109.1112 Introduction to Linguistics 1: Phonetics

Dr. Nancy Hall
Office hours: Tuesday 12-1 or by appointment. Room 1602.


Several people have reported trying to e-mail me and not getting through. The problem is that the e-mail address listed for me on the department website was (is?) not correct. My correct address is nancyh@linguist.umass.edu

Phonetics is the study of speech sounds. This course covers the physical nature of speech sounds: how they are produced in the vocal tract, and their acoustic components. You will learn to use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), a system for transcribing the sounds of all human languages. We will study the sound systems of several dialects, and learn what makes Americans and Britons, for example, sound different. This course will help you to pronounce English better and become more aware of the sounds that distinguish words in English. We will also discuss the range of sounds that exist in other languages.

40% Final exam
20% Lab exercise
20% Quiz (around week 4)
15% Home exercises
5% Class participation

Home exercises are due the week after they are given, and will not be accepted late. If you cannot come to class, you must leave the assignment in my box or e-mail it to me before the class at which it is due.


This schedule and in particular the homework assignments are subject to change.
Week 1: Vocal anatomy, articulation of consonants
Summary of lecture 1
handout: diagrams of consonant articulations
home exercises On the handout, identify which English consonant is being pronounced in each picture. Give its IPA symbol, and its three-part phonetic description: place of articulation, manner of articulation, and whether it is voiced. Ex.: [t] is a voiceless alveolar plosive. You may find Dan Hall's online customizable vocal tract helpful.
recommended: Kevin Russell provides pictures and definitions of the vocal organs and a self quiz on consonant properties. The self-quiz also covers some things we have not studied yet, such as which part of the tongue is involved. Mark Tatham's website also has some extra information on the vocal tract. SIL provides a good vocal tract diagram and illustrations of places of articulation. You can also learn a little more with a tutorial on plosives.

Week 2: The vowel space; General American (GA) vowels
Summary of lecture 2
handout: American English from Handbook of the IPA
home exercise: Read the section on American English from the Handbook of the IPA (handed out in class). At the end, there is a short story written in IPA. Write this story in ordinary English spelling. You should also memorize the vowel symbols we covered in class- know what they sound like, and also their articulatory description. For example, [e] is a front mid-high vowel.
recommended: You can download IPA fonts for your computer from SIL, or download the full IPA chart.

Week 3 British Received Pronunciation (RP)
home exercise: Tolkien alphabet (Tengwar) problem. Identify how Tolkien represents each feature graphically: for example, what do all the Tengwar letters for voiced sounds have in common? Also think about why he lumped certain features, like bilabial and labio-dental, into one group.
recommended: Online practice in broad transcription. You can hear American and British vowels from Ladefoged's online course.

Week 4 Quiz; Differences between RP and GA
For the quiz, you should be able to identify the articulatory features of all the English vowels and consonants we have covered. For vowels, this means height, backness, and rounding; for consonants: voicing, place, manner. You also need to know their IPA symbols.

Week 5 Sound systems of Hebrew, Russian, Arabic
home exercise:A group exercise on Russian and Arabic is due in two weeks. Here are the instructions in .pdf format. Students formed groups at the end of class; if you were absent, ask a classmate if you can join their group.
For next week, you should do the first English transcription exercise. To get this exercise, take a cassette tape to the Self-Access Audio Lab (room 604A). They will make a copy of the exercise for you which will be ready the next day. Download the instructions (pdf format) here.

Week 6 Narrow transcription, allophonic variation in consonants

Week 7 Stress and intonation
Primary and secondary stress; strong / weak forms; N / V pairs; compounds
Stress-conditioned phenomena: vowel reduction, syllabic consonants, flapping, excrescent consonants

Week 8 Narrow transcription of vowels, chain shifts
Northern cities chain shift
The Great Vowel Shift, or Why is English spelled like that?
home exercise: transcriptions from the English spelling poem. Also, work on memorizing pronunciations from the now complete word list.

Week 9 Transcription practice
This is an OPTIONAL class meeting. We will review and practice the transcriptions skills you will need for the final transcription test.
Some details of what to expect on the final exam are posted here.

Week 10 Acoustic phonetics
recommended: The spectrograms used in the lecture are taken from the Acoustic Phonetics chapter of Ladefoged's online course materials, and from Robert Hagiwara's How to Read Spectrograms. There is an online vowel synthesizer where you specify formant values and can listen to the result. For the ambitious, PRAAT offer free software for making spectrograms, pitch tracks, etc. on your own computer. I've written brief instructions for getting started.

Week 11 Acoustics cont'd
Answers to the poem homework (pdf format).
home exercise Spectrogram reading (handout). If you have difficult, look at the links for Week 10 for review. For the final exam, you will need to be able to identify vowel height and backness based on formants, and identify the manner of articulation of consonants.

Week 12 Aerodynamics of speech; perceptual phonetics
Airstream mechanisms, voice onset time, laryngeal contrasts
Interaction of place, voice, and manner; or Why doesn't Arabic have [p]?

Week 13 Sounds of the world’s languages
Clicks, tones, ejectives, implosives, double articulations...
recommended: You can hear all the sounds we cover on the UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive.
Answers to Transcription Practice 9.

Other linguistics links (in descending order of relevance to phonetics)

A number of linguistic tools, including free fonts, are available from SIL.

The phonologist Jennifer Smith maintains a large list of phonetics links, including sound files of exotic phonemes, videos of the vocal tract, etc.

The International Phonetics Association (the people who designed the IPA) has downloadable charts.

You can find statistics and information on virtually all the world's languages at www.ethnologue.com.

The Linguist List is one of the main forums for linguistics-related advertising, jobs, discussions, etc. If you are thinking about continuing in linguistics, you might be interested to see the kind of job postings that are aimed for linguistics graduates.