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Phonetics (ENG-3/351)

Learning Materials for D-learning


The Greek word 'phone' means sound. Phonetics is the scientific

study of speech sounds.

Phoneme: A phoneme is a minimal unit of sound in a speech system.
Articulatory Phonetics: Articulatory Phonetics is the branch of phonetics that
deals with the production of speech sounds.

Organs of Speech
Lips: The lips play an important role in the production of speech sounds.
Sometimes, both lips are used to produce speech sounds. Sounds thus
produced are called bilabial sounds. Examples are /p/, /b/, /m/, and /w/.
Teeth: The teeth consist of the upper teeth and the lower teeth. The upper
teeth are called active articulators because they directly help in producing
speech sounds. The lower teeth help indirectly in producing speech sounds.
So, they are passive articulators. When the tongue touches the upper teeth,
dental sounds are produced. Examples are // and //.
Sometimes, the upper teeth touch the lower lip to produce sounds. These are
called labio-dental sounds. E.g. /f/, /v/.
Alveolar Ridge: The hard area behind the teeth is called the teeth ridge or the
alveolar ridge. When the tongue touches the teeth ridge, alveolar sounds are
produced. Examples are /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/, /l/, and /n/.
Hard Palate:
The hard palate is also called the roof of the mouth. It is the hard area situated
behind the teeth ridge. When the tongue touches the hard palate, palatal
sounds are produced. /j/ is a palatal sound.
Soft Palate: The soft palate is also known as the velum. It is the soft, fleshy
area that follows the hard palate. When the velum is raised, the nasal cavity

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(nose) is blocked. In such cases, air escapes through the mouth. When the
velum is lowered, the mouth is blocked and so air escapes through the nose.
Velar sounds are produced when the tongue touches the soft palate. Examples
are /k/, /g/, and //.
Tongue: The tongue is the most active articulator or organ of speech. It can be
divided into 5 parts tip, blade, front, back, and root.
Pharynx: The pharynx is located above the larynx. It is a tube that is 8cms
long in men and 7cms long in women.
Larynx: It is also called the voice box. It is located in the neck. In men, the
front of the larynx can be seen and felt. This is called the Adam's Apple.
The larynx contains the vocal folds or vocal cords. They are made up of
muscle and are like a pair of lips. The space between the vocal cords is called
the glottis.
The Positions of the Vocal Cords:

Wide Apart: When the vocal cords are wide apart, the air passes
through the cords freely. So, the vocal cords don't vibrate. Sounds thus
produced are called voiceless sounds. Examples of voiceless sounds are


/p/, /t/, //, /f/, /k/, etc.

Close Together: When the vocal cords are close and almost touching,
the air forces its way through. So, the vocal cords vibrate. Sounds thus
produced are called voiced sounds. The process of vibration of the
vocal cords is called voicing or phonation. Examples of voiced sounds


are /b/, /d/, /z/, /m/, /r/, etc.

Narrow Glottis: Sometimes, the glottis (space between the vocal cords)


is narrowed. In this case, the sound produced is /h/.

Glottal Stop: When the vocal cords are tightly closed, the air cannot
pass through. At this point, a glottal stop //is produced.

Egressive Pulmonic Air Stream: English speech sounds are produced when air

comes out from the lungs. In other words, we produce speech when we
exhale. This type of speech production is called egressive. Since air comes

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from the lungs, human speech is pulmonic. In short, English speech system
follows the egressive pulmonic airstream.

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