Phonetics - Unit Two - Lesson No. 7


Place of articulation

The articulatory process involves two kinds of processes: the place of articulation and manner of articulation. In this lesson, you are going to learn about the place of articulation.

Place of articulation

The parts of the vocal folds that can be used to produce sounds are called articulators. The articulators that from the lower surface of the vocal tract are highly mobile or active tract. They make the gestures required for speech production by moving towards articulators that form the upper surface. For example, in the word capital, we notice the major movements of the tongue and lips. It is found that the back of the tongue moves up to make contact with the roof of the mouth with the first sound /k/, then it comes down for the following vowel /a/. The lips come together in the production of /p/ sound and then separate during the production of the vowel /i/. The tip of the tongue raises for the sound /t/. In the sound /l/, the tip of the tongue touches the alveolar ridge.

The upper vocal tract is made of the upper lips, upper teeth, the alveolar ridge, the hard palate, the soft palate, the velum, the uvular and the pharynx wall. The lower vocal tract is made of the lower teeth, the tongue (tip, root, front and back), and the larynx. The lower vocal tract comprises the active articulators.

In order to produce consonants, the airstream through the vocal tract must be obstructed in some way. Consonants can be classified according to the place and manner of articulation.

In terms of place of articulation, the principal terms for the particular types of obstruction required in the description of English consonants are as follows:

1. Bilabial

These are the sounds which are made by the two lips, such as the first sound in pie, bye and my.

2. Labiodental

These are the sounds which are produced through contact between the lower lip and the upper teeth, such as /f/ and /v/.

3. Dental

These sounds are produced by the tip of the tongue or the blade and the upper front teeth, such as /θ/, /ð/.

4. Alveolar

These are the sounds which are produced by the tip of the tongue or blade and alveolar ridge are called alveolar sounds, such as /t/, /d/, /n/, /s/, /z/ and /l/.

5. Retroflex

When the sound is produced by the tip of the tongue and back of the alveolar ridge, it is called retroflex. Examples include /r/ in [row, ray] and so on.

6. Palato-alveolar

Palate-alveolar sounds are those sounds which are produced by the tongue’s blade and the back of the alveolar ridge, such as /ʃ/.

7. Palatal

These are the sound which are produced by the front of the tongue and the hard palate such as /j/ in  the word [you].

8. Velar

The velar sounds are produced by the back of the tongue and the soft palate. The consonants that have the place of articulation farthest back in English are those that occur at the end of hack, hug, hang, i.e. /k/, /g/ and /ŋ/.

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