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Position of the Soft Palate

This principle of consonant classification provides the basis for the following distinctive oppositions. Oral vs. nasal

pit — pin seek — seen thieve — theme sick — sing 60

In these pairs the oral consonants It, k, v/ are opposed to the na­sal /m, n, ту.

The method of minimal pairs helps to identify 24 consonant pho­nemes in the English language on the basis of such an analysis which demands a recourse to the meaning, or to the distinctive function of the phoneme. V. A. Vassilyey г writes that those linguists who reject meaning as external to linguistics think that it is possible to " group the sounds of the language into phonemes even without knowing the meaning of words" as D. Jones put it. V. A. Vassilyev states thai " this belief I...] is based on two laws of phonemic and allophonic distri­bution (1) that allophones of different phonemes always occur in the same phonetic context I...] and (2) that consequently, the allophones of the same phoneme never occur in the same phonetic context and always occur in different positions [...]." From these laws " two con­clusions are deduced: (1) if more or less different speech sounds occur in the same phonetic context, they should be allophones of different phonemes; and (2) if more or less similar speech sounds occur in dif­ferent positions and never occur in the same phonetic context, they are variants of one and the same phoneme [...]. This method is known in modern phonology as the purely distributional methodof identifying the phonemes of a language as items of its phonemic system."

Though the practical application of the purely distributional meth­od is theoretically feasible, there are many difficulties in its use.

The principle which determines the choice of the most suitable method for teaching purposes is called the principle of pedagogical expedience in phonemic analysis.


1. What is the definition of the phoneme from the viewpoint of distinctive oppositions? 2. What is the difference between minimal and sub-minimal pairs? 3. What features of the phoneme are distinc­tively relevant and distinctively irrelevant? 4. What is the nature of voiced — voiceless opposition in English and in Russian? 5. What distinctive oppositions illustrate the existence of labial, lingual, and pharyngal consonant phonemes? 6. What distinctive oppositions illustrate classificatory subdivisions within the group of labial and lingual consonants? 7. What distinctive oppositions illustrate the existence of occlusive (or stops), constructive, occlusiye-constrictive (or affricated) consonants? 8. What distinctive oppositions illustrate classificatory subdivisions within the groups of occlusive and con-strictive consonants? 9. What distinctive oppositions prove the exist­ence of oral and nasal consonant phonemes? 10. What is the differ­ence between the semantic and purely distributional methods of phonological analysis?

Vassilyev V. A. Op. cit, —P. 160.


*1. State what classificatory principles can be illustrated by the groups of pairs given below (consonants opposed initially).

pin — bin, pack — back, pie — bye, tie — die

pen — ten, been — dean

pole — coal, bait — gait

fee — we, fell — well

fee — he

sob — rob, seal — real, sole — role, sip ■ — rip, sight — right

pity—city, pay — say, pail — sail, pole — sole, peel — seal

pine — mine, debt — net, kick — Nick

fell — well, those — rose, soul — role, sip — rip, sight — right

fell — well, fee — we

fail — sail, fee — see, foot — soot, fat — sat, fell — sell

2/ Read the pairs of words. Pay attention to the presence of aspiration in /p, " t, k/ vs. its absence in /b, d, g/ rather than to voiceless fortis vs. voiced lenis distinction.

corn —gone cave —gave

It— d/ /k—g/ ten —den come —gum town — down coast —ghost ton —done came —game ties —dies could—good takes—days cot —got curls —girls


pet —bet

pig —big

puts —boots

pass —bus


port—bought tear —dear

tart —dart
torse —doors

*3. What minimal distinctive feature (or features) makes these oppositions; phonologically relevant?

(a) cap —cab sent —send

pack —back ton —don caper —labour latter—ladder

leak —league coal —goal decree—degree


(b) pee —fee tie —sigh do —zoo

supper—suffer attend—ascend raider—razor

leap —leak park —part rude —ruse

(c) till —chill day —jay share —chair

martyr—marcher murder—merger much —marsh

eat —each lard —large furnisher—furniture

(d) thigh—shy Ruth —ruche root —rouge
save —shave presser—pressure mass—mash
ruse —rouge

(e) bad —mad dock—knock rigging—ringing
arbour—armour eddy—any log -long
rub —rum bad —ban

*4. Read these pairs of words. State which of them represent minimal pairs
and which sub-minimal pairs.

thick —sick zest —lest daily —daisy

bathed —base they —lay Weiler—weather
mouth —mouse marry—measure eel —ease

thigh —shy genre —jar bathe —bail
leasure —ledger

Control Tasks

*1. Sort out the oppositions under the following headings: (a) labial vs. fore-lingual, (b) labial vs. mediolingual, (c) labial vs. backlinguai.

pat —cat wield—yield man —nap

supper—succour wail —Yale coming—cunning
leap —leak seem —seen

*2. State which of the pairs illustrate (a) forelingual vs. mediolingual and (b) forelingual vs. backlingual oppositions.

tame —carae sinner—singer sung—young

less —yes bitter—bicker bat —back

rudder—rugger clue —cue day —gay

drew —due bad —bag rung—young

*3. Sort out the oppositions under the following headings: (a) occlusive vs. constrictfve, (b) constrictive vs. occlusive-constrictive, (c) noise vs. so-norants, (d) unicentral vs. bicentral, < e) flat narrowing vs. round narrowing.

pine —fine work —jerk vain —lane

fare —chair bee —thee came—lame

boat—moat deed—need fame—same

seek —seen thine—wine sick —sing
kick —king

4. State allophonic differences of the /t, k/ phonemes in the initial position due to the influence of the next vowel.

\ W tea, tip, ten, tan, tar, top, tore, tub, took, two, term, tobacco, tale, tie, town, tow, tear, tore

/k/ key, kin, kept, cap, car, cot, core, cut, cork, cool, curb, contain, cake, kite, cow, coy, coal, care

*5. State allophonic differences of:

Л, r, j/ after /p/ in: plan, price, pure;

/r, j, w/ after /t/ in: try, tube, twelve;

/I, r, j, w/ after /k/ in: clean, cream, cue, quite


Classificatory principles suggested by Soviet phoneticians can be illustrated by distinctive oppositions in the system of the follow­ing English vowel phonemes: /i:, i, e, se, a-, d, o:, u, u:, л, а:, зЛ

1. Position of the Lips

Rounded vs. unrounded vowels:

don — darn pot — part

In these pairs the unrounded vowel phoneme hi is opposed to the rounded hi phoneme.

2. Position of the Tongue

(1) Horizontal movement of the tongue (a) front vs. central

cab—curb bed—bird

%honeme^r (b) back vs. central

pull—perl cart—curt call—curl

(2) Vertical movement of 'the tongue

(a) close (Ugh) vs. mid-open (mid)

bid—bird put—port week—work

Jomvo^i%t dose vowels llt u' lu/ are opposed t0 the

(b) open (low) vs. mid-open (mid)

lack—lurk bard—bird call—curl

Xenvowei/3: /

to the h0lte? i Wilhin efch grouP which we stogle out according
subgroups 3nd Vertical move^nts of the tongue there are

/i" РеГ0^/1Т!, 8, паГ%3иЬ(! 1у1аес1ШЬ1и][1У! го^ and front-retracted:

Its' indSendent „hy 7nt-' {1; .аз а fr°nt-retracted vowel phoneme.

of Ä fpaUheng! °S1CalstatuSCan be proved ЬУ the 6XistenCe

Pete-pit deep-dip beet-bit

and^ck-SrlLf / als? Evicted into fully back /u:, o:, W back-advä ncS 2 ^' a/' The ^dependent phonological status о pairs, e™ V°Wels can be P^ved by the existence of minimal

bard—bud cart—cut pool—pull

els С1? ГтЫ^}1т1-й~< °т < or mid> as well as open (or low) yow-are subdivided into vowels of narrow and broad variation. 64

Thus, within the group of high vowels /1:, u: / belong to the vowel phonemes of narrow variation, and /i, u/ belong to the vowel pho­nemes of broad variation. Their independent phonological status can be proved by the existence of such pairs as:

Pete—pit pool—pull

In these pairs /i:, u: / are opposed to /i, u/, which belong to the subgroup of high vowels of broad variation.

Within the group of mid-open (or mid) vowels /e, з: / belong to the phonemes of narrow variation and /a/ belongs to the subgroup of mid vowels of broad variation. The independent phonological status of /e, з:, э/ can be proved by the existence of such pairs as:

pence—sixpence foreword—forward

/'pens/—/'sikspans/ /ifo: w3: d/—/if

Open (or low) vowels are also subdivided into the phonemes of broad variation (/se, a/) and of narrow variation \ht). Their independent phonological status can be proved by the existence of minimal pairs:

bad—bard knot—gnat

3. Degree of Tenseness and the Character of the End of the Vowel

This principle of vowel classification together with the principle of length provide the basis for the following distinctive oppositions:

Tense vs. lax Checked vs. free

eel — ill steel—-still done—darn knit—need
peel —pill seat —sit fun —farm cut -—card

deed—did feet —fit come—calm fit —feed

4. Length

There are long vowel phonemes in English /i:, а, о:, и:, э: / and short /i, e, ae, 1 л, и, и, э/. But the length of the vowels is.not the only distinctive feature of minimal pairs like: Pete—pit, beetbit, Bartbad, etc. In other words, the difference between /i: —i,

■ а—л/, etc. is not only quantitative-------- 1

but also qualitative, which is condi-______ [

tioned by different positions of the bulk

■ of the tongue. E.g. in the words bead—bid

not only the length of the vowels /i:, i/

js different but in the /i: / articulation

the bulk of the tongue occupies a more front and high position,

than in the articulation of A/.

Qualitative difference is the main relevant feature that serves to differentiate long and short vowel phonemes because quantitative

Some authors consider /a/ to be a long phoneme.



characteristics of long vowels depend on the position they occupy in a word: 1

(a) they are the longest in the terminal position: bee, bar, coo, her,
law, car,

(b) they are shorter before voiced consonants: bead, bard, cool, term,
lard, card',

(c) they are the shortest before voiceless consonants: beet, Bart,
hoot, Turk, loose, cart.

To observe the quantity, or length of vowels in different posi­tions, it is advisable to do contrast exercises, e.g.

bee — bead — beet bar — Bard — Bart car — card — cart

5. Stability of Articulation

The principle provides the basis for the following distinctive oppositions:

(1) Monophthongs vs. diphthongs

bit—bait bid—beard dead—dared cot—coat

In these pairs the monophthongs /i, e, o/ are opposed to the diphthongs /ei, ia, еэ, эй/.

kit—kite debt—doubt John—join

In these pairs the monophthongs /i, e, o/ are opposed to the diphthongs /ai, au, 01/.

(2) Diphthongs vs. stable vowels

bite—bee bait —beet boat—boot pail—pool lake—leek beard—bead raid—rude care—coo

In these pairs the diphthongs /ai, ei, ю, эй, вэ/ are opposed to the jr., u: /.

According to the movement of the tongue within the articula­tion of the diphthong from the nucleus to the glide, diphthongs are subdivided into closing and centring.


The method of minimal pairs helps to establish 20 vowel pho­nemes in the phonological system of English vowels:

12 monophthongs: /i, e, se, a, v, o:, u, л, з:, э, i:, u: /> 8 di phthongs: /ei, ai, oi, 1Э, вэ, иэ, аи, эй/.

* There are other factors, that condition the quantitative difference of vowel phonemes (see p. 39).


1. What distinctive oppositions illustrate classificatory groups of rounded and unrounded vowels? 2. What distinctive oppositions illustrate classificatory groups according to the (a) horizontal, (b) vertical movements of the tongue? 3. Can the existence of front-re­tracted and back-advanced vowels be proved by minimal pairs? 4. Is the length of the vowels the only distinctive feature of long (tense) and short (lax) vowel phonemes like /i:, i/, /u:, u/, etc.? 5. How is vowel length conditioned positionally? 6. What distinctive opposi­tions illustrate the classificatory principle of vowel stability in ar­ticulation? 7. How are diphthongs subdivided according to the tongue movement from the nucleus to the glide?


*1. Read these pairs of words. State what principles of vowel classification they illustrate.

(a) cod —cord (b) end —and (c) fir —for
not —nought ten —tan firm —form

cot —caught hem —ham turn—torn

body—border kettle—cattle bird —bord

(d) fool —full (e) am —aim (f) nor —no

pool —pull add —aid law —low

food —put man—main called —cold

tool —took lad —laid bald —bold

boot—book fat —fate caught—coat

2. Read these words and state what movements of the tongue make the vowel phonemes /e, з:, л, a:, u, i, эе, ж/ different,

bed—bird—bud—bard bid—bird—bud

lack—lurk—luck—lark lid—led—lad

hat—hurt—hut—heart big—beg—bag

cab—curb—cub kit—curt—caught

*3. Read these pairs of words. State:

(a) what closing diphthongs are opposed in the pairs:

hay—high laid—lied no—now known—noun bay—buy tape—type hoe—how phoned—found

(b) what centring diphthongs are opposed in the pairs:

here—hair ear —air rear—rare fear —fair beer—bear tear—tare

*4. Read these words. Observe the allophonic difference of the /i:, ei, ж, з: / phonemes conditioned by their positional length.

bee—been—beet lay—laid—late

dee—dean—deep may—maid—mate

O* 67

knee—need—neat say—save—safe
see—seed—seat sign — side—sight

lee—league—leak tie—tide—tight

core—cord—caught her—heard—hurl

saw—sword—sought sir—serve—serf

four—form—fork fur—furl—first

bore—board—bought were—girl—purse

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