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Lecture 3
Phonemes
Allophones
Symbols
Phonemic symbols
Phonetic symbols
Transcriptions
Broad / Phonemic transcription
Narrow / Phonetic transcription
Rules for English allophones
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Phonemes
A phoneme is the smallest segment of sound which
can distinguish two words.
Take the words pit and bit. These differ only in their
initial sound. pit begins with /p/ and bit begins with
/b/. This is the smallest amount by which these two
words could differ and still remain distinct forms. Any
smaller subdivision would be impossible because
English doesnt subdivide /p/ or /b/. Therefore, /p/ and
/b/ are considered two phonemes.
Other examples:
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Minimal pairs
Pair of words such as pit and bit, pit and pet, back
and bag which differ by only one phoneme in identical
environment are known as minimal pairs.
More examples:
One way to identify the phonemes of any language is to
look for minimal pairs.
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Phonemes
There are 44 phonemes in English. They can be divided
into two types: consonants (24) and vowels (20).
Each phoneme is meaningless in isolation. It becomes
meaningful only when it is combined with other
phonemes.
Phonemes form a set of abstract units that can be used
for writing down a language systemmatically and
unambiguously.
Reasons: A letter can be represented by different sounds.
A phoneme can be represented by different letters or
combinations of letters.
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Allophones
Allophones are the variants of phonems that occur in
speech.
Reasons: the way a phoneme is pronounced is
conditioned by the sounds around it or by its position in
the word. For example: /t/
[t] tea
/t/ [I ] stay
[I] get there
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Phonemes vs. Allophones
The crucial distinction between phonemes and
allophones is that substituting one phoneme for
another will result in a word with a different
meaning (thats why phonemes can be defined as
meaning-distinguishing sounds) as well as a
different pronunciation, but substituting allophones
only results in a different pronunciation of the same
words.
E.g.
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Symbols
Phonemic symbols: are
symbols for phonemes.
The number of phonemic
symbols must be exactly
the same as the number
of phonemes we decide
to exist in the language.
In RP (BBC English),
there are 44 phonemic
symbols.
Phonetic symbols: are
symbols for allophones.
They are used to give an
accurate label to an
allophone of a phoneme
or to represent sounds
more accurately.
Phonetic symbols usually
make use of diacritics.
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Phonemic / broad transcription
A phonemic transcription is a transcription in which each
phoneme is represented by one phonemic symbol. In
other words, in a phonemic transcription, every speech
sound must be identified as one of the phonemes and
written down with an appropriate symbol.
E.g.:
A phonemic transcription does not show a great deal of
phonetic detail and is usually placed between slanting
lines.
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Phonetic / narrow transcription
A phonetic transcription is a transcription which contains a
lot of information about the exact quality of the sounds. It
shows more phonetic detail such as aspiration, length,
nasalisation ..., by using a wide variety of symbols and in
many cases diacritics.
e.g.
In a phonetic transcription, the symbols are used to
represent precise phonetic values, not just to represent
phonemes.
A phonetic transcription is usually put between square
brackets.
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Rules for English consonant allophones
1. Initial voiceless stops are aspirated. [ ' ]
e.g. pie
tea
key
2. Voiceless stops are unaspirated after /s/ at the
beginning of a syllable. [ ]
e.g. stay
sky
speak
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3. Stops are unexploded when they occur before
another stop. [ ` | | |
e.g. apt
rubbed
looked
stopped
4. Approximants /r, w, j/ and the lateral /l/ are devoiced
when they occur after initial /p, k, t/. [ ]
e.g. play
queen
twin
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5. Voiceless stops become glottal stop [?| plus
voiceless stops when they are syllable final and after
a vowel.
e.g. tip
kick
pit
6. Voiced obstruents (stops and fricatives: b, d, g, v, ,
, z} are devoiced when they occur at the end of an
utterance or before a voiceless sound [ ]
e.g. improve
big
add two
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7. Voiced stops and affricate /b, d, g, d/ are voiceless
when syllable initial, except when immediately
preceded by a voiced sound. [ ]
e.g. dog
big dog
8. /n/ becomes syllabic [ ] at the end of a word when
immediately after obstruents (stops + fricatives).
e.g. garden
listen
reason
Notes: /n/ does not become syllabic after /m, n, t]}
e.g. question
salmon
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9. The lateral /l/ becomes syllabic [ ] at the end of a word
when immediately after a consonant.
e.g. paddle
castle
noble
Note: /l/ does not become syllabic after /d and I]}.
e.g. satchel
angel
10. Alveolars become dentalized [ ] before dentals.
e.g. eighth
tenth
wealth
get there
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11. Velar stops become more front as the following vowel in
the same syllable becomes more front. | | | | | | | |
e.g. cat cook
get good
12. The lateral /l/ is velarized when after a vowel or before a
consonant at the end of a word. |l|
e.g. well dealt
13. Vowels become shorter before voiceless consonants in
the same syllable.
e.g. neat pace
back get
14. Vowels become nasalized before nasals [ ]
e.g. song ban
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Variations of Plosives
1. Incomplete plosive/plosion: Stop + Stop
When one stop consonant is immediately followed by
another, as in act /kt/, top dog /tp d/, the closure of
the speech organs for the second consonant is made
while the closure for the first is still in position. The first
consonant is then considered an incomplete plosive.
There is usually only one plosion for the second
consonant.
The missing explosion happens whenever one stop
consonant is followed by another stop or an affricate.
When a stop is followed by itself, there is again only one
explosion, but the closures held for double the usual time.
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Variations of Plosives
When one of the strong/weak pair /b, p/ is followed by the
other as in:
what day
big cake
there is only one explosion, but the closure is held for
double the usual time, and the strength changes during this
time.
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Nasal explosion /t, d/ + /n/
When /t/ or /d/ are followed by syllabic /n/ as in button,
garden, the explosion of the stop takes place through the
nose. This nasal explosion happens in this way: the vocal
organs form /t/ and /d/ in the usual way with the soft palate
raised to shut off the nasal cavity and the tongue tip on the
alveolar ridge. But instead of taking the tongue tip away
from the alveolar ridge to give the explosion, we leave it in
the same position and lower the soft palate so that the
breath explodes out of the nose rather than the mouth.
Examples: written, hidden, certain, Britain, burden, wooden,
pardon.
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Lateral explosion /t, d/ + /l/
/t/ and /d/ are made with the tongue tip on the alveolar ridge
and the sides of the tongue firmly touching the sides of the
hard palate. /l/ is made with the tongue tip touching the
alveolar ridge but the sides of the tongue away from the
sides of the palate so that the breath passes out laterally.
The simplest way to go from /t/ and /d/ to /l/ is to leave the
tongue tip on the alveolar ridge and only lower the sides and
thats what we do. It is called lateral explosion.
Examples: little, middle, battle, bottle.