Sunday, March 27, 2011

LENGTH, GRADATION, AND LEVELLING


Phonology
LENGTH, GRADATION AND LEVELLING


BY:

Khairatun Hisan (230 818 031)
Lyra Maurizsa Aryanda (230 716 854)


Institute Agama Islam Negeri IAIN Ar-Raniry
Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam
2011


 A. Introduction
 
The sounds of speech are all around us. We use them, we hear them, we enjoy them and even we suffer from them, but in general we hardly know about them linguistically. It seems worthwhile, therefore, to try to explain and learn about the specific sound of human, language, begin from the simple but difficult things: length, gradation, and leveling of the words.
Length or duration refers to the actual amount of time that a sound lasts. It is recognized that the timing of one’s speech is important in communicating intellectual and emotional meanings, but it is also realized even more strongly that durational cues pay an important role in the identification of individual speech sounds and in stress pattern. Absolute duration can be measured easily on a spectrogram or some other visual representation of the acoustic characteristics of speech. (Daniel Sahulata, 1988)
Gradation in spoken English is the phenomenon in which the pronunciations of the certain word are different. A word generally has the pronunciation both in the strong and the weak form. The weak form of pronunciation usually occurs when the speaker pronounce the word in a high speed or fast, while the strong form may happens when one speaks slowly.
The term leveling is usually used in describing the reduction of a tripthong to a diphthong or even to a vowel. In pronouncing a word, especially in the fast way, the speaker often does not mention the middle vowel of the tripthong. Therefore it is difficult to differentiate the tripthong from diphthong and open vowels.
The three terms of length, gradation, and leveling are only a small part of the English phonology which are not familiar among non English speaking students. The students usually ignore these parts because they know nothing about it, that these three simple things can help them speak the language both fluently and correctly.


B. LENGTH, GRADATION, AND LEVELING

A.   LENGTH
Length means the time it takes to produce the sound. This doesn’t mean the speed at which a person speaks. It means, rather, the relative length of time in which each separate sound is produced, as compared with a longer or shorter time in which the same sound or other sounds may be produced in the stream of speech.[1] If the variation in the relative length of sounds in any language produces a variation in the meaning of utterance, then length is a significant sound feature in that language, that is, it is phonemic. But if the variation in the relative length of sounds produces no variation in meaning, then length is non significant or non contrastive sound feature in that language, that is, it is phonetic and non phonemic. (Raja Tewfik Nasr, 1997)
Then we know that English has vowels and consonants of differing length, though it does not exploit length to create different words. The length of the vowel partly depends on their character and partly depends on the following sounds. Some speech sounds are inherently longer than others. For example, open vowels are longer than close vowels, voiceless consonant are longer than voiced consonants. Fricatives are the longest consonant of all.[2] The length of the sound also may be influenced by the surrounding sounds. In this case are the vowel preceding voiced consonant is longer than the same vowel preceding voiceless consonant and it’s also longer before fricatives than stops. Thus, we should be able to hear that the vowel of bead /bi:d/ is longer than the vowel of beat /bi:t/, and that both are longer than the vowel of bit /bit/.
            In English, a vowel is longer when it is stressed than when it is not stressed such as the first vowel in certain /’s3:tn/ and the second vowel in receipt /ri’si:t/.[3] The place and manner of articulation of a following consonant can also affect vowel length. The pronunciation of long vowels is held longer than that of short vowels. Long vowels are commonly represented with a special colon after them in phonetic transcriptions or by the vowel symbol doubled. (In dictionaries and some writing systems, a macron (-) may be used above the symbol.)[4] To sense differences in the duration of vowels, pronounce the English word seed /si:d/, seat /si:t/, and seize /si:z/. We will find that [i] in seed is longer than in seat and is still longer in seize /si:z/.

B.   GRADATION
It is a very characteristic feature of English that many words have two or more pronunciations, which depend on stress. They have a strong form when they occur in a stressed position, and a weak form in unstressed position. Mostly there is a difference in the vowel sound (in many cases /ə/ is heard in weak form) or in the length of vowel: sometimes sound are dropped in the weak form. This phenomenon is called Gradation. It occurs in other language: thus the Dutch personal pronoun of the first person singular is (ik) when stressed, but it is weakened to (k) in an unstressed position; and the weak form of ‘hy’ is ‘ie’. In Indonesian we might say that ‘tak’ is the weak form of ‘tidak’. However, in this language it is rare, whereas it is common in English and very important if we wish to speak the language correctly.
There is good evidence for a gradual process of shortening or reducing the lingual gesture following a consonant. In particular, after a nasal, [d] is very short and frequently deleted in certain high-frequency words, such as and, hand, and second.[5]
Function words like he, than, you, my also frequently reduce to [i], [ðən] or even [ən]), [jə], [mə]: all these component processes, notably loss of consonants (in he, than), shortening of vowels (in he again), and reduction of vowels to schwa (in than, you, my) as a result of loss of stress, are segmental weakening.[6] Besides, there are many gradations depending upon phonetic, prosodic, or social situation. (Joan Bybee, 2003)
Here is a list of the most important cases of gradation
Spelling
Strong Form
Weak Form
A
/ei/ rarely in British English but often heard in American English
/ə/
Am
/æm/
/əm/ or /m/
And
/ænd/
/ən/ or /n/
Are
/a:/
/ə/
As
/æz/
/əz/
At
/æt/
/ət/
Be
/bi:/
/bi/,but /bi:/ when final
Been
/bi:n/
/bin/
Can (auxiliary)
/kæn/
/kən/
Could
/kud/
/kəd/
Do
/du:/
/du/, /də/, /d/
For
/fə:/
/fər/
From
/frəm/
/frm/
Had
/hæd/
/həd/, /əd/, /d/
Has
/hæz/
/həz/, /əz/, /z/
Have
/hæv/
/həv/, /əv/, /v/
He
/hi:/
/i:/, /i/
Her
/hə:/
/ə:/
Him
/him/
/im/
His
/hiz/
/iz/
Is
/iz/
/z/, /s/
Me
/mi:/
/mi/
Must
/mLst/
/mast/
Not
/nat/
/n’t/ e.g. in can’t, don’t
Of
/av/
/əv/
Shall
/òæl/
/òəl/, /òl/
She
/òi:/
/òl/
Should
/òud/
/òəd/, /d/
Sir
/sə:/
/sə/
Some
/sLm/
/səm/, /sm/
Than
/ðæn/
ən/
That
/ðæt/
/ðət/
The
/ði:/
ə/
Them
/ðem/
əm/
There
/ðær/
ə/
To
/tu:/
/tu/ before a vowel
/tə/ before a consonant
Us
/Ls/
/əs/, /s/
Was
/waz/
/wəz/
We
/wi:/
/wi/
Were
/wə:/
/wə/
Will
/wil/
/l/
You
/ju’/
/ju/
Your
/jɔ:/
/jɔ/
All the weak forms occur in unstressed positions only. The more rapid the speech, the shorter the form used. ‘is’ is pronounced /z/ after a voiced sound, ‘he is’ is  pronounced /hi:z/, ‘it is’ /its/.
            The importance of Gradation cannot be too strongly insisted upon. The correct use of the weak forms is essential for a correct use of English. In Indonesian personal pronoun are often omitted so that the verb is stressed. Dutch speakers are always influenced by the fact that in their own language the auxiliary is stressed, whereas the personal pronoun is often unstressed. A Dutchman will say “k ga” instead of  “ik ga”. In English, auxiliaries are usually unstressed except when they are final or when an emotional emphasis is used. Therefore, it is wrong to teach the conjugation of ‘to be’ with the strong forms. We should tell the pupils that “ I am, you are, he is, etc, are pronounce /aim/, /jɔ/, /hi:z/.” Afterwards, the strong form can be taught when we meet them in the text. Why do you should teach your pupils an exceptional pronunciation instead of the normal one?
‘do’ before ‘you’ is (d). Thus, the question “Do you like it?” should be pronounced /dju ‘laik it/, and not as it is often done/’du:ju: laik it/.   

C.   LEVELING
Some authors describe the English vowel system as including not only diphthongs but also triphthongs. Peter Roach puts it like this: The most complex English sounds of the vowel type are the triphthongs. They can be rather difficult to pronounce, and very difficult to recognize. A triphthong is a glide from one vowel to another and then to a third, all produced rapidly and without interruption.[7] He lists the triphthongs eɪə (player /’pleɪə(r)/), aɪə (liar /’laɪə(r)/), ɔɪə (loyal /’lɔɪəl/), əʊə (lower /’ləʊə(r)/), aʊə (hour /’aʊə(r)/).
The principal cause of difficulty for the foreign learner is that in present-day English the extent of the vowel movement is very small, except in very careful pronunciation. Because of this, the middle of the three vowel qualities of the triphthong (i.e. the ɪ or ʊ part) can hardly be heard and the resulting sound is difficult to distinguish from some of the diphthongs and long vowels. To add to the difficulty, there is also the problem of whether a triphthong is felt to contain one or two syllables. Words such as ‘fire’ or ‘hour’ are probably felt by most English speakers to consist of only one syllable, whereas ‘player’ /pleɪə/ or ‘slower’ /sləʊə/ are more likely to be heard as two syllables.
The term ‘leveling’ is sometimes used for these cases in which a tripthong is reduced to a diphthong or a diphthong to a free vowel. For instance, the word fire /’faɪə(r)/ is often leveled to the centring diphthong: /’faə(r)/. The reduction of complex triphthong such as /aɪə/ and /aʊə/ to [aə] or [aə] occurs frequently, supporting the idea that a simplification of complex rhymes may be the main motivation.[8]



C. CONCLUSION

Length means the time it takes to produce the sound. This doesn’t mean the speed at which a person speaks. It means, rather, the relative length of time in which each separate sound is produced, as compared with a longer or shorter time in which the same sound or other sounds may be produced in the stream of speech.
For example, open vowels are longer than close vowels, voiceless consonant are longer than voiced consonants. Fricatives are the longest consonant of all.
The length of the sound also may be influenced by the surrounding sounds. In this case are the vowel preceding voiced consonant is longer than the same vowel preceding voiceless consonant and it’s also longer before fricatives than stops. Thus, we should be able to hear that the vowel of bead /bi:d/ is longer than the vowel of beat /bi:t/, and that both are longer than the vowel of bit /bit/. The main difference between the final sounds of “cap” and “cab”, “bet” and “bed”, “back” and “bag”, lies in the force of the airstream. (p, t, k) are strong consonants, (b, d, g) are weak  consonants. We must to lengthen the preceding sound in case of final (b, d, g).
Gradation is the phenomenon that some words have a strong and weak form.
For example:  ‘A’ have a strong form /ei/ , and the weak form /ə/. “can” have a strong form /kæn/ and the weak form /kən/. “From/frəm/ and /frm/, “Have” /hæv/ and /həv/, /əv/, /v/, “Is” /iz/ and /z/, /s/, “Sir/sə:/ and /sə/, Some” /sLm/ and /səm/, /sm/, “Us” /Ls/ and /əs/, /s/, We” /wi:/ and /wi/, “Will” /wil/ and  /l/, etc.
           Levelling is the process by which triphthongs become diphthongs, or diphthongs become free vowels.
For example :  the word fire /’faɪə(r)/ is often leveled to the centring diphthong: /’faə(r)/. Hour /’aʊə(r)/ is often leveled to the centring diphthong : /’aə(r)/. Player /’pleɪə(r)/ is often leveled to the centring diphthong /’pleə(r)/. Liar /’laɪə(r)/ is often leveled to the centring diphthong /’laə(r)/, etc.


D. BIBLIOGRAPHY
 
Nasr, Raja Tewfik. 1997. Applied English Phonology: For ESL/EFL Teachers. University Press of America Maryland 

Stefanie Jannedy, Robert Poletto, and Tracey L. Weldon. 1994.  Language Files Material for an Introduction to Language & Linguistics, 6thed. Ohio State University Press

Sahulata, Daniel. 1988. An Introduction to Sounds and Sounds Systems of English. Educational and Cultural Department Jakarta

Finegan, Edward. 2008.Language Its Structure and Use, 5thed. Thomson Wadsworth Boston 

Flettinga. English Phoenetics for The B.1 Courses in Indonesia.

Bybee, Joan. 2003. Phonology and Language Use. Cambridge University Press 

McMahon, April. 2002.  An Introduction to English Phonology. Edinburgh University Press 

McMahon, April. 2000. Lexical Phonology and The History of English. Cambridge University Press

Roach, Peter. 2009. English Phonetics and Phonology, 4th ed. Cambridge University Press 







[1] Raja Tewfik Nasr, Applied English Phonology: For ESL/EFL Teachers, University Press of America Maryland 1997, p.34
[2] Stefanie Jannedy, Robert Poletto, and Tracey L. Weldon, Language Files Material for an Introduction to Language & Linguistics, 6th ed., Ohio State University Press 1994, p. 56
[3] Daniel Sahulata, An Introduction to Sounds and Sounds Systems of English, Educational and Cultural Department Jakarta 1988, p. 24
[4] Edward Finegan, Language Its Structure and Use, 5th ed., Thomson Wadsworth Boston 2008, p. 92
[5] Joan Bybee, Phonology and Language Use, Cambridge University Press 2003, p. 76
[6] April McMahon, An Introduction to English Phonology, Edinburgh University Press, 2002 p. 139
[7] Peter Roach, English Phonetics and Phonology, 4th ed., Cambridge University Press  2009, p. 18-19
[8] April McMahon, Lexical Phonology and The History of English, Cambridge University Press 2000, p. 268

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