12.1 Phonetic & Phonological Analysis: What do you know about the analysis of the classification and articulation of vowels?

Chapter 12

12.1 Give an analysis of the classification and articulation of vowels.

Analyses and classification of Vowels

 Articulation of vowels

Vowels are articulated with a stricture of open approximation they are normally voiced (voiced or creaky state). They are distinguished in terms of.

The lip position

This is the most obvious and most easily controlled feature of the vowels.

  • round – [u] fully rounded
  • Spread – [i] fully spread.

 Vertical tongue position

The vertical tongue position is also known as the tongue height. This position gives the distance between the surface of the tongue and the roof of the mouth. The height determines the size of the resonance chamber.

 Horizontal tongue position

This gives the relative advancement or retraction of the body of the tongue – front, central and back.

 Cardinal vowels

A set of universal reference vowel sounds based on:

a) Vowel limit

Vowel limit of the tongue height or vertical dimension and horizontal dimension e.g. /i/ is a dorso – palatal approximation. If the tongue is further tensed up and its pushed closer to the hard palate audible turbulence can be heard, thus we produce the dorso palatal approximant / j/ or fricative /j/

b) Vowel closeness

This limits the upward and backward direction/ boundary. Movement beyond the resonance chamber yields consonantal sounds.


Speech comprises sounds or sequences of sounds. The flow of articulatory movement is considered a series of segments. This is what distinguishes speech from mere noise. 

The description of language in terms of units is traditional and  Convenient. Which  gives the discrete and finite hints that language is dependent on. The segment can be: perceived or articulated.

Each sound segment can be identified as a ‘stable state of the articulatory mechanism’(Clark and Yallop 1990 pp 95) the stable state includes all the articualtory settings that best characterize the sound in question and it is referred to as a TARGET.



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