Inglese - Phonetic & Phonology
If you put 18a and 18b together and isolate tongue position, you get the following diagram:
Figure 19: vowel diagram (Thomas 1976:57)
The diagram in (19) is conventionalised as: The complete diagram of English vowels is :
Front Central Back
i: u: i: u:
N: 2: N:
z P z `: P
Low Front Back
Figure 20: conventionalised diagram. Figure 21: diagram of English vowels.
Note that English vowels do occupy
the same as German vowels.
This is shown in figure 21a. Figure 21a
Do exercise 14, 15, 16. 16
As you may have seen, there are two types of [i] sound in English placed in two
different positions. However for the purpose of description, what is relevant is not the
difference of position but that of the perceived length of the vowel. Thus it is said that [i:] is
a long vowel and [H] is a short one. The same is valid for [u:] / [T], [2:]/[?], [N:]/ [P].
Symbols for long vowels all have a colon.
Phonologically, one can establish the rule such as only long vowels may be the last
sound of a syllable, whereas short vowels are always followed by at least a consonant. If we
take away the final [t] from court, [kN:] is a possible syllable (core) whereas [kP] could not
possibly occur. (Exceptions from this are the three short vowels that occur in completely
unstressed syllables, [sHtH, swet?] city, into, sweater).
You can have another look at exercise 3a
Vowels may also be different from each other with respect to rounding. If you
compare [i:] in [tRi:z] with [u:] in [tRu:z] you will see that not only is [i:] a
front vowel and [u:] a back vowel, but [i:] is also unrounded where [u:] is rounded. When
pronouncing [u:] your lips are rounded, but when pronouncing [i:] the corners of the mouth
are much further apart. no lip rounding lip rounding
Figure 22: rounding. (McCarthy 1967:31) 17
There are no nasal vowels in British English, i.e. no vowels in which the air also
escapes through the nose.
So far we have only been considering vowels that were constant, i.e. vowels that
were pronounced at one and the same place. Such vowels are called monophthongs, and
English has 12 of them.
English also has 8 diphthongs, which are vowels that change character during their
pronunciation, that is, they begin at one place and move towards another place. Compare for
example the monophthong in with the diphthong in or the monophthong in
car cow, girl
with the diphthong in The vowels of and both begin at a given place and glide
goal. cow goal but then it moves towards [T].
towards another one . In the vowel begins as if it was [?],
Therefore it is written [?T], as in [g?Tl] with two symbols, one for how it starts and one
for how it ends.
H? T? NH ?T
e? eH `H `T
Figure 23: table of diphthongs.
The easiest way to remember them is in term of three groups composed as follow:
moving towards central moving towards high
? H T
ending in ending in ending in
H? T? NH ?T
e? eH aH aT Example: .
Note that some people speak of triphthongs for groups of diphthongs + schwa (?) 18
You can do exercise 17
2.3.7 Table of Vowels
As we saw above, the best way of noting the tongue position is by using the vowel
diagrams, as on p.14, but as they do not contain information about length and rounding, we
can summarise the description of English vowels in the following table:
i: long high front unrounded monophthong
H short high front unrounded monophthong
e short mid front unrounded monophthong
z short low front unrounded monophthong
U short low central unrounded monophthong
@: long low back unrounded monophthong
P short low back rounded monophthong
N: long mid back rounded monophthong
T short high back rounded monophthong
u: long high back rounded monophthong
2: long mid central unrounded monophthong
? short mid central unrounded monophthong
eH diphthong moving from mid front unrounded to high front unrounded
aH diphthong low central unrounded to high front unrounded
NH diphthong low back rounded to high front unrounded
?T diphthong mid central unrounded to high back rounded
aT diphthong low central unrounded to high back rounded
H? diphthong high front unrounded to mid central unrounded
e? diphthong mid front unrounded to mid central unrounded
T? diphthong high back unrounded to mid central unrounded 19
1. Find the phonetic symbol for the first sound in each of the following words:
a. this g. knee
b. usual h. hear
c. church i. phonetics
d. christian j. giant
e. thousand k. one
2. Find the phonetic symbol for the last sound in each of the following words:
a. tough f. shapes
b. kicked g. bones
c. loved h. parking
d. health i. wave
e. dog j. large
3. Put the following words into the corresponding columns:
a. ill - eel - kneel - nil - will - wheel
field - bean - filled - bin - ski - sick
N: P u:
b. board - two - bored - call - pot
moth - cough - do - through - thought
c. aT caught - owe - coal - own - sore -mow
sore scowl - brow - door - now - paw - found
4. Find the mistakes: [Si:z] [sHxtH]
5. Among the following words tick those which start with a nasal sound:
a. know h. gnaw
b. mother i. look
c. another j. go
d. power k. beer
e. tea l. dear
f. kill m. near
g. mare n. pneumonia
NB. you now have two of the three nasal sounds in English
6. All the nasal sounds have a non-nasal counterpart. In the following series could you fill
the missing sound:
e.g. - bzn - pzn - …zn
- tHl - dHl - …Hl
- log - lP… - lP…
Now find the missing word:
- bzt - mzt - …
- nH? - dH? - …
- bHd - bHt - …
- hzk - hzg - …
- bzg - bzM - …
- lzm - lzb - … 21
7.a. Put the following words into two columns according to whether their consonant is
voiced or not:
+ voice | - voice
____________________________ eHt, du:, hH?, pi:, i:g?,
zd, beH, ti:, zu:, s?T,
SaH, HtR, ?v, C?,
b. For each word of the column +voice find the word in the other column whose first
consonant is the voiceless counterpart.
8. Circle the words in which the consonant in the middle is voices:
tracking mother robber leisure massive
stomach razor column briefing higher
9. The following diagrams each represent a different place of articulation.
a.Can you name them? 22
b. Can you list the sounds that are produced at each of these places?
c. For each of these sounds, give a word in which it appears.
10. a. Circle the words that begin with a bilabial consonant:
mat gnat sat bat rat pat
b. Circle the words that begin with a velar consonant:
knot got lot cot hot pot
c. Circle the words that begin with a labiodental consonant:
fat cat that mat chat vat
d. Circle the words that begin with an alveolar consonant:
zip nip lip sip tip dip
e. Circle the words that begin with a dental consonant:
pie guy shy thigh thy high
f. Circle the words that begin with a palato-alveolar consonant:
sigh shy tie thigh thy lie 23
11. a. Circle the words that end with a fricative:
race wreath bush bring breathe bang
rave real ray rose rough
b. Circle the words that end with a nasal:
rain rang dumb deaf
c. Circle the words that end with a plosive:
pill lip lit graph crab dog hide laugh back
d. Circle the words that begin with a lateral:
nut lull bar rob one
e. Circle the words that begin with an approximant:
we you one run
f. Circle the words that end with an affricate:
much back edge ooze
12. a. Put the following words in the relevant column according to the manner of articulation
of the underlined consonant.
sHst?m, sHl?b?l, meHl, kPnd?z, vaT?lHM, f?Tni:mHk, leMS, stres, ti:tR?, meY?, rHdY, vi:l?m,
wUn, jzp, pzl?t, brUC?, spelHM, wi:k, lzMgwHdY, haH, gl?Tt?l, laTd, dentl
plosive fricative affricate nasal lateral approximant
b. Give the English spelling of the words in 12 a.
13. Write the symbol that corresponds to each of the following descriptions, and then give a
word that contains the phoneme.
Example: voiceless alveolar plosive : / t /, two.
a. voiced alveolar lateral
b. short high back rounded monophthong
c. voiced dental fricative
d. voiced velar nasal
e. voiced palatal approximant
f. voiceless palato-alveolar affricate
g. voiced bilabial plosive
14. Below are the tables of French and English vowels. Look at them carefully and answer
the following questions.
i u i: u:
1 ? N:
D 8 N U
z @: P
` @ ?.
a. In English, how do you account for the difference between [i:], [e] and [z]
b. Can you apply the same system to account for the difference between[i], [e], [D]and [a] in
French? How would you describe the differences between these sounds, knowing that they
are all considered to be front.
You see that the description of a sound is constrained by the system it is in.
c. In English, what is the difference between [i:] and [H] on the one hand and [u:] and [T] on
Do you have such a difference in French? 25
d. Where do you find rounded sounds in English?
Where do you find rounded sounds in French?
How do you account for the difference between [i] and [y] in French, considering that
they are both front? and /ry/ rue)?
Is rounding a relevant feature in French (cf./ri/ riz
Is it a relevant feature in English?
e. Now explain why rounding is a relevant feature (i.e. a feature that must be given) in
French and not in English.
15. Which sound do you get if you follow the instructions below?
Start at [i:]:
a. Which part of the tongue is involved and at what height is it?
b. Now the back of your tongue is at its highest and you keep the same opening. Is this a
possible sound of English? If not, what do you have to do to get one without changing the
c. Now lower your tongue to the next possible position. Which sound do you get?
d. Lower your tongue again. What do you get?
e. What is the only thing you have to do to get [@:]?
f. Now where do you move to get [U]?
g. From this position, move to [z]. Describe the move.
h. What are the two intermediate steps to reach [i:] again?
16. Fill the blanks in the following text in order to describe the sequence of actions required
for the pronunciation of the consonants in the middle of the word [Hmplznt] implant. 26
[m] As the vowel ends, the lips ……………………………, the tongue is still
……………………………… but the …………………………is lowered and the vocal
chords continue to ……………………………….
[p] The ………………………remains in the same position, the tongue moves to
………………………… in anticipation, nasalisation stops so the
…………………………………………………………… and the
…………………………………………………… stop vibrating.
[l] The lips …………………………………………, the tip of the tongue
…………………………………………………………, the blade
…………………………………………………… so that the air can escape
………………………………………………………… and as [l] is voiced the
Note that in a sequence such as this one sounds tend to influence each other and do not
appear exactly as they would in isolation.
is anticipated towards the end of the vowel and the soft palate is lowered;
[n] in [bra:ntR]
then it anticipated the following [t] with a raising of the soft palate.
17. On the following diagram indicate with an arrow the movement of the tongue for the
diphthongs in the given words. Give a phonetic transcription first.
H T sure
Do the same thing for the triphthongs in the words:
H T player
18. There are several phonetic transcription systems. We have given you four of them:
Type I Type II Type III Type IV
ii i9 H
i i i
e e e e
a a @9 @:
aa a9 N P
o o N9 N:
oo o9 T
u u u
uu u9 u9 u:
U U U U
?? ?9 ?9 2:
? ? ? ?
ei ei ei eH
ou ou ou
ai ai ai aH
au au au aT
oi oi H?
i? i? i?
e? e? e?
o? o? T?
u? u? ue
a. Which is the one we use?
b. Here is a list of words written in Type I. Transcribe them into Type IV:
c. In the following list, identify the transcription system used and retranscribe the words into
19. Below is the American transcription system.
a. Find the sounds that are pronounced the same way in Standard American English and
Received Pronounciation, but transcribed differently.
b. Indicate those which do not exist in Received Pronounciation. 29 30
3. Mark and Mary Brown (Segmental Phonology)
Mark and Mary Brown are both doctors in the same hospital. One of them is a physician,
the other is a biologist. When an invitation addressed to Dr M. Brown arrives , the secretary of
the hospital wants to know which Dr Brown is invited. She asks a collegue: “Who’s the
physician?”. The answer is :”She is”. Hence it is Mary who’s invited. Had the answer been “He
is”, it would have been Mark. This important information is conveyed by a single segment of the
utterance. If we transcribe the two possible answers in phonetic symbols, we get:
(1) a. [Ri:Hz]
These two answers refer respectively to Mary and Mark
(2) a. [Ri:Hz] she is = Mary
b. [hi:Hz] he is = Mark
and [h] we change the meaning of the sentence and hence we aren’t
If we permute [R]
speaking about the same person.
Consider the following sentence:
Hz Pn C?
(3) [C? kzt mzt]
the cat is on the mat
If we change the first consonant of the noun and insert [ h] instead we get the sentence
Hz Pn C?
(4) [C? hzt mzt]
the hat is on the mat
which does not have the same meaning.
Again, if in (3) we substitute [b] for [k], we get
Hz Pn C?
(5) [C? bzt mzt]
the bat is on the mat
The three strings of sound [kzt], [hzt] and [bzt] differ only because of their initial sound
and thus are potentially three different words. 30
As in the case of Mark and Mary the substitution of one sound for another one changes
the meaning completely.
Now if we say:
(6) a. the cat is on the mat
b. the mat is on the cat
What is the difference in sounds?
What is the difference in meaning?
Obviously the set of sounds uttered in (6a) and (6b) is identical. So the difference lies in
the order in which these sounds appear: [k]and [m] permute in (6b). We see that the order of
appearance can alter meaning. In (6a) and (6b) the relationship between the cat and the mat is
In our examples we produce a change in meaning through a substitution of segments in a
. A precise definition will be given later on.
string of sounds. These segments are called phonemes
Now imagine you’re in London and you want to go to Bond Street. You ask a couple:
“Excuse me, could you tell me where Bond Street is?”. They both answer in chorus: “Second left
and then right”,which can be transcribed as
(7) a [sek?nd ?n Cen
b [sek?nd left RaHt]
Both have given you the same information although you perceive a difference in the
sounds used, that is, the woman has used [r], the regular English / r / sound, whereas the man
used the rolled lingual [R] instead. They are transcribed phonetically respectively as
[raHt] and [RaHt]
This difference in the pronunciation, which allows you to deduce that the wife is English and the
husband Scottish, doesn’t entail a change in meaning.
The two segments [r] and [R] can be used indifferently since there is no change of
meaning: the difference between the two is said to be . This was not the case for the
substitution of [h] for [R] in [Ri:Hz] - [hi:Hz], which brings about a change in meaning and is said
to be (or ).
phonological phonemic 31
3.2 Minimal Pairs
Let’s come back to the concept of phoneme. Since the substitution of [h] for[R] changes
into [h] and [R] belong necessarily to two different phonemes. Whereas [r] and [R], which
under no circumstances change the information given, are said to belong to the same phoneme /r/.
In the discussion of phonological versus phonetic differences, what matters is whether the
substitution of one sound for another brings about a change in meaning or not; the description of
this change does not enter the field of phonology.
Generally, when we wish to decide whether two segments belong to the same phoneme or,
on the contrary, are realisations of two different phonemes, we put them in an identical context,
that is the same string of sounds. When there is a difference between two otherwise identical
strings of sound and this difference results in a change of meaning, these two strings are said to
. Examples of minimal pairs were given in (1a) and (1b), and in (3), (4)
constitute a minimal pair
and (5) above.
If we substitute one segment for another and this results in a change in meaning the two
segments belong to two different Thus [k] and [m] are realisations of two different
phonemes /k/ and /m/ because substituting one for the other as first element of the string [-zt]
gives two different words: /kzt/ (cat) and /mzt/ (mat).
One can safely say that the phonemes of a given language form a system in which they are
all opposed to one another. Take English /p/:
/p/ is opposed to /b/ as in /pHg/ : /bHg/ pig : big
/p/ is opposed to /t/ as in /pi:/ : /ti:/ pea : tea
/p/ is opposed to /d / as in /pHg/ : /dHg / pig : dig
/p/ is opposed to /k/ as in /pzt/ : /kzt/ pat : cat
/p/ is opposed to /g/ as in /pPt/ : /gPt/ pot : got
/p/ is opposed to /m/ as in /pzt/ : /mzt/ pat : mat
/p/ is opposed to /n/ as in /pHt/ : /nHt/ pit : knit
/p/ is opposed to /M/ as in /rHp/ : /rHM/ rip : ring
/p/ is opposed to /f/ as in /pi:t/ : /fi:t/ peat : feet
/p/ is opposed to /v/ as in /pet/ : /vet/ pet : vet
as in /pN:t/ : /SN:t/
/p/ is opposed to /S/ port : thought
/p/ is opposed to /C/ as in /pzt/ : /Czt/ pat : that
/p/ is opposed to /s/ as in /pzt/ : /szt/ pat : sat
/p/ is opposed to /z/ as in /pHp/ : /zHp/ pip : zip
/p/ is opposed to /R/ as in /pi:/ : /Ri:/ pea : she
/p/ is opposed to /Y/ as in /lep?/ : /leY?/ leper : leisure
/p/ is opposed to /tR/ as in /pi:p/ : /tRi:p/ peep : cheap
/p/ is opposed to /dY/ as in /pi:p/ : /dYi:p/ peep : jeep
/p/ is opposed to /l/ as in /pHt/ pit : lit 32
/p/ is opposed to /r/ as in /pPt/ : /rPt/ pot : rot
/p/ is opposed to /w/ as in /pi:/ : /wi:/ pea : we
/p/ is opposed to /j/ as in /p?Tk/ : /j?Tk/ poke : yoke
/p/ is opposed to /h/ as in /pi:/ : /hi:/ pea : he
table 1: /p/ as opposed to the other consonant phonemes of English
This procedure can theoretically be applied to each phoneme of the language. Note,
though, that in the chart above, /p/ is opposed to other consonants only. This is because even
though all phonemes of a given language form a system, oppositions in that language are
organised in such a way that consonants can only be opposed to consonants and vowels to
vowels. We shall see in the next chapters how oppositions are organised according to the rules of
syllable structure, word formation and other contingencies.
Do exercise 1
A phoneme is opposed to all other phonemes of its subsystem (respectively, consonants
and vowels) in several ways. /p / has to be defined as an unvoiced bilabial plosive to account for
all the oppositions found with the other consonants in English. These three features are all
necessary because if /p/ was described as an unvoiced consonant it could be opposed to /b/, /d/,
/z/, /Y/, /dY/, but would not appear as distinct from all other unvoiced sounds. If /p/
/g/, /v/, /C/,
was described as a bilabial only it could be opposed to all non-bilabials but would not appear as
distinct from /b/ and /m/. If /p/ was described only as a plosive it would be opposed to all non-
plosives but would not appear distinct from /t/, /d/, /g/, /b/, /k/.
Hence we can say that
are the of /p/.
Consider the phoneme /m/. Phonetically it is described as a voiced bilabial nasal.
However if bilabiality is necessary to account for its opposition to /n/ for example and nasality is
necessary to account for its opposition to /b/ voicing is not a phonological feature since there are
no voiceless nasals. As voicing is not a distinctive feature of /m/, we say is it as
feature from a phonological point of view.
Let’s have a look at /l/. It is described phonetically as a voiced alveolar lateral. However
since there are no other lateral sounds in English, voicing and alveolarity are redundant 33
. Voicing is also a redundant feature for vowels since there are no voiceless
Each language has its own set of phonemes; oppositions among those phonemes differ
necessarily from language to language : they have been based on different sets of features for each
language. For example nasality exists both in French and in English. However in French nasality
is a distinctive feature of both consonants and vowels. The French /m/ is opposed to /p/, /b/
because it is nasal, as in English. But whereas there are no nasal vowels in English (at least in
Received Pronunciation of British English) in French there are nasal and oral (non-nasal) vowels:
/bo/ (“beautiful”) is opposed to /bõ/ (“good”) because of its nasality. So is /pla/
beau bon plat
(“flat”) when it is opposed to /plã/ (“map”).
Another example of the relevancy of sets of features would be the role of lip rounding in
French and in English. Lip rounding exists in both languages. In English, only back vowels are
rounded and rounding alone will never account for the opposition between two vowels. So
rounding is a redundant feature of English vowels. In French , both /i/ and /y/ are high front
vowels, but /y/ is distinct from /i/ because of its rounding only: /vy/ (“seen”) is opposed to
/vi/ (“saw”). Rounding is a distinctive feature of French vowels.
vit Segmentation of the string of sounds can also differ from one language to the other. For
example, phonetic [tR] is considered as one phoneme in Spanish (/tR/), as two in French ( /t/+/R/)
and as one or two in English depending on the analysis of the set of consonants. More details can
be found in the exercises given below and in exercise 22.
You can now do exercises 2,3,4,5.
Each phoneme can be described as a maximal set of distinctive features. We have seen
that /p/ must be described as ‘voiceless bilabial plosive’ to account for all the oppositions it can
be found in. Every sound which is a realisation of a given phoneme must show the same set of
distinctive features. The realisations of phonemes - or - are called . All
allophones of a phoneme share the same set of distinctive features but each one can also show
additional features. For example the phoneme /p/ is realised as [pç] in [pçHt], as it would be every
time it occurs in a word as initial consonant before a vowel, and as [p] in all other cases. [pç] and
[p] are said to be allophones because
1) they can both be described as voiceless bilabial plosives and
2) if we substitute one for the other we do not get any change in meaning but rather an odd
The feature 'aspirated' , which we find in [pçHt], is context-bound. Its relevance is not a
and [p] are realisations of
change of meaning but its position in a string of sounds or context. [pç]
the same phoneme, i.e. allophones that are : [p] can never occur
in complementary distribution
instead of [pç] and vice-versa. Note that these non-phonological variations are not always
perceived. . That is, there are no restrictions as to their
Allophones can also be in free variation
appearance. Probably no one ever utters the same phoneme twice in the very same way: with an
appropriate acoustic instrument, one could always find a small difference between two
allophones, a difference which can be attributed to a physiological state, the sort of conversation
held, the climate, etc. More systematic instances of allophones may be due to regional “accent”:
we have already mentioned the case of the two / r /: [r] and [R], which can occur in exactly the
same context without change of meaning, hence with an identical set of distinctive features but
accompanied by non-distinctive features indicating that the speaker is, for example, a Scotsman.
Do exercise 6
/ (Syllable Structure)
4. / ekstr?
4.1 The syllable
We have seen that the sounds of a language form a system or a system of sub-systems in
which the various elements are opposed to one another. However this is not enough to explain the
organisation of the sound pattern of language, whose units are used to convey meaning. The
various elements of the system or sub-systems combine in certain ways which reveal the various
levels of structure of the sound system. On the first level we find the structure called .
In English a syllable consists of a phoneme or a sequence of phonemes. If the syllable
receives word stress it can be associated with meaning and form what is usually called a word.
No word in English can consist of anything less than a syllable and no syllable can consist of
anything less than a vowel. There aren’t many examples of monosyllabic words consisting of only
/aH/ or /?T/ , etc.
a vowel in English. However, we have /a:/ , /N:/ or, awe, eye , I ay(e), owe
It would be nice to show that given the appropriate intonation, these words could form a sentence.
However, there is no such example in English. Latin offers a good example of a sentence formed
of a single word formed itself of a single syllable which consists of a vowel only: / i /, which
means “Go !”.
Each vowel has the possibility of constituting a syllable ( hence a monosyllabic word) by
itself whereas this is never possible for a consonant. This is the great phonological distinction
between vowels and consonants. Examples of monosyllabic words consisting of a vowel are
for instance, is not
given above. But not all English vowels can form a word by themselves. /T?/,
an existing English word. However, what matters is that it could be a word. If we were to invent
a name for a new product, we could well use the single-vowel syllable [T?]. We would then have
. Accidental gaps are formed of possible
made use of what is called an accidental gap
combinations of phonemes at any level of the structure of the sound system of a language, which
have not yet been assigned meaning.
Most English syllables consist of more than one vowel. We must examine what they can
consist of, because it is not sufficient to add any consonant or group of consonants to a vowel to
get an English syllable: /pteH/ is not a syllable of English whereas /pleH/ and /steH/ are.
The construction of a syllable is always organised around a vowel which is the ,
i.e. the indispensable element of the syllable. What comes before the nucleus is called and
what follows it is called . Neither onset nor termination are necessary. They occur
separately, or together with the nucleus, as illustrated in the table below:
onset nucleus termination examples
nucleus only -- X -- /@:/ are
onset + nucleus X X -- /bi:/ bee
nucleus + -- X X /N:t/ ought
onset + nucleus + X X X /bed/ bed
table 2: structure of the syllable
There are restrictions as to the position consonant phonemes can occupy: for example /M/
can never occur before a vowel; just as /h/, /w/ and /j/ can never occur after a vowel. Our list does
not include /r/ as in RP, it never occurs in a termination cluster. Some of the many problems
related to this phoneme will be dealt with in section 4.5.l
Both onset and termination can consist of one or more consonant phonemes. Two or more
consonants in the onset or in the termination form . Here again there are
restrictions as to how the consonants can combine in the onset and termination respectively (onset
clusters do not have the same restrictions as termination clusters and vice-versa) 36
as mentioned before. Note
Any consonant can be the sole element of the onset except /M/
that /Y/is rare and is found in initial position only in words directly imported from French, such as
/YHg?l?T/ or /Yi:g/ (examples from Gimson 1980:189). The largest onset consonant
cluster can consist of three elements. In this case the first one is necessarily /s/ : /s C C nucleus/
(where C stands for “consonant”).
Examples: l = spteH splay
p + r = spreH spray
j = spju: spew
r = strN: straw
s + t + j = stju: stew
l = skle(rN:zHs) sclerosis
r = skru screw
k + w = skwi:z squeez
j = skju: skew
Two consonant clusters are more frequent: possible combinations are exemplified in table
3 below. 37
S R C Y M
p t k b d g f s h v z m n l r w j tR dY
p - 1 - - - - - - 1 1 - - - - - - - - play pray - pew - -
t - - - - - - - - 1 ?2 - - - - - - - - - tray twin tune - -
k - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - clay crow quick queue - -
b - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - blue brow - beauty - -
d - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ?2 - - - - dry dwell due - -
g - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - glue grin 1 - - -
f - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - flue fry - few - -
S - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - throw thwart - - -
s spy stay sky - - - sphere - - - - - - - - smell snow - slow 1 sweat sue - -
R - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - shrew 1 - - -
h - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3 huge - -
v - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - view - -
C - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
z - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Y - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
m - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - muse - -
n - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - news - -
M - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
l - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - lewd - -
r - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
w - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
j - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
tR - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
dY - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
1. Examples for these clusters could be found; however they are all foreign or onomatopeic: psoriasis - pterodactyl -
pshaw - tsetse - gwen - Sri-Lanka - Schweppes.
2. A decision has to be made here as to whether /tR / and /dY/ are single phonemes or clusters.
3. It is a matter of pronunciation: some dialects pronounce [Ve?(r)] for (the sound /V/ is a voiceless velar
Table 3: onset two-consonant clusters
Notice that among two-consonant clusters /s/ seems to combine most easily when in
see exercise 7 38
Whereas it was possible to list the combinations of onset clusters fairly faithfully, it is
practically impossible to present termination clusters in a chart that would allow immediate
reading. Trnka (cited in Troubetzkoy 1967: 269) devotes over 22 pages trying to enumerate and
explain possible clusters in English and yet doesn’t succeed in producing simple rules!
Hence we will restrict ourselves to showing some of the most frequent termination
clusters. Any consonant may be a final consonant i.e. be the only element of a termination except
for /h/, /w/, /j/ and to a certain extent /r/, as we have seen.
Examples of two-consonant clusters in termination (table 4):
Note that /pm/ wouldn't be possible, nor /kn/, /tl/ ( /bi:tl/ is considered to be split into two
syllables; see section 4.5 below).
Examples of three-consonant clusters in termination (table 5):
Examples of four-consonant clusters in termination (table 6):
(Examples in tables 3,4,5,6 from Roach 1983: 59-61) 39
4.3 Constraints on Syllable Formation
Although there seems to be no systematic rule explaining all the possible combinations,
there are a number of constraints. Look at the first three examples of two-consonant clusters
(table 4) : /bUmp/, /rent/, /bzMk/. These clusters are composed of a nasal and of a plosive that
shares the same place of articulation:
/m/ = bilabial nasal + /p/ = bilabial voiceless plosive
/n/ = alveolar nasal + /t/ = alveolar voiceless plosive
= velar nasal + /k/ = velar voiceless plosive
/M/ and not */_nk/.
This explains why in we say /_Mk/
This is a rule, called homorganic nasal rule, which requires that a nasal + plosive be
articulated at the same place. It is only valid for termination clusters as there is no nasal + plosive
onset cluster. Moreover the reverse cluster plosive + nasal is impossible in English whether in
onset or termination. Spelling is misleading in this respect since
is pronounced /nHtHM/
knitting is pronounced /nju:m?Tnj?/
Another constraint is the so-called sonority rule. According to this rule the further from a
syllable nucleus a phoneme is, the less sonorous it must be. A well formed syllable will therefore
have a sonority peak in its nucleus with the onset rising in sonority towards the nucleus and the
termination decreasing in sonority away from the nucleus, as illustrated in table 7.
most sonorous sonorants
least sonorous voiceless obstruents
table 7: the sonority scale of English phonemes
(8)a b c d
ape tea book speed
eH p t i: b k s p i: d 40
d e f
stream twelfth strength
-v.ob S M S
s t r i: m t w e l f s t r e
If there is more than one sonority peak there is more than one syllable:
(9)a b c
aping streamline speedy
-v.ob H M H
eH p s t r i: m l aH n s p i: d
Note that although this sonority rule explains the structure of existing English syllables, it is not
powerful enough to exclude wrong predictions: according to this rule only, /rPh/ is a possible
syllable of English. So this rule doesn’t cover all the aspects of the problem.
You can do exercises 8,9,10.
4.4 Syllable Perception
Now let’s place the syllable in a larger context, the word for example, and let’s consider
The word /ekstr?/, for example, having two vowels, consists of two syllables.
Where is the syllable boundary? According to P. Roach (1983:58 ) there could be five possible
ways of dividing the word
(10) a) e+kstr? b) ek+str? c) eks+tr? d) ekst+r? e) ekstr+?
Phonetically speaking, all solutions are acceptable since in each case both syllables
contain their vowel. However it is not really surprising that solutions (10b) and (10c) are
preferred. Solution (10d), is also worth considering, since in all three cases the syllables resulting
from the division are perfectly well-formed according to both onset and termination cluster rules.
Solution (10b), illustrated in (11) yields:
(11)a /ek/ is as much a syllable as the only syllable of the word /eHk/ ache
(11)b/str?/ is as much a syllable as monosyllabic /stra:/ straw
Solutions (10a) and (10e) are not acceptable phonologically as their division yields
sequences of phonemes that cannot be considered as phonological syllables:
(12)a(= 10a) /ekstr/ does not follow termination cluster rules
b(=10e) /kstr?/ does not follow onset cluster rules
4.5 Syllabic Consonants
It is interesting to notice that in the case of /ekstr/ one would be tempted to analyse this
sequence into [ekst+rﬂ
] (the diacritic mark for syllabic consonants is the dot under the phoneme).
We know that /rﬂ
/ is not a vowel and hence cannot be considered to form a syllable by itself.
However this [rﬂ
] could be said to be a as much as [nﬂ
] in [kPtnﬂ
] or [lﬂ
] beetle. ], [lﬂ
] and [nﬂ
] are syllabic only from the point of view of perception and
The consonants [rﬂ
do not have their place in a phonological analysis, since they are considered to be syllabic only
when they are part of a word. Apart from the problem of division of a word into syllables, their
syllabicity is never discussed.
The gap between syllables obtained by syllabication on the one hand and syllables
resulting from a phonological analysis on the other is very puzzling. ] ,
An answer to syllabication that yields syllabic consonants in words like [kPtnﬂ cotton
] , [lHsnﬂ
] and even [tUnlﬂ
] could be found in the sonority rule.
beetle listen tunnel
According to this rule,our examples would be analysed as:
k t nﬂ b i: t lﬂ
l s nﬂ t n lﬂ 42
All these words have more than one sonority peak, which is shown here by a change in
direction (although /n/ and /l/ are both classified as sonorants, the intensity is obviously higher in
/l/ than in a nasal stop).
Another answer suggests that a syllabic consonant is in fact the combination of a vowel
and a consonant. A trace of the vowel can be found in the spelling: . , ,
cotton beetle tunnel
. We will come back to this when discussing stress placement (example (18) and in chapter
7, when examining cases of elision).
A third direction should be investigated. Perhaps the discrepancy between phonetic
syllabication and syllabication obtained through phonological rules is due to the fact that
syllabication of a word is not as important in English as it is in French for example. In English,
words are entities signalled by the presence of a primary word-stress, whereas in French words
are mainly collections of syllables. Metrics in English and in French seem to reflect this
perception. In English, for example, pairs of words like /£pHl?T/ and /bH£l?T/ are
not considered to form a rhyme (example given by V. Fehlbaum). Compare with the rhyming
French pair /roz/ and /ekloz/ in Ronsard, “Mignonne, allons voir...”).
5. Is John really a nice husband ? (Word Stress)
Upon hearing an English sentence - even without understanding its meaning - one can
distinguish a certain number of prominent syllables. The prominence is at its highest on the
vowels, which are louder, longer, higher in pitch and sometimes different in quality. In the word
the syllable which bears the is /na:/. It is pronounced with more
/b?n@:n?/ banana, stress
strength, it lasts longer and it reaches a higher pitch than the surrounding syllables; it also differs
from them because it has a full vowel as opposed to /?/ (schwa), which is the most central and
hence the most neutral of all vowels.
This prominence does not belong to the vowel itself but characterises the whole syllable.
This explains why stress is called as opposed to phonemes which are segmental.
At this stage we can clarify the distinction between different types of phonological elements:
- distinctive features always appear simultaneously in bundles that are characteristics of
- phonemes are maximal bundles of distinctive features and have their own time-space.
This is why they are segmental
- supra-segmental elements include :
a) syllables: they are supra-segmental units formed of phonemes and characterised
as units by the presence of the vowel 43
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher sofia_polly di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Lingua Inglese II e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Bergamo - Unibg o del prof Anesa Patrizia.
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