Lesson 2. Vowels- Part 1

November 20, 2017 | Author: Walid English | Category: Vowel, Consonant, Philology, Speech, Human Communication
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Mohamed Kheider University of Biskra____Section of English____First Year LMD___Phonetics

Lesson 2:

Detailed Study of English Vowels

Introduction: In English, we do not pronounce each single letter in the words we speak. For example, there are five vowels in English alphabet as follows: a e i o u and usually y. However, from a phonetic point view there are 20 vowel sounds for the previously mentioned vowel letters. For example, the letter a can be pronounced as: call //, case //, can /æ/, can’t //, American /ə , ə/

1. Definition of a vowel: 1.1.From a linguistic point of view: a vowel is a sound that has the central function in a syllable. Examples: - The indefinite article a (vowel) - cat (cvc)

- at (vowel+consonant)

- to (c+v)

- streets ( cccvcc)

- fox ( cvcc)

1.2. From a phonetic point of view: a vowel is a sound articulated with a voiced egressive airstream without any closure/narrowing giving rise to an audible friction. There are 20 vowel sounds in

English: 12 monophthongs: 7 short vowels : /ɪ/, /e/, /æ/, /ʌ/ , /ɒ/, /ʊ/, /ә/.

and 5 long vowels: /i:/ , /ɑ:/ , /ɔ:/ , /з:/ , /u:/. 8 diphthongs: 5 closing vowels: /eɪ/, /aɪ/, /ɔɪ/, /aʊ/, /әʊ/. and 3 centring vowels: /eә/, /ɪә/, /ʊә/ 2. The Difference between Vowels and Consonants: The words vowel and consonant are very familiar, but when we study the sounds of speech scientifically, we can find that they are not easy to define. On another regard, it is harder to distinguish between vowels and consonants, but we can mention the main differences as follows: Consonantal Sounds

Vowel Sounds

There is an obstruction of airflow in vocal tract

There is no obstruction of airflow as it passes from the larynx to the lips.

Some consonants are voiced and some others All vowel sounds are voiced are not. Optional in a syllable

Obligatory in any syllable

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Mohamed Kheider University of Biskra____Section of English____First Year LMD___Phonetics

3. Description of a vowel: English vowel sounds are affected by the changing shape and position of the articulators. The different vowels can be categorised according to four features: 3.1- The position of the soft palate (raised or lowered) For example, the soft palate is raised in ‘key’ /i:/ but lowered in ‘car’ /ɑ:/ 3.2- The shape of the lips (rounded, spread or neutral) For instance, the lips are rounded in ‘new’ /u:/ but spread in ‘bee’ /i:/. 3.3- The shape/position of the tongue in the mouth (high, low) We mean the part of the tongue involved in the articulation and its degree of raising (height). For example in See/i:/ the tongue is high, but low in thought /ɔ:/. A vowel which is articulated when the back of the tongue is highest point towards the soft palate is called a back vowel. A central vowel is articulated when the center of the tongue is raised towards the soft palate. A front vowel is a vowel produced with the front of the tongue opposite to the soft palate. 3.4- The duration of the vowel (long or short) When a vowel takes a short period of time it is called short vowel whereas long vowels take longer time.

4. The vowel chart: In phonetics, we represent the quality of vowels and diphthongs by placing them on a foursided figure usually known as the Cardinal Vowel Quadrilateral, describing the English vowels. Therefore, the Cardinal vowels are a standard reference system to describe, classify and compare vowels. Page 2 of 3

Mohamed Kheider University of Biskra____Section of English____First Year LMD___Phonetics

The French vowels in figure1 are called the primary cardinal vowels, which represent the extreme framework of the diagram/chart according to their tongue height and their frontness or backness.

4.1. Articulatory Classification of Vowels: Although precise description of vowels is difficult, but the vowel diagram is the best scheme used for classifying vowels, in which we have three horizontal labels for the position of the tongue (front, central and back) in the mouth opposing the soft palate.; on the other hand, we have four vertical lines for the shape of the tongue or the degree of opening of the mouth (close, close-mid, open-mid, open). In the Cardinal vowels chart we can place all the vowel sounds of English.

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