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Differences in the^articulation bases of English and Russian jvowels

Articulation bases of English and Russian vowels are different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

(6) central or mixed /э, s: /;

(7) checked and free vowels;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

3. Draw a diagram of cardinal vowels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(a) seem—since (b) read—rid

meal—тШ steal—still

mean—mince creek—crick

sleep—slip sleet—slit

least—list seek—sick

(c) team—Tim (d) seen—sin

feel—fill dealer—dinner

been—chill heat—hit

cheap—chip beat—bit

(e) deed-did (!) fees—fizz

Jean—Jim me—missed

feeling—filling. these—this

eat—it steep—stick

(g) leave—live (h) he—him

fever—fifty theme—thing

beacon—bill seals—sits

cheek—chin steep—stiff

beat—bit people—pit

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

(a) bed—bad (b) bead—had

then—than ten— tan

plenty—plan left—lad

else—Alice let—slack

letter—ladder select—relax

(c) French—ran (d)end—and

pence—pants then—than

burial—barrow anyway—family

t wenty—twang bed—b ack

many—matter helping—happy

(e) dead—Dad (f) ten—tan

any—Alice men—man

Shelly—shall said—sad

merry—married bed—bad

Henry—happy ' chest — chap

(g) Hetty—hat (h) any—anxious

central—sandy bet—back

cheviot—channel plenty—platform

many—map flesh—flash



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

(a) calm—come (b) aunt—under

rather—running hard—hundred

barn—button dark—dull

lark—luck basket—above

classes—busses Jark—flush

(c) marvel—money (d) darn—done

laugh—lovely Bart—but

past—puzzl ing cart—cut

market—mug March—much

(e) Arnold—others (f) hardly—honey

master—monkeys rather—rubbed

started—study last—luck

Tobte 3





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


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

last—must (g) France—front




past—but (i) star—stun





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

bid—bed—bad team—ten—tan

rid—read—rat hid—head—had

mill—men—man Hit—-left—lad

Sid—said—sad lit—let—lack

pit—pet—pat mean—many—matter

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

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

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


warm—worm—twang saw—sir—sad

more— mercy—man caution—curtain—cat


Control Tasks

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 When allophones of one phoneme do occur In the same context without distinctive force, they are in free variation.


/р/ р»г


/т/ /w/

Л/ /v/

Е/ /*/ т

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