Phonetics, Pt 4: Manner of Articulation

All of the sounds examined so far, ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘p’, ‘k’, and ‘g’ have been stops. A stop is a sound made by the obstruction and the release of airflow. Prepare to make a ‘t’, and you will notice that your tongue blocks the airflow from the back of your mouth to the front. Make the ‘t’, and it opens room for air to pass through. But there are other types of sound to make.

Leaving your tongue in the same place of articulation, instead of stopping the air completely, allow a small amount through, near the tip of your tongue. If you are doing it right, you should be hissing like a snake, making an ‘s’ sound. You have not varied the voicedness, nor the place of articulation, yet have made a new sound. What has changed is the manner. ‘s’ is a fricative, rather than a stop. By voicing while making an ‘s’, one can make the ‘z’ sound.

N and M are nasals. That is, the air from those sounds goes through your nasal cavity, instead of the oral one. Try making the ‘nnnnnnnnnnnnnn’ sound for a long period of time with your nose pinched closed. This is why when you are sick any words with n or m in them have that heavy sound.

Affricatives are half way between stops and fricatives. ‘Ch’ is a good example. It is, in a way, a ‘t’ followed by a ‘sh’

Trills are created much in the same way as stops, except the air flow is allowed to pass through, vibrating the articulator. The rolled ‘rr’ in Spanish, and the infamous raspberry are good examples.

Approximants do not obstruct airflow much. ‘w’ and ‘l’ are good examples. Keep in mind again that the sounds are ‘wuh’ and ‘luh’, not ‘double-you’ and ‘ell’

Once again, the question to ask is ‘what if?’ We only have one cavity connected to our oral cavity, the nasal one. But what if we could block airflow to both cavities, and instead articulate in a different cavity? We do have the aural cavity, but given its work in hearing sound, that would not be a beneficial ability. But Parasaurolophus, the dinosaur, had a giant crest, through which it could send air to make noise. That adds a whole new manner of articulation. If it had a tongue like organ there, it could even have new places of articulation! However, as I am sticking to near-human languages, here, I will leave such speculation at the wayside, as much as talking dinosaurs tickle my imaginative fancy.


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