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Writing the Sounds of English

168 pages
Students studying for English degree at a French university will almost certainly find that their curriculum includes a course in English phonetics, usually in the first of second year of their studies. This will include acquiring a certain degree of proficiency in phonemic transcription. This book does not replace such a course, but these students will find it an invaluable aid in acquiring the necessary skills.
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Équipe d'Accueil « Littérature et Langues» Faculté des Lettres Victor-Segalen 20, rue Duquesne - CS 9383/~ 29238 Brest Cedex 03

~L'Hannattan,2005 ISBN: 2-7475-8574-3 EAN : 9782747585743


A precis of English phonetics, with exercices in phonemic transcription


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L'Harmattan 5-7, rue de l'École-Polytechnique 75005 Paris France

L'Harmattan Hongrie 1053 Budapest Kossuth L.u. 14-16 HONGRIE

L'Harmattan Italia Via Bava, 37 10214 Torino ITALlE


Preface to the second edition Introduction Part 1 Preliminaries Part 2 The Vowels ofEnglish Part 3 The Consonants of English Part 4 Supplementary Questions Part 5 Exercises Answers to Exercises A note for Agrégation Students

1 1 3 13 45 75 81 111 161



In 1989 I published a little book entitled A Phonetics Handbook/or Foreign Students, which was intended those ofmy students who were grappling with the phonetics of English and the problems of its transcription for the fIrst time. This went through several editions, the third being printed in 1996. I then revised this book and added a series of exercises with answers so that the student could work through them on his own. This was published in 2001 as Writing the Sounds of English, A précis of English phonetic, with exercises in phonemic transcription. In this second edition I have corrected a number of printing errors, and added a note for Agrégation students. I would like to thank those colleagues who have made suggestions for improvement; they have probably helped more than they imagine. I would also like to remember the many students who have used the various versions ofthis book over the years. I hope that this new version continues to help those who follow in their footsteps in the years to come.


This book is intended for students learning English as a foreign language whose cuniculum includes a course in English phonetics. This book in no sense replaces such a course, nor is it a textbook. It is an aide mémoire of the basic facts of English phonetics. It is therefore not a book from which the subject can be learnt, but a book to be used for reference after the subject has been learnt.
Part Part Part Part Part 1 gives the basic vocabulary required. 2 describes in turn each of the English vowel sounds. 3 describes each of the English consonants. 4 gives notes on syllabic consonants and word stress. 5 is a series of exercises in phonemic transcription.

The variety of English described in this book is that of standard British English.

PART 1 Preliminaries

In order to talk about phonetics, we need a system of symbols for each of the sounds in a language. The International Phonetic Alphabet provides such a system. The following are the symbols of the International Phonetic Alphabet required for English: Consonants: value: the following have their usual English consonant

p, t, el,k, g, f, v, s, z, h, m., fi, 1, W, r.

in addition:

1J is as ng in 10M e is as th in thin o is as th in then J is as sh in shin :5 is as s in me~ure j is as y in yes tf is as ch in chain d3 is asj injob i~ ar :>: ur 3: as in bean as in barn as in born as in boon as in burn


I e re A D u ~

as in bit as in bet as in bat as in but as in PQt as in pyt as in about

el as in b~ al as in byy :>1 as in bQy ~u as in no au as in now I~ as in peer eQ as in pair U~ as in poor


The parts of the mouth.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Il.

lips teeth alveolarridge hard palate soft palate uvula pharynx epiglottis larynx trachea oesophagus


The parts of the tongue.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

tip blade front centre back root


Places of articulation of consonants.


sounds use both lips: ~.ie, QUY, 8tOQ, rOQ

labiodental sounds use the lower lip and the upper teeth: four, yent, roof
dental sounds use the tip of the tongue and the upper teeth: thigh, fuy, with alveolar sounds use the tip or blade of the tongue and the alveolar ridge: tie, gie, bit big post-alveolar sounds use the tip of the tongue and the back of the alveolar ridge: ridge, root

palato-alveolar sounds use the blade or tip of the tongue and the alveolar ridge, while at the same time the front of the tongue rises towards the hard palate: ~, chur~ judge palatal sounds use the front of the tongue and the hard palate: yacht
velar sounds use the back of the tongue and the soft palate: ~ak:e, gate, h8.!1g glottal sounds are created by an obstruction which causes friction with little or no vibration of the vocal cords: hard


Manners of articulation of consonants.

stop (or plosive) sounds are made by creating a complete block at some point in the vocal tract; the air builds up behind the block and is then released suddenly.

affricate sounds also create a complete block but the pressure which builds up is released more slowly.
fricative sounds are made by leaving a small gap in the vocal tract through which the air can escape. nasal sounds are made by creating a complete block and lowering the soft palate so that the air is forced into the nasal tract. lateral sounds are made by creating a partial block in the centre of the mouth with the tongue; the air escapes round the sides.

approximant sounds are made when some parts of the mouth approach each other but no contact is made. Some books divide these into a frictionless continuant, r, and glides or semi-vowels, w and j. Voicine: of consonants

In voiced consonants the vocal cords are closed and may vibrate.

In voiceless consonants the vocal cords are open and cannot vibrate.


Consonant Table
~stop affrie. frieat. nasal lateral approx. bilabial p,b lab-den dental alveol t,d s,z fi 1 r post-al pal-alv tJ,d3 J,3 1J j ~velar k,g h

f,v m w



Vowels are described in terms of:

1. the height of the tongue: a high position is close: a low position is open. 2. the position of the tongue on a horizontal axis, Le. towards the ITontor the back of the mouth. 3. the degree of tension in the tongue; the tongue may be tense (the so-called "long" vowels) or lax (the so-called "short" vowels ). 4. the degree of lip rounding; vowels may be rounded or unrounded.

Vowel Charts

The simule vowels

u: 8 8 I

8 ~~ 8h 80 . cr: