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SOUNDS AND PHONEMES
Speech sounds are grouped into language units called p h o -n e m e s. A phoneme may be thought of as the smallest contras-tive language unit which exists in the speech of all people belonging to the same language community in the form of speech sounds and may bring about a change of meaning.
The phoneme is a functional unit. That means that being op-•posed to other phonemes in the same phonetic context it is capable of differentiating the meaning, eg:
pie — tie lot — lit
Are you fond of this cut? Are you fond of this cart?
The phoneme is realized in speech in the material form of speech sounds of different type. Various speech realizations of the phoneme are called its a 11 o p h o n e s. The difference between the allophones of the same phoneme is due to their position in various phonetic contexts. For example, the consonant [d] in the isolated position as well as in such a sound sequence as [dot] is a lenis voiced stop articulated with the tip of the tongue against the teeth ridge. In the position before an interdental constrictive  as in breadth it is formed with the tip of the tongue against the upper teeth, when [d] is followed by the post-alveolar [r] as in dry the tip of thel tongue is placed behind the teeth ridge.
The list of the allophones of the phoneme [d] might continue. Nevertheless all the allophones of the phoneme [d] have a few articulatory features in common. All of them are forelingual lenis stops. If any of these features is modified the meaning of the word is either changed or destroyed accordingly. In case the forelingual articulation is changed for the labial one the word dot is modified into pot. Those articulatory features which are common to all the allophones of the same phoneme and are capable of differentiating the meaning are called distinctive.
Allophones of the same phoneme never occur in the same
phonetic context. They cannot differentiate the meaning since
. there is no mutual opposition possible in this case. Such speech
sounds are grouped into a phoneme and function as a language
unit opposed to other language units, i. e. phonemes.
In teaching English pronunciation we must certainly begin with that allophone of the phoneme which is not modified in various phonetic circumstances (the principal allophone). But other allophones which frequently occur in speech and differ quite obviously deserve our attention as well (the subsidiary allophones). Therefore, for instance, when teaching the articulation of the phoneme [d] one must not ignore the changes in the place of articulation, in the character of plosion and other important modifications which affect the allophones of this phoneme. All allophones of the same phoneme are indicated by the same symbol.
VOWELS AND CONSONANTS
The organs of speech are capable of uttering many different kinds of sounds. From the practical point of view it is convenient to distinguish two types of speech sounds: vowels and consonants. Vowels are voiced sounds produced without any obstruction in the supra-glottal cavities and consequently have no noise component. In the articulation of consonants a kind of noise producing obstruction is formed in the supra-glottal cavities. Such sounds may be pronounced with or without vocal vibration.
PRINCIPLES OF CLASSIFICATION
Consonants are made with air stream that meets an obstruction in the mouth or nasal cavities. That is why in the production of consonant sounds there is a certain degree of noise.
Consonants are the bones of a word and give it its basic shape. English accents differ mainly in vowels, the consonants are more or less the same wherever English is spoken. So if your vowels are not perfect you may still be understood by the listener, but if the consonants are imperfect there may be some misunderstanding.
The sentence "W-l y- -nv-t- m-1- th- p-t-?" "Will you invite me to the party?" is easy for understanding even if all the vowel letters would be left out. But if we leave all the consonant letters out ; "-i- -ou i--i-e -e -o —e -a--y" it is impossible to make any sense out of it. Thus we see that there are good reasons for beginning the course of pronunciation with consonants. On the articulatory level the consonants change:
1. In the degree of noise.
2. In the manner of articulation.
3. In the place of articulation.