Lesson 2

Introduction to

Speech Sounds

What Is Phonology?

As phonetics and phonology both deal with sounds, it is important that you keep in mind that we are not interested in letters, but in sounds.

  • For instance, English has not 5 or 6 but 20 different vowels, even if these vowels are all written by different combinations of 6 different letters
  • e.g. please, and the phonetic transcription between square brackets [pli:z].
  • Thus the word please consists of three consonants, [p,l,z], and one vowel, [i:].

Vowels and Consonanats Symbols


—Consonants are often classified by being given a so-called VPM-label. VPM stands for Voicing, Place and Manner:

  • VOICING means that the vocal folds are used; if they are not, the sound is voiceless (note that vowels always imply the use of vocal folds).
  • PLACE of articulation is the place where the air flow will be more or less obstructed.
  • MANNER is concerned with the nature of the obstruction.
  • The only distinction between the first sounds of sue and zoo for example is that [s] is voiceless, [z] is voiced.
  • The same goes for few and view, [f] is voiceless, [v] is voiced. If you now say [ssssszzzzzsssss] or [fffffvvvvvfffff] you can either hear the vibrations of the [zzzzz] or [vvvvv] by sticking your fingers into your ears, or you can feel them by touching the front of your larynx (the Adam’s Apple).
  • In the examples below the first sound is voiceless, the other is voiced:   pie/buy,   try/dry,         clue/glue,      chew/Jew,      thigh/thy.


  • This distinction can also be made in between two vowels: rapid/rabid, metal/medal, or at the end of a word:  pick/pig,      leaf/leave,       rich/ridge.
  • In English the following consonants are voiced: b, d, g, v, ð, z, ʒ , l, r, j, w, ʤ, m, n, ŋ



Thank you

and ...

See you next meeting