1.1 Phonetic & Phonological Analysis: Can you describe the basis of phonetics and phonology?

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Chapter I

1.1 Provide an description of  the basis of phonetics and phonology

Introduction: The Focus of Phonetics and Phonology

 The basis of phonetics and phonology

Both phonetics and phonology deal with human speech sounds whose production is

effected by a combination of three major features. The three features are referred to as the dimensions or specifications in the analysis of human speech sounds. These dimensions


  1. The air stream mechanisms

From the three initiators, there are four natural air stream mechanisms namely:

  • Pulmonic: utilizes the pulmonic eggressive mechanism.
  • Glottalic: utilizes ingressive and eggressive mechanisms.
  • Velaric: utilizes ingressive mechanism.


  1. The vocal tract

This is divided into three regions or cavities.

  1. a) The nasal cavity starts at the nose and goes back to the lowered velum.
  2. b) The oral cavity starts at the lips and goes back to the raised velum.
  3. c) The pharyngeo-laryngeal cavity starts at the pharynx (back wall of the end of the nasal cavity, cylindrical in nature) and moves down to the larynx.

Using these mechanisms, we can say that a sound is nasal, oral or pharyngeo-laryngeal.


  1. The vocal organs

These stretch from the lips to the larynx. In this we have the active and passive articulators. The active articulators are the tongue, lower lip and lower teeth (lower organs). The passive articulators are the lips, upper teeth, alveolar ridge, palate and larynx (upper organs).

The examples below illustrate how these dimensions are used to classify speech sounds.

[p]: pulmonic eggressive (air steam) oral (tract) voiceless bilabial (organ) stop.

[n]: pulmonic eggressive (air stream), nasal (tract) voiced alveolar plosive (organ).


The central pool of human speech sounds

The three specifications presented in 1.1, here above, are also responsible for other human – but not speech – sounds such as laughter, clicking and booing. They are also responsible for other activity too, for example, breathing, eating, coughing, yawning and sneezing.

Human speech sounds are articulated and described according to the three specifications.

These speech sounds are collectively described as the ‘central pool of human speech sounds’. Each language draws a limited set of sounds from this pool for its phonetic inventory. 


  1. Identify the phonetic inventory of your first language from the Central Pool of human speech sounds. Identify both consonants and vowels.
  1. For the consonants draw a table and insert each consonant in its appropriate slot. For the vowels draw a quadrangle and insert each vowel at the appropriate point.



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