1 Phonemes and allophones
Speech sounds are vibrations that travel through a medium (usually air) by displacing the molecules of this medium. Depending on the consistency of the given medium, the sounds travel at different speeds and have varying intensities. This is why we sound differently when we speak under normal circumstances from when we try to talk under water and also why it is completely impossible for speech sounds to travel through a vacuum. Speech sounds travel in the shape of waves, similar to the ripples that arise when we throw an object – such as a stone – into the water. The degree of displacement corresponds to the height (amplitude) of the wave. Amplitude in sound waves corresponds to intensity – measured in decibel, or dB for short – which, in turn, corresponds to our subjective impression of loudness.
Speech sounds are grouped into language units called phonemes. A phoneme may be thought of as the smallest contrastive language unit which exists in the speech of all people belonging to the same language community in the form of speech sounds and may bring about a change of meaning. The phoneme is a functional unit/ That means that being opposed to other phonemes in the same phonetic context it is capable of differentiating the meaning:
pie – tie lot – lit Are you fond of this cut? – Are you fond of this cart?
The phoneme is realized in speech in the material form of speech sounds of different type. Various speech realizations of the phoneme are called its allophones. The difference between the allophones of the same phoneme is due to their position in various phonetic contexts. For example, the consonant [d] in the isolated position as well as in such a sound sequence as [dסt] is a lenis voiced stop articulated with the tip of the tongue against the teeth ridge. In the position before an interdental constrictive [θ] as in breath it is formed with the tip of the tongue agaist the upper teeth. The articulatory features which are common to all the allophones of the same phoneme and are capable of differentiating the meaning are called distinctive. All allophones of the same phoneme are indicated by the same symbol.
Vowels and consonants. It is convenient to distinguish two types of speech sounds: vowels and consonants. Vowels are voiced sounds produced without any obstruction in the suppra-glottal cavities and consequently have no noise component. In the articulation of consonants a kind of noise producing obstruction is formed in the suppra-glottal cavities. Such sounds may be pronounced with or without vocal cords vibrations.
4 Stress in disyllabic and polysyllabic words
In every word in English, there is one main emphasized syllable. The vowel sound in this syllable sounds higher in pitch, longer , and louder , and this is called stress. This helps create the rhythm of the language, and knowing how to recognize the stressed syllable will help you with comprehension. Placing the stress where it should be when you're speaking helps native speakers understand you better as well.
English words have certain patterns of stress which you should observe strictly if you want to be understood. The best way to learn English stress is to listen to audio materials and to repeat them after the speaker. The links on the pages Phonetics, Phrases and Vocabulary lead to the websites that offer a lot of useful listening materials, including sounds, words, sentences and conversations. Below is an overview of typical English patterns of word stress that will help you to recognize and understand word stress when you work with listening materials.
General guidelines on word stress
Generally, common English nouns, adjectives and adverbs are more often stressed on the first syllable than on any other syllable. Verbs with prefixes are usually stressed on the second syllable, that is, on the first syllable of the root after the prefix. English words can’t have two unstressed syllables at the beginning of the word; one of these syllables will be stressed. If a word has four or more syllables, there are usually two stresses in it: a primary stress (strong stress) and a secondary stress (weak stress). Also, the secondary stress may be present (in addition to the primary stress) in shorter words in the syllable where the vowel remains long and strong. Prefixes are often stressed in nouns and less often in verbs. Suffixes are rarely stressed. Endings are not stressed.
Note: Capital letters show the main stressed syllable in the word, for example, LEMon. In the words with two stresses, capital letters with a stress mark before them show the syllable with the primary stress, small letters with a stress mark before them show the syllable with the secondary stress, for example, `eco`NOMics.
There are two very simple rules about word stress:
1. One word has only one stress. (One word cannot have two stresses. If you hear two stresses, you hear two words. Two stresses cannot be one word. It is true that there can be a "secondary" stress in some words. But a secondary stress is much smaller than the main [primary] stress, and is only used in long words.)
2. We can only stress vowels, not consonants.
Here are some more, rather complicated, rules that can help you understand where to put the stress. But do not rely on them too much, because there are many exceptions. It is better to try to "feel" the music of the language and to add the stress naturally.
1 Stress on the first syllable
|most 2-syllable nouns||PRESent, EXport, CHIna, TAble|
|most 2-syllable adjectives||PRESent, SLENder, CLEVer, HAPpy|
2 Stress on the last syllable
|most 2-syllable verbs||to preSENT, to exPORT, to deCIDE, to beGIN|
There are many two-syllable words in English whose meaning and class change with a change in stress. The word present, for example is a two-syllable word. If we stress the first syllable, it is a noun (gift) or an adjective (opposite of absent). But if we stress the second syllable, it becomes a verb (to offer). More examples: the words export, import, contract and object can all be nouns or verbs depending on whether the stress is on the first or second syllable.
3 Stress on penultimate syllable (penultimate = second from end)
|Words ending in -ic||GRAPHic, geoGRAPHic, geoLOGic|
|Words ending in -sion and -tion||teleVIsion, reveLAtion|
For a few words, native English speakers don't always "agree" on where to put the stress. For example, some people say teleVIsion and others say TELevision. Another example is: CONtroversy and conTROversy.
4 Stress on ante-penultimate syllable (ante-penultimate = third from end)
|words ending in -cy,-ty,-phy and -gy||deMOcracy, dependaBIlity, phoTOgraphy|
|words ending in -al||CRItical, geoLOGical|
5 Compound words (words with two parts)
|For compound nouns the stress is on the first part||BLACKbird, GREENhouse|
|For compound adjectives, the stress is on the second part||bad-TEMpered, old-FASHioned|
|For compound verbs, the stress is on the second part||to underSTAND, to overFLOW|
СРСП 5 Sentence stress
Sentence stress is the governing stress in connected speech. All words have their individual stress in isolation. When words are connected into thought groups, and thought groups into sentences, content words keep their stress and function words lose their stress. The most important words in the sentence receive stronger stress. The last stressed word in the sentence receives the strongest stress with the help of falling or rising intonation. If it is necessary for keeping the rhythm, the stress in some words can be shifted or weakened in a certain way, for example:
New YORK - NEW York CITy
in the afterNOON - AFternoon SLEEP
Note: Capital letters show stressed syllables, the backslash shows falling intonation. Emphatic stress may be used in a sentence, usually to compare, correct or clarify things. Emphatic stress singles out the word that the speaker considers the most important and in this case even a function word may be stressed strongly, for example:
Tom gave the book to \ ANN.- Том дал книгу Анне .
\ HE gave her the book. - ОН дал ей книгу .
I said that \ MAX gave the book to Ann. - Я сказал , что МАКС дал книгу Анне .
Sentence stress is not just a phonetic peculiarity of English. Sentence stress has a very important function of marking the words that are necessary for understanding the utterance. When the English listen to their conversation partners, they listen for the stressed words, because the stressed words provide important information. It is often difficult to understand the meaning of the sentence in which even one content word is missing. It is also difficult to understand the sentence in which an important word is not stressed or a function word is stressed.
The unstressed function words make the sentence grammatically correct. They are not that important in terms of the information they provide and anyway, their meaning is understandable from the context and from their immediate surrounding in the sentence. Even if you don’t get some of the quickly pronounced function words, the meaning of the whole sentence will be clear to you.
For example, a message from your friend says, “Missed train back Sunday.” You will understand that it means “I missed my train and will be back on Sunday”, right? Only the content words are given in the message, but the meaning is clear. In the same way you should listen for the stressed content words in speech to understand the meaning of the whole utterance, and stress the content words yourself for the others to understand you.
In English as well as in Russian vowels in unstressed syllables are usually reduced. The law of reduction is not the same. Reduction is a historical process of weakening, shortening or disappearance of vowel sounds in unstressed position. This phonetic phenomenon, as well as assimilation, is closely connected with the general development of the language system. Reduction reflects the process of lexical and grammatical changes.
The neutral sound represents the reduced form of almost any vowel or diphtong in the unstressed position: combine [`kסmbain] – combine [kəm`bain]. The vowel sounds of the two related words are in contrast because of different stress positions. The sound [i] and also [ύ] in the suffix –ful are very frequent realization of the unstressed positions, for example possibility [,pסsi`biliti], beautiful [`bju:tifύl].
There is also tendency to retain the quality of the unstressed vowel sound, for example in retreat, programme, situate.
Non-reduced unstressed sounds are often retained in:
- compound words: blackboard, oilfield
- borrowings from the French and other languages: bourgeoisie, kolkhoz.
Reduction is closely connected not only with word stress, but also with rhythm and sentence stress. Stressed words are pronounced with great energy of breath. Regular loss of sentence stress of certain words is connected with partial or complete loss of their lexical significance. These words play the part of form-words in a sentence.
Палатализация или смягчение — процесс превращения согласных непалатальных или «твёрдых» в палатальные или нёбные («мягкие»). Палатализация совершается чаще всего под влиянием соседних палатальных гласных или согласных, представляя собой тот или другой вид фонетической ассимиляции (палатализация комбинаторная): регрессивной (под влиянием следующего нёбного гласного или согласного: [б'ит'] = бить , [кос'т'] = кость ) и прогрессивной (под влиянием предыдущего нёбного звука: диалект. формы - Ванькя = [ван'к'а], чайкю = [чajк'у], ручкю = [руч'к'у] и т. д.). Нёбный резонанс нёбного согласного или гласного сообщается смежному согласному звуку, который и сам становится нёбным или "мягким". У некоторых согласных (например, у заднеязычных) палатализация может повлечь за собой уже спонтанеическое перерождение их в другие звуки. Так, праславянские небные [к'] и [г'] обратились впоследствии в отдельных славянских языках в аффрикаты [ч] (= [тш]) и [дж] (откуда позже просто [ж]): пеку ║ печёт, могу ║ может и т. д.
Palatalization means pronouncing a sound nearer to the hard palate, making it more like a palatal consonant; this is towards the front of the mouth for a velar or uvular consonant, but towards the back of the mouth for a front (e. g. alveolar) consonant. Palatalization is typically effected by bringing the tip of the tongue near the palatal ridge, and raising the middle part of the tongue towards the palatal vault. It tends to occur in the vicinity of front vowels or palatal approximants. The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and vertebrate animals. ...Palatal consonants are consonants articulated with the middle or back part of the tongue raised against the hard palate (the middle part of the roof of the mouth). ...Velars are consonants articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate (the back part of the roof of the mouth, known also as the velum). ...Uvulars are consonants articulated with the back of the tongue against or near the uvula, that is, further back in the mouth than velar consonants. ...Alveolars are consonants articulated with the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge, the internal side of the upper gums (known as the alveoles of the upper teeth). A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, palatalized consonants are denoted with a small superscript j , e. g. [dʲ]. The International Phonetic Alphabet is a phonetic alphabet used by linguists to accurately and uniquely represent each of the wide variety of sounds (phones or phonemes) the human vocal apparatus can produce. ...
Palatalization can be the result of:
- A synchronicphonological process, by which some phonemes are realized as palatalized sounds in certain contexts (e. g. before front vowels), and non-palatalized elsewhere. This process does not produce two phonemes, but only allophonic variation that might even go unnoticed to the speakers.
- A synchronic grammatical process, where palatalization as a form of consonant alternation serves a grammatical purpose (for example, palatalizing the first consonant of a verb root might signal the past tense). This type of palatalization is also phonemic (it is recognized by the speakers as a contrasting feature).
- A diachronic phonemic split, that is, a historical change by which a phoneme becomes two different phonemes over time through palatalization and produces lexical splits (pairs of words in which the speakers recognize two different sounds).
Palatalization has played a major role in the history of the Uralic, Romance, Slavic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Indic languages, among many others throughout the world. In Japanese, for example, allophonic palatalization affected the alveolar stops /t/ and /d/ turning them into alveolo-palatal affricates before /i/ (Japanese has only recently regained phonetical [ti] and [di] through borrowed words, and thus palatalization has become lexical). Synchronic study is the study of language at a particular point in time. In spoken language, a phoneme is a basic, theoretical unit of sound that can distinguish words (that is changing one phoneme in a word can produce another word) A succinct way to describe the idea of a phoneme is the smallest difference that makes a difference in meaning. ...In phonetics, an allophone is one of several similar phones that belong to the same phoneme. Diachronic study is the study of the development of a language over a period of time. Historical linguistics (also diachronic linguistics or comparative linguistics) is primarily the study of the ways in which languages change over time, by means of examining languages which are recognizably related through similarities such as vocabulary, word formation, and syntax, as well as the surviving records of ancient languages.
Palatalization is common in many languages. Some English examples are: The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. The t of question and nature are pronounced as ch , or the d of soldier and procedure sound like j . As these examples suggest, in English orthography, palatalization is often indicated by a following i or u . An example from casual speech can be found when what are you up to comes out like whacha up to .
The historical change in pronunciation of the initial sound in Caesar from the /k/ sound in Classical Latin to the familiar /s/ sound in English and some other languages, through several intermediate steps (palatalized /k/ becomes an affricate, and then loses the plosive component). This change occurred universally in Latin after front vowels such as e or i .
СРСП 11 Linking [r]. Intrusive [r]
Linking R and intrusive R are phonological phenomena that occur in many non-rhoticdialects of English. In all non-rhotic dialects, the phoneme /ɹ/ does not appear in the coda of a syllable (so spar is pronounced the same as spa ); in dialects with linking and/or intrusive R, however, /ɹ/ may appear at a word boundary before a vowel-initial word.
The linking R occurs in most (but not all) non-rhotic dialects of English. In dialects that possess linking R, if a word that ends with /ɹ/ precedes a word that begins with a vowel, /ɹ/ will be realized at the onset of the next word. Thus, for example, the R in here would not be pronounced in here they are (because it is followed by a consonant), but it would be pronounced in here I am . Likewise, the R at the end of far would only be pronounced if the next word begins with a vowel, as in far away or far off . In other words, in a non-rhotic dialect with linking R, [ɹ] is retained only if it is followed by a vowel, including across word boundaries.
Some (but not all) dialects that possess linking R also possess intrusive R. In a dialect with intrusive R, an epenthetic[ɹ] is added after a word that ends in a non-high vowel or glide if the next word begins with a vowel, regardless of whether the first word historically ended with /ɹ/ or not. For example, intrusive R would appear in Asia [ɹ]and Africa or the idea [ɹ]of it : Asia and idea did not historically end in /ɹ/, but the [ɹ] is inserted epenthetically to prevent a hiatus. Intrusive R also occurs within words before certain suffixes, such as draw [ɹ]ing or withdraw [ɹ]al . This is now so common in England that by 1997 the linguist John C. Wells considered it objectively part of Received Pronunciation, but he noted that it was still stigmatized as an incorrect pronunciation, as it is or was in some other standardized non-rhotic accents.
Sentence stress and rhythm of speech
Rhythm is generally measured in regular flow of speech in which stressed and unstressed syllables occur at definite intervals. Thre are two kinds of speech rhythm: syllable timed rhythm and stress-temed rhythm. Every language in the world is spoken with one kind of rhythm or with the other. Each language has developed its own characteristic speech rhythm. French and Japanese, for example, are syllable-timed languages, they depend on the principle that all syllables are of equal value. In these languages ayllables follow each other with fairly equal length annd force; and we feel an even rhythm, based on the smooth flow of syllables without a strong contrast of stress. To an English-speaking person this kind of rhythm sounds mechanically regular. English pronounced with such a rhythm would be hard to understand.
Rhythm in English, Russian and some other stress-timed languages is based primarily on the alteration of strongly and weakly stressed syllables. Within each intonation group the stressed syllables occur at fairly equal intervals of time. This means that if there are any unstressed syllables between stressed ones, they have to be fitted in without delaying the regular beat.
Sentence stress is the main means of providing rhythm in speech. Rhythm is the key to fluent English speech. Imagine a metronome beating the rhythm. The stressed syllables are like the beats of the metronome: regular, loud, and clear. The unstressed syllables between the beats are shortened, obscured and joined together.
Look at this sentence: Kevin sent a letter. - Кевин послал письмо .
Let’s mark the stressed syllables: KEVin SENT a \ LETter.
The pattern of stress here is stress - unstress - stress - unstress - stress - unstress, and every “stress” and “unstress” has one syllable behind it. Try to pronounce this sentence rhythmically, it’s easy to do because the alternation of one stressed and one unstressed syllable is easy to reproduce. Be sure to make the stress in the stressed syllables strong, much stronger than normal Russian stress:
KEV in SENT a \ LETter.
Let’s make this sentence a little longer:
Kevin decided to send a letter to his relatives in the village.
Кевин решил послать письмо своим родственникам в деревне.
Mark the stressed syllables and the fall:
KEVin deCIDed to SEND a LETter to his RELatives in the \ VILlage.
Now we have one, two or several unstressed syllables in the intervals between the stressed syllables, but we have the same amount of time for each interval because the stressed syllables, like the beats of the metronome, have to occur regularly. And the sentence is not very long, so we won’t need noticeable pauses between the thought groups.
How do we fit all the unstressed syllables in the intervals between the stressed syllables without breaking the rhythm that we had in “Kevin sent a letter”? The rules of reduction and linking will help us to do it:
1. All vowel sounds in the unstressed syllables in this sentence will become very short and most of them will be probably pronounced as the neutral sound. In a number of other cases, the neutral sound may be dropped, for example, can - [kn], BAKery - [`beikri], MEMory - [`memri]. By the way, the neutral sound [ә] is the most common vowel sound of English and deserves your special attention.
2. The final consonant of one word will be blended with the initial sound of the next word, for example, “n-th” will lose part of their articulation at the juncture, “d-t” will blend into one sound (or “d” may be dropped).
3. The sound [h] in the word “his” will disappear. This often happens in the words like “his, him, her, have”.
4. The unstressed syllables will become a stream of sounds jammed together. They will be lower in pitch and much less distinct than the stressed syllables.
Tempo of speech
By speech tempo we mean the relative speed (of slowness) of utterance which is measured by the rate of syllable succession and the number and duration of pauses in a sentence. The average rate of delivery may contain from about two to four syllables per second for slow speech (lento), from about three to six syllables for normal speech, and from about five to nine syllables for fast speech (allegro).
Every speaker has a norm which characterises his usual individual style of utterance. Some people speak more quickly, some more slowly; some people use more variation of tempo than others. Tempo is a feature, which like loudness can be varied from time to time by the individual speaker.
The rate of speaking varies constantly. When two strongly stressed syllables occur close together, it is slower; when they are separated by unstressed syllables the speed is faster. The speed of utterance becomes slower or faster according to the number of unstressed syllables between the stressed ones.
Differences of rate are used to help the listener to differentiate the more important (slow rate) and the less important (fast rate) parts of the utterance. Fopr example: I want you to understand the it is very important .
We slo the last part of the sentence down and lengthen the syllables to get a stronger impression than if we say it at normal speed. An increase in the speed of the utterance may show it is less important: His own plan, he now saw , would fall through.
Rate also performs emotional and attitudinal functions. It varies according to the emotional state of the speaker and the attitude conveyed. Fast rate, for instance, may be assosiated with anger, scolding, etc.
Where is the hammer? What did you do with the hammer? → Great `heaven! | `Seven of you, §→ gaping `round there, | and you `don`t know § what I → did with the `hammer. || (Jerome K. Jerome. “Three Men in a Boat”)
By pause we generally mean an act of stopping in the flow of speech. In speaking or reading aloud, we make pauses from time to time. These pauses break our speech or texts into paragraphs, sentences, intonation groups. In English there are three main degree of pauses: unit pause (one-unit), double (two units) and treble (three-init) pause. The length of pauses is related and is correlated with the rate of speech and rhythmically norms of an individual.