Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

If you're new to these arts, this is the place to ask "stupid" questions and get directions!
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Tue 24 Jan 2012, 18:40

MINOR UPDATE - I've updated the formatting and produced a PDF for anyone interested.
I'm also still working on the third lesson.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Xing » Tue 24 Jan 2012, 19:57

faiuwle wrote:Well, I have never heard of / / being for the broader phonetic transcriptions, but I have never taken a class specifically on phonetics, either, so for all I know it is standard in that field. OTOH, most conlangers use / / for phonemes rather than phones, so using an alternate terminology here might be kind of confusing (unless there's a specific reason for it?)

I don't think it matter very much whether you want to describe the difference between // and [] as one of phonemic-vs-phonemic, underlying-vs-surface, or deep-vs-shallow, or whatever.

Maybe it can depend a little on the exact definition of 'phoneme' and 'phone', but would not 'deep', 'underlying' and 'phonemic' mean roughly the same thing when it comes to transcriptions? The same for 'shallow', 'surface' and 'phonetic'. Is there any situation where it could lead to genuine confusion?

If I transcribe a word /tærg/ - what misunderstandings could there be if people were not aware about whether this was the 'underlying' or the 'phonemic' or 'deep' representation?

Many phonetic transcriptions are neither purely phonemic, nor purely phonetic, but lie somewhere in between. For example, when transcribing Chinese, should we only use // when using the two-vowel-analysis?
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Thu 23 Feb 2012, 19:07

A new lesson is done!
You can download the PDF here or read the lesson below.


Lesson Three
Fricatives
As a group fricatives are distinguished from stops by the fact that they do not form a complete closure in the mouth. Fricatives are produced by forming a nearly complete closure that still allows air to pass through the mouth. The turbulent noise produced by pushing air out of the small opening is a fricative.

Based on the places of articulation for the stops you might expect English to have bilabial, alveolar and velar fricatives. However, it is lacking both bilabial and velar fricatives.*
*A velar fricative does exist in some dialects of English but that will be discussed in a later lesson.

There is however a labiodental fricative. Which means that it is produced by contact of the upper lip (labio) with the lower teeth (dental). If you try saying the word 'free' you should feel your tongue against your teeth during the first sound.

English also has a dental fricative. Unlike the labiodental a dental is produced by placing the tip of one's tongue just behind the front teeth. Occasionally, it can be pronounced interdentally with the tongue between one's teeth**. An example of this sound is at the beginning of the word 'three.'
**This sound is often difficult for non-native English speakers to pronounce.

Finally, there is also a post-alveolar fricative. Post-alveolars are pronounced with the tongue arched up just behind the alveolar ridge. One can be found at the beginning of the word 'sheep.'

Fricatives also differ from plosives because they can be sustained. If you try and prolong the / p / at the beginning of the word 'pan,' you will find yourself stuck with your mouth closed and air pressure building up behind your lips. Now, try prolonging the / f / at the beginning of the word 'fan.' This time you can keep the sound going as long as you have breath to push out.

A list of the voiceless frictives:

/ f / – voiceless labiodental fricative – 'fail'
/ θ / – voiceless dental fricative – 'thin'
/ s / – voiceless alveolar fricative – 'sail'
/ ʃ / – voiceless post-alveolar fricative – 'shale'
/ h / – voiceless glottal fricative – 'hale'

In addition, four of the above fricatives have voiced counterparts:

/ v / – voiced labiodental fricative – 'veil'
/ ð / – Voiced dental fricative – 'they'll'
/ z / – voiced alveolar fricative – 'zebra'
/ ʒ / – voiced post-alveolar fricative – 'treasure'


Minimal Pairs
A sound or feature is contrastive if a word can be differentiated solely by that one feature. Looking at the list of fricatives above you can see that voicing is a contrastive feature in English fricatives. The easiest way to prove that a feature is contrastive in a given language is to find a minimal pair. Two words that can be distinguished by changing only one sound or feature form a minimal pair.

Some examples from the sounds we've gone over so far:

'fat' /fæt/ vs. 'vat' /væt/ – voicing contrast on the initial fricative
'pat' /pæt/ vs. 'bat' /bæt/ – voicing contrast on the initial stop
'bat' /bæt/ vs. 'mat' /mæt/ – nasal contrast on the initial stop

Other languages will have different contrastive sounds and features. As mentioned before there are languages with voiced and voiceless nasals, which English does not contrast, and there are languages that don't contrast voicing in frictives like English does. For a non-native speaker these differences can be difficult to hear or reproduce, but knowing about them can help you to learn them.


Review

1. Here's a blank diagram of the mouth. Name the different places of articulation marked below.

Image

2. Please define the following terms:
a. Fricative
b. Contrastive
c. Minimal pair

3. Please give the IPA for the bolded letters in the following words:
a. vest
b. hammer
c. issue
d. sue
e. telephone
f. earth
g. those
h. easy
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Prinsessa » Fri 10 Aug 2012, 20:00

Ossicone wrote:/ ŋ / – velar nasal – as in 'hang'
If Brian Cox comes here to read your tutorial you will just have taught him to believe that /N/ and /Ng/ are the same thing (some native speakers of English actually do have a [g]~[k] there too, you know, even at both points in a world like <hanging>). :(

Great stuff, anyway. I am still worthless at actually naming sounds (I know how to write lots and lots of them in IPA and SAMPA but I don't know what to properly call them using terminology).
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Fri 10 Aug 2012, 21:24

Skógvur wrote:
Ossicone wrote:/ ŋ / – velar nasal – as in 'hang'
If Brian Cox comes here to read your tutorial you will just have taught him to believe that /N/ and /Ng/ are the same thing (some native speakers of English actually do have a [g]~[k] there too, you know, even at both points in a world like <hanging>).
From what I remember it's a typical New Yorker thing to have the word <singer> as something like [siŋgə˞]. But yeah, I'm going to have a hard time of describing every dialect of English.
Skógvur wrote:Great stuff, anyway. I am still worthless at actually naming sounds (I know how to write lots and lots of them in IPA and SAMPA but I don't know what to properly call them using terminology)
I never use the full names like 'voiced velar nasal.' I'll usually use a short name like 'engma' instead.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Xing » Fri 10 Aug 2012, 21:33

Don't many northern English dialects have [ŋg] where others have a plain [ŋ]?

But I guess those who speak such dialect are aware that their pronounciation differs from the "standard" one (GA or RP/SSB). One can't capture every English dialect in a tutorial like this.

Many English dialects don't have dental fricatives, or /h/. Some voice the initial sound in <farmer>, some turn /f/ into /p/, and there are all kinds deviations from the "standard" if we scrutinise every English dialect.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Prinsessa » Sun 12 Aug 2012, 09:01

Yeah, I think he's northern English.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by CarpeMors » Thu 20 Sep 2012, 22:00

conlangconstructor wrote:Great lesson, Ossicone. I can't wait to see more! A lot of beginners should benefit from this.
I've been perusing the literature on tones, tonal contours, and tonogenesis. I know that's not exactly basic, but I also know that it's very hard to find info on these very important topics. Lessons on these, or at least resources would make me a very happy werepretzel.

:)
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Serafín » Tue 09 Oct 2012, 00:54

Xing wrote:Many phonetic transcriptions are neither purely phonemic, nor purely phonetic, but lie somewhere in between. For example, when transcribing Chinese, should we only use // when using the two-vowel-analysis?
Well, why not? 也 /i̯ə˨˩˧/ 説 /ʂwə˥/. It's not common to bother with phonemes in actual Mandarin works though, it seems to me they generally just use either pinyin or phones instead.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Sun 27 Oct 2013, 23:36

A very much delayed new lesson! (Please let me know if I've made a mistake!)

Lesson Four
Approximants
Like fricatives, approximants do not form a complete closure in the mouth. However, approximants have a less constricted point of articulation and do not produce as much turbulent noise as fricatives. This distinction is very much a matter of degree of closure and it can be hard to define an exact cut off between approximants and fricatives. Approximants are more commonly voiced. There are four approximants typically found in English.1

/ j / – palatal approximant – “yak”
/ ɹ / – alveolar approximant – “rack”2
/ w / – labiovelar approximant – “wear”3
/ l / – lateral alveolar approximant – “lack”

First on the list above is the palatal approximant. If you remember back to the first lesson, the (hard) palate is located between the alveolar ridge and the velum. Unsurprisingly, palatal sounds are made by creating a closure with the palate.

Coarticulated Consonants
Looking at the description for / w / you will see the new term 'labiovelar.' This refers to the fact that
/ w / has two places of articulation – at the lips and at the velum. This means that to produced the sound the tongue must be raised toward the velum and at the same time the lips must also be close. Try saying the word “wow” slowly. At the beginning and end, you should be able to feel the tongue raise and the lips move closer together. If you do this while looking in the mirror you will see the lips become rounded rather simply closed like labial constants from the first lesson.

Laterals
The sounds / j / and / ɹ / are produced much as expected with the tongue raising to produce a closure that forces the air over the center of the tongue. However, with / l / the tongue raises and creates a closure that forces air to the sides of the tongue. That is why it is called a lateral consonant. Lateral sounds do not require air to flow on both sides of the tongue and asymmetric articulations do occur. Sounds like / j / and / ɹ / can be referred to as central consonants but it is often omitted for brevity.

1 Some dialects have a fifth unvoiced labiovelar approximant / ʍ /.
2 Some dialects use / ɽ /, / ɻ /, / ɾ / or /r/ in place of / ɹ /.
3 Also sometimes referred to as 'labialized velar approximant' which is a more specific term applied to the sound as pronounced in English.


Review – Lesson Four
While Lesson Four is relatively short the terms discussed can be tricky. This is especially true when one moves outside the scope of English. Please check your understanding with the following questions.

1. Explain the difference between central and lateral consonants.

2. Define the following terms:
a. Approximant
b. Co-articulated consonant

You can check the PDF for answers or post your response.
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