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Phonetics Around the World. Most of the sound files for this lecture can be found online at: October 22, 2012. Fun Stuff. Voiceless [w] and Cool Whip. Some sound inventories: Piraha and Jhu|hoasi. 3. Burmese voiceless nasals.

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phonetics around the world
Phonetics Around the World

Most of the sound files for this lecture can be found online at:

October 22, 2012

fun stuff
Fun Stuff
    • Voiceless [w] and Cool Whip.
    • Some sound inventories: Piraha and Jhu|hoasi.
  • 3. Burmese voiceless nasals.

Pirahã is a rather exotic language spoken in the Amazon basin, in Brazil.

    • It has either 10 or 11 phonemes, depending on who’s counting.


  • Pirahã is a controversial language because so many wild claims have been made about it…
    • And it is hard to verify them, due to a lack of research.
jhu hoansi
  • Jhu|’hoansi is a Khoisan language spoken by about 30,000 people in southwestern Africa.
    • Mostly in Namibia and Botswana.
  • Jhu|’hoansi has only five vowels: [i], [e], [u], [o], [a].
  • But it has a lot of consonants!
jhu hoansi1
  • Jhu|’hoansi was (famously) featured in a movie called The Gods Must Be Crazy.
  • My friend Amanda Miller learned the language during a stint with the Peace Corps back in the ‘90s.
  • She currently does research on the phonetics of the language…
    • She just appeared on the show “Daily Planet” last week!
phonetics review
Phonetics Review
  • Last time, we discussed how vowels are articulated along four different dimensions:
  • Height (of tongue)

high, mid, low

  • Front/backness (of tongue)

front, central, back

  • Rounding (of lips)

rounded, unrounded

  • Tenseness

tense vs. lax

  • Consonants are produced with more obstruction of the airflow through the vocal tract than vowels
  • They are characterized by a different set of attributes:
  • Voicing
    • vocal fold position and movement
  • Place of Articulation
    • location of constriction in the vocal tract
  • Manner of Articulation
    • type of constriction made in the vocal tract
moving on
Moving on…
  • The big picture point for today is:
    • languages can combine a relatively small number of articulatory gestures to make a very large number of different sounds.
yes and no
Yes and No
  • Here’s the complete chart of consonants:
  • Some combinations are unattested
  • Some combinations are impossible
  • Many of these combinations are not found in English
  • There are also combinations of gestures for vowels that English doesn’t use

note: close = high, open = low, etc...

front round
Front + Round
  • Dutch has vowels that are both front and rounded
back unrounded
Back + Unrounded
  • Vietnamese has vowels that are back and unrounded.
nasalized vowels
Nasalized Vowels
  • Air can flow through the nose during a vowel, too.
  • Examples from French:
different consonant combos
Different Consonant Combos
  • English has bilabial stops, but not bilabial fricatives.
  • Bilabial fricatives exist in languages like Spanish and Ewe, which is spoken in West Africa.
different consonant combos1
Different Consonant Combos
  • Fricative sounds can also be made at the palate and the velum.
  • Examples from Greek:
english velar fricatives
English Velar Fricatives
  • There is no velar fricative in English...
    • but there used to be.
  • Examples: German
    • night [naɪt] Nacht [naxt]
    • light [laɪt] Licht [lɪçt]
    • high [haɪ] hoch [hɔx]
    • thought [θat] dachte [daxtə]
    • tough [tʌf]
other places of articulation
Other Places of Articulation
  • One dialect of Hebrew has uvular and pharyngeal fricatives
voiceless nasals
Voiceless Nasals
  • Nasalization is disastrous for fricatives.
    • There are no (uncontroversial) nasal fricatives in the languages of the world.
  • There are, however, voiceless nasals in a few languages.
  • Examples from Burmese:
another manner trills
Another Manner: Trills
  • Trills are made when the flow of air through the mouth rapidly forces two articulators to open and close against each other.
  • Kele has both bilabial and alveolar trills. Kele is spoken on the island of Manus, which is north of New Guinea.
other airstream mechanisms
Other Airstream Mechanisms
  • Some sounds are made without air flowing out of the lungs.
  • For example, hold your breath and try making the stop sounds [p], [t], and [k].
  • You can force air out of your mouth with your closed glottis.
  • These sounds are called ejectives.
    • They are symbolized with a ‘ after a stop: [p’], [t’], [k’]
quechua ejectives
Quechua Ejectives
  • Quechua is spoken in South America
  • Sounds can also be made when air rushes into the mouth.
  • One way to do this involves dropping a closed glottis while making a stop.
  • Sounds made in this way are called implosives.
  • Examples from Sindhi (spoken in India):
velaric ingressive sounds
Velaric Ingressive Sounds
  • A very interesting effect can occur when certain articulations are combined with a velar stop closure
  • Can you differentiate between these sounds?
  • These “click” sounds are from the language Xhosa, which is spoken in southwestern Africa.
what s going on here
What’s going on here?
  • Click sounds are by made by the sound of air rushing intothe mouth.
  • How to make a click (step 1):
  • Make a velar stop and another stop in front of the velum. Air will get trapped in between the two closures.
what s going on here1
What’s going on here?
  • How to make a click (part 2):
  • Drop the tongue down to expand the chamber of air trapped in the mouth. The air pressure in the chamber will decrease.
what s going on here2
What’s going on here?
  • How to make a click (part 3):
  • Release the forward closure. Air rushes into the low pressure area, from outside the mouth.
what s going on here3
What’s going on here?
  • How to make a click (part 4):
  • Release the velar closure to make a velar stop sound.
clicks in connected speech
Clicks in connected speech
  • Listen to clicks as they are produced in a long sequence of connected speech. You may experience a phenomenon known as perceptual streaming.
  • Sound file source: