Confusing Linguistic Terminology: English

  When I started learning languages (being British) I had never heard so much as a single mention of IPA or other such linguistic terminology like Place/Manner of Articulation in my language classes. Figuring that there might be a lot of you out there in the same position as I was, I thought I’d do a simple guide to these words and what they mean on our blog.

As promised, here is the second part of the way we create consonant sounds in English. In this post I will explain manner of articulation, the second step vital to creating consonant sounds in English.

  So, what is Manner of Articulation?

Well I’m glad you asked! You might remember from our last post that place of articulation is where we obstruct air flowing when we create a consonant (e.g. by bringing both of our lips together/by bringing our tongue to the roof of our mouth etc.). Well manner of articulation is quite simply how much air we obstruct when we make a sound.

In English there are 6 manners of articulation.
These are: Nasal

MannerofArticulation  Once again I really encourage you to say these sounds as you learn about them to help you understand what I’m talking about. And with that, let’s get started! 🙂

1) Nasal
Nasal consonants occur when you completely block airflow through your mouth (by bringing both your lips together and using the bilabial place of articulation) and let the air flow through your nose.
These sounds are:
[m] (as in moist)
[n]  (as in noodle)
[ŋ]  (as in minger)

2) Plosive/Stop
Plosive (also known as stop) sounds are created when airflow is completely blocked  for a moment, building up pressure behind the articulators, before the air is then released in one quick burst.
These sounds are:
[b]  (as in bobble)
[p]  (as in pebble)
[d]  (as in doddle)
[t]   (as in toddler)
[k]  (as in sock)
[g]  (as in gaggle)

3) Fricative
Fricative sounds are made when air is only partially obstructed on its way through the vocal tract. This then forces air to flow down a much more restricted channel, causing a sound created in part by friction (hence fricative).
These sounds are:
[f]  (as in kerfuffle)
[v]  (as in vulcanodon)
[s]  (as in slobber)
[z]  (as in zesty)
[ʃ]   (as in shingle)
[ʒ]   (as in measure)
[θ]   (as in Thor)
[ð]   (as in rather)

4) Affricate
Affricate consonants happen when there’s basically a mash-up of stop and fricative consonants.
These sounds are:
[tʃ]   (as in chunder)
[dʒ]  (as in bodge tape)

5) Approximant
Approximant sounds are a bit of a grey area. You may quite rightly have noticed in my last post that the Standard English [ɹ] as in ‘run’ sound was not included and that [w] as in ‘water’ was placed as a velar sound despite also using your lips. Furthermore [j] as in ‘yes’ was considered palatal despite the fact that your tongue never really touches your hard palate when creating that sound, just comes very close.
Well these are all approximant sounds, meaning that two articulators will come close together, but not close enough to touch, and not close enough to create turbulent air like a fricative.
These sounds are:
[ɹ]   (as in rambunctious)
[w]  (as in dweeb)
[j]    (as in yodel)

6) Lateral
Lastly, lateral sounds are created when your tongue obstructs air from passing through the centre of your mouth, causing it to go around the sides.
The only sound like this in English is:
[ɫ] or [l] (as in lobular)


So that is manner of articulation for consonants in English. In next week’s post I will cover voicing, place/point of articulation for vowels and a few loose odds and ends (such as why ‘h’ isn’t included on this post) as well. That post will conclude the set of Confusing Linguist Terminology: English posts and then we will move onto a new language. See you then! 🙂


Confusing Linguistic Terminology: English

  When I started learning languages (being British) I had never heard so much as a single mention of IPA or other such linguistic terminology like Place/Manner of Articulation in my language classes. Figuring that there might be a lot of you out there in the same position as I was, I thought I’d do a simple guide to these words and what they mean on our blog.

I’ll start by looking at the linguistic terminology needed for English, however we’ll be making this a little weekly series on here, in which we will eventually cover all the languages we study/have an interest in so that we can make our posts a little more in-depth and interesting. These posts will be a lot more concise in the future, as the basic underlying principles of articulation (such as what a passive/active articulator are and what labial means) will already have been covered here.

 So, what is Place/Point of Articulation?

Well it’s one thing for vowels and one thing for consonants, so let’s focus on point of articulation for consonants on this post. In order to make sound Manner of Articulation and Voicing is also required, however let’s take this in steps.
640px-Places_of_articulation  The Place of Articulation for consonants is in the “vocal tract” (anywhere between your lips, H and your vocal folds, A).
This is where an obstruction occurs to stop air flowing in a particular way, for example when your lips come together when you say “m” or your tongue touches the roof of your mouth when saying “t”.

In place of articulation there are two parts to making a sound. The first is a passive articulator and the second is an active articulator. The passive articulator doesn’t move when the sound is created, the active articulator does.
For example, when you say “m”, your bottom lip is the active articulator and your top lip is the passive articulator.
Another example is, when saying “v”, your bottom lip is the active articulator and your teeth are the passive articulator.

In English there are 8 Places of Articulation.
These are: Bilabial

This all sounds kind of boring and over-complicated but bear with me, it’s a lot less complex than it sounds and actually pretty quick to explain. Also I would suggest that you say these sounds as I describe them, just so you can get a feel for what I mean.

1) Bilabial
So bilabial consonants are made by both of your lips coming together (located at H on the diagram).
These sounds are:
[p] (as in poo)
[b] (as in blob)
[m] (as in Mum)

2) Labiodental
These consonants are created by bringing your bottom lip up to your teeth to block air flow.
There sounds are:
[f] (as in fornication)
[v] (as in velociraptir)

3) Dental
Dental consonants occur when you place the tip of your tongue against your top teeth.
These sounds are (disappointingly boring word choices):
[θ] (as in thick)
[ð] (as in the)

4) Alveolar
These sounds happen when your tongue touches that ridge just behind your top row of teeth, called the alveolar ridge (F on the diagram).
These sounds are:
[n] (as in nibble)
[t] (as in troll)
[d] (as in dongle)
[s] (as in swivel)
[z] (as in zig-zag)
[ɫ] & [l] (as in floccinaucinihilipilification)

5) Post-Alveolar
These consonants are created when your tongue connects with the point just behind the alveolar ridge.
These sounds are:
[ʃ] (as in ship)
[ʒ] (as in precision)
[tʃ] (as in batch)
[dʒ] (as in fudge)

6) Palatal
Palatal Consonants are made when your tongue touches the roof of your mouth (shown at E on the diagram).
The only such sound in English is:
[j] (as in yo-yo)

7) Velar
Velar consonants occur when you raise the back of the tongue to meet the “velum” (or “soft palate” at the back of your throat, shown at D on the diagram).
These sounds are:
[ŋ] (as in fling)
[k] (as in king)
[g] (as in giggle)
[w] (as in wiggle)

8) Glottal
Glottal consonants are created when you close a sort of “lid” at the top of your windpipe, right at the back of your throat (shown at A on the diagram). The best way to understand where this is, is to hold your breath without closing your mouth. The part you’ll be closing is your glottis.
These sounds are:
[h] (as in Bahamas)
[?] (this is a glottal stop used, for example, if you were to drop the “t” in water)

So, this is what Place of Articulation is when talking about consonants in English. In the next post I will  be covering manner of articulation, which should be up by next Sunday 🙂

Spanish Baby-jumping Festival

  Yes, you read it right and no, the explanation doesn’t make it any less weird. 

  Since the 1620’s El colacho or The Baby-jumping Festival has been held annually in a small town called Castillo de Murcia in the North of Spain. The festival (or “la fiesta”) is part of a longer string of other celebrations that are all a part of the time of Corpus Christi. Whilst many towns have their own celebrations, it is El colacho that garners the most interest, for reasons that are about to become very apparent…

  So, what exactly happens during the festival?

  Well, babies are placed onto blankets and pillows in rows of two and laid in the centre of a street at intervals of a few tens of metres. Then, having already filtered through the crowds lining the streets, generally terrorising the onlookers, men dressed in bright red and yellow Devil cosEl_colacho_saltandotumes with quite frankly terrifying masks run through the village, leaping over the babies as they go like hurdles at a Sports’ Day.

  Unfortunately the tradition’s roots are shrouded in mystery but it is obvious that it is heavily influenced by religion. It could be said that there is a strong case for it being a replacement for baptism within the village. After-all, the point of baptism is essentially to cleanse a baby of original sin and, in much the same way, the baby-jumping ritual is said to cleanse new-born babies of all evil-doings, whilst offering them protection from such misfortune in the future.

  Upon hearing about this I did wonder if (god-forbid) there had ever been any accidents with such a festival. But I did some research and luckily no baby has ever been harmed because of this tradition…perhaps the ritual does have some effect after-all.

  But what happens if you aren’t leapt over by devils as a baby? Does that mean you’re forever vulnerable to misfortune and evil?

  Nope! Not to worry, if you miss the opportunity of taking part in El colacho, you can always just leap through a ring of fire in Granada (in the south of Spain) on the 21st of December, once you’ve become an adult.

Kick-Starting our new Blog

Welcome to our new language blog site, Polyblog Glot!

The point of this blog is to have some fun whilst learning something (hopefully new to you) about languages and linguistics in general.

So, let’s get started…Did you know that;

  • In Japan, Ronald McDonald’s name is actually “Donald McDonald”, thanks to the lack of an English “r” [ɹ] sound in Japanese
  • The Swedish name for Sweden, “Sverige” comes from “svear” (which meant “us”) and “rike” (which meant “kingdom”)
  • “Rike” is linked with many languages, from Sanskrit “raja” (“king”) to German “Reich” (“kingdom/empire/realm”) and originally comes from the Proto-Indo European “*reg-” meaning “to straighten out, to rule”
  • An area in Wales called “The Mumbles” comes from the French “mamelles” meaning “breasts” due to two little offshore islands. (I have a small painting of this! Will never look at it the same again… – Sarah)
  • Despite being called “Oktoberfest”, this German festival actually begins in September (I blame the drunk Germans who probably named it)
  • In Japanese, there are approximately 20 ways just to say “sorry”
  • Hindi is one of only 7 writing systems that can be used to make a web address
  • Contrary to popular belief “poptyping” is unfortunately not actually the Welsh for “microwave”. This is just a joke and the actual word is “meicrodon”
  • “Mojang” (the name of the company that owns Minecraft) means “gadget” in Swedish
  • Standard Spain-Spanish is usually called “castellano” in Spanish-speaking countries, whereas outside it is simply called “Spanish”
  • The word “Mancunian” (or “someone from Manchester”) comes from a Celtic word meaning “breast-shaped hill”)
  • There are 12 facts because 12 just so happens to be both of our lucky numbers. This is a complete coincidence, we hadn’t met when we decided this 😀