Linguistics 105 * Words and Sounds
Lecture Number Five
The Articulatory Properties
of Vowels

  1. Natural Classes of Vowels

    Vowels are classified according to the (1) advancement and (2) height of the tongue in pronunciation, (3) the tenseness of the tongue and (4) whether or not the lips are rounded during pronunciation. Finally, like consonants, vowels may be characterized by (5) nasality.

    Vowels, vowels, everywhere

    1. Advancement. During the pronunciation of a vowel the tongue may be advanced or retracted to approximately three positions: (a) the front, (b) central or (c) back of the mouth.

      Table 1 : Advancement
      Front [i, °, e, ŕ, └]
      Central [¬, ¤, ═]
      Back [Ý, u, o, a, ě]
      ([¬] = "u" in French dur)

    2. Height. The tongue may be raised (a) high, to a (b) mid position, or remain (c) low.

      Table 2 : Height
      High [i, °, ¬, Ý, u]
      Mid [e, ŕ, ¤, o, ě]
      Low [└, ═, a]

    3. Tenseness. TENSE [i, e, u, o] versus LAX [°, ŕ, Ý, o] and [└, ě,]
    4. Labialization. ROUNDED [y, Ó, Ý, u, ě, o] (also English [r])
    5. Nasalization. Polish [╗ ┬]; French [│ Ă yé Óé đ]
    6. Suprasegmental elements: Stress, Length, Tone

  2. Examples of English vowels

    1. Lax Vowels: Stressed Unstressed Reduced
      ° impl■cit simpl■stic implic˙tion
      ŕ all§ge temp§stuous alleg˙tion
      emph˙tic fant˙stic §mphasis
      Ý hřodwink n§ighborhood .
      a demřnstrable prognřsis demonstr˙tion
      ě c˙use caus˙lity .
      ¤ conf■rm verbřse confirm˙tion
      confrřnt umbr§lla confront˙tion

    2. Tense Vowels: Stressed Unstressed Reduced
      i [ij] depr§ci┌te cre˙te d§precate
      e [ej] expl˙in chařtic Ňxplan˙tion
      o [ow] invřke voc˙tion Ůnvoc˙tion
      u [uw] refßte ┌coust■cian rŇfut˙tion

    3. Diphthongs: Stressed Unstressed Reduced
      aj rec■te cit˙tion rŇcit˙tion
      aw devřut outs■der .
      ěj explřit Ňxploit˙tion .
      ju compßte cŢmput˙tion c■rcular

  3. Conclusion

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