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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Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Sun 23 Oct 2011, 13:16

These lessons are designed to be a guide for beginning conlangers to the world of IPA and Phonetics. As such they are ment to be simple rather than exhaustive.

I will continue adding lessons as I get time to write them, but for now I wanted to post the first lesson and get some feedback.

A PDF of all the lessons (with answers to review questions) is available - HERE.


Table of Contents:
Introduction - What is the IPA & the Basics
Lesson One - Plosives & Voicing
Lesson Two - Nasals
Lesson Three - Fricatives & Minimal Pairs
Lesson Four - Approximants, Co-articulated Consonants & Laterals
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Sun 23 Oct 2011, 13:17

INTRODUCTION

What is Phonetics?
Phonetics is the study of the sounds of speech. It refers specifically to the physical elements of how speech sounds are produced. This lesson will focus more on describing speech sounds for use in conlangs.

Phonology is a separate, but related, field that looks at the mental representation of these sounds within a language and how they correspond to the physical output. It is not a list of the sounds in a language! That is a phoneme inventory.


What is IPA and why should you learn it?
IPA is short for the International Phonetic Alphabet. It is a series of symbols used to quickly describe the sounds of the world's languages in a clear unambiguous way.

- "But a 'g' is a 'g!' Why do I need to learn some silly new alphabet?"
Orthography, or the specific rules of spelling/writing in a language, is not always an accurate description of the sounds of the language.

English is a great example of this.
Take the 'g' in the following words:
Girl
Giraffe
Cough

They are all pronounced differently! So saying 'g' is pronounced like 'g' is not very helpful at all.

- So how do I say what 'g' sounds like?
By using IPA as well as some other fancy symbols. Many IPA symbols look like standard latin letters so slashes / /, square brackets [ ], and angle brackets < > are used to specify if something is IPA or orthography.

/ / are used for broad (less specific) transcriptions.
[ ] are used for narrow (more specific) transcriptions.*
< > are used for orthography (spelling).
*In the context of phonology though // and [ ] indicate underlying and surface forms respectively. It is more common to see them used this way on the forums.

So, going back to the examples given:
The < g > in 'girl' is pronounced / g /.
The < g > in 'giraffe' is pronounced / ʤ /.
And the < gh > in 'cough' is pronounced / f /.

- What on earth is / ʤ /?!
It's the IPA symbol for the sound that starts these words < giraffe >, < judge >, < joke > and < giant >. Now that you've seen the benefits of IPA over orthography we can jump into learning some of the symbols.


LESSON ONE

This lesson will focus on getting you familiar with the sounds of English and then moving to the sounds of other languages. Learning IPA also opens you to new world of linguistic awareness. Chances are you will realize there is a lot more to English, or any other language, than you thought.

Plosives

The first class of sounds you'll learn about are called 'plosives.' They can also be referred to as 'stops*.' This is because they completely stop the airflow coming from your mouth as you speak. *It is also important to note that the term 'stop' includes plosives and nasals which will be discussed later.

Take for example the word 'pop.' Say it out loud very slowly.
You will notice that when you say the < p >'s that both of your lips will touch and temporarily close your mouth. The sound you making there is / p /. You can also call is a bilabial plosive because it is a full closure of the air flow (plosive) done by closing both lips (bilabial).

Now say the word 'top' slowly. Notice now how instead of closing your lips at the start of the word your tongue will move up and touch the roof of your mouth. This is the sound / t /. It can also be called an alveolar plosive. The plosive you know is from stopping the air flow but alveolar refers to the place where your tongue touches your mouth. If you say 'top' again you can feel your tongue touching the ridge structure in your mouth. This is called the alveolar ridge.

The next word for you to say is 'cop.' You should feel that your tongue is hitting the roof of your mouth farther back at the start of the word. This place is called the velum (or the soft palate). So the sound / k / at the start of the word can also be called a velar plosive. In between the velum and the alveolar ridge is the hard roof to your mouth. This is the hard palate which is generally referred to as simply the palate.

By now you should be noticing a trend. Sounds are defined by their place of articulation (PoA), where your tongue/lips are, and by their manner of articulation (MoA), how your tongue/lips close the space. However, there is usually one more bit of information required to fully specify a sound – voicing.

Voicing

Now place your hand on your neck, right where an Adam's apple would be, and say the following words 'sue' and 'zoo.' Focus on the first part of each word. When you say 'sue' you shouldn't feel anything* but when you say 'zoo' you should feel a vibration from your throat. What you feel is your vocal folds (more commonly known as vocal chords) vibrating. The technical term for the vibration of your vocal folds is voicing. *You may feel some vibration later on because of the vowels but focus on the 's'.

Going back to the three plosives we started with / p t k /. They are all voiceless. However, they all have voiced equivalents. Which is to say there are sounds that have the same place and manner of articulation but also are said with the vocal folds vibrating.

Compare the first sounds in 'pear' and 'bear.'
/ p / voiceless bilabial plosive vs. / b / voiced bilabial plosive.

Compare the first sounds in 'tame' and 'dame.'
/ t / voiceless alveolar plosive vs. / d / voiced alveolar plosive.

Compare the first sounds in 'cane' and 'gain.'
/ k / voiceless velar plosive vs. / g / voiced velar plosive.


Review

We've managed to go over quite a lot of terminology so far. Now it's time to try putting some of that to use. Answers will be provided at the end of lesson for you to check your work.

1. Here's a blank diagram of the mouth. Name the different parts marked below.
Image

2. Define the following words:
a. Plosive
b. Bilabial
c. Alveolar
d. Velar

3. Write the full description of these sounds:
/ g /
/ b /
/ k /
/ t /
/ d /
/ p /


Answers
Spoiler:
1. Name the different parts marked below:
a. Lips
b. Alveolar ridge
c. Palate
d. Velum
e. Tongue

2. Define the following words:
a. A plosive is a sound made creating a
complete closure of the mouth so that no
air passes through.
b. A bilabial is sound that uses both lips.
c. An alveolar is a sound that involves the
tongue touching the alveolar ridge.
d. A velar is a sound that involves the
tongue touching the velum.

3. Write the full description of these sounds:
/ g / – voiced velar plosive
/ b / – voiced bilabial plosive
/ k / – voiceless velar plosive
/ t / – voiceless alveolar plosive
/ d / – voiced alveolar plosive
/ p / – voiceless bilabial plosive
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Testyal » Sun 23 Oct 2011, 14:25

Now that's really starting at the basics.
:deu: :fra: :zho: :epo:
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by conlangconstructor » Sat 29 Oct 2011, 01:09

Great lesson, Ossicone. I can't wait to see more! A lot of beginners should benefit from this.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Valoski » Sat 29 Oct 2011, 11:35

Very well laid out.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Sat 29 Oct 2011, 13:05

Thanks guys. Hopefully this will give me the kick in the butt I need to get to work on the next section.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ceresz » Sat 29 Oct 2011, 14:02

*kicks Ossicone in the butt*

Get to work >:D!
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Sun 13 Nov 2011, 21:52

LESSON TWO

Nasals
This next section deals with a set of sounds called nasals. Like the plosives you just learned about nasals also form a complete closure of the mouth. However, they are distinguished by the fact that nasals allow the stopped air to flow out of one's nose (or nasal cavity).

This accomplished by lowering the velum so that air can enter the nasal cavity and pass through. When pronouncing plosives the velum remains raised and blocks off the nasal cavity.

The mouth to the left shows the velum in position to produce a plosive and the mouth on the right shows the velum in position to produce a nasal.

Image

English has three different nasal sounds which occur at the same places of articulation as the plosives.

/ m / – bilabial nasal – as in 'mail'
/ n / – alveolar nasal – as in 'nail'
/ ŋ / – velar nasal – as in 'hang'


The velar nasal is different from all the sounds we've discussed up until this point because it cannot occur at the beginning of a word, or word-initially. However, it can occur in the middle of a word, word-medially, or at the end of a word, word-finally.

You may also have noiced that in the description of the nasals voicing is not mentioned. This is because in English the nasals are not distinguished by voicing. In general, nasals are considered to be voiced unless otherwise stated. However, it is not incorrected to call them voiced nasals.


Review

1. Please define the following terms:
a. Word-initial
b. Word-medial
c. Word-final

2. Please give the IPA for the bolded letters in the following words.
a. man
b. running
c. cake
d. backpack

Answers
Spoiler:
1. Please define the following terms:
a. Word-initial describes something
comes at the beginning of a word.
b. Word-medial describes something
comes in the middle of a word.
c. Word-final describes something comes
at the end of a word.

2. Please give the IPA for the bolded letters in the following words:
a. / m / – bilabial nasal
b. / ŋ / – velar nasal
c. / k / – voiceless velar plosive
d. / p / – voiceless bilabial plosive
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Visinoid » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 15:47

Excellent courses, you're good at teaching. :)
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 17:17

Thanks. [:D]
I just wish I had more time to get more lessons done more quickly.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Chagen » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 17:42

Whoa. This is cool. I knew most of this but I never knew the velum moved to do nasals. Plus, thanks to that, I also figured out how to do Nasalized vowels!
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Visinoid » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 19:07

Chagen wrote:I also figured out how to do Nasalized vowels!
Now you can begin to learn French or Portuguese. :3
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 19:23

Chagen wrote:Whoa. This is cool. I knew most of this but I never knew the velum moved to do nasals. Plus, thanks to that, I also figured out how to do Nasalized vowels!
Awesome. :3
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Chagen » Mon 14 Nov 2011, 20:41

Man, these sound weird.

I'm not sure if I'm doing it right, but if I am, then Nasalized consonants make you REALLY sound like a stereotypical nerd.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Aszev » Thu 05 Jan 2012, 00:33

Stickying this seemed like a good idea.
Sound change works in mysterious ways.

Image CE
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ceresz » Thu 05 Jan 2012, 00:36

Finally! Now you have to get to work again, Coughicone.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by faiuwle » Fri 20 Jan 2012, 03:00

Ossicone wrote:/ / are used for broad (less specific) transcriptions.
[ ] are used for narrow (more specific) transcriptions.*
Actually, / / is for phonemes and [ ] is for phones/sounds. Since you seem to just be talking about the latter right now, you should be using [ ]. How broadly or narrowly you transcribe phones is not really relevant to the symbols you use.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by Ossicone » Fri 20 Jan 2012, 03:22

faiuwle wrote:Actually, / / is for phonemes and [ ] is for phones/sounds. Since you seem to just be talking about the latter right now, you should be using [ ]. How broadly or narrowly you transcribe phones is not really relevant to the symbols you use.
Yeah. Someone else told me about this in a PM.
This counter to what my professors taught me.
/ / are used for broad (less specific) transcriptions.
[ ] are used for narrow (more specific) transcriptions.*
Is what I learned to use in the context of phonetics.

And // for underlying and [ ] for surface form is what I learned in the context of phonology.
Since these lessons are only covering phonetics topics I used //s.

Is there an official standard on the usage? If so, I will gladly change it.
Edit: Just FYI I have actually started working on the next bit but life is taking up a lot of my time.
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Re: Professor Mao's Introduction to IPA and Phonetics

Post by faiuwle » Fri 20 Jan 2012, 05:03

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

Post by Ossicone » Fri 20 Jan 2012, 14:14

I'll probably continue using //s just because it's what I'm used to and using [ ]s just feels wrong.
But I will go back and elaborate more on the distinction since it could be a source of confusion.
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