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9 Lecture 31.10.11

  1. Idiolectal Variation

Individual peculiarities of pronunciation which are caused by the shapened form of the speaker's speech organs and by his articulatory habits, e.g. a speaker can lisp, mumble, stammer and so on. Idiolectal variations cause a lot of difficulty in communication.

  1. Diaphonic Variation

Affects the quality and quantity of particular phonemes. It is caused by historical tendencies active in certain localities, e.g. /æ/ - [æ=a] in Northern England. Diaphonic variations do not affect intelligibility of speech. They inform the listener about the speaker's origin and his social standing.

  1. Allophonic Variation

Allophonic variation is the less noticeable. It is caused by phonetic position, the influence of the neighbouring sounds and the style of speech.

  • Allophonic variations in vowels. Reduction. In unstressed syllables English vowels are considerably modified, which causes such a variation of phoneme as reduction. Reduction is weakening of articulation and shortening of the duration of unstressed vowels, resulting in the modification of their quality and quantity. There are 3 types of reduction:

  1. qulitative, e.g. can [kæn], [kən]

  2. quantitative, e.g. he /hi:/, [hɪ]

  3. zero reduction (elision), e.g. can [kn]. Dropping out of a vowel in an unstressed syllable.

Accomodation is a process of adapting the articulation of a vowel to a consonant or a consonant to a vowel, e.g. men – ten, [e] becomes nazalised under the influence of the consonants.

  • Allophonic modifications in consonants. The quality of an English consonant mostly depends on it's position in a word or utterance, e.g. in the final position voiced consonants lose their plosive and voiced character (god, in deer both plosive and voiced characteristics are strong). /ʃ,dʒ,tʃ,ʒ,l/ are slightly palatalized before mid and close vowels and the sound /j/, e.g. short, cheeze, June. The palatalization of these sounds is caused by the anticipatory upward movement of the bulk of the tongue for the next sound.

Assimilation is a modification of a consonant under the influence of the neighbouring sounds. Types of assimilation: according to the direction of assimilation it can be of 4 types – 1) progressive (when the first sound in the cluster influencies the following one, making it similar to itself, e.g. desks, bags); 2) regressive assimilation (the second of the two sounds makes the first similar to itself, e.g. at the /t ð/, /t/ becomes dental under the influence of interdental /ð/); 3) double (reciprocal) assimilation (when 2 sounds influence each other changing their articulation, e.g. twice, /w/ becomes partially voiced, /t/ becomes rounded); 4) coalescent assimilation (it results in the appearance of a new phoneme, it happens in the sounds /tj,dj,zj/, e.g. how do you do /hau dʒə 'du:/, won't you do it /wəunt ʃə'du: it/, as you /ʒ/). NB: In Russian voiceless/voiced distinction can be completely lost (субпродукты – complete regressive assimilation of the sound /b/, it becomes /p/), but in English there is no complete regressive voicing or devoicing (these people /z/, blackboard /k/). There are two obligatory assimilations of this type in English: used to +Infinitive /st/, I used to (principal meaning) /zd/, have to /ft/, have (notional) /v/.

  • There is one more process undergone both by vowels and consonants, it's called Elision. It's a disappearance of a sound in speech. There are 2 types of elision: 1) historical elision reflects the process in which a sound that existed in an earlier form of a word was omitted in its later form (cupboard /'kʌbəd/); 2) in juxtapositional elision a sound which exists in a word pronounced by itself is dropped in connected speech, e.g. blind men – /d/ is omitted, sit down – /t/ is omitted, take care - /k/ is omitted.

All the allophonic variations occur not only in rapid and careless speech. They are characteristic of standard pronunciation, but they are more obvious and more frequently occur in the colloquial and fluent speech. Absence of these modifications informs the listener that the speaker is not a native speaker of the language.

Causes of Allophonic Modification

  1. It's generally considered that allophonic modification is caused by the economy of effort, which means that the speaker avoids articulatory movements which are not absolutely necessary for intelligibility of speech. That's why English lenis consonants /b,d,g/ in final positions can be voiceless, but they are not replaced by the fortis /p,t,k/. /kæb/ - /kæp/.

  2. Grammont M. claims that allophonic variations are regulated by the law of the stronger. According to it the stronger phoneme influences the weaker, adapting it to itself, because its articulation is stronger and more stable or because it has a particular position in the syllable. The phonetician supposes that the analysis of combinatory phenomena among phonemes can reveal the phonemes that resist modifications. /əfkɔːs/.

  3. Some scholars consider that the factor allophonic modifications is a frequency of occurance of phonemes in phonemic clusters. Frequent phonemes resist modifications and modify rare phonemes. Fletcher: /t,n,s,θ,l,d/ - the most frequent resisting modifications.