Phonetic Transcriptions and their Processes

(1). Do a transcription of the following sentences:

  1. The pools betting house has stopped functioning.

[ðǝ pu:lz betin aus hǝz stɒpt fʌηk∫ǝniη]

2. There must be a rule attached to the use of the library.

[ðeǝ mʌs bi ǝ ru:l ǝtæt∫t tǝ ðǝ ju:s ǝv ðǝ laibrǝri]

3. The buffet is in the evening.

[ðǝ bufei iz in ðǝ i:vniη]

(2). Discuss briefly the phonetic processes that have helped in the transcription.

Elision: this is the omission of sound for ease of articulation. In example a, there is the omission of the /h/ phoneme in house, and there is a glide in articulation from the /n/ in betting to the /auz/; thus we have [betin auz] in rapid speech instead of [betiη hauz]. In example b, the /t/ in ‘must’ was ellipted, hence /mʌs/ instead of /mʌst/. The /t/ is also ellipted in buffet /bufei/ in example c. Also, there is the reduction in sound of words like: the /ðǝ/, to /tǝ/ and of /ǝv/ which do not take full articulation like when they appear as single words in isolation.

Nasalization: this is the given of a non-nasal sound the features of a nasal sound. The /i/, /ʌ/, /a/ and /ǝ/ that precede the nasal /n/ and /ŋ/ are all nasalized where they occur in the examples above.

Assimilation: according to Yule (59), when two phonemes occur in sequence and some aspect of one phoneme is taken or ‘copied’ by the other, the process is known as assimilation. This process is found in the transcription of the above sentences. For instance, the /i/ in betting and functioning in example one has the characteristic of the nasals that follow in both words. Also, the ‘a’ in example b is reduced to the schwa /ǝ/ as against the full realization /ei/, thus assimilated.

(3). How would the knowledge of (i) the minimal pairs and sets (ii) phones and allophones help you in trying to understand the sound patterns of the English word?

  1. According to Yule (56), when two words are identical in form except for a contrast in one phoneme occurring in the same position, the two words are regarded as minimal pairs e.g. pat /pæt/and sat /sæt/; but when a group of words can be differentiated, each one from the others, by changing one phoneme (always in the same position), then they are regarded as minimal sets e.g. feat, fit, fat, fate, fought, and foot or big, pig, rig, dig and wig.

Minimal pairs and sets help to contrast one sound from another in English words. Phonetic distinctions in English can be tested using minimal pairs and sets as they have been used frequently in tests of English as a second language to determine non-native speakers’ ability to understand the contrast in meaning resulting from the minimal sound contrast. For instance, pat /pæt/and sat /sæt/ as pairs will help the listener to know that although the English words may have similar forms, they may be distinct in particular sound segment that contrast their meaning. Pairs such as the above also help the listener to know that a change in one sound may affect phonetic realization and meaning. Thus, leap /li:p/ and lip /lip/ will be taken as distinct words due to the contrast in the stress /i:/ and unstressed /i/ phonemes respectively.

2. Phones are the distinct sound units of a language while allophones are the different realizations or the variants of a phoneme in use. For instance, the /s/ phoneme in words like sin and sand can be variously realized as /s/, /ӡ/, /∫/ and /z/ in words like: hikes /haiks/, vision /viӡn/, compassion /kǝmpæ∫n/ and rags /ragz/ respectively. Thus, /s/, /ӡ/, /∫/ and /z/ are all allophones of the /s/ phone. the knowledge of phones help to contrast one sound and meaning of a word from another; and the knowledge of allophones even though they may not contrast meaning affect pronunciations. We cannot use the /s/ allophone in place of the /z/ in words like things /ðiŋz/ and rags /rægz/ nor can we replace the /z/ phoneme with the /s/ phoneme in words like reeks /ri:ks/ and rats /ræts/.


Yule, George. The Study of Language. (2nd edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.