* English

The standard English consonant system is traditionally considered to comprise 17 obstruents (6 plosives, 2 affricates and 9 fricatives) and 7 sonorants (3 nasals, 2 liquids and 2 semivowel glides).

With the exception of the fricative /h/, the obstruents are usually classified in pairs as "voiceless and "voiced", although the presence or absence of periodicity in the signal resulting from laryngeal vibration is not a reliable feature distinguishing the two classes. They are better considered "fortis" (strong) and "lenis" (weak), with duration of constriction and intensity of the noise component signalling the distinction.

The six plosives are p b t d k g:

        Symbol          Word                    Transcription

        p               pin                     pIn

        b               bin                     bIn

        t               tin                     tIn

        d               din                     dIn

        k               kin                     kIn

        g               give                    gIv
The "lenis" stops are most reliably voiced intervocalically; aspiration duration following the release in the fortis stops varies considerably with context, being practically absent following /s/, and varying with degree of stress syllable-initially.

The two phonemic affricates are tS and dZ:

        tS              chin                    tSIn

        dZ              gin                     dZIn
As with the lenis stop consonants, /dZ/ is most reliably voiced between vowels.

There are nine fricatives, f v T D s z S Z h:

        f               fin                     fIn

        v               vim                     vIm

        T               thin                    TIn

        D               this                    DIs

        s               sin                     sIn

        z               zing                    zIN

        S               shin                    SIn

        Z               measure                 "meZ@

        h               hit                     hIt
Intervocalically the lenis fricatives are usually fully voiced, and they are often weakened to approximants (fricationless continuants) in unstressed position.

The sonorants are three nasals m n N, two liquids r l, and two sonorant glides w j:

        m               mock                    mQk

        n               knock                   nQk

        N               thing                   TIN

        r               wrong                   rQN

        l               long                    lQN

        w               wasp                    wQsp

        j               yacht                   jQt
The English vowels fall into two classes, traditionally known as "short" and "long" but, owing to the contextual effect on duration of following "fortis" and "lenis" consonants (traditional "long" vowels preceding fortis consonants can be shorter than "short" vowels preceding lenis consonants), they are better described as "checked" (not occurring in a stressed syllable without a following consonant) and "free".

The checked vowels are I e { Q V U:

        I               pit                     pIt

        e               pet                     pet

        {               pat                     p{t

        Q               pot                     pQt

        V               cut                     kVt

        U               put                     pUt
There is a short central vowel, normally unstressed:
        @               another                 @"nVD@
The free vowels comprise monophthongs and diphthongs, although no hard and fast line can be drawn between these categories. They can be placed in three groups according to their final quality: i: eI aI OI, u: @U aU, 3: A: O: I@ e@ U@. They are exemplified as follows:
        i:              ease                    i:z

        eI              raise                   reIz

        aI              rise                    raIz

        OI              noise                   nOIz

        u:              lose                    lu:z

        @U              nose                    n@Uz

        aU              rouse                   raUz

        3:              furs                    f3:z

        A:              stars                   stA:z

        O:              cause                   kO:z

        I@              fears                   fI@z

        e@              stairs                  ste@z

        U@              cures                   kjU@z
The vowels /i:/ and /u:/ in unstressed syllables vary in their pronunciation between a close [i]/[u] and a more open [I]/[U]. Therefore it is suggested that /i/ and /u/ be used as indeterminacy symbols.
        i               happy                   "h{pi

        u               into                    "Intu


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Maintained by J.C. Wells. Created 1995 09 19. Last revised 1996 03 18.

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