A Practical Introduction to Phonetics

By J. C. Catford | Go to book overview

7
Vowels: Introduction

1. VOWELS AND CONSONANTS: IMPORTANCE OF
SILENT STUDY OF VOWELS

In Chapter 6 (p. 119) we partially distinguished between consonants and vowels on the basis of their different functions, marginal and central, in the structure of syllables. For general phonetic purposes, however, that distinction is inadequate. There are, for instance, certainly syllabic central units that we would prefer not to describe as vowels: for example the syllabic trilled [r] that forms the syllable centre in Czech words like [krk] 'neck' or [prst] 'finger', not to mention syllabic [l] and [n] in English middle and button.

In order to mark off a class of articulations that corresponds closely to what are traditionally called vowels, we have to be somewhat arbitrary. So by vowels, we understand a class of pulmonic pressure sounds normally voiced, with a maintainable central oral approximant or resonant dorso-domal, or pharyngal, articulatory channel.

We have already seen, more than once, that the articulation of one vowel at least, namely [i], can be perfectly well described in accordance with the same principles that we use in describing consonants: that is as a dorso-palatal approximant. In fact, all vowels can, in principle, be described as approximants or resonants articulated at various oral and pharyngal locations.

However, it has long been the custom to define vowels in terms quite different from those used in defining consonants. This traditional description of vowels, instead of specifying stricture type and location, as for consonants, seeks, in effect, to define the shape and size of the resonance chambers of the mouth and pharynx by specifying the position of the tongue and lips. The traditional way of classifying vowels works well in practice, and,

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A Practical Introduction to Phonetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • List of Figures xii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Basic Components of Speech 11
  • 3 - Phonation: a Third Basic Component 36
  • 4 - Articulation: Stricture Types 62
  • 5 - Articulation: Locations 76
  • 6 - Co-Articulation and Sequence 103
  • 7 - Vowels: Introduction 123
  • 8 - The Cardinal Vowels (Cvs) 138
  • 9 - Prosodic Features 172
  • 10 - Sound-Systems of Languages 187
  • 11 - Review 217
  • For Further Reading 229
  • References 231
  • Appendix the International Phonetic Alphabet (Revised to 1989) 232
  • Index 235
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