Phonetics & Phonology

Task 2A


This work describes the phonetic features involved in the production of the

italian word ‘agnello’ (lamb) that can be phonetically transcribed as /aɲˈɲɛllo/

according to the production of a native speaker (me).


However, these six separate symbols do not correspond to five independent

movements; rather the articulation of each phoneme is determined by the one of

those around it to form the word as a whole.


Initiation, phonation and articulation are the three basic functional components

of speech-production. In the production of each phone there is an egressive

pulmonic pressure initiation supported by lungs and diaphragm.


The articulators are being setting in place for the first vowel of the segment

which is an open front unrounded vowel. The tongue is slightly less low and less

front than for cardinal vowel 4 because it has to be ready for the second

phoneme, which is a dorso-palatal nasal. Therefore, the body of the tongue it is

thrust not exactly as far from the roof of the mouth and as forward in the mouth

as possible. The jaw is lowered, the mouth open and the lips spread. The lungs

deflate and consequently the air contained in them is compressed; so, the air-

stream goes into the larynx where the vocal folds, brought together, -the glottis

is narrowed-, start to vibrate. At this stage the velum is closed. Therefore, the

voiced flow of air pass trough the oral tract and so its shape and resonance are

partially modified by the obstruction of the positioned tongue. This causes it to

acquire the distinct quality of the first vowel of the segment (a), which, in this

case, is not subject to the tendency of diphthongized, more common in English.


In preparation for the second phoneme, the jaw raises, the mouth becomes

more closed and the dorsal surface of the tongue moves upwards coming into

contact with the high vault of the hard palate, making the vowel palatalized. In

the meantime the velum is lowered and the airflow is released through the nasal

tract giving a nasalized quality to the end of the vowel as well as to the following

voiced dorso-palatal nasal stop (ɲ).


The jaw is slightly lowered again and therefore the mouth becomes more

open. The tongue body slips down and front so that the tip is immediately behind

the lower teeth to produce the open-mid front unrounded vowel (e). The velum,

becomes closed so that until the end the air pass solely through the oral tract.


Then there is a geminate sequence. In Italian the two consonant, in this case the

voiced alveolar lateral approximants (l), are clearly pronounced, in a sequence

that occurs within the same words, while in English the two consonants belong to separate

words or morphemes.


To produce this sequence the tongue tip comes in contact with the alveolar ridge just before

slipping down again in order to produce the last vowel which is a close-mid back rounded (o).


Considering the production of the three vowels, across the whole word there is a gradual

process of rounding (lips) and closing -the body of the tongue becomes higher and more

back-. In conclusion, the glottis opens, the vowel devoiced, and the production of the word



Word Count: 536


Catford, J. C. (2001). A Practical Introduction to Phonetics. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford

University Press.



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