English Phonemes Difficulties & Countermeasures
/i:/ vs. /i/ • Both are close front vowels. /i:/ (the high front unrounded vowel phoneme with the y off-glide) /i/ (the lower-high front unrounded vowel phoneme)
front close In producing /i:/, the front part of the tongue is raised high so that there leaves only a very narrow space between the top surface of the tongue and the hard palate. In producing /i/, the front part of the tongue is slightly lower than when producing /i:/ so that the closure is a little opener. And /i/ is shorter in duration than /i:/.
note • With y off-glide: sounds like a diphthong (diphthongization) e.g. i: --- ei, oi, ai; • Difference in quality: different in degrees of mouth openness, the highness of the tongue, the tension degree of the muscles, the spreading scale of the lips. e.g. i:, --- i --- e --- æ
/e/ & / æ/ • /e/ is also an English vowel with high frequency of occurrence. The tongue body is shifted forward in the mid-plane. • / æ/ is produced by shifting the body of the tongue forward from its relaxed state, and lowering it from the position for /e/. It is the lowest of the front vowels. • /e/ and / æ/ do not occur in final position in English words. • /e/ and / æ/ are not really problem sounds for the Chinese learners, but many of them fail to make a clear distinction between the two in their speech. The difficulty is that they have to make the clear distinction consistent.
In order to produce the sound / Ɔ:/, push the lips forward and round them quite closely. The back of the tongue is raised between the half-open and half-close positions. No contact should be made between the tongue and the soft palate. In producing / Ɔ/, push the lips slightly forward. Open your jaws wide and the back of the tongue is in the fully open. back open
/ Ɔ / is a low vowel while / Ɔ:/ is a mid vowel, so the mouth is more open for / Ɔ /. / Ɔ:/ has quite strong lip rounding while the lips are only slightly rounded for / Ɔ /. e.g. port taught court e.g. box cot not
In order to produce the sound / u:/, push the back of the tongue upward and backward towards the soft palate. Compared with all the other vowels, the back of the tongue in pronouncing /u:/ is raised in the highest position. Round your lips and push them forward. It is also the most rounded vowel sound. In producing / u/, place your jaw and the tongue slightly lower than for /u:/. The tongue is moving slightly more forward and lips are less rounded. back open
/u:/ occurs at all the three positions of a word while /u/ occurs only in the middle position of a word, like book and hook. • /u:/ is the highest back vowel, so the raised part of the tongue for /u:/ is higher than that for /u/; • the part of the tongue raised for /u/ is not as back as that for /u:/; • /u:/ has quite strong lip rounding while the lips are only slightly rounded for /u/.
/r/ vs. /l/ vs. /n/ • /r/ voiced alveolar retroflexed consonant • /l/ voiced alveolar lateral • /n/ voiced alveolar nasal rightvs. light vs. night
Allophonic Variations of /r/ • The prevocalic /r/ is uttered with the lips rounded and slightly protruded, the tip of the tongue pulled up near the rear of the alveolar ridge, the blade withdrawn toward the back of the mouth to form a retroflexed tongue position, and the side rims of the tongue kept in contact with the upper molars. • The postvocalic /r/ is found in the dialects of American English which have the so-called r-colored vowels. /r/ is, in fact, a retroflexed vowel glide, as in far, work, and further.
/l/ • /l/ is called a "lateral" because during its pronunciation, the passage of air through the mouth does not go in the usual way along the centre of the tongue.
Allophonic variations of /l/ "Clear-l", made with the tongue in the classical fronted position: e.g. lease "Dark-l", the tongue tip and blade in the post alveolar position: e.g. call
The Clear /l/ （清晰/l/） • /l/ is made by bringing the tip of the tongue to the alveolar ridge to form a partial closure in the oral tract, and raising the velum to shut off the passage to the nasal tract. The airstream is released around one side or both sides of the closure. • The clear /l/ occurs in word initial and word medial positions, and it is often found in word final positions when intervocalic in context. e.g. lift, learn, loaf, follow, pillow, fallen, needless, lonely all over, call up, kill off, the people of the world, feel out of it
The Dark /l/（模糊/l/） • The dark /l/ is uttered by placing the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge and having the back of the tongue slightly raised to form a hollow in the center. e.g. fail, bell, meal, fool, field, almost, selfish, health, although , all the way, fall through, fill the blanks, apple, simple, miracle , additional, national .
/n/ • The nasals are all made by closing the vocal tract at some point in the mouth. Unlike the stops or any other sounds in the language, there is an opening into the nasal cavity in the pronunciation so that the sound can be resonated through the nose. The nasal consonants are /m/, /n/, and /ƞ/.
Allophonic variations of /m/ Syllabic: something Lengthened, when an arresting /m/ is followed by a releasing /m/: some more The labiodnetal nasal, when followed by /f/: comfort
Allophonic variations of /n/ Dentalized before a labiodental /f/ or /v/: invite Velarized before /k/ or /g/: think Syllabic: button Lengthening, when /n/ arrests and releases adjoining syllables: ten names
Allophonic variations of /ƞ/ The alveolar [n], when followed by an alveolar: taking ten Syllabic: lock and key
/s/ vs./θ/ vs. /f/ • /s/ is a voiceless alveolar fricative. You produce the sound by forcing air between your tongue and the upper or lower front teeth. • / θ/ is a voiceless interdental fricative. You produce the sound by squeezing the breath-stream between your tongue and teeth. • /f/ is a voiceless labio-dental fricative. You produce the sound by forcing the breath-stream between your upper teeth and lower lip.
/s/ alveolar • /θ/ interdental • /f/ labio-dental Sign vs.thighvs.fine
/ʃ/ --- voiceless post-alveolar fricative • /ʒ/ --- voiced post-alveolar fricative • /tʃ/ --- voiceless post-alveolar affricate • /dʒ/ --- voiced post-alveolar affricate • /v/--- voiced labio-dental fricative • /w/--- voiced bilabial semi-vowel
Consonants and Vowels • The distinction between consonants and vowels is made in the following manner: • if the air, once out of the glottis, is allowed to pass freely through the resonators, the sound is avowel; • if the air, once out of the glottis, is obstructed, partially or totally, in one or more places, the sound is aconsonant. • Before proceeding, it should be noted that the line between vowels and consonants cannot be clearly drawn; a continuum exists between the two extremes. There are also intermediate instances, such as the semi-vowels.