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As a group fricatives
are distinguished from stops by the fact that they do not form a complete closure in the mouth. Fricatives are produced by forming a nearly complete closure that still allows air to pass through the mouth. The turbulent noise produced by pushing air out of the small opening is a fricative.
Based on the places of articulation for the stops you might expect English to have bilabial, alveolar and velar fricatives. However, it is lacking both bilabial and velar fricatives.**A velar fricative does exist in some dialects of English but that will be discussed in a later lesson.
There is however a labiodental
fricative. Which means that it is produced by contact of the upper lip (labio
) with the lower teeth (dental
). If you try saying the word 'free' you should feel your tongue against your teeth during the first sound.
English also has a dental
fricative. Unlike the labiodental a dental is produced by placing the tip of one's tongue just behind the front teeth. Occasionally, it can be pronounced interdentally with the tongue between one's teeth**
. An example of this sound is at the beginning of the word 'three.'**This sound is often difficult for non-native English speakers to pronounce.
Finally, there is also a post-alveolar
fricative. Post-alveolars are pronounced with the tongue arched up just behind the alveolar ridge. One can be found at the beginning of the word 'sheep.'
Fricatives also differ from plosives because they can be sustained. If you try and prolong the / p / at the beginning of the word 'pan,' you will find yourself stuck with your mouth closed and air pressure building up behind your lips. Now, try prolonging the / f / at the beginning of the word 'fan.' This time you can keep the sound going as long as you have breath to push out.
A list of the voiceless frictives:
/ f / – voiceless labiodental fricative – 'f
/ θ / – voiceless dental fricative – 'th
/ s / – voiceless alveolar fricative – 's
/ ʃ / – voiceless post-alveolar fricative – 'sh
/ h / – voiceless glottal fricative – 'h
In addition, four of the above fricatives have voiced counterparts:
/ v / – voiced labiodental fricative – 'v
/ ð / – Voiced dental fricative – 'th
/ z / – voiced alveolar fricative – 'z
/ ʒ / – voiced post-alveolar fricative – 'treas
A sound or feature is contrastive
if a word can be differentiated solely by that one feature. Looking at the list of fricatives above you can see that voicing is a contrastive feature in English fricatives. The easiest way to prove that a feature is contrastive in a given language is to find a minimal pair
. Two words that can be distinguished by changing only one sound or feature form a minimal pair.
Some examples from the sounds we've gone over so far:
at' /fæt/ vs. 'v
at' /væt/ – voicing contrast on the initial fricative
at' /pæt/ vs. 'b
at' /bæt/ – voicing contrast on the initial stop
at' /bæt/ vs. 'm
at' /mæt/ – nasal contrast on the initial stop
Other languages will have different contrastive sounds and features. As mentioned before there are languages with voiced and voiceless nasals, which English does not contrast, and there are languages that don't contrast voicing in frictives like English does. For a non-native speaker these differences can be difficult to hear or reproduce, but knowing about them can help you to learn them.Review
1. Here's a blank diagram of the mouth. Name the different places of articulation marked below.
2. Please define the following terms:
c. Minimal pair
3. Please give the IPA for the bolded letters in the following words:
_________________Ikasmu ati'uki nai uraiur.
Hinai nimuśim naimi nai sasamiur urukani. Śi'ama nai huhumiur na ni'amuśim nai sasamiur.
Pumaki nimuśim śima'a na ami nimuśim ara'a. Hini nihrasum i'aku tumra urukani na nihrasum sanik hraspir.