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Articulatory and physiological aspect of speech sounds

To analyse a speech sound physiologically and articulatorily some

clataonthearticulatory mechanism and its work should be introduced.

Speech is impossible without the following four mechanisms:

(1) the power mechanism,

(2) the vibrator mechanism,

(3) the resonator mechanism,

(4) the obstructor mechanism.

The power mechanism (Fig. 2) consists of the diaphragm (1), the lungs (2), the bronchi (3), the windpipe (or trachea) (4), the glottis (5), the larynx (6), the mouth cavity (7), and the nasal cavity (8).

The vibrator mechanism (the voice producing mechanism) consists of the vocal cords, they are jn, the larynx,, or, voice box. The vocal ■ cords are two horizontal folds" off elastic tissue.'They may be opened or closed (completely or incompletely},, The pitch of the voice is controlled mostly by the ten& on of the vocal cords. Voice produced by the vocal cords ^vibration is modified by the shape and volume of the air passage.'

H. A. Gleasori mentions three sounds in the English language that are produced by the vocal cords /h, f[,? /. /h/ is the glottal voiceless fricative and /fj/ is its voiced allophone. He states that " during the pronunciation of /h, fy? / the mouth may be in position for almost any sound." 3

When both parts of the glottis are firmly closed, the sound pro­duced at separating the glottal stop position, is called the glottal stop /? /. It sounds like a soft cough.

Thorough acoustic investigations show that besides the vocal cords there are two more sources that participate in the production

* Fry D. B, Acoustic phonetics: A Course of Basic Readings, — Cambridge,
1976__ P. 16.

a Gleason H. A, An Introduction to Descriptive Linguistics.— N. Y,, 1961, —P. 241.

of speech sounds: (a) the turbulent noise, which results from some constriction in the flow of air and (b) the impulse wave, which is

formed when the complete ob­struction to the flow of air in the mouth cavity is suddenly broken. These sources of speech sounds may work separately or simulta­neously. For example: (1) the vocal cords produce vibrations in the articulation of vowel sounds, (2) the turbulent noise helps to produce voiceless constrictive consonants, such as /f, s, J7, (3) the impulse source helps to pro­duce voiceless plosiye consonants „ such as /p, t, k/.

The two sources—vocal and turbulent participate in the pro­duction of voiced constrictive consonants, such as /v, z, 5/, the vocal and impulse sources partici­pate in the production of voiced plosive consonants, such as /b, d, g/.

The resonator mechanism (Fig. 3) consists o{ the pharynx (2), the larynx (4), the mouth cavity (1), and the nasal cavity (3).

The obstructor mechanism (Fig. 4) consists of the tongue (1: a —i- blade with the tip, b —- Pnil.R_~Z back or dorsum); the lips '(2), the teeth (3), the soft pal­ate with the uvula (4), the hard palate (5), the alveolar ridge (6).

Fш- s Figi

thP^iK? \t b°rne In*mind that the four mechanisms (the power, the vibrator, the resonator and the obstructor mechanisms) work si-

tnultaneously and that each speech sound is the result of the simul­taneous work of all of them.

The air, which is necessary for the production of the speech sounds, is pushed out of the lungs. The lungs take in air rapidly and let it out slowly. Most speech sounds are made by using the air which is pushed out of the lungs.

From the lungs the air gets into the bronchial tubes and then into the trochea, at the top of which there is the larynx with the vo­cal cords. The larynx of a man is larger than that of a woman and < can be easily seen as a projecting lump. The space between the vocal folds is called the glottis. The vocal folds vibrate about 130 times for a man's voice and about 230 times for a woman's voice each sec­ond. Variations in the speed (frequency) of the vibrations of the vo­cal cords produce changes of pitch: the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound produced.

Longer and larger vocal cords produce slower vibrations, i.e. low­er frequency and lower pitch. Consequently voices of men are much deeper in pitch than those of women.

The area above the glottis is called the supra-glottal vocal tract. It consists of the pharynx, the mouth and the nasal cavities. The mouth and the nasal cavities are separated by the hard palate and the soft palate with the uvula.

The soft palate, or velum, can move to the pharynx wall and
block off the nasal cavity—velic closure, it is part of the articulation
of all oral consonants. ^,

When the soft palate is pressed against the back part of the tongue 3t is a velar closure, e.g. Ik, gl have both—a velic and a velar closure; /rj/ is a nasal sound, it is pronounced with the velar closure, the velic closure does not take place in its production.

The uvula is at the back of the soft palate, neither English, nor Russian have uvular articulation.

The bujk of the tongue can be approximately divided into front
part with the blade and the tip, middle part, and back part with
the root (see above). Some phoneticians call the whole upper surface
•of the tongue " dorsum". t

In the production of English and Russian forelingual consonants -the tip of the tongue may occupy a number of positions. It is raised against the upper teeth ridge in the articulation of the English It, d, s, z, J1, 3, б, S, f, dg, n, 1/ and the Russian /л, л', ш, ш', ж/ — apical position. It is passive and lowered in the articulation of the Russian /т, т\ д, д\ н, н\ с, с\ з, з\ ч', ц/ — dorsal position, the blade of the tongue takes part in their articulation. The tip of the tongue is against the back slope of the teeth ridge (a depression is ■ formed in the blade of the tongue) in the articulation of the English, /r/—cacuminal position. The tip of the tongue vibrates, tapping against the alveolar ridge in the articulation of the Russian If I, /p7.

When the soft palate is raised and forms a closure against the pharynx wall, the entrance to the nasal cavity is shut off.

Most speech sounds are pronounced with the soft palate raised,

they are called oral. " When the soft palate is lowered the air passes out through the nasal cavity, it happens when normal breathing takes place and when nasal sounds are produced, e.g. English /m, n, r/, Russian /m, m\ h, h7.

The oral cavity begins with the lips: upper and lower hp. They can be rounded, as for /w/, protruded, as for the Russian /y/, spread, as for /i: /. The lower lip may move close to the upper teeth, as for /f, v/. The two lips can close to block the air stream, as for bilabial /p, b, ml.

The teeth act as obstacles to the air stream. The upper teeth are the most important for the articulation of dental, or dorsal, — the blade of the tongue is against the upper teeth, alveolar It, d, I, s, z, n/, interdental /9, Ы, labiodental hi. The alveolar ridge can be felt with the tip of the tongue as a corrugated ridge just behind the upper front teeth.

The hard palate can be felt with the tip of the tongue, it is behind the alveolar ridge. In the articulation of the sound /j/ the tongue makes a movement towards the hard palate.

The centre of the tongue can be grooved along mid-line, the sides, raised, e.g. /s, z/.

The front of the tongue can be raised to the hard palate, e. g. English'/j/.

The back of the tongue can be raised to the velum, e.g. the Rus­sian /x/, it is pressed against the velum, e.g. the Russian /к, г/ and! the English /k, g/.

The ability to detect the movements made by the tongue dimin­ishes towards the back of the tongue.

Articuiatory differences between vowels, consonants and sono-rants depend on the three articuiatory criteria. They are:

(1) the presence or absence of an articuiatory obstruction to the
air stream in the larynx or in the supra-glottal cavities;

(2) the concentrated or diffused character of muscular tension;

(3) the force of exhalation.

On the basis of these criteria consonants may be defined as sounds, in the production of which (a) there is an articuiatory obstruction to the air stream (complete, incomplete, intermittent); (b) muscular tension is concentrated in the place of obstruction; (c) the exhaling: force is rather strong.

Vowels may be defined as sounds in the production of which (a) there is no articuiatory obstruction to the air stream; (b) muscular tension is diffused more or less evenly throughout the supra-glottal part of the speech apparatus; (c) the exhaling force is rather weak.

Sonorants are sounds intermediate between noise consonants and vowels because they have features common to both. There is an ob­struction, but not narrow enough to produce noise. Muscular tension-is concentrated in the place of obstruction! but the exhaling force is. rather weak, English sonorants are: /m, n, g, 1, w, r, j/.


1. From what points of view can speech sounds be analysed? 2. What physical properties of speech sounds- do you know? 3. How does-the power, vibrator, resonator, obstructor mechanism work? 4. What are articulatory differences between vowels, consonants and sono-rants?


1. Draw the diagrams of the sound producing mechanisms: a) the power mecha­
nism; b) the vibrator mechanism; c) the resonator mechanism; d) the ob­
structor mechanism.

2. Speak on the work of the four sotmd producing mechanisms, illustrate your
speech by the diagrams you have drawn.

Control Tasks

1. Show on the diagrams:

a) the difference in the position of the soft palate in the production of ora! and
nasal consonants;

b) the difference In the position of the tip and the blade of the tongue in the
production of dorsal and apical consonants;

c) the difference in the position of the lips in the articulation of /w, v/, the
Russian /y/;

d) the difference in the position of the back part of the tongue in the articu­
lation of English ja I and Russian /x/.


Soviet phoneticians classify consonants according to the following principles:

I. Work of the vocal cords and the force of exhalation.

II. Active organs of speech and the place of obstruction,

III. Manner of noise production and the type of obstruction.
Within this principle of consonant classification there are the

following subdivisions according to:

(1) voice or noise prevalence,

(2) number of noise producing foci,

(3) shape of the narrowing.

IV. Position of the soft palate.

I. According to the work of the vocal cords and the force of exha­lation consonants are subdivided into voiced and voiceless.

Voiced consonants are: /b, d, g, z, v, Ъ, g, m, n, g, 1, r, j>

w, ds/.

Voiceless consonants are: /p, t, k, s, f, 9, h, J\ tj/.

The force of exhalation and the degree of muscular tension are greater in the production of voiceless consonants therefore they are called by the Latin word " fortis", which means " strong, energetic". Voiced consonants are called " lenis", " soft, weak", because the force

of exhalation and the degree of muscular tension in their articula­tion are weaker, e.g.

Fortts Lenis

/p/ pipe /b/ Bible

/t/ tight /d/ died

/k/ cake /g/ gag

/tJ7 church /аз/ judge

/f/ five /v/ vibrant

/6/ three /Ö / thee

/s/ soup /z/ zoo

III pressure /3/ pleasure

The English consonants /h, m, n, rj, 1, w, j, r/ do not enter into fortis-lenis oppositions. The energy contrast in English operates-throughout the system of consonants. In Russian it does not play as-significant a role.

II. According to the position of the active organ of speech against the point of articulation (the place of articulation) consonants are classified into (Table 1, p. 29—30): (1) labial, (2) lingual, (3) glottal-Labial consonants are subdivided into: a) bilabial and b) labio­dental. Bilabial consonants are produced with both lips. They are-the English /p, b, m, w/ and the Russian /n, п', б, б', м, mV. Labio­dental consonants are articulated with the lower lip against the edge of the upper teeth. They are the English II, v/and theRussian/ф, ф', в, в7.

Lingual consonants are subdivided into: a) forelingual, b) media-lingual and c) backlingual.

Forelingual consonants are articulated with the tip or the blade of the tongue. According to the position of the tip of the tongue they may be: a) dorsal, b) apical and c) cacuminal. According to the place of obstruction forelingual consonants may be: (1) interdental, (2) dental, (3) alveolar, (4) post-alveolar, (5) palato-alveolar. Interden­tal consonants are articulated with the tip of the tongue projected between the teeth, e.g. /Э, 3/. Dental.consonants are articulated with the blade of the tongue against the upper teeth, e.g. the Russian h, т\ д, д\ с, с', з, з', ц, л, л'/. Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth ridge, e.g. It, d, s, z, n, I/. Post-alveolar consonants are articulated with the tip or the blade of the tongue against the back part of the teeth ridge, e.g. /r/. Palato-alveolar consonants are articulated with the tip or the blade of the tongue against the teeth ridge, the front part of the tongue raised towards the hard palate—two places of articulation, or foci, ■ e.g. the English /tf, dg, J\ 5/ and the Russian /ш, ш\ ж, ч'Д

Mediolingtsal consonants are produced with the front part of the-tongue. They are always palatal. Palatal consonants are articulated with the front part of the tongue raised high to the hard palate, e.g. /j/.

Backlingual consonants are also called velar, they are produce** with the back part of the tongue raised towards the soft palate " ve­lum", e.g. the English /k, g, rj/, the Russian /к, к', г, г', х, х7.

The glottal consonant /h/ is articulated in the glottis.

This principle of consonant classification is rather universal; the only difference is that V. A. Vassilyev, G. P. Torsuyev, O. I. Diku-shina, A. C. Gimson give more detailed and precise enumerations of active organs of speech than H, A. Gleason, B. Bloch, Q. Trä ger and others.

There is, however, controversy about terming the active organs of speech. Thus, Soviet phoneticians divide the tongue into the fol­lowing parts (Fig. 5): front with the tip (1), middle (2), and back (3). Following L. V. Shcherba's terminology the front part of the tongue is subdivided into apical (a), dorsal (b), cacuminal (c) and

а о d

Fig. 5 Fig. 6

retroflexed (d) according to the position of the tip and the blade of the tongue in relation to the teethridge (Figs. 5, 6),

A. C. Gimson's terms differ from those used by Soviet phoneti­cians: apical is equivalent to forelingual; frontal is equivalent to mediolingual; dorsum is the whole upper area of the tongue.

H. A. Gleason's terms in respect to the parts of the bulk of the tongue are: apex—the part of the tongue that lies at rest opposite the alveolae; front—the part of the tongue that lies at rest opposite Ihe fore part of the palate; back, or dorsum—the part of the tongue that lies at rest opposite the velum or the back part of the palate.

III. A. L. Trakhterov, G. P. Torsuyev, V. A. Vassilyev and other
Soviet phoneticians consider the principle of consonant classification
according to the manner of noise production and the type of obstruc­
tion to be one of the most important and classify consonants accord­
ing to this principle very accurately, logically and thoroughly.
First of all they suggest a classification of consonants according to
ihe manner of noise production from the viewpoint of the closure,
•which is formed m their articulation (Table 1).,

It may be: (1) complete closure, then occlusive (stop, or plosive) and nasal consonants are produced: /p, b, t, d, k, g, m, n, r/; /n, 6, t, д, к, r, n', 6', t'( д', к', r\ m\ h\ m, h/.

(2) incomplete closure, then constrictive consonants are produced, /f, v, 6, Ö, h, s, г, S, 3, w, j, 1, г/; /ф, в, с, з, х, ф1, в\ с\ з, ж, ш,

. (3) the combination of the two closures, then occlusive-constric-iive, or affricates, are produced: /tf, dg/; /ц, ч/.

(4) intermittent closure, then rolled, or trilled consonants, are pro­duced: Russian /p, p7.

A. C. Gimson, H. A. Gleason, D. Jones, and other foreign phone­
ticians include in the manner of noise production classification
groups of lateral, nasals, semivowels—subgroups of consonants r
which do not belong to a single class.

(1) According to the principle of voice or noise prevalence, Soviet
phoneticians suggest a subdivision of the group of occlusives and the
group of constrictives into noise sounds and sonor ants (Table 1).

Noise occlusive sonorants are also called nasals.

The group of occlusive-constrictive consonants consists of noise sounds /tf, dg, ч, ц/. The group of rolled or trilled is represented by two Russian sonorants /p, pV,

There is no such subdivision in the classifications suggested by D. Jones, H. A. Gleason and A. C. Gimson. These authors do not single out the groups of sonorants, as such, but D. Jones, for example,, gives separate groups of nasals /m, n, rj/, the lateral /1/, friction! ess-continuants, or glides (semi-vowels) /w, r, j/.

H, A. Gleason gives separate groups of nasals /m, n, г/, the lat­eral III, semi-vowels Ы, Г/ у/.

B. Bloch, G. Trager give separate groups of nasals Im, n, rj/, the-
lateral IV, trills hi}

B, Bloch, G. Trä ger and A. C. Gimsö n include in their classifi­cations of consonants a number of allophones.

(2) Soviet phoneticians subdivide the rolled, occlusive, constric-
tiye, occlusive-constrictive consonants into unicentral (pronounced
with one focus) and bicentral (pronounced with two foci), according:
to the number of noise producing centres, or foci (Table 1). This sub­
division is not included into the classifications of foreign phoneti­

(3) According to the shape of the narrowing constrictive conso­
nants and affricates are subdivided into sounds with flat narrowing"
and round narrowing.

The consonants If, v, 6, Ö, J1, 5, tf, do/ are pronounced with the flat narrowing; the consonants Is, z, w, ц/ are pronounced with the round narrowing. H.A. Gleason considers /J, 3/ to be grooved frica­tives.

There are different opinions on the nature of English affricates.. The most extreme are the views expressed by B. Bloch and G. Trä ger who deny the existence of affricates as monophonemic entities and! state that they are biphonemic sequences. The other extreme point of view is that expressed by D. Jones and I. Ward who state that there-are six affricates in the system of English consonants (D. Jones),. or even eight (I. Ward): /tf, dg, is, dz, tr, dr, t9, dS/.

Soviet phoneticians consider affricates as units which are articula-

1 We include here only the symbols of the sounds which are Familiar to Russian students.

Table 1




























      Table of English and Russian Consonant Phonemes              
  According to the place of obstruction о the manner of tbe productEon ^ч and tbe type of obstruction n^ Labia! , Lingual Glottal (Pharyngal)  
  According to the position of thetip of the tongue t ü II Backlln-gual  
  Bilabial cd ■ о о Dorsal Apical Cacuminal n 'S Velar  
According f o! noise Dental Dental Alveolar " (0 6 u " «Я Alveolar Post­at veolar  
Occlusive conso­nants Noise conso­nants (plo­sives) Uni central   P. Ь n, 6   t, д   t, d         к, д к, г    
Bicentral front secon­dary focus П, 6   T, Д             к', г    
Sonorants (nasal) Unf centrat   m и   н   n         n    
Bicentral Iront secon­dary focus  
      C, 3 s, z -           t  
Constrlc-tive con­sonants Noise conso­nants (frica­tives) Unicentral round narrowing       c\ зр   (            
Bicentral front secon­dary focus   f, v Ф, в.   9. Ö           X    
Unicentral flat nar­rowing   ф', в'     ; ш:.ж;       I    
Bicentral front secon­dary facus           ш, ж            
back secon­dary focus     1 1        





















  According to the place of obstruction to the manner of the production ^^^^^^ e and ttie type of obstruction ^" -•> v-^ Labial Lingual Glottal (Pharyngat)
  According to the position of the tip of the tongue Medio-llngual n я ä
  Bilabial о ca Dorsal Apical Cacuminal Palatal Velar
According of nois Dental Dental Alveolar Palato-al-veolar Alveolar Post-alveolar
Coibtric-tive con­sonants Sono-rants Medi-a! Unicentral         л'              
Lat­eral Bicentral from secon­dary focus   w                    
Medi­al back secon­dary focus round narrowing       a J            
Lat­eral       Ц                
Ocelusive-constric-tive (noise) conso­nants {affricates)   Uni central round narrowing     ц                
Bicentral front secon­dary focus flat narrowing           У, из ч          
Rolled conso­nants Sonorants Uni central               P        
Biccnfral front secon­dary focus               PP        

torily and acoustically indivisible (this can beproved by instrumental techniques), and morphologically unique. For instance, no morpheme-, boundary can pass within /tj1, d.3/ which is not the case that can be> found in /t9/, for example: eight—eighth /eit—eit-6/, and /dz/, for example: bed—beds /bed—bed-z/.

Since only the sounds /tj\ < %/ in the system of English consonants, and /ц, ч/ in the system of Russian consonants are articulatorily and acoustically indivisible and morphologically unique (the combina­tions /tf, dg. fr> dr, to, d5/ do not comply with these requirements),, they are the only occlusive-constrictive or affricated sounds.

IV. According to the position of the soft palate all consonants are-subdivided into oral and nasal. When the soft palate is raised and the-air from the lungs gets into the pharynx and then into the mouth cavity, oral consonants are produced, e.g. /p, t, k, f, v/, etc. When the-soft palate is lowered and the air on its way out passes through the-nasal cavity, nasal consonants are produced: /m, n, rj/.

If we compare classifications of consonants suggested by Soviet and some foreign authors, we can state that Soviet phoneticians pro­pose more logical, accurate and detailed classifications which serve-the teaching purposes much better than other classifications.

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