3.1 Can you outline the Phonetic features of a speech sound?

Chapter  3

3.1 Outline the Phonetic features of a speech sound

Phonetic Analyses

 Phonetic Analysis

This refers to the analyses of sound production and perception. Phonetics analyses human speech sounds in terms of the following:

  1. The speech sounds’ production
  2. The speech sounds’ description
  3. The different possible sounds depending on the human vocal organs
  4. The speech sounds’ articulation, acoustics and auditory correlates.

 The Phonetic features of a speech sound

The phonetic analyses focuses on both the redundant and non-redundant features of the human speech sound.

Redundant features of a speech sound

The redundant phonetic features of a human speech sound are non-distinctive. They do not facilitate a distinction in meaning in the use of the speech sound. However, the redundant features are part of the description of the speech sound. For instance, aspiration in English is a phonetic feature of the three voiceless stops /p, t, k/ in word initial position but it is not a distinctive feature. No meaning distinction of words is caused by aspiration in English.

Example

[pen] [phen]

The second articulation of the word pen in English is non-distinctive. It simply leads to a mispronounced word. All features of the sound segment – both redundant and non- redundant – are therefore given at phonetic level. The speech sound is then described as a phone allophone. Phone is concrete realization of human speech sound i.e. in writing and speech mainly the latter. Allophone is the concrete realization of human speech sound that is determined by the environment e.g. dental, laminal, apical areas of articulation. For example:

[t] is a phone whose allophones can be:

[t ] when aspirated – tin

[t ] when unreleased – spit

[t ] when labialized – two

[t ] when dentalised – ten

[t ] when palatalized – tune

Each of them is a phone in its own right. For a sound to have allophones, it must have

more than one concrete realization. Phones are presented in square brackets []. When

not bracketed, the sound is called a grapheme e.g. t.

Activity

Identify all the non-redundant features of /p, t, k/ and describe each of the features using the appropriate diacritic symbol.

 

Non-redundant features of a speech sound

The non-redundant phonetic features of a speech sound are distinctive. For instance, aspiration is a phonetic feature in Kiswahili of the three voiceless stops /p, t, k/ in word initial position and it is distinctive.

Example

/pha:/ roof /pa:/ antelope

 The notations used at the phonetic level of analyses

Diactric marks

The redundant features of a speech sound are presented as superscripts using diacritic symbols (refer to the I.P.A chart in Appendix 1).

Examples

diacritic phonetic feature

[h] aspiration

[j] palatalization

[w] labialization

The square bracket [ ]

The square bracket is used in the presentation of speech sounds at the phonetic level of analyses.

Example

The word bin in English is phonetically presented as [Ƅĩƞ·]. The vowel /ı/ is nasalized because it precedes a nasal consonant /n/. The nasal consonant /n/ is lengthened because it follows a short vowel and it is word final.

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