The Components of the Phonetic System of a Language


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

The air stream released by the lungs goes through the windpipe and comes to the larynx, which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two elastic folds which may be kept apart or brought together. The opening between them is called the glottis.



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Lecture 2.


1. The Components of the Phonetic System of a Language.

2. Segmental and Suprasegmental Phonetics.

3. Speech Sounds and Their Aspects. Branches of Phonetics.

4. Phonetics and Phonology.

1. The Components of the Phonetic System of a Language.

The “Speech Apparatus” of all people have common anatomical features.

Organs of speech are: nasal cavity, lips, teeth, alveolar ridge, larynx, palate (soft and hard), uvula, tongue (tip, blade, front, back), epiglottis, pharynx, vocal cords, and trachea.

The air stream released by the lungs goes through the windpipe and comes to the larynx, which contains the vocal cords. The vocal cords are two elastic folds which may be kept apart or brought together. The opening between them is called the glottis. If the tense vocal cords are brought together, the air stream forcing an opening makes them vibrate and we hear some voice.

On coming out of the larynx the air stream passes through the pharynx.

The pharyngal cavity extends from the top of the larynx to the soft palate, which directs the air stream either to the mouth or nasal cavities, which function as the principal resonators.

The soft palate is the furthest part of the palate from the teeth. Most of the palate is hard. This hard and fixed part of the palate is divided into two sections: the hard palate (the highest part of the palate) and the teeth ridge or alveolar ridge.

The most important organ of speech is the tongue. Phoneticians divide the tongue into four sections, the part which lies opposite the soft palate is called the back of the tongue; the part facing the hard palate is called the front; the one lying under the teeth ridge is known as the blade and its extremity the tip .

The lips can take up various positions as well. They can be brought firmly together or kept apart neutral, rounded, or protruded forward.

Active organs of speech are movable and taking an active part in a sound formation:

a) Vocal cords which produce voice

b) The tongue which is the most flexible movable organ

c) The lips affective very considerably the shape of the mouth cavity

d) The soft palate with the uvula directing the stream of air either to the mouth or to the nasal cavity

e) The back wall of the faring contracted for some sounds

f) The lower jaw which movement controls the gap between the teeth and also the disposition of the lips

g) The lungs air for sounds

Passive organs of speech:

a) the teeth

b) the teeth ridge or alveolar ridge

c) the hard palate

d) the walls of the resonators]

That’s why the phonetic system of different languages has common general characteristics. But at the same time different human communities lived in the historical isolation in the remote past. It is because of this every modern language has its own national features of pronunciation. The phonetic system of language includes the following components:

  •  the system of phonemes;
  •  the syllable structure;
  •  the accentual structure of words;
  •  the intonation.

The 4 components of the phonetic structure of English constitute its pronunciation. So, the term “English Pronunciation” should include:

  •  the correct articulation of the English phonemes in words;
  •  the correct syllable division;
  •  the correct stressing of syllables in words and sentences;
  •  the correct English intonation in connected speech.

2. Segmental and Suprasegmental Phonetics.

In this respect Phonetics is itself divided into 2 major components: Segmental Phonetics which is concerned with individual sounds or phonemes (segments of speech)  and Suprasegmental Phonetics which is concerned with the larger units of connected speech. This term is used particularly by American linguists. So, segmental and suprasegmental components should also be taken into consideration.

“Segment” – is a minimal unit in speech that is a phoneme (consonant or vowel). Suprasegmental features as the name implies are features of speech, which generally apply to groups of segments or phonemes (syllables, words, phrases and texts).

3. Speech Sounds and Their Aspects. Branches of Phonetics.

Human speech is the result of a highly complicated series of events.

The first stage – the formation of the concept takes place at the linguistic level that is in the brain of the speaker. This stage is called psychological.

The second point – the message formed within the brain is transmitted along the nervous system. This stage can be called physiological.

The third point – the movements of speech organs disturb the air stream producing sound waves. The stage is called physical.

The last stages are:

4th – the reception of the sound waves by the listener;

5th – the transmission of the spoken message through the nervous system to the brain of the listener;

6th – the linguistic interpretation of the spoken message.

Branches of Phonetics.

The division of phonetic branches depends upon sounds. According to Vasiliev V.A. the phonetic branches have 4 different aspects, which are the articulatory aspect, the acoustic aspect, the auditory aspect, the functional (linguistic or social) aspect. In the actual process these aspects are inceptable. But for the purposes of linguistic analysis each of these aspects can be singled out and thus can become a separate object of investigation. This brings us the division of Phonetics into different branches.

Articulatory Phonetics defines a speech sound as a complex of definite movements and positions of the speech organs necessary to pronounce a certain sound. The articulatory investigation of speech sounds is done on the basis of the good knowledge of the voice and sound producing mechanisms, their structure and work. So, Articulatory Phonetics is concerned with the study description and classification of speech sounds from the point of view of their production. Until recently Articulatory Phonetics has been the dominating branch and the most descriptive.

Acoustic Phonetics studies the way in which the air vibrates between the speaker’s mouth and the listener’s ear. Now, the development of computing technique will give rise to all sorts of teaching machines. This branch of phonetics studies the acoustic properties of speech sounds that is their length, timbre, intensity and pitch.

Auditory Phonetics investigates the hearing process. The human ear perceives vibration only at a rate between 16-20 thousand per second. From the beginning of Phonetics phoneticians have relied mainly on what they could hear or feel. Instrumental methods deriving from physiology and physics were introduced into Phonetics in the second half of last century.

Functional Phonetics studies the functional properties, the role played by speech sounds in the functioning of a language. This functional or social aspect of phonetic phenomena was first introduced in the works by I.A. Baudouin – de – Courtenay.

Branches of Phonetics according to the British scholar Gerald Kelly:

  •  Physiological
  •  Articulatory
  •  Acoustic
  •  Auditory
  •  Perceptual

4. Phonetics and Phonology.

Phoneticians can not only act as describers and classifiers of the material form of the phonetic units. They are also interested in the way in which sound phenomena function in a particular language. The branch of Phonetics that studies the linguistic function of consonants and vowels, word accent and other suprasegmental features is called Phonology. If Phonetics deals with the physical reality of speech sounds, then Phonology, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with how we interpret and systematize sounds. It would be wrong to assume that Phonology is always monolingual. Much work in phonological study deals with generalizations concerning the organization and interpretation of sounds that might apply across different languages.

Ferdinant de Saussure was the first to point out the distinction between language and speech. He invented Trichotomy. He represented a special trend in linguistics called Trichotomy. Followers of trichotomy distinguish between the 3 following sciences: phonetics, phonology, historical phonology.

Phonetics and Phonology differ in 3 main points:

  •  Phonetics studies sounds as the articulatory and acoustic aspect.

    Phonology studies sounds as means of communication;

  •  Phonetics is mainly concerned with the physiological and physical sides of speech sounds.

     Phonology is concerned with their social functions;

  •  Phonetics is individual, unique.

     Phonology – is abstract and general.


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