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English Vowel Length - Essay Example

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This research will begin with the statement that in the study of phonology the sound systems of a certain language is studied. In contrast to phonetics, phonology studies contrasting relations between sounds (phonemes) and these differences in one language…
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English Vowel Length
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Download file to see previous pages It is evidently clear from the discussion that every individual has specific pronunciation peculiarities, for example, /s/ may be pronounced in a different manner. A phonologist may be interested in discussing peculiarities of different pronunciation types of /s/ in words where only one basic unit of this sound is met. Phonetician would be more interested in articulation peculiarities. Consequently, the phonological system of English consists of “number of phonemes which are used in this language and to how they are organized”. The English language has 12 pure vowel sounds which can differentiate word meanings. The following features differentiate vowels from consonants. Thus, from phonetic perspective vowels are produced via vocal configuration of the vocal tract: mouth is open and we can hear the sound created by air passing through the mouth (so-called audible friction). From a phonological perspective, vowels consist of sound system units which can take place in the middle of a syllable (e.g., rat, bad). A distinctive principle of vowels discussed in this paper is vowel length. Symbolically, length is symbolized by colon [:]. There are 5 relatively long and 7 relatively short vowels. It is possible to distinguish the length of vowels in accordance with the quantity and quality principles. Length variation is also presented in the following pair of sounds /ɜ:/ and /ə/. The former sound occurs only in stressed syllables in RP (bird, servant); the latter in unstressed ones (above, butter). This pair of sounds doesn’t produce a difference in meaning. Length of vowels can be explained not only by quantity features but also by quality (or place of articulation). There is a special name for long vowels, which is tense-lax. This group of vowels is formed by a tension of certain mouth muscles. They are: /i/, /e/, /u/, /o/, /ɔ/, /ɑ/. In case when no tension is required, lax vowels appear:  /ɪ/, /ɛ/, /æ/, /ʊ/, /ʌ/. In order to illustrate what length of vowels actually means, it is possible to discuss tendencies on the following examples: same-Sam-psalm may be transcribed in the following way: [sem], [sæm], [sɑm]. In this example, it is possible to show that concepts of length and duration are different. A relative duration may be exemplified by showing length degree in the same vowel or consonant: allophone [i] in the words bee and beet has the different degree of lengths. With regard to the fact if this sound is voiced/voiceless, stopped/constituent degrees of length varies. From a phonetic perspective, degrees of length can be explained by speaker’s habits to speak slowly or quickly, emotional context of the situation of speaking and stress amount carried by syllable. Phoneticians realize difference of length degree and they depict it as follows: [bid], [bi·d], [bi:d], or [bɪid]. Still, in such a way, vowel length is depicted only approximately. If to depict the degree of length exactly, then phoneticians have to appeal to phonologists. Phonologic studies may prove many Americans, who underestimate the role of vowel length as the essential determinant factor of words distinction, that this phenomenon is very important in the scientific area. Unfortunately, very often vowel length is underestimated and is considered to have a stylistic value and not practical importance. For phonologists and phoneticians length of vowels is rather meaningful that’s why following consonants or unstressed syllables are all taken into account. For example, in a child [tʃaɪld] the diphthong [aɪ] refers to norms of Old English [i:]; in the word children, the extra consonant [r] and the extra syllable caused the effect on a vowel to remain lax and short. Moreover, vowel length is usually defined in case an unstressed follows a stressed vowel and the latter is usually long (e.g. re-enact [ˈri: ənækt]). On the other hand, if the unstressed vowel follows the stressed vowel, then it is short as a rule (e.g. react [riˈækt]). ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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