Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels

The first linguist who tried to describe and classify vowel sounds for all languages was D. Jones. He devised the system of 8 Cardinal Vowels. The basis of the system is physiological. Cardinal vowel No, 1 corresponds to the position of the front part of the tongue raised as close as possible to the palate. The gradual lowering of the tongue to the back lowest position gives another point for cardinal vowel No. 5. The lowest front position of the tongue gives the point for cardinal No. 4. The upper back limit for the tongue position gives the point for cardinal No. 8. These positions for cardi­nal vowels No. 1, 4, 5 and 8 were copied from X-ray photographs. The tongue positions и

between these points were X-rayed*and the JV V~

equi-distant points for No. 2, 3, 6, 7 were "~ A. symbols for the 8 Cardinal * v--------------- s— 1 — i, 2 — e, 3 — s, 4 — а, Д \ 5 _ a, 6 — o, 7 — o, 8 — u. ' \----- \ Below we give some rough indications \ flip nrimarv narrti'nni vowel dualities. \ л

qdtt pit f N 2, 3, 6, 7 \ \

found. The IPA symbols for the 8 Cardinal

Vowels are:

g g

of the primary cardinal vowel qualities, _

using for comparison French, German and a a

Russian languages. Fts' '

No. 1 is the equivalent of the German ie in Biene. This position is higher than for the Russian accented /и/ in the word пили.

No, 2 is pronounced with the position of the tongue narrower than for the Russian _/e/ in the word тесть.

No. 3 is similar to the Russian /э/ in the word эта.

N.o. 4 is similar to the French sound /a/ in la.

No. 5 is nearly what is obtained by taking away the lip rounding from the English sound h! in hot.

No,' 6 is. similar to the German sound of /o/ in Sonne, so.

No. 7 is similar to the French sound of /o/ in Rose.

No. 8 is. similar to the German sound of /u/ in gut.

See Fig. 7. /и, ы, у, о, а, э/ are Russian vowels, given for corapari-son.

The system of Cardinal Vowels is an international standard.

Table 2 English and Russian Vowel Phonemes

Accord­ing N. According to Front vo- Front-retracted Central vowels Back-ad- Back vowels
to the Ac- N tionof wels vowels   vanced  
height cord- \ the bulk'       vowels  
of the ing to \ ofthe          
raised part the va- 4 t0 natron Nt          
of the in the N.         - "
tongue height of Ny          
  the raised N.          
  part of Nv^          
  the tongue N.          
Close variation \ •• \ '      
vowels Broad \ "Л—ч^. \ ~~^—
  variation \ V\t-—kJ_
Mid- Narrow  
open variation  
(mid) vowels Broad variation vrVfvQr
Open (low) variation  
vowels Broad variation V \TV?n *

"The Cardinal Vowel scale is a Sine and independent system needed on the auditory and articulatory levels."г

In spite of the theoretical significance of the Cardinal Vowel Sys­tem its practical application is limited to the field where no compar­ison is needed, in purely scientific work. In language teaching this system can be learned only by oral instruction from a teacher who knows how to pronounce the Cardinal Vowels. "Those who have access nei-

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - * Glmson A.C. An Introduction to the Pronunciation of English, 1964.-P. 36.

• Ldn.

ther to a qualified teacher, nor to a ... record cannot expect to learn the values of these or any other cardinal vowels with accuracy." *

Acoustically vowels are musical tones (not noises): the word "vowel" is a derivative of "voice". But vowels are not necessarily connected with voice. Prof. L.R. Zinder states that if the organs of speech are adjusted for the articulation of a vowel, it can be pronounced without voice, breathing the air out through the mouth cavity, then a voiceless vowel is produced. Such voiceless vowels exist in all lan­guages as a "schwa" in a terminal position after voiceless (especially occlusive) consonants. E.g. in the Russian language /ъ/ is heard in the words: суд, /com, убит, кит, хлеб, etc. When people pronounce vowels in whisper, they also articulate "voiceless vowels".

Acoustically vowels differ due to their tembral colouring, each vowel is characterized by its own formants (that is concentrations of energy in certain frequency regions on the spectrogram).

Soviet phoneticians suggest a classification of vowels according to the following principles:

I. Position of the lips.

II. Position of the tongue.

III. Degree of tenseness and the character of the end.

IV. Length.

V. Stability of articulation.

I. The main effects of lip rounding on the shape of the mouth are:
a) to enlarge the oral cavity, b) to diminish the size of the opening of
the oral cavity. Both of these deepen the pitch and increase the reso­
nance of the front oral cavity according to the position of the lips.
According to the position of the lips vowels are classified into: (a)
rounded, (b) unrounded, The Russian rounded vowels are pronounced
with more lip protrusion than the English rounded vowels. The Eng­
lish rounded vowels are: /u — u:, и — о:/, the Russian rounded and
protruded vowels are: /о, у/. The general pattern is that the front
and open vowels are articulated with spread to neutral lip position
while back vowels have rounded lips. The rounding tends to be more
worked with closer tongue height.

II. According to the position of the tongue jt is the bulk of the
tongue which conditions most of all the production of different vow­
els. It can move forward and backward, it may be raised and low­
ered in the mouth cavity.

L. V. Shcherba did not separate vowels according to the vertical and horizontal movements of the tongue with definite lines, consid­ering such subdivision to be conventional (Fig. 8).

Soviet scientists divide vowels according to the (a) horizontal and (b) vertical movements of the tongue (Table 2).

(a) When the bulk of the tongue moves backwards, it is usually the back part of the tongue which is raised highest towards the soft palate. Vowels produced with the tongue in this position are called back. They are subdivided into:

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - i Vassttyev V.A. Op. cit-J>. 92.

fully back: h, э:, u:/, the nucleus of the diphthong hi!, and the Russian /о, у/;

back-advanced: /u, at.

When the bulk of the tongue moves forward, it is usually the front part of the tongue which is raised highest towards the hard palate. Vowels produced with this position of the tongue are called front. They are subdivided into:

fully front: /i:, e, зе/, the nuclei of the diphthongs /ei, еэ/ and the Russian /u, э/;

front-retracted: /i/ and the nuclei of the diphthongs /au, ai/. In the production of central vowels the tongue is almost flat. Its central

Front Mixed     Bach
У| bl     ш и
VI     ъ V
  э V  
(В8 л а    

part is raised towards the juncture between the hard and soft pal­ate. Central vowels are /з:, э, л/ and the nucleus of the diphthong /au/.

а d
Indefinite Fig. 8

Some phoneticians considered that /з:, э/ are mixed not central vowels (G.P. Torsuyev, A.L. Trakhterov, H. Sweet). G.P. Tor­suyev referred to the group of central vowels the Russian /a/ and /ы/. L.V. Shcherba does not

, ., , mention central vowels at all,

he considers the vowels of the lul type and the English /з:, з/ mixed, (b) According to the vertical movements of the tongue vowels are subdivided into:

high: /i:, i, u, u:/, Russian /и, у, ы/;

mid-, half-open /e, г., a(u), е(э), a/, Russian /э, о/;

n I °?^: /A\ *?' ak u>' ' v> °W/. Russian /a/. t,acn ot the subclasses is subdivided into vowels of narrow varia­tion and vowels of broad variation:

narrow variation: /i:, u:/, Russian /и, ы, у/

broad variation: /i, u/

narrow variation: /e, з:, e(u)/, Russian /э/

■ broad variation: /ф), э:, 9/, Russian /o/ narrow variation: /л, o(i)/

broad variation: /tt| v, эе, a(i, u)/, Russian /a/

The Russian /э/ is on the borderline between "narrow" and "broad" mid vowels, /o/ is on the borderline between "mid-open" and "open", i ^cfc.ordJne i0 the degree of tenseness traditionally long vow-

L ь и iS Ч"56^ short as Iax- The te"n "tense" was in­d by H. Sweet, who stated that the tongue is tense when vow-

els of narrow variety are articulated. This statement is a confusion of two problems: acoustic and articulatory because "tenseness" is an acoustic notion and should be treated in terms of acoustic data. However, this phenomenon is connected with the articulation of vow­els in unaccented syllables (unstressed vocal ism). The decrease of tenseness results in the reduction of vowels, that is in an unstressed position they may lose their qualitative characteristics.

When the muscles of the lips, tongue, cheeks and the back walls of the pharynx are tense, the vowels produced can be characterized as "tense". When these organs are relatively relaxed, lax vowels are produced. There are different opinions in referring English vowels to the first or to the second group. D. Jones * considers only the long /i:/ and /u:/ to be tense. Q.P. Torsuyev ä defines all long English vowels as tense as well as /ae/, all short vowels are considered by him as lax.

This problem can be solved accurately only with the help of elec-tromyography. The Russian vowels are not differentiated according to their tenseness but one and the same vowel is tense in a stressed syllable compared with its tenseness in an unstressed one.

English vowels can be checked and unchecked. Checked vowels are those which occur in stressed closed syllables, ending in a fortis voiceless consonant, e.g. /e/ in /bet/, /'leb/; fa./ in /kat/, /Jeep/, The checked vowels are pronounced without any lessening in the force of utterance towards their end. They are abruptly interrupted by the following voiceless consonant. Unchecked vowels are those which oc­cur terminally, or are followed by a lenis voiced consonant, e.g. I'v.l in /bi:/, la.1 in /ka:d/. There are no checked vowels in Russian. All of them are unchecked.

The English vowel /э/ does not occur in a stressed context. It must be regarded outside the free/checked classes.

IV. According to the length English vowels are subdivided into: (historically) long and (historically) short.»

Vowel length may depend on a number of linguistic factors:

(1) position of the vowel in a word,

(2) word stress,

(3) the number of syllables in a word,

(4) the character of the syllabic structure,

(5) sonority.

(1) Positional dependence of length can be illustrated by the fol­lowing example:

be — bead — beat we ~- weed — wheat tie — tied — tight

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - 1 Jones D. An Outline of English Phonetics,— 9th ed.— Cambridge, 1960. a Торсуев Г. П. Строение слога и аллофоны в английском языке — AI.,

1975.—С. 84—102.

3 Length is marked with a macron (—), shortness with a breve (~).

In the terminal position a vowel is the longest, it shortens before a voiced consonant, it is the shortest before a voiceless consonant.

(2) A vowel is longer in a stressed syllable than in an unstressed

forecast n /ifo:kast/ прогноз—forecast v /b;ikast/ предсказы­вать погоду

In the verb /o:/ is shorter than in the noun, though it may be pronounced with /o:/ equally long.

(3) If we compare a one-syllable word and a word consisting of
more than one syllable, we may observe that similar vowels are short­
er in a polysyllabic word. Thus in the word verse /з:/ is longer than in

(4) In words with V, CV, CCV x type of syllable the vowel length
is greater than in words with VC, CVC, CCVC type of syllable. For
example, h\l is longer in err (V type), than in earn (VC type), /ju:/
is longer in dew (CV type), than in duty (CVCV type).

(5) Vowels of low sonority are longer than vowels of greater sonor­
ity. It is so, because the speaker unconsciously makes more effort
to produce greater auditory effect while pronouncing vowels of lower
sonority, thus making them longer. For example, /i/ is longer than
hi; l\:i is longer than /a*/, etc.

Besides vowel length depends on the tempo of speech: the higher the rate of speech the shorter the vowels.

D. Jones % treats quantity independently of the vowel sounds themselves. Thus he treats Гг., i/ as positional allophones of one pho­neme.

Length is a non-pnonemic feature in English but it may serve to differentiate the meaning of a word. This can be proved by minimal pairs, e.g.

beat /bi:t/ бить—bit /on/ кусочек

deed /di:d/ дело (деяние)—did /did/ делал, сделал

The English long'vowels are /i:, u:, а, о:, э:/.

G.P. Torsuyev considers /ае/tobea long vowel, but he admits that in certain positions /se/ can be a short phoneme. English pho­neticians state that it is a short one, though in some words it may be long.3

The English short vowels are /i, e, ю, as, u, л, э/.

V. The stability of articulation is the principle of vowel classi­fication which is not singled out by Britisn and American phoneti­cians. In fact, it is the principle of the stability of the shape, volume and the size of the mouth resonator.

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - ) 2 V is the Initial letter of the word "vowel"; С is the Initial letter of the word consonant"; V, CV, CCV are open types of syllables; VC, CVC, CCVC are closed types of syllables.

г Jones O, Op. cit.—P. 70,

8 Ward I. The Phonetics of English,— Cambridge, 1948.— P. 76.

We can speak only of relative stability of the organs of speech, because pronunciation of a sound is a process, and its stability should be treated conventionally.

According to this principle vowels are subdivided into:

(a) monophthongs, or simple vowels,

(b) diphthongs, or complex vowels.

(a) English monophthongs are pronounced with more or less
stable lip, tongue and mouth walls position. They are: /i:, i, e,
ae, а, ю, э:, u, u:, л, э:, э/.

(b) Diphthongs are defined differently by different authors. One
definition is based on the ability of a vowel to form a syllable. Since
in the diphthong only one element serves as a syllabic nucleus, a diph­
thong is a single sound.

Another definition of a diphthong as a single sound is based on the instability of the second element. The third group of scientists define a diphthong from the accentual point of view: since only one element is accented and the other is unaccented, a diphthong is a single sound.

D. Jones defines diphthongs as unisyllabic gliding sounds in the articulation of which the organs of speech start from one position and then glide to another position,

N.S, Trubetskoy states that a diphthong should be (a) unisyllab­ic, that is the parts of a diphthong cannot belong to two syllables, (b) monophonemic with gliding articulation, (c) its length should not exceed the length of a single phoneme.

L.R. Zinder adds that phonemically diphthongs are sounds that cannot be divided morphologically. E,g. the Russian /аи, ой/ in чай, стой can be separated: ча-ю, сто-to,

L. L. Bulanin calls combinations like Russian /аи, ей, ой/ pho­netic diphthongs and English inseparable units like /ai, ei. .../-^ phonemic diphthongs.x

The first element of a diphthong is the nucleus, the second is the glide, A diphthong can be falling — when the nucleus is stronger than the glide, and rising — when the glide is stronger than the nu­cleus. When both elements are equal such diphthongs are called level,

English diphthongs are falling with the glide toward:

i—/ei, ai, oi/, u—/au, эй/, a—/19, еэ, иэ/.8

Diphthongs /ei, эй, vx, au, ai/ are called closing, diphthongs /еэ» ,13, иэ/ are called centring, according to the articulatory char? acter of the second element.

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - 1 Вуланин JI.JI. Фонетика современного оусского языка.— M., 1970.— С. 85.

. - а D. Jones treats the diphthongs /ia, ua/£in some positions as rising, e.g. /'hK/ /'/

There are two vowels in English—/i:, u:/—that may have a diphthongal glide where they have full length, e.g. in open syl­lables and before lenis or nasal consonants: /bi:, bi:d, bi:n/, /du:,


In allophonic transcription they can be represented as [iiJ, uuw]. Before fortis consonants it is more usual to hear steady-state /i:, u:/, e.g. /bi:t, bu:t/. Russian vowels /э, о/ are diphthongoids of the widening type, Russian /a/ between soft consonants is a diph-thongoid, it begins and ends with /и/, e.g. сядь /c'äY/, /ä/ = [*aHI.

If we compare classifications of vowels suggested by Soviet and foreign authors, we may state that the classification of vowels suggest­ed by Soviet authors is more exact from the articulatory point of view and more simple for teaching purposes. It reflects more exactly distinctively relevant differences between the English^ vowel pho­nemes.


Articulation bases of English and Russian vowels are different.

(1) The lips. In the production of Russian vowels the lips are con­
siderably protruded and rounded /о, у/. In the articulation of the
similar English h, o:/, /u, u:/ considerable protrusion does not take
place. Englishmen have the so called "flat-type" position of the lips,
their lips are more tense than the lips of the Russian, and the corners
of the lips are raised, which resembles a smile.

(2) The bulk of the tongue. In the articulation of the English vow­
els the bulk of the tongue occupies more positions than in the pro­
duction of the Russian yowels. When the bulk of the tongue moves
in the horizontal direction it may occupy a fully front and a front-
retracted, a fully back and a back-advanced position. Horizontal move­
ments of the tongue condition the articulation of the /э, э:/ vowels,
which are of mixed type.

Each of the three vertical positions of the tongue (high, mid, low) in English is subdivided into a narrow and broad variety. Thus, six groups of vowel sounds are formed in the system of English vowels.

Such broad variety of the bulk of the tongue positions is not ob­served in the production of the Russian vowel sounds. When clas­sified according to the vertical movement of the tongue they may be divided into; high — /и, ы, у/, mid — /э, о/ and low — /a/.

According to the horizontal movement of the bulk of the tongue Russian vowels may be subdivided into: front — /и, э/, central — /ьг, a/ and back — /о, у/. The articulatory peculiarities in the pro­nunciation of English vowels constitute the basis for the formation of diphthongs when the position of the tongue changes within the articulation of one and the same vowel.

(3) The principle of the degree of tenseness in vowel classification
is inseparably connected with the free or unchecked and checked char­
acter of the vowels.

(4) The length of the vowels. Long vowels in English are consid­
ered to be tense. There are no long vowels which can be opposed pho-
neraically to short vowels in the Russian language. Length in the
Russian vowel system is an irrelevant feature.

(5) The stability of articulation. There are monophthongs and
diphthongoids in the Russian vowel system, but there are no diph­

(6) There are 6 vowel phonemes in Russian and 20 in English.
Given below are English vowels which have no counterparts in Rus­

(1) long and short vowels /i:—i/, /o:~--d/, /u: —u/, Is: — a/,


(2) slightly rounded, but not protruded vowels /u:, o:/;

(3) vowels articulated with the "flat" position of the lips in the
/i:, i, e, ei/ production;

(4) very low vowels, such as /se, v, a/;

(5) front-retracted /i/ and back-advanced /u, a/;

(6) central or mixed /э, s:/;

(7) checked and free vowels;

(8) diphthongs /ei, ai, oi, ю7 еэ, иэ, аи, эй/.

In articulating EngHsh vowels Russian students are apt to make the following mistakes:

(1) they do not observe the quantitative character of the long

(2) they do not observe the qualitative difference in the artic­
ulation of such vowels as /i:—if, /и:—и/, /э:—1>/;

(3) they replace the English vowels /i:, о:, и:, л, за, о., и/ by
the Russian vowels /и, о, у, а, э/;

(4) they pronounce /i:, i, e, ei/ without the "flat position" of
the lips;

(5) they soften consonants which precede /i:, i, e, se, ei/ front
vowels as a result of which the latter become more narrow and
the consonants are palatalyzed.

(6) they articulate /t>, o:, u, u:, эй/ with the lips too much
rounded and protruded;

(7) they make the sounds /se, d/ more narrow because they
don't open the mouth properly, similarly to the Russian /э, о/;

(8) they do not observe the positional length of vowels;

(9) they make both elements of the diphthongs equally distinct;
(10) they pronounce initial vowels with a glottal stop (?).


1. What do you know about the system of Cardinal Vowels devised by D, Jones? 2. What is the acoustic nature of vowels? 3. What are Shcherba's principles of vowel classification? 4. What are the prin­ciples of vowel classification suggested by Soviet phoneticians? 5. How are vowels classified according to the movements of the bulk of the

tongue? 6. What do you know about the principle of lip participation and the degree of tenseness in the articulation of vowels? 7. How are vowels classified according to their tenseness and length? What does the length of vowels depend on? 8. What is the difference between checked and unchecked vowels? 9. What do you know about stabiliiy of articulation in vowel production? 10. What are the differences in the articulation bases of English and Russian vowel sounds? 11. What mistakes may the Russian students make because of the articulation differences in the pronunciation of English and Russian vowel sounds?


1. Show by dots the position of cardinal vowels on the trapezium. Supply each
dot with the appropriate cardinal vowel and its number.

2. Characterize each of,'(he cardinal vowels according to D. Jones,

3. Draw a diagram of cardinal vowels.

*4.[*;Describe the cardinal vowels that can be compared with the corres onding ' Russian vowels.

*5. Give examples to prove that voiceless vowels exist in English and in Rus­sian.

6. Explain the articulation of the /i:, e, ге/ sounds from the viewpoint of the
horizontal and vertical movements of the tongue.

7. Explain the articulation of the /э, э:/ sounds from the viewpoint of the hor­
izontal and vertical movements of the tongue. Compare these sounds with
the Russian vowel sounds /ы, а/.

8. Explain the articulation of the /u:, э:, et:/ sounds from the viewpoint of the
horizontal and vertical movements of the tongue.

fl. Explain the articulatory differences between the/i: — i/, /u: — u/, h: — u/ sounds.

10. Give articulatory and morphological proofs of diphthong indivisibility. Prove by examples that the Russian sound combinations /ой, аи, эй/ are not diphthongs.

*I1. Draw sagittal figures and use solid and dotted lines to show that the /i:, u:/ vowels can be pronounced as diphthongoids.

*12. Transcribe these'"words and read them. Observe the difference between the fully front /i:/ and the front-retracted hi.

(a) seem—since (b) read—rid

meal—тШ steal—still

mean—mince creek—crick

sleep—slip sleet—slit

least—list seek—sick

(c) team—Tim (d) seen—sin

feel—fill dealer—dinner

been—chill heat—hit

cheap—chip beat—bit

(e) deed-did (!) fees—fizz

Jean—Jim me—missed

feeling—filling . these—this

eat—it steep—stick

(g) leave—live (h) he—him

fever—fifty theme—thing

beacon—bill seals—sits

cheek—chin steep—stiff

beat—bit people—pit

*13. Transcribe these words and read them. Observe the difference between the mid-open /e/ and the fully open (low) /ее/.

(a) bed—bad (b) bead—had

then—than ten—tan

plenty—plan left—lad

else—Alice let—slack

letter—ladder select—relax

(c) French—ran (d)end—and

pence—pants then—than

burial—barrow anyway—family

t wenty—twang bed—b ack

many—matter helping—happy

(e) dead—Dad (f) ten—tan

any—Alice men—man

Shelly—shall said—sad

merry—married bed—bad

Henry—happy ' chest — chap

(g) Hetty—hat (h) any—anxious

central—sandy bet—back

cheviot—channel plenty—platform

many—map flesh—flash



*J4. Transcribe these words and read them. Observe the difference between the low long vowel of broad variation /a:/ and the low short vowei of narrow variation /л/.

(a) calm—come (b) aunt—under

rather—running hard—hundred

barn—button dark—dull

lark—luck basket—above

classes—busses Jark—flush

(c) marvel—money (d) darn—done

laugh—lovely Bart—but

past—puzzl ing cart—cut

market—mug March—much

(e) Arnold—others (f) hardly—honey

master—monkeys rather—rubbed

started—study last—luck

Tobte 3

  Front Front-re­tracted Mixed, central Back-ad­vanced Back
Close (high) Narrow variation          
Broad variation          
Mid-open (mid) Narrow variation          
Broad variation          
Open (low) Narrow variation          
Broad variation          


(h) arm—other hardly—hundred started—studied March—much half—struck

last—must (g) France—front




past—but (i) star—stun





* 15. Transcribe these words and read them. Observe the difference between the high /i:, i/, the mid /e/ and the low Ы1,

bid—bed—bad team—ten—tan

rid—read—rat hid—head—had

mill—men—man Hit—-left—lad

Sid—said—sad lit—let—lack

pit—pet—pat mean—many—matter

*16. Transcribe these words and read them. Observe the difference between the back Ы, the mixed Ы and the front /se/.

all—earl—shall caught—curt—cat walk—work—whack for—fur—fat

torn—turn—tan call—curl—cat board—bird—bad


warm—worm—twang saw—sir—sad

more— mercy—man caution—curtain—cat


Control Tasks

1. Make a copy of Table 3 and fill it in with the suitable vowels.

2. Draw a diagram of English and Russian vowel sounds and mark by dots
the eight cardinal vowels.


Separate segments of speech continuum have no meaning of their own, they mean something only in combinations, which are called words.

Phonetics studies sounds as articulatory and acoustic units, pho­nology investigates sounds as units, which serve communicative pur­poses. Phonetics and phonology are closely connected. The unit of phonetics is a speech sound, the unit of phonology is a phoneme. Pho­nemes can be discovered by the method of minimal pairs. This method consists in finding pairs of words which differ in one phoneme. For example, if wereplace /b/ by /t/ in the word ban we produce a new word tan, ban — tan is a pair of words distinguished in meaning by a single sound change. Two words of this kind are termed "minimal pair". It is possible to take this process further, we can also produce can, ran, man, fan — it is a minimal set. The change of the vowel Izd in ban provides us with another minimal set: bun, bone, Ben, burn, boon, born. The change of the final /n/ in ban will result in a third minimal set: bad, bat, back, badge, bang. To establish the phonemes of the lan­guage the phonologist tries to find pairs that show which sounds oc­cur or do not occur in identical positions —■ commutation test. See Table 4.

The phonemes of a language form a system of oppositions, in which any one phoneme is usually opposed to any other phoneme in at least one position in at least one lexical or grammatical minimal or sub-minimal pair. If the substitution of one sound for another re­sults in the change of meaning, the commuted sounds are different phonemes, speech sounds, which are phonologically significant.

The founder of the phoneme theory was I.A. Baudouin de Courte-ney, the Russian scientist of Polish origin. His theory of phoneme was developed гпб. perfected by L.V. Shcherba — the head of the Leningrad linguistic school, who stated that in actual speech we ut­ter a much greater variety of sounds than we are aware of, and thai in every language these sounds are united in a comparatively smalt number of sound types, which are capable of distinguishing the mean­ing and the form of words; that is they serve the purpose of social intercommunication. It is these sound types that should be included into the classification of phonemes and studied as differentiatory units of the language. The actually pronounced speech sounds are va­riants, or allophones of phonemes. Allophones are realized in con­crete words. They have phonetic similarity, that is their acoustic and articulatory feautures have much in common, at the same time they differ in some degree and are incapable of differentiating words. For example, in speech we pronounce not the sound type tt(, which is aspirated, alveolar, forelingual, apical, occlusive, plosive, voiceless-fortis—according to the classificatory definition, but — one of its variants, e.g. labialized in the word twice, dental in the word eighth, post-alveolar in try, exploded nasally in written, exploded la-

terally in little, pronounced without aspiration in stay, etc. Another example: the sound type, or the vowel phoneme /i:/, which is de­fined as "unrounded, fully front, high, narrow, tense, long, free", is more back in key, than in eat under the influence of the backlingual /k/, it is longer before a voiced lenis, than before a voiceless fortis consonant: seed— seat, greed — greet, etc.

The number of sound types, or phonemes, in each language is much smaller than the number of sounds actually pronounced (see Table 5).

Phonemic variants, or allophones, are very important for language teaching because they are pronounced in actual speech and though their mispronunciation does not always influence the meaning of the words, their misuse makes a person's speech sound as "foreign".

That variant of the phoneme which is described as the most re­presentative and free from the influence of the neighbouring pho­nemes is considered to be typical, or principal. The variants used in actual speech are called subsidiary. Subsidiary allophones can be positional and combinatory. Positional allophones are used in cer­tain positions traditionally. For example, the English /1/ is realized in actual speech as a positional allophone: it is clear in the initial po­sition, and dark in the terminal position, compare tight, let and hill, milt. Russian positional allophones can be observed in вопль, рубль where terminal /л/ is devoiced after voiceless /п, б/.

Combinatory allophones appear in the process of speech and re­sult from the influence of one phoneme upon another — see below,

To distinguish the sound types from their allophones in writing, two types of brackets are used: slant-like for the phonemes proper, and square—for their allophones, e. g. the phoneme /1/ has two po­sitional allophones: clear [1J and dark [I]. In practical teaching the most important allophones should be mentioned to teach the pupils their correct pronunciation.

Each phoneme manifests itself in a certain pattern of distribution. The simplest of them is free variation, that is the variation of one and the same phoneme pronounced differently, e. g. the pronunciation of the initial /k/ with different degrees of aspiration, the pronunciation of /w/ as /W in why, which, who.

Complementary distribution is another pattern of phoneme envi­ronment, when one and the same phoneme occurs in a definite set of. contexts in which no other phoneme ever occurs. The allophones of one and the same phoneme never occur in the same context, variants of one phoneme are mutually exclusive.1

Contrastive distribution, is one more pattern of phoneme envi­ronment, e. g. said — sad, pit — peat, bad — bed — these are min­imal pairs.

Minimal distinctive features are discovered through oppositions. This method helps to prove whether the phonemic difference is rele-

Articulatory and physiological classification of english vowels - 1 When allophones of one phoneme do occur In the same context without distinctive force, they are in free variation.


/р/ р»г


/т/ /w/

Л/ /v/

/е/ /*/ т

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