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Linguisics: P&P

Sound Like a Professional Linguist: Phonetics and Phonology

TermDefinition
phonetics The study of human sounds.
phonology The study of the sound system of a language or languages.
affricate A phonetic segment which consists of a stop followed immediately by a fricative. Affricates act as units phonologically and are synchronically indivisible, e.g. /tʃ/ in church /tʃɜ:tʃ/ or judge /dʒʌdʒ/.
allophone The realization of a phoneme. Each segment has different realizations which are only partly distinguishable for speakers. A phoneme can have different allophones, frequently depending on position in the word or on a preceding vowel, e.g. [l] and [ɫ] in English (at the beginning and end of a word respectively) or [ç] and [x] in German (depending on whether the preceding vowel is front or not). Allophones are written in square brackets.
alphabet A system of letters intended to represent the sounds of a language in writing. For all west European languages the Latin alphabet has been the outset for their writing systems. However, because each language has a different sound system different combinations of letters have arisen and letters have come to be written with additional symbols attached to them.
alveolar A classification of sounds which are formed at the alveolar ridge (the bone plate behind the upper teeth). Alveolar sounds are formed with the tip or the blade of the tongue. Examples are /t,d,s,z,l,n/ in English or German.
alveolo-palatal A classification of sounds which are formed with the hard palate as passive articulator and the blade of the tongue as active articulator. Examples are the two English fricatives [ʃ] and [ʒ].
ambi-dental A description of the manner of articulation of the Modern English fricatives /θ/ and /ð/. It is preferred to inter-dental as the tongue is not usually positioned between the teeth for these sounds.
articulatory phonetics One of three standard divisions of phonetics which concerns itself with the production of sounds (compare acoustic and auditive phonetics).
auditory phonetics One of the three standard divisions of phonetics which is concerned with the perception of sounds.
bilabial Any sound produced using both lips, e.g. [p] oder [m].
cardinal vowels A system of 8 rounded and 8 unrounded vowels which was originally developed by the English phonetician Daniel Jones and which is intended as a system of reference for the unambiguous classification of vowel values in a language. The cardinal vowels are represented in a quadrangle with vowels at each corner and two closed mid and open mid vowels, a pair in the front and a pair in the back of the quadrangle.
consonant One of the two main classes of sound. Consonants are formed by a constriction in the supra-glottal tract (or occasionally at the vocal folds as with the glottal stop [ʔ]). They divide into the chief types stops — /p,t,k/ for instance, fricatives — /f, θ, s/ — and approximants — /j, w/. Consonants contrast with vowels in their relatively low sonority and are hence found typically in the margins of syllables, i.e. in onsets and codas as in stopped /stɒpt/.
contrastive Refers to any elements which are in opposition to each other. A phonetic distinction is contrastive if it has significance on the phonological level, i.e. if it distinguishes meaning.
dental A place of articulation characterised by the tip of the tongue being held against the back of the upper teeth, for instance in the pronunciation of /t,d/ in Italian, Swedish, etc. Indicated by a subscript diacritic representing a tooth, i.e. [ṯ, ḏ]. The initial sounds in English this and think are sometime referred to as dental fricatives but the description ambi-dental is more appropriate as the tip of the tongue need only be in the region of the teeth.
diphthong A vowel which is articulated with a change in tongue position between the beginning and end, e.g. /ai/ in English or German. Not all diphthongs have phonological status in a language. Historically, diphthongs tend to develop from long vowels.
discrete A characteristic of human language where there is no continuous transition from one unit to another, e.g. /p/ and /b/ are separate, discrete sounds and speakers pronounce one or the other but not something intermediary between the two.
ease of articulation A putative reason for sound change. It may play a role in allegro speech and possibly effect the sound system over time but cannot be assumed to be a generally valid principle on the phonological level.
fricative A type of sound which is characterised by air passing a constriction somewhere between the glottis and the lips, e.g. [x, s, ʃ, f]. Turbulence arises when air flows through a narrow gap and it is this which causes the noise typical of fricatives. Fricatives can be voiced or voiceless. The equivalent term spirant is sometimes found.
glide A sound which from the point of view of phonological classification lies between a vowel and a consonant, e.g. /j/ and /w/ in English. It is formed with little friction and has a high degree of sonority which accounts for why glides are found near the nucleus of syllables. Sometimes called a semi-vowel.
glottal A term referring to sounds produced at the gap in the vocal folds. Such sounds can either be stops [ʔ] or fricatives [h, ɦ] — voiceless and voiced respectively.
homophone Any set of words pronounced the same way, e.g. English poor and pour /pɔ:/ (Received Pronunciation) and German Ferse and Verse.
homorganic Any set of sounds which are articulated at the same point in the vocal tract, e.g. the sounds in the syllable-coda of mind /maind/ both of which are alveolar.
intonation That part of the sound system of a language which involves the use of pitch to convey information. It consists of both accent (concerns individual words) and sentence melody (concerns word groups).
IPA A system of transcribing the sounds of languages which consists of some Latin and Greek letters and a variety of additional symbols and diacritics. The goal is to represent each recognisable sound in a unique fashion. The IPA was developed at the end of the last century; the acronym stands for International Phonetic Alphabet.
labial A reference to a sound which is formed at the lips; this encompasses both bilabials like /p, m/ and labio-dentals like /f, v/.
labio-dental Describes a consonant which is formed by the lower lip making contact with the upper teeth as in English and German [f] and [v].
labio-velar Describes a consonant which is articulated by a constriction at the velum with rounding of the lips at the same time, e.g. with [w] in English.
leveling The disappearance of contrasts — usually phonological or morphological — in the course of a language's development.
manner of articulation One of the three conventional parameters (the others are place of articulation and voice) which are used to specific how a sound is produced. Common types are plosives, fricatives and affricates.
minimal pair Any two words which are only distinguished by different sounds in a single position. Such word pairs are used in traditional phonology to determine the status of sounds as phonemes, e.g. German Kunst # Gunst and English railing # sailing which show that the initial sounds in all these words are phonemes in the respective languages. Note that the spelling of minimal pairs is irrelevant.
monophthong A vowel which is articulated with the tongue in a constant position, e.g. /o:/ in German Boot. Most long vowels in German are monophthongs while those in English are diphthongs, e.g. [bəʊt] for boat.
nasal A sound, vowel or consonant, which is produced by opening the nasal cavity (through lowering of the velum).
natural class A group of sounds which behave similarly. An example would be the group of obstruents (stops and fricatives) as only these are affected by final devoicing in German.
onomatopoeia The putative imitation of a natural phenomenon (for instance bird song) by phonetic means. Contrary to the opinion of many speakers, onomatopoeia is not a major principle in historical phonology.
optional A term which refers to allophonic processes which do not necessarily have to be carried out, cf. the shortening of high vowels before nasals as in Received Pronunciation room /ru:m/ > /rum/ or been /bi:n/ > /bɪn/; in general terms any process which is not obligatory.
oral Articulated in the mouth. The term usually implies that the nasal cavity is not involved, e.g. in French there are distinct oral and nasal vowels.
organs of speech Parts of the human anatomy which are used in speech production, e.g the glottis, velum, palate, alveolar ridge, lips and the tongue of course. From an evolutionary point of view one can see that these functions are secondary adaptations and specialisations of organs which have some other primary function.
palatal A place of articulation at the hard palate in the centre of the roof of the mouth.
phone Any human sound which has not been classified in the phonology of a language.
phoneme In traditional phonology the smallest unit in language which disinguishes meaning, e.g /k/ and /g/ as seen in coat and goat. Each phoneme has one or more realisations, called allophones.
phonemics The study of phonemes in language, their distribution, status and interrelationships.
phonetic A reference to a phenomenon in the area of phonetics (often as opposed to phonology).
phonetics The study of human sounds without immediate regard to their systematic status for a certain language.
phonological A reference to the phonology of a language, i.e. to the deeper and more abstract organisation of the sounds of a language. A language's phonology is its inventory of phonemes and the rules for their combination, distribution, etc.; in short all the 'grammatical' or structural aspects of the sound level. In a wider sense, phonology could be said to subsume phonetics as its 'surface' aspect.
phonology The study of the sound system of one or more languages. Phonology involves the classification of sounds and a description of the interrelationship of the elements on a systematic level.
place of articulation The point in the vocal tract at which a sound is produced. This can be anywhere from the lips at the front to the glottis (the gap between the vocal folds) at the back. The most common place of articulation is the alveolar ridge just behind the upper teeth.
plosive A sound which is produced with a complete blockage of the pulmonic airstream. Also called a stop, examples are /p,t,k/.
pronunciation A collective reference to the manner in which sounds are articulated in a particular language. Given its concrete nature pronunciation is a matter of phonetics rather than phonology.
prosody A term which refers to all the suprasegmental properties of language such as pitch, loudness, tempo and rhythym.
Received Pronunciation The standard pronunciation of British English. This stems originally from the speech of the middle and upper classes in London. In the course of the 19th century it developed into a sociolect, particularly when adopted by the public schools, and attained a wide distribution in Wales and Scotland as well. The term was coined by the English phonetician Daniel Jones.
redundancy Superfluous information in language. Multiple marking of grammatical categories is the most common case of redundancy and is often found in German, e.g. the plural Dörfer which takes both an ending -er and a shift in stem vowel from back to front (umlaut).
rhotic A reference to a variety of a language in which a syllable-final /r/ is pronounced, for instance (generally) in American English as opposed to Received Pronunciation in England.
rhythm All the patterns of strong and weak syllables in a language. The rhythym of English (and German) is characterised by the foot which consists of a stressed syllable and all unstressed syllables up to the next stressed one.segment A unit of speech which is identifiable and separate from others. It contrasts with the term suprasegmental which refers to those aspects of phonetic structure above the level of individual sounds.
sibilant A sound which is pronounced with clear, hissing friction which is reminiscent of either /s/ or /ʃ/.
speech The production of sounds using the organs of speech; contrasts directly with writing which is a secondary medium for communication via language.
stop A consonant which is formed by blocking off the airstream completely, e.g. /p, t, k/. It contrasts directly with a fricative which does not involve an interruption of the airstream.
stress The acoustic prominence of a syllable in a word. The physical correlates of stress can vary. Typically it involves the raising of the basic frequency and/or of volume matched by a prolongation of the syllable involved.
structure A network of connections between elements of a system, for instance syllable structure is the set of relations which exist between parts of a syllable.
suprasegmental A reference to phenomena which do not belong to the sound segments of language but which typically are spread over several segments, e.g. intonation, stress, tempo, etc.
syllable The most important structural unit in phonology. A syllable consists of a series of sounds which are grouped around a nucleus of acoustic prominence (usually a vowel). A closed syllable is one which has a coda, an open syllable has a codaless rhyme: got /gɒt/ versus go /gəʊ/.
syntagmatic A reference to the linear (or temporal) sequence of elements which contrasts directly with the vertical axis — the paradigmatic axis.
tongue The most frequently used active articulator in all languages. The tongue can be divided into the following areas: the tip (Latin apex), blade (Latin lamina), back (Latin dorsum).
transcription A system of representing sounds in writing unambiguously. For phonological purposes a broad transcription is sufficient as long as the systemic distinctions in the particular language can be recognized. A narrow transcription is more typical of phonetics and may also be necessary in phonology where a feature relies on a phonetic basis which has to be specified.
voiced Spoken with simultaneous vibration of the vocal folds.
voiceless Spoken without the vocal folds vibrating; the folds can either be open (the normal state) or closed with the compression of air between them and the supra-glottal stop position producing sounds which are called ejectives.
Created by: combest
 

 



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