop|.

Lecture 5.

American English Pronunciation.

1 .The spreading of English in the world and reasons for that.

2. The history of the development of English in America.

3. The American literary norm and its peculiarities.

4. Dialects of American English.

Over 300 million people now speak English as their first language. It is the national language of Great Britain, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (part of it).

The American variant of English has been thoroughly described by many prominent scholars both in our country and in the USA.The sociolinguistic situation in the United States is very complicated. It is moulded by certain linguistic, cultural, historic, demographic, geographic, political and other factors.

The American variant of English underwent the influence of many languages, but the starting point was the English language of the early 17 th and 18th centuries. There are certain varieties of educated American speech. In the U.S.A. 3 main types of cultivated speech are recognized: the Eastern type, the Southern type, the Western or General American. General American pronunciation is known as the Standard Pronunciation of the U.S.A. It is the form of speech used by the radio and T.V. It is used in scientific, cultural and business intercourse. American English may be analyzed from 3 points of view: 1. Peculiarities Vowels and Consonants; 2. Stress Differences. 3. Intonation Differences.

The Eastern type is spoken in New England and in New York city. It bears a remarkable resemblance to Southern English with some slight differences.

The Southern type is used in the South and South-East of the USA. It possesses a striking feature- vowel drawl, which is a specific way of pronouncing vowel, consisting in the diphthongization of some pure vowels and monophthongization of some diphthongs by prolonging their nuclei and dropping the glides.

General American, also known as Northern American or Western American spoken in the central Atlantic States: New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin and others.

Some peculiarities: 1. there is no division into long and short vowels; 2. the number of diphthongs varies from 3 to 12 phonemes. Following D.A. Shakhbagova we distinguish 5 diphthongs: |ei|, |ai|, |oi|, |au|, |ou|. 3. Usually vowels and diphthongs have |r| sound between a vowel and consonant or between a vowel and a silence: TURN, BIRD, STAR. 4. American English is characterized by nasalization, when vowels are preceded or followed by a nasal consonant (SMALL, NAME). Nasalization is often called an American twang….5.The sound |l| in all positions is always dark. 6. Intervocalic |t| is normally voiced. In words like TWENTY, LITTLE |t| is dropped. 7. The “wh” is represented in GA by |^^| or |hw| sound. 8. The sonorant |j| is usually weakened or omitted between consonants: Tuesday |tu:zdi|, suit |su:t|, stupid |stu:pid|. 9. The pronunciation of many words is different: Asia |eiже|, lever |lever|, schedule |skedjel|, tomato |te’ meitou|, vase |veiz|. 10 Words like HOSTILE, MISSILE, REPTILE have final |el|.

Stress differences. 1. In words of French origin GA tends to have stress on the final stllable: BAL’LET |lei|, BE’RET |rei|. 2. Some words have stress on the first syllable in GA: ‘ADDRESS, ‘CIGARETTE, ‘MAGAZINE, ‘RESEARCH. 3. Some compounds have their stress on the first syllable too: ‘WEEKEND, ‘ICECREAM, ‘NEW YEAR. 4. Polysyllabic words ending in –ary, -ory, -mony have secondary stress: ‘LABORA’TORY, ‘TESTI’MONY, ‘DICTIO’NARY.

Intonation differences.1. They use a medium Level Head instead of Descending ScaleI don’t want to go to the \theatre. 2. In emphatic sentences Mid-Wavy-Level Head is used. 3. Rise-Fall is used in GA instead of Low Fall| Come and see me to\morrow. 4. The Mid-Rising tone is used instead of in general questions. 4. In the Fall- Rise nuclear tone the rise is higher than in RP. 5. Requests are pronounced with a Fall- Rise: Open the door. 6. Leave-takings are often pronounced with a high-pitched Fall-Rise in GA: Good night. 7. They use High Rise instead of Low –Rise in many cases.

Lecture 6.

Syllable Formation in English:

1. The Principle Theories on Syllable.

2. The Syllable Construction in English.

3. Functions of a Syllable in Speech.

Speech can be broken into minimal uttered units, where sounds show a tendency to cluster or group themselves. These smallest phonetic groups are generally given the name of syllables. Being the smallest pronounceable units, the syllables form language units of greater magnitude that is morphemes, words and phrases. Each of these units is characterized by a certain syllabic structure. Thus, we may say that a meaningful language unit has two aspects: syllable formation and syllable division which form a dialectical unity. The syllable can be studied on four levels: acoustic, articulatory, auditory and functional. On the articulatory level, we could start with the so-called expiratory theory of R.H. Stetson. For him expiration in speech is a pulsation process and each syllable corresponds to a single expiration, so the number of syllables in an utterance is determined by a number of expirations. Another theory is put forward by O. Jesperson. It is called the sonority theory. According to it, each sound is characterized by a certain degree of sonority which is understood as acoustic property of a sound that determines its perception, so the most sonorous sounds tend to form the centre of the syllable and the least sonorous- the marginal segments. There exist a great number of other theories, such as F. de Saussure’ theory, A. Rosetti’s, Hala’s. The problem is still under discussion. In our country there has been adopted L.V. Scerba’s theory of muscular tension. The energy increases within the range of prevocalic consonants and then decreases within the range of postvocalic consonants. However, the majority of linguists treat the syllable as the smallest pronounceable unit which can reveal some linguistic function. So, a syllable is a chain of phonemes of varying length; it is constructed on the basis of contrast of its constituents, which is usually the vowel- consonant type; the nucleus of a syllable is a vowel, the presence of consonants is optional; the distribution of phonemes in the syllabic structure follows the rules which are specific enough for a particular language. Syllable formation in English is based on the phonological opposition vowel- consonant. Vowels are usually syllabic while consonants are not, with the exception of [l], [m], [n], which are syllabic in some cases [garden]. The other aspect of the dialectical unity is syllable division. The linguistic importance of syllable division in different languages is in finding typology of syllables and syllabic structure of meaningful units of a language that is morphemes and words… There are two functions of the syllable.

The constitutive function. It lies in the ability to be a part of a word or a word itself.

  1. The distinctive function. The syllable is characterized by its ability to differentiate words and word-forms.

Lecture 7.

Stress in English.

1. The nature of English word stress.

2. Degrees of stress.

3. Stress patterns in English.

4. Functions of stress.

The nature of stress in different languages is different. According to A.Gimson, the effect of prominence is achieved by four factors: force, tone, length and vowel colour. The dynamic stress implies greater force with which the syllable is pronounced. It means that the greater muscular energy is produced by the speaker. European languages such as English, German, French, Russian posses dynamic word stress. The musical word stress is observed in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. It is effected by the variations of voice pitch in relation to the next syllables. The English linguists (D. Crystal, A. Gimson) agree that in English word stress is a complex phenomenon, marked by the variations in force, pitch, quantity and quality. The dynamic and the tonic features of English word stress prevail over the others. The accent is also influenced by the vowel length and quality. The vowel of the stressed syllable is never reduced and it is longer than in the unstressed one. Languages are also differentiated according to the place of word stress. It may be fixed and free. In languages with a fixed stress its place is on the particular syllable. In French the stress falls on the last syllable, in Finnish and Czech it is fixed on the first one, in Polish on the last but one. The word stress in English is not only free but it may be shifting, performing the semantic function of differentiating lexical units. There are as many degrees of stress in a word as there are syllables. The American scientists B. Blokh and G.Trager ind four degrees of word stress: primary, secondary, tertiary and weak stress. The English word stress is limited by two tendencies: Recessive and Rhythmical due to their origin. In Germanic languages the word stress originally fell on the initial syllable or the second syllable, the root syllable in the English words with prefixes. This tendency was called Recessive. Most English words of Anglo-Saxon origin as well as the French borrowings are subjected to this tendency. (mother, daughter, brother, swallow).; in French borrowings( reason, colour, restaurant). It also marks English words with prefixes (foresee, begin, withdraw, apart). A great number of words of A.-S. origin are monosyllabic or disyllabic, they tend to alternate in the flow of speech, e. g. I don’t believe he is right. The alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables gave birth to the Rhythmical tendency in the present-day English which caused the appearance of the secondary stress in the multisyllabic French borrowings (revolution, organization, assimilation). It also explains the placement of primary stress on the third syllable from the end in three- and four- syllable words (cinema, articulate, situates). The interrelation of both – the recessive and the rhythmical tendencies is traced in the process of accentual assimilation of the French – borrowed word –personal; (personal –personal-personal). Nowadays we see a great number of variations in the accentual structure of many English words with a strong influence of rhythmical tendency: ‘ hospitable- hos’pitable, aristocrat- aristocrat. The numerous variations of English word stress are systematized in the typology of accentual structure of English words worked out by Torsuev G. P. He distinguishes more than 100 stress patterns, which he grouped into 11 types. The tempo of speech may influence the accentual pattern of words too. Word stress in a language performs 3 functions: 1. It constitutes a word, it organizes the syllables of a word into a language unit having a definite accentual structure, so it performs the constitutive function. 2. Word stress enables a person to identify a succession of syllables as a definite accentual pattern of a word. The function is identificatory. 3. Word stress alone is capable of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms, thus performing its distinctive function. (im’port –‘import, billow-bellow).


Lecture 8.

Assimilation in English.

1.Modifications of phonemes in speech.

2.Assimilation and adaptation in English.

3.The direction of assimilation.

4.The degree of assimilation.

5.The historical and living assimilation.

6. Established and accidental assimilation.


There are some remarkable differences between the pronunciation of a word in isolation and of the same word in a block of connected speech. These changes are mostly quite regular and predictable. The modification of a consonant under the influence of the adjoining consonant in the flow of speech is known as assimilation. The term accommodation is often used to denote the interchanges of “vowel + consonant” type or “consonant + vowel” type. Assimilation may affect the work of the lips, tongue, soft palate walls of the pharynx. Consonants may be modified according to the place of obstruction, to the manner of articulation, to the lip position, the position of the soft palate. According to the direction of assimilation, it may be regressive and progressive. Regressive a. is most common in both languages: English and Russian. According to the degree a. may be complete, incomplete. Assimilation may be also historical, in cases when its process is already fixed in present-day English and living, when it acts in living speech of speakers of to-day. Some cases of a. are considered to be obligatory, functioning according to the accepted norm of the language, used by the educated people, while the other are met only in the speech of the illiterate part of the population of the country.

Assimilation is the likening of two adjoining sounds. The adaptive modification of a consonant by a neighbouring consonant in the speech chain is known as assimilation. Assimilation may affect all the features of the articulation of a consonant phoneme or only some of them. Assimilation may affect: 1) the place of obstruction ( in them, all that, his thoughts-alveolars are replaced by dentals); 2) the active speech organ (congress, concrete, conquest-the alveolar sonorant |n| is replaced by the back-lingual sonorant; ) ; 3) the work of the vocal cords (goose and berry- gooseberry |guzberi|) 4) the position of the lips (quick, twenty, language) -labialized variants of the phonemes |k|,|g|,|t| are used under the influence of the bilabial sonorant |w|. The term accommodation is often used by linguists to denote the interchanges of “vowel + consonant type” or “consonant + vowel type.(too, loose-an unrounded variant of |t| is replaced by a rounded |t| under the influence of a rounded sound |u|. One of the wide-spread sound changes is vowel reduction. Elision or complete loss of sounds, both vowels and consonants, is often observed in English.( knight, talk, walk, column, dumb, whistle, garden, all right |orait|).Vowel elision is very frequent in informal conversational style. It often goes with other processes involving assimilation and elision of consonants. Elided neutral sound |e| is very common in the unstressed syllables of polysyllabic words, like : COLLECTIVE, DIFFERENT, POLLITICAL-|klektiv|,|difrent|,|plitikl|. The manner of articulation is also changed as a result of assimilation, which may be illustrated as follows: 1. Loss of plosion. 2. Lateral plosion. 3. Nasal plosion. According to the direction of assimilation it may be of two kinds: progressive and regressive.( gooseberry, newspaper), (twins, pride). According to the degree of assimilation it may be complete or incomplete (horse-shoe, London bridge). Assimilation may be historical and living.The historical assimilation took place in the historical development of the language while living assimilation acts at a present period.(DOES SHE but DOES IT; DID YOU). Assimilation is recognized as obligatory or established when it follows the phonetic laws of the language acquired by the educated population. Non-obligatory or accidental assimilation is met in uneducated speech of population (LONDON|m| BRIDGE; WOULD|b| BE-regressive assimilation)


Lecture 9.

Intonation and prosody.

1. The definition of intonation in its problematic character.

2. Prosodic units.

3. Prosodic subsystems.

4. Functions of intonation.

5. Notation Systems

Intonation is a language universal. It is a powerful means of communication process. Some linguists define intonation as variations of melody, others as variations of stress and melody. From our point of view, intonation is a complex unity of melody, stress and tempo, which are closely related. Nowadays there is another term “prosody” which embraces the three prosodic components and substitutes the term “intonation.” It is widely used in linguistic literature .Each syllable of the speech chain has a special pitch colouring. Some of the syllables have significant moves of tone: up and down. Each syllable bears a definite amount of loudness. Together with the tempo of speech they form an intonation pattern which is the basic unit of intonation. An intonation pattern contains one nucleus and may contain other stressed or unstressed syllables normally preceding or following the nucleus. Intonation patterns serve to actualize syntagms in speech, which are called intonation groups. Each intonation group may consist of one or more syntagms. The nuclear tone is the most important part of the intonation pattern without which it cannot exist at all. According to R. Kingdon the most important nuclear tones in English are: Low Fall- No; High Fall – No; Low Rise – No; High Rise – No; Fall Rise – No. With the help of intonation groups intonation may convey different emotions and feelings, it exists in grammatical categories. Intonation manifests itself by means of prosodic units: a syllable, a rhythmic unit, an intonation group, an utterance. The smallest possible prosodic unit is a syllable. It may consist of one or two sounds.The syllable has no meaning of its own. The next prosodic unit is a rhythmic unit. The stressed syllables of a rhythmic unit form peaks of prominence, they tend to be pronounced in such Germanic languages as English and German, as well as in Russian, at regular intervals producing” beats” between every two stressed syllables. Such languages are called to be stressed- timed. Form words are usually unstressed ( prepositions, conjunctions, auxiliary and modal verbs, personal and possessive pronouns are pronounced in their weak forms). Notional words, such as nouns, notional verbs, adjectives, adverbs. The rhythmic unit also contains a number of unstressed syllables, which are called clitics. The initial unstressed syllables that precede the nucleus are called proclitics, those that follow the nucleus are called enclitics. The enclitic tendency is more typical of English. The rhythmic groups are not meaningful. The next prosodic unit is intonation group, which is very often referred as a “syntagm” or “sense- group” as it is meaningful. The intonation group is a stretch of speech which may have the length of the whole phrase. The boundaries of an intonation group may be marked by stops of phonation,(temporal pauses). Utterance, being the next group, is perceived as a rhythmically organized segment of speech. Minimally, the utterance may consist of a nucleus only, maximally, it consists of a Pre- Head, Head, Nucleus and Tail. All prosodic units are arranged taxonomically, while Pre- head, Head, Nucleus and Tail are autonomous. Prosodic subsystems are the components of intonation. The pitch (melody) is the main component of intonation. It manifests itself through the pitch variations upwards and downwards. The leading role in differentiating communicative types of utterances belongs to the terminal tone. Various combinations of the characteristics of the Pre-head, Head, (scale) and the terminal tone (Nucleus) form complicated and numerous melodic structures (intonation patterns). In English there are ten basic melodic tone – groups (O.Connor, G. Arnold ) A special prominence given to one or more words in an utterance is called u. stress. The distribution of stresses in an utterance depends on several factors. G. Torsuev points to the following factors: semantic, grammatical and rhythmical. The semantic centre of the utterance is singled out by the nuclear stress, where notional words are stressed and form- words are unstressed. The grammatical structure of the utterance also determines its accentual structure. The distribution of stresses in an u. is also affected by the rhythmical laws of the English language. All these factors are closely connected with one another, the semantic factor being the main one. Rhythm has been defined as regularity of stressed and unstressed syllables. As it has already been mentioned English has a stress –timed rhythm, it performs important linguistic functions, and it is the most important organizing factor. The tempo of speech is the rate at which utterances and their smaller units are pronounced. Tempo of speech may be determined by different factors. It may depend on the size of audience, the acoustic qualities of the room, the individuality of the speaker and extra linguistic factors. It also depends on changes in meaning. The tempo can also be used to express the speakers’ attitude or emotions. Everybody’s speech has some norms of tempo, duration, which affect the meaning. The speech is divided into units of different length and by means of pauses. Its function is to segment connected speech into utterances and intonation groups to delimit them from one another. Pauses are closely related with tempo. Phoneticians distinguish 3 main types of pauses: silent pauses, pauses of perception and voiced p. Intonation perform a number of functions. 1. The constitutive function. Intonation forms utterances as communicative units. It forms all communicative types- statements, questions, imperatives, exclamations and modal types. 2. The distinctive function manifests itself in several particular functions, depending on the meaning. These functions are: communicative- distinctive, modal – distinctive, culminative, syntactical- distinctive. 3. Identificatory function is to provide a basis for the hearer’s identification of the communicative and modal type of an utterance.

The notation systems.

Notation systems of prosodic phenomena are equally important both for research work and language teaching. There is a wide variety of notations that are used in printed matter ( paper, articles, textbooks….). Any system of notation is a generalization of a great variety of important sound phenomena, depending on which the notation may be broad or narrow. A broad notation reflects only the most important prosodic features by using the fewest possible symbols. A narrow notation is intended for a more detailed and precise analysis. There is a number of means to denote prosodic features: the musical notation(J.Fonagy and I.Magdics), interlinear staves with dots, dashes and arrows (L.Armstrong and I. Ward, D. Jones), the head and nucleus system (H.Palmer), the tonetic stress-mark system (R.Kingdon), the intonation-mark system (G.Trager and H.Smith, M. Halliday). Until recently intonation was defined as pitch movement (or melody) alone. Musical symbols are used even now. But such a notation is unsatisfactory for practical aims because it is difficult to read. The next important system was a notation within the lines of the text (H. Palmer), who used arrows to mark the pitch change in the nucleus. Small dots correspond to unstressed syllables and thick dots to mark the stressed syllables. H. Palmer’s tonetic system reflects his so-called | head- nucleus| approach to intonation, in which the central unit is the tone group consisting of pre-head, head, nucleus and tail. His notation system was accepted by many English scholars ( D. Jones, L. Armstrong, I.Ward and others. A rather accurate system was developed by R. Kingdon. It is known as the tonetic stress-mark system. R.Kingdon considers stress to be a very important factor. He distinguishes stressed syllables of two kinds: Static Tones and Kinetic Tones (the High Rising Tone, the Low Rising Tone, the High Falling Tone, the Low Falling Tone, Undivided- the Falling-Rising Tone, Divided- the Falling—Rising Tone, the Rising-Falling Tone, the Rising- Falling- Rising Tone.). The tonetic stress-mark system is economical, convenient and rather precise. An interlinear system uses a minimum of symbols (every syllable is represented by a dot, or a line or an arrow.). A notation system devised by D. Crystal Includes symbols to mark various degrees of pitch variation, pitch range, pause, loudness, speed, rhythmicality and tension. The symbols can be grouped into features noted in the text and features in the margin. But it is rather complicated. The American linguists have different notation systems. (K. Pike presents American English intonation in terms of 4 pitch levels, 3 terminal contours |kontuez| and 4 stress phonemes. D.Bolinger considers that the configurations of pitches are linguistically relevant.


Lecture 10.

.Phonostylistics.

1. The Problem of Styles;

2. Phonostylistics and its use:

a) Informational style;

b) Academic style;

c) Publicistic style;

d) Declamatory style;

e) Conversational style.

A person does not always pronounce the same words in the same way. The pronunciation of one and the same person may be different on different occasions, when delivering a lecture, speaking over the radio or giving a dictation, when talking to official persons or chatting with friends. These different ways of pronouncing words are called “styles of pronunciation”, they have peculiarities which may differ in different languages. Prof. D. Jones has classified pronunciation styles in the following manner:» Several different styles may be distinguished, such as the rapid familiar styles, the slower colloquial style, the natural style used in addressing a fair- sized audience, the acquired style of the stage or singing”. Some authors confuse styles of pronunciation with literary styles. They are represented in the following way: literary style – colloquial style – low colloquial style. The distinctive feature, according to Prof. Scerba is the degree of carefulness, with which words are pronounced. He differenciated the full style from the colloquial style. The full style is characterized by a moderately slow tempo and a careful pronunciation. The words are pronounced in their full form , without vowel reduction or loss of consonants, without non- obligatory assimilations. The colloquial style differs from the full style both in tempo and clearness. Prof. Scerba considers that it is useful to distinguish two main types of the colloquial style: 1) the careful colloquial style; 2) the careless colloquial style, which differs from the first in free use of non- obligatory assimilation and in tempo. (Ex.: I should like to meet her). Nowadays a new branch of phonetics “phonostylistics” has developed. The choice of an intonation style is determined by the purpose of communication and by a number of other extralinguistic and social factors. These are : 1.Informational Style; 2.Academic Style; 3. Publicistic Style; 4. Declamatory Style; 5. Conversational Style.

Informational Style.

It is sometimes called ”formal” or “neutral”. It is used in educational information, press reporting and broadcasting, especially when reading news over the radio and T.V. The degrees of formality vary. A purely descriptive text, most commonly heard in class is the ideal informational style. This style may also present round-table talks, discussions of political events, so there is much stylistic freedom.

Academic Style.

It is described as both intellectual and volitional. The purpose of the speakers is to attract the listener’s attention, to establish close contacts, to direct the public attention to the message. It is used in reading lectures, in scientific discussions, at the conferences, seminars, in class. A lecturer sounds self-assured, instructive, authoritative. It sounds very loud and rhythmical.

Publicistic Style.

It is always called “oratorical”. The aim of the speaker is to extend persuasive and emotional influence on the listeners. It can be heard in political, judicial, oratorical speeches, in sermons, debates, at congresses, meetings. It needs special training. On the other hand, the proper response of the audience inspires the speaker and stimulates him on a successful talk.

Declamatory Style.

It is also called as “artistic”, “ acquired” or “staged”. It is highly emotional and expressive, needs special training. The aim is to appeal to the mind, will and feelings of the listener. It is heard on the stage, on the screen, in a T.V. studio, it is reflected in verse speaking, prose readings and recitations. It displays a great variety of intonation.

Conversational Style.

Its aim is to analyze variations that occur in spontaneous, everyday speech. It is the most commonly used type of intonation style. It is called familiar and is used in everyday communication, in natural conversation of relatives, friends, well-acquainted people. A wide range of intonation patterns is used here. The conversation lacks in planning, semantic blocks, the words are commonly repeated, the speech is characterized by “non-fluency”, “errors”, slips of the tongue or extra fluency with elision in many words. One can hear whistles, laughs, giggles , see gesticulations and grimaces of talking people. A nose-to nose distance is the most comfortable for such talks, which are regarded as intimate.


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