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Theoretical Phonetics Exam Answers Essay

1.Phonetics as a branch of linguistics. Phonetics and other disciplines. Applications of phonetics. Ph-s is a basic branch of linguistics that studies the inventory, structure and functions of the speech sounds. Ph-s studies the phonemes and their allophones, the syllabic structure, the distribution of stress, intonation and the ways in which they are organized. Ph-s investigates into a system of units and the variation of the units in all types and styles of spoken language. Some disciplines like lexicology and grammar can not function without ph-s. Ph-s is connected with physics mathematics, statistics, physiology, anatomy, anthropology, history, archaeology.

2.Branches of phonetics. Articulatory ph-s is the study of the way the vocal organs are used to produce speech sounds. Acoustic ph-s is the study of the physical properties of speech sounds. Auditory ph-s is the study of the way people perceive speech sounds. Phonology – the functional (linguistic) aspect of speech sounds. Ph-s divided: general (special) and ph-s of particular language (descriptive). Historical ph-s traces the changes in the phonetic system of a language. Ph-s can be: theoretical (studies the material form of sounds) and practical (studies the functioning of phonetic units in language). All the branches of ph-s are closely connected with one another and with other branches of linguistics.

3.Aspects of the sound matter of language. Sound aspects: a) the articulatory aspect (the movements and positions of the speech organs, power, vibration, resonator, obstruction mechanism). b) the acoustic aspect (sound waves – vocal cords>tone, overtones, harmonics, fundamental frequency>pitch of voice, amplitude>intensity); c) the auditory (perceptive) aspect (physiological mechanism (ear>brain), psychological mechanism (to remember phonetic similarities)); d) the functional (linguistic) aspect (phonemes, syllables, stress, and intonation>meaningful units (morphemes, words, utterances).

4.Components of the phonetic system of language. The basic component – phonemic – the system of ph-mes (E in form of their alloph.), 3 asp.: the system of ph-mes as isolated units; the distribution of the alloph. of the ph-mes; the methods of joining speech sounds together in words. The second component – the syllabic structure of words, 2 inseparable asp. – syllable formation and syllable division. The third component is the accentual structure of words as pronounced in isolation (3 asp.: the acoustic nature of word accent; the position of the accent in words; the degrees of word accent). The fourth component of the phonetic system is the intonational structure of utterances. Phonemic, syllabic, accentual and intonational components of the ph-c system of language constitute its pronunciation.

5.National and regional pronunciation variants in English. Unlike written, spoken language varies from place to place. Such distinct forms of lang. are called dialects. The language is varied between language communities (from small groups to nations). National lang. is a historical category created by conditions of economic and political situation which characterizes the nation. In English E a great diversity in the realization of the lang. (particularly the pronunc.) Every national variant of English has considerable differences in pronunc., vocabulary and grammar, but they all have much in common. Every national variety of lang. falls into territorial or regional dialects. Dialects – differences in pronunciation (accents), grammar and vocabulary. 1 of the dialects becomes the standard lang. of the nation and its pronunciation or accent – the standard pronunciation (sometimes called “an orthoepic norm” or “literary pronunciation”).

6.British and American pronunciation models – 2 main types of Eng spoken nowadays. A pronunciation model is a carefully chosen and defined accent of a language. English-based group: English, Welsh, Australian, New Zealand English. American-based group: United States English, Canadian English. Scottish and Ireland English fall somewhere between eng-based and amer-based grps. Some scientists insist that English, Welsh, Scottish and Ireland eng. should be combined into British subgrp. (by political, geograph. and cultural similarities). Daniel Jones, English Pronouncing Dictionary(1917): PSP>RP(“king’s lang.”, 1926)>BBC(2003-16th ed.) No dialect is an American standard, but Networking English is the closest be named as such.

7.Most distinctive features of BBC English and Network English. ВВС English is the pronunc. of professional speakers employed by the BBC. Stability of artic.Horiz. and vertic. movement of the tongue, combinative pronounc., length are distinctive in BBS eng. Consonants: (de)voicing, loss of [h] in rapid speech, initial “hw” (some pronounce weakened), loss of final [ŋ], glottal stop, palatalized final [k’]. The most used variant of GA is Network English. Vowels: no long-short distinction; some diphthongs – as biphonic combin-s; some diphthongs are completely diff.; 2/3 pronounce [r] between vow. and cons. (or silence); nasalization (when followed by nasal cons.); cons-ts: [l] has no alloph.; low distribution betw. [t] and [d] ([t] may drop out); diff. articul. of [r]; “wh””w”; [j] is usually weakened.

8.The articulatory classification of English vowels. Daniel Jones, cardinal vowel system. Classific. criteria: stability of artic., tongue pos., lip pos., character of vow. end, length, tenseness. Roundedness (labialization). Nasalization. 3 grps: monophthongs, diphthongs, diphthongoids. Height (vertical): 1)close 2)mid 3)open (all narrow-broad).

Backness (horizontal): front,front retracted,central,back,back advanced.

9.The articulatory classification of English consonants. Occlusive=complete obstruction. Constrictive=incomplete obstr. Occ-constr=affricates. Type of obstruction, place of articulation and active organ of speech, force of articulation – relevant artic. features. Degree of noise: 1)noise cons. (occlusive, constrictive, occlusive-constrictive); 2)sonorants (occlusive, occlusive-constrictive (lateral, medial)

Place of articulation: 1)labial (bilabial, labio-dental); 2)lingual (forelingual, mediolingual, backlingual); 3)glottal.

10.Phoneme as many-sided dialectic unity of language. Types of allophones. Distinctive and irrelevant features of the phoneme. Phoneme is used to mean “sound” in its contrastive sense; allophone is used for variants of a phoneme. Shcherba(rus): the phoneme is a minimal abstract language unit realized in speech in the form of speech sounds opposable to other phonemes of the same language to distinguish the meaning of morphemes and words. Material asp. – the realization of the ph-me in the forms of its alloph-s (principal, closest to the ph-me, or subsidiary). Abstract asp. – the generalization of a ph-me by a native speaker. The invariant of the phoneme – a bundle of distinctive articulatory features possessed by allophones. Functional asp. – to distinguish one morpheme, word or utterance from another. The invariant is formed by the articulatory features (relevant(labialization) or irrelevant(aspiration)). 11.Main phonological schools.

Members of Moscow phonological school (Reformatsky, Sidorov, etc) say that two different ph-mes in different allomorphs of the same morpheme may be represented on the synchronic level by one and the same sound, which is their common variant and, consequently, one and the same sound may belong to one ph-me in one word and to another ph-me in another word. The second, Leningrad phonological school (Shcherba, Zinder, etc), claim that different allomorphs may differ in both allophonic and phonemic composition. According to this school, speech sounds in a phonologically neutral position belong to that phoneme with whose principal variant they completely or nearly coincide. Acc. to the 3rd school (Prague Linguistic Circle, Trubetzkoy, Jacobson) there exist types of phonemes higher than the unit phoneme (the archiphoneme – a combination of distinctive features common to two phonemes).

12.The system of vowel phonemes in English. Problem of diphthongs. 20 vowels: [i:, a:, o:, u:, з:, i, e, æ, σ, υ, л, ə; ei, ai, oi, аυ, eυ, υə, iə]. The classification is based on distinctive oppositions: 1)Stability of artic-n (monophthongs vs. diphthongs; diphthongs vs. diphthongoids). 2)Pos. of the tongue (horizontal (front – central, back – central); vertical (close – mid-open, open – mid-open). 3)Pos. of lips ((un)rounded). Diphthongs – 3 def.: 1 def. is since in a diphthong only one element serves as a syllabic nucleus, a diphthong is a single sound. 2 def. of a diphthong as a single sound is based on the instability of the second element. The 3rd is since only one element is accented and the other is unaccented, a diphthong is a single sound. Problem of length: the difference between short and long vowels is not only quantitative but also qualitative (different positions of the bulk of the tongue). Qualitative difference is the main relevant feature that serves to differentiate long and short vowel ph-mes because quantitative characteristics of long vowels depend on the position they occupy in a word: a) they are the longest in the terminal position; b) they are shorter before voiced consonants; c) they are the shortest before voiceless consonants.

13.The system of consonant phonemes in English. Problem of affricates. 24 cons-ts: [p, b, t, d, k, g, f, v, θ, ð, s, z, ∫, 3, h, t∫, d3, m, n, ŋ, w, r, 1, j]. The classification is based on distinctive oppositions: 1)Degree of noise. 2)Place of articul. (labial vs. lingual, lingual vs. glottal). 3)Manner of articul. (occlus. vs. constrict., constrict. vs. affricates, constrict. unicentral vs. bicentral). 4)vocal cords work + the force of articul. (voiceless fortis vs. voiced lenis). 5)Pos. of the soft palate (oral vs. nasal). The problem of affricates – their phonological status and their number. Q: are [t∫, d3] monophonemic sounds or biphonemic comb-s (clusters)? If monoph.-c then are [tr, dr] and [tθ, dð] – affricates? Rus. phoneticians look at the func. aspect of ph-mes, the most significant one. Monoph-c def.: a) its elements belong to the same syllable b) it is produced by one articulatory effort c) its duration should not exceed normal duration of elements. British ph-cians apply syllabic invisibility, articulatory invis. and duration criteria to [t∫, dж], [ts, dz], [tr, dr], [tθ, tð] and say, that they all are affricates. But Russian scien-s look at them from morph-cal and phon-cal pov and decide that only [t∫, dж] are monophonemic, and others – biphonemic complexes.

14.Modifications of English consonants and vowels in speech. Isolated pronunc. – 3 stages: 1)initial st. (on-glide); 2)medial st. (retention); 3)final st. (off-glide, release). 2 ways of linking speech sounds: I-Merging of stages. II-Interpretation of stages. We may join: a)cons + vowel (C+V) [mi:]. b)V + C [σn]. c)C+C[bləυ] blow. d)V+V [riæləti] reality. I is simpler way. II usually when cons. of a similar or identical nature are joined. Modification types: assimilation (adaptive modification of a C by a neighbouring C), accommodation (denoting the interchanges of VC or CV types), reduction (qualitative or quantitative weakening of vowels in unstressed pos), elision (a complete loss of sounds), and inserting (a process of sound addition). C: Assimil.:place/manner of artic./work of voc.cords/degree of noise. Accomodation(lip pos.). Elision: loss of [h] in person. and possessive pronouns (have)/loss of [l] if preceded by [o:](always). Insrtion: linking [r] (car owner)/intrusive [r] – it’s pronounced where not spelled (china and glass). V: reduction (quantitive/quailitive), accom. (positional length, nasalization post [n, m].

15.Alternations of speech sounds in English. Sound alternations – variations in words, their derivatives and grammatical form words. Historical alternations are traced to the ph-mic changes in earlier periods of the language development, reflected in present-day English. Types: 1.vowel alt-ns (distinction of irregular verbal forms/distinction of causal verbal forms/distinction of parts of speech in etymologically correlated words); 2-consonants alternations (distinction of irregular verbal forms/distinction of parts of speech/vowel and consonant alternations). Contextual – altern-s spread on the synchronic level in the present-day English. They are studied by morphophonology. Looks at the sounds it their weak pos. Moscow sch. – the theory of neutralization of ph-mes (when 2+ close sounds are unusually non-contrastive in certain pos-ns). Leningrad sch. asserts that the ph-me is independent of the morpheme (ph-me can’t lose distinctive feat-s).

16.Theories on syllable division and formation. Syllables – minimal pronounceable units into which sounds show a tendency to group. Syl-ls form morphemes, words and phrases. The syl-l can be studied on articulatory, acoustic, auditory and functional levels. Jespersen, the sonority theory: each sound is characterized by a certain degree of sonority which is understood us acoustic property of a sound that determines its perceptibility. Shcherba’s theory of muscular tension: the tense of articulation increases within the range of prevocalic consonants and then decreases within the range of postvocalic consonants. There is no adequate explanation of what a syllable is. 2 pov: 1)Sоme consider the syl-le to be a purely articulatory unit whithout any functional value. 2)majority treat the syl-le as the smallest pronounceable unit with some linguistic function. Functional pov – a syl-le: a)is a chain of phonemes of varying length; b) is constructed on the basis of C – V contrast; c)V are used as syllable nuclei in every language while C are not in every; d)specific rules of ph-mes distribution in the syl-bic structures.

17.The structure and functions of syllable in English. Syl-le formation is based on the phonological opposition V – C. V are usually syl-bic, C are not (excluding [l, m, n] – syl-bic in final pos). Many syllables have one or more consonants preceding the nucleus (the syllable onset). Many syllables have one or more consonants, following the nucleus (closed syllables – the syllable coda). The combination of nucleus and coda has a special significance, making up the rhyming property of a syllable. English lang – closed type of syl-les; Rus – open type. The problem of syl-le division is that in some words (city, extra, etc) there is no obvious way to decide how to divide the word into syl-les. 2 func. of syl-les: 1)constitutive function (the syl-le can be a part of word or morpheme, utterance). 2)distinctive function (the syl-le can differentiate words and word-forms).

18.Word stress in English. Stressed (accented) – syl-le(s) which are uttered with more prominence than the other syllables of the word. Word stress is stress in isolated words. Stressed syl-le: greater force, more energized articul.; higher pitch of voice; the quantity, the quality of vowel. Lang-s can have fixed or free stress (English and Russian – free stress, may also be shifting to diff. lexical units, parts of speech, gramm. Forms). N of degrees of stress = N of syl-les. Primary stress=strongest=№1. Secondary strongest stress=№2. Others = weak stress. Opinions on their def. differ among phoneticians. 3 func-s of word stress: 1)constitutes a word, organizes the syllables of a word into a language unit with a definite accentual structure. 2) identificatory or recognitive func. – enables a person to identify a definite accentual pattern of a word. 3)distinctive function – capability of differentiating the meaning of words or their forms. Recessive tendency – unstable accentual structure due to diff. origin. Rhythmical tendency – the appearance of the secondary stress.

19.Intonation and prosody: definition, functions, components, spheres of application. Intonation E in every lang. but functions differently. Contour analysis approach: the smallest unit to which linguistic meaning can be attached is a tone-group (assumpt. that intonation consists of basic functional “blocks”). Grammatical app.: intonation is a complex of three systemic variables: tonality, tonicity and tone, which are connected with grammatical categories. American sch. considers «pitch phonemes» and «contours» to be the main units of intonation. Russian linguists agree that intonation is a whole, formed by significant variations of pitch, loudness and tempo. Different phoneticians suggest diff. functions of intonation. Nikolayeva: delimitating, integrating and semantic. Tseplitis: semantic, syntactic and stylistic functions. Cheremisina: communicative, distinctive, delimitating, expressive, appellative, aesthetic, integrating. Other phoneticians also display some difference in heading the linguistic functions of intonation. Crystal: emotional, grammatical, informational, textual, psychological, indexical functions.

20.The structure of English tone-group. We may consider the distinct variations in the direction of pitch, pitch level and pitch range in the pitch component. The most important nuclear tones in English are: Low Fall, High Fall, Low Rise, High Rise, and Fall-Rise. Falling tone= certainty; rising tone=uncertainty. Diff. tones may combine their meanings. Pitch parameters are pitch ranges (normal, wide, and narrow) and pitch levels (high, medium, and low). Loudness differentiates anger, menace, excitement, etc. The tempo implies the rate of the utterance and pausation (normal, slow and fast – important and unimportant parts). Speech is splitted into phonetic wholes, phrases, intonation groups by means of pauses (a complete stop of phonation). Pauses: short (separate inton. grps within a phrase); longer (end of the phrase); very long (2x longer than short – phonetic wholes). Syntactic pauses separate phonopassages, phrases, and intonation grps. Intonation patterns – the basic units of intonation – serve to actualize syntagms (semantically and syntactically complete group of words) in speech. In phonetics, syntagms are called intonation grps (tone-grps). Some intonation patterns may be completely colourless in meaning while others form the prosodic system of English.

21.The phonological level of intonation. Intonology (a branch of phonology) studies the larger units of connected speech: intonation groups, phrases and phonetic passages. It is only possible to make a rough classification of inton. patterns because they are very diff. in their nature. Any unit of the inton. pattern can be phonological units (distinctive function). They form a complex system of intonemes, tonemes, accentemes, chronemes, etc. The terminal tone – the most powerful phonological unit (its opposition distinguishes different types of sentence). N of terminal tones indicates N of intonation grps, which may be important for meaning. The increase of loudness+terminal tones together single out the semantic (expression) centre of the utterance. Grammatical words may be also important to the meaning (sometimes word was). The most important role of the opposition of terminal tones is differentiating the attitudes and emotions. Different kinds of pre-heads, heads, the same as pitch ranges and levels fulfil their distinctive function in the combination with other prosodic constituents. Sometimes intonation neutralizes or compensates the lexical content of the utterance (Phone him at once, please). Lack of balance between intonation and word content, or intonation and the grammatical structure of the utterance may serve to produce irony or insult someone.

22.Methods of phonetic analysis. There are subjective (introspective) and objective methods of phonetic investigation. Direct observation (oldest, simplest) – observing the movements and positions of people’s organs of speech in pronouncing various speech sounds. Objective methods (palatography, laryngoscopy, photography, cinematography, X-ray photography and cinematography and electromyography) together with direct observation are widely used in experimental phonetics. The objective methods and the subjective ones are complementary and not opposite to one another. Acoustic phonetics tries to measure and analyze the movement of the air in the terms of acoustics. The microphone is introduced into the speech chain – it converts the air movement into electrical activity and analyses the result in terms of frequency of vibration and the amplitude of vibration. The sound spectrograph helps to investigate the spectra of speech sounds. Pitch as a component of intonation can be investigated by intonograph. The acoustic aspect of speech sounds is also investigated by means of speech-synthesizing devices.

23.Phonostylistics. Types and styles of pronunciation in English. Styles of pronunciation – special forms of speech suited to the aim and the contents of the utterance, the circumstances of communication, the character of the audience, etc. Several different styles of pronunciation may be distinguished, but generally accepted classification of styles of pronunciation doesn’t exist. Jones: the rapid familiar style, the slower colloquial style, the natural style (addressing a fair-sized audience), the acquired style of the stage, the acquired style (singing). Shcherba: 1) colloquial style characteristic of people’s quiet talk; 2) full style, clear articul. of all the syllables of each word. Gaiduchic: solemn (торжественный), scientific business (научно-деловой), official business (официально-деловой), everyday (бытовой), and familiar (непринужденный) – they correlate with functional styles of the language. It is preferable to consider style classifications with diff. criteria separately. By the purpose of communication: informational, academic (scientific), publicistic, declamatory (artistic), conversational (familiar) styles. There are other factors that affect intonation. Any style is seldom realized in its pure form.


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