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Classification of vowels
English vowels are classified according to the following principles:
1. Position of the lips.
2. Position of the tongue.
3. Degree of tenseness and the character of the end.
5. Stability of articulation.
According to the position of the lips vowels are classified into: rounded/ u: V P L /, unrounded/ J e x I E: q A /. The general pattern is that the front and central vowels are articulated with spread to neutral lip position while back vowels have rounded lips. The rounding tends to be more worked with closer tongue height.
According to the position of the tongue it is the bulk of the tongue which conditions most of all the production of different vowels. It can move forward and backward, it may be raised and lowered in the mouth cavity.
Vowels can be divided according to the horizontaland vertical movements of the tongue. When the bulk of the tongue moves backwards, it is usually the back part of the tongue which is raised highest towards the soft palate. Vowels produced with the tongue in this position are called back.
They are subdivided into: fully back: / u: V P L /
back-advanced: / V R /.
When the bulk of the tongue moves forward, it is usually the front part of the tongue which is raised highest towards the hard palate. Vowels produced with this position of the tongue are called front.
They are subdivided into: fully front: / J e x/,
front-retracted: /I /.
In the production of central vowels the tongue is almost flat. Its central part is raised towards the juncture between the hard and the soft palate.
Central vowels are / E: q a/
According to the vertical movements of the tongue vowels are subdivided into:
high(close): / J I V u: /,
mid(mid-open): /e E: q L /,
low (open): / x a R P /.
According to the degree of tenseness traditionally long vowels are defined as tense and short as lax. When the muscles of the lips, tongue, cheeks and the back walls of the pharynx are tense, the vowels produced can be characterized as "tense". When these organs are relatively relaxed, “lax” vowels are produced.
English vowels can be checked and unchecked. Checked vowels are those which occur in stressed closed syllables, ending in a fortis voiceless consonant, e.g. /e/ in /bet/, /R/ in /kRt/. The checked vowels are pronounced without any lessening in the force of utterance towards their end. They are abruptly interrupted by the following voiceless consonant. Unchecked vowels are those which occur terminally or are followed by a lenis voiced consonant, e.g. /J/ in /bJd/, /R/ in /kRd/.
According to the length English vowels are subdivided into:
long /J, u: E: R L /;
short/I, e, x, q, A, P, V/.
According to the stability of articulation vowels are subdivided into:
monophthongs (simple vowels): /I, e, x, E:, q, A, R, P, L*, V/;
diphthongs (complex vowels): /aI, eI, OI, aV, qV, Iq, eq, Vq / ;