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K.B. - U.S.A. said:
Phonetics PhonologySound in human language is produced by the regulation of airflow from the lungs through the throat, nose, and mouth. This airflow is altered in various ways by different aspects of this speech system. The first major segment of the speech system is the subglottal system. This subglottal system comprises the lungs, diaphragm and trachea. The lungs are basically a pair of balloon-like sacs that inflate or deflate by the action of the diaphragm, a muscle just under the lungs, attached to them. When the diaphragm is lowered, the lungs inflate, and when the diaphragm is raised, air is pressed out of the lungs, allowing them to deflate. When this air is pressed out of the lungs, air travels up the trachea, or windpipe, to the larynx, the next major segment of the speech system. The larynx contains folds of muscle called the vocal folds (sometimes called vocal cords). These vocal folds are connected to the larynx by the arytenoid cartilage at the front, but the other ends are left free. The opening between the vocal folds is known as the glottis. These folds can be relaxed, letting air flow freely through the glottis, or tensed, so that the air vibrates as it passes through the glottis. Sounds that are produced with relaxed vocal folds are known as voiceless sounds, and sounds that are produced with tensed vocal folds are known as voiced sounds. If the folds are only partially closed, a whispered sound is produced. {1} The dictionary definition of phonetics according to Wikipedia is, “a branch of linguistics that comprises the study of the sounds of human speech.[1] It is concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds (phones): their physiological production, acoustic properties, auditory perception, and neurophysiological status. Phonology, on the other hand, is concerned with abstract, grammatical characterization of systems of sounds.” Certain consonants in human language are distinguished by which state is active during production of the sound. For example, pronounce the sound [m], as in mat, and hold the sound. While producing this sound, place your fingers at the base of your throat. You should feel the vibration of the vocal folds. Since the sound [m] is vibrating, this is a voiced sound. Now make the sound [p], as in pat. You can't really hold this sound, but again put your fingers near the base of your throat while you say [p]. You shouldn't feel much vibration, if any. This is because the vocal folds are held apart, making a voiceless sound. Now say the sounds [p] and [b], as in bat, with your fingers at the base of the throat. When you say [p], there should be no vibration, but when you say [b], there should be vibration. Think about what you are doing with your mouth to make both sounds. Both sounds are made in basically the same way, but one is voiceless and one is voiced. So how are different sounds made? In part 1, we discussed that one way to make different sounds is to vary the state of the glottis, making either a voiced or voiceless sound. Another way is to vary the shape of the vocal tract. Imagine the vocal tract as a tube, through which air passes. If this tube is simply open, the airflow creates a sound. But if you alter the shape of that tube, the airflow moves differently, making a different sound. Here's an experiment that some of you may have tried. Take an empty bottle and blow air across the top of the bottle. If you can get the airflow just right, you should be able to produce a low sound. Now fill the bottle halfway with water. Blow across the bottle opening again. This time the sound is higher. If you put some more water in the bottle, the sound will get even higher. What's happening? For a more detailed discussion, you can view the lesson Acoustic Phonetics. However, for now, just understand that if the bottle (vocal tract) is not as filled with water (larger), the sound will be a deep, low sound. If the bottle (vocal tract) is filled with water (smaller), the sound will be a higher sound. When we make speech sounds, one thing that is happening is that we are varying the shape of the vocal tract, making the sound different. For example, say the sound [t]. To make this sound, you are raising the tip of your tongue behind your teeth and then lowering your tongue. When you do this, the air builds up behind the closure made by your tongue and teeth and is then released. When the air is released by the tongue, the air travels outward through a small area, just from the teeth to outside the mouth. Now say the sound [k]. To make this sound, you are bringing your tongue up to the velum, closing off the airflow, and then lowering your tongue to release the air. This time, when the air is released, it travels through a larger area before leaving the mouth. This space is from the velum to the lips. Thus, the sound made by the airflow is different from that made by [p]. {1} I have been currently working with a chinese man who is from China and has much difficulty pronouncing certain words. He has difficulty making the proper noises the articulate english words. However, pronunciation is vitally important to be learned by the new english student. It not only will give the speaker confidence to speak more but it will also help those that are trying to listen comprehend. This area of learning the english language must be taught and learned by every new American student.