Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Teaching Pronunciation (7)


The processes involved in the production of English consonants may be looked at from two angles: manner and places of articulation.
Place or point of articulation is the point at which the air from the lungs is either interrupted totally or partly, and is modified in the vocal tract to produce a sound. Scholars identify seven places of articulation in the production of English consonants. These are labial, labiodental, dental, alveolar, palatal, velar, and glottal. Manner of articulation refers to the manner in which the airflow in the vocal tract is modified by the speech organs in the production of a sound. Scholars identify six manners of articulation in the production of English sounds. These are as follows: Stop, Fricative, Affricate, Nasal, Liquid, and Glide.

The TESOL teacher should also have a good knowledge of the processes involved in the production of vowels in English. Vowels pose greater difficulty to the second or foreign language learners of English, especially because of certain complex relations between them, stress, and the production of diphthongs.
In the production of a vowel sound there is no interruption whatsoever of the airflow in the speech tract and there is no audible friction either.
Four criteria are generally employed in the identification and description of vowels. 1. Lip rounding/unrounding, that is, the kind of opening made at the lips, the degrees of lip rounding or spreading. 2. Tongue height, that is, the extent to which the tongue rises in the direction of the palate. 3. The part of the tongue that is raised: front, center, or back. 4. The position of the soft palate which is raised for the production of oral vowels, and which is closed for the production of nasalized vowels (Crystal 1987:153).
It is also important to note whether a vowel is tense or lax and whether a vowel is accompanied by another vowel-like sound which together forms a diphthong. In some cases it is important to note the length of the vowel produced.


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