An Introduction to English Phonology by April McMahon

By April McMahon

It is a brief, energetic, and available advent to the sounds of recent English. Its emphasis on version, with examples from British, American, New Zealand, and Singaporean English, make it appropriate for either local and non-native audio system. McMahon specializes in the vowels and consonants, but in addition discusses syllables, pressure, and the phonology of phrases and words. She introduces new instruments and terminology progressively, and discusses the incentive for key concepts.

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The arrow means ‘becomes’, or technically ‘is rewritten as’; and there then follows a specification of the change that takes place. In (9), this always involves changing the place of articulation. Any feature which is not explicitly mentioned in the middle section of the statement is taken to be unchanged; so in the first rule, the consonant involved stays [+nasal, – dental, – velar], but changes its values for [±alveolar] and [±labial]. The rest of the statement following the environment bar / (which can be paraphrased as ‘in the following environment’) specifies the context where this particular realisation appears.

If /l/ comes first, it is pronounced as ‘clear’, fronter [l], as also in clear; and if the vowel comes first, /l/ is realised as ‘dark’, more back [ ], as in dull. The two are obviously in complementary distribution, and hence can both straightforwardly be assigned to the same phoneme, /l/, in Modern English. We find a different story in Scots Gaelic, however, where minimal pairs can be found for the clear and dark variants. For instance, the words baile ‘a town’ and balla ‘a wall’ are pronounced identically, except for the clear [l] in baile, and the dark [ ] in balla.

4 What is the manner of articulation? To produce any consonant, an active articulator, usually located somewhere along the base of the vocal tract, moves towards a passive articulator, somewhere along the top. Where those articulators are, determines the consonant’s place of articulation, as we shall see in the next section. How close the active and passive articulators get, determines the manner of articulation. There are three main manners of articulation, and one subsidiary case which in a sense is intermediate between the first two.

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