Topic 7 – Phonological system of the english language I: vowels. Phonetic symbols. Weak and strong forms. Diphthongs. Comparison with the language of your community

OUTLINE

1. INTRODUCTION.

1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

2. THE HISTORY AND SCOPE OF PRONUNCIATION TEACHING.

2.1. Pronunciation instruction in perspective.

2.2. A history of pronunciation teaching.

2.2.1. Earlier times.

2.2.2. XVIth and early XVIIth century: the spelling reform.

2.2.3. XVIIth century: the precursors of modern phoneticians.

2.2.4. XVIIIth century: the standardization of pronunciation.

2.2.5. XIXth century: the creation of an International Phonetic Alphabet.

2.2.6. XXth century: modern methods and approaches.

2.2.7. XXIst century: pronunciation teaching today.

3. A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK TO THE ENGLISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEM.

3.1. The nature of communication: main features.

3.1.1. Language as system: a duality of patterning.

3.1.2. Language as speech: the sounds of English.

3.2. Phonetics vs phonology: sounds vs phonemes.

3.3. The production of speech: a physio logical aspect.

3.3.1. The speech chain: three main stages.

3.3.2. The speech mechanism: the speech organs.

3.4. Sound change: the Great Vowel Shift.

3.5. A standard of pronunciation: Received Pronunciation (RP).

4. ENGLISH VOWELS: PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

4.1. On defining English vowels.

4.2. A classification of English vowels.

4.2.1. The Vowel Quadrant.

4.2.2. An articulatory description: main features.

4.2.3. Other main articulatory features.

5. COMPARISON OF ENGLISH AND SPANISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

5.1. Spanish /a/.

5.1.1. English ash / æ /.

5.1.2. English long /a:/.

5.1.3. English short half- open central / ? /.

5.2. Spanish /e/.

5.2.1. English short /e/.

5.2.2. English long /3:/.

5.3. Spanish /i/.

5.3.1. English short /i/.

5.3.2. English long /i:/.

5.4. Spanish /o/.

5.4.1. English short /o/.

5.4.2. English long /o:/.

5.5. Spanish /u/.

5.5.1. English short /u/..

5.5.2. English long /u:/.

5.6. English schwa /? /.

6. ENGLISH DIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

6.1. On defining English diphthongs.

6.2. A classification of English diphthongs.

6.2.1. Closing diphthongs gliding to /i/.

6.2.2. Closing diphthongs gliding to /u/.

6.2.3. Centring diphthongs gliding to schwa / ? /.

6.3. A comparison of English and Spanish diphthongs.

7. ENGLISH TRIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

7.1. On defining English triphthongs.

7.2. A classification of English triphthongs.

7.3. A comparison of English and Spanish triphthongs.

8. PRESENT-DAY DIRECTIONS IN PRONUNCIATION.

9. CONCLUSION.

10. BIBLIOGRAPHY.

11. FIGURES.

1. INTRODUCTION.

1.1. Aims of the unit.

This study is aimed to serve as the core of a survey on pronunciation, and in particular on the vowel system. Therefore, all sections which shall be reviewed in this unit are aimed to provide the reader with the following: (1) a historical overview of the issues involved in teaching pronunciation, such as how pronunciation has been viewed from various methodological perspectives and what we know about the main methods in second language phonology; (2) a thorough theoretical grounding in the English phonological system; (3) a theoretical insight into the ways in which this sound system intersects with the vowel system (4) a description and classification of English vowels in terms of articulatory features; (5) a comparison between the English and the Spanish vowel systems; (6) a description and classification of English diphthongs and triphthongs; (7) a framework for new directions on pronunciation, and an evaluation of the vowel system within a current language curriculum design in the framework of the European Community; (8) a conclusion on this present study will be offered, and (9) finally, bibliography shall be listed according to the different sections of this study.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

Different valuable sources have been taken into account for the elaboration of this unit. Thus, in Part 2, for a historical overview of the development of the phonological system, see Celce-Murcia, Brinton and Goodwin, Teaching Pronunciation (2001); Gimson, An introduction to the pronunciation of English (1980); and Crystal, Linguistics (1985). In part 3, for a theoretical background to the phonological system, classic works on the origins and nature of communication and language are Algeo and Pyles, The origins and development of the English language (1982); and Crystal, Linguistics (1985); on the production of the speech chain and its features, see Gimson, An introduction to the pronunciation of English (1980); and Celce-Murcia (2001).

In Part 4, an influential description of the vowel system is offered again by Gimson (1980), and Fernández, Historia de la lengua inglesa (1982). In part 5, for a comparison between English and Spanish vowel systems, indispensable works are Gimson (1980); Alcaraz and Moody, Fonética inglesa para españoles (1982); and O’Connor, Better English Pronunciation (1988).

In parts 6 and 7 of this study , English diphthongs and triphthongs are described and compared to the Spanish system. Again, among the many general works that incorporate recent phonological advances, see especially Celce-Murcia (2001); and classic works by Gimson (1980) and O’Connor (1988). In part 8, for a discussion on present-day directions in teaching pronunciation, and the conclusion in part 9, see Celce-Murcia (2001).

Special remarks must be made to the charts and diagrams representing the English and Spanish phonological systems, which have been taken from different sources, such as Gimson (1980); Alcaraz (1982); and Celce-Murcia (2001).

2. THE HISTORY AND SCOPE OF PRONUNCIATION TEACHING.

In this chapter, following Cerce-Murcia (2001) we provide a historical overview of how pronunciation has been treated in language teaching over the past centuries, which includes the types of teaching approaches and techniques that have been used as well as the main methods focusing on the acquisition of the sound system of a second language, especially on the vowel system. This chapter prepare us for the specific descriptive information presented in parts 4, 5, 6, and 7 as well as for the pedagogical implications of present-day directions on pronunciation in part 8.

2.1. Pronunciation instruction in perspective.

It is a fact that in the history of language teaching, speech and language have been the object of serious study for many centuries. Following Gimson (1980), extensive accounts of the pronunciation of Greek and Latin were written two thousand years ago and, in India, at about the same time, there appeared detailed phonological analyses of Sanskrit, which reveal remarkable affinities with modern ways of thought. However, pronunciation only began to be studied systematically shortly before the beginning of the twentie th century since Western philologists and linguists considered grammar and vocabulary to be much more relevant than pronunciation.

Mainly two general approaches to pronunciation have been developed from the field of modern language teaching. First of all, an intuitive -imitative approach and secondly, an analytic -linguistic approach. The intuitive-imitative approach was used before the late nineteenth century, and occasionally supplemented by the teacher’s observations about sounds based on orthography. It depends on the learner’s ability to listen to and imitate the rhythms and sounds of the target language, and also presupposes the availability of good models to listen to, first by means of phonograph records, later by means of tape recorders and language labs in the mid-twentieth century, and more recently audio- and videocassettes and compact discs.

The analytic-linguistic approach is based on information and tools such as a phonetic alphabet, articulatory descriptions, charts of the vocal apparatus, contrastive information, and other aids to supplement listening, imitation, and production. This approach focuses attention on the sounds and rhythms of the target language, and was developed to complement rather than to replace the intuitive- imitative approach.

We must acknowledge that there are methods that have had some currency throughout the twentieth century and in which the teaching of pronunciation is largely irrelevant, since oral communication in the target language is not a primary instructional objective. We talk, for instance, about Grammar Translation and reading-based approaches. In the following overview we focus on those methods and approaches for which the teaching and learning of pronunciation has been a genuine concern from earlier times to the present day.

2.2. A history of pronunciation teaching.

2.2.1. Earlier times.

Following Crystal (1985), we may observe an emphasis on pronunciation from an oral tradition even around the fifth century B.C. in ancient India, when the Hindu priests needed to reproduce accurately the original pronunciation of the hymns used for their religious ceremonies. Moreover, according to Gimson (1980), these Indian grammarians produced already printed works containing information of a phonetic kind with descriptive accounts considered to be rigorous and satisfactory, which are still adhered to to-day. The earliest written evidence on phonetic principles traces back to the fourth century B.C. when Panini produced a work called sutras which consisted of a set of rules about the language’s structure, some of them still used in modern linguistics.

Later on, in the sixteenth century some of the first writers were already concerned with the relation between the sounds of English and those of another language. Thus, the French grammarian, John Palsgrave wrote about the pronunciation of French in his work Lesclarcissement de la Langue Francoyse (1530). He explained the values of the French sounds, comparing them with the English, in a kind of phonetic transcription. It was difficult, however, to communicate sound values in print, especially those of vowels, until in the twentieth century, a system of objective evaluation was devised by Daniel Jones, that of the Cardinal Vowels.

2.2.2. XVIth and early XVIIth century: the spelling reform.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries a more important type of phonetic inquiry stemmed from the concern at the inconsistency of the relationship of Latin letters and the sounds which they represented, especially in English, as there had been great changes of pronunciation, particularly as far as the vowel sounds were concerned, so that letters no longer had their original Latin values (Gimson 1980). There was, then, a need for a spelling reform in order to bring some order into English spelling, as far as sound symbolization is concerned.

The early spelling reformers proposed a more logical relationship of sound and spelling so as to investigate the sounds of English. They used phonetic methods of analysis and transcription. Thus, John Hart, in his work, Orthographie (1569), describes the organs of speech, and also defines vowels distinguishing between front and back vowels.

2.2.3. XVIIth century: the precursors of modern phoneticians.

In the seventeenth century, there is a considerable body of published work, which is already entirely phonetic in character and which contains observations and theories still current today. These works emerged from a group of writers who were interested in speech and language for their own sake. They were mainly concerned with detailed analysis of speech activity, the comparative study of the sounds of various languages, the classification of sound types, and the establishment of systematic relationships between the English sounds. Yet, those considered to be the true precursors of modern scientific phoneticians (Gimson 1980), are John Wallis, Bishop Wilkins, founders of the Royal Society, and Christopher Cooper.

To start with, the linguistic fame of John Wallis, primarily a mathematician, lasted into the eighteenth century, and his works being copied long after his death. His principal linguistic work, Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae (1653), examines the sounds of English as they constitute a system in their own right. In the introductory part of the work (Tractatus de Loquela ), he describes in detail the organs of speech and attempts to establish a general system of sound classification for vowels, stating the degree of aperture for vowels.

On the other hand, Bishop John Wilkins attempted, in his work Essay Towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language (1668), to describe the functions of speech organs and gives a general classification of the sounds articulated by them.

Finally, Christopher Cooper attempted to describe and give rules for the pronunciation of English rather than to devise a logical system into which the sounds of English might be fitted. In his work The Discovery of the Art of Teaching and Learning the English Tongue (1687), he states ‘The Principles of Speech’ where he describes the organs of speech and names the different sections of the speech tract responsible for vowels. Moreover, he goes further by defining diphthongs.

2.2.4. XVIIIth century: the standardization of pronunciation.

By the eighteenth century, the spirit of general scientific enquiry into speech lost much of its original enthusiasm. The neglect is due to the fact that it is extremely difficult to study speech without some mechanical aids to make the speech permanent, and therefore more precisely analysable (Crystal 1985). However, prescriptive grammars containing rules for pronunciation continued to be produced in large numbers and dictionaries provided us with information concerning the contemporary forms of pronunciation. Yet the main achievement of the century lies in its successful attempt to fix the spelling and pronunciation of the language. The works that had the main influence on language and led to a standardization of pronunciation were to be the Dictionaries of Samuel Johnson (1755), Thomas Sheridan (1780), and John Walker (1791).

2.2.5. XIXth century: the creation of an International Phonetic Alphabet.

Following Cerce-Murcia (2001), an interest on speaking skills was developed by the Direct Method in the late 1800s and early 1900s, where pronunciation is taught through intuition and imitation. This movement was influenced greatly by phoneticians such as Henry Sweet, Wilhelm Viëtor, and Paul Passy, who formed the International Phonetic Association in 1886 and developed the International Phonetic Alp habet (IPA). This alphabet made it possible to accurately represent the sounds of any language because, for the first time, there was a consistent one -to-one relationship between a written symbol and the sound it represented.

Successors to this approach are the naturalistic methods, which include comprehension methods that devote a period of learning solely to listening before any speaking is allowed. Examples include Asher’s (1977) Total Physical Response and Krashen and Terrell’s (1983) Natural Approach .

2.2.6. XXth century: modern methods and approaches.

During the 1940s and 1950s, the Reform Movement played an important role in the development of Audiolingualism in the United States and the Oral Approach in Britain for which pronunciation was very important and was taught explicitly from the very start. As their main features, we may highlight imitating and repeating sound models making use of information from phonetics, such as a visual transcription system or charts which demonstrate the articulation of sounds. Yet, the minimal pair drill technique, drawn from structural linguistics, helps students distinguish between similar and problematic sounds in the target language through listening discrimination and spoken practice, as for the distinction between ‘sheep’ and ‘ship’.

In the 1960s a new approach is drawn from tranformational-generative grammar and cognitive psychology, their main figures being Chomsky (1965) and Neisser (1967) respectively. The Cognitive Approach viewed language as rule -governed behavior rather than habit formation, where pronunciation is deemphasized in favor of grammar and vocabulary which are considered to be more learnable items.

During the 1970s the Silent Way and Community Language Learning still showed interesting differences in the way they dealt with pronunciation. Thus, the Silent Way (Gattegno 1976) is characterized first by the attention paid to accuracy of production of both the sounds and structures of the target language by sharpening the students inner criteria for ‘correctness’, not having to learn a phonetic alphabet or a body of explicit linguistic information. On the other hand, Community Language Learning, a method developed by Charles A. Curran (1976), is primarily student initiated and designed since students decide what they want to practice and use the teacher as a resource, a technique known as human computer.

2.2.7. XXIst century: pronunciation teaching today.

Celce-Murcia (2001) states that the Communicative Approach, established in the 1980s and currently dominant in language teaching, holds that the primary purpose of language is communication. This focus brings renewed urgency on pronunciation since intelligible pronunciation is one of the necessary components of oral communication. In fact, the ultimate goal is for learners to work with language at the discourse or suprasentential level.

Until now we can see that the emphasis in pronunciation instruction has been largely on a segmental level, that is, getting the sounds right at the word level, dealing with words in isolation or with words in very controlled and contrived sentence-level environment. In the mid- to late 1970s other approaches directed most of their energy to teaching suprasegmental features of language (i.e., rhythm, stress, and intonation) in a discourse context as the optimal way to organize a short- term pronunciation course for nonnative speakers.

As a result, today’s pronunciation curriculum seeks to identify the most important aspects of both the segmental and suprasegmental levels and integrate them depending on the needs of any group of learners. In addition to segmental and suprasegmental features of English, there is also the issue of voice quality setting , that is, each language has certain stereotypical features such as pitch level, vowel space, neutral tongue position, and degree of muscular activity that contribute to the overall sound quality or “accent” associated with the language.

As we stated at the beginning of this part, the aim of this historical background is simple: to provide the reader with a rich knowledge base on pedagogical techniques and methods in history in order to understand the following theoretical part which surveys the English phonological system.

3. A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK TO THE ENGLISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEM.

3. 1. The nature of communication: main features.

Following Gimson (1980), one of the chief characteristics of the human being is his ability to communicate to his fellows complicated messages concerning every aspect of his activity. For our purposes, and within a theory of language, we shall define communication in terms of types and main features. In the first place, we distinguish two main types within the communication process, that is, verbal and non-verbal codes. First, regarding the phonological system, verbal codes are related to speech in that the code is oral language, and secondly, non-verbal codes refer to paralinguistic devices which are closely related to vowel stress patterns.

In the second place, the main features that establish a distinction between human and animal systems of communication provide us with two important concepts to be reviewed within this unit. Thus, the arbitrariness of signs as it is seen within a definition of language as a system and secondly, the auditory-vocal channel from a physical perspective within language as speech.

3. 1. 1. Language as system: a duality of patterning.

A language will be defined as a system of conventional vocal signs by means of which human beings communicate (Algeo and Pyles 1982). Language as a system is not only a collection of words but also rules or patterns that relate the words to one another. The arbitrariness of language lets people build an immensely large number of meaningful units out of only a handful of meaningless units.

This duality of patterning is perhaps the main characteristic that distinguishes true human language from the simpler communication systems of all nonhuman animals, as the meaningless components of a language make up its sound system, or phonology (phonemes), and the meaningful units are part of its grammatical system (word categories). As we may see, this duality of patterning deals directly with the nature of the phonological system, and in turn, with the vowel system.

3.1.2. Language as speech: the sounds of English.

According to Algeo and Pyles (1982), language is a system that can be expressed in many ways, thus by writing, by hand signals or gestures. However, the signs of language, its words and morphemes, are basically oral-aural, sounds produced by the mouth and received by the ear. Because sounds follow one another sequentially in time, language has a one -dimensional quality. In fact, speech is undoubtedly superior, as its evolutionary survival demonstrates.In this study, our prima ry concern will be the use we make of speech, at an auditory level, and therefore, we shall concentrate on the production, transmission, and reception of the sounds of English, in other words, the phonetics of English.

Next sections we shall examine , first ly, the notion of phoneme and its features, and then, the production of speech as a physiological aspect where the human vocal tract plays a prominent role . Secondly, the sounds of speech, from an acoustic and auditory aspects where the main features of sounds are depicted in detail. These two perspectives on the speech chain will provide the reader with the relevant framework for a description and classification of speech sounds in terms of linguistic analysis.

3.2. Phonetics vs phonology: sounds vs phonemes.

This study is primarily concerned with the sound system of English and it is well known that phonetic analysis should occupy an important place in the study of any language (Gimson 1980). When a language is being subjected to scientific analysis, some statement of the sound system is necessary so a notation is devised for the recording of the language in a written form.

In treating sounds in this way (Algeo and Pyles 1982), phonologists seek to identify the smallest features which are adequate to describe any human language by means of phonetic transcription. Phonology tries to keep underlying forms and all of phonological description as close as possible to actual pronunciation. We may find slight variations of styles of transcription. It is usual to write phonemes within slanting lines, or virgules (also called slashes), thus /t/. In this study we shall ordinarily use a broad phonetic transcription enclosed in slashes.

Linguistically speaking, we may establish a distinction between the terms phonetics and phonology. On the one hand, phonetics deals with the characteristics of sounds themselves without any reference to their function. Since the phonetic unit is the sound, it formulates methods of description and classification of the sound types which occur in speech (articulatory, auditory, and acoustic; or stages of production).

On the contrary, phonology deals with phonemes. According to Algeo and Pyles (1982), a phoneme is the smallest distinctive unit of speech which may differ according to the phonetic environment in

which it occurs. Then, we talk about allophones , that is, similar sounds that are not distinctive in complementary distribution (or also called a specific environment). Thus, phonology involves the study of the concrete phonetic characteristics within the context of a specific language, thus English or Spanish phonemes. These sounds, such as vowels and consonants, used in a language in particular are studied in relation to their functional behavior for distinctive purposes; the combinatory possibilities of the phonemes; or the nature and use of prosodic features as pitch, stress and length. Moreover, a study of the phonic substance of the language may be accompanied by an analysis of lexis, grammar, semantic or paralanguage devices.

Within next sections, a phonetic approach will provide an overview of the production of sounds from a physiological aspect, that is, the speech chain in its three main stages, and the mechanism of speech, with respect to the organs of speech involved nif analysis will examine the English vowel system in detail.

3.3. The production od speech: a phisiological aspect

For the speaker to produce many differentiated sounds, only humans have been endowed with a highly sophisticated speech organ which consists of consonants and vowels which are part of our vocal apparatus as a limited set of speech sounds.

However, speech enables us to use our language in a very economic way for a virtually infinite production of linguistic units. As we have mentioned before, linguistically speaking, the distinctive speech sounds are called phonemes which are meaningless by themselves, and may be reassembled into larger linguistic units, commonly called words. The way speakers may use language so as to convey the meaning of their message is examined under physiological aspects, such as the physiological stages to make communication possible, and the speech organs involved in this process.

3.3.1. The speech chain: three main stages.

According to Gimson (1980), any communicative act by means of speech involves a highly complicated series of events on the part of the speaker. This manifestation of language has been described as a physiological process where we may distinguish three main stages, thus psychological, physiological, and physical.

The first stage is called psychological since the formulation of the concept takes place at a mental level in the brain. Then, the message is transmitted by the nervous system to the organs of speec h, which in turn, on taking a provision of air, produce a particular pattern of sound in a conventional manner, as it is learned by experience. This stage is also called initiation stage.

The second stage, known as the articulatory or physiological stage, takes place when our organs of speech move and then create disturbances in the air, or whatever the medium may be through which we are talking. This stage is also called phonation stage as the phonatory organs move in terms of quality of voice to make the appropriate sound.

These varying air pressures or disturbances which regulate the shape of the sounds constitute the third stage in our chain, called physical or acoustic, and also known as articulation stage. This is the end of the production chain where the listener appreciates significant features within the speech chain since we deal with the reception of the sound waves by the hearing apparatus.

These three stages requires a listener and a speaker for the message to be sent and received, but for our purposes, we shall focus on the speaker, and more especially, on the concrete speech level which involves the production of sounds rather than the transmission of the information along the nervous system to the brain, and the linguistic interpretation of the message. Therefore, we shall examine in next section the articulatory stage and its speech mechanisms so as to analyse the role of the different organs on producing the sounds of speech.

3.3.2. The speech mechanism: the speech organs.

Following Gims on (1980), man possesses the ability to produce sounds and organise them into a highly efficient system of communication whereas animals use the sounds for stimuli to signal fear, hunger, sexual excitement, and the like. Nevertheless, both animals and human beings share the common use of organs whose primary physiological function is unconnected with vocal communication, namely, for man when speaking, those situated in the respiratory tract. Following O’Connor (1988), among those organs, common to vowels and consonants, we may mention (1) lungs, (2) larynx (vocal cords and glottis), (3) pharynx (soft palate), (4) mouth, (5) teeth, (6) tongue, and (7) lips. Consonants and vowels are usually drawn in a diagram showing a side view of the parts of the throat and mouth and nose which are important to recognise for English (Figure 1).

(1) First, in all languages we speak with air from the lungs, as all the essential sounds need lung air for their production when we breathe out. Then the air interferes with its passage in various ways and at various places, and as a result, our utterances are shaped by the capacity of our lungs and by the muscles which control their action. We are forced to pause in articulation so as to refill our lungs with air , and a number of energetic peaks of exhalation will to some extent condition the length of any breath group.

(2) Secondly, the air-stream released by the lungs undergoes important modifications in the upper stages of the respiratory tract before it acquires the quality of a speech sound. The air comes up through the trachea or wind-pipe, and then it passes through the larynx which is formed of cartilage and muscle, and is situated in the upper part of the trachea. Since it looks like a casing, it is commonly called the ‘Adam’s apple’.

Housed within this structure from back to front are the vocal folds (or vocal cords), which are two small folds of ligament and elastic tissue, which can be thought of as two flat strips of rubber, lying opposite each other across the air passage. They may be brought together or parted by the rotation of the arytenoid cartilages through muscular action. The opening between the folds is known as the glottis, through which the air can pass freely when we breathe quietly in and out. When the vocal cords are brought together tightly, no air can pass.

In using the vocal folds for speech, the most important function of those consists in their role as a vibrator set in motion by lung air, that is, the production of voice , or phonation. For our purposes in the analysis of English, we shall focus on the production of voiced and voiceless sounds. Voiced sounds are achieved when the vocal cords are vibrating close together whereas voiceless sounds are made when the vocal cords are wide open, the air passes freely between them, and there is no vibration.

(3) Thirdly, the air-stream, having passed through the larynx, is now subject to further modification according to the shape within the upper cavities of the pharynx, mouth, and also, the nasal cavity.

These cavities function as the main resonators , and correspond respectively to the sections of laryngopharynx (pharynx), oropharynx (mouth), and nasopharynx (nose).

We shall concentrate on the pharyngeal cavity which extends from the top of the larynx, past the epiglottis and the root of the tongue, to the region in the rear of the soft palate . Accordingly, we may find three different positions of the soft palate. First, if the soft palate is lowered, the air escapes through the nose and the mouth, and we obtain nasalized vowels. However, if the soft palate is held in its raised position, there is an oral escape through the mouth, as all normal English sounds have.

(4) Fourth, the mouth plays an essential part in the production of speech sounds. Indeed, it is the most readily accessible and easily observed section of the vocal tract and also, the shape of the mouth determines finally the quality of the majority of our speech sounds. This oral chamber is limited by a number of boundaries, such as the teeth , at the front; the hard palate , in the upper part; and the pharyngeal wall (soft palate), in the rear. The remaining organs are movable: the lips, the various parts of the tongue, and the soft palate with its pendent uvula . For a description of the articulation of sounds, we would include the lower jaw and the space between the upper and lower teeth.

The whole palate forms the roof of the mouth , and separates the mouth cavity from the nasal cavity. Most of it is hard and fixed in position, but when your tongue-tip is as far back as it will go, away from your teeth, you will notice the palate becomes soft. It is relevant, then, for our purposes to divide the hard, fixed part of the palate on the roof of the mouth into three parts. Thus, the alveolar ridge, the hard palate and the soft palate .

First, moving backwards from the upper teeth is the alveolar ridge or teeth ridge which can be clearly felt behind the upper front teeth; secondly, the hard palate is the highest part of the palate shaped as a bony arch between the alveolar ridge and the beginning of the soft palate; and finally, the soft palate or velum, which is capable, as we have previously seen, of being raised or lowered, and whose extremity is called uvula.

(5) The lower front teeth are used in English to some extent as passive articulators in sounds such as /t/ and the sound in thin or this.

(6) The tongue is the most important of the organs of speech because it has the greatest variety of movement and flexibility so as to assume a great variety of positions in the articulation of vowels. Although the tongue has no obvious natural divisions like the palate, it is useful to think of it as divided into four arbitrary parts, thus back, front, blade , and tip.

Imagine a diagram showing a side view of the mouth where we can see the parts of the tongue. The back of the tongue lies under the soft palate, and when the tongue is at rest, its tip lies behind the lower teeth; the front lies under the hard palate. The region where the front and back meet is known as the centre or dorsum. The tapering section facing the teeth ridge is called the blade and its extremity the tip . Both lie under the alveolar ridge, and are particularly mobile as they can touch the whole of the lips, the teeth, the alveolar ridge and the hard palate. The tip and blade region is sometimes known as the apex, and the edges of the tongue are known as the rims.

(7) The lips are particularly significant in the formation of vowel quality , and take up different positions as they are movable parts. The shape which they assume will, therefore, affect the shape of the total cavity. Thus they can be brought firmly together so that they completely block the mouth, either momentarily or directed through the nose by the lowering of the soft palate. They can also be pushed forward to a greater or lesser extent, and if they lips are kept apart either flat or with different amounts of rounding, they can be summarized under six headings (Gimson 1980).

Thus first, held sufficiently close together over all their length, friction occurs between them. Then we obtain fricative sounds, with or without voice (i.e., when pronouncing word). Secondly, the spread lip position when held sufficiently far apart for no friction to be heard, usually in vowels (i.e., see), and remaining fairly close together and energetically spread. Thirdly, a neutral position with a medium lowering of the lower jaw (i.e., get). Fourth, held relatively apart, in an open position without any marked rounding (i.e., card). Fifth, a close rounded position, where the aperture is small and rounded, and tightly pursed (i.e., do). And finally, the open rounded position, where the aperture is held wide apart (i.e., got).

3.4. Sound change: the Great Vowel Shift.

According to Gimson (1980), the language spoken in England has undergone very striking changes during the last thousand years. With respect to English vowels, the fifteenth century marked a turning point in the history of English, for during this period the language underwent greater, more important phonological changes than in any other century before or since, particularly the change in the pronunciation of the tense vowels that helps to demark Middle from Modern English.

This change, the most prominent of all phonological developments in the history of English, is called the Great Vowel Shift. It refers to a number of radical qualitative and quantitative changes that initially affected the evolution of southern Middle English tense long vowels into Early Modern English during the 16th and 17th centuries. However, short vowels have remained relatively much more stable than long vowels. According to Fernández (1982), from an articulatory perspective, this salient change is related to a general tendency to communicate with the minimum effort, which involves the reduction of long vowels and a tendency to centralization. As a result, those vowels became diphthongs.

We must note this development was gradual, adopting a number of intermediate stages until in 1700 the modern English pronunciation of long vowels is almost attained. Sociolinguistic studies have evidenced that this phonological change was related to the social stratification of the Tudor era and the desire to mark social identity through language. The goal was to intensify self- consciousness about class and status between the upper classes of Tudor London and immigrants from the nearby Home Counties of the southeast.

3.5. A standard of pronunciation: Received Pronunciation (RP).

It is a fact that English language is sensitive to variations in pronunciation, and that, socially speaking, there is an attitude towards a certain set of sound values which is considered to be more acceptable than another. Moreover, a standard pronunciation exists, although it has never been explicitly im posed by any official body. This unofficial standard emerges from disparities between the speech sounds of younger and older generations, different parts of the country, and also social classes. For reasons of politics, commerce, and the presence of the Court, it was the pronunciation of the south-east of England, and more particularly, to that of the London region, that this prestige was attached. This standard is called Received Pronunciation (RP).

The speech of the Court, phonetically largely that of the London area, incresingly acquired a prestige value and, in time, lost some of the local characteristics of London speech. It may be said to have been finally fixed, as the speech of the ruling class, through the conformist influence of the public schools of the nineteenth century. With the spread of education, the situation arose in which an educated man might not belong to the upper classes and still retain his regional characteristics. Then, those eager for social advancement felt obliged to modify the ir accent in the direction of the social standard. Pronunciation was, therefore, a marker of position in society .

Great prestige is still attached to this implicitly accepted social standard of pronunciation since it has become widely known and accepted through the advent of the radio. The BBC formerly recommended this form of pronunciation for its announcers mainly because it was the type which was most widely understood and which excited least prejudice of a regional kind. Thus, RP often became identifie d in the public mind with ‘BBC English’. This special position, basically educated Southern British English, has become the form of pronunciation most commonly described in books on the phonetics of British English and traditionally taught to foreigners. Furthermore, English functions as a lingua franca worlwide.

In the following section we shall examine the English Vowel System on the basis of Received Pronunciation. Thus, we shall carry out, first, a descriptive account of the English vowels and then, diphthongs and triphthongs as pa rt of the sound system.

4. ENGLISH VOWELS: PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

4.1. On defining English vowels.

Celce-Murcia (2001) claims that defining vowel sounds and describing their phonetic properties is not as simple a matter as naming the five orthographic vowels (a, e, i, o, and u). In fact, when we begin to examine the vowel sounds of English more scientifically, we find that there are at least twelve distinct vowels sounds rather than five.

Before focusing our attention to the comparison of English and Spanish vowels, we first need to examine their characteristics and define how vowel sounds differ from their consonant counterparts. To the question of what a vowel is, a scientific answer would be that vowels are the core or “peak” of the syllable. In fact, a syllable can consist minimally of one vowel (V) only, as in the word cat; alternatively, the vowel can also be surrounded on either or both sides by consonants (C), as in the words prey (CCV), ants (VCCC), and pranks (CCVCCC).

Another way of describing vowels is to define them as sounds in which there is continual vibration of the vocal cords and the airstream is allowed to escape from the mouth in an unobstructed manner, without any interruption . One difficulty in describing vowels is that in the production of vowel sounds there is no contact of the articulators as there is in the production of consonant sounds. Therefore, the classification of vowels is not as clear-cut as that of consonants.

4.2. A classification of English vowels.

Vowels involve a relatively unobstructed airflow and take on their peculiar characteristics largely through changes in the shape and size of the oral cavity where the position of the tongue and lips is essential in a classification of vowels. Acc ording to Celce-Murcia, we may establish first a vowel description in terms of simple vowels (vowels without an accompanying glide movement as in bed or put) or vowels with an adjacent glide (vowels accompanied by /y/ or /w/ as in pain or stone) which are to be called diphthongs. O’Connor goes further by establishing vowel sequences which are, in fact, triphthongs. Both diphthongs and trip hthongs will be examined in subsequent sections.

There are differences between vowel sounds when concerning phonetic transcription for Australian, American or Scottish speakers although the actual sound is the same. Then, it is worth noting that we will apply in this study Gimson’s system of phonetic transcription as it is the most widely phonemic analysis used in the field of teaching English pronunciation, together with an articulatory definition of each vowel in case we describe orally each vowel. Besides, all the figures representing vowel and consonant charts and diagrams have been taken from Celce-Murcia (20 01), Gimson (1980), and Alcaraz (1982).

4.2.1. The vowel quadrant.

We concentrate first on the oral cavity (Figure 2) as a resonance chamber where the size and shape of it can be modified by the movement of the tongue and the opening or closing of the jaw. These two dimensions were to be analysed in the twentieth century by the English phonetician Daniel Jones. He designed a vowel quadrant (Figure 3) whose four angles represented the cardinal vowels, as he named them.

The quadrant (Figure 4) corresponds to a sagittal section of the mouth where different positions of the tongue are described in relation to the palate. At this point, it is worth mentioning again that the palate forms the roof of the mouth which becomes soft as far back as it goes away from your teeth. It is divided into three sections, thus the alveolar ridge (immediately behind the upper front teeth), the hard palate (the highest part of the palate), and the soft palate (curving down towards the tongue, and ending in a point called uvula, which can also move and make contact with the back wall of the pharynx).

Therefore, the quadrant is designed on three dimensions out of which the twelve English vowels are taken out. First, a vertical exe indicates the degree of raising of the tongue. Thus, from the highest point to the lowest, it corresponds to close (high), semi-close (mid) , semi-open (mid), and open (back) vowels. Secondly, a horizontal exe represents from left to right, front, centre, and back vowels, depending on the part of the tongue raised. Finally, a third exe refers to quantity or length of the vowels, by which vowels are defined as long or short.

4.2.2. An articulatory description: main features.

In describing vowel sounds, we are concerned with a glottal tone modified by the upper res onators of the pharyngeal, mouth and nasal cavities. As air from the lungs moves past the vibrating vocal cords and out through the oral cavity, the position of various articulators acts to modify the vowel sound produced (figure 3). Accordingly, vowel sounds can be distinguished from each other by several features related to the position of the main organs responsible for the resonators, such as the soft palate, tongue, and lips .

Therefore, as was stated, a common classification of vowel sounds must describe the position of the articulatory organs according to (1) vowel quality; (2) the position of the soft palate; (3) the position of the tongue; and (4) the position of the lips. Other relevant characteristics in the description of vowels deal with (5) tense versus lax vowels; and (6) weak and strong forms, examined in next section.

(1) First, according to vowel quality or vowel length , we distinguish long and short vowels. Thus, there are five long vowels as in the words farm, birth, cream, brought, and boom, and seven short vowels as in rat, but, pet, bit, knot, put, and about (schwa sound). It is worth noting that vowels are longer before a final voiced consonant than before a final voiceless consonant. The tendency for vowels to lengthen in certain environments is most perceptible when words are spoken in isolation.

(2) Secondly, according to the position of the soft palate , we deal with both the nasal and oral cavity. Vowels are then classified as oral vowels if the soft palate is raised, so that the air is forced to go out only through the mouth, and nasal vowels if the soft palate is lowered, so that the air can pass through the nose as well as through the mouth. The vowels pronounced this way are always in the environment of a nasal consonant as in the word sing.

(3) Thirdly, according to the position of the tongue, vowel sounds can be distinguished from each other by the degree of raising of the tongue, and by which part of the tongue is raised. Accordingly, in relation to the raising of the tongue, we distinguish four degrees. Thus, from the highest to the lowest point we find, close vowels (the tongue is held as high as possible without touching the roof of the mouth), semi-close vowels (the tongue is about one-third of the distance from close to open), semi-open vowels (the tongue is about two thirds of the distance from close to open), and open vowels (the tongue is as low as possible). Another parallel description defines the raising of the tongue as high, mid, and low degrees.

With respect to the part of the tongue raised , we distinguish three types. Thus, front vowels (the front of the tongue moves towards the hard palate), central vowels (the central part of the tongue is raised), and back vowels (the back of the tongue is raised to the soft palate).

(4) According to Gimson (1980), another visible factor that characterizes the production of vowel sounds is lip position, which can be described as rounded, spread and neutral. Rounded vowels are drawn together with a round opening, as in pot, taught, put, and moon . Spread vowels (also unrounded) are characterized by lips together, as in the words cat, barn, cup , red, bird , sit, seat. Yet, Celce-Murcia (2001) includes another degree, being this neutral (neither rounded nor spread) as in the word another, with the schwa.

4.2.3. Other main articulatory features.

As we have previously mentioned, we find other relevant characteristics in the description of vowels which deal with (1) tense versus lax vowels; and (2) weak and strong forms.

(1) Another feature is drawn from the distinction tense versus lax vowels. Tense vowels are articulated with more muscle tension than the lax vowels, as in scene, prey, pot, short, throw, and you . This muscle tension serves to stretch the articulation of tense vowel sounds to more extreme peripheral positions in the mouth, making them less centered. Often, tense vowels in English are also accompanied by a glide, which is defined by Celce-Murcia as a slight diphthongization.

On the contrary, to produce lax vowels the tongue is supposed to be held loosely, as in the words hat, bet, pin, fun , and look. The muscles relax somewhat when moving from long to short vowels, the jaw also drops slightly, and the lips are not so tightly spread apart. Moreover, the tongue moves toward a more central position in the mouth. Finally, there is no glide quality and, therefore, it is not related to diphthongs.

(6) The final distinction we will make for vowels is weak and strong forms which is closely related to the discussion on reduced vowels. Regarding weak and strong forms, we must note that English is a stress-accent language where content and function words may be stressed or unstressed, that is, be weak or strong, both at word and sentence level. Besides, we deal with reductions of unaccented vowels to schwa.

Since content words (i.e., nouns, verbs, adjectives) generally retain some measure of qualitative prominence even when no pitch prominence is associated with them, we will concentrate on the weak and strong forms regarding function words (i.e., prepositions, articles) since they are usually pronounced in English with their weak form. Besides, function words have two or more qualitative patterns according to whether they are stressed (special situations or isolated) or unstressed (the usual case).

Thus, (1) weak forms of function words are related to three main features in English. The first feature is the reduction of sound length , as in the preposition to, where we find the phonetic transcription of short and long /u/ and the schwa. These three realizations depend on the function they have in the sentence. Thus, According to … as a connector (weak) and to write as an infinitive (strong). The second feature deals with the obscuration of vowels mainly towards schwa, but also towards short /u/ and /i/. Again, we find different realizations depending on the role they play in the sentence, as for instance, should , she , or has. Finally, the third feature deals with the elision of vowels and consonants in connected speech, thus in the sentence I must go, the vowel in must may be assimilated in the speech chain.

(2) Regarding strong forms of function words, we shall mention that there are certain cases where function words should be pronounced with their strong form. These cases are (1) when a function word occurs at the end of a sentence (the preposition ‘from’ in ‘I am from Spain’ (weak) and

‘Where are you from?’ (strong); (2) when a function word is in opposition to another word so as to establish a clarification of meaning, as in ‘I laugh with him, not at him’ ; (3) when a function word is given special stress for emphasis purposes, as in ‘You must do it’; and (4) when a function word is being cited or quoted,

One of the more striking characteristics of English is the frequency with which reduced vowels occur in the stream of speech. Also striking is the restricted number of vowels that tend to occur in unstressed position, such as the short vowels /i/, /o/ and /u/. At the word level, the mid-central reduced vowel schwa is by far the most common of the reduced vowel sounds, especially if one includes with schwa reduced vowels with a postvocalic /r/ as in father. The choice of schwa over all other reduced vowels is often dialectal or idiosyncratic.

5. COMPARISON OF ENGLISH AND SPANISH PHONOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

When comparing English and Spanish phonological systems, we find important differences and few similarities. Thus, regarding vowel quantity , the English vowel system, with twelve vowels, is much richer than the Spanish one, which has only five. Regarding vowel quality , English has long and short vowels whereas in Spanish this distinction is not present. Accordingly, their articulatory representation in the oral cavity is to be different since English vowels are to be shown ni an elaborated vowel quadrant designed by Daniel Jones, and Spanish vowels in a simple inverted triangle designed by Helwag (Figure 3).

It is worth noting that many of the English vowel phonemes are allophones of the Spanish vowels. For instance, those vowels represented in a relatively similar area (Figure 5) in both the quadrant and the triangle, may be confused by English students as the same sound in Spanish, a typical case being the pronunciation of words such as cart, cat and cup , perceived as the sound /a/ in Spanish. We shall examine this overlapping in the corresponding section of each vowel sound.

A main difference between the two vowel systems is the presence of schwa in English and its absence in Spanish. Yet, this difference emerges from the distinction between stressed and unstressed vowels in the speech chain. Besides, we shall also examine the role of consonants in the environment of vowels sounds, or what is called, vowel coloring, which may lengthen or shorten the affected vowel.

Therefore, we shall examine the most striking differences and similarities of both systems by comparing Spanish vowels with their counterparts in English in terms of (1) articulatory definition; (2) articulatory description; (3) similar realizations; and (4) other features related to allophones, spelling or minimal pairs (Figure 6).

5.1. Spanish /a/.

We concentrate now on the lower part of Helwag triangle. This area correspond to the Spanish /a/, a simple, central, low, tense, unrounded vowel, as in the words casa or para. This vowel sound is quite confusing for the Spanish learner of English as it has three realizations in English which have no direct counterpart in Spanish. Thus, in Jones vowel quadrant, they correspond to the sounds in cat, cart, and cut. Among these three vowels, only the one in cut might ressemble Spanish pronunciation in the environment of velar consonants, as in the words cup or gut.

5.1.1. English ash / æ /.

We shall define this vowel as a short, semi-open, front, unrounded, lax vowel. This means that, when this vowel is pronounced, the front of the tongue is raised to a position between half-open and open, slightly touching the lower teeth with the tip of the tongue, and with the lips slightly spread. We observe that the Spanish /a/ is more central than the English ash and more tense.

In Spanish, there is no similar vowel sound to the one in cat or pat. However, in Valencia we may find it in the environment of palatal consonant sounds as a special coloring feature, as in the words ancha or muralla, where it is raised to the Spanish phoneme /e/.

The most common spelling for the English ash / æ / is the letter –a- (i.e., bad, man). Minimal pairs distinguish between ash/ æ / and /e/, as in flash,flesh ; bad, bed ; or sat, set; and ash / æ / and the short half-open central /? /, as in cat, cut; or bat, but.

5.1.2. English long /a:/.

We shall define this vowel as a long, open, back, unrounded, lax vowel. On articulatory terms, this means that the back part of the tongue is raised without touching the upper part, the jaw is lowered and the lips are open but in neutral position. We observe again that the Spanish /a/ is more central than the English long /a:/ and more tense.

In Spanish, there is no similar vowel sound to the one in cart or part. However, sometimes Spanish pronounce the consonant /g/ as a gutural sound instead of a velar one, making this vowel similar to the English long /a:/, as in paga , or lago . Another special case is the one in Murcia Autonomous Community when the Spanish vowel /a/ becomes a back long vowel when it is placed at the end of a word or a sentence, and there is a syllable loss, as in ‘Esto no sirve pa na’.

This English vowel is typical of the RP pronunciation when followed by /r/, as in car or market, or followed by fricative and dental sounds, as in path, after, ask , or laugh . The most common spelling for the English long /a:/ are the letters –a- (i.e., ask , grass); -er-, -ear- (i.e., clerk and heart); -al- (i.e., half , calm) ; and –au- (i.e., aunt, laugh).

Minimal pairs distinguish between long /a:/ and ash / æ /, as in March, match or barn, ban ; and from long /a:/ and short half-open central / ? /, as in calm, come or dark,duck.

5.1.3. English short half-open central / ? /.

This vowel is defined as a short, semi-open, central, unrounded, lax vowel. When this vowel is pronounced, the part of the tongue between the front and the centre is raised to a position between half-open and open, and the lips are open in neutral position.

In fact, this English vowel is shorter and more central than the Spanish one , and as a result, this vowel is associated to the Spanish /o/, as in the word brother . Besides, when it is in the environment of velar consonants, is also similar to the Spanish /a/, as in the words cut and gush. Another different pronunciation of this vowel is found in the North of England, where it is pronounced as /u/.

Concerning minimal pairs we note the distinction between this English vowel and the ash / æ / as in run, ran or uncle, ankle, and /e/, as in money, many, or won,when. Finally, regarding spelling, this sound is asociated to –o- (i.e., come, one, gone ); -oo- (i.e., blood, flood ); -u- (i.e., sun, run, fun); and –ou- (i.e., country, souther, young). Spanish /a/.

5.2. Spanish /e/.

This vowel is to be found in the middle left part of Helwag triangle. This area corresponds to the Spanish /e/, a simple, front, mid, tense, unrounded vowel, as in the words cera or mesa. This vowel sound is quite similar to the English one as it moves within the semi-open and semi-close positions in both Helwag’s triangle and Jones’ quadrant, although the Spanish /e/ is relatively more close and more tense than the English one.

In comparing both phonological systems, we find important quantity and quality differences. Thus, in English it has two realizations, long /3:/ and short /e/ whereas in Spanish it has only one, the short vowel /e/. The main difficulty for Spanish learners of English is to find an equivalent for the English long /3:/ in Spanish.

5.2.1. English short /e/.

In articulatory terms this vowel is defined as a short, semi-open, front, unrounded, tense vowel. This means that, when this vowel is pronounced, the front of the tongue is raised to a position between semi-close and semi-open, with the lips slig htly spread in neutral position.

We observe that the English short /e/ is relatively less tense and less close than the Spanish one, but quite similar to Spanish /e/, except in final position where it is reduced to schwa. Another feature is that it may be longer in syllables closed by voiced consonants, and in the environment of /r/.

Concerning minimal pairs, we find the distinction between short /e/ and /i/, as in tell,till or pen, pin ; and /e/ and long /i:/, as in bed, bead or met, meat. Finally, concerning spelling, this phoneme is represented by the graphemes –e- (i.e., bed, ten, pen); -ea- (i.e., head, dead ); -a- (i.e., many, any); and -u- (i.e., bury), and other contexts (i.e., said, friend, again).

5.2.2. English long /3:/.

We shall define this vowel as a long, mid, central, unrounded, tense vowel. When this vowel is pronounced, the centre of the tongue is raised to a position between semi-open and semi-close, and the lips are slightly spread in neutral position.

This long vowel is not very clos e in quality to any of the other vowels and it is difficult for the foreign learner to get the right quality when pronouncing it. In Spanish, in fact, there is no phoneme that corresponds to the English one. However, according to O’Connor (1988), two things will help: keep your teeth quite close together and do not round your lips at all.

This vowel is considered to be the hesitation vowel since it is the sound that English people make when they pause in connected speech. It is not usually heard as it is usually found in the environment of /r/ which serves to lengthen the phoneme. However, the only time when it may be heard is when it is isolated or the following word has an initial vowel, acting then as a linker in connected speech.

Concerning minimal pairs we note the distinction between this English vowel and three other phonemes. Thus, with /e/ as in bird, bed or turn, ten; with / æ / as in hurt, hat, or bird, bad; and with long /o:/ as in firm, form, or worm, warm. Finally, regarding spelling, this sound is asociated to -er, ear- (i.e., her, person, learn, earth); –ir- (i.e., birth, firm, third); -or- (i.e., word, world ); -ur- (i.e., nurse, church); –our- (i.e., journey); and others (i.e., were).

5.3. Spanish /i/.

This vowel is to be found in the upper left part of Helwag triangle, and it is defined as a simple, front, high, tense, unrounded vowel, as in the words mirar or si. This vowel sound is quite similar to the English one when it is in unstressed position, as in the word último.

When comparing both phonological systems, we find quantity and quality differences in Jones’ quadrant. Thus, in English there are two realizations of the Spa nish phoneme /i/, being short /i/ and long /i:/. The main difficulty for Spanish learners of English is to distinguish English long and short

/i/ as in Spanish this quality distinction makes no difference in meaning.

Another main distinction between the two phonological systems are, firstly, that Spanish /i/ has the same duration before voiced or voiceless consonants, this not being the case of English, in which the phoneme /i/ is lengthened before voiced consonants. And secondly, that the Spanish /i/ is more close and more tense than the English one, which is more relaxed and slightly more central.

5.3.1. English short /i/.

In articulatory terms we define this vowel as a short, high, front, unrounded, lax vowel. When it is is pronounced, the front of the tongue is in an almost semi-close position, and slightly retracted. The lips position is loosely spread.

When pronouncing the short /i/ we observe that the speech organs, lips and tongue are more relaxed than with the production of long /i:/. This vowel, together with the schwa, is the one which appears in unstressed position in connected speech, and in the pronunciation of plural forms, saxon genitive and past forms. In these cases, pronunciation is much more open and sometimes is similar to the

Spanish /e/.

Concerning minimal pairs, we find the distinction between short /i/ and long /i:/, as in sit, seat or fit, feet; and /i/ and /e/, as in rid, red or will, well. Finally, concerning spelling, this phoneme is represented by the graphemes –i- (i.e., miss, pit); -y- (i.e., city, physics ); -e- (i.e., pretty, wanted); -ie- (i.e., ladies, fancies); any vowel grapheme in unstressed position (i.e., build, minute, women ), and suffixes –ate, -age, and –ace (i.e., private,language, palace ).

5.3.2. English long /i:/.

We concentrate now on the upper left part of Jones’ quadrant. This area corresponds to the English long /i:/, which is defined as a long, high, front, unrounded, tense vowel. In articulatory terms, the front of the tongue is raised almost to the height of the palate, with the tongue tense, and the lips spread. This is one of the most common vowels in Englis h in terms of frequency.

Spanish has no equivalent phoneme either in quality or quantity for this vowel sound, and it presents important problems for the Spanish learner of English as it establishes in English a relevant distinction of meaning (i.e., bitch and beach). Therefore, the learner is advised to double the duration of the phoneme to get the right quality. Besides, the environment of voiced consonants lengthen even more this phoneme (i.e., seat and seed).

Minimal pairs are given by the distinctio n between long /i:/ and short / i/. Thus, read, rid; seen, sin or sheep, ship. Regarding spelling, the most common graphemes for this phoneme are –e- (i.e., be, these); -ee- (i.e., see, bee, feed );-ea- (i.e., read, sea, bead); -ei/ey- (i.e., deceive, key); -i- (i.e., police, machine); -ie- (i.e.,shield, field ); and –y- (i.e., funny, Monday ).

5.4. Spanish /o/.

This Spanish vowel /o/ is to be found in the lower right part of Helwag triangle. This area corresponds to a short, mid, back, tense, rounded vowel, as in the word lobo. This vowel is similar to the English long /a:/ but with rounded lips.

Again we face with a difference at both quality and quantity levels. The main difficulty for Spanish learners of English is to find an equivalent for both English long and short /o/ as this difference does not exist in Spanish. This vowel sound is quite similar to the English one when it is followed by /r/ as in portal.

5.4.1. English short /o/.

We shall define this vowel as a short, mid, back, rounded, lax vowel. When it is is pronounced, this vowel is between open and semi- open position, with the back part of the tongue raised, and lips rounded. It is quite similar to the Spanish /o/ but it is slightly more open and the lips are not so rounded as in Spanish.

Sometimes, this vowel is similar to the English long /a:/ because there is a centralization of this sound. This is one of its most common allophones and in this case, there are problems to distinguish between minimal pairs, such as English short /o/ and short half-open central /? /, as in the words cop, cup; lock, luck; or long, lung. Another minimal pair comes from the distinction between /o/ and

/a:/, as in pot, part; or cod, card.

Finally, concerning spelling, this phoneme is represented by the graphemes –o- (i.e., not, box, dog);

-a- (i.e., want, what, watch); -au- (i.e., Australia, because ); and -ou- (i.e., cough).

5.4.2. English long /o:/.

According to Jones’ quadrant, we shall define this vowel as a long, mid, back, rounded, tense vowel. When it is pronounced, the back of the tongue is raised to a position between semi-open and semi-close, and the lips are rounded and close together. There is no contact between the tongue and the oral cavity.

Spanish has no equivalent phoneme either in quality or quantity for this vowel sound, and it presents important problems for the Spanish learner of English as it establishes in English an important distinction of meaning (i.e., pot, port). We must note that this vowel sound is quite similar to the English one when it is followed by /r/ as in portal. This vowel is lengthen in the environment of /r/ and is only pronounced in final position before an initial vowel in connected speech.

Minimal pairs are establish between this English vowel and three other phonemes. Thus, with short /o/ as in caught, cot or short, shot; with /a:/ as in lord, lard, or born, barn ; and with short half-open central / ? /, as in short, shut, or nought, nut. Finally, regarding spelling, this sound is asociated to -or- (i.e., born, short); -oor- (i.e.,floor, poor); -our- (i.e., course, four); -ore- (i.e., more); –ou(ght)- (i.e., thought, bought); -oar- (i.e., board); –a(l)- (i.e., call, false ); -au- (i.e., cause, because ); -aw- (i.e., saw, raw); and others (i.e., water, broad, sure).

5.5. Spanish /u/.

This Spanish vow el /u/ is to be found in the upper right part of Helwag triangle , and corresponds to a short, high, back, tense, rounded vowel, as in the word cúpula. This vowel sound has two realizations in English, the short and long /u/, which are relatively similar to the Spanish one.

Similarly to short and long English /i/, special attention must be paid to the quantity aspect since the Spanish /u/ is longer than English short /u/ and much shorter than long /u/. Spanish learners must distinguish between short and long /u/, and double the duration of the phoneme to get the right quality.

5.5.1. English short /u/.

We shall define this vowel as a short, semi-close, back, rounded, lax vowel. When pronouncing this vowel, the part of the tongue between the back and the centre is raised to a position that is between closed and semi-closed. Besides, the lips must not be tense, and must be less rounded than for long /o:/, and not so close as for long /u:/.

As the Spanish /u/ is more at the back and more tense than its English counterpart, the most approximate realization to the English short /u/ is when the vowel is in the environment of /l/ and /r/. We must bear in mind that short /u/ is shorter than Spanish /u/.

Minimal pairs are established between short /u/ and long /3:/ as in wood, word; took, Turk . Also, between short /u/ and /ou/ as in bull, bowl; and cook, coke. Finally, regarding spelling, this phoneme is represented by the graphemes –u- (i.e., full, put); -o- (i.e., wolf, woman); -oo- (i.e., foot, look ); and -ou- (i.e., could, should ).

5.5.2. English long /u:/.

According to Jones’ quadrant, we shall define this vowel as a long, close, back, rounded, tense vowel. In articulatory terms, this means that when it is pronounced, there is a minimum opening between the jaws, the lips are rounded and close together, and the ba ck of the tongue is raised to an almost close position. There is no contact between the tongue and the oral cavity.

This English vowel is more close and more tense than the Spanish /u/. Besides, we must note that the English vowel is much longer, and the lip position is not so rounded. However, the most approximate realization to the Spanish /u/ is when when it is in the environment of voiceless consonants as it is shorten and, then, its quality is similar to the Spanish one.

This phoneme is compared in minimal pairs with short /u/ as in fool, full; and shoed, should . Also, with long /o:/ as in shoot, shot; and boot, bought. Finally, regarding spelling, this sound is asociated to -u- (i.e., June, flu); -o- (i.e., do, who); –oe- (i.e., shoe); -oo- (i.e., spoon, food ); -ou- (i.e., soup, route); –ue, ui- (i.e., blue, suit); and finally, -ew- (i.e., flew, new ).

5.6. English schwa / ? /.

In articulatory terms this vowel is defined as a short, mid, central, lax vowel. This means that, when this vowel is pronounced, the centre of the tongue is raised to a position between half-open and half-closed. It may be considered as an allophone of long /3:/, although it is less tense and the lips are in a neutral position.

As was stated before, a main difference between the two vowel systems is the presence of schwa in English and its absence in Spanish where there is no equivalent phoneme either in quality or quantity for the English schwa. This difference emerges from the distinction between stressed and unstressed vowels in the speech chain.

Spanish learners associate this sound to a lax /e/ when it is in no initial position, and with an ope n /a/ when it is in final position, which is usually related to the consonant /r/ as in the words mother or rather. In middle position, when it is in the environment of /r/, and the next word starts with a vowel, it acquires a more close pronunciation as the /r/ makes a link between them. This is called the linking /r/ in connected speech.

This vowel sound, together with short /i/, has a very high frequency of ocurrence in unaccented syllables. In fact, when the speaker hesitates at the beginning of the speech the schwa is used in initial position as a starting point for oral production whereas in Spanish we use the sound vowel /e/.

With respect to minimal pairs, this phoneme is never found in stressed position, and therefore, it is not contrastive and there are no minimal pairs established for it. However, it is considered to be a chief vowel due to its relevance for stress, rhythm, and intonation purposes. It should be noted that schwa is normal in common unaccented weak forms in connected speech, such as auxiliary, defective verbs, and prepositions.

Finally, regarding spelling, this sound may be represented by any vowel or group of vowels (also diphthongs) which are in unaccented position, except for those with secondary stress. Also, it may derive in the short vowel /i/.

6. ENGLISH DIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

6.1. On defining English diphthongs.

Following O’Connor (1988), a diphthong is a glide from one vowel to another, and the whole glide acts like one of the long, simple vowels. We may distinguish, then, two elements within the structure of a diphthong. Thus, the first element, at the starting point, carries all the vocalic strength when the diphthong is pronounced. The second element is the point in the direction of which the glide is made, and therefore, it is not pronounced so loud as the first part.

According to Gimson (1980), both the first and the second element may be treated as separate entities, thus as the central and the termina l part of the diphthong respectively. Thus, according to Jones’ vowel quadrant, the first element in all diphthongs concentrates on the area of short vowels such as /a, e, i, ? (schwa), and u/; yet, the second element concentrates on the area of /? (schwa), i, and u/ (Figure 7).

Some main features of English diphthongs in general are that (1) as we stated before, most of the length and stress associated with the glide is concentrated on the first element whereas the second element is lightly sounded; (2) they are equivalent in length to the long vowels and are, therefore, subject to the same variations of quantity when they are in the environment of voiced or voiceless consonants or are in final position; (3) all the English diphthongs are falling , which means that the first element is louder than the second; (4) no diphthongs occur before nasal consonants, except where word final /n/ is assimilated to a velar consonant in connected speech; and (5) with the exception of the sequence /oi/, the RP diphthongs often derive from earlier pure vowels.

6.2. A classification of English diphthongs.

Phoneticians distinguish eight English diphthongs according to RP conventions, although a ninth diphthong, /o ? / formed by short /o/ and schwa, has been recently claimed with little success among English speakers. Another main classification feature is that all English diphthongs are defined as falling when their first element is louder than the second, for the exceptional cases of both /i/ and /u/ towards schwa.

Among the eight diphthongs, following Gimson (1980), we find two main types. First, closing diphthongs when the terminal point is /i/ and /u/. In articulatory terms, they occur when the tongue moves from a more open (a, e, o and schwa) to a more closed position (i, u). Thus, /ai, ei, oi, au, ? u/. Secondly, centring diphthongs as the terminal point is the central vowel schwa. Thus, the vowels /e, i, and u/ plus ? (schwa). For instance, /e? , i? , u? /. In articulatory terms, this means that the centre of the tongue is raised towards the centre of its height.

6.2.1. Closing diphthongs gliding to /i/. (1) English diphthong /ai/.

Here the glide of RP /ai/ begins at a point slightly behind the front open position from short half- open central /? /, and moves in the direction of short /i/. In articulatory terms, it means that the front of the tongue moves from an open to a nearly close position, with a slight closing movement of the lower jaw, and the lips change from a neutral to a loosely spread position.

Foreign learners must be advised to avoid over-retraction of the quality of the first element, so as to remain within the limits of the RP vowel. Therefore, a front open starting point is to be recommended, and not to glide to a position too close to the /i/ area.

Minimal pairs are established in comparison to /ei/ as in light, late ; and /oi/ as in pint, point. With respect to s pelling, instances associated to this diphthong are –i, y- (i.e., fine, mine, and cry, dry); – ie, ye – (i.e., die, lie, and dye ); –ai, ei- (i.e., aisle, and either, eider ); -igh, eigh- (i.e., high and height); and finally, others such as –uy- (i.e., buy). Some of the mentioned spellings come from borrowings from Scandinavia as in hide, mice, kind or sky; from French: fine, arrive, licence, or price; and also from English sources as in ice, like, time, or life.

(2) English diphthong /ei/.

The glide /ei/ begins from slightly below the half -close front position, and moves in the direction of short /i/. In articulatory terms, it means that the front of the tongue moves from a half-close position to a nearly close position with a slight closing movement of the lower jaw, and the lips in a spread position.

The most common mistake for f oreign learners is to use a long vowel, so learners must be advised to use a simple short vowel within the first element, so as to keep its quality.

There is only a minimal pair established. Thus, /ai/ as in male, mile; and pain, pine . Concerning spelling, instances associated to this diphthong are –a- (i.e., take, fame ); -ai, ay- (i.e., rain, flame; and day, play); –ei, ey- (i.e., eight, weight; and they, prey); -ea- (i.e., great, break, and steak – these are the three exceptions of the grapheme –ea-, usually related to /e/ as in dead, head; o /i:/ as in sea, bean ); other spellings come from historical borrowings (i.e., from French: fiancé, ballet, beige, bouquet, and café). Some of the mentioned spellings have their sources in Scandinavia as in they, or swain; and from Old English: way, day, again, grey.

(3) English diphthong /oi/.

In this case the glide of RP /oi/ begins at a point between the back half-open and open positions, and moves in the direction of short /i/. In articulatory terms, it means that the tongue movement extends from back to centralized front, the jaw closes slightly, and the lips are open rounded for the first element but neutral for the second one.

This diphthong does not present very great difficulties to foreign learners, provided that, in addition to the appropriate variations of quantity, the quality of the first element lies half way around the area of /o/, and that the glide does not extend beyond the half-close front level.

There is only a minimal pair established for this diphthong. Thus, /ai/ as in toys, ties; and toil, tile . Concerning spelling, graphemes associated to this diphthong are –oi, oy- (i.e., voice, point; and boy, toy).

6.2.2. Closing diphthongs gliding to /u/. (4) English diphthong /au/.

The glide of RP /au/ begins at a point between the back and front open positions, but slightly more fronted, and moves upwards in the direction of short /u/. In articulatory terms, it means that the tongue is moved from an open to a nearly close position, not higher than half-close. This time the lips change from a neutrally open to a weakly rounded position.

For many speakers, the first element of the latter diphthong /ai/ and this one /au/ may in fact look like identical, but foreign learners must be careful to use a correct first element, as the fronting or retraction of the starting point rather than its raising is considered to be dialectal. Therefore, the first element should be the most prominent and the second element only lightly touched on.

Mininal pairs are given by the short half -open central / ? / as in down, done; and shout, shut. And also, /ou/ as in loud, load; and howl, hole. Concerning spelling, instances associated to this diphthong are –ou- (i.e., house, scout); and -ow- (i.e., cow, brown ).

(5) English diphthong / ? u/ — (schwa + u.).

This diphthong begins at a central position from the area of the front rounded vowel /3:/ , between half-close and half -open, and moves upwards in the direction of short /u/. In articulatory terms, it means that the tongue is at a central position for the first element, and then it glides away to /u/ with the lips getting slightly rounded and the sound becoming less loud as the glide progresses.

Since the first element of this diphthong is clearly of a central type, foreign learners should avoid starting the glide with a truly back vowel as short or long /o/. It is advisable to use the front rounded vowel /3:/ by adding lip-rounding to the end of the vowel. Moreover, proper prominence must be given to the first element and reduction of the total length of the glide in the environment of voiced and voiceless consonants., as they become shorter before strong consonants and longer before weak ones, just like the other vowels.

Mininal pairs are given in contrast to the long / o/ as in so, saw; and cold, called. And also, the long /u:/ as in soap, soup; and show, shoe. Concerning spelling, graphemes associated to this diphthong are –o- (i.e., no, so, go ); -oa- (i.e., boat, coat, road); –oe- (i.e., toe, hoe, foe ); -ou- (i.e., dough, though); and –ow- (i.e., show, know).

6.2.3. Centring diphthongs gliding to schwa / ? /. (6) English diphthong / e ? / — (e + chwa).

The glide of RP / e ? / begins in the half-open front position in the area of short / æ / between the short /e/ and the short half -open central / ? /, and moves in the direction of schwa, a more open vowel, especially when the diphthong is final. In articulatory terms, it means that, for the first element, the tongue is at a point slightly lower than half-close, and then moves smoothly to the central area, without moving the lips.

Foreign learners must be told about the post-vocalic /r/ in final position as it must not be pronounced, except as a linking form when a following word begins with a vowel (i.e., pair of shoes), or when a vowel occurs in the following syllable of the same word (i.e., care vs caring). We must remind our students that the beginning of the diphthong is pronounced / æ / rather than /e/.

Minimal pairs distinctions are made between this diphthong and / æ / as in glared, glad ; and aired, add; and also long /3:/ as in fair, fur; and where, were. With respect to spelling, instances associated to this diphthong are –are- (i.e., share, fare,and stare ); -air- (i.e., despair, hair, and fair); –ear- (i.e., bear, wear); -ere- (i.e., there, were); and others (i.e., their, heir, scarce, or parents).

(7) English diphthong / i? / — (short i + schwa).

The glide of RP /i ? / begins in a centralized front half-close position in the area of short /i/, and moves in the direction of schwa, a more open vowel, especially when the diphthong is final. In articulatory terms, it means that, for the first element, the tongue is at half-close position, and then, for the second element, it moves smoothly to the central area, with a slight movement from spread to open.

It is worth noting that, according to Da niel Jones, this sequence may not always constitute a falling diphthong with prominence on the first element as in unaccented syllables, the first element may be the weaker of the two, being equivalent to the semivowel /j/.

Foreign learners must be told that this diphthong glides from short /i/, not long /i:/, to schwa. If they usee long /i:/ at the beginning of the glide, it will sound a bit strange but they will not be understood.

Minimal pairs distinctions are made between this diphthong and / e ? / as in here, hair ; and fear, fair; and also with long /3:/ as in fear, fur; and hear, her . With respect to spelling, instances assoc iated to this diphthong are –ea- (i.e., idea, diarrhea );–ear- (i.e., dear, year,and near); -eir- (i.e., weird ); –eer- (i.e., deer, beer); -ere- (i.e., here, mere); –ier- (i.e., pierce, fierce); and finally others such as -ir- (i.e., fakir); and -e- (i.e., hero, serious).

(8) English diphthong / u ? / — (u + schwa).

The glide of RP / u ? / begins in a back half-close position in the area of short /u/, and moves in the direction of schwa, a more open vowel, especially when the diphthong is final. In articulatory terms, it means that, for the first element, the tongue is at half-close position and then, for the second element, it moves to the central area of schwa. The lips are weakly rounded at the beginning of the glide, becoming neutrally spread as the glide progresses.

It is worth noting that, as the preceeding diphthong, Daniel Jones claims that this sequence may not always constitute a falling diphthong with prominence on the first element as it may weaken to /w/ in unaccented syllables. Then, the second element have the prominence as in the words influence, valuable, or jaguar.

Moreover, foreign learners must be told that several words containing this diphthong, which have a pronunciation / u ? / are given in popular London speech a glide from /o/ to schwa, as in poor or sure, which in turn is being gradually substituted by long /o:/. Moreover, where /j/ precedes / u ? /, as in cure, curious, or secure, upper-class RP not only reduces to long /o:/ but also to the half-open central vowel /? /. Finally, in those kinds of English in which post-vocalic /r/ is pronounced, the RP dipthong / u ? / is realized as long /u:/ as in poor /pu:r/.

However, this lowering or monophthongization of the diphthong / u ? / is rarer in the case of less commonly used monosyllabic words such as moor, tour , and dour. Yet, Shaw, sure, shore, you’re, and your, still pronounced by some with the three realizations (long /o:/, o? , and u? ), are gradually levelled by many others to only long /o:/.except in words like tour , or curious.

Foreign learners must pay special attention to the fact that this dipthong glides from short /u/, not long /u:/, to schwa. If they usee long /u:/ at the beginning of the glide, it will sound a bit strange but they will not be understood.

A minimal pairs distinction is made between this diphthong and long / u:/ as in tour, too ; and moor, moo. With respect to spelling, graphemes associated to this diphthong are –oor- (i.e., poor, boor); –our- (i.e., tour, tourist, and your); -ur- (i.e., curious, security); –ure- (i.e., sure, cure, and pure).

6.3. A comparison of English and Spanish diphthongs.

As was stated, we may observe three relevant features within a comparison between both English and Spanish systems regarding diphthongs . First of all, we must note a distinction in terms of quantity ; secondly, in terms of quality ; and thirdly, in terms of their distribution within a word.

Thus, regarding quantity, the most striking distinction for the foreign learner is the lack of correspondence in both systems as, from the eight diphthongs in English, none of the vowel sounds correspond at all with the Spanish ones, especially for those containing schwa.

Regarding quality , we deal with vowel length . It is worth noting that all English diphthongs have the same length as long vowels, and that may be affected by nearby consonants producing a shortening or lengthening of vowel length. As we know, this distinction is not present in the Spanish vowel system, nor has any consequences in connected speech.

Moreover, in terms of gliding , English diphthongs are classified according to three types. Thus, gliding to /i/, /u/ and schwa, whereas in Spanish, there are only two glidings to /i/ and /u/. Therefore, all English diphthongs are classified as ‘falling’ as the most length and stress is associated to first element and less prominence to the second element. On the contrary, Spanish has two main types of diphthongs ‘falling’ and ‘rising’. Thus, f alling diphthongs consist of a vowel plus a semi-vowel where the first element carries the stress, whereas rising diphthongs follow the opposite structure, a semi-vowel plus a vowel, in which the weak vowel precedes the strong one.

Finally, regarding their distribution within a word, we must note that in English diphthongs do not always occur in all positions. Some of them appear at the beginning of a word, others in medial position, and others in final position. On the contrary, in Spanish almost all diphthongs may occur in all positions.

7. ENGLISH TRIPHTHONGS. PHONETIC SYMBOLS.

7.1. On defining English triphthongs.

O’Connor (1988) defines triphthongs as vowel sequences, claiming that, the most common sequences are formed by adding schwa to a diphthong. He says that, in general, when one vowel (or diphthong) follows another you should pronounce each one quite normally but with a smooth glide between them.

Foreign learners should be aware of a tendency to reduction of vowel sequences in connected speech in situations of real communication exchanges. They will observe that such reduced forms are normal among many educated speakers, but they must be advised to avoid the extreme forms of reduction. Yet, like most changes of pronunciation, these reductions are often condemned as vulgarisms.

7.2. A classification of English triphthongs.

All the diphthongal glides to /i/ and /u/ may be followed by schwa within the word, either as an inseparable part of the word (i.e., fire, choir, hire , or our) or as a suffix (morpheme) appended to the root (i.e., player, mower, higher , or employer ) or, sometimes as a separable element internal in a composite form (i.e., nowadays).

There are five triphthongs in English which are formed by the closing diphthongs /ai, ei, oi, au, ? u /

plus schwa. Thus, /ai? , ei? , oi? , au? , ? u? /.

(1) English triphthong /ai? /.

In general RP it may be considered as an inseparable part of the word as in fire, tyre, choir, or shire, and also as a separable suffix (i.e., higher, buyer, or liar).

Regarding minimal pairs, it is compared with long /a:/ as in fire, far , and tired, tarred; and also with the vowel sequence /au? / as in higher, how are, and tyre, tower.

(2) English triphthong /ei? /.

In general RP, it is considered as a suffix appended to the root as in player, layer, or conveyor. In these cases, there is a reduction to the diphthong /e ? / as in there or rare, by which homophones such as prayer, pray-er; or lair, layer are produced.

Regarding minimal pairs, this vowel sequence is frequently reduced to a more central diphthongal glide /e ? / where several new homophones are produced as in layer, lair, and payer, pair.

(3) English triphthong / oi? /.

In general RP, it is considered to be suffix appended to the root as in employer,enjoyable , or joyous. In these cases, the tongue position is not higher than half-open, and the first element is distinct to its original value as short /o/.

Some speakers distinguish between sequences of diphthongs within this triphthong sequence, usually in the case of terminations spelt –el, or –al as in towel or royal. However, it may be also reduced to a centring diphthong. This reducing process takes place not only within words but also between a word final diphthong fllowed by word initial schwa.

(4) English triphthong / au? /.

In general RP, it is considered to be an inseparable part of the word (i.e., our, flower or shower) and sometimes as a separable element internal in a composite form (i.e., nowadays).

This vowel sequence is frequently reduced to a diphthongal glide whose first element is a central open vowel. Then, several new homophones are produced in this way, as in the words tyre, tower ; shire, shower; or sire, sour.

(5) English triphthong / ? u? /.

In general RP, it is considered to be both an inseparable part of the word (i.e., myrrh or slur), and a suffix appended to the root (i.e., mower or slower).

This vowel sequence is frequently reduced to a diphthongal glide, thus long /3:/ and then, several new homophones are produced as in the words tyre, tower; shire, shower; or sire, sour.

7.3. A comparison of English and Spanish diphthongs.

The main striking difference when comparing both systems is that in Spanish there are no triphthongs. Therefore, the five English vowel sequences may cause considerable difficulty for Spanish learners of English to pronounce them as those vowel sequences are formed by closing diphthongs where the final element is given by neutral vowel sound schwa, not present in the Spanish vowel system.

8. PRESENT-DAY DIRECTIONS IN PRONUNCIATION.

This section aims to provide the reader with an overview of newer techniques and resources available in teaching second language pronunciation in a classroom setting . Celce-Murcia (2001) provides three guiding principles in moving beyond traditiona l teaching practices. Thus, methods other than mechanical drills or rules, an emphasis on musical aspects of pronunciation more than sounds, and teaching real speech patterns and giving students practice in efficient oral communication.

Pronunciation instruction has traditionally been defined as the accurate production of the sounds, rhythms, and intonation patterns of a language. Pronunciation has stood apart from the communicative language teaching movement because it has often ignored the interaction of the sound system with function and meaning. However, new techniques have been recently proposed within the fields of fluency and accuracy, multisensory mode of learning, the adaptation of authentic materias, and the use of instructional technology, such as computers.

Firstly, regarding fluency as a multisensory mode of learning, it aims at boosting students’ confidence level while promoting fluency. Some students have a tongue-tied speech, by which sentence stress and intonation patterns tend to be distorted by frequent pauses that affect the overall intelligibility of the utterance.

Secondly, much of the literature today suggests that employing multisensory modes , such as visual and auditory reinforcement, or kinesthetic reinforcement, in the pronunciation cla ss can help to break down the ego boundaries of learners, hence making them more receptive to undergoing change in their fossilized pronunciation systems. It is a fact that learners with strong egos retain a marked foreign flavor in their speech because they are likely to acquire a target accent.

Thirdly, regardingthe use of authentic materials in teaching pronunciation, it is said that, commercially, they provide excellent sources for the presentation and practice of segmental and suprasegmental features. However, we must not overlook the rich resources available through the use of authentic materials, such as anecdotes, jokes, advertising copy, comic strips, passages from literature, and the like.

Finally, regarding the use of new technology , it is worth remembering that after the Audiolingual Method, the use of language lab and instructional technology in general fell into disfavor as they were considered to be tedious or unstimulating .

Today the language lab is still around, often as a multimedia environment with video viewing or computer work stations, laser disc players, satellite receivers, and a host of other high-tech hardware items. These electronic aids are quite useful when displaying speech patterns as they receive not only audio feedback but visual aids. Thus, the viewing of a native-speaker lip positions in the production of vowel sounds, comparing pitch contour, or testing phoneme discrimination.I

Yet, in a sense, the rebirth of the language lab represents a triumph of technology over method thanks to European programmes offered by the Council of Europe, such as Plumier or Socrates. Clearly, the sophisticated level of practice and the gamelike atmosphere os such advanced technologies offer advantages that the simpler technologies, including the language laboratory, do not.

9. CONCLUSION.

In this study, we have aimed at providing the reader with a historical overview of pronunciation instruction, having an overview of the main methods applied to the acquisition of pronunciation. As Crystal (1985) states, a good approach to studying languages is the historical one, mainly because it is often helpful and sometimes essential to know how languages got to be that way, and know their origins and development in order to understand how things are nowadays. Moreover, we have offered a theoretical framework of the phonological system in order to understand the description of the English vowel system. At this point the reader should have a sense of how the English sound system intersects in important ways with other areas of language. In the final part, present-day directions on pronunciation provides us with a current overview on pronunciation in the language curriculum within the European framework and current innovative techniques for students to be effective at communicating with others.

Following Cerce -Murcia (2001), the challenge of teaching vowels lies both in how to initiallly describe the individual phonems to students and how to find rich, authentic contexts for practice. As we have noted, vowels can be difficult both for the teacher to describe and for the student to master. This is partially because the articulatory characteristics of vowels cannot be pinned down as precisely as those of consonants. A second reason vowels can be so difficult for students is due to the relative complexity of the English vowel system –especially as it compares to the vowel systems of many of our students’ first language.

Vowels are also problematic in that they tend to display much more dialectal variation among native speakers than consonants do. Teachers should feel free to modify textbook exercises and activities so that when teaching pronunciation they are not forced to produce or spend time teaching distinctions they cannot or simply do not make in their own speech. However, teachers also have the responsability to expose learners via guest speakers and tape recordings to other widespread dialects with different vowel sounds.

10. BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Alcaraz, E., and B. Moody. Fonética inglesa para españoles. Teoría y práctica (2nd ed.). Gráficas Díaz. Alicante.

Algeo, J. and T. Pyles. 1982. The origins and development of the English language . Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D., and M. Goodwin. 2001. Teaching Pronunciation, A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages. Cambridge University Press.

Crystal, D. 1985. Linguistics. Harmondsworth, England. Penguin Books. Fernández, F. 1982. Historia de la lengua inglesa. Madrid: Gredos.

Gimson, A. C. 1980. An introduction to the pronunciation of English. Edward Arnold. O’Connor, J.D. 1988. Better English Pronunciation. Cambridge University Press.

11. FIGURES.

Figure 1. The speech organs. Figure 2. The oral cavity.

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Figure 3. Helwag’s and Daniel Jones’ vowel quadrant.

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Figure 4. Saggital section of the mouth. Figure 5. Common areas of vowels.

Celce-Murcia (2001).

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Figure 6. Classification of vowels.

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Figure 7. English diphthongs.

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Publicado: noviembre 12, 2015 por Santiago

Etiquetas: tema 7 inglés secundaria