Describe Speech Sounds Essay

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Describing speech sounds has been a subject of great debate for decades. Phoneticians have long examined sounds and classified them into groups according to their place of articulation, manner of articulation and the state of the vocal cords. Although this classification seems straightforward, it is difficult to draw a consistently clear distinction between certain speech sounds. An example of this difficulty is in the study of consonants. Unlike vowels, which are characterized by free flow of air when they are pronounced, consonants are produced by stopping air from flowing through the oral cavity. This inhibition of air for such sound production ranges from complete blockage, such as in the case of oral stops, to almost no hindrance, as in the case of approximants. As a result of this total and…show more content…
(2000: 194). Ashby and Maidment highlight three types of blockage. The first one is a “closure”, where no air can escape. The second one is “narrowing”, in which there is just a partial closure and the air hardly flows. This kind of closure causes friction or turbulence because the two articulators are in semi-contact position. The third closure is called “approximation”, in which the air flows freely. Ashby argues that the difference between these three kinds of blockages lies in the how much pressure is building up as a consequence of this contact or semi-contact between the articulators. She summarizes that the first two kinds of pressure cause the production of obstruents and the third kind characterizes the production of sonorants.(2005: 53) Ashby further argues that keeping this pressure building up is the reason that some voiced consonants lose their voice, as with the pressure there can not be long vibration. Conversely, since sonorants have no pressure, they are not normally voiced. . (2005:
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