Plosives are produced by holding air in the mouth, and then releasing it suddenly with a plosion. There are three pairs of plosives inEnglish: /p/ and /b/, /t/ and /d/, and /k/ and /g/.
Both /p/ and /b/ are made by the two lips and are therefore bilabial. The lips close the air passage, stopping air in the mouth. When they are opened suddenly, the breath goes out with a plosion, so they are plosives. The only difference is that the vocal cords vibrate when producing the voiced sound /b/, but do not vibrate when producing the voiceless /p/. Although /p/ and /b/ are not phonemes in Arabic (i.e. they do not lead to a difference in the meaning) in English they are two separate phonemes.
Look at the underlined words in each pair, and see how they give different
1. a. He took the pill.
b. He took the bill.
2. a. What a sharp peak!
b. What a sharp beak!
For further practice of the /p/ sound, try the following tongue twister:
Peter Piper packed a peck of pickled peppers:
A pack of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
The sounds /t/ and /d/ are both made by the tip of the tongue firmly touching the alveolar ridge (not the teeth as in Arabic), and so they are alveolar. The air is stopped in the mouth, and then released suddenly with a plosion, so they are plosives. Like /p/ and /b/, the only difference is that the vocal cords vibrate when producing the voiced sound /d/, but do not vibrate when producing the voiceless /t/.
The difference between /t/ and /d/ is meaningful as you can see in the following pairs. Now try the following pairs of words, making /t/ voiceless and /d/ voiced:
/taɪ/ tie /daɪ/ die /tɪl/ till /dɪl/ dill
/taun/ town /daun/ down /tƆ:n/ torn /dƆ:n/ dawn
/tu:/ two /du:/ do /taɪt/ tight /daɪd/ died
/set/ set /sed/ said /brƆ:t/ brought /brƆ:d/ broad
/kəmpleɪnt/ complaint /kəmpleɪnd/ complained
Both /k/ and /g/ are produced by the back of the tongue and the soft palate, and so they are velar. The air passage is blocked so that air is stopped in the mouth, and then released suddenly with a plosion, so they are plosives. The vocal cords vibrate when producing the voiced sound /g/, but not when producing the voiceless /k/.
Now repeat the following pairs of words, making /t/ voiceless and /d/ voiced:
/klɑ:s/ class /glɑ:s/ glass /kɑ:d/ card / gɑ:d/ guard
/k3:l/ curl /g3:l/ girl /kud/ could / gud/ good
Fricatives are sounds produced as the air passes through a narrow passage with difficulty causing friction. Different sounds have the air passage narrowed at different locations. Fricative sounds are /f/, /v/, /θ/, / ð /, /s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, and /h/.
Both /f/ and /v/ are produced by the bottom lip coming very close to the upper teeth; thus they are both labio-dental. As the air passes through this narrow space between the upper teeth and the lower lip, it causes a friction. The sound /f/ is voiceless as the vocal cords do not vibrate, while /v/ is voiced.
Now repeat the following pairs of words, making /f/ voiceless and /v/ voiced:
/fİ:l/ feel /vİ:l/ veal /feIl/ fail /veIl/ veil
/laIf/ life /laIv/ live /of/ off /ov/ of
/θ/, / ð /
The sounds /θ/ and / ð / are both dental as they are both made by the tip of the tongue coming close to the upper teeth. As air passes through this narrowing, it goes out with friction. While /θ/ is voiceless as the vocal cords do not vibrate, / ð / is voiced with the vocal cords vibrating. Although the distinction between /s/ and /θ/ or between /z/ and / ð / is not very important in Arabic, it is important in English.
Look at he underlined words in each pair, and see how they give different meanings:
1. a. I could see his face clearly.
b. I could see his faith clearly.
2. a. He managed a neat closing.
b. He managed a neat clothing.
Because the sounds /θ/ and / ð / are new, let's try to make an exaggerated version of them. Place the tip of the tongue between the upper and lower teeth; push the air through trying to make a hissing sound. This will result in /θ/ as in "thin". For / ð / as in "that", push the air through making a buzzing noise (voicing). ð
Now read the following pairs of words, making /θ/ voiceless and voiced:
/θƆ:/ thaw / ð əu/ though /θΙn/ thin / ð en/ then
/3:θΙ/ earthy /w3: ð Ι/ worthy /Ɔ:θə/ author /ʌ ð ə/ other
/feΙθ/ faith /beΙ ð / bathe /mauθ/ mouth(n.) /mau ð / mouth (v.)
Also notice the meaningful difference between /s/ and /θ/ in the following
/sIn/ sin /θIn/ thin /sʌm/ some /θʌm/ thumb
/maus/ mouse /mauθ/ mouth /pɑ:s/ pass /pɑ:θ/ path
and the difference between /z/ and / ð /.
The sounds /s/ and /z/ are both alveolar sounds made by the tip and blade of the tongue coming close to the alveolar ridge. The air passes with friction because of the narrowing at this point. The only difference between them is that the vocal cords vibrate when producing the voiced /z/, but not when producing the voiceless /s/.
In pronouncing /ʃ/ and /ʒ/, the tip of the tongue comes close to the back of the alveolar ridge, so both are alveo-palatal. The air passes through this narrowing with difficulty causing friction. While / ʃ/ is voiceless with no vibration of the vocal cords, /ʒ/ is voiced as the vocal cords vibrate when producing it. The sound /ʒ/ is rare in English, and never occurs at word beginning as you will see in the following exercise.
Now listen to the following words, then repeat them making /ʃ/ voiceless and /ʒ/ voiced:
/ʃok/ shock /ʃaɪ/ shy /ʃİ:/ she /ʃƆ:t/ short
/mɪʃən/ mission /neɪʃən/ nation /preʃəs/ precious /məʃİ:n/ machine
/ru:ʒ/ rouge /beɪʒ/ beige /gərɑ:ʒ/ garage /ju:ʒuəl/ usual
In producing these two sounds, the air is trapped in the mouth and then released suddenly with a plosion like plosives. However, as the air is released through a narrow passage it goes out with difficulty causing a friction. Thus affricates are a combination of plosives and fricatives. The sounds /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ are both alveo-palatal as the tip of the tongue touches the back part of the alveolar ridge. While /tʃ/ is voiceless with no vibration of the vocal cords, /dʒ/ is voiced.
Try the following examples contrasting /tʃ/ and /dʒ/.
/tʃəuk/ choke /dʒəuk/ joke /tʃeɪn/ chain /dʒeɪn/ Jane
/rɪtʃɪz/ riches /rɪdʒɪz/ ridges /kوtʃɪŊ/ catching /kوdʒɪŊ/ cadging
/eɪtʃ/ H /eɪdʒ/ age /s3:tʃ/ search /s3:dʒ/ surge
These two sounds should not be confused with /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ as they are different phonemes, and make a difference in the meaning. Try the following minimal pairs, and see how they give different meanings:
/ʃu:/ shoe /tʃu:/ chew /woʃɪŊ/ washing /wotʃɪŊ/ watching
/ʃeə/ share /tʃeə/ chair /kوʃ/ cash /kوtʃ/ catch
/meʒə/ measure /meɪdʒə/ major /leʒə/ leisure /ledʒə/ ledger
/m/, /n/, /Ŋ/
All other sounds in English are oral -- with the uvula raised to block air from going into the nasal cavity, and forcing it to go out of the mouth. In contrast, /m/, /n/ and /Ν/ are nasal sounds produced through the nose. In making them, the uvula is lowered letting air pass through the nasal cavity. At the same time, the mouth is blocked at some point, forcing air through the nose. The sound /m/ is bilabial, as the two lips are firmly closed, while /n/ is alveolar, since the tip of the tongue presses against the alveolar ridge, blocking the mouth. As for /Ŋ/, it is velar with the back of the tongue pressed against the soft palate. All three nasal sounds are voiced, produced
with vibration of the vocal cords.
Try the following examples of /m/ and /n/ in initial, medial and final positions.
/meɪk/ make /menɪ/ many /geɪmz/ games /lوmz/ lambs
/naɪs/ nice /ɑ:nsə/ answer /sent/ sent /wʌn/ one
The sounds /m/ and /n/ are sometimes syllabic, with the /m/ or /n/ taking the same length of time as a vowel or syllable.
Try the following examples. /blosm/ or /blosəm/ blossom /rɪ ðm/ or /rɪ ðəm/ rhythm /rι:zn/ reason fashion /bʌtn/ button
/rɪtn/ written /lesn/ lesson
As for /Ŋ/, it never occurs at the beginning of words. It usually replaces the letters "ng" in spelling. It should not be confused with /n/ as these occur in words with different meanings. Try the following minimal pairs.
/sɪn/ sin /sɪŊ/ sing /sʌn/ son, sun /sʌŊ/ sung
/θɪn/ thin /θɪŊ/ thing /sɪnə/ sinner /sɪŊə/ singer
/tʌnz/ tons /tʌŊz/ tongues /bوn/ ban /bوŊ/ bang
/Ŋ/ also replaces the letter "n" in words that have "nk", e.g. "tanker" /tوŊkə/,
"thank" /θوŊk/, and "think" /θɪŊk/. Other words containing /Ŋ/ are: strong,
angry, long, hungry, language, finger, morning, evening.