Phonology – The Pronunciation of English

“Phonology is essentially the description of the systems and patterns of speech sounds in a language”. (George Yule)
“Phonology is the subfield of linguistics that studies the structure and systematic patterning of sounds in human language”. Adrain Akmajian)
According to Bloomfield, phonology is the organizantion of sounds patterns. In order to fulfil the communicative functions, languages their material, the vocal noises, into recurrent bits and pieces arranged in patterns. It is the study of this formal organisation language which known as phonology.

What is sound? How and where is it produced from? How is it received by the ears? How and why is one sound different from the other? ––questions like these are the subject-matter of Phonology
Difference between Phonetics and Phonology
The difference between phonetics and phonology is that of generality and particularity. Whereas phonetics is the science of speech sounds, their production, transmission and reception and the signs to represent them in general with no particular reference to any one phonology is the study of vocal sounds and sound changes, phonemes and their variants, in a particular language. If phonetics can be likened to a world, phonology this is a country. Phonetics is one and the same for all the languages of the world, but the phonology of one language will differ from the phonology of another.
According to John Lyons, “Phonetics differs from phonology… in that it considers speech sounds independently of their paradinmatic opposition and syntagmatic combinations in particular languages,” and that phonology is the level at which the linguist describes the sounds of a particular language (New Horizons in Linguistics).
The subject-matter of phonology is the selected phonetic material from the total resources available to human beings from phonetics. The human vocal system can produce a very large number of different speech sounds. Members of a particular speech community speaking that particular language, however, use only a limited number of these sounds. Every language makes its own selection of sounds and organizes them into characteristics patterns. This selection of sounds and their arrangement into patterns phonology of the language.
To quote Robins, “Phonetics and phonology are both concerned with the same subject-matter or aspect of language, speech sounds, as the audible result of articulation, but they are concerned with them from different points of view. Phonetics is general (that is, concerned with speech sounds as such without reference to their function in a particular languages), descriptive and classificatory, phonology is particular (having a particular language or languages in view) and functional (concerned with working or functioning of speech in a language or languages). Phonology has in fact been called functional phonetics”. (General linguistics)
English Vowels
Vowels are continuous sounds: what distinguishes one sound from the ether is the shape of the oral cavity changing to form resonance chamber. The airstream expelled from the lungs acquires a distinct quality, but at no point does it meet any obstruction. Mostly tongue is the crucial factor in creating resonance chambers. It can move from a state of total passivity to the highest point in the mouth close to its roof. This highly flexible organ is capable of positioning itself to various degrees of height.
Three major criteria for the articulatory description of vowels are identified, namely,
i)    Tongue-height (the relative height of the tongue in the mouth). Tongue-advancement (the relative position of the tongue in the mouth).
ii)   Tongue-advancement (the relative position of the tongue in the mouth).
iii)  Lip-rounding (the relative shape of the lips).
As has been mentioned, the tongue can position itself at degrees of height and change the vowel sounds. In pronouncing /i:/ the front of the tongue assumes the maximum high position, being raised toward the hard palate to make the closest approximation to it. For /u:/ the back of the tongue is raised toward the back of the mouth or the soft palate. It also moves forward in the front for front vowels and is withdrawn for the back vowels.
In English, we can recognise twelve pure vowels and eight diphthongs or vowel glides. They are contrasted below to emphasize their phonemic nature.
Pure vowels
i – i:           as in bit – beat
e – æ          as in tell – tap
æ – *         as in bash – box
o – u           as in toll – tool
u – u:         as in full – fool
∂ – ^           as in hurt – hut
ei   as in eight
al   as in fight
*i   as in toy
әu   as in so
au  as in foul
iә    as in fear
uә   as in poor
eә   as in fare
Since vowel-length in English is phonemic, that is, they contrast, the long and short vowels have been treated as different phonemes. Examples of the long and short vowel contrasts are
full             fool                   /ful/                  /fu:l/
fill              feel                   /fil/                   /fi:l/
fell             fail                   /fel/                  /feil/
Vowel-length is also determined by phonetic environment : voicing or its absence in the consonants coming in immediate proximity is responsible for making a vowel long or short. The long vowel /i:/ varies in length in such words as bit and bid, the latter showing a greater length than the former due to Id/ phoneme which is a devoiced consonant. In a word like bee /bi:/ it is longer than in /bid/. These variations are allophonic.
Front Vowels
Four pure front vowels in English can be identified /i:/, /i/, /e/ and /æ/. Since the front of the tongue assumes various degrees of height inside the mouth these vowels are termed front vowels. However, what we can broadly establish are four ranges and not precice points, as it is difficult to give exact description of the vowels in terms of articulation process. A look at the cardinal vowel quadrilateral will clarify this point. The range of /i:/ for example, stretches from the highest extreme to the point close to /e/. Allophonic variations of this sort are not taken serious note of. This is true of all the other vowels too. A detailed description of the vowels is given below.
For articulating this vowel the front of the tongue rises to the hard palate, sometimes close enough to be heard as a fricative sound. It is pronounced with the lips spread and pulled back, the lower jaw is raised a little. The muscles of the tongue are tensed, so it is also called a tense vowel. It is syllabic and shows a high level of sonority. It occurs in all the three positions in a word as shown below :
Initial         Medial             Final
even           people              tea
eat              measle              flee
Variations in its pronunciation can be perceived as changes in length and diphthongizations.
The back of the front of the tongue is raised toward the hard palate to assume the height between /i/ and /e/ positions. The lips are spread and drawn back as in /i:/ but they are lax. It is non-diphthongal and short, and contrasts with the long vowel /i:/ as in sit – seat /sit-si:t/. Words like busy, women and hear contain this vowel. It is seen to occur in all the three word positions.
Initial         Medial             Final
it                bit                    city
ill               mist                  dirty
Notable among its variations is the relative level of muscle tenseness before a velar nasal like /n/ which is seen in sing /sih/. We can compare the word with sin to see the point. Prof. Gimson observes; ‘A. trend towards /∂/ in unaccented syllables traditionally with /i/ is becoming increasingly noticeable among RP speakers of the middle and younger generation’, as in
easily         /-әli/
useless       /-lәs/
preface       /-әs/
For pronouncing this vowel the front of the tongue is raised in the direction of the hard palate between high-mid and low-mid positions, The lips are drawn back, and the lower jaw is somewhat dropped. /el is described as high-mid-unrounded vowel.
Initial         Medial             Final
elm             let                    they
enter          get                   stay
During the articulation of this vowel the tongue position is lower than it is for /e/. The root of the tongue is drawnback a little. The lips are spread and the lower jaw dropped. It is described as front lower-mid unrounded vowel. We hear it in words get, set, tell, fell.
It is a low front vowel. The lips open to become unrounded. The font of the tongue is at a position lower than for /e/ and somewhat retracted too. Of all the front vowels it is the most open. We can hear it in band, lank, rag and tap. It is described as low front unrounded vowel.
Initial         Medial             Final
at               fat                    ––
ass             man                  ––
Back Vowels
All English back vowels are articulated with the back of the tongue drawn back and raised by degrees. Lip-rounding varies according to the position of the tongue. There are five back vowels in English : /u:/; /u/; /* :/; /*/; /a/.
In pronouncing it, the part at the front of the centre /of the tongue is retracted slightly and raised to a place that corresponds to the position for the high front /i:/. It is a long vowel, and there is a noticeable tension of muscles in the tongue. The lips are pursed up and pushed forward a bit. The opening gives this sound resonance. There is also to be noted a slight protrusion of the lower jaw. We can describe it as high back rounded vowel. We can identify it in these words : rouge, root, tool, shoe, food, do, etc.
The most noticeable allophonic variation of this vowel is in the form of centralized vowel. So room could become [ru:әm] and coo [kuә] accompanied by less prominent lip-rounding.
In terms of tongue movement, this sound is similar to /u:/. It shows a symmetrical correspondence with the high-mid front /i/. The lips are rounded, and the lower jaw somewhat raised. Its position is above high-mid. It has not been found in the initial position. It is called back above high­mid-rounded vowel. We hear it in could, would, look, push, put, etc.
/* :/
For articulating it, the back of the tongue is raised towards; soft palate, between high-mid and low-mid positions. he lips are less rounded than for /u/. We can describe it as back between low-mid and high-mid vowel. Examples of its occurrence are cord, fault, half. R.P. speakers tend to round /C:/ approaching /o/ in quality.
Initial         Medial             Final
ought         nought             law
oggle          bought              saw
The back of the tongue is raised above the low back position. One can notice a fair degree of lip-rounding and Ole lower jaw lax and dropped. It doesnot occur finally. American pronunciation makes it more open, and unrounded; so pot /pCt/ tends to sound like /pat/.
Initial         Medial             Final
ox               box                   ––
all              fox                    ––
It is a low back vowel, the lowest of the back vowels. The tongue leaves a fairly open oral cavity. This is the only back vowel that is completely unrounded, and occurs in such words as laugh, car, march, calm, alarm.
In some regional variant forms, hardly any distinction is made between /a/ and /æ/. In plastic, transfer, elastic, Atlantic, gymnastic, both /a/ and /æ/ are used.
Central Vowels : /^/, /ә/, /ә:/.
In the cardinal vowel system three cent: al vowels have been identified; /^/, /∂/ and /∂:/. In articulating these vowels, the central part of the tongue is raised towards a point in the roof of the mouth that lies between the hard palate and the soft palate or velum. These are unrounded vowels, but sometimes slight roundedness of the lips may occur. The lower jaw is dropped noticeably.
In pronouncing this vowel, the centre of the tongue rises toward hard palate halfway between low and low-arid positions. It is described as the central unrounded vowel between open and half open position. We hear it in the following words, up, sup, submit, done, come, flood.
For pronouncing /∂/, the centre of the tongue rises in the direction of the hard palate to a point between hard and soft palates. The lips remain neutral and the lower jaw is dropped. The symbol for it is called ‘schwa’, pronounced /òwa:/. We can hear it in these words – about, the, sir, her, fir, etc.
In pronouncing this sound the tongue is raised toward the hard palate to a position between half-close and half-open positions. The lips are neutral. It is called a central unrounded vowel between high-mid and low-mid position. We can hear it in bird, church, earth, journey, courage.
Initial         Medial             Final
earn           bird                  sir
earth          birth                 her
When it is followed by a voiced consonant, it is longer than when followed by a voiceless one.
Diphthongs (consisting of two vowels) are also called vowel-gides suggesting the manner in which the tongue assumes position for the pronunciation of one vowel, and glides towards another, producing vowel clusters. Diphthongs are syllabic like vowels. They ‘donot have a single position of articulation and cannot be retained for long’ (Krishnaswainy). These sequences of vowels are composed of two vocalic elements, the first vowel being called the first element, and the second vowel the second element. The first element is usually longer and carries the stress. In RP the following diphthongs are identified :
/ei/,      /ail/,     /*i/,      /∂u/,     /au/
/iә/,       /uә/,      /eә/,      /iu/,      /*ә/
In pronouncing it the front of the tongue assumes the position for the articulation of /e/, just .below the front high-mid position and glides in the direction of front high position about the high-mid point as shown in the figure. But the tongue height is not as high as for [i] when position for the second element is taken. This diphthong occurs initially, medially and finally as shown below.
Initial         Medial             Final
eight          late                   say
aim             rail                   day
It is longer when in a word final position and before a voiced consonant. Thus it is longer in aid than in ace. When the first element is lengthened it is called falling diphthong.
The tongue assumes position at a point low front, and glides toward the high front position /i:/, something like a: i:. The oral cavity is open and the lower jaw dropped. The lips change their position from the neutral to the spread position. The resonance shifts quickly to [i]. We hear it in sight, fight, island, fine.
Initial         Medial             Final
either         height              lie
ice              mind                by
In pronouncing this diphthong the tongue moves from the back high-mid position to a high front point. The second clement is, however, lower than the high front vowel /i/. Initially the lower jaw is dropped but is raised for articulating the second element.
Initial         Medial             Final
oil              boil                   toy
oyster         foil                   ploy
Some American phoneticians report that a central [∂] is substituted for the first element, followed by an [r] in Southern Indiana region. In New York and New Orleans it becomes [∂i].
The tongue assumes the position for pronouncing the first element /ә/ which is a central vowel. From this point it glides back to a high point. But the second element is not as high as the back high vowel /u/. The lips are perceptibly rounded for it. We hear it in all the three positions in a word.
Initial         Medial             Final
own            fold                  so
oar             wrote                go
Variations observed in its articulation may range from a fronted [^] to rounded [o]. Among the Indian speakers the back high-mid [o] is generally substituted for the vowel-glide with full stress and lengthening of the vowel.
Here the tongue is placed at low back vowel position and moved towards the high back region. The second element is placed not as high as /u/ but below that point. The lips are neutral for the first element, but become rounded for the second. Examples of its occurrence in all the three positions are given below.
Initial         Medial             Final
out             sound               cow
oust            bout                  how
In some varieties a perceptible weakening of the second element is found. So, the weakening of [u] in now and how leads to such variant forms as [na* :/ and /òρ/.
During the pronunciation of this diphthong the tongue assumes the position for the high-mid front vowel and moves towards the position of central unrounded vowel. The lips are neutral. Examples are air, their, mare, dare, hare, etc.
Initial         Medial             Final
heir            scarce               chair
aeon           chaired             pair
For the articulation of this diphthong the tongue moves from high position to high back one. It is a rising diphthong, with the second element showing greater syllabic prominence. According to sonic conventions the first element is symbolised [j].
Examples are yew, cure, new, due, etc.
Initial         Medial             Final
yule            mule                 you
use             beauty              Hugh
English Consonants
On the basis of the articulatory process, consonant phonemes in English are divided according to i) the manner of articulation into plosive/stops; nasals, fricatives, laterals, and approximants; and according to ii) the points/ places of articulation into bilabials, labio-dentals, dentals, alveolars, post-alveolars, palato-alveolars, palatals, velars and glottals. Points of articulation are situated along the upper margin of the oral cavity, and manner of articulation indicates different ways of interfering with the passing air-stream.
/p/     pay       poor           pebble        apt             ape
/b/     bog       buy             able            abbot          rub
/t/      take      tie              attack         settle          set
/d/     date      die             addition      meddle       made
/k/     cog       kite             ankle          tinkle          arc
/g/     gay       guy            angle          mingle        log
/f/      fast       few             after           shift            sniff
/v/     vast      view           aver            average      halve
/q/     thin      through      athwart       Athertn       myth
/ð/     then     that            within         without       bathe
/s/      sigh      sight           hissing       message     kiss
/z/     zoo       zeal            resist          muzzle       buzz
/ò/      shoe     shy             fishing        bashful       brash
/з/                                    measure     leisure        rouge
/h/     hay       hose                                               blah! ah!
/tò/     chin      chew          itching        latches        hatch
/dз/    jar        gym                              judges        badge
/m/    man      muse          lump          ample         sharn
/n/     nose     news          ant             land           tan
/h/                                   single         angle          king
/l/      lip        lamp           alter           malt            mall
/w/     way      whose                                             cow
/y/     yule      yew
/r/      ray       raw             merrily       rarely         borrows
This class of consonant phonemes is marked by the complete closure (or occlusion) of the vocal tract, creating the air pressure behind the closure and sudden release of the air. The sudden release of air results in the phonetic effect of plosion.
We can locate three stages in the articulation of the stops.
1)   creation of the occlusion or closure (described as fore glide).
2)   a brief hold in this position.
3)   release of the hold (described as off-glide or after glide).
During the third stage litany active articulators may make movements, depending on the sound immediately following the stop. Features that may accompany these sounds are as follows a) Voicing, which occurs during stage 2 of the plosive articulation producing a voiced consonant b) Aspiration in. which voiceless stops are accompanied by a strong breath when these sounds occur initially, or they are stressed and occur medially. Voiceless stop sounds are fortis, articulated with greater energy. Its opposite lenis are those sounds that carry weak muscular energy. Normally, voiced sounds are lenis.
STOP, bilabial /p/, /b/
The two lips come into firm contact to create an oral closure, behind which the air-stream is stopped, the closure is released to produce the effect of bilabial stop phonemes. Vocal cords are set in vibration for /b/, but for /pi they are not vibrated. /p/ is aspirated when it occurs initially and is fortis. Examples of its occurrence in all the throe positions arc as follows.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/p/        pat                apple                lap
      possible         apply                sip
/p/ is described as voiceless bilabial plosive/stop consonant. /b/ is described as a voiced bilabial plosive/stop consonant. We hear /b/ in the following words in all the three positions.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/b/        bleat              rabbit                lamb
      bask              absent              tub
In the final position it is devoiced as in cub and nib. It is in this position unreleased in words like absent and obtain.
/t/, /d/
During the pronunciation of these sounds the tip or the blade of the tongue establishes firm contact with the alveolar ridge and the air pressure is built up behind the closure formed in this way. For /d/, the vocal cords continue to vibrate as long as the contact is maintained. The period of contact is known as ‘consonant occlusion’. For /t/ the vocal cords donot vibrate. /d/ is voiced and /t/ a voiceless consonant which makes the reamer lenis and the latter frotis. We can now describe /d/ as voiced alveolar stop and /t/ as voiceless alveolar stop.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/d/        done              addition            sad
      describe         meddle             lid
/t/         tap                retain               hut
      table              metal                fat
/t/ is palatalized when followed by /j/ or an affricate as can be seen in such sequences as bet you; didn’t you /bet òju:/; /didntòju:/.
/d/ tends to become post-alveolar when it is followed by /r/. This phoneme also occurs as the past tense formation. Its voicing is affected by the sound preceding it. When it follows a voiced sound it remains voiced but when a voiceless sound precedes it, its voice quality is considerably weakened, as the following examples illustrate.
robbed /r*bd/         asked /a:skt/
Velar /k/, /g/
In pronouncing these sounds, the back or dorsum of the tongue is raised and brought in contact with the velum (hence ‘velar’). Thus a complete velopharyngeal closure is made. Sudden release of the dorsum produces these sounds. Both /k/ and /g/ are described as dorso-velar plosive or stop. /g/ is voiced and /k/ voiceless. Following are the examples of these sounds occurring in all the three positions.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/k/        cab                fact                   back
      cup                pact                  sack
/g/        gap               baggage           big
      grill               luggage            lag
Lips               Alveolar Ridge           Velum
p                               t                          k              voiceless
b                              d                         g              vocied
System of plosives
Fricatives are articulated by narrowing the passage of air so as to create audible friction. The active articulator comes so close to the passive articulator that a, constriction is created narrow enough for the air to force through. Complete stoppage is not made.
Four pairs of phonemes in this category have been identified, each a voiceless or voiced sound; /f-v; q-ð; s-z; ò- з/, and a glottal voiceless fricative /h/. As we have noted in an earlier section, fricatives are grouped with some other sounds to be commonly called continuants, because the friction noise created can be prolonged. Strindency is strongly marked in some fricatives, in others it is weak.
Teeth          Teeth              Alveolar    Palato            Glottal
+ lip           + tongue       ridge          Alveolar
feel /f/         thigh /q/         seal /s/        shell /s/           hall/h/        voiceless
veal /v/       thy /ð/             zeal /z/       leasure /з/                          voiced
Articulatory Position for Fricatives
Labio-dental fricatives /f/, /v/
For pronouncing this sound the lower lip is raised in close approximation to lower edge of the upper teeth. The nasal passage is closed off by raising the velum. The air is allowed to pass through the slit left open between the lower lip and the upper teeth. Therefore, these sounds are called labio­dental fricatives. In articulating /f/ the vocal cords donot vibrate, making it voiceless, while in pronouncing /v/ they do, making /v/ a voiced fricative.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/f/         form              often                 sniff
      frail               laughter           brief
/v/        vale               evening            dove
      visit               evade               give
Dental /q/, /ð/
For articulating these sounds the tip of the tongue is placed on or near the edge of the upper teeth. The air squeezes through the gap thus formed. /q/ is voiceless and /ð/ voiced. /q/ is described as voiceless dental fricative, /ð/ as voiced dental fricative /q/ is fortis and /ð/ is lenis.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/q/        three             lethal               bath
      thrice             Gothic              cloth
/ð/        then              leather              seethe
      though          father               clothe
Alveolar /s/, /z/
During the pronunciation of these phonemes, the oral passage is opened by lifting the soft palate and closing off the nasal cavity. The tip of the tongue and the blade is raised to approximate the alveolar ridge. While the sides of the tongue make contact with the upper teeth, a narrow channel is formed in the mid line of the tongue. Because of the size of the channel, /s/ phoneme is called a narrow channel fricative, and /z/ is called broad channel fricative. The groove-shaped channel allows the air to pass between the tongue front and the anterior alveoli in, producing the audible friction. /s/ is a voiceless fricative and fortis, /z/ is voiced and lenis. These are also called sibilant and spirants. Lip position is determined by the vowel adjacent to these. Seal is pronounced with the lips, spread, while soup has noticeable lip-rounding. So also with zeal and zoo.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/s/         sell                task                  less
      soul               listen                loss
/z/        zeal               bosom               maze
      zest               hesitate            haze
Palato-alveolar /ò/, /з/
Both /ò/ and /з/ are identified as palato-alveolar fricatives (or sibilants or spirants). The nasal passage is shut off by raising the soft palate. The tongue-tip and blade are brought into contact with the teeth ridge. At the same time the front of the tongue comes closer to the ‘hard palate’. The passing breath-stream squeezes out through the gap between the tip and blade of the tongue and the teeth ridge, on the one hand, and between the tongue and the hard palate on the other. /ò/ is a voiceless palato-alveolar fricative and /з/ is a voiced palato-alveolar fricative.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/ò/         sham             admission         lush
shop              nation               mash
/з/         genre            decision            rouge
      gigolo            measure           garage
In certain cases pronunciation of [ò] varies from [s] to [ò] in the medial and final positions :
sexual, appreciate, assume, issue, tissue
Similarly, pronunciation of /з/ also varies from [z] to [з] as in gymnasium, axiom, version, rouge, barage, garage, etc.
Glottal /h/
For articulating this phoneme the glottis is constricted. The outgoing air sets the vocal cords in vibration. The friction noise is greater in the vocal tract than in the glottis. How prominent is this fricative depends on the ‘articulatory position for the following speech sounds’ (Tiffany-Carrell). This is also viewed as the voiceless onset of a vowel. We can describe it as a voiceless glottal fricative. It is heard in these words, hat, behind, hall, heel, etc.
/h/ is essentially voiceless, but it may become voiced in some words as behind, greyhound, anyhow, and so on. The voiced sound is symbolised /h/.
Affricates /tò/, /dз/
These phonemes are also-classified as stop sounds by some phoneticians. These are combinations of the articulatory processes for stop and fricative. The front of the tongue is raised to make full contact against the rear part of the gum ridge. The sides of the tongue are raised to touch the side upper teeth. The air stream is stopped behind the occlusion formed in this manner. However, the affrication quality is produced by the manner in which the closure is released : the front of the tongue is withdrawn in the direction of the hard palate. Air pressure is released through the gap between the withdrawing tongue front and the hard palate, and the sides of the tongue and the upper teeth. This friction is of shorter duration than the one we hear in fricatives.
/tò/ is described as voiceless palato-alveolar affricate, and /dз/ as voiced palato-alveolar affricate. We hear these in ‘church and judge. The following examples show their occurrence in all the three positions.
Initial            Medial             Final
/tò/        chill               matchless         snatch
choice            kitchen             ditch
/dз/       jail                majority            hedge
jar                 majesty             judge
Individual pronunciation varies in such words as educate, guardian, grandeur, verdure, obituary, christian, etc. In these instances [d] and [t] alternate with [dз] and [tò].
Nasals /m/, /n/, /h/
These sounds are not strictly placed in the consonant category, but rather on the boundary between contoid and vocoid (Hockett). They are produced exactly like stops, except that the nasal passage is open. For producing these sounds the air stream is directed through the nasal passage, which is opened by lowering the soft palate. In the mouth also stoppage is formed by bringing the tongue in contact with the passive articulator. Nasal consonants are described in terms of the place or point of articulation.
Bilabial /m/
Both the lips join to form oral closure while the soft palate is lowered to open the nasal passage. Resonance of the nasal passage is increased by adding the oral resonator also in this manner. The vocal cords are set in vibration leading to the voicing of the sound. It can be continued without interruption by allowing the air to flow through the nasal passage while the mouth is still closed. It is both syllabic and non-syllabic. /m/ is described as the bilabial voiced nasal.
      Initial            Medical            Final
/m/       male              Humpty            slim
mother           attempt             time
/m/ is symbolic in such words as rhythm and. Gandfais,n.
Alveolar /n/
During the pronunciation of this phoneme, the tongue is raised, its blade and apex making occlusion against the alveolar ridge. The sides are in contact with the upper teeth and gum ridge (alveolum). Vocal cords are in vibration and the outgoing breath resonates simultaneously the nasal cavity as well as the phalyngo-oral passage. Lip-position is determined by the vowels that follow. In noose the lips are rounded, but for need they are spread and neutral. It is described as voiced alveolar nasal consonant.
Examples of its occurrence in all the three positions are given below
      Initial            Medial             Final
/n/        news             and                  open
      nip                send                 on
The syllabic function of this nasal can be seen in these words, cotton, mutton, sudden, fasten, In such sequences as spick and span and Jack and Jill, [spikn spaæn] and [dзækn dзil], /n/ tends to become syllabic due to the assimilatory changes occurring. Velars /k/ and /g/ affect its phonetic quality, making it velarised as in inquest and conquer.
Velar /h/
This nasal shares with other two nasal phonemes part of the articulatory movements in that the nasal passage is opened by lowering the velum and allowing the air to enter it. The dorsum or the back of tongue joins the velum (soft palate) to form a stoppage. The lip position depends on the preceding vowel. It is a voiced sound, the vocal cords are vibrated by the outgoing breath stream. It is described as the voiced velar nasal. /h/ doesnot occur initially but is heard in the medial and final positions as shown below:
Medial Final
/h/        singer               king
longest hang
Lateral /l/
This sound is produced by holding the tip of the tongue against the central, part of the alveolar ridge. The sides are kept open either on one side or both. This is called the secondary oral aperture, though which the air-stream escapes without friction. Vocal cords are set in vibration and the nasal passage is shut off by raising the soft palate. /l/ is described as the voiced alveolar lateral.
      Initial            Medial             Final
/l/         leaf                below               fool
      load               hold                 till
The prominent allophone of this phoneme, the dark [l] occurs in such words as little, tiddle, mettle, bottle. This phonetically variant form is produced by retracting and raising the back of the tongue towards the soft palate, while the tip is held against the alveolum. Dental phonemes /q/, /ð/ following the lateral makes it dental, as in healthy, stealthy. Although it is voiced, a voiceless plosive /p/ and /k/ make it voiceless, as in clear, plain. /I/ is palatalized when it comes before a semi vowel /j/ or a vowel as in contemplation, William. In words like battle, brittle, settle it is syllabic.
Approximants /r/, /w/, /j/
In terms of articulatory description, these are vowel-like sounds. The passage of the air is constricted by the active articulators in the oral cavity. It occupies a consonantal position in a syllabic structure. /r/ is a frictionless continuant and /j/ and /w/ semi-vowels.
Frictionless continuant /r/
Also identified as a flap, its articulation requires the apex or the tip of the tongue to be raised towards the alveolar ridge curling backwards in the direction of the palate. The central part of the tongue bunches up somewhat and the air is allowed to pass over the body of the tongue, producing a frictionless sound. A single tap is made by the tongue.
A variety of this sound is alveolar trill in which the tongue is held amid the passing air-stream with just the right tension to allow the air to set it into rapid vibration. In RP it is not found hut in some dialects of English and certain European languages /r/ is found. /r/ is a voiced consonant.
Initial               Medial Final
/r/         rapid                marry               ––
rain                  very                  ––
Palatal /j/
Commonly it is recognised as a semi-vowel. The tongue moves from the position of /i/. The lips are spread. The tongue then moves away in the direction of the next vowel following it. For you the tongue moves to high back position; for yeast it moves to high front position. It is described as voiced palatal approximant.
Labio-velar /w/
In pronouncing this phoneme the tongue is retracted and then raised towards the velum in high-mid to high back region. Lip-rounding is prominently noticeable. However, it depends on the vowel following. /w/ is a voiced sound and is described as voiced labio-velar approximant or semi-vowel. It is not observed to occur in the final position.
Initial               Medial
/w/        waist                swing
wonder sweet
In some varieties words with wh spelling are pronounced as sequence of h+w as in whale, whom, white, while. This is symbolised as [M].
Consonant Clusters
Sequences of two or more consonants are called ‘consonant clusters’. In a word like cash /kæò/ there occurs single consonant in initial position; but in crash /kræò/ we observe a sequence of two consonants /kr/. Occurrence of such combinations is quite common, and can be seen in words like flame (fl), dress (dr), slow (sl), emblem (bl), apron (pr), fifth (fq), and against (nst). Clusters can have more than two consonants. They are articulated simultaneously. Consonant-clusters can form the onset and coda of syllable as in frame /freim/ and sand /sænd/.
Consonants can cluster together to form a syllable, without a vowel. For example in tasks /tasks/ with /-sks/ forming the final syllable. Some phoneticians hold that the name ‘cluster’ can be given only to those consonant sequences which comprise part of a syllable and are not abutting consonants. In bundle /b^ndl/, the consonants /n/ and /d/ are parts of two different syllabic peaks – /n/ belonging to the first and /d/ to the second. According to this criterion, these sequences cannot strictly be considered as consonant clusters.
Regarding possibilities of consonant combinations Ronald Wardaugh observes, ‘There are restrictions in the combinatorial possibilities of consonants, and the maximal lengths of possible consonant sequences’.
According to the number of consonants that can be clustered in words the following three classes can be identified.
1)   Two-segmental clusters
2)   Three-segmental clusters
3)   Four-segmental clusters
Consonant cluster may occur initially in syllable (ccv-structure) and finally only (-vcc).
Some examples of the possible consonant clusters distribution are presented below:
A.   Two segmental initial consonant clusters
/p/     p+l      /pl /      ploy, play
         p+r      /pr/       present, pressure
         p+j      /pj/       pure, puma
/b/     b+l       /bl/       bless, blast
         b+r      /br/       broom, brash
/t/      t+r       /tr/        tree, train
         t+w      /tw/       twist, twinkle
         t+j       /tj/        tunic, tune
/d/     d+r      /dr/       draw, dragon
         d+j      /dj/       dew, due
         d+w     /dw/      dwindle, dwell
/k/     k+l       /kl/       class, clique
         k+r      /kr/       cringe, crack
         k+w     /kw/      queen, quest
/g/     g+l      /gl/       glass, glow
         g+r      /gr/       grease, grass
/f/      f+r       /fr/        frown, frighten
         f+l       /fl/        flame, fling
         f+j       /fj/        fume, fusion
/v/     v+j       /vj/       view
/q/     q+r      /qr/       three, throng
/s/      s+l       /sl/        sleep, slow
         s+t       /st/        stay, sting
         s+k      /sk/       school, sky
         s+m     /sm/      smile, smoke
         s+n      /sn/       snail, snake
         s+p      /sp/       spill, speed
         s+w     /sw/      swallow, swell
B. Three-segmental initial consonant clusters
/s/      s+p+l           /spl/      splinter, spleen
         s+p+r           /spr/     spread, spring
         s+t+r            /str/      street, strong
         s+t+j            /stj/       stew
         s+k+r           /skr/      scrub, screech
C. Two-segmental final consonant clusters
final /p/      /s+p/          /spl/            wasp, gasp
                  /l+p/          /lp/             help, gulp
                  /m+p/         /mp/           bump, ramp
final /b/       /l+b/           /lb/             bulb
                  /r+b/          /rb/             barb, garb
final /t/       /p+t/          /pt/             kept, slept
                  /k+t/           /kt/             pact, attract
                  /tò+t/           /tòt/             snatched, attached
                  /f+t/           /ft/              cleft, deft
                  /s+t/           /st/              blast, mast
                  /n+t/          /nt/             dent, spent
final /d/      /b+d/          /bd/            stabbed, barbed
                  /g+d/         /gd/            begged, bugged
                  /dз+d/        / dзd/          judged, pledged
                  /ð+d/          /ðd/            clothed, mouthed
                  /l+d/          /ld/             held, weld
                  /n+d/         /nd/            grand, find
final /k/       /s+k/          /sk/             flask, task
                  /l+k/           /lk/             milk, bulk
final /tò/       /n+tò/          /ntò/            bunch, crunch
final /dз/     /n+dз/        /ndз/           range, strange
final /v/       /l+v/           /lv/             resolve, delve
                  /r+v/          /rv/             swerve, carve
final /q/       /d+q/          /dq/            bredth, width
                  /f+q/           /fq/             fifth
                  /p+q/          /pq/            depth
                  /h+q/          /hq/            strength
                  /n+q/          /nq/            tenth, eighteenth
final /s/       /p+s/          /ps/             grips, slips
                  /q+s/          /qs/             depth
                  /l+s/           /ls/              tools, mills
                  /n+s/          /ns/             hens, minee
                  /f+s/           /fs/              cuffs, puffs
final /z/       /b+z/          /bz/             sobs
                  /m+z/         /mz/            bombs
                  /ð+z/          /ðz/             bathes
                  /v+z/          /vz/             valves
                  /h+z/          /hz/            hangs
D. Three-segmental final consonant clusters
final /t/       /d+s+t/      /dst/            amidst
                  /s+k+t/      /skt/            masked
                  /m+p+t/     /mpt/          unkempt
                  /n+s+t/      /nst/            against
                  /l+p+t/       /lpt/            helped
                  /l+s+t/       /lst/             whilst
final /d/      /n+dз+d/   /dst/            deranged
                  /l+v+d/      /lvd/           resolved
final /s/       /p+t+s/      /pts/            adopts
                  /p+q+s/     /pqs/           depths
                  /s+k+s/      /sks/           asks
                  /n+t+s/      /nts/            fasts
                  /m+p+s/    /mps/          lamps
final /z/       /l+d+z/      /ldz/           folds
                  /l+v+z/      /lvz/            wolves
                  /n+d+z/     /ndz/          sends
E. Four-segmental final consonant clusters
final /s/       /k+s+t+s/        /ksts/          texts
                  /l+f+q+s/         /lfqs/           twelfths
                  /k+s+q+s/       /ksqs/          sixths
Some Major Concepts of Phonology
Phoneme: Most linguists, until recently at least, have regarded the phoneme as one of the basic units of language. But they have not all defined the phonemes in the same way. Some linguists like Bloomfied and Daniel Jones have described phonemes in purely physical terms. Others like Sapir have preferred psychological definitions. Some regard the phoneme only as abstractional fictitions unity and argue that in a language it is not phonemes but allophones that exist in reality. Furthermore, linguists of the Copenhagen School treat the phonemes as glassemes and regard them as algebaical units.
The term phoneme was first used in the late 1870’s notably by Kruszewski. Saussure too worked on the phonemes. But the most notable work in this field was done by Sapir in 1927. Most phoneticians such as Louis Jhelmsley, Bloomfield, Trubetzkoy, Daniel Jones, Roman Jakobson, and Pike have thrown light on the phoneme.
The phoneme, according to Bloomfield, is the minimal unit of distinctive sound-feature. In Webster’s Third New International, the phoneme is defined as the smallest unit of speech distinguishing one unit from another, in all the variations it displays in the speech of one person or in one dialect as a result of modifying influences, such as neighbouring sounds or stress. In Dorfman’s oinion a phoneme is a single speech sound or group of similar or related speech sounds functioning analogously in a language, and usually represented in writing by the same letter, with or without diacritic marks.
According to most contemporary linguists, however, the phoneme is the minimal bundle of relevant sound features. A phoneme is not a sound; it can be realized only through one of its allophones: it is a class of sounds, actualized or realized in a different way in any given position by its representative, the allophone: it is an ideal towards which the speaker strives, while the allophone is the performance he achieves; it occupies an area within which the various allophones move and operate; its outer limits may approach but not overlap those of other phonemes, and it cannot invade the territory of another phoneme without loss of phonemic distinction.
Thus the precise definition of a phoneme has been the subject of much discussion among linguists and there are two major points of view. The first is the ‘classification’ theory developed by Daniel Jones which considers the phoneme to be a group or family of related sounds, e.g. /p/ in English consisting of [p], [ph], etc. or /u/ consisting of (u:), (u) etc. The second or ‘distinctive feature’ theory developed by N.S. Turbetzkoy and the Prague School considers a phoneme to be a bundle of distinctive features, e.g. /p/ in English is considered to be made up of bilabial + stop + voiceless (aspiration is therefore not distinctive and thus the allophones (ph) and (p) above are allowed for.
Depending on the point of view taken, a phoneme can be defined as “a unit, a rubric, a bundle of sound-features”, or “the smallest contrastive linguistic unit which may bring about a change of meaning”. Hence it is a minimum distinct functional unit. Phonemes of a language may be discovered by forming minimal pairs, i.e. pairs of words are different in respect of only one sound segment. The series of words pat, bat, cat, hat, sat, that, mat, supplies us with seven words which are distinguished simply by a change in the first (consonantal) element of the sound sequence. These elements of contrastive significance are phonemes and be symbolized as /p, b, k, h, s, ð, m/. Similarly, in the series of words hat, hit, heat, hot, heart, the elements of contrastive significance are æ, I, i:, o, a:/
Any objective speech sound, considered as a physical event, and without regard as to how it fits into the structure of any given language, is a phone. Hence a phone in phonology is ‘the smallest possible segment of sound abstracted from the continuum of speech’.
Some sounds, the native speaker thinks are the same, while others are different. The linguist has to figure out what sounds are grouped together as the same, what it is that they all have in common among themselves and how dissimialar are they to other groups of sound in the informant’s speech and what criteria the native speaker uses to tell sounds apart. We said earlier that by substituting other segments, the linguist can arrive at a list of these significant, contrastive classes of sounds called ‘phonemes’. But we do not always find minimal pairs to help us figure out the list of phonemes. There must be other criteria too, which we will have to incorporate into the definition of a phoneme. The k-sound in keel, calm and cool differs. In keel it is at the front in the mouth, in calm it is a little in the centre and in cool further back in the mouth. The absence of the above mentioned features do not distort the message for the native speaker. He does not differentiate these sounds in every day speech in the sense that he is not aware of the physical differ­ences. He thinks these sounds are members of the k-class or are all k. In other words for the phonemic /k/, central-k, retracted-k, fronted-k are all allophones.
Hence an allophone is a speech sound which is one of a number of vari­ants of a phoneme. Such a variant can, either in complementary variation or in free variation. The occurrence of a particular allophone ma be determined by its environment, or it may be in free variation. Allophones deter- mined by environment, for example, are front or clear [l] as in lamp or light occurring before vowels and the so-called ‘back’ or ‘dark’ [l] as in Old and table occurring before consonants and at the end of words. They are in comple­mentary distribution, that is where the dark [l] appears in English, there cannot occur the clear [l]. An example of allophones occurring in free variation in the Southern British English (RR) is the /r/ between vowels, as in very, which can occur either as a flap, or as a fricative. Thus allophones phonetic variants; they are positional or contextual, or conditional variants, (alternants) of phoneme.
According to Trager and Smith (An Outline of English Structure), a linguist identifies these allophones in the following way :
1.   The sounds should be phonetically similar.
2.   They should be in complementary distribution.
3.   They should exhibit pattern congruity with other groups of sounds.
Sometimes a sound is used by a particular speaker or group) of speakers of a language, but is substituted by another sound by sonic other speaker or group of speakers of the same language. For example, the sound of the diphthong /ou/, as in the word ‘loan’ may be substituted by the vowel sound /ә/* :/, or the sound of the consonants dark ‘l’ as in ‘little’ may he substituted the sound of clear ‘l’ by some speaker. The bilabial plosive consomnant-sounds /p/ and /b/ may often be replaced by the aspirated sound /ph/ and /bh/.
Both the sounds that is originally used by the speakers of a language as well as that which is used by other speakers of that language, are said to constitute a diaphone. Daniel Jones has defined a diaphone in the following manner: “The term diaplione is suggested to denote a sound used by one group of speakers together with other sounds which replace it consistently in the pronunciation of other speakers” (An Outline of Phonetics).
Sounds are influenced by the phonetic environment in which they occur. Since speech is a continuum, and not a stringing together of phonemes (or sounds), what precedes and, follows a sound has a direct bearing on it. Phonetic environment thus determines the phonetic quality of a sound that is different environments tend to produce different phonetic qualities Let us see how does this take place.
1.   A consonant’s proximity affects the vowel length. In two words beat /bi:t/ and bead /bi:d/ we find the same vowel, the high-front long /i:/. But the voiceless phoneme that follows it in /bi:t/ makes it shorter than the one that occurs in /bi:d/. The voiced stop /d/ occurring in this word lengthens it. They differ in the precise phonetic quality. In these two words, voicing and the absence of it in the consonant affect the length of the vowel. But the vowel occurring in beat is not as short as the vowel in bit or pit. Its length is half-long, which is halfway between long and short.
We can now say that due to the proximity of certain phonemes having specific phonetic qualities the vowel length has been affected. This process is called assimilation.
2.   In a word like inquest [ihkwest], the nasal consonant is affected by the voiceless velar /k/ and shows velarization resulting in /h/ which is velar nasal phoneme. The same is the case in income and incongruous. Another common example of assimilation by the sound following is presented by the word triumph /traimf/. Here the bilabial nasal /m/ is ‘changed into labio­dcntal sound due to the contiguous labia-dental fricative /f/. Another word triumvirate also exemplifies the same process.
3.   The physiological factor that is operative in this is that of co-articulation. The above examples reveal that the bilabial nasal phoneme is concurrently articulated with the labio-dental fricative : /m/ + /f/. Even before the articulation of /m/ is fully gone through, the articulators assume the position for the pronunciation of the following sound. In triumph and triumvirate /f/ and /v/ can be described as prenasalised.
There are three types of assimilatory process based on various types of relationships existing between assimilated sounds and the sounds that bring about assimilation. The two sounds are usually immediately close to each other in the stream of speech.
We identify the three types of assimilation as 1) Progressive, 2) Regressive, 3) Reciprocal.
1) In progressive assimilation the assimilated sound follows the conditioning sound. The phonetic form of the plural morpheme {z}, /-s/ changes into the voiced sibilant due to the voiced sound [g] in the word dogs [d*tòju:/. These two examples show us assimilation occurring across the word or what is widely known as morphemic boundaries. The important role of this process can be understood by observing, carefully a rapid conversation. Quick changes occur in the phonetic shapes of individual phonemes. Sounds are quickly lost, reduced and altered in. morphemes, words and phrases spoken in one breath group after another in connected speech through a concurrent process of co-articulatory movements. In a sequence like young ones the final velar nasal is spoken with lip-rounding which is co-articulated with the next phoneme of the following word. Similarly, partial loss of voicing is seen in /l/ in at least due to /t/ of the preceding word. In good night and good girl the final /d/ is almost completely assimilated by the voiced sounds of the next word, so that these sound like /guaait/ and /gu?gә:l/ or /gugә:l/.
In truth, assimilation operates as a great force in day-to-day speech situations where rapid pace of conversation shows this in full operation. It shows level of mastery over language. Speakers of L2 (or second language) on the other hand, tend to become conscious. To that degree their pronunciation reflects a lower level of assimilation.
The above discussion highlights assimilation as a process whereby certain sound features are either partially or totally lost. In the word ask when pronounced singly we can hear the final velar stop. But in its past tense asked [a:st], there is a loss of the velar stop accompanied by a change of [d] to [t]. While change of [d] into [t] is due to assimilation, the disappearance of [k] is the result of elision, This process indicates loss of certain elements in rapid speech which are present in isolated utterance or very conscious speech. In normal conversation we hear such utterances as ‘cause (for because); prob’ly (for probably); costly (for costly); pos (for posts). These are very common, and one has only to keep one’s eyes open in order to see the mechanism. The unavoidable fusion of segments in such combinations as forced choices, group behaviour and bunched children points to not only assimilatory factors at work, but the resultant elisions as well. In the first example [d] is dropped, in the second we donot hear [p], and the third example shows [d] being elided.
Contracted forms in poetry, plays and fiction such as ne’er, ‘tis, don’t, can’t, mayn’t for never, it is, do not, cannot and maynot are quite common.
Elided elements are often weak syllables or voiceless consonants. So about and along change into ‘bout and ‘long. The finest example of what happens in elision are presented by such expressions as Jack and Jill, black and white, high and low, wind and rain and bread and butter. These sound like [dnзæk n dзtil]; [blæk n wait] [hainlðu]; [windnrein] and [brednb^t∂].
Table 1
Phoneme       Assimilating        Changes into       Examples
k                   i:                         pre-velar             keen, keel
                     *:                        post-velar            caw caught
d                   r                          post-alveolar        dry, drawl
t                    q                         dental                  eighth
t                    r                          post-alveolar        training
m                  f                          labio-dental         comfort
n                   q                         dental                  tenth
h                   q                         dental                  length
i:                   l                          retracted              kneel, feel
u:                  j                          forward                due, muse
Table 2
Phoneme       Conditioning       Changes into       Examples
t                    ð                         dental                  at the meeting
t                    ð                         post-alveolar        that road
d                   ð                         dental                  add them
m                  f                          labio-dental         come for
n                   ð                         dental                  in the river
s                    r                          post-alveolar        that’s right
l                    ð                         dental                  tell them
l                    r                          post-alveolar        tall reed
Theories of Phonological Analysis
The analysis of an utterance into segmental and suprasegmental fea­tures is known as phonemic or phonological analysis. There are several dif­ferent theories of phonological analysis. Some of these major theories are discussed below,
(a) Structure and System:
One approach is in terms of what are called structure and system. The phonological units (Phonemes or sounds) of a language are grouped together to form the various systems and the arrangements of these units in larger units such as syllables, feet, tone-group, sentence that form the structure of that language. The units that form a system, can be replaced by other units to produce different utterances, while the relations between the different units present in an utterance consitute a structure. For instance, the English word sack/sack has one syllable, which is made up of sequence of three phonemes /s/, /ae/ and /k/. The phoneme /s/ can be replaced by other phonemes /b/,/p/, /t/dз/. /h/, /l/ to give us different words back, pack, tack, jack, hack, lack. All these items that can be replaced by another at a particular place in a structure are in paradigmatic relationship and form a system. Similarly, /ae/ forms a system with other phonemes /i/, /i:/, /e/, /ei/ that can be used as substi­tutes to give us other words sick, seek, seek, sake, /k/ also forms a system with the /t/, /d/, /p/, /m/ /ŋ/ that give us the words sat, sad, sap, sam, sang.
The units of phonological analysis have a hierarchy, so that a unit of higher ranks consists of a sequence of one or more occurrences of the next lower rank. For example, in English one or more phonemes make up a syl­lable; one or more syllables make up a foot (which is the unit of rhythm); one or more feet make up a tone group (which is the unit of intonation); one or more tone groups make up a sentence. Examples of these phonological units arc given here :
i)    Phoneme : /k/, /b/, /t/, /d/, /i/, /e/, etc.
ii)   syllable : back/bæk/ago/әigou/button b^-tn,/ etc.
iii)  foot: The cur/few tolls/the knell/of part/ing day/. Here we have five feet. (/A slanting bar/ represents a foot boundary)
iv)  tone group : // If the ‘bride a, grees // the ‘marriage is in’ January.//. (// represents tone group boundary; ‘represents rising tone, and ‘falling tone,’ accent (strong or stressed syllable.)
v)   Sentence : For example, the sentence given above has two tone groups.
(b) Prosodic Analysis:
Prosodic analysis is another aspect of phonology. It is concerned with phonological features ‘that extend beyond a phonematic unit in a structure’. Features like aspiration, nasalization, labialization, retroflexion and palatalisation often relate to sequences of more than one phonematic unit. The study of supra-segmental features like stress, rhythm, intonation, etc. also forms a part of prosodic analysis. Examples of a few prosodic features are given below :
i)    aspiration: The English word clay /klei/ has an aspirated /k/ in the form of [kh], but the aspiration affects the following /l/ also and devoices it to [1o]. It can therefore be described as /h/ prosody.
ii)   nasalization: The English word sing /siŋ/ has incidental nasaliza­tion of the vowel /i/ under the influence of the nasal consonant after it. Nasalization can therefore be described as a prosody in this kind of syllable.
iii)  lip-rounding: The English word quiet /kwait/ has lip-rounding for /k/ also under the influence of the following /w/. We have here an example of /w/––prosody.
iv)  retroflexion: The Hindi word ===== has retroflexion extending to both the nasal and the following plosive sounds. We can call it an example of the prosody of retroflexion.
v)   palatalization: The English word key /ki:/ has a palatal instead of a velar /k/ under the influence of the following /i:/. This can be described as /i/––prosody.
vi)  accent: Accent on a particular syllable in a word can be taken as a prosody. For example, the English word ago/ә ‘ gou/ has the accent on the second syllable.
vii) sentence stress, rhythm and intonation are also prosodic features.
Another approach to phonology is based on phonemics, according to which the discovery of the phonemes (the minimal distinctive sound-units) of a language is done by forming minimal pairs (by replacement of one pho­neme by another which can bring about a change of meaning). Each pho­neme, however, may have slightly different phonetic realizations, called allophones, in different environments. Most phonological theories are based on phonemics.
Some linguists restrict the use of the term ‘phoneme’ to segments of human sounds only, and analyse what are called suprasegmental or prosodic features separately. The most important of the suprasegmental features are : (1) length (syllables and feet), stress, and pitch. (These are discussed in the next section of this chapter). Other linguists extend the use of the term ‘pho­neme’ to cover all distinctive sound features including levels of stress, levels of pitch, and types of juncture.
(d) Distinctive Features Theory
In the phoneme theory, the phoneme (segment) is the smallest unit of phonology, but in the Distinct Features Theory the phonetic feature is the smallest unit of phonology. Segment theory is linguistically inconvenient. There are no rules in any language which apply to all the sounds. There are a fixed number of features or components which form a basic stockpile from which every language selects phonetic features and combines them in differ­ent ways. It is these features which keep a segment distinct or separate from others. That is why they are called the distinctive features.
In distinctive features theory (as different from the notation transcrip­tion), the phonetic transcription is simplified and systematized by regarding each sound a set of components, exactly parallel to semantic component. As proposed by Roman Jakobson, Morris Halle, Chomsky, etc., acoustics and / or articulatory variables can be reduced to a small number of parameters or phonetic features (twenty-seven with multi-values). A distinctive features component, for example for the sounds /t/ and /k/ as in the English word take according to this theory, may be as follows :
+ consonantal
- vocalic
- voice
+ plosive
+ Alveolar
+ Aspirate
+ Tense
+ consonantal
- vocalic
- voice
- aspirate
+ plosive
Note : Dots [.] mean that the list is inexhaustive.
In English, for example, the following phonetic features are distinct :
i)    State of Glottis : voiceless/voiced.
ii)   Position of Soft Palate: oral/nasal.
iii)  Place of Articulation: (a) bilabial/alveolar/velar; (b) labiodental/ dental/ alveolar / palato-alveolar.
iv)  Manner of Articulation: (a) plosive / fricative/ nasal; (b) nasal/lat­eral; (c) affricate/fricative.
v)   Part of Tongue Raised: front/back.
vi)  Height of Tongue: Close/between half-close and half-open/between half-open and open/open.
vii) lip-position: unrounded/rounded.
viii) stressed/unstressed.
ix)  reduced vowel/unreduced vowel.
x)   tonic/non-tonic.
xi)  Tone: falling/rising; low fall/high fall/low rise/high rise/fall rise: or primary/secondary/tertiary/fall-rise.
In more recent work on generative phonology, particularly by Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle, these features have been extensively modified and placed into categories such as
i)    Major class features as sonorant [making a deep impression] vs. non-sonorant; vocalic vs. non-vocalic.
ii)   Cavity features relating to the shape of the oral cavity and the point of articulation with such features as coronal vs. non-coronal, anterior vs. non-anterior.
iii)  Manner of Articulation features such as continuant vs. non­contivant, tense vs. lax.
vi)  Source Features as voiced vs. voiceless; strident vs. mellow.
v)   Prosodic Features as stress, pitch, etc.
Received Pronunciation (R.P.)
Linguistic differences marking particular  geographical areas are a reality. These deviations correspond to the geographical distance, or other features of the area like river, mountain and a vast intervening desert zone. However, when these distinctions stand in the way of societal or communal cohesion, the urge to use language as a binding clement is very strong. Search for standard language or speech is often motivated by this need of the community. The larger the country and more heterogenous its demographic composition, the more divergent may be its linguistic/dialectal forms. India presents an ideal picture in this respect.
Although England is geographically far smaller and different from India, there are markedly distinct varieties of language in that country too. What strikes one is the distinct cultural character that Ireland, Wales and Scotland possess and have all along the history been asserting. Their Celtic heritage is quite different from the Anglo-Saxon character that came from the overseas and imposed itself on all. Even within strictly English speaking population can be noticed such dialectal varieties as the speech of Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, Midlands (east and west Midlands forming distinct varieties) and so on. Perhaps one of the ways of bringing about social unity and cohesion was through creating a standard form of pronunciation. A.J. Ellis gave it the name of Received Pronunciation. Of course, in historical sense this is seen as a means of furthering political domination of the English speaking rulers over the Celtic areas, ‘the minority languages of the British Isles have been undermined by English political and economic power… The opprobrium cast on the regional dialects of England has been visited on the speech of regions diverse in language and culture and situated far away from the metropolitan south-east’ (Dick Leith).
‘RP’ or Received Pronunciation carries a strong class sense about it. The birth and spread of RP is a manifestation of the notions of correct pronunciation’ against ‘a background of what to avoid’; and it becomes quite clear that it is ! Lower class pronunciation that must be avoided’ (Leith). In London itselt which is the seat of the ‘socially correct’ variety of speech, Cockney is used with all its colourful deviations of pronunciation and lexical differences, ‘the differences are purely social, rooted in class conscious society. In the public schools, the predominantly east midland basis of the upper class London pronunciation gradually lost its regional colour. It became a class accent, and was accordingly evaluated in ways which reflect the attitude of the most powerful social group’.
RP represents the ‘best’ accent, but is not attached to any dialect or city, ‘Every town, and almost every village contains speakers of R.P. whose families have lived there for generations…Those who speak RP are set apart from other educated people by the fact that when they talk one cannot tell where they come from’. (David Abercrombie). It is said to have originated in south-eastern England, but has now ‘a genuinely regionless accent within Britain, i.e., if speakers have an R.P. accent, you cannot tell which area of Britain they come from. This means that this accent is likely to be encountered and understood throughout Britain’. (Trudgill and Hannah).
The spread and acceptance of the RP in those areas where English was taken and prevailed for considerable length of time was facilitated by the B.B.C. broadcasting policy. With the coming of the radio, the official policy of the B.B.C. was to strictly follow RP and recommend it for its speakers, the main reason being that it was widely understood, and provoked little regional prejudice. BBC became the model for all English speakers, mainly those foreigners who were learning it. How far this universal acceptance of RP in the broadcasting media and educational institutions has helped dilute the class boundaries and bias and bind all English speakers into one cohesive whole may continue to be debated sharply, but as Prof. Gimson says, ‘it cannot be said that R.P. is any longer the exclusive property of a particular social stratum. This change is due partly to the influence of radio in consistently bringing the accent to the ears of the whole national but also, in considerable measure, to the modifications which are taking place in the structure of English society’.
An interesting aspect of the R.P. is that thought it was created as a standard form of English pronunciation, it is itself subject to changes like other languages and dialects. Two varieties of R.P. have been identified: a ‘conservative’ and an ‘advanced’. Conservative accent is found in the older speakers, and advanced pronunciation typical of the younger speakers.
In the commonwealth countries English still holds an important position, particularly in the official, administrative. Educational and a few other areas.
We can see the example of Indo-Pakistan where, in spite of Urdu being the official language and several regional languages enjoying greater prestige and wider currency, English plays a crucial role. British English serves as a model for all the users of English. Pakistani English is emerging as a distinct variety with its phonetic and characteristic grammatical features offering an interesting area of research to the students. Nevertheless, British English and, particularly, the Received Pronunciation is what everyone is trained to aim at.
Yet we must be clear about one thing; it would be wrong to say that in countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other places anyone really uses R.P. Received pronunciation is a standard for the British English, it is not used by the speakers in these countries where English is L2, a second language, and is likely to be affected by L1, the first language of the speaker. This L1 × L2 interaction has produced some highly interesting phenomena. There have emerged different ‘international varieties’ of English, an Indian English, Australia-New Zealand English, Suth African English and Canadian English; in each case the language is carried further away from the standard British English. This is manifested in the emergence of characteristic forms of pronunciation, vocabulary, word-formation and sentence construction. A curious aspect of these varieties is that a ‘standard’ has emerged because of the sense of what is ‘acceptable’ socially.
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