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UNIT 7


ENGLISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEM I. VOWELS:
PHONETIC SYMBOLS. STRONG AND WEAK FORMS.
DIPHTHONGS: PHONETIC SYMBOLS. COMPARING

PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS: ENGLISH VS SPANISH, THE
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE OF MURCIA AUTONOMOUS

COMMUNITY

OUTLINE

1. INTRODUCTION.

1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2. THE HISTORY AND SCOPE OF PRONUNCIATION TEACHING.
2.1. Pronunciation instruction in perspective.
2.2. A history of pronunciation teaching.

2.2.1. Earlier times.
2.2.2. XVIth and early XVIIth century: the spelling reform.
2.2.3. XVIIth century: the precursors of modern phoneticians.
2.2.4. XVIIIth century: the standardization of pronunciation.
2.2.5. XIXth century: the creation of an International Phonetic Alphabet.
2.2.6. XXth century: modern methods and approaches.
2.2.7. XXIst century: pronunciation teaching today.


3. A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK TO THE ENGLISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEM.

3.1. The nature of communication: main features.
3.1.1. Language as system: a duality of patterning.
3.1.2. Language as speech: the sounds of English.

3.2. Phonetics vs phonology: sounds vs phonemes.
3.3. The production of speech: a physio logical aspect.

3.3.1. The speech chain: three main stages.
3.3.2. The speech mechanism: the speech organs.

3.4. Sound change: the Great Vowel Shift.
3.5. A standard of pronunciation: Received Pronunciation (RP).


4. ENGLISH VOWELS: PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

4.1. On defining English vowels.
4.2. A classification of English vowels.

4.2.1. The Vowel Quadrant.
4.2.2. An articulatory description: main features.
4.2.3. Other main articulatory features.


5. COMPARISON OF ENGLISH AND SPANISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

5.1. Spanish /a/.
5.1.1. English ash / æ /.

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5.1.2. English long /a:/.
5.1.3. English short half-open central / ? /.

5.2. Spanish /e/.
5.2.1. English short /e/.
5.2.2. English long /3:/.

5.3. Spanish /i/.
5.3.1. English short /i/.
5.3.2. English long /i:/.

5.4. Spanish /o/.
5.4.1. English short /o/.
5.4.2. English long /o:/.
5.5. Spanish /u/.
5.5.1. English short /u/..
5.5.2. English long /u:/.
5.6. English schwa /? /.

6. ENGLISH DIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

6.1. On defining English diphthongs.
6.2. A classification of English diphthongs.

6.2.1. Closing diphthongs gliding to /i/.
6.2.2. Closing diphthongs gliding to /u/.
6.2.3. Centring diphthongs gliding to schwa / ? /.

6.3. A comparison of English and Spanish diphthongs.

7. ENGLISH TRIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

7.1. On defining English triphthongs.
7.2. A classification of English triphthongs.
7.3. A comparison of English and Spanish triphthongs.


8. PRESENT-DAY DIRECTIONS IN PRONUNCIATION.

9. CONCLUSION.

10. BIBLIOGRAPHY.

11. FIGURES.

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Since content words (i.e., nouns, verbs, adjectives) generally retain some measure of qualitative
prominence even when no pitch prominence is associated with them, we will concentrate on the
weak and strong forms regarding function words (i.e., prepositions, articles) since they are usually
pronounced in English with their weak form. Besides, function words have two or more qualitative
patterns according to whether they are stressed (special situations or isolated) or unstressed (the
usual case).

Thus, (1) weak forms of function words are related to three main features in English. The first
feature is the reduction of sound length, as in the preposition to, where we find the phonetic
transcription of short and long /u/ and the schwa. These three realizations depend on the function
they have in the sentence. Thus, According to... as a connector (weak) and to write as an infinitive
(strong). The second feature deals with the obscuration of vowels mainly towards schwa, but also
towards short /u/ and /i/. Again, we find different realizations depending on the role they play in the
sentence, as for instance, should, she, or has. Finally, the third feature deals with the elision of
vowels and consonants in connected speech, thus in the sentence I must go, the vowel in must may
be assimilated in the speech chain.

(2) Regarding strong forms of function words, we shall mention that there are certain cases where
function words should be pronounced with their strong form. These cases are (1) when a function
word occurs at the end of a sentence (the preposition ‘from’ in ‘I am from Spain’ (weak) and
‘Where are you from?’ (strong); (2) when a function word is in opposition to another word so as to
establish a clarification of meaning, as in ‘I laugh with him, not at him’; (3) when a function word is
given special stress for emphasis purposes, as in ‘You must do it’; and (4) when a function word is
being cited or quoted,

One of the more striking characteristics of English is the frequency with which reduced vowels
occur in the stream of speech. Also striking is the restricted number of vowels that tend to occur in
unstressed position, such as the short vowels /i/, /o/ and /u/. At the word level, the mid-central
reduced vowel schwa is by far the most common of the reduced vowel sounds, especially if one
includes with schwa reduced vowels with a postvocalic /r/ as in father. The choice of schwa over all
other reduced vowels is often dialectal or idiosyncratic.




5. COMPARISON OF ENGLISH AND SPANISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

When comparing English and Spanish phonological systems, we find important differences and few
similarities. Thus, regarding vowel quantity, the English vowel system, with twelve vowels, is much
richer than the Spanish one, which has only five. Regarding vowel quality, English has long and
short vowels whereas in Spanish this distinction is not present. Accordingly, their articulatory
representation in the oral cavity is to be different since English vowels are to be shown in an
elaborated vowel quadrant designed by Daniel Jones, and Spanish vowels in a simple inverted
triangle designed by Helwag (Figure 3).

It is worth noting that many of the English vowel phonemes are allophones of the Spanish vowels.
For instance, those vowels represented in a relatively similar area (Figure 5) in both the quadrant
and the triangle, may be confused by English students as the same sound in Spanish, a typical case
being the pronunciation of words such as cart, cat and cup, perceived as the sound /a/ in Spanish.
We shall examine this overlapping in the corresponding section of each vowel sound.

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A main difference between the two vowel systems is the presence of schwa in English and its
absence in Spanish. Yet, this difference emerges from the distinction between stressed and
unstressed vowels in the speech chain. Besides, we shall also examine the role of consonants in the
environment of vowels sounds, or what is called, vowel coloring, which may lengthen or shorten the
affected vowel.

Therefore, we shall examine the most striking differences and similarities of both systems by
comparing Spanish vowels with their counterparts in English in terms of (1) articulatory definition;
(2) articulatory description; (3) similar realizations; and (4) other features related to allophones,
spelling or minimal pairs (Figure 6).

5.1. Spanish /a/.

We concentrate now on the lower part of Helwag triangle. This area correspond to the Spanish /a/, a
simple, central, low, tense, unrounded vowel, as in the words casa or para. This vowel sound is
quite confusing for the Spanish learner of English as it has three realizations in English which have
no direct counterpart in Spanish. Thus, in Jones vowel quadrant, they correspond to the sounds in
cat, cart, and cut. Among these three vowels, only the one in cut might ressemble Spanish
pronunciation in the environment of velar consonants, as in the words cup or gut.

5.1.1. English ash / æ /.

We shall define this vowel as a short, semi-open, front, unrounded, lax vowel. This means that,
when this vowel is pronounced, the front of the tongue is raised to a position between half-open and
open, slightly touching the lower teeth with the tip of the tongue, and with the lips slightly spread.
We observe that the Spanish /a/ is more central than the English ash and more tense.

In Spanish, there is no similar vowel sound to the one in cat or pat. However, in Valencia we may
find it in the environment of palatal consonant sounds as a special coloring feature, as in the words
ancha or muralla, where it is raised to the Spanish phoneme /e/.

The most common spelling for the English ash / æ / is the letter –a- (i.e., bad, man). Minimal pairs
distinguish between ash/ æ / and /e/, as in flash,flesh; bad, bed; or sat, set; and ash / æ / and the
short half-open central /? /, as in cat, cut; or bat, but.

5.1.2. English long /a:/.

We shall define this vowel as a long, open, back, unrounded, lax vowel. On articulatory terms, this
means that the back part of the tongue is raised without touching the upper part, the jaw is lowered
and the lips are open but in neutral position. We observe again that the Spanish /a/ is more central
than the English long /a:/ and more tense.

In Spanish, there is no similar vowel sound to the one in cart or part. However, sometimes Spanish
pronounce the consonant /g/ as a gutural sound instead of a velar one, making this vowel similar to
the English long /a:/, as in paga, or lago. Another special case is the one in Murcia Autonomous
Community when the Spanish vowel /a/ becomes a back long vowel when it is placed at the end of
a word or a sentence, and there is a syllable loss, as in ‘Esto no sirve pa na’.

This English vowel is typical of the RP pronunciation when followed by /r/, as in car or market, or
followed by fricative and dental sounds, as in path, after, ask, or laugh. The most common spelling

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Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., and M. Goodwin. 2001. Teaching Pronunciation, A Reference for
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. 1985. Linguistics. Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books.

Fernández, F. 1982. Historia de la lengua inglesa. Madrid: Gredos.

Gimson, A. C. 1980. An introduction to the pronunciation of English. Edward Arnold.

O’Connor, J.D. 1988. Better English Pronunciation. Cambridge University Press.







11. FIGURES.

Figure 1. The speech organs. Figure 2. The oral cavity.




















Figure 3. Helwag’s and Daniel Jones’ vowel quadrant.

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Figure 4. Saggital section of the mouth. Figure 5. Common areas of vowels.
Celce-Murcia (2001).


















Figure 6. Classification of vowels.




Figure 7. English diphthongs.

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