Articulatory Phonetics

      We will spend the next few days studying articulatory phonetic: what is involved in the actual movement of various parts of the vocal tract during speech.  (Use transparancy to discuss 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. 

      Thus, all speech sounds result from air being somehow obstructed or modified within the vocal tract. This involves 3 processes working together:

a) the airstream process--the source of air used in making the sound.

b) the phonation process--the behavior of the vocal cords in the glottis during the production of the sound.

c) the oro-nasal process--the modification of that flow of air in the vocal track (from the glottis to the lips and nose).

      Let's discuss the airstream process first.

The airstream process

      The first major way to categorize sounds according to phonetic features is by the source of air.  Where does the air come from that is modified by the vocal organs? Languages can use any of three airstream mechanisms to produce sounds.  

      One airstream mechanism is by far the most important for producing sounds in the world's languages.  Most sounds in the world's languages are produced by manipulating air coming into the vocal tract as it is being exhaled by the lungs, a method referred to as the pulmonic egressive airstream mechanism.  Sounds made by manipulating air as it is exhaled from the lungs are called pulmonic egressive sounds.  Virtually all sounds in English and other European languages are produced by manipulating exhaled air.  And most sounds in other languages are also pulmonic egressive. 

      There is another variety of this pulmonic airstream mechanism. Inhaled air can also be modified to produce speech sounds.  This actually occurs in a few rare and special cases, such as in Tsou, an aboriginal language of Taiwan, which has inhaled [f] and [h] ([h5/˝ps˝] ashes; [f5/tsuju], egg).  Such sounds are called pulmonic ingressive sounds, and the airstream mechanism for making such sounds is called the ingressive rather than the egressive version of the pulmonic airstream mechanism.  Perhaps because it is physiologically harder to slow down an inhalation than an exhalation, pulmonic ingressive sounds are extremely rare.

      The majority of the sounds in all languages of the world are pulmonic egressive sounds.  However, in addition to using air being actively exhaled (or inhaled), two other airstream mechanisms are used to produce some of the sounds in some of the world's languages. 

      1) To understand the second airstream mechanism, the glottalic airstream mechanism, let's first look at a special pulmonic egressive sound, the glottal stop. Air being exhaled from the lungs may be stopped in the throat by a closure of the glottis.  This trapping of air by the glottis is called a glottal stop.  English actually has a glottal stop in certain exclamations:  [u?ow], u?u], [a?a], and in certain dialectical pronunciations: [bottle].  The IPA renders the glottal stop as a question mark without the period. 

      The glottal stop itself is an example of a pulmonic egressive sound, since air from the lungs is being stopped.  However, the glottis can be closed immediately before the production of certain other sounds, trapping a pocket of air in the vocal tract.  If this reservoir of stationary air is then manipulated in the production of a sound it yields another type of airstream mechanism, the glottalic airstream mechanism.  Here's how it works. First, the vocal cords completely close so that for a brief moment no air escapes from the lungs and air is compressed in the throat (pharynx).  

      If the closed glottis is raised to push the air up and outward, an ejective consonant is produced.  The air is forced into the vocal tract and there manipulated by the organs of speech.  Compare glottalized vs. non-glottalized [k] in Georgian.  Ejectives are found in the languages of the Caucasus mountains, among many Native American languages, and among the Afroasiatic languages of north Africa (Hausa, Amharic).

      If the closed glottis is lowered to create a small vacuum in the mouth, an implosive consonant is produced.  The lowering glottis acts like the downward movement of a piston to create a brief rarification of the air in the vocal tract.  When the stricture in the mouth is released air moves into the mouth.  Swahili has three implosives:  [b], [d], [g].  Implosives occur mostly in languages of east Africa, in several Amerindian languages and in some IE languages of northern India.  (Compare the difference between implosives, using the glottalic airstream mechanism, and ingressives, which use inhaled air.)   

      The third and final airstream mechanism used by human language is confined to certain languages of southwest Africa.  It is called the velaric airstream mechanism.  There is regular oral articulation, while the back of tongue seals off air from the lungs and creates a relative vacuum.  Air in the mouth is rarified by backward and downward movement of the tongue.   When the stricture is released the air rushes in, creating a click.  Although we think of such sounds as exotic, English uses a few of them for quasi-linguistic sound gestures:  'grandmother's kiss' (bilabial click), encouraging a horse (lateral click), tisk-tisk (actually a dental or alveolar click).  Some Khoisan languages have over a dozen clicks. (release of click can be supplemented by additional features: aspirated,  nasal/ non-nasal). One Khoisan language  !Xung has 48 different click sounds. A few of the Bantu languages of South Africa, such as Zulu, have clicks; presumably, these sounds were borrowed from the San (Bushmen) and Khoikhoi (Hottentot) peoples who originally lived throughout all southern Africa.   Zulu and the other Bantu languages that use clicks spell them with the letters c, x, q. (cf. the name of the tribe Xhosa).  Notice that clicks stop up the air only in the oral cavity; pulmonic air continues through the nose (one can produce a nasal hum while producing clicks).  

      For the sake of completeness, it should be said that at least one other airstream mechanism could possibly be used for producing sounds in human language.  A puff of air could be trapped in either cheek, then released to be manipulated by the speech organs.  This is the airstream mechanism employed by the Walt Disney character Donand Duck and could be called the buccal airstream mechanism.  So far as we know, Donald Duck is unique in using it. And no language uses a gastric airstream mechanism, which would be modifying air burped up from the stomach.

The phonation process

      The vocal cords can be in one of several positions during the production of a sound.  The muscles of the vocal cords in the glottis can behave in various ways that affect the sound.  The effect of this series of vocal cord states is called the phonation process

      Voicing.  Vocal cords can be narrowed along their entire length so that they vibrate as the air passes through them.  All English vowels are voiced.  Voiceless vowels also occur but are far rarer than voiceless consonants are much more common than voiceless vowels.  Voiceless vowels usually occur between voiceless consonants, as in Japanese. No language has only voiceless vowels; a language has either only voiced vowels or voiced and a few voiceless vowels.

        There are also several other vocal cord states that are used to modify sound in the world's languages.  None is used as a regular feature of English.

      Laryngealization.  The posterior (artenoid) portion of the vocal cords can be closed to produce a laryngealized or creaky sound.  This doesn't play a meaningful role in English phonology, althoght we might use a creaky voice to imitate an old witch when reading fairy tales.  Some languages of Southeast Asia and Africa have creaky vowels and consonants, as in Margi, a Nigerian language:  ja to give birth/ laryngealized ja thigh; or in Lango a Nilotic language:  man this/ laryngealized man testicles.

      Murmur.  The anterior (ligamental) portion of the vocal cords can be closed, with the vocal cords vibrating.  This produces murmured or breathy sounds.  Murmured or breathy vowels occur in some languages of Southeast Asia.  We make murmured sounds to imitate the Darth Vader voice.  In many Indo-European languages of India the stop consonants have a murmured release;  in other words the anterior portion of the vocal cords remain closed after the stop has been produced during part of the time the vowel is pronounced:  bh, dh, gh, Buddha.  

      Whisper.  A similar vocal cord state is used to produce the whisper.  The vocal chords are narrowed but not vibrated, narrowing is more complete at the anterior end, less so at the posterior end.  Whispered sounds do not contrast with non-whispered sounds to produce differences of meaning in any known language, but the whispered voice is common as a speech variant across languages.  There is no IPA symbol for a whispered sound.

The oro-nasal process

      Regardless of which airstream mechanism is used, speech sounds are produced when the moving air is somehow obstructed within the vocal tract.  The vocal tract consists of three joined cavities:  the oral cavity, the nasal cavity, and the pharyngeal cavity. The surfaces and boundaries of these cavities are known as the organs of speech.  What happens to the air within these cavities is known as the oro-nasal process

      Let's talk first about the oro-nasal process in the articulation, or production, of consonants.

      There are two major ways to classify the activity of the speech organs in the production of consonants:  place of articulation and manner of articulation.

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

      Now let's look at the ways that moving air can be blocked and modified by various speech organs.  There are several methods of modifying air when producing a consonant, and these methods are called manners of articulation. We have already examined where the air is blocked.  Now let's look at how the air can be blocked.

1) Sounds that completely stop the stream of exhaled air are called plosives:  [d], [t], [b], [p], and [g], [k], glottal stop.  Another word for plosive is stop (nasals are also stops, however, since the air is stopped in the oral cavity during their production).

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 (symbolized in the IPA by an upside down [®], but we will use the symbol [r]). 

      It 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: the Spanish double rr perro; the French uvular [R]: de rien; Bilabial trills [B] have been found to occur in two languages of New Guinea: mBulei = rat in Titan.    

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. Navaho has a fricative [tl] which is definitely more fricative than approximant.

            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.  Syllabic r and l occur in Czech and Slovak:  StrC prst skrz krk. The IPA uses a dot beneath them to signify syllabicity.

Review of 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.

Go over the handout on the English sound system (up to the vowel questions)

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.

The oro-nasal process in vowels

Go over part D on the handout now; go over part E during the lecture on vowels.

      Sounds produced by no blockage other than a slight raising of the tongue or a narrowing of the lips are called vowels.  Vowels differ in several phonetic features.  Three are most important.

1) which part of the tongue is raised:  front/central/back (mention the difference between the [a] of father in English dialects.)

2) how high the tongue is raised:  high, middle, low

3) whether or not the lips are rounded.

Several other features distinguish vowels on a more limited basis across the world's languages.

4) whether or not the tongue is tense (bunched up; in English, diphthongalized) or lax (relaxed and slightly shorter, closer to the center of the oral cavity).   In English, stressed lax vowels only occur in closed syllables, tense vowels occur in either open or closed syllables:

Tense= by, too, way, so, ma

Lax= bit, but, full, get, oil/or, and, (also, hard, in New England pronunciation), as well as schwa:  sofa

5) nasal vs. non-nasal (describe the velum and oro-nasal process)

6) long vs. short.  Many languages have a distinction between short and long vowels:  Hawaiian, Navajo, etc.  Estonian has three vowel lengths;  in English vowels are slightly longer before voiced consonants and slightly shorter before voiceless.

7) Different phonation processes involving the vocal cords produce several featural contrasts in vowels as in consonants:   voiced/voiceless (whispered) laryngealized (creaky), murmured (breathy).

There are three diphthongs in General American English

   [aU] house           [aI] like,         [OI] oil, boy, toy

Diphthongs in other American dialects.