21.2 Phonetic & Phonological Analysis: Can you discuss the various locations of articulation of language?

Chapter 21

21.2 Discuss the various locations of articulation of language


We should remember various articulatory stricture types, representing the ‘vertical’ and ‘time’ (prolongable/non-prolongable) dimensions of articulation, and the location of the oral air-path, representing the “transverse’ dimension of articulation (median/lateral).

Now we turn to the very important quasi-longitudinal dimension of articulation, namely, the location of articulatory strictures within the vocal tract. For the purpose of describing articulatory locations the vocal tract is divided into three areas: nasal, oral, and pharyngeo-laryngeal.

There is a clear natural division between the nasal area and the others constituted by the orifice at the back of the nose, which can be closed by raising the velum or soft palate.

For phonetic purposes, the oral area consists of mouth cavity, bounded by the whole of the under surface of the roof of the mouth, back to the uvula, and by the whole of the surface of the tongue back to the tip of the epiglottis. The pharyngeo-laryngeal area consists of the pharynx, the space behind the mouth and down to the larynx, and the larynx itself.


  1. The Nasal Area

The nasal area consists of the nasal cavity, which is for the most part a complex but immobile chamber coated with mucous membrane which may swell pathologically, as when we have a cold, but is not capable of voluntary movement. Some voluntary control, and hence some variety of articulation, is possible only at the two ends of the nasal cavity, the nostrils and the pharyngeo-nasal orifice-the ‘nasal port’, as it is sometimes called.

The nostrils can be narrowed, or widely opened (‘flared’), and can thus modulate airflow out of the nose, but this potentially is not known to be exploited for articulation in any language. It may be noted in passing, however, that when you devoice a nasal sound such as [m] or [n] you can hear a slight hiss-noise of turbulent airflow through the nostrils. Since these nasal sounds are quite free of turbulence when voiced, the airflow becoming turbulent when voiceless, they are typical approximants, and might well be called ‘nostril’ (or, better, using the Latinate term) ‘narial’ approximant’. All sounds articulated with the velum lowered (the ‘nasal port’ open) so that air flows through the nose are simply called nasal or nasalized.

In nasals, such as [m] [n] [ ŋ] as in mum, nun, and the final sound of lung, the velum or soft palate is lowered, but there is a complete closure in the mouth (at the lips for [m], between tongue-tip and teeth or teeth-ridge for [n], between tongue-back and soft palate (velum) for [ŋ]). Consequently all the air used in their production is shunted through the nose.

In nasalized sounds, the nasal port is open (exactly as for nasals), but at the same time the passageway through the mouth is also open, so that the air flows out through both mouth and nose. Typical nasalized sounds are the nasalized vowels of French, as in un bon vin blanc. These sometimes called, simply, ‘nasal’ vowels-but it is clear that they differ from the nasal consonants [m] [n] etc. as indicated above. Experiment 49 explores the differences between nasal consonants, nasalized vowels, and purely oral vowels.

Say a prolonged [m m m……] and note how air is flowing out of the nose. If you hold your hand just below the nostrils you can faintly feel the warm air gently flowing out. If you suddenly devoice {m} the nasal airflow becomes much more obvious: [m m m m m].

To get the feel of raising and lowering the velum – closing and opening the nasal port – say a prolonged [m] punctuated by inserted [b] stops. Keep the lips tightly closed throughout the entire experiment merely flipping the nasal port momentarily shut for each [b] then opening it again for the nasal [m]: [m m b m b m b m b m b m…….].

Do the same with [n] and [ŋ] (the nasal heard at the end of long): [n d n d n d n d…..] [ŋ g ŋ g ŋ g ŋ g ŋ g ŋ], etc. Finally, do the same sequence of experiments completely silently – that is, with no initiatory air-stream. In this silent experiment you can feel, even more clearly, the proprioceptive sensation of opening and closing the nasal port: [ ] (silent), etc.


  1. The Oral Area: Upper and Lower Articulators

We turn now the oral area. In purely oral sounds (that is, in the majority of all speech- sounds) the velum is raised, closing the entrance to the nose, and the air flows solely through the mouth. Articulations in the oral area are carried out by the juxtaposition of lower and upper articulators. The lower articulators are those attached to the lower jaw- the lower lip, lower teeth, and tongue. The upper articulators are the upper lip, the upper teeth, and the whole of the roof of the mouth. We will examine all of these in some detail, and get to know them by feel, tactilely and pro-prioceptively, but first the reader should examine what he can see of his mouth in the mirror.

We now consider the upper and lower articulators and the zones where articulation can take place within the mouth. It will be useful to have a quick look at Figs. , 24, and 25 before we carefully work through various articulations. The upper articulatory area is subdivided, first into the natural distinction between a labial and a tectal division, the latter embracing the entire roof of the mouth (from Latin tecta ‘roof’ from the upper teeth back to the uvula. The labial division includes an outer (exo-) and an inner (endo-) part of the lips. The tectal division breaks down naturally into two regions: a dentalveolar region, which includes the upper teeth and the teeth- ridge or alveolar ridge, and a domal region, which covers the whole remaining ‘domed’ part of the roof of the mouth.

Each of these two regions (dentalveolar and domal) breaks down naturally into two zones. The dentalveolar region includes the dental zone, consisting of the upper teeth, and the alveolar zone, consisting of the whole alveolar ridge. The domal region breaks down into hard palate (palatal zone). You can feel the division between these zones if you run your finger back over the roof of your mouth. You will observe that the front part is quite hard and unyielding, but when the finger reaches the end of the palatal and the beginning of the velar zone, the roof of the mouth feels quite soft. There are no visible divisions on the tongue surface, but it should not be difficult to identify the tip or apex, and the rim. The blade (Latin lamina) is that part of the upper surface of the tongue, extending about 1.0 to 1.5cm. back from the apex, that usually lies just under the alveolar ridge when the tongue is at rest, and its rim touching the backs of the lower teeth. The remainder of the upper surface of the tongue is the dorsum. The front part of the dorsum (anterodorsum) practically always articulates against the roof of the mouth in the palatal zone, while the posterodorsum articulates in the velar zone. It is thus seldom necessary to specify antero- or postero-dorsum in describing sounds. Returning to the front end of the tongue, if you turn the apex up and somewhat back a certain amount of the underside of the tongue becomes visible. This underside of the tongue, lying largely beneath the blade, is called the ‘underblade’ or sub-lamina part of the tongue.

In naming the lower articulators we use Latinate prefixes, labio-apico-, etc. attached to the naemes of the upper articulatory zones or sub-zones. Thus, juxtaposition of the lower lip and upper teeth is labiodental: juxtaposition of tongue surface and soft palate is dorsovelar, and so on.


  1. Labial Articulations: Bilabial and Labiodental

Labio-labial or bilabial. The bilabial stops p and b need no introduction, but now close the lips as for p, start up pulmonic pressure and allow the lips to separate very slightly so that a turbulent air-stream escapes through this narrow channel, generating a voiceless bilabial fricative [ ]. Produce a long [ ], then voice it [ β β β β] taking care to maintain turbulent flow. This is a voiced bilabial fricative [β]. Other bilabial sounds are the nasal [m], and the bilabial trill. We might also mention the semivowel [w] obviously involves the lips, but it is not a pure bilabial. In the first place, it requires some degree of rounding of the lips. Secondly, in addition to the bilabial articulation [w] also has a dorso-velar component: the back of the tongue is raised up towards the velum. It is thus a co-articulated sound and will be referred again below, under co-articulation.

In Chapter 2 we discovered experimentally that the articulation of the fricatives [f] and [v] requires the juxtaposition of the lower lip and upper teeth, and in Chapter 4 we discovered the corresponding labiodental approximant [ ]. Now we must carefully contrast bilabial [ ] [β ] and [ ] with labiodental [f] [v] and [ υ]. bilabial and labiodental: Alternate aloud and then, more importantly, silently, between bilabial [ ] and labiodental [f]: [ ], and now between bilabial [β] and labiodental [v], [βv βv βv βv……], and now between bilabial [ ] and labiodental [ υ ], [].

You must by now be very clear about the distinction between bilabial and labiodental articulation. Before leaving bilabial and labiodental articulations (for both of which the general cover term labial can often be used) we must take note of the distinction between outer (exo-) and inner (endo-) labial articulations.

Observe that it is possible to make the labial closure for [p] and [b] in two different ways. [i] Tense the lips somewhat, adopting a kind of severe, tight-lipped, posture so that the parts of the lips that come together are near their outer edges, and what you see in the mirror is a very thin line of lip. This type of bilabial articulation, bringing together the outer surfaces of the lips is exolabial (bi-exolabial, to be precise).

(ii) Let the lips relax and push them forward somewhat, while keeping them flat (not rounded) and let the soft inner surfaces of the lips come together. Now you can see relatively thick lips in the mirror. This type of bilabial articulation, juxtaposing the inner surfaces of the lips is endolabial (bi-endolabial, to be precise)

In those few languages that have a bilabial trill it is of a lax endolabial type. There is also a linguistically relevant contrast between bi-exolabial and bi-endolabial [p] and [b] in at least some varieties of Irish Gaelic.

The [f] and [v] of English (and of French, Russian, etc.) are usually endolabio-dental, and this is an important point to note in teaching these sounds to speakers of languages (such as Japanese) with no labiodentals. Learners must be explicitly told to place the inner part of the lower lip against the edges and outer surface of the upper teeth (otherwise they are liable to place the outer surface of the lower lip against the inner surface of the upper teeth, with bizarre results).

It is difficult to produce an airtight closure between the lip and the teeth, since the air tends to escape through the interstices between the teeth. Probably for this reason labiodental stops apparently do not occur in languages and the IPA provides no symbols for them, though it does provide a symbol, [ ], for labiodental nasal. This occurs as a variant, or allophone (see Chapter 10) of [m] in such English words as triumph and nymph. It is probably realized most frequently as a nasalized approximant rather than the usual type of nasal, which requires an airtight oral closure.

Passing further into the mouth we must take note briefly of articulations that involve the lower teeth, that is denti-labial and denti-dental (or bidental). Silently bring the lower teeth into contact with the upper lip and then start up voiceless pulmonic pressure initiation. The result is a kind of [f] – like fricative, but a dentilabial one, not a labiodental one. There is no phonetic symbol for this dentilabial fricative, which is not know to occur regularly in any language. Note, however, that in the phonetic literature (particularly in French) one sometimes finds the term ‘dentalabial’ meaning what is properly called labiodental, used by persons who do not adhere to the convention that we strictly follow, namely, that the prefix (e.g. labio-) always refers to the lower articulator, while the rest of the term (e.g. –dental) always refers to the upper articulator.

Bidental articulation hardly warrants a special experimental approach: You simply bring the upper and lower teeth together (‘clench the teeth’) and blow noisily through them. This is a bidental fricative – a sound that is practically unknown in languages though it does occur (as a variant of the dorso-velar fricative [x]) in one sub-dialect of the Shapsug dialect of Adyghe (Circassian) of the north-west Caucasus.


  1. Dentoalveolar Articulations

We come now to a part of the mouth where we must spend a good deal of time, since a considerable variety of articulations can be produced there. This is the dentalveolar region.

Both the tip, or apex, and the blade of the tongue can articulate in various ways against the upper teeth, and against the front and back subzones of the teeth ridge – the alveolar ridge. We thus have the possibility of both apico- and lamino- articulations against the dental zone, and against two parts (front and back) of the alveolar zone. These are what we most now explore.

Silently place the apex and rim of the tongue against the backs of the upper teeth. Slowly and introspectively draw the tongue backwards, feeling the alveolar ridge, just behind the upper teeth.

As the tongue slides very slowly backwards over the surface of the alveolar ridge you should get an impression of the shape of the ridge. Immediately behind the teeth it is relatively flat, then, as the tongue slowly slides further back, you can feel the ridge is no longer flat and more or less horizontal, but is beginning to curve upwards. If you keep on sliding the tongue-tip slowly backwards you will feel it passing the most ‘ridge-like’ – the most convex – part of the alveolar ridge, and then moving on to the more concave arching front part of the hard palate. You have now gone beyond the alveolar ridge and have entered the front-palatal, or prepalatal, subzone of the hard palate.

Some people have a more prominent alveolar ridge than others. Fig. 26 shows, schematically, two extremes of this kind. If you run your tongue over your alveolar ridge, as you look at Fig 26 you will be able to estimate the degree of prominence of your own alveolar ridge. The front edge of the alveolar ridge is at the place where the upper teeth recede into the gums, but there is no sharp division between the rear rend of the alveolar ridge and the beginning of the hard palate.

The alveolar ridge may be taken to end beyond its most convex part, at the point where the convexity of the ridge gives way to the concavity of the hard palate. Thus, as you can feel with your tongue, the alveolar ridge may be considered to have two parts – a rather flat front part, and a curved, convex, back part. These tow parts of the alveolar ridge are what we call the alveolar subzone (the front part), and the postalveolar subzone (the back part, which might more appropriately be called the ‘posterior alveolar’ subzone).

Silently place the tip (and rim) of the tongue against the backs of the upper teeth and make a stop in this position. This apico-dental [ ], the small tooth-like diacritic mark under the [ ] means that it is dental rather than alveolar. (Fig 27a)

Now, very slowly, carefully, and introspectively draw the tip of the tongue backwards. As soon as the tongue-tip is completely free of the teeth, but is still in contact with the relatively flat part of the alveolar ridge, hold that position, and then make a voiceless stop from there. This is apico-alveolar {t}. (Fig. 27b)

After producing two or three apico-alvoelar [t]s, and being quite clear about the tactile and proprioceptive differences between alveolar [t] and dental [ ], slide the tongue-tip very slowly back keeping contact with the ridge till you can feel it touching the extreme back of the ridge, at its most convex point, just before it begins to merge with the concave palate.

Make a voiceless stop from this point. This is an apico-postalveolar [v], the subscript line (minus sign) means that it is retracted from the alveolar position.

You should now have acquired a clear understanding of the dental, alveolar and postalveolar places of articulation. The three stops pronounced in Experiment 56 were all apical. But it is possible to articulate stops at these same locations using the blade of the tongue, that is, the part of the upper surface of the tongue lying immediately behind the tip, and extending back from the tip along, the centre-line about 1 to 1.5cm. Articulations made with the blade are called laminal, or in the prefixed form, lamino-.

Place the tip of the tongue lightly against the backs of the lower teeth, or better, the lower gums.

Keep it anchored there, out of the way, while you silently bring the blade of the tongue into contact with the backs of the upper teeth. This is a lamino-dental contact, and you can make a lamino-dental [ ] at this location

Now while keeping the tongue-tip anchored to the lower teeth, and thus out of the way, silently bring the blade into contact with the alveolar ridge. Perhaps the best way to do this is to start from the lamino-dental position (blade against backs of upper teeth) and slide the blade back very slightly till it is just clear of the upper teeth. This is lamino-alveolar, and you can make a lamino-alveolar stop [t] at this location. If you carefully compare apico-alveolar [t] with lamino-alveolar [t] you may notice that the release sound – the little burst of noise – heard as the tongue breaks away from the ridge tends to be less lean-cut, a little more ‘sloppy’ in the case of laminal [t]. In fact, it may sound a little like [ts] rather than simple [t].

Now, in order to shift back to make a lamino-postalveolar stop articulation you will probably have to remove the tongue-tip from the lower teeth. Nevertheless, you must contrive to make contact between the blade (not the apex) and the postalveolar subzone – the most convex part of the ridge. (Fig. 28c) Make a lamino-postalveolar stop from this place of articulation [ ]. You may find that the articulatory location of this lamino-postalveolar stop is about that of the starting point (the stop segment) of the English affricate [t ∫] as in church. (On affricates see Chap. 6.)

You will have observed that the IPA supplies no special symbols or diacritics for the laminoal [t]s. This is not a serious disadvantage, since distinction between apical and laminal [t] – sounds is rare in languages.

Now we must experiment with a series of fricatives in the dentalveolar region.

Silently raise the point of the tongue, and let its apex and rim just touch the cutting edges of the upper teeth. Holding this articulation start up pulmonic pressure initiation, and resultant regressive air-stream, and the result should be an apico-dental fricative [θ], exactly or very nearly the English th of thin. Note that typically the English [θ] is a rather wide channel fricative, the blade of the tongue is relaxed and rather flat, and the rim of the tongue either touches or is just behind the edges of the upper teeth – the tongue does not normally protrude between the teeth for this sound.

Now silently retract the tongue-tip a very little and turn it up a little so that the edges of the tongue-rim make contact with the alveolar ridge, leaving a very narrow central channel. This is the position for an apico-alveolar fricative: if you now produce an egressive air-stream you will hear a rather ‘whistling’ kind of [s]- sound. (Fig 29b) Retracting the tongue-tip still further, till it is at the maximally convex extreme back of the alveolar ridge you can feel an apico-post-alveolar fricative type of articulation. An egressive air-stream will now generate a [ ∫ ] – sound, like a kind of sh as in English shop, but by no means the commonest variety of this (which is laminal): the sch sound of the North German, and the Russian sh w are rather typically of this apico-postalveolar type.

The main things achieved in 58 will be a further familiarity with the three major dentalveolar zones of articulation: dental, alveolar, and postalveolar. Experiment 59 investigates laminal articulation at two of these locations.

Let the apex and rim of the tongue lie lightly against the backs of the lower teeth. Press the sides of the tongue-blade up against the alveolar ridge, leaving a very narrow channel in the centre. An egressive air-stream through this narrow channel generates a typical lamino-alveolar [s]- type fricative.

Now retract the tongue a little detaching the tip from the lower teeth, and form a narrow articulatory channel between the blade and the most convex back part of the ridge – a lamino-polstalveolar fricative, a kind of [ ∫ ].

Silently, and slowly, alternate [s]/ [ ∫ ] till you are sure you can feel the difference between them. We have now covered the major types of stop and fricative articulation in the dentalveolar region.

You can use the knowledge acquired from Experiments 58-9 to make a silent, introspective, analysis of some sounds of your own language: for example, are your [t] [d] [n] [I] apical, or laminal, dental, or alveolar? And if your language has a trilled or tapped [r] or [ ] where is it articulated? If you have [s] – and/or [∫] – sounds – in your language, are they apico- or lamino-, dental, alveolar, or postalveolar, etc.? If your native language is Polish, what are the articulatory differences between s, sz, s’? If your language is Russian, how does the primary articulation of [t] and [d] in [tot] ‘that’, [da] ‘yes’ compare with tht of palatalized [tj] in [tj o tj ə ] ‘aunt’ and [djadjə ] ‘uncle’? (On palatilization see Chapter 6.) If your language is Arabic compare the dentalveolar articulations of plain [t] and [s] as in [ti:n ]’fig’, [si:n ]’the letters’, and of ‘emphatic’ [ ] and [ ]as in [ ] ‘mud’ and [ ] ‘China’. You may find the dentalveolar articulations much the same, the difference between the plain and emphatic consonants depending chiefly on the back of the tongue (see Chap. 6 Sect. 2).

If your language is English, silently compare the [t] and [d] – sounds in (a) eight wide, (b) eighth width, (c) try dry. Can you observe differences between them? And if you use a tap in the middle of better (American), or in the middle of very (British) is it apico- or lamino-, dental, alveolar, or postalveolar? How do you articulate the r in red? In British types of English it is likely to be a variety of apico-postaveolar approximant (or, more rarely, fricative) [ ]. In American types of English you may find that the tongue-tip is rather far behind the postalveolar location and that the whole body of the tongue is bunched up, coming rather near the velar articulatory zone. There is a considerable amount of variation – both regional and personal – in the pronunciation of English rs, so your own r may not exactly correspond to any described here. By silently isolating your r and introspecting about it see if you can discover how it is articulated.

We can now review the principal types of dentalveolar articulation and the IPA symbols used to represent them:

  • stops: (apico- or lamino-) dental [ ] [ ], alveolar [t] [d], post-alveolar [ ] [ ]. fricatives: apico-dental (wide channel), [θ ] [ ð] alveolar (normally lamino-), [s] [z]Postalveolar (apico- or lamion-), [ ∫ ] [ ]
  • approximants: no special symbols, except for apico-postalveolar [ ], which is most commonly approximant, but may also be fricative. There is not much difference between the fricative apico-postalveolar [ ], as in Polish [ ] Russian [ ] ‘(he) lived’ and the apico-postalveolar fricative [ ] (as often in British English dry [ ]): but there is some difference. In [ ], but not in [ ], there is a slight spoon-shaped hollow in the centre of the tongue, just behind the blade, which is absent in [ ].

Approximants of other dentaleolar types can be represented by using the ‘opening’ diacritic: thus [ ] [ ] represent apico-dental and lamino-alveolar approximants.

  • trill and tap: [r] and [ ]
  • Lateral approximants: (dental, alveolar, or postalveolar) [ l ].
  • lateral fricatives: (dental, alveolar, or postalveolar) [ l ], [ l ].
  • nasals: (dental, alveolar, or postalveolar) [ n ].


  1. Retroflex and Palatal Articulations

Having explored the dentalveolar region of articulation we now proceed further back into the mouth.

First, immediately behind the postalveolar subzone we come to the sublamino-prepalatal articulation, otherwise known as retroflex.

Silently place the tip of the tongue against the postalveolar part of the alveolar ridge. Now slide it back beyond the postalveolar subzone, to where the hard palate ceases to be convex. As your tongue enters this concave zone it is pointing almost straight up, and the underblade, or sublamina, begins to make contact with the prepalatal arch. This is sublamino-prepalatal articulation, or since the apex of the tongue is virtually curled backwards, retroflex.

Produce a series of retroflex sounds from this place of articulation:

Stops [ ] [ ], fricatives [ ] [ ], approximant [ ], lateral approximant [ ], and nasal [ ].

There is also a flap articulated in the retroflex zone, symbol [ ]. To produce this, start with the tongue-tip curled well back, then let it shoot forwards and downwards, lightly striking the prepalatal arch, just behind the alveolar ridge, on the way down.

Retroflex consonants are particularly characteristic of languages of India. They are often quite strongly retroflex in the Dravidian languages, but tend to be somewhat less so in the Indic languages of Northern India. In Hindi, for example [ ] and [ ], as in [ ] ‘tin’ and [ ] ‘bucket’, may not be much further back than apico-postalveolar [ ] [ ]. However, they contrast with apico-dental stops [ ] [ ] as in [ ] ‘three’ [ ] ‘two’, and the more retracted stops are normally called ‘retroflex’ and written [ ] and [ ]. Hindi [ ], however, occurring in such words as [ ] ‘horse’ [ ] ‘boy’, is a truly retroflex flab.

Next, we must examine dorsal articulations in the prepalatal zone – that is non-retroflex articulations involving juxtaposition of the dorsal surface of the tongue and the hard palate. The hard palate is divided into a front half – the upward-backwards sloping prepalatal arch – and a rear half – the high vault of the hard palate back to the line of division between the hard and soft palate: this is the palatal subzone proper. We start with dorso-palatal (not prepalatal) articulation.

Silently form and hold the articulation for a vowel [i] as in see. Introspecting about the tactile and proprioceptive sensations of silent [i] not how the tongue is bunched up in the front of the mouth. The vowel [i], of course, is a dorso-palatal approximant.

Now push the central part of the tongue upwards, narrowing the articulation channel of silent [i] until it disappears altogether as the centre of the tongue makes contact with the highest part of the hard palate.

From this position make a voiceless dorso-palatal stop [c] and a voiced dorso-palatal stop [ ]. Form and hold the stop of [c], i.e. hold the tongue dorsum in firm contact with the hard palate, but nothing else: there must be absolutely no contact between the anterodorsum and the prepalatal subzone, or between the blade and the postalveolar subzone. Now, release the centre of the tongue very slightly, so that you form a very narrow dorso-palatal articulation channel: initiate an egressive air-stream which ought to become strongly turbulent as it flows through this narrow channel, forming a dorso-palatal voiceless fricative [ ]. We already reached a sound very much like [ ] by devoicing [ i ] in Exp. 29. This [ ] is the sound of ch in German ich.

Now add voice, but be sure that you have a really narrow fricative type chanel, so that when you voice [ ] it becomes a voiced dorso-palatal fricative [ J ], and not the approximant [i]. The symbol [J ] for a voiced dorso-palatal fricative is not an official IPA symbol, but it is useful, in order to distinguish between the fricative [ J ] and the approximant or semivowel [j] –exemplified by the y in English yes.

Since it is normally the dorsal part of the tongue (and, specifically, the anterodorsal part) that articulates the hard palate, we commonly drop the prefix and talk simply of palatal articulation.

The palatal stops [c] and [ ] are not very common in languages, but they are sometimes exemplified by the ty and gy of Hungarian [ ] ‘veil’ and [ ] ‘Hungarian’ though they are perhaps more often pronounced as prepalatal affricates [ ] [ ]. In addition to the palatal stops [c] and [ ], the fricatives [ ] and [ ], the approximant [i], and the semivowel [ j] we can have a palatal nasal [ ] and lateral [ ].

The palatal nasal [ ] is traditionally said to be the pronunciation of the French gn in campagne, the Italian gn in ogni, the Spanish n in manana. However, in these languages the [ ] is not always pronounced as a genuine platal nasal. It may, instead, be pronounced as an apico-alveolar, lamino-postalveolar, or lamino-prepalatal nasal followed by a palatal semivowel [nj].

Palatal [ ] is traditionally said to be the pronunciation of Italian gl in egli, Castilian Spanish ll in pollo. Again, however, it is not always pronounced as a genuine palatal [ ] in these languages, but rather as [ lj ]. In Latin-American Spanish ll is virtually never pronounced as [ ], but as a semivowel [ j ] or a fricative [ ], or even as an affricate [dz].

As a matter of principle, the student of phonetics should experiment with producing genuine dorso-palatal [ ] and [ ], with contact only between the dorsal surface of the tongue and the high vault of the hard palate, but obsolutely no contact between the apex or blade of the tongue and the alveolar ridge or prepalatal arch.

It may be useful to compare genuine [ ] and [ ] with the sequences [nj] and [lj] that occur in English. Thus compare English onion [ ] with French agneau [ ] Italian agnello [ ] ‘lamb’,

Spanish ano [ ] ‘year’; English billiards [biljə(r)dz ], Italian bigletto [ ] ‘ticket’, Spanish billar [ ] ‘billards’, etc.

Before leaving the palatal zone we must mention the possibility of articulation in the fron part of the zone – the prepalatal subzone. Experiment 62 introduces this subzone.

Produce a voiceless palatal fricative [ ] – if necessary, develop it from [i] by devoicing and narrowing the channel somewhat. Now, while maintaining a prolonged [ ], raise the apex and blade of the tongue somewhat so that the anterodorsal surface of the tongue comes close to the prepalatal arch, doing, in fact, what you were explicitly told not to do in producing genuine palatal [ ] and [ J ].

Once you get some kind of dorso- or lamino-prepalatal fricative noise into the sound, try to slacken off the prepalatal constriction somewhat. The result should be a lamino-prepalatal fricative [ ] or voiced [ ]. The same result can be arrived at by starting with a a lamino-postalveolar type of [ ] and then contriving to get more palatal constriction into it:

  • saying lamino-postalveolar [∫ ] while ‘thinking [ ] or [ i ]’. This kind of lamino- or dorso-prepalatal fricative is the Polish s’, which is sometimes called, quite reasonably, a ‘palatalized [ ∫ ]’.
  • One can also articulate a stop in the prepalatal subzone, or an affricate (stop released into homorganic fricative – see Chap. 6) which may be represented as [ ] [ ] or [ ] [ ].
  •  There’s a difference between tongue-positions for an apico-postalveolar [ ∫ ],

 It may be useful for the reader to produce these four types of fricative, silently and aloud, while looking at the figure. It should be noted that in the terminology of IPA apico- or lamino-postalveolar fricatives of the type [ ∫ ] [ ] are called ‘palato-alveolar’, while lamino- or dorso-prepalatal fricatives of type [ ] [ ] are called ‘alveolo-palatal.’ This terminology is not recommended, since it is inconsistent with the strict principle of using the prefixed term to designate the lower articulator (as in labio-dental, apico-alveolar).

  1. Velar and Uvular Articulations

We go on now to dorso-velar articulation – that is, articulation between the back of the tongue and the soft palate. This is the place of articulation of typical [k] and [g] sounds. So in 63 we begin with those.

Form the articulation for a [k] as in English car; hold it silently for a moment, then silently release it. Repeat this several times, introspecting about what it feels like. Contrast this dorso-velar stop [k] with a dorso-palatal stop [c], so that contact can be made with the highest part of the hard palate. For [k], however, the body of the tongue, though clearly further back than for [c], doesn’t feel particularly strongly drawn back.

Once you are satisfied you can feel the midvelar (mid-soft palate) contact for [k] hold the tongue in that [k] – position and, while taking care not to shift the tongue either forward or back, open up a very small channel between the tongue and the soft palate. If you propel an egressive air-stream (i.e. blow) through that narrow dorso-velar channel you should hear the sound of the voiceless dorso-velar fricative [x]. Make sure it is velar. Some people tend to let the tongue slip back and make a uvular fricative [ ]. We will come to that in, but for the moment what is required is a purely dorso-velar [x].

Make a prolonged [x x x x x……], then do it again, switching on voice, but making no other change: {x x x …..}, is the symbol for a voiced dorso-velar fricative.

Starting from the voiced velar fricative [ ] develop a velar approximant [ ]. Say a prolonged [ ], nothing that is truly fricative, i.e. there is a fricative hiss-noise superimposed upon the smooth sound of voice. Now while saying prolonged [ ….], very slowly, and very slightly, open up the articulatory channel, just to the point where the hiss-noise of turbulent airflow ceases:

[ ]. This is the velar approximant, [ ].

Now that you are clear about dorso-velar (or simply velar, as we often call it) articulation you can note that there is also a velar nasal [ ]. This is the nasal that occurs at the end of lung [ ] in English. However, if you isolate [ ] you will find it quite easy to put a vowel after it, and say [ ][ ], etc.

In English, and many other languages (it is very noticeable in French, for example), [k] and [g] are purely velar only before such vowels as [ ] and [u], as in English car, guard, and cool, goo.

Before front, or palatal, vowels like [i] as in key, geese, however, the articulation of [k] [g] is shifted forward a little. If you articulate these words silently, then isolate the [k]/ [g] of each and compare the ones that occur before [ i ] with others, the forward shift of tongue-position before [i] will be obvious. But note that even though the tongue is somewhat advanced in key and geese, it does not go nearly as far forwad as the palatal position of [c] and [ ]. The English velar stops are somewhat ‘fronted’ or ‘palatilized’ before [ i ]: but they do not become palatals.

The next, and the last, articulatory location in the oral area is dorso-uvular, or simply uvular. We investigate sounds made at this location in the experiment.

Make a [k] – closure and then, silently, or almost silently, make a prolonged series of faint [k]- type sounds [kh kh kh….], etc. While slowly sliding the tongue back and down as far as you can.

You will end up making a stop at the very furthest back part of the soft palate. The extreme back of the tongue is in contact with the uvula and the extreme back of the velum (soft palate). If you let a little pressure build up behind this extreme back closure, then release the closure, you will hear a uvular stop [q ]. If you repeat this experiment – a series of faint stops of the [kh kh kh….] type steadily moving back from the velar to the uvular positions – you will observe that the sound of the little burst of noise occurring on the release of each stop goes down in pitch by about an octave over the whole range.

Another observation you may make is that the release of velar [k] is relatively ‘clean’, while that of [q] is more ‘sloppy’. This is because the convex tongue-surface can break away from the whole contact area of the concave velar surface almost instantaneously but separation from the more flexible and irregular surface of the extreme back of the velum, including the uvula, is less instantaneous, less clean-cut.

Having produced the voiceless uvular stop [q] (not a difficult sound) and having repeated it several times, you might try to produce the corresponding voiced sound – the voiced uvular top [ G ]. This is much more difficult, because the tongue is so far back in the articulation of a uvular, that the space between the oral closure and the glottis is very small: Consequently as the air used in generating voice flows upwards through the glottis the essential pressure-difference across the glottis is abolished almost immediately, and voicing ceases.

Other uvular articulations are the fricatives [ χ ] and [ ], the approximant [ ], the nasal [N], and the trill [R]. They are investigated in Experiment 65. Form the closure for a uvular stop [ ] and hold it. Now, while holding that uvular articulation posture, open up a small central channel, and propel an egressive air-stream through it. The result should be the voiceless uvular fricative [ χ ].

Another way of approaching [χ ] is to start with the velar [x] and then move progressively backwards, as you did with the [k……q] in Exp. 64. In this case, make a velar fricative [x], and while keeping the fricative noise going, slowly slide your tongue back and down, till you have arrived as far back as you can go, at [χ ]. Once again, notice as you do this that the pitch of the fricative hiss goes down by nearly an octave. Having produced [χ], prolong it and then switch on voice [χ χ χ χ ]. The result is the voiced uvular fricative [ ]. If you now make a prolonged [ ] then, while keeping the voice going and the same general tongue-posture, very slightly widen the articulatory channel and you will convert the uvular fricative [ ] to the uvular approximant [ ].

The uvular nasal [N] should not give no trouble, since it can easily be reached, like [q] and [χ], by sliding back from the corresponding velar, [ ŋ ]. There remains the uvular trill [R]. If you can gargle, and most people can, then you can produce a uvular trill. It is only necessary to reduce the amount of water used in gargling, finally using only saliva, to pas from gargle to [R]. In addition, as we pointed out in the last chapter, it is easier to produce all trills with a powerful voiceless air-stream, so you might try that.

As you experiment with uvular sounds you may notice that the uvular fricatives [χ ] and [ ] tend to develop something of a trilled quality. This is normal – it happens all the time in languages that use uvular fricatives, simply because the uvula, being small and flexible tends to be thrown into vibration by the air-stream of the fricative. You may be able to avoid it by trying to get a strong feeling of tenseness into the rear of your soft palate and the back of the tongue as you produce [χ ] and [ ]. An important difference between uvular fricative [ ] and trill [R] is that whereas the tongue back is relatively flat or convex for [ ], a deep longitudinal groove is formed in the back of the tongue for the trill [R], and the uvula vibrates in the groove.

We have now covered all the major articulatory locations within the oral area. You might find it useful to run through them again. In particular, it would be useful to compare the three major tectal articulatory locations: palatal, velar, uvular. By contrasting series of sounds such as [c],[k], [q], [ ] [ ] [x] [χ ] [ ] [ ŋ ] [N] one becomes more clearly aware of the differences between palata, velar, and uvular articulations. Finally, we must turn our attention to articulations in the pharyngeo-laryngeal area: these are articulations in the pharynx and larynx.

  1. Pharyngal and Glottal Articulations

Articulations in the pharynx are called pharyngeal, or pharyngal: those performed in the larynx are glottal (not to be confused with ‘glottalic’, which is the name of a type of initiation).

The pharynx is the cavity behind the mouth, running from the back of the nose and the ‘nasal part’ down to the larynx. Pharyngal articulations can be made both in the part of the pharynx just behind the mouth (the oropharynx) and in the lower part of the pharynx, immediately above the larynx and merging with it (the laryngopharynx).

Here we deal with only two types of articulation in the pharynx: one a rather generalized sphincteric compression of the oropharynx – which we shall call pharyngal: the other involving the epiglottis, which we shall call epiglottal. These are dealt with in Experiments 66 and 67 respectively.

The best way to induce the pharyngeal compression that we want to achieve is to activate what is called the ‘gag’ reflex. Unless the reader is exceptionally insensitive he can do this by sticking a finger into his mouth so that it touches, or merely approaches, the uvula. The extreme convulvise contraction of the pharynx that this induces is the starting point from which to develop a milder, less intense, contraction of the pharynx. If you send a voiceless and then a voiced air-stream through the contracted pharynx you will produce the pharyngeal sounds, voicesless [ ] and voiced [ ].

These are very common variety of the sounds of the Arabic letters (ha) and (‘ain). They are often described in the literature as ‘pharyngeal fricatives’, but in reality they are more often approximants. Note that the voiced sound [ ] has not turbulent, fricative-like, hiss although a noticeable hiss sound is heard in [ h]. The pharyngeal approximants [ ] and [ ] are very characteristic of most varieties of Arabic and of a few other languages, including Somali, Berber, and some varieties of Oriental Hebrew (in modern Israeli Hebrew, the ancient Hebrew [ h] is replaced by a velar or uvular [x] or [χ ], and the [ ] by a glottal stop [ ?]).

In a few varieties of Arabic and Oriental Hebrew the ‘ain ( ) appears to be pronounced, not as a simple pharyngeal constriction, but as a complete closure, formed by folding the epiglottis back , as in the act of swallowing. This epiglottal stop may be represented by [ ]. Which is not a regular IPA symbol.

Start by swallowing several times, and introspecting about what is going on. In the middle of the process of swallowing there is a feeling of complete closure when the epiglottis folds down over the larynx to proven food from entering it. Hold that stop position for a moment. Do that several times, then try to flank that moment of closure by a vowel, for example [a], thus saying [a a] fairly easily, compare it with simple glottal stop: [a a] [a ]. Notice how glottal stop [a a] is just a simple momentary ‘holding of breath’, a simple hiatus between the flanking vowels that hardly affects their quality.

The epiglottal stop, however, in [a a] is not only a very strong stop, but it also affects the quality of flanking vowels, which acquire a peculiar ‘squeezed’ quality (pharyngalization).

Epiglottal stop [ ] seems to occur not only in varieties of Arabic and Hebrew as indicated above, but also in several languages of the Caucasus, for example in Chechen, where epiglottal [ ] contrasts with glottal [ ]. The existence of epiglottal stop in Arabic and Hebrew was demonstrated instrumentally by Laufer and Condax (1979).

Glottal articulation occurs, of course, in the larynx, by the juxtaposition of the vocal cords. We have already seen many examples of glottal stop [ ], articulated by making a complete closure between the vocal cords – closing the glottis. Glottal stop is sometimes used in English before a strongly stressed initial vowel as in ‘Ah!’ [a]. It may accompany final voiceless stops, producing co-articulated glottal + oral stops, in many types of English, though more frequently in the USA than in Britain, perhaps as in cap, hat, hack, etc., pronounced [ ] [ ] [ ], where the ligature [ ] indicates the glottal stop and oral stop are simultaneous. In some English and Scottish dialects glottal stop may totally replace an intervocalic {t}, thus Cockney [ ], Glasgow [ ] for ‘butter’.

The sound [h], as in hot, is often described as a voiceless glottal fricative, since like other consonants it occupies the marginal (initial) position in the syllable, rather than the central position in the syllable appropriate to a vowel. In terms of its articulation, however, it might also be regarded as a voiceless vowel of about the same quality as the voice vowel that follows. The corresponding voiced glottal fricative, [ ] is essentially a brief span of breathy voice or whispery voice functioning as a consonant. Voiced [ ] may occur intervocalically in English in such words as Aha! and perhaps.

At the end of Chapters 2 and 3 we mentioned that prosodic features that relate to initiation and to phonation respectively, namely stress and pitch phenomena. The prosodic feature that is related to articulation is the duration, or length (also known as quantity) of sounds. Clearly all maintainable articulations can be held for a shorter or longer time. We will deal with the duration of sounds in Chapter 9, ‘Prosodic Features’.


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