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Саржина - теоретическая фонетика английского.doc
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3 Lecture 19.09.11

Articulatory Analysis of English Speech Sounds

  1. Principles of classification of speech sounds

  2. Articulation basis, differences in the articulation basis of English and Russian

  3. The articulatory classification of English consonants

  4. The articulatory classification of English vowels

  1. Principles of classification of speech sounds

Traditionally in all languages speech sounds are subdivided into 2 main types: vowels and consonants. From the articulatory point of view the main principles of this division are the following: 1) the presence or absence of obstruction; 2) the distribution of muscular tension; 3) the force of the air stream coming from the lungs.

Vowels are speech sounds based on voice, there is no obstruction in their articulation. The muscular tension is spread evenly throughout the speech organs. The force of the air stream is rather weak. (will be on the exam, learn by heart!)

Consonants are speech sounds in the articulation of which there is an obstruction. The removal of the obstruction causes noise plosion or friction. The muscular tension is concentrated at the place of obstruction. The force of the air stream is great. (will be on the exam, learn by heart!)

The articulatory boundary between vowels and consonants is not well marked. There are speech sounds that occupy an intermediate position between vowels and consonants and they have common features with both of them.

In English there are sounds called sonorants,which are [m,n,ŋ,r,l,w,j]. Like vowels they are largely based on voice, but there is an obstruction in their articulation and the muscular tension is concentrated at the place of obstruction, like in the production of consonants. Due to the great sonority some sonorants can be syllabic in particular positions, e.g. tab/le, gar/den. Speaking about the consonants [w,j,r], due to their great sonority they are sometimes referred to as semi-vowels.

  1. Articulation basis, differences in the articulation basis of English and Russian

Due to the identical structure of speech organs of people of different places and nationalities all languages have sounds of identical types. But being identical typologically these sounds are not identical articulatorily. The differences in the articulation of sounds in different languages are explained by the fact, that each language has it's own tendencies and most of articulation, which form the articulation basis of the language.

The articulation basis of the language is all the articulatory habits, characteristic of all the native speakers of the given language. (will be on the exam, learn by heart!)

The main peculiarities of the English articulation basis are: 1) the tongue is broadened and flattened; 2) the tip is slightly hollowed out and slightly drawn back from the teeth; 3) the lips are neutral, they are deliberately neutralized and spread, the upper lip is tense.




Near the teeth reach, apical position of the tongue

Tends to move to the upper front teeth, it's dorsal position

Tip of the tongue

Tends to occupy more retraced, more flat and lower positions, than in the articulation of the Russian consonants


The bulk of the tongue

Voiceless consonants in final positions are strong, while voiced consonants are weak and partially devoiced, e.g. kept, bag

Voiced consonants are impossible in final positions and voiceless consonants are weak (sonorants - exception)

Voice/voiceless distinction


In the articulation of the similar English sounds the protrusion does not take place [o,o:,u,u;]

The lips are deliberately protruded and rounded, especially [a,o]


The tongue is slightly drawn back

The tongue occupies mostly the front part of the mouth

The place of the tongue

Although not very tense objectively, English vowels seem tense in comparison to Russian vowels, because in English an unstressed vowel does not always differ in quality from a stressed one, e.g. [ou] open, window

In Russian an unstressed vowel is always short, lax and different in quality from the same vowel in a stressed syllable


Vowels differ in length. There are historically long and short vowels. The length of vowels can differenciate words, e.g. bit - beat

In Russian vowels differ in quality, but not in quantity. They may be pronounced in a longer way for purposes of emphasis, but the length of vowels doesn't differenciate words with different meanings

Difference between vowels