Phonetics - the study of speech sounds - is concerned with how language sounds are constructed. We already know that words are made from letters, but the speech sound that represents each letter is also put together from units. This article looks at how we combine these units to produce speech sounds - every time we speak.
We pronounce a speech sound by modifying a voiced or voiceless airflow with different tongue and mouth positions. We could think of voice and positions as modules that can be combined in different ways. These modules have been labelled with certain terms so we can understand the description of the speech sounds - even sounds that belong to foreign languages!
Each consonant speech sound consists of one module from each of these three categories:
|VOICING||PLACE OF ARTICULATION||MANNER OF ARTICULATION|
|voiced||bilabial (both lips)||plosive / stop ("explosion")|
|voiceless||labiodental (lip + teeth)||nasal (no opening in mouth, only nose)|
|alveolar (tongue + curved edge behind upper teeth)||fricative (almost closed opening)|
|palatal (tongue + hard palate)||approximant (partly closed opening)|
|velar (tongue + soft palate)||flap / trill (opening and closing)|
|glottal (opening between the vocal folds)|
Each vowel speech sound consists of one module from each of these three categories:
|HEIGHT (TONGUE)||BACKNESS (TONGUE)||ROUNDEDNESS (LIPS)|
The below visualisation displays the different speech sounds in the Norwegian alphabet and which modules they consist of. The upper part of the visualisation is the legend. In the legend, each module is assignated a symbol and / or a
colour, and these symbols and colours are combined into flowers - one for each speech sound in the alphabet. By comparing the flowers with the legend, we can see which modules each speech sound is constructed from.
Use the cursor (or tap on tablet) on the flowers to see the tooltip with informtion about each letter!
Experiment with the pronunciation (for this, you need to be familiar with the Norwegian pronunciation of letters and / or with phonetics): Try comparing the visualisation and the classification with what happens in the mouth when you pronounce the letters. The consonants should be pronounced like they appear in words, and not as "be", "de", "ef", etc.
The visualisation is limited to unique letter representations in standard Eastern Norwegian. But there are also other speech sounds in the Norwegian language! Letters are pronounced differently depending on dialect and / or letter
are also a few letter combinations that have their own designated sound, the same way as for instance th in English.
The letters c, q, w, x, z haven't got unique speech sounds in Norwegian, so these are omitted here.
Links to sources:
Visualisation design, page design, code, text ©Trud Antzée 2020. Please do not copy / distribute the visualisation. But if you liked this article, I'd be very happy if you shared the link! 🙂
The flowers in the visualisation are built with D3.js.
My website: studioantzee.com