Beyond The Phoneme
Full Title: Beyond the phoneme – improve your pronunciation using suprasegmental phonetics and articulatory settings.
Speech is an intricate dance. We control our lips, tongues, soft palates, vocal cords and lungs independently of each other. Sometimes they move in unison, sometimes the changes are staggered. As we move from one ‘sound’ to another, there are myriad states and positions in between. Alphabets, including the IPA, provide just snapshots at different stages of the movement, capturing some information and ignoring the rest.
Just as different styles of dance have different stances – a straight back here, loose arms there, wrists relaxed, knees bent etc. – so different accents have different default postures for the various speech organs. Relaxed lips can be spread or have different kinds of rounding, the resting position for the tongue can vary, sets of muscles can be tense or lax. These default postures are known as articulatory settings.
Your pronunciation of your target languages will be much better if you learn to recognise and imitate their articulatory settings. At the same time, we can gain a deeper understanding of how to pronounce words and sentences by seeing how airflow, voicing, nasalisation, secondary articulation etc. do not chop up into segments as easily as our alphabets would have us believe.