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Ostravská univerzita v Ostravě, Brno 2019


Seznam zkratek

i.e. — that is
e.g. — for example
vs. — versus, compare
etc. — et cetera
BBC — British Broadcasting Corporation
IPA — International Phonetic Alphabet (or Association)
EPD — English Pronouncing Dictionary
RP — received Pronunciation
FSP — Functional Sentence Perspective

1. Introduction into phonetics and phonology

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics which studies the characteristics of sounds produced by humans, especially sounds which are used in speech (Crystal, 2003). Phoneticians have described, classified, and transcribed the sounds that occur in the majority of languages using phonetic symbols that are classified according to their place of articulation, the way they are produced and the specific articulators (parts of the oral cavity) which are used to produce them.

Phonology, on the other hand, studies the system of sounds, i.e. how phonemes function in a language, and their mutual relationships, e.g. how their quality changes when they are pronounced together. As students of linguistics, you will find that the knowledge of the English phonemic system can help you understand the language better. Being aware of certain phonological aspects, e.g. assimilation principles of connected speech may even profoundly improve your listening comprehension.

1.1 Brief history of phonetics and phonology

Throughout the history, various linguists attempted to describe the phonetic systems of languages, (e.g. the father of the inventor Alexander Graham Bell invented the first universal phonetic alphabetic system “Visible Speech” in 1867). The Czech linguistic approach became popular throughout the world mainly thanks to the Prague Linguistic Circle, whose beginnings can be traced to the 1920s and specifically because of the works of Nikolaj Trubeckoj and Roman Jakobson (most famous for establishing the basis of the functional-structural approach). These two linguists profoundly developed phonetics and phonology by introducing the distinctive features of individual sounds as well as their functions. They maintained the functional approach towards sounds, i.e. they described not only the mere production of sounds (phonetics) but also the specific functions of individual sounds (phonology). Roman Jakobson also introduced the so-called binary oppositions, i.e. the theory that features of language may be distinguished by their opposites. In phonetics it would mean oppositions as voiced vs. unvoiced consonants or short vs. long vowels, which can constitute the so-called minimal pairs — words that differ only in one sound (e.g. sin vs. sing, cap vs. tap, etc.).

The Prague Linguistic Circle prepared a project in phonology for the Second International Congress of Linguists (Geneva 1931), i.e. they summoned a preparatory International Phonological Conference to Prague in 1930, where they presented a proposal of the standard phonological terminology, set up the principles of phonological transcription, and prepared the foundation of the International Phonological Association with the aim to carry out the phonological description of the languages of the world.

1.2 Pronunciation

In English, the native speakers’ pronunciation differs enormously depending on their geographical, social, cultural, educational etc. background. It is, then, impossible to strictly speak about “the” British vs. American English when discussing pronunciation, as people from different parts of Britain may have completely different and unintelligible British accents. There is an enormous number of regional varieties or dialects (i.e. regional variants that also differ in vocabulary) of English in Britain, e.g. Brummy (English of the Birmingham area), Geordie (Newcastle), Glasweigan, Liverpudlian or (Scouse), or even within areas as small as cities (e.g. sociolects Cockney, Estuary English, Popular London, London Regional Standard etc. of the London area).

For this reason, Received Pronunciation (RP), originally the pronunciation of well-educated speakers in southern England traditionally used in public schools and at Oxbridge, used to be “received” in many places as the pronunciation norm and was considered to have the widest geographical distribution. As Kathryn LaBouff says, until the 1950s it was usual for university students to adjust their regional accents to be closer to RP, which was traditionally used on stage and for public speaking. In the 1950s, RP started to be used by the BBC as a broadcast standard, which brought about its denomination BBC English. Since the 1970s, the BBC label has been dropped and RP has slowly been more inclusive of regional influences throughout the United Kingdom. By the turn of the twenty-first century RP was spoken by only 3 percent of the population. BBC broadcasters do not use Received Pronunciation, which actually today sounds out of place. Instead, neutralized, intelligible versions of reporters’ own regional accents are sought after (2007). Thus, BBC English is no longer recommended as a norm (model) for non-native speakers, who can even be perceived as phonies when trying to impeccably imitate native speakers. As for every native speaker of English in the world, there are at least 3 non-native speakers and 80% of English teachers are non-natives, we should opt for the English as a lingua franca (ELF) pronunciation model. In ELF we no longer distinguish proper and improper pronunciation or correct and incorrect pronunciation, rather, the focus is placed on intelligibility or “the extent to which a speaker’s message is actually understood by a listener” (Munro & Derwing, 1999, p. 289) and Identifying words and understanding the speaker’s intended meaning (Levis, 2007). The benchmark of ELF pronunciation according to Jenkins is: most consonant sounds plus the schwa, preservation of most consonant clusters, vowel length (especially before voiced or unvoiced consonants and appropriate word grouping and placement of nuclear stress (2000).

1.3 Basic terminology

1.3.1 Phoneme

The phoneme is a sound unit which helps to differentiate words (e.g. white vs. right; bad vs. bed). It is not, however, usually one sound but rather a group of similarly sounding sounds (e.g. /l/ in last vs. wool or /t/ in pity pronounced by an American vs. a British person. There are many definitions of the phoneme, e.g.:

  • Phoneme is a minimal unit in the system of a language (Crystal)

  • Phoneme is a family of related sounds (Jones)

  • Phoneme is a bundle of abstract distinctive features or oppositions between sounds, such as voicing and nasality (Trubeckoj, Jakobson)

1.3.2 Allophone

Where there is a difference in sound which does not constitute a difference in meaning, we speak about allophones. Allophones may distinguish for example the aspirated vs. non-aspirated variants of the same phoneme (e.g. [t] in stop vs. top). Sometimes an allophone exists in one language where in another one such distinction creates two different phonemes: e.g. the sounds /n/ and /ŋ/ in Czech are considered allophones as they do not distinguish the meaning in the pronunciation of words like branka or maminka. In English, on the other hand, they represent two different phonemes creating such minimal pairs as sin vs. sing, thin vs. thing, ban vs. bang or done vs. dung. In transcription it is distinguished from the phoneme by a different type of brackets: forward slash brackets // are used for phonemes, square brackets [] are used for allophones.

1.3.3 Phonetic vs. phonemic transcription

As we cannot rely on spelling to tell us whether the same letters represent the same sounds and vice versa (especially in English, e.g. foam vs. phone or ghost vs. enough), we use specific symbols to codify the pronunciation of individual sounds, words or connected speech. There are two ways in which we can transcribe speech. Phonemic transcription, also known as broad transcription (placed between forward slash brackets), involves representing speech using just a unique symbol for each phoneme of the language. The other way we can transcribe speech is using phonetic transcription (placed between square brackets), also sometimes known as narrow transcription. This involves representing additional details about the contextual variations in pronunciation that occur in normal speech. When we transcribe phonetically, we are representing not abstract mental constructs (phonemes), but rather the actual sounds in terms of their acoustic and articulatory properties.

The sign system used for both phonemic and phonetic transcription is called International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) developed by the International Phonetic Association. The IPA offers symbols for various phonemes and allophones, for the stress placement and intonation patterns. When describing sounds, the IPA should be used consistently and must not be confused with miniscule letters even though some symbols may look the same. The IPA is also used by most pronunciation dictionaries, e.g. Jones, Wells, and Roach as well as the majority of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries published by British publishers.

For students of phonetics and phonology, the English Pronouncing Dictionary (EPD) will be considered as a source of model transcription, as it covers both British and American variants transcribed with IPA symbols. It follows the pronunciation of newsreaders who speak with an English accent (rather than Scottish, Welsh or Irish). The authors call this model BBC English, but it is really a modern version of RP. For American English, the EPD follows the accent of professional voices on news and information programs on American national TV networks (such as CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX). This model is called “Network English”. These pronunciation models were logically chosen based on the fact that almost all speakers of English watch TV, therefore the TV accents must be very understandable. They are also supposed to be easy to learn, because television networks are widely available and the sound quality on TV is excellent.

2 Production of consonants

The most common division of phonemes is into consonants and vowels. A consonant is a speech sound produced when the airflow through the vocal tract is to some degree obstructed, although an exact definition is hardly applicable. Firstly, there is a difference in production, i.e. phoneticians widely agree that there is no obstruction of air when producing vowels and there is always an obstruction to airflow when producing consonants, however there are some doubts and uncertainties (e.g. the production of affricates /j/ or /w/ which have only very little obstruction of airflow when being pronounced). There are three elements to any consonants: place of articulation (where the obstruction occurs), manner of articulation (how it is done) and voicing (whether or not voice is necessary).

2.1 The place of articulation

Place of articulation or point of articulation indicates where in the mouth the obstruction is occurring when a consonant is formed. To create an obstruction, two bits of the mouth need to be brought together — the articulators. The active articulator will move, and the passive articulator will remain stationary. For example, if we take the /f/ sound in the word fish, the lower lip is the active articulator and the upper teeth are the passive articulators. The lower lip moves to the upper teeth, an obstruction is created, air is blown through and you get a hissing sound. There are about 12 places in the mouth, where the articulators can be brought together to form an obstruction and thus create sounds which are named accordingly:

  • bilabial (both upper and lower lips): /p/

  • labiodental (lower lip and upper teeth): /f/

  • dental (upper and lower teeth): /θ/

  • alveolar (alveolar ridge, in Czech horní dáseň, which is a place right behind your upper teeth): /t/

  • post-alveolar (between alveolar ridge and hard palate, tvrdé patro, the smooth curved top of one’s oral cavity: /ʃ/

  • retroflex (rolled tongue): /ɹ/, in BBC English it is always pronounced only before vowels (e.g. hear/hearing). The lips should be just slightly rounded, otherwise /w/ is created.

  • palatal (hard palate): /c/ = Czech Ť

  • velar (soft palate, velum that directs the air to flow through the mouth or through the nasal cavity” /k/. Velar /ŋ/ never occurs initially, if in medial position and combined with letter G in spelling, it may be pronounced either as /ŋg/ (in a word consisting of one morpheme — e.g. anger, finger) or /ŋ/ (in a word consisting of two morphemes, e.g. singer, hanger). An exception to the latter one is presented by adjectival forms with the derivational morphemes: -er and -est (e.g. longer).

  • uvular (where the French R sound is pronounced),

  • pharyngeal (pharynx means hltan, a tube which is placed above larynx where the vocal tract starts, no English consonants are formed here,

  • epi-glottal and glottal (vocal folds, also vocal cords): /h/

The shape and the position of the tongue is the most important factor when pronouncing vowels, the jaws and the nose are also a part of the vocal apparatus but do not create sounds themselves, so they are not considered articulators the same way as the above-mentioned ones. In the IPA chart the place of the obstruction is represented by individual columns.

2.2 Manner of articulation

The lines in the chart distinguish the different manner of articulation, i.e. how much of the airflow is being obstructed. It is roughly top-down scale here, with total obstruction near the top and minimal obstruction near the bottom of the chart. In this top-bottom order we have:

Nasal stops, which, instead of simply stopping the airflow, re-route it through the nasal cavity. This produces sounds like /m/ and /n/. Nasal consonants are nearly universal in human languages, only very few languages truly lack nasal consonants (Quileute, Lushootseed and Makah).

Plosives, also known as stops, stop the airflow entirely. The pressure is built behind the articulators and eventually released in a small explosion of air. English has 6 plosives /b/, /p/ /t/, /d/, /k/, and /g/.

Fricatives are very prolific. Here the airflow is obstructed almost entirely producing a turbulent hissing sound. In English we have no less than 10 of them: /f/, /v/, /s/, /z/, /θ/, /ð/,/ʃ/, /ʒ/, /x/ and /h/.

Approximants are created when the airflow is impeded only slightly. The hissing sound indicative of fricatives is no longer present here but the sound is altered to a degree. In English we have three approximants: /ɹ/, /j/ and /w/. Interestingly the English /w/ sound does not appear in the main section of the IPA because it is co-articulated, so it belongs in the lower section (Voiced labialized velar approximant). Theoretically we can labialize any sound with the superscript /w/.

There are three tap or flap consonants in the IPA, none of which appear in the RP. The most familiar example of a tap or flap would be the general American realization of the word latter. Here the /t/ sound is replaced by an alveolar flap. One articulator is thrown against the other in a single gesture.

With trill consonants, an articulator is held in place and the air blown through the vocal tract causes it to vibrate back and forth. The IPA has three contrastive trills, we know /R/ as pronounced in the French language, and the Czech or Scottish rolled /r/.

Laterals are liquidy L type sounds produced when the tongue creates an obstruction in the middle of the mouth and re-routes the air out the sides of the mouth. Laterals come in three forms: Fricatives, Approximants and Flaps. We have two lateral sounds, light L and dark (velarized) L, in English, but only one symbol: /l/. The letter L is pronounced lightly if it comes before a vowel or a diphthong in the syllable. If it comes after a vowel or a diphthong in the syllable, it is a dark L. We create the light L by placing the tip of the tongue just after the front teeth or between the teeth when producing the sound (like, lake). With dark L we produce a dark U sound (which is not listed in the IPA) just before the L sound (pull, real). The tongue has to pull back.

2.3 Voicing

Voicing is the final consonant feature. If you try to say /ffffffff/ and place the palm of your hand on your throat, you would not feel anything going on in your throat. If you say /vvvvvvv/, you will feel the buzzing, vibration in your throat. /f/ and /v/ are a pair of consonants that are identical as far as the manner and place of articulation are concerned, except for the buzzing that goes with /v/. We say that /f/ is unvoiced or voiceless and /v/ is voiced. With unvoiced consonants, the vocal cords are inactive during the production of the sound while with voiced, they are active — hence the buzzing. In a lot of languages, English included, consonants tend to show up in voiced and voiceless pairs. Many of the cells of the IPA are occupied by two symbols; any symbol on the left will be voiceless and those on the right are voiced. This left vs. right convention holds even if there is only one symbol in the cell — like in the nasals, all of which are voiced (Icelandic features an unvoiced /n/).

Voicing extends beyond the voiced vs. voiceless duality. In addition to the standard method of voicing we can execute sounds with a breathy voice (signified by a double dot), or with a creaky voice (marked by a low tilde), e.g. when pronouncing with the typical Californian vocal fry.

If you whisper the sounds /p/ and /b/, which means you eliminate the voicing, you can still distinguish whether you said /p/ or /b/. We now refer to the energy used in production of the consonants, the terms are fortis and lenis (Latin for strong and weak). Fortis consonants are produced with more energy than the lenis ones. So, in the general absence of voicing (whispering), it is the fortis vs. lenis contrast that enables us to differentiate between /p/ and /b/ or /f/ and /v/.

2.3.1 Aspiration

In addition to voicedness, there is voice onset time which is defined as the length of time that passes between the release of a stop consonant and the onset of voicing. There are three distinctions here:

  • negative voice onset time, where the vocal cord vibration happens before the plosive release /g/

  • zero voice onset time, where the vocal cord vibration occurs precisely with the plosive release /k/

  • positive voice onset time, where the vocal cord vibration occurs after the plosive release /kh/

The positive voice onset time is called aspiration in English. Compare Czech words /pot/, /pi:t/, /ten/, /tip/, /kop/, /kʌp/ vs. English ones /phot/, /phi:t/, /then/, /thip/, /khɒp/, /khʌp/.

Generally, in the initial position: /p/, /t/, and /k/ are aspirated (except after /s/: e.g. spark, start, scarce) whereas /b/, /d/, and /g/ are unaspirated. The voicing of medial plosives depends on the stressed or unstressed surroundings. In final position: voicing of /b/, /d/, /g/ is lessened but, contrarily, the final position influences the length of the preceding vowels (pre-lenis lengthening).

2.4 Consonants revision — exercises (Brett, 2017)

*1 The following are all English words; they are given only in phonemic transcription. Spell them correctly:

ki:p, bəʊt, kʌp, dɜ:t, baɪk, kæb, geɪt, keəd, taɪəd, bɜ:d, dʌk, kəʊp, dɒg, kaʊəd, beɪk, taɪd, bɪəd, pʊt, bʌg, daʊt

*2 Each group of words contains the letter at the beginning of the group. Which letters are silent (aphthongs) and which are not?

 — P psychology, couple, cupboard, receipt, raspberry,

 — T castle, attitude, Christmas, whistle, postpone, bright

 — K knowledge, acknowledge, knot, kneel, knife, nickname

 — B climbing, subtle, symbol, numb, dumb, debt, bribed

 — D sandwich, sadness, Wednesday, handkerchief

 — G hungry, foreign, language, campaign, thorough

*3 Pre-fortis clipping. Which vowels are shortened?

tea, meat, toad, dark, card, lip, egg, oak, kite, bad, speed, stalk, appeared, car, beer, tone, feet, court

*4 English fricatives and affricates — practice

 — /f/ fin, offer, laugh

 — /z/ zoo, lazy, lose

 — /v/ vat, over, leave

 — /ʃ/ show, washing, rush

 — /θ/ thing, method, breath

 — /ʒ/ measure, rouge

 — /ð/ these, other, breathe

 — /h/ hot, beehive

 — /s/ sad, lesser, moss

[.ex]*5 Spell these words correctly:

ði:z, feɪθ, heðə, si:ʃɔ:, feðəz, fɪfθ, ʃɪvəz, bɪ’heɪv, si:ʒə, læʃɪz

*6 Transcribe the following words:

fishes, shaver, sixth, these, achieves, others, measure, ahead, thigh, father, through, fear, foot,

*7 Divide the following words according to the pronunciation of the TH sound (/ð/or /θ/).

this, thin, breath, breathe, though, south, southern, thick, together, weather, thoroughly, think, mouth, leather, smooth, month, rather, clothes, therefore, wealthy, three, thing, then, Thomas, Thames, Thai,

*8 Mark θ and ð sounds in the sentences below and read them out loud:

I think there’s something wrong with me. I woke up with a toothache on Thursday and rang the dentist three times, but there was no reply. Well, the weather’s hot, I expect that’s why you feel thirsty. They thankfully think this thing is the best thing that they can throw the three times they need to throw a thing. Get rid of your leather jacket and I think that the pain will go. There were thousands of thinkers thinking how the other three thieves got through.

*9 Velar nasal ŋ Take care not to pronounce a plosive after the velar nasal:

hæŋ, sɪŋɪŋ, rʌŋ, θɪŋ, hæŋə, rɒŋ, bæŋɪŋ, rɪŋ

*10 When is ŋg/ŋk pronounced? Transcribe the words:

thank, pink, thinking, monkey, thing, bang, singer, hanger, finger, anger, language, long, longer, longest, strong, stronger, strongest,

*11 ŋ with and without g, read out loud:

(finger), (anger), (Bangor), (hunger), (angle), (singer), (hanger), (longing), (ringing), (banger)

*12 Clear /l/ and dark /ɬ/. Read out loud:

 — l before vowels: lie, low, loose, loud, leak, law

 — ɬ before pause: fill, bell, kneel, pale, mile, kill

 — ɬ before consonants: help, filth, belt, failed, milk, Welsh

*13 RP ‘r’ — only before a vowel: read out loud and transcribe

red, car, ever, hard, verse, air, airing, rewrite, terrorist, arrow, rarer, herring, mirror, roaring, roar

*14 ‘w’, read out loud and transcribe

Way, war, win, wear

*15 Difficulty in distinguishing between /v/ and /w/. Read the following:

very well, a wet vet, one van, winter weather was very wild, vast number of violets, language; who, write

*16 Transcribe the following words.

sofa, verse, square, anger, steering, bought, breadcrumb, nineteen,

*17 Transcribe the following words:

helps, helped, breathes, looks, looked, crabs, words, gloves, buses, ridges, wishes, wished, races, raced, kissed, kisses, parked, parks, needed, needs, flowers, lived, lives, pushes, pushed, talked, talks, dated, dates, plays, played, kings, opens, opened, calls, called, students, hits, tablecloths, writes, booked, books, drinks, walked, walks, believed, believes, beliefs, ages, cars, said, says, laughs, laughed, boxes, prizes, passes, passed, churches, sandwiches, wanted, wants, waits, waited, folded, folds, changes, changed, enjoys, enjoyed, tries, tried, washed, washes, watches, watched, likes, liked, hated, hates, teaches, judges, shops, stops, stopped, sleeps, bags, cards, chilled, cooked, cooks, nurses, fixes, sits, months,

3 Vowels

The placement of sound production which depends on the tongue form and placement in the oral cavity plus the overall formation of the mouth, are the decisive factors when pronouncing and classifying vowels. To be able to exactly describe where and how each vowel occurs, the linguists use a quadrilateral diagram recommended by the International Phonetic Association. It is also called Vowel trapezoid or Vowel chart (viz hmatová příloha č. 1).

When pronouncing vowels, we distinguish open vs. close vowels (based on the distance of upper and lower jaw), and front, and back vowels (based on the tongue placement inside the mouth): e.g. open-front vowel /æ/, open-back vowel /ɑ:/, close-front vowel /i:/, close-back vowel /u:/. Sometimes, vowels are also classified according to the lips position as rounded, spread or neutral.

3.1 Cardinal vowels

Vowels pronounced in their extreme possible positions (viz hmatová příloha č. 2).

3.2 English short vowels

There are seven English short vowels. They are only relatively short since their length is rather a matter of scale and always, unlike in Czech, depends on the context, i.e. the surrounding consonants. The fact whether the following consonant is voiced or voiceless influences the real length of a preceding vowel — voiced consonants prolong the preceding vowels (this is called pre-lenis lengthening) whereas voiceless consonants shorten the preceding vowels (pre-fortis clipping) as in the minimal pair /bit/ vs. /bid/.

  • /ɪ/ is not quite closed, rather half-closed, front and slightly centered (less closed than the Czech /i/ — e.g. in pairs tip vs. tip or typ in Czech, bit vs. bit or byt

  • /e/ is a front vowel, which is practically the same as the Czech /e/, compare words e.g. set, ten, den

  • /æ/ is front and rather open, it is often lengthened — e.g. bad, band, dad

  • /ʌ/ is a central vowel, half-open, e.g. cup, tuck, much

  • /ɒ/ is a back vowel, open, labialized (lips are slightly rounded) — e.g. pot, gone, hot

  • /ʊ/ is a back vowel, slightly centered, half-close, e.g. put, push, pull

  • /ə/ is a central vowel, called schwa, in RP it is never stressed, it is also called a mixed vowel, it occurs in unstressed syllables e.g. the first syllable in today, connect

3.3 English long vowels

There are five English long vowels, which, again, are only relatively long, since their length depends on the surrounding consonants. As it was mentioned above, the fact whether the following consonant is fortis or lenis influences the real length of a preceding vowel — voiced consonants prolong the preceding vowels whereas voiceless consonants shorten the preceding vowels e.g. the /i:/ in beat will be shorter than the /i:/ in bead. This phenomenon is called the pre-fortis clipping: see /si:/ vs. seat /si(:)t/ and it applies to all English long vowels.

  • /i:/ is a front vowel, closed e.g. in flee

  • /ɜ:/ is a central vowel e.g. in fur

  • /ɑ:/ is an open vowel, not quite in the back, but slightly centered: car, far

  • /ɔ:/ is a back vowel, between half-close and half-open, strongly rounded (labialized)

  • /u:/ is a back vowel, close, rounded (labialized)

3.4 English diphthongs

These are pronounced as two separate vowels with one gliding into the other. The first part is much longer and only the last quarter belongs to the second vowel.

3.4.1 Centering diphthongs

Ending in central vowel /ə/:

  • /ɪə/ in here, peer,

  • /eə/ in pear, there,

  • /ʊe/ in poor, tour (note that this diphthong is slightly changing into a long vowel /ɔ:/ sometimes).

3.4.2 Closing diphthongs

Ending in closing vowel /ɪ/:

  • /eɪ/ as in pay,

  • /aɪ/ in* my,

  • /ɔɪ/ in boy;

or ending in closing vowel /ʊ/:

  • /əʊ/ in low, sow,

  • /aʊ/ in how.

3.5 English triphthongs

They are the most complex English vowel sounds. A triphthong is a glide from one vowel to a second vowel and then to a third one. They are created from closing diphthongs with added /ə/:

  • /eɪə/ in layer,

  • /aɪə/ in lier,

  • /ɔɪə/ in lawyer,

  • /əʊə/ in lower,

  • /aʊə/ in power.

There might arise some difficulties with the comprehension of these complex sounds in rapid (connected) speech, as in the heightened RP pronunciation the middle parts are often shortened and therefore the triphthongs may be misheard as diphthongs or even long vowels (monophthongization), such as in the cluster in an hour, which may be pronounced as in an /ɑ:/.

3.6 Revision of vowels — exercises (Brett, 2017)

*1 Write the IPA symbols for the vowels in the following words:

bread, broad, ward, rough, foot, calf, learn, hymn, pull, cough, cool, mat, team, err, friend, seal, curl,

*2 Highlight all the words that include the open front vowel /æ/. Transcribe the pronunciation of all vowels, then read the phrases:

What six people did on Saturday

On Saturday, I swam the English Channel.

I rang my grandmother.

While I sang in a concert on Saturday.

I got married on Saturday.

And I crashed my car on Saturday.

Well, I sat at home and did nothing on Saturday.

Lunchtime snacks, cup of tea, ham sandwich with mustard, currant bun, cup of coffee, mixed salad, jam sponge, ham sandwich, mixed salad — without onion, apple pie and custard, bread and butter, with: plum jam, blackcurrant jam, honey, a Russian stamp, a lovely hat, a sudden bang, a dozen apples, a black cupboard, a flat cover, an African hat, a damp rug, the Hendon Standard, Elm Avenue, an accident happened, a red van, very angry, pretty busy, sorry to bother you, not far to walk.

*3 One of the main difficulties of English spelling is that some words are pronounced the same but are spelt differently and have different meanings. Can you think of words pronounced the same as each of these, but spelt differently?

guessed, warn, meet, won, threw,

*4 Write down another word that rhymes with each of the words below:

example: bad — sad, end — friend

calm, caught, bird, sleep, slip, pot, look, lunch, cool

*5 Match the words with the vowel sound (/æ/, /e/, /ɑ:/, /ɔ:/, /ɜ:/, /i:/, /ɪ/, /ɒ/, /u:/, /ʊ/) they share in common. Say them aloud to help you to decide:

 — blood, tongue, country, thorough

 — blue, blew, root, route, new, knew

 — weak, week, seize, seas, wheel, we’ll

 — cushion, butcher, pull

 — guilty, witch, which, mist, missed

 — laugh, castle, half

 — not, knot, knowledge, quality

 — scandal, flat

 — bury, berry, weather, whether, check, cheque

 — turn, firm, burn, earn, were

 — wore, war, source, sauce, raw, roar

*6 Add these words to the appropriate group above, according to their vowel sounds:

business, guard,, marry merry, push, receive, soup, walk, wander, wonder, work

*7 Find the mistakes in each of these sentences and correct them.

1 I am quite shore that this weak is going too be wonderful.

2 We are truely sorry that you had to weight so long four the delivery.

3 He has dredful manners — he paws tomato source on all his food.

4 They couldn’t get thier new armchare threw the door.

5 Witch of these too alternatives is the write one?

6 He lent the ladder agenst the wall and climed onto the roof.

7 The cieling and walls of this room need peinting ergently.

*8 Write the diphthongs. Read the following words, making sure that the second part of the diphthong is weak.

 — mate, made, main, mace,

 — right, ride, rhyme, rice,

 — quoit, buoyed, Boyne, Royce,

 — coat, code, cone, close,

 — gout, loud, gown, louse,

 — feared, Ian, fierce,

 — cared, cairn, scarce,

 — moored, fuel,

*9 Write the symbols for the vowels in the following words. Then mark the position of each vowel in the Cardinal Vowel Diagram (trapezoid).

tone, style, cheap, big, noise, soon, out, bad, way, beer, close, hour, pain, world, boy, bed, hair, won, why, they, their…, tongue, sure, slower, soap, gone, sign, bear, power, main, break, home, player, cow, clear, height, paddle, quiet, vowel, own, fruit, brown

*10 Write down another word that rhymes with each of the words below:

e.g. lower — mower

bite, now, toy, there, here, make, note, fuel, tired, tower, royal, player

*11 Can you think of words which are pronounced the same as each of these, but spelt differently?

their … allowed … brake … whole … right …

*12 Match the words according to the diphthong sound they share in common (/aɪ/, /aʊ/, /ɔ/, /eə/, /ɪə/, /eɪ/, əʊ/). Say them aloud to help you to decide:

 — eye, I,

 — destroy, employ

 — climate, by, buy, bye, thigh

 — cleared, atmosphere

 — folk, nose, knows

 — wait, weight, male, mail, waste, waist

 — proud, found

 — stares, stairs, fare, fair, pair, pear

*13 Add these words to the appropriate group above, according to their vowel sounds:

frown, paint, point, share, sincere, soap, time

*14 Can you find at least 5 words for each vowel sound?










4 Syllable

Syllables are very important for the rhythm of a particular language but are fairly difficult to define; not only by the users of the language (you can count them but most probably would not be able to describe them) but also from a linguistic perspective (both phonetics and phonology). The syllable is an invisible thing, something that we can only really perceive and count when we say something out loud. It is hard to grasp scientifically and yet the basis for the most elegant things that humans have dreamed up out of the subtle alchemy of language use. Perhaps the elusiveness of the syllable true nature only makes our use of it in poetry the more mysterious and lovely. In sonnets or in the simple pulses of speech that make up your own name, we simply know that it’s there. (Livingstone, 2014)

4.1 Definition of syllabe

4.1.1 Definition of syllable from the users’ viewpoint

When it comes to learning a different language, focusing on the syllables rather than words can be a very useful idea. There are some methods for language learning predicated on the idea that words are imaginary while syllables are real. The conception of language as a construct of syllables can certainly help the learner to grasp the phonetics of a foreign language. Concentrating on sounds can help you see past a word’s spelling. English is especially difficult in this regard. For example, a Spanish speaker might add an extra syllable to the end of a word like progressed, because, reasonably enough, a vowel between two consonants is very often syllabic.

In some instances people will differ in their opinions on the number of syllables (Ladefoged, 2011): e.g. predatory (3 vs. 4 syllables), bottling and brightening (2 vs. 3 syllables with syllabic consonants). Even words that everybody pronounces the same may have syllable-count open to debate: e.g. communism (that final /m/ may or may not be syllabic) or are diphthongs two syllables or one e.g. in the word hire.

Most people, when trying to define a syllable, speak about pulses, or beats (people can count them by clapping hands) so, apparently they are most important for rhythm (not for the meaning of words, so the number of syllables does not influence the meaning of a word. Humans possibly need the rhythm of stronger and weaker beats for their brain to process the speech easier.

4.1.2 From the viewpoint of phonetics

Phoneticians want to describe what exactly goes on in your speech organs when a syllable happens. So, generally they agree that a syllable consists of a centre which has little or no obstruction of airflow and sounds relatively loud (in comparison with the other sounds surrounding this sound) and before and after this centre there is a greater obstruction to airflow and the sound of this beginning and end will be less loud (this will be described below in more details).

4.1.3 From the viewpoint of phonology

The phonologists want to come up with a formal, fixed definition of what exactly the syllable is as a part of language. This, however, is a fairly complex issue, so they have introduced several rules based rather on observations on how the individual parts of a syllable are influenced by the others. E.g. the aspiration of /p/, /t/, /k/ appears at the beginning of a syllable but not after /s/, e.g. in spark, star, scar. The occurrence of stressed vs. unstressed syllables in a word; or the so-called phonotactic constrains, i.e. what sound combinations within a syllable may or may not occur e.g. in English. If a syllable begins with three phonemes, the first one will always be /s/ (split, sprint, stew /stju:/) or that the sound /n/ cannot occur in the second place, unless the word begins with /s/ e.g. snore, which means that there is no word beginning with /bn/, /tn/ or /kn/ (note the spelling of known or knot, which proves that formerly the combination /kn/ was possible as English is a Germanic language and this cluster is present in German: knoten (the English knot /not/).

4.2 Phonetic structure of a syllable

World languages have a variety of syllable types. English permits a wide range of structures, but in other languages the options may be limited to a single type. While the nucleus is obligatory, the onsets may by obligatory or optional. In English onsets are optional (e.g. face /feɪs/ and ace /eɪs/), but in some languages (e.g. Cairene Arabic) every syllable must begin with a consonant. Similarly, codas in English may be optional (e.g. start /stɑ:t/ and star /stɑ:/), but there are languages like the South American language Pirahã, which does not permit codas.

4.2.1 Minimum syllable

It consists of a single vowel (mind the difference between written form and a phonetic form, i.e. the pronunciation), e.g. are /ɑ:/, or /ɔ:/. These are preceded and followed by silence.

4.3 Syllable division

Dividing a word into syllables is not as straightforward as it may seem. Sometimes we may call consonants that seemingly belong to both syllables as ambisyllabic — e.g. happy /hæ.pi/ or /hæ p.i/) — some phoneticians in this respect speak about maximum onsets principle, i.e. if there is any consonant in the part of the word where two syllables are to be divided, it should be attached to the right-hand syllable (e.g /hæ.pi/ would be a great example of this guideline). But it does not work that easily on all the occasions (e.g. extra may be, following this rule, divided as /e.kstrə/, but we know that English syllables cannot start with /kstr/.

4.4 Syllables from the perspective of vowels included

One of the most important features of syllables is that they create a distinction of the so-called weak and strong syllables. This phenomenon is apparent in many languages but is of a special concern in English since the distribution of weak and strong syllables influences the rhythm of a language. The rhythm based on regular patterns of weak and strong syllables (stress) is the basic characteristic feature of the English language. Considering a syllable weak or strong depends on a vowel forming the centre of a particular syllable.

4.4.1 Weak syllables

Weak syllables contain unstressed vowel, or syllabic consonant and they are not stressed.

The only possible vowels in weak syllables are central schwa /ə/ and closed front/back vowels /ɪ/, /ʊ/. In fact, most of the weak syllables contain schwa.

As with weak vowels /ɪ/, /ʊ/ we come across a problematic assignment of proper quality of pronunciation, thus sometimes we use the phonemes description as /i/, /u/ (similar to long ones but without the length marking colon). We may use /i/ in final position with spelling y/ey (compare lip vs. happy); in prefixes spelt re-, pre-, de- (react, preoccupied); in two syllabic suffixes -iate, -ious (appreciate, hilarious); or in pronouns (he, she, we, me) when unstressed.

Apart from the above-mentioned vowels, we also talk about weak syllables when they do not contain any vowel at all, but they are formed by the so-called syllabic consonants, such as /l/, /r/, /m/, /n/, /ŋ/. In transcription, these are marked with a little vertical line below them.

Syllabic /l/ appears after alveolar consonants (e.g. cattle, tunnel), after non-alveolars in words ending -le (e.g. couple, struggle, trouble). Note that if the suffix -ing is added to these words, then the phoneme in question remains syllabic, e.g. in bottling, struggling, troubling.

Syllabic /n/ appears most often after alveolar plosives or fricatives, e.g. in threaten, eaten, seven, heaven but not after /l/ or /tʃ/, /dʒ/. In such words the syllable is perceived as containing schwa instead, e.g. in sullen, Christian.

Syllabic /m/, /ŋ/ appears only as a result of assimilation and elision (broken key /brəukŋ ki:/). (More details in in Chapter 7).

Syllabic /r/ appears mostly in American accents, not as much in BBC English (as in the word particular /prtɪkjʊlr/ vs. /pətɪkjʊlə/), rarely it may define meaning (Hungary vs. hungry).

4.4.2 Strong syllables

As is apparent from the information above, strong syllables are defined by their distinction from the weak syllables, i.e. they do not contain a weak vowel or a syllabic consonant.

5 Stress in language

From the perspective of production, stress may be described as using more muscular effort to produce the sound. It is measurable that we use the muscles that expel air from the lungs more actively to form more subglottal pressure and correspondingly we do the same with the other parts of our speech apparatus.

From the perspective of perception, it may be said that we perceive the stressed part of a word (syllable) as prominent in loudness, it is perceived as louder than the other syllables (unstressed ones). E.g. in a sequence of the same syllables (lililili — word: Lilly) the louder is prominent; in length — if one syllable is longer than the others, it will be perceived as prominent, e.g. feeling; in pitch — in English probably the most significant factor — every voiced syllable will be said on some pitch (higher or lower tone of the voice — related to vibration of vocal folds). The higher the pitch used, the more prominently the syllable is perceived.

Note that Czechs have the tendency to neglect the pitch differences, but they are aware of changes in meaning that arise from the difference of pitch used. The differences of meaning are caused rather by the movement of pitch (rising/falling) in fluent speech not in isolated words, e.g. My mother comes from Sheffield… where the stress is on the word mother vs. My mother comes from Sheffield…where the stress is placed on Sheffield. The sentence stress is the most important one — note that it would also influence the translation into Czech: Ze Sheffieldu pochází moje matka… vs. Moje matka pochází ze Sheffieldu…​).

Last but not least the syllable may be perceived as prominent in different quality of vowel from the surrounding ones — simply, if the vowel is different from all the others used in a word, it would be perceived as prominent, i.e. stressed — e.g. zazuza — however, this does not happen too often, so it is not really significant — we may transform this rule on the syllables which are different from the generally weak ones /ɪ/, /ʊ/ or /ə/.

Note that the syllable is usually prominent in a combination of the above factors — i.e. it can never be only loud. Single prominence would not be very significant for the syllable being perceived as stressed. Most often it will be rather louder, longer and pronounced with a higher pitch. It has been shown that the most important or powerful is pitch and length.

5.1 Types of stress

Stress is not a black and white phenomenon. In longer chunks of text, starting from longer words up to sentences, it is impossible to set only the distinction of stressed vs. unstressed syllables. It would even sound unnatural, so we actually talk about several types of stress. Especially, we distinguish between primary stress and secondary stress. The primary stress is placed on the syllable which carries the strongest prominence within the given sequence of text and which, thus, also typically carries the highest pitch. The secondary stress is placed on the syllable which is more prominent than the weak (unstressed) one but is not the most prominent of all (e.g. in the word photographic, the primary stress is on the third syllable: ˌphotoˈgraphic). In transcription, the primary stress is signaled by a little vertical line above and the secondary stress by a little vertical line below, which are placed in front of the stressed vowel.

This division is, however, still simplified because in longer words (ˌindi°visiˈbility) also other levels of stress will take place. Pitch is a more moving phenomenon than taking turns of low/high of the same quality, but we usually go not more than to the so-called tertiary stress (marked as a circle at the bottom line). Nevertheless, for the purpose of our lectures we will not go into such detail, so we will be focusing only on the distinction of syllables carrying primary, secondary stress and those unstressed.

All information about stress provided in here applies, of course, only when words are pronounced in isolation. English has not as stable rules of stress placement as the Czech language, where the first syllable or preposition takes the primary stress, or as it is in Polish, where the penultimate syllable takes the primary stress, or as it is in French, where the final syllable takes the primary stress. In English the system of stress placement is very complex depending on plenty of factors so linguists actually advise learners to learn the new words together with their stress composition.

5.2 The influences of stress placement

There are several factors that generally influence the stress placement. The first factor is whether the word is simple (e.g. photo) or complex (i.e. with affixes, e.g. photographer or compound, e.g. good-looking). The second factor is the grammatical category of the word, whether the word is a noun or a verb or an adjective. The third factor that influences the stress placement within a word is the number of syllables of a given word. Finally, it is the phonological structure of a syllable — the distribution of strong and weak syllables in a word.

5.3 Stress in simple words

5.3.1 Two-syllable words

In only two-syllable words, we have two options, the first or the last syllable is stressed, never both. In verbs, there are tendencies to place the stress at the end of the word. If the second syllable is strong, it is stressed (e.g. aˈhead, aˈrrive). If the second syllable is weak, the first one is stressed (e.g. ˈenter, ˈenvy). If a verb ends in the phoneme /əʊ/, the first syllable is stressed (e.g. ˈfollow, ˈborrow).

Adjectives follow the same rules as the verbs, i.e. there are tendencies to place the stress to the end of the word. If the second syllable is strong, it is stressed (e.g. diˈvine, coˈrrect). If the second syllable is weak, the first one is stressed (e.g. ˈlovely, ˈeven). If an adjective ends in the phoneme /əʊ/, the first syllable is stressed (e.g ˈhollow, ˈshallow).

Adverbs and prepositions (examples of other two-syllabic words) have the tendency to follow the same rules as verbs and adjectives.

Nouns usually place the stress to the beginning of the word. If the second syllable contains a short vowel, the first one is usually stressed (e.g. ˈmoney, ˈproduct). If the second syllable is strong, long, or contains diphthong, it is usually stressed (e.g. deˈsign, baˈloon). Be aware of exceptions such as e.g. ˈimport, ˈexport, where the second syllable is long but the first one is stressed.

5.3.2 Three-syllable words

If the final syllable of a verb is strong, it is stressed (e.g. enterˈtain). If the final syllable is weak, the penultimate syllable is stressed (e.g. enˈcounter, deˈtermine). If both last syllables are weak, the first syllable is stressed (e.g. ˈparody).

If the final syllable of a noun is weak or ends in phoneme /əʊ/, and the middle one is strong, it will be stressed (e.g. diˈsaster, poˈtato). If both last syllables are weak, the first one is stressed (e.g. ˈquantity). Sometimes both — the first and the last — syllables are stressed — in this case the first syllable is prominent, and the last syllable carries the secondary stress (e.g.ˌmariˈgold, ˌinteˈllect).

5.4 Stress in complex words

5.4.1 Complex words with affixes

The issue of affixes, especially suffixes, is very complex in English as it contains many words of foreign origin as well as multiplied suffixes added to a root. However, it is not for the sake of phonetics to go into any lexical details, therefore we will only touch upon some generalizations affecting the placement of stress concerning the most productive suffixes.

 — Suffixes carrying the primary stress: -ee (refer/refeˈree), -eer (volunˈteer), -ese (Portuˈguese), -ette (cigaˈrette), -esque (pictuˈresque)

 — Suffixes not affecting the stress: -able (comfort/comfortable), -age (anchor/anchorage), -al (refuse/refusal), -en (like/liken), -ful (beauty/beautiful), -ing (colour/colouring), -ish (devil/devilish) — only adjectives and nouns — verbs ending in -ish place stress on the preceding syllable — reˈplenish), -like (bird/birdlike), -less (care/careless), -ly (deep/deeply), -ment (develop/development), -ness (loud/loudness), -ous (poison/poisonous), -fy (glory/glorify), -wise (clock/clockwise), -y (only with nouns/adjectives — fun/funny)

 — Suffixes that move the stress to the last syllable of the stem: -eous (adˈvantage/advanˈtagous), -graphy (ˈphoto/phoˈtography), -ial (ˈproverb/proˈverbial), -ic (ˈclimate/cliˈmatic), -ion (ˈperfect/perˈfection), -ious (ˈinjure/inˈjurious), -ty (ˈtranquil/tranˈquility), -ive (ˈreflex/reˈflexive)

 — Suffixes ance/ant/ary: if these are attached to a single-syllable stem, the stress is placed on the stem. If the stem consists of more than one syllables, than we apply the rules of simple words stress placement for the stem.

With prefixes, on the other hand, there is no such regularity as with suffixes, therefore we may say that prefixes work in the same way as words without any prefix.

5.4.2 Compound words

By compound words we understand words consisting of two independent words, which work as a whole and thus carry only one primary stress:

 — Compounds consisting of two nouns: the stress is usually placed on the first element (e.g ˈtypewriter, ˈsunrise).

 — Compounds consisting of an adjective and -ed morpheme: the second word carries the stress (e.g. bad-ˈtempered).

 — Compounds consisting of a number and some other element: the stress is placed on the second word (e.g. second-ˈclass)

 — Compounds functioning as adverbs: the stress is placed on the second word (e.g. North-ˈEast)

 — Compounds functioning as verbs with first adverbial element: the stress is placed on the second word (e.g. ill-ˈtreat)

5.4.3 Variable stress

The stress in English is not unchanging and fixed as with other languages. It moves as a consequence of its surroundings, because of other words surrounding the stressed word. E.g. the compound bad-ˈtempered, which is stressed on the last syllable when standing on its own, will move stress to the first element if the following word begins with strongly stressed syllable, e.g. ˈbad tempered ˈteacher.

Unlike in some other languages, the stress may change the word class and thus the meaning of words in English (e.g. ˈexport vs. exˈport, ˈproduce vs. proˈduce, ˈpresent vs. preˈsent, ˈrecord vs. reˈcord, ˈrebel vs. reˈbel) therefore there is no space to neglect it. Moreover, there are many bahuvrihi compounds which are idiomatic and can be distinguished from ordinary collocations just by stress placement (e.g. ˈflatfoot vs. flat ˈfoot, ˈredhead vs. read ˈhead, ˈblueberry vs. blue ˈberry etc.).

5.5 Revision of stress — exercises (Brett, 2017)

5.5.1 Word stress

*1 Where is the stress in the words below?

father, about, open, camera, apartment, perhaps, potato, receive, relation

*2 Place a stress mark (‘) before the stressed syllable. Read out loud.

Enemy, collect, capital, carnation, paradise, subtract, elephant, observer, profit, entertain

*3 The following are British place names. Pronounce them with the stress as marked and spell them out.

ˈʃrəʊybrɪ, pɒlˈperəʊ, æbəˈdi:n, wʊlvəˈhæmptən, æbəˈrɪstwəθ, ˈbɜ:mɪŋəm, nɔ:ˈθæmptən, dʌnˈdi:, ˈkæntəbrɪ, ˈbeɪzɪŋstəʊk

*4 Transcribe the following words including stress marks:

deceive, sofa, thanked, complete, easy, carpet, imagine, unlikely, major, alive, entertain, autumn, apartment, perhaps, ahead, nature, depend, early, copy, grabbed

*5 Word-class pairs. Stress the second syllable if it is a verb; stress the first syllable if it is a noun or adjective.

abstract A, conduct V, contract N, contrast V, desert N, escort N, export V, import N, insult V, object N, perfect A, permit V, present A, produce V, protest N, rebel V, record N, subject N

5.5.2 Weak syllables

*1 The most frequently occurring vowel in English is /ə/ (schwa). Consider the spelling in the following words. Which vowel would be most likely pronounced in a strong syllable?

Weak first syllable spelt with A, strong pronunciation would have …: about, ahead, again

Weak first syllable spelt O, strong pronunciation …: obtuse, oppose, offend

Weak first syllable spelt U, strong pronunciation …: suppose, support, suggest

Weak first syllable spelt OR, strong pronunciation …: forget, forsake, forbid

Weak first syllable spelt ER, strong pronunciation …: perhaps, per cent, perceive

Weak first syllable spelt UR, strong pronunciation …: survive, surprise, survey

Weak second syllable spelt with A, strong pronunciation …: ballad, Alan, necklace

Weak second syllable spelt O, strong pronunciation …: melon, paddock, purpose

Weak second syllable spelt E, strong pronunciation …: hundred, sullen, open

Weak second syllable spelt U, strong pronunciation …: circus, autumn, album

Weak second syllable spelt AR, strong pronunciation …: tankard, custard, standard

Weak second syllable spelt OR, strong pronunciation …: juror, major, manor

Weak second syllable spelt ER, strong pronunciation …: longer, eastern, mother

Weak second syllable spelt URE, strong pronunciation …: nature, posture, creature

Weak second syllable spelt OUS, strong pronunciation …: ferrous, vicious, gracious

Weak second syllable spelt OUGH, strong pronunciation …: thorough, borough

Weak second syllable spelt OUR, strong pronunciation …: savior, succor, color

Three-syllable words with weak second syllable: (AU9 3:45): Workaday, roundabout, customer, pantomime, perjury, venture, standardize, jeopardy, wonderland, yesterday

*2 Not all weak syllables contain schwa; two other vowels are commonly found in weak syllables, one close front (in the general region of … and …) and the other close back rounded (in the general region of … and …)

Compare the vowels in the four words: beat, bit, busy, easy

*3 Weak initial and final syllables. Transcribe:

excite, exist, inane, device, resume, relate, effect, ellipse, city, funny, easy, busy, many, lazy, only, lady…

*4 Syllabic “l”. Say out loud and transcribe:

bottle, muddle, tunnel, wrestle, bottled, muddled, tunneled, wrestled, bottling, muddling, tunneling, wrestling

*5 Syllabic “n”. Say out loud and transcribe:

Burden, frighten, listen, burdened, frightened, listened, burdening, frightening, listening

*6 Negative auxiliaries are prominent in intonation: say out loud

 — A: Stop whistling! B: I wasn’t whistling.

 — A: I wish you stopped criticizing me. B: It wasn’t a criticism.

 — A: Why did you unfasten it? B: I didn’t unfasten it.

 — A: It was drizzling all day. B: It wasn’t drizzling.

 — A: Stop listening to our conversation. B: I wasn’t listening.

 — A: It was broken when you gave it to me. B: It wasn’t broken.

 — A: Don’t threaten me! B: I wasn’t threatening you.

 — A: You’ve jumbled them up. B: I didn’t jumble them up.

6 Connected speech

When we speak about individual phonemes, we discuss the segments of pronunciation, i.e. segmental phonology. If we deal with phonetic issues beyond its segments, e.g. stress, intonation and connected speech, we speak about suprasegmental phonology.

Intonation (unlike stress) is a matter of connected speech, which is a fluent string of longer parts of text (beyond words) that has its own characteristic features and differs from individually produced words (e.g. the pronunciation of your /jɔ:/ standing on its own vs. your in the clusters take your /jə/ time vs. on your /jər/ own).

Connected speech causes the biggest trouble in language perception. People learn individual phonemes and possibly stress in words on their own, but if native speakers start speaking fluently, it is much more difficult to understand them. Example: I have /həv/ finished my work may be heard as I finished, which is why many Czechs falsely argue that the English do not use the present perfect tense so much. In the sentence She speaks better than I can /kən/, the last two words may sound like the word icon, which may cause confusion.

Connected speech is the most significant attribute of a human language. The malfunction of connected speech can hint to clinical diagnoses of several neurodegenerative diseases: e.g. the outbreak of Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease or aphasia.

The most challenging question in the field of artificial intelligence has been to make robots sound more humanlike. Even though machines are able to produce stress to individual phrases, it is still almost impossible to produce the natural sound of fluent speech. Even the most natural-sounding computerized voices (whether it’s Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa) still sound like computers. Many companies, including the Montreal-based start-up Lyrebird, are attempting to change that. They try to develop an artificially intelligent system that learns to mimic a person’s voice by analyzing speech recordings and the corresponding text transcripts as well as identifying the relationships between them (Gholipour, 2017).

6.1 Aspects of connected speech

There are four factors that make the speech sound natural: rhythm, assimilation, linking, and elision.

6.1.1 Rhythm

English is considered a rhythmical language because of its seemingly regular pattern of strong and weak syllables. English used to be called a stress-timed language and Czech used to be called syllable-timed language. Now, we can say the rhythm of a sentence depends on several interacting factors, not just stress, thus we distinguish: Variable word stress languages, such as English or German, fixed word stress languages (Czech, Polish) and fixed phrase stress languages (French). Stress in a spoken sentence occurs usually at regular intervals and the time to say something depends on the number of stressed syllables rather than the number of syllables itself. There is always tendency that the same or similar number of unstressed syllables will stand between the stressed ones, no matter how many of the unstressed syllables there are. English is believed to keep to the regular exchange of weak and strong syllables, so that it actually adjusts the placement of stress to arrange this — the process is called shift of stress (e.g. ˌtwenty-ˈthree vs. ˈtwenty-three ˈdollars).

6.1.2 Assimilation

Assimilation occurs when a phoneme is realized differently as a result of it being near other phonemes, which most often happens in rapid speech. There are two types of assimilation: regressive assimilation — when the former phoneme changes because of the following phoneme (have to /ˈhæf tə/ or used to /ˈjustə/, or progressive assimilation — when the second phoneme changes because of the preceding phoneme (dogs /dɒgz/).

The process of assimilation can change the place of articulation (e.g. final alveolar will change according to the initial phoneme of the following word — that /p/ person, light /p/ blue etc. — most often regressive)

The process of assimilation can change the manner of articulation — towards the easiest manner of articulation, e.g. those with less obstruction of airflow — so e.g. plosive will change into nasal, e.g. good night /gʊn naɪt/

The process of assimilation can also change the voicing. Foreign learners often assimilate voicing according to their language or simply in a wrong way, which causes strong unintelligibe accent, e.g. baseball /ˈbeɪzbɔːl/instead of /ˈbeɪsbɔːl/, or dogs /dɒks /instead of /dɒgz/.

A special form of assimilation represents the so-called Yod coalescence, which is a phenomenon that takes place when /j/ is preceded by certain consonants (most commonly /t/ and /d/), e.g. What you need. /ˈwɒtʃə/, The ball that you brought. /ðətʃu:/, but use your head! /bəˈʃu:z/, Last year /ˈlɑ:sˈtʃɪə/, Could you? /kədʒə/, Would you? /wədˈʒə/, She had university /ʃi ˈhædʒu:niˈvɜ:sɪti/ students /ˈstju:dənts/

6.1.3 Elision

Some sounds may completely disappear for the sake of timesaving or easiness of pronunciation. The weak vowel is often lost after p, t, k (e.g. potatoes — /phteitəʊs/).

There is a tendency to avoid consonantal clusters (which would be difficult to pronounce), e.g. Edward the sixth’s throne — /siksθrəun/, or to lose the final /v/ in of, e.g. lots of them /lɒts ə ðəm/.

6.1.4 Linking

In connected speech words are linked together in various ways, out of which the most common linking sound is /r/. There are two ways to use /r/ to link the words. It is either through the so-called linking /r/ or intrusive /r/. Linking /r/ is pronounced between two words, when the first one ends in /r/ even though final /r/ would normally be not pronounced in BBC English (e.g. here, four) and the following word begins with a vowel. We avoid pronouncing the two vowel sounds next to each other by inserting /r/ between them (e.g. here I come, four eggs). The so-called intrusive /r/ is inserted between two vowels where there is no spelling reason for /r/ (e.g. drawing / ˈdrɔrːɪŋ/, I saw a film / aɪ sɔː rə fɪlm/). This is widely spread in English but still understood as rather non-standard by some teachers of English.

6.2 Rhythm revision — strong and weak forms (Brett, 2017)

*1 Can you understand the message? What might be the missing words? Example: …​ leaving now …​ staying? = Are you leaving now or are you staying?

1 … went … hotel … booked … room … two nights … father … best friend.

2 … waiting … brother.

3 I knew … going … late again.

4 … take …swimming pool?

5 I thought … station already, … wrong.

6 … go to the zoo, … before?

7 … more books here … have.

8 He asked … money … lent ….

9 She told … better off going by bus.

*2 Mark words you expect to appear in their weak forms. Read and transcribe:

1 We can wait for the bus.

2 How do the lights work?

3 There are some new books I must read.

4 She took her aunt for a drive.

5 The basket was full of things to eat.

6 Why should a man earn more than a woman?

7 You ought to have your own car.

8 He wants to come and see us at home.

9 Have you taken them from that box?

10 It’s true that he was late, but his car could have broken down.

11 I shall take as much as I want.

12 Why am I too late to see him today?

*3 Transcription. Write the following sentences in transcription, taking care to use the correct weak forms.

1 Leave the rest of the food for lunch. …

2 Aren’t there some letters for her to open? …

3 Where do the eggs come from? …

4 Read his book and write some notes. …

5 At least we can try and help. …

*4 Stress placement in sentences. Put a stress mark (ˈ) before each syllable you would expect to be stressed in the following sentences. Then transcribe the sentences.

Example: I ‘think I’ll be ‘late for ‘work.

1 James decided to type the letter himself.

2 The plane was approaching the runway at high speed.

3 Try to see the other person’s point of view.

4 You put your brakes on when the light turns to red.

5 In a short time the house was full of children.

*5 Weak forms. In the following sentences, those words which are not stressed must be pronounced in their weak forms. Then transcribe the sentences.

1 Here’s a present for your brother.

2 These are all the pictures that are left.

3 There could be a bit of rain at the end of the morning.

4 A few people asked him a question.

5 Collect your luggage before leaving the train.

6.3 Assimilation revision

*1 Some sounds may change when they are at the end of a word, usually /d/, /t/ and /n/. What will the sounds at the end of bold words sound like?

good girl, bad boys, I’ve got a bad cold, We had a bad year, that kid, hot mushrooms, They shot bears, They shot cats, ten cars, ten men, What’s your son called?, My son made this.

*2 Differences in place or manner of articulation (in English usually regressive assimilation)

that person, light blue, meat pie, that case, bright color, quite good, this shoe, those years, that side, good night

Examples of progressive assimilation of voice (read out loud):

*3 cuts /kʌts/, liked /laɪkt/, loves /lʌvz/, laughed /lɑ:ft/, holds /həʊldz/, finished /fɪnɪʃt/, cats /kæts/, becomes /bɪˈkʌmz/, ladies /leɪdiz/, jumps /dʒʌmps/, dogs /dɒgz/, Pam’s /pæmz/

6.4 Elision revision

*1 Try omitting certain sounds in these consonant clusters, pronounce as a connected speech and transcribe

The next day, the last car, Hold the dog!, Send Frank a card, lunchtime, acts, looked back, scripts, George the Sixth’s throne

6.5 Linking revision

*1 Vowel to vowel linking: link the words ending with a vowel sound to words beginning with a vowel sound, pronounce out loud and transcribe

go ahead, blue eyes, two or three, go out, I agree, is she in, day and night, see it

*2 R-linking

In Standard British English (though not in many other accents of English), /r/ in syllable final position is not pronounced, e.g. car /kɑ:/. If the next syllable starts with any vowel sound, r-linking will take place. This may happen within single words, e.g. care /keə/, caring /keəriŋ/or between word boundaries, e.g. care about /keərəbaʊt/Transcribe more examples:

answer a question, four and a half, never again

*3 Identify occasions for intrusive R: Transcribe these examples of linking and try to pronounce them:

Draw all the flowers, There’s a comma after that, Australia or New Zealand

*4 Mark all occurrences where linking will take place:

There was an old man called Greg,

Who tried to break open an egg?

He kicked it around,

But fell on the ground,

And found that he’d broken a leg.

*5 Spell out these names, pronouncing all the sounds connected.


*6 Mark linking. Read the following phrases. Pay attention to the regularity of stress.

I‘ve‿ˈoften ˈwanted to ̀meet you.

ˈJohn ˈwanted to ˈtake it a ̀way from her.

I‘m ˈsorry you ˈcan‘t come.

We shall be ˈvery ˈpleased to ̀come.

We can ˈleave a little ˈnote if he ˈisn‘t ̀in.

ˈWhat ˈname shall I ̀ask for?

ˈSome people are‿ˈalways a ˈfew minutes ̀late.

He ˈcame ˈlate to the ̀office.

We ˈtravelled all ˈnight in the ̀train.

It‘s ˈnot ˈquite what I ̀wanted.

ˈPlease ˈcall back ̀later.

ˈWould you mind ˈcalling back ̀later?

ˈPlease help yourˈself to some ̀more.

There’s ˈnone ̀left.

I ˈdon‘t ̀want to.

I‘m ˈnot very ̀well today

*7 Mark linking and the stress. Read the text paying attention to stress and rhythm. Then transcribe the text.

I rang the bell — it was one of those old-fashioned ones that you pulled — and I could hear it ringing through the house. I waited, but there was no sound of footsteps in the house. I waited, perhaps for two minutes, but still all was silent. But the house was occupied; there was smoke coming from the chimney (it was in December), and I recognized Anna’s clean, bright curtains in the windows. I rang again, louder than before, and then, after another minute or so I heard footsteps slowly coming down the stairs.

*8 Identify places where yod coalescence may occur in the following phrases:

1 What you need is a good job!

2 You told me that you had your homework done.

3 She didn’t go to France that year.

4 Could you open the window please?

5 You’ve already had yours!

*9 Weak forms with pre-vocalic and pre-consonantal forms: say the phrase out loud using the appropriate weak form and transcribe

the apple, the pear, to Edinburgh, to Leeds, so do I, so do they, an ear, a foot, her eyes, her nose, your uncle, your friend, for Alan, for Mik, there aren’t, there couldn’t, these are ours, these are mine, you were out, you were there

7 Intonation

Intonation can be very simply described as the variation of human pitch and it is the crucial aspect of every language that makes it sound natural and native. It is not really easy to actually learn the patterns, or at least not all of them, if you are not in permanent contact with the native language; therefore our task is to introduce the basic aspects and patterns that will enable us to grasp the major pragmatic functions of intonation.

7. 1 Pitch of voice

Pitch is obviously not a rigid phenomenon. It varies from person to person, it may be high and low or it may change irrespective of the will due to speakers’ emotions or physical circumstances.

What is important for linguistics is the level of the pitch used on purpose to assign a certain communicative quality to particular parts of a sentence (or other utterances). It has to be perceptible to the hearer, otherwise it would not be obviously communicatively important.

We should be aware of two aspects of intonation: its form and function. In the following chapter we will discuss how we can describe the variations of pitch and why speakers use these variations (what can be achieved by using them).

7.2 Forms of intonation

The way the pitch varies is to be described as tone. The tone can be applied to certain units of text or utterances (neutral word for word, phrase, or sentence etc.).

We can define two types of tones: basic tones and complex tones.

7.2.1 Basic tones — falling, rising, and level

The falling tone is the one where the pitch of a speaker’s voice starts at a certain level and then lowers. The rising tone, on the contrary, starts at a certain level of a speaker’s voice and then rises. Note that the levels where the tone starts and where it ends are not the same for all speakers — they are influenced by individual physical abilities of each speaker. So, the most important feature of a tone is its gliding, not the actual level.

Level tones are typical for certain languages — the so-called tone languages such as Mandarin Chinese or some African languages (Afroasiatic, Nilo-Saharan, Niger-Congo, Khosian), or some Native American languages which use various levels of tones (high, mid, low). On the other hand, English exploits the level tones only little — it is more based on either gliding tones or in fact even the complex tones.

7.2.2 Complex tones — fall-rise, rise-fall

The complex tones present the combination of the above basic tones spread over a single tone unit. In English, they are of no particular importance for the meaning, therefore we will describe only those in connection to their function (in 8.3.1).

7.3 Function of intonation

In every language, tones have their function and they can influence the meaning of what we are saying. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information and to convey emphasis, or contrast. Some languages use tones to distinguish the meaning of individual words or even the individual grammatical information (especially with monosyllabic words). English is not a tone language, i.e. it does not use tones to differentiate meaning nor grammatical features, nevertheless, it still exploits intonation to express a speaker’s attitude, which makes it the so-called intonation language. It does not contrast individual tones e.g. for syllables, but it rather exploits intonation over larger stretches of text such as phrases or sentences (utterances). These utterances are called tone units.

The minimal tone unit is the syllable, but we do not speak in monosyllabic words, so it is usually larger. Larger stretches of text (complex tone units) consist of the most prominent syllable. It means that such syllable is stressed and carries a certain type of tone, i.e. it carries the tonic stress and is called a tonic syllable. This forms the obligatory nucleus. There may be also other optional elements included, such as the head, pre-head and the tail.

For the sake of our understanding of the function of intonation we will exemplify it on simple units only:

  • Fall (neutral tone — gives impression of ending the conversation): “Was Peter there? — No.”

  • Rise (impression that something will yet follow): “Excuse me. — Yes?”

  • Fall-rise (limited agreement, response with reservations): “I’ve heard that it’s a good school — Yes.”

  • Rise-fall (strong approval/disapproval/surprise): “You wouldn’t do that, would you? — No.”

  • Level (boring, routine questions): “Do you like it? — Yes.”

7.3.1 Function of intonation with respect to Functional sentence perspective (FSP)

Intonation is also a decisive factor in distribution of communicative importance across sentences. The theory of functional sentence perspective describes the distribution of degrees of communicative dynamism across syntactic units, in other words it describes the factors that influence the fact that some information within a clause or a sentence is more important than the other for the sake of the particular communication development.

By FSP factors in a written language we mean especially context, word order, and the so-called semantic scales. In a spoken language, these play crucial roles as well but above all the intonation is added. In fact, the intonation is the most decisive factor of all. All of the factors are present in all studied languages; nevertheless, they differ in their importance for a particular language. However, intonation always seems to play the prime role in establishing the most important information within a sentence. Let us present an example. In the sentence: I thought she might consider buying a new handbag, the context and the word order may remain the same, nevertheless the intonation center may shift from one word onto another and thus reliably decipher which information the speaker concentrates on.

The issue of intonation is far more complex and quite difficult to grasp for foreign speakers. We believed that students should be aware of changes in meaning brought about by changes in intonation, however, to master all its nuances, one must be exposed to the native forms of a language as often as possible.

7.4 Intonation revision

*1 Say the following sentence several times using the same words but giving it different meaning with appropriate intonation. You could say it to mean “What a surprise!”, or “How annoying!”, or “That’s great!”

1 It’s raining.

2 We have spent all the money.

3 David is not coming to the party.

*2 Read out loud using context-appropriate tonic syllable:

1 I’d like some shoes. — What kind of shoes? — Do you like them in red? — No, I’d prefer black shoes.

2 She wanted some cake. — Well, I didn’t.

*3 Identify the tonic syllable, read out loud.

1 We could go by bus.

2 Of course it’s broken.

3 The car was where I’d left it.

4 How much is the biggest one.

5 I knew it would go wrong.

6 It was too cold.

7 Here it is.

8 That was a loud noise.

9 We could go from Manchester.

10 Have you finished.

*4 Identify the tonic syllable and underline it. Identify the tone (in these items the only tones used are fall and rise). Identify any stressed syllables preceding the tonic syllable and place a stress mark before each.

1 What time will they come?

2 A day return to London.

3 The North Pole would be warmer.

4 Have you decided to buy it?

5 I recorded them on cassette.

*5 Each item should be pronounced as one tone-unit: Identify the tonic syllable and underline it. Decide which tone it carries — only ̖{fall} falling, ̗ {rise} rising and ̬{fall-rise} falling-rising are used in this exercise) and put the appropriate tone-mark \{fall, rise, fall-rise} before the tonic syllable.

1 Now here’s the weather forecast.

2 You didn’t say anything about rates.

3 A few years ago they were top.

4 No-one could say the cinema was dead.

5 Is there anything you wouldn’t eat.

6 Have you ever considered writing.

7 That was what he claimed to be.

8 We try to do our shopping in the market.

9 But I never go there now.

10 It wouldn’t be difficult to find out.

*6 Mark the speech unit boundaries in the following sentences. Example: The only college that teaches medical statistics // is to close next year.

1 The ship was launched in September 1942 and destroyed a month later.

2 Property prices will increase as long as interest rates remain low.

3 The bird is often heard but seldom seen in the wild.

4 They took what they could carry and left the rest of their belongings behind.

5 Why students drop out of university is a complex issue.

6 Thieves made off with the painting despite security guards in the building.

7 Most people also speak French which is taught from the age of six.

8 Who gave the order to shoot is to be investigated further.

9 Women who are pregnant should avoid alcohol.

10 He claimed he was innocent, but the jury disagreed.