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Phonetics as a science. Types of pronunciation

Lecture # 1

1. The subject of phonetics.

Phonetics is one of the oldest and most essential branches of linguistics. It studies the spoken aspect of languages and its subject is therefore a scientific analysis of the system of oral means expressing thoughts and emotions of the speaker.

Lexicology, grammar, stylistics are different branches of linguistics inseparably connected with phonetics. Phonetic analysis begins with breaking words into phonemes, studying their allophones and then proceeds to grammatically significant stress and sound changes and to syntax analyzing sense groups for intonation and all its components.

2. The functions of the speech apparatus.

The primary function of the so called speech apparatus has always been purely biological; the lungs are the main organs of breathing. The mouth cavity is used in the process of taking food and chewing it. Of all the speech organs only the larynx (глотка, гортань) was used to produce rough animal cries.

The ability to use the same apparatus in its secondary function as a mechanism of oral speech was gradually developed among human communities by extremely slow and lengthy alterations. It was urged among the human beings by the necessity to communicate with each other and other common interests.

The highly refined development of the human speech apparatus enables us to produce a great variety of acoustic elements namely speech sounds.

3. Components of phonetic system.

Common anatomical features of the speech apparatus make the phonetic system of different languages similar in their general characteristics. But at the same time due to the historical isolation of human communities in the remote past every modern language has its own natural features of pronunciation.

The phonetic system of language includes the following components:

• the system of its phonemes occurring in the form of its allophones;

• the syllabic structure;

• the accentual structure of words;

• the intonation;

4. The meaning of the term "English pronunciation".

The 4 components of the phonetic system of English constitute its pronunciation. The proper meaning of the term "English pronunciation" should include the correct articulation of the English phonemes in actual word shapes, the correct syllable division, the correct stressing of syllables in words and sentences and correct English intonation in connected speech.

5. Articulatory phonetics.

A speech sound may be looked upon from different angles. From the articulatory point of view every speech sound is a complex of different movements and positions of the various speech organs.

The branch of phonetics which deals with the production, description and classification of speech organs is called articulatory or physiological phonetics. It is the oldest, the most developed and the most important branch for the teachers of foreign languages.

6. Acoustic phonetics.

From the acoustic or physical point of view a speech sound is a physical phenomenon characterized by certain acoustic properties. The branch of phonetics which studies the acoustic aspect of speech sounds is called acoustic or experimental Phonetics. It is the youngest and quickly growing branch of phonetics.

7. Acoustic properties of the sound matter.(сущность)

A speech sound, like any other sound in nature is a physical phenomenon, a kind of moving matter and energy. The sound matter manifests itself in the systemic combination of its acoustic properties, which are as follows:

• the acoustic spectrum (диапазон);

• the fundamental frequency or pitch (основная, собственная частота), (высота голосового диапазона);

• the voice quality;

• the intensity (сила);

• the temporal component.

Speech sounds are conveyed to our ears by the vibrations of the air particles. These vibrations are initiated either by the action of the vocal cords or by some disturbance of the air particles themselves caused by an obstruction (затруднение произношения). The vibrations of the vocal cords produce the acoustic impression of voice or musical tone. e. g. / a: /. The vibrations of the air particles caused by some obstruction within the mouth cavity may be of an irregular kind, producing noise, e. g. / s /. There may be both regular and irregular vibrations present, that is a combination of tone and noise with noise prevailing over tone, as in /z/ or with tone prevailing over noise, as in / 1 /.

The acoustic impression of sound quality of both vowels and consonants is caused by the different kinds of vibrations of the air particles started in resonating chambers (сверхчастотный резонатор) of different shapes and sizes. This phenomenon goes in the following way: the vocal cords vibrate both along the whole of their length, producing the fundamental frequency and along varying portions of their length, producing a large number of higher vibrations called overtones (ноты) or harmonics (гармоники). When all these vibrations enter the super glottal cavity (полость относящаяся к голосовой щели) the resonating chambers select and reinforce some of them and they are called formants (форманты). These bands of reinforced harmonics add a definite coloring to every speech sound but do not influence the fundamental tone of the vocal cords. In this way the sound is given its definite quality or timbre / tembe - (тембр).

Bands of energy which are characteristic of the particular sound are known as sound's formants (форманты).

The complex range of frequencies which make up the quality of a sound is known as the acoustic spectrum.

Our perception of the pitch of a speech sound depends upon the frequencies (частоты) of vibrations of the vocal cords. The higher the rate (скорость) of vibrations the higher the pitch level is.

A male voice may have an average pitch level of about 150 cycles per second (cps) and a female voice - a level in the region of 240 cps.

The total range (диапазон) of a speaking voice varies from 80 to 350 cps, but our perception of pitch change is much higher. The human ear perceives frequencies from as low as 15 cps to about 20.000 cps. The variations in pitch level are studied at in connection with intonation.

The voice quality is a special coloring of the voice which corresponds to a combination of pitch, loudness, duration and timbre. Its main function is to identify individuals. It also plays an important role in the expression of all sorts of emotions in speech.

The acoustic property called intensity is perceived as loudness. Our auditory (слуховой) impression of relative loudness depends on the size or amplitude of vibrations. This physical phenomenon is closely related to stress.

But some sounds appear by their nature to be louder than others that is they have more carrying power. This acoustic quality is called sonority (звонкости, звучности).

Also the sound manifests itself in variations of duration or length of speech sounds.

8.Historical phonetics.

An indispensable (важная) part of the history of a language is the so called historical phonetics. It studies all kinds of written documents and literature of ancient periods, compares spelling and grammatical forms, rhymes in poetry. On the bases of phonetic phenomena which can be observed in modern pronunciation historians reconstruct the old stages that have resulted in the present day phonetic system.


Apart from other old branches of phonetics such as comparative, descriptive and general phonetics there are comparatively new ones: phonology and tonetics. Phonology deals with the analysis of the semantic functions of phonemes and other oral means of a language. Some linguists from different schools such as Trubetskoy and Bloomfield overestimate the role of phonology and consider it a separate linguistic science. But the prominent Russian scientist Shcherba who greatly contributed to the development of phonology as a branch of phonetics strongly criticized these attempts.

10.Theoretical significance of phonetics.

Each branch of phonetics aims at the further development of description of the phonetic system of a national language also the comparative analysis and description of phonetic system of different languages and the study of the correspondences (отношения) between them.

11.Practical significance of phonetics.

Practical applications of phonetics are manifold (различны). It is absolutely indispensable (неотъемлемо) in methods of teaching the pronunciation of a foreign

language especially to adult learners. Phonology was extensively used in the introduction of new alphabets and orthography. Practical phonetics is also applied in methods of speech correction, teaching deaf-mutes, film doubling, transliteration of proper names.

12.Southern English pronunciation.

In every language, thanks to economic, political and social factors one particular type of pronunciation generally becomes outstanding and is considered correct or orthoepic literary standard. In most cases standard pronunciation is developed on the stage e. g. in Russian and Germany or by the leading universities or boarding schools. Such is the case with of the Southern English Pronunciation which may be termed in linguistic literature as Standard, Southern, literary, R P, or BBC English.

The southern English dialect which gave rise to present day national literary standard began to become of some importance in the 7th century. But only at the end of the 17th century London, the cultural and commercial centre of Southern England rapidly grew in size and significance, determining the leading role of Southern English educated speech. Being the speech of the ruling class in the 17th-19th centuries RP ceased to be a class pronunciation in the 20th century.

13. Regional literary pronunciation.

The type of speech used by a person always depends on the region in which he is brought up. It is therefore natural that the local dialectal peculiarities of pronunciation may be found not only among country population but also in the speech of educated people of different districts. In such cases a slightly different pronunciation standard is developed which may be termed regional literary pronunciation.

In the British Isles there may be distinguished the following types of cultivated English pronunciation:

• Southern English pronunciation;

• Northern English pronunciation;

• Standard Scottish pronunciation.

14.The main types of RP.

Prof. Gimson distinguishes three main types within RP: the conservative RP forms, the general RP forms, advanced RP forms.

The conservative RP forms are used by the older generation and they represent the pronunciation existing at the end of the 19th century. The conservative RP pronunciation may be observed in a more front and more open articulation of

the diphthong /aU/.

The general RP is the type of pronunciation most commonly produced by educated natives. It is the pronunciation adopted and typified by the BBC.

The advanced RP forms are mainly used by young people especially of the upper classes and for prestige value in certain professional circles. Main characteristic of this for is the lengthening of /æ/.


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