The system of English phonemes


Иностранные языки, филология и лингвистика

In all languages speech sounds are traditionally divided into two main types vowels and consonants. From the articulatory point of view vowels are speech sounds based on voice which is modified in the supralaringeal cavities. The articulatory boundary between vowels and consonants is not well marked.



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The system of English phonemes

The phoneme is a minimal abstract linguistic unit realized in speech in the form of speech sounds opposable to other phonemes of the same language to distinguish the meaning of morphemes and words.

In all languages speech sounds are traditionally divided into two main types – vowels and consonants. From the articulatory point of view vowels are speech sounds based on voice which is modified in the supralaringeal cavities. There is no obstruction in their articulation. Consonants are speech sounds in the articulation of which there is an obstruction, the removal of which causes noise, plosion or friction. 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,ŋ,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.

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 four principles of consonant classification: 1. the type of obstruction and the manner of production of noise. We distinguish 2 classes of consonants: a) occlusive, in the production of which a complete obstruction is formed [t, b,g]; b) constrictive, in the production of which an incomplete obstruction is formed.[s,z,Ʒ] 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 [n] and lateral [l]. 2.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 [p]; b) labio- dental [v]; the second class is subdivided into: a) fore lingual or apical, articulated with the tip of the tongue [l, t, n, d], b) mediolingual [j], c)back lingual [k, g,], d) pharingal [h]. 3.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 consonants are strong (fortis). 4. The next principle is the position of the soft palate. According to this, English consonants can be oral and nasal.(m,n,n).

In the English 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. According to this principle English vowels are subdivided into monophthongs, diphthongs, 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 English 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. According to the length English 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. The next point is checkness. All English short vowels are checked when stressed. The degree of checkness depends on the following consonant. All long vowels are free. From the point of view of tenseness all historically long vowels are tense, while short vowels are lax.

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. 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.


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