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By Marc Picard

This textbook is designed to fill simple wishes. One is for a transparent and easy presentation of the rudiments of articulatory phonetics that is geared particularly to the necessities of the (future) language instructor, and never solely to the scholar of linguistics, and within which the fundamental techniques and terminology are brought through English in preference to a number of languages. a good higher desire, might be, and one who has long gone unfulfilled for too lengthy, is for an easy yet kind of whole assessment of the phonetic stock of North American French.

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Extra info for An Introduction to the Comparative Phonetics of English and French in North America

Example text

It is not a significant difference which can serve to distinguish any pairs of words whatsoever. Such a state of affairs is by no means universal, however. Many languages have phonemic aspirated and unaspirated stops. Conversely, it is very common for languages to have the pairs [p]/[b], [t]/[d] and [k]/[g] in complementary distribution whereas, as we have seen, they 36 COMPARATIVE PHONETICS OF ENGLISH AND FRENCH are all phonemic in English. In short, phonetic differences are universal, phonemic differences are always language-specific.

Whenever these types of significantly contrastive segments are mis­ pronounced by non-native speakers, they are bound to be detrimental to smooth communication. In English, failure to discriminate between /l/ and /i/ and /I/ or /s/ and /š/ by speakers who do not have these contrasts in their native language will yield, for example, lice for rice, leave for live and mess for mesh. Any sound, then, that has this kind of meaning-determining status in a language is called a phoneme. Phonemes are the mental or psychological representations that speak­ ers have of the actual speech sounds or phones they utter.

The first of these, namely /1/, is illustrated in Figure 10 where it can be seen that there is a stricture of complete closure at the alveolar ridge which is reminiscent of that found in Figure 8 for /t/ and /d/, and in Figure 9 for /n/. Instead of an instantaneous release from this position, however, the tongue is held in place and the air is allowed to flow freely around the sides of the obstruction. This type of segment is called a lateral approximant. The other approximants in the words listed above all evince what can be termed open approximation of the articulators which, as we have seen, is characteristic of vowels.

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