Posted: September 17th, 2017

Phonetics and Phonology

phonetics The study of linguistic speech sounds, how they are produced . . . how they are perceived . . ., and their physical aspects. (Fromkin, “Glossary,” p. 575)

phonology The sound system of a language; the component of a grammar that includes the inventory of sounds . . . and rules for their combination and pronunciation. (Fromkin, “Glossary,” p. 575.)

WARNING: If you are going to survive this week’s section on phonetics and phonology, and not drown in frustration and anxiety, you are going to have to accept some “best practices” advice from me. So please pay attention and follow these steps!
1. Flip quickly through the assigned pages in the text to get a general idea of the topic. There is no point in lingering and laboring over the many intricacies in this particular study because it is not possible to master the details of phonetics and phonology in a 16-week semester let alone a one-week unit. So, for those of you who can’t bear to get something wrong, let it go!
2. Mark the following pages for quick reference when taking the week’s test. There will be problems that address each of these:
a. pages 225 – 228, the rules for the distribution of plural sounds in English;
b. pages 228 – 229, the rules for the distribution of past tense sounds in English;
c. pages 232 – 233 and page 266 (exercise #1), covering minimal pairs;
d. pages 241 – 242, essential charts for analyzing distinctions of articulation among different languages.
(Continued on the next page. Read on!)
3. Work with the Study Aids. They are your life-line this week.
a. The seven-page “Phonetics and Phonology Notes” contains readily accessible, detailed guides to the 44 regular sounds of American English; it also contains an abbreviated glossary. You’re going to need to familiarize yourself with this document.
b. The “Transcription Exercise” is an essential feature of this unit. Roll up your sleeves and do it!
c. Take the “Practice Quiz.” It’s a highly abbreviated sample of what you’re going to face on the test, but it’s also just good practice.
4. You’re going to need to have ready-to-hand the IPA symbols for the week’s test. I suggest copying and pasting them off of the “Notes” onto a word document. There will be a long transcription section on the test, so be prepared.
5. By the way, on the IPA chart in the “Notes”, I give two different forms of the symbols for the fricatives and affricates. This is because different linguistics texts use slightly different versions. I prefer that you use the following: š, ž, č, and ǰ. Likewise, please use aj, ɔj, and aw for the diphthongs.
6. Regarding “voiceless” versus “voiced” sounds: the simplest way to grasp the concept is to place your fingers at the base of your throat and say the sound out loud. A “voiced” sound will produce a vibrating sensation; a “voiceless” sound won’t.
7. Remind yourself (over and over again) that there’s a difference between the way a word is spelled (orthography) and the way it’s sounded (phonology). So that, in Modern English, the word “know” is pronounced “no”: the initial “k”, which is a relic of Old English pronunciation, is still retained in the spelling. You’ll need to grasp the distinction between spelling oddities and pronunciation rules for the test.
8. Finally, the week’s test is long and doubtless daunting. But it isn’t impossible to complete. It will require you to work with your “tool kit” of quick references, keep calm, and give yourself plenty of time.
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