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The system of the English consonants was investigated by well-known British, Russian and Ukrainian phoneticians: Henry Sweet, Daniel Jones, Alfred Ch. Gimson, John C. Wells, V.A Vassilyev, G.P. Torsuyev, L.V. Shcherba and others.

The articulatory classification of consonants in English can be described according to the following criteria:

1) active organ(s) of speech and the place of obstruction;

2) type or kind of articulatory obstruction and manner of noise production.

Active organ, place of obstruction   Type of ob- struction, manner of the production of noise Labial Lingual Pharyngeal
Forelingual Medio-lingual Back lingual
bilabial labio-dental interdental alveolar post-alveolar palato-alveolar palatal velar glottal
Occlusives plosives p, b     t, d       k, g  
nasal sonorants m     n       ŋ  
Constrictives fricatives   f,v ð, θ s, z   ∫, ʒ     h
sonorants w     l r   j    
Affricates             t∫, d ʒ      


Spoken language when analyzed as a continuous sequence, as in normal utterances and conversations, is referred to as connected speech. Its significance lies in important changes that happen to individual sounds, words or phrases under the influence of stress and intonation when they are used in connected speech vs. in isolation.

The ability to produce English with an English-like pattern of stress and rhythm involves stress-timing(= the placement of stress only on selected syllables), which in turn requires speakers to take shortcuts in how they pronounce words. Natural sounding pronunciation in conversational English is achieved through blends, overlapping, reduction and omissions of sounds to accommodate its stress-timed rhythmic pattern, i.e. to squeeze syllables between stressed elements and facilitate their articulation so that the regular timing can be maintained.

Such processes are called coarticulatory/adjustment phenomena and they comprise:

1) change of consonant or vowel quality,

2) loss of consonant or vowels, and even

3) loss of entire syllables

e.g. I must go[məsgəυ] = vowel change and consonant loss

memory ['memrI] = vowel and syllable loss

did you [dIdʒə] = consonant blending and vowel change

actually ['æk∫lI] = consonant blending, vowel and syllable loss

Syllables or words which are articulated precisely are those high in information content, while those
which are weakened, shortened, or dropped are predictable and can be guessed from the context.

Sound adjustmentsin connected speech can be summarized as follows:

  Types of adjustments Kinds of adjustments
Adjustments related to C-C linking 1. Assimilations= modifications of a C under the influence of a neighbouring C.
Adjustments related to V-V, C-V, V-C linking 1. Liaison =connecting of the final sound of one word or syllable to the initial sound of the next. 2. Accommodation (adaptation) = modifications of C under the influence of the adjacent V or vice versa: e.g. two — labialized /t/ under the influence of the rounded /u:/; let = more open /e/ after/l/. 3. Glottal stop/hard attack
Adjustments related to sound deletion/insertion 1. Elisions(ellipsisor omission) = deletion of a sound in rapid or careless speech. 2. Epenthesis = inserting of a V or C segment within an existing string of segments. 3. Smoothing = a diphthong optionally loses its second element before another vowel, or it is monophthonized: e.g. fire /'faiə - 'faə - f a:/.
Adjustments on the syllable level Compression when two syllables, usually both weak, optionally become one. Applies only to /I/, /υ/, syllabic consonants: /I/ becomes like /j/, e.g. lenient ['li:nIənt] – ['li:njənt], etc.
Weakening Weakforms are alternate forms of words so reduced in their articulation that they consist of a different set of phonemes. Weakforms differ from strongforms by containing a weak vowel resultant from reduction or by elision of one or more of its phonemes, e.g. can [kən], [kn]


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