phonetics part iii suprasegmentals n.
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Phonetics, part III: Suprasegmentals. October 18, 2010. The Plan for Today. Run through the rest of the phonetics practice exercises. Discuss suprasegmentals. The plan for the future: More phonetics practice on Wednesday and Friday. Homework #2 due next Monday.

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the plan for today
The Plan for Today
  • Run through the rest of the phonetics practice exercises.
  • Discuss suprasegmentals.
  • The plan for the future:
    • More phonetics practice on Wednesday and Friday.
    • Homework #2 due next Monday.
    • Mid-term on the Friday after that! (Oct. 29th)
oh by the way
Oh by the way…
  • The textbook mentions the existence of a mid-low, back, rounded vowel…
  • “Open O”: [ ]
  • Compare:
    • Calgary
    • Chicago
    • New York
    • Saskatoon


  • Also check out:
  • Calgary: Oxford, England:
basic distinction 1
Basic Distinction #1
  • Last time, we discussed the difference between vowels and consonants.
  • Consonants:
    • Voicing
    • Place of Articulation
    • Manner of Articulation
  • Vowels:
    • High/mid/low
    • Front/central/back
    • Rounded/unrounded
    • Tense/lax
basic distinction 2
Basic Distinction #2
  • Consonants and vowels together make up the class of segments in phonetics.
  • Each segment is a configuration of articulations…
    • ordered in time in an utterance.
  • Languages also have phonetic features which can span across multiple segments.
    • = suprasegmental features
    • supra = “above” the segment.
  • One basic example:
    • Languages organize strings of segments into syllables.
  • Syllables are hard to define phonetically…
    • But native speakers have an intuitive sense of what does and does not constitute a syllable.
  • Normally, syllables will have:
    • consonants (optionally) at beginning and end;
    • a vowel in the middle.
  • However, in English, nasals (/m/, /n/) and liquids (/l/, /r/) can form the “peak” of a syllable.
    • = syllabic consonants.
syllabic examples
Syllabic Examples
  • Syllabic consonants are transcribed with a small vertical dash underneath them.
  • Examples:





  • Other suprasegmental features include:
    • Stress
    • Length
    • Tone
    • Intonation
  • These suprasegmental features are always defined in a relative manner.
    • Some segments are longer than others,
    • Some syllables are more stressed than others,
    • etc.
1 stress
1. Stress
  • Stress makes a syllable sound more prominent.
    • (due to increased articulatory effort)
  • Stress may be denoted by an accent over the vowel in the stressed syllable.
  • Examples of stress contrasts:
  • “contrast”
    • (N)
    • (V)
  • “insult”
    • (N)
    • (V)
2 length
2. Length
  • Languages can distinguish segments on the basis of length.
    • = some segments simply last longer than others.
  • Italian contrasts both long and short vowels and consonants.
danish vowels
Danish Vowels
  • Danish contrasts long and short vowels.
3 tone
3. Tone
  • In tone languages, speakers change the rate at which their vocal folds vibrate to signal important differences in meaning.
  • Note: we hear the rate of vocal fold vibration as the “pitch” of a speaker’s voice.
  • In tone languages, each syllable is produced with a characteristic tone.
  • Register tone languages
    • Pitch must hit a certain level on any given syllable.
  • Contour tone languages
    • Pitch changes on a single syllable may form a complex pattern.
ibibio tones
Ibibio Tones
  • Ibibio is a register tone language spoken in southern Nigeria
mandarin tone
Mandarin Tone
  • Mandarin (Chinese) is a classic example of a contour tone language.

ma1: mother

ma2: hemp

ma3: horse

ma4: to scold

mandarin sentences
Mandarin Sentences

ma1-ma0 ma4 ma3.

“Mother scolds the horse.”

ma3 ma4 ma1-ma0.

“The horse scolds mother.”

  • English is not a tone language like Chinese or Ibibio…
    • but it has something called “intonation”
  • English intonation:
  • High and Low accents attach to stressed syllables
    • (transcribed with H* or L*)
  • High and Low tones appear at the ends of phrases and utterances.
    • (transcribed with H% or L%)
  • The important difference: English “tones” are specified by context, not by the lexicon.
intonation examples
Intonation Examples
  • In English intonation, statements usually have:
    • A high accented syllable (H*) within the sentence.
    • A low tone (L%) at the end of the sentence.
  • H* L%
  • Manny came with Anna.
  • Meanwhile, questions usually have:
    • A low accented syllable (L*) within the sentence.
    • A high tone (H%) at the end of the sentence.
  • L* H%
  • Manny came with Anna?