Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(6) The Consonant Inventory of English

- the consonant inventory of E: 24 phonemes

- 6 of them with restricted occurrence /h, r, ʒ, ŋ; w, j/

The Distinctive Consonants

- a process of commutation = the discovery of minimal pairs

- 24 distinctive units consonantal both wrt: their position in syllables + their phonetic nature

(a) obstruents

- a total closure or stricture causing friction

- a noise component

- a distinctive opposition btw voiceless x voiced types

- incl. plosives, affricates, fricatives

(b) sonorants

- a partial closure or an unimpeded oral or nasal escape of air

- no noise component

- typically voiced, sharing many phonetic characteristics with vowels

- incl. nasals, approximants

+ glottal stop [ʔ]: not phonemically distinctive in RP => excluded from the chart below

Plosives (or, Stops)

Articulatory Phonetics

- place of articulation: /p, b/ bilabial; /t, k/ alveolar; /k, g/ velar

Articulation stages:

- the closing stage = the articulating organs move together to form the obstruction

- the compression stage = lung action compresses the air behind the closure

- the release stage = the organs forming the obstruction part rapidly to allow the compressed air to escape abruptly

The release stage:

(a) no audible release in stop clusters

- a cluster of two stops = plosive + plosive, plosive + affricate

- the 1st stop with no audible release (/p/ + /t/ in ‘dropped’, /b/ + /d/ in ‘rubbed’, /b/ + /dʒ/ in ‘object’)

- NO intervening [h] with voiceless plosives, NO obscure vowel of the [ə] type with voiced plosives

- gemination = a sequence of identical stops > one closing stage and one release stage involved together with about a double-length compression stage (‘top post, good deal, big girl’)

(b) nasal release

- a plosive before the homorganic nasal consonant > the escape of the compressed air through the nasal passage (/p/ + syllabic /m̩ / in ‘topmost’, /p/ + syllabic /m̩ / in ‘happen’, /d/ + syllabic /ŋ̩/ in ‘sudden’)

(c) lateral release:

- a plosive before by the homorganic lateral consonant > one or both sides of the tongue lowered to allow the air to escape (/t/ + /l/ in ‘cattle’, /d/ + /t/ in ‘regardless’)

- NO aspiration, NO obscure vowel (‘little’ *[lɪthł], ‘middle’ *[mɪdəł])

Auditory Phonetics

- aspiration = a voiceless interval consisting of strongly expelled breath btw the release of the plosive and the onset of the following vowel

- aspiration of /p, t, k/ initial in an accented syllable (‘pip’ [phɪp], ‘test’ [thεst], ‘kick’ [khɪk])

- neutralisation of the distinction btw the voiceless /p, t, k/ x voiced /b, d, g/ followed by /s/ within the same syllable > the resulting plosives unaspirated and voiceless (‘spin’ [sp̥ ɪn], ‘stop’ [st̥ɒp], ‘score’ [sk̥ɔ:])

- devoicing of /l, ɹ, w, j/ after initial /p, t, k/ in an accented syllable (‘play’ [pl̥ eɪ], ‘twin’ [tw̥ ɪn], ‘cue’ [k̥ ju])

- full voicing of /b, d, g/ only btw voiced sounds (‘labour, leader, to be’)

- partial voicing or complete devoicing of initial or final /b, d, g/, i.e. following or preceding silence (‘bill, done, game’ [b̥ , d̥ , g̥ ])

- length of preceding sounds: syllables closed by voiceless consonants shorter than syllables open or closed by voiced consonants

- a complex of quantitative and qualitative contrasts (‘rope x robe’ /rəʊp x rəʊb/)

The Plosive Sounds

(a) bilabial plosives /p, b/

- description: bilabial plosives before the labiodental /f/ or /v/ > labiodental rather then bilabial closure in anticipation of the following fricative articulation (‘cup-full’ [kʌp̪ fʊl], ‘obvious’ [ɒb̪ vɪəs])

- variants: partial voicing or complete devoicing of the initial or final /b/

(b) alveolar plosives /t, d/

- description: /t, d/ + /n/ = nasal plosion, /t, d/ + /l/ = lateral plosion; /t, d/ + /r/ = post-alveolar contact (‘try, dry’), /t, d/ + /θ, ð/ = dental contact (‘eighth; not that’)

- variants: syllable-final /t/ NOT followed by a vowel or syllabic /n/ or /l/ > reinforced or replaced by a glottal closure

- GA: unaccented intervocalic /t/ > replaced by tap [ɾ] (‘butter, latter, put it’)

(c) velar plosives /k, g/

(d) glottal plosive [ʔ]

- the obstruction formed by the closure of the vocal folds

- the compression stage consists of silence auditorily perceived by a sudden cessation of the preceding sound or sudden onset of the following sound

- neither voiced nor voiceless

- RP: syllable boundary marker before vowel initial 2nd syllable (‘cooperate’ [kəʊ'ʔɒpəreɪt], ‘geometry’ [dʒi'ʔɒmətri], ‘reaction’ [ri'ʔækʃən])

- some RP: reinforcement of the voiceless plosives /p, t, k/ when syllable-final and after a vowel, nasal or lateral and before a pause or consonant (‘reap, limp, help’)

- some: RP replacement of /p, t, k/ when syllable-final and before a homorganic consonant (/t/ + /t/ in ‘that table’, /t/ + /d/ in ‘get down, /t/ + /dʒ/ in ‘great joke’)

- CockE: reinforcement and replacement when utterance-final (‘mind your feet’ ['maɪʔ dʒɒ: 'fɪəʔ]; ‘have a look’ ['æv ə 'lʊʔ]; ‘get that’ [geʔ 'ðæʔ])


= compound sounds

- considered either single phonemic entities x sequences of two phonemes

(a) palato-alveolar affricates /tʃ, dʒ/

- former label for affricates: ‘palato-alveolar’, new: ‘post-alveolar’ x former label for /ɹ/: ‘post-alveolar’, new: ‘alveolar’

- the voiced /dʒ/ <> plosives, fricatives: devoiced when syllable-initial or final

- the voiceless /tʃ/ <> /p, t, k/: reduced length of preceding sounds when syllable-final

(b) sequences /tr, dr/

- NO affricates x but: sequences of special importance esp. for foreign learners

- retractions of /t, d/ before /r/ ([t, d])

- devoicing of [r] after /t/

- minimal pairs /tʃ/ x /tr/ in ‘cheese’ x ‘trees’, /dʒ/ x /dr/ in ‘jaw’ x ‘draw’


- two organs held close together to produce local air turbulence with a noise component

- place of articulation: /f, v/ labiodental; /θ, ð/ dental; /s, z/ alveolar; /ʃ, ʒ/ palato-alveolar; /h/ glottal

- full voicing of /v, ð, z, ʒ/ only btw voiced sounds (‘cover, other, easy, leisure’)

- devoicing of initial or final /v, ð, z, ʒ/ (‘van, that, zoo; leave, breathe, peas, rouge’)

- syllable-final /f, θ, s, ʃ/ reduce length of the preceding sounds (‘fife, loath, place, leash’)

(a) labiodental fricatives /f, v/

- variants: word-final /v/ before a word-initial voiceless consonant > /f/ (‘have to; some: ‘love to, have some’)

(b) dental fricatives /θ, ð/

- variants: elision of /θ, ð/ before /s, z/ (‘clothes’ /kləʊz/, ‘months’ /mʌns/)

- CockE: labiodental rather than dental articulation (‘throw it’ /'frəʊ ɪt/; ‘breathe in’ /'bri:v 'ɪn/)

(c) alveolar fricatives /s, z/

- lisp = a speech defect substituting /s, z/ for /θ, ð/

- variants: regional plosive epenthesis = the insertion of /t/ btw /n/ and /s/ (no distinction btw /ns/ x /nts/ in ‘mince x mints; tense x tents; assistance x assistants’)

(d) palato-alveolar fricatives /ʃ, ʒ/

- variants: sometimes /ʃ, ʒ/ medially before /u:/ > /s, z/ + /j/ (‘issue, sexual, seizure’)

- lack of minimal pairs distinguishable by /ʃ/ x /ʒ/ > possible alternations btw them (‘Asia, transition, version’)

(e) glottal fricative /h/

= a strong voiceless onset of the following vowel, only syllable-initial and pre-vocalic

- no distinctive voiced x voiceless opposition

- function: /h/ as a voiceless syllable-initial phoneme <> /ŋ/ as a syllable-final phoneme

- variants: elision of /h/ in unaccented non-initial positions in connected speech with function words ‘have, has, had’, pronouns and pronominal adjectives (‘he pushed him on his back’ /hi: 'pʊʃt ɪm ɒn ɪz 'bæk/; ‘I could have hit her’ /aɪ kəd əv 'hɪt ə/)

- regional loss of /h/ (no distinction btw RP minimal pairs ‘hill x ill; high x eye; hair x air’)

(f) velar fricative [x]

- voiceless

- exceptionally in some speaker’s pronunciation of Scott. words (‘loch’)


- a total closure within the mouth, the soft palate lowered to allow the air to escape into the nasal cavity

- no audible friction

- no voiced x voiceless opposition

- resemble vowel-type sounds

- place of articulation: /m/ bilabial; /n/ alveolar; /ŋ/ velar

- syllabic (<> vowels) syllabic /n̩ ̩/ in ‘mutton’ [mʌtn̩ ], syllabic/ṃ/ in ‘rhythm’ [rɪðṃ], syllabic /ŋ̣/ in ‘bacon’ [beɪkŋ]

- devoicing of /m,n/ after voiceless consonants (‘smoke, snake’)

(a) bilabial nasal /m/

- word-final /n/ before bilabials in connected speech > /m/ (‘one mile’ /'wʌm 'maɪl/; ‘gone back’ /'gɒm 'bæk/

- word-final /ən/ or /n̩/ after /p/ or /b/ > [ṃ] (‘happen’ [hæpṃ], ‘ribbon’ [ɹɪbṃ])

(b) alveolar nasal /n/

- /n/ before the labiodental /f, v/ > /ɱ/ (‘infant; in voice; in vain’)

- /n/ before dental /θ, ð/ => /n̪ / (‘tenth’)

- /n/ word-final before bilabials or velars > /m/ (‘ten people’) or /ŋ/ (‘ten cups’)

(c) velar nasal /ŋ/

- normally voiced x devoiced when syllabic (‘bacon, thicken’)

- variants: regionally retained earlier [ŋg] instead of RP /ŋ/ (‘singing’ [sɪŋgɪŋg] instead of RP /sɪŋɪŋ/ => [ŋ] as allophone of /n/, NOT separate phoneme)

Oral Approximants

- the airstream escapes through a relatively narrow aperture in the mouth

- no friction

(a) lateral approximant /l/

- clear [l] = the front of the tongue raised toward the hard palate, the tip contact ensures a front vowel resonance

- dark [ł] = the front of the tongue depressed, the back raised toward the soft palate, ensures a back vowel resonance (= velarized)

- before a vowel or /j/ > clear [l]; all other positions > dark [ł]

- word-final after a consonant > syllabic dark [ ł] (‘fiddle, final, parcel’)

- GA, SE, ANE, NortE: dark [ł] in all positions

- Irish E => clear [l] in all positions

- GA => syllabic [ł] instead of RP [-aɪł] (‘fertile, futile, missile, reptile’)

(b) post-alveolar approximant /r/

- the voiced [ɹ] = the most common allophone of RP /r/

- phonetically vowel-like x but: consonantal wrt function

- devoicing of [ɹ ̥ ] after accented /p, t, k/ (price, try, cream’), after unaccented voiceless syllable-initial plosives (‘upright, apron, acrobat’) and in the syllable-initial sequences /spr-, str-, skr-/ (‘spring, string, scream’)

- SE and some NortE: replacement of RP [ɹ] by an alveolar tap [ɾ] in intervocalic positions (‘very, sorry, marry’) and after /θ, ð/ (‘three; forthright; with respect’)

- /d/ x [ɾ]: the contact for the tap of shorter duration and less complete, with a typical central hollowing of the tongue (the distinction btw [ɾ] in ‘carry’ x /d/ in ‘caddy’)

- SE and RP declamatory verse-speaking: the RP [ɹ] replaced by a lingual trill (or, roll) [r] = a rapid succession of taps by the tip of the tongue on the alveolar ridge

- some NortE and SE: uvular trill [ʀ] or uvular fricative [ʁ]

- some GA: the retroflexed [ɻ] anticipates the consonant and colours the preceding vowel > r-coloured vowels (‘bird, farm, lord’)

(c) palatal and labial-velar approximants (or, semi-vowels) /j, w/

- semi-vowel = a rapid vocalic glide onto a syllabic sound of greater steady duration

- the palatal /j/ glides from the position of /i:/ (‘year’)

- the labial-velar /w/ glides from the position of /u:/ (‘west’)

- vocalic in phonetic terms x but: consonantal wrt function (marginal rather than central in the syllable)

- articles in their pre-consonantal forms before /j/ and /w/ (‘the yard’ /ðə/; ‘a yacht’ /ə/)

- variation btw /jə/ and /ɪə/ in unaccented syllables (‘immediate, idiot, hideous’)

- devoicing of /j̥ / after accented /p, t, k/ (‘cue’ [k j̥ u:])

- partial devoicing of /w/ after voiceless consonants, complete devoicing of /w/ after accented /t, k/ > /ʍ/ = voiceless labial-velar approximant

- GA: /ju:/ esp. after /t, d/ > /u:/ (‘tune, dune, duty’)

- SE: words spelled <wh> > [ʍ] with a phonemic status (opposition btw ‘wine’ x ‘whine’)

Voiced and Voiceless as Phonological Categories

- voiceless /p, t, k, f, θ, s, ʃ, tʃ/

- voiced /b, d, g, v, ð, z, ʒ, dʒ/

- distinction in voice x but: realisation of the distinction varies according to position

- voiced sounds fully voiced only when word-medial btw voiced sounds

- voiced sounds devoiced when word-initial and word-final

- voiceless /p, t, k/ aspirated when syllable-initial

- voiceless sounds reduce length of preceding vowels, nasals and laterals

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

  • Semestr

    Zimní semestr 2002/03.
  • Vyučující

    Šárka Šimáčková.
  • Status

    Povinný seminář a přednáška.


Cruttenden, Alan, ed. Gimson's Pronunciation of English. London: Edward Arnold, 1998.

Ladefoged, Peter. A Course in Phonetics. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1993.


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