Every language in the world is made up of a combination of sounds. Many sounds are common, but there are some that are unique to a very few language groups. This week we began learning the basic International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). In many ways we feel like 1st graders again- learning to read and sound out words.
Our classes this week have been focusing on one manner of articulation called fricatives. Fricatives are a sound that is made by air passing over and around an obstruction (the tongue) and making a hissing or buzzing sound. Common English fricatives are f, v, th as in think, th as in thy, s, z, sh as in chute and sh as in beige.
We also learned some new fun ones that are not present in the English language. Dennis and I often find each other laughing as we make all these weird sounds.
In our reading textbook, these fricatives are often described to us in funny ways. Here are a couple we learned yesterday.
I can't give the symbol for this one since it is phonetic, but the sound is when "the lips are brought together so they barely touch. The lips should be relaxed and kept flat. Do not press the lips together tightly or purse them. Try to blow through your lips very gently. Try imitating a lady drying her nail polish. Pretend there is a small piece of grass on the tip of your tongue. Spit it off by protruding your tongue between your lips and pulling it back rapidly to leave a narrow slip through which to blow. Prolong the "phi" sound." This sound should not be voiced, in other words, your vocal cords shouldn't be used.
Another fun one is x. Not the x you know. "Think [k], but relax the tongue to blow air through the slot. Say the English word "ache" and feel where the back of your tongue contacts the roof of your mouth. Try slurring the word "ache" so that you lazily articulate the consonant. Say what a cat says when it spits at a dog: [xxxxx]. Pretend like you're shooting a gun: [pxxxxx]" That one really cracked us up.
Anyway, have fun trying those out and if anyone overhears you just shoot them with your new voiceless velar fricative skillz.