English consonants: realization/allophonic variation contd Solving potential pronunciation problems Intonation: analysing the use & meaning of intonation patterns



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Lecture 10

English consonants: realization/allophonic variation contd

Solving potential pronunciation problems

Intonation: analysing the use & meaning of intonation patterns

SI! 8.1-2

CEI 6.2


English consonants: realization/allophonic variation

Important to note:



  • Allophones concern the precise, phonetic realization of phonemes according to phonological surroundings. (Complementary distribution)

  • Allophonic variation is often a result of phonetic assimilation, i.e. neighbouring phonemes become more similar to each other.

  • Different allophones are not marked in a phonemic transcription.

Different realizations of the same phoneme can vary with respect to

  • voicing

  • aspiration

  • place of articulation

  • manner of articulation

Variations in place of articulation

  • The alveolar sounds /t, d, n, l/ are articulated as dental before the dental fricatives // and //.



  • /t/ and /d/ become postalveolar in front of the postalveolar /r/

tea / tree, do, drew

  • The articulation of the velar sounds /k, g, / varies with neighbouring vowels:

    • near a front vowel: contact between the tongue and the velum is made further front (pre-velar)

    • near a central vowel: velar

    • near a back vowel: contact between the tongue and the velum is made further back



  • Clear and dark allophones of /l/ (RP)

    • The clear allophone (with the front of the tongue raised) occurs before vowels and /j/ (lake, failure)

    • The dark allophone (with the back of the tongue raised) occurs before consonants and word-finally (melt, fail)

Variations in manner of articulation

  • The frictionless continuant /r/ is articulated as a fricative after /t/ and /d/ (try, dry)

  • The frictionless continuants /j/ and /w/ become fricatives (and voiceless) when they combine with /h/ (huge, which)

The release of plosives

  • Normally, the plosives have oral plosion, i.e. the air is released through the mouth, with no obstruction.

  • Nasal release (i.e. the air is released through the nose) occurs when the plosive is followed by a homorganic nasal (i.e. /p, b/ followed by /m/, /t, d/ followed by /n/, /k, g/ followed by // (happen, button, bacon)

  • Lateral release (i.e. the air is released along the sides of the tongue) occurs when the alveolar plosives /t, d/ are followed by /l/ (little, middle)

  • Inaudible release (unexploded stop) occurs when the plosive is followed by another stop. (suit – suitcase)

  • Aspiration usually follows the release of the fortis plosives /p, t, k/. The aspiration disappears if the plosive is preceded by /s/ (within the same syllable) (key vs. ski)

English consonants – Solving potential pronunciation problems

Pronunciation problems arise because



  • English has phonemes that Norwegian doesn’t have (differences in phonemic inventory).

    • A Norwegian learner will have to learn how to pronounce the “new” phonemes and how to distinguish them from other, similar phonemes

  • English phonemes are articulated in a (slightly) different way from corresponding Norwegian phonemes

    • A Norwegian learner will be understood, but sound foreign, unless the precise articulation is learnt

  • An English phoneme may have a different distribution from its Norwegian counterpart

    • A Norwegian learner may need to learn to articulate a phoneme in an “unusual” position.

Differences in inventory (RP/GA vs. Standard Eastern Norwegian)

English affricates //, //

The fortis fricative //

The lenis fricatives /, , , /

The semi-vowel /w/

Examples on handout.



Distinguishing similar phonemes

, (thought vs. taught)

Dental fricatives vs. alveolar plosives (dental in Norwegian)

, (they vs. day)

More examples on handout

v, w (veil vs. whale)

Labiodental lenis fricative (‘bite your lip’) vs. Labiovelar open approximant (rounded lips, no friction)



More examples on handout

Differences in place / manner of articulation

  • /v/ has audible friction in English

  • /t, d, n/ are apico-alveolar (apico-dental in Norwegian)

  • all allophones of /r/ are unlike the /r/-sounds in Eastern Norwegian

  • /l/ is always dark in GA and clear and dark /l/ are allophones in RP, with a different distribution from allophones of the Norwegian /l/

  • /k, g, / are articulated at the back of the velum after back vowels in English but not in Norwegian. (rock vs. råk)

Differences in distribution

  • The distribution of /r/ in RP (and other non-rhotic accents)

  • /v/ does not occur after other consonants in initial clusters (but /w/ does)

cp. Norwegian svett, tvinne, kvinne; English sweat, twin, queen

Analysing intonation patterns

  1. The intonation pattern itself: (prehead) – (head) – NUCLEUS – (tail)

  2. The sentence type (declarative, interrogative, imperative, sentence fragment)

  3. The context (i.e speaker A’s utterance + the actual words used. It is also possible to imagine a wider context, but don’t be too creative!)

  4. The communicative function: statement, question, command, offer, request, apology, suggestion, etc.

  5. The attitudinal meaning of speaker B: e.g. lively, involved, neutral, calm, interested, casual, cheerful, hostile, annoyed…

  6. The accent-placing: Note if accent placing differs, the emphasis of the two utterances may be different – or even the meaning of words and phrases (see further Unit 7).

A conversation for analysis

  1. I’ve got a feeling we’ve met be\fore

  2. It’s Margaret \Johnson, | /isn’t it

  3. Do you re member /my name

  4.  Let me \think for a minute

  5. /Yes, |  Michael \Hughes

  6. What a sur \prise

  7. What are you /doing | back in \London









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