English: Modification of /h/ in front of certain vowels

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by JuanEscritor, Nov 15, 2012.

  1. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    Moderator note: Split from here.

    I believe [ç] is a common allophone of /h/ before /i/. I always assumed this was because of /i/ being a high front vowel, but couldn't figure out why I didn't have [ç] before /ɪ/ since it is also roughly a high front vowel.

    Now, however, the answer seems clear as day; since my /ɪ/ isn't close to my /i/ then there would be no reason to expect them to trigger similar allophonic processes. Right? Well, I guess that answer depends on whether /ɪ/ triggers [ç] in other dialects where /i/ triggers [ç].

    So, in BE and other AE dialects that do not lower /ɪ/, does /h/ become [ç] before /ɪ/?

    JE
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  2. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I don't think /h/ becomes [ç] in from of /ɪ/. This happens in front of /j/ as in human.
     
  3. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Do you have an example of when you think this /h/ to /ç/ should be triggered? When I say both "hit, hill" and "heat, heal" neither have /ç/.
     
  4. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    I find that very strange. Saying heat with [h] is awkward for me; it is even more awkward to say a word like human with [hj]. It might be slightly inaccurate to say that the sound in both of these words is [ç] because I believe the true process at work involves the /i/ and /j/ adopting the voiceless fricative qualities of the /h/ phoneme, but transcribing this as [ç] seems sufficient enough to demonstrate the general idea.

    Are there any allophonic processes in your speech triggered by /i/ but not by /ɪ/?

    JE
     
  5. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    /i/ is higher then /ɪ/ and may cause a constriction that may give the /h/ a touch of a palatal approximant. But [ç] is a fricative and that is still a completely different cup of tea. My native language has phonemic distinction between [h] and [ç] and I can hear a [ç] in human but never in heat. When I try to say [çi:t] result sound closer to sheet than to heat.
     
  6. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    That's just the thing, I think it is the palatal approximate getting a touch of /h/ rather than the other way around. In human the palatal approximate takes on the voiceless fricative features of /h/, creating something on the lines of a voiceless palatal fricative ([ç]). Granted the [ç] may still be somewhat more approximate in nature than fully fricative, but I think using [ç] to transcribe the resulting allophone serves a worth-while function of conveying that the palatal /j/ and high front /i/ take on a fricative quality when preceded by phonemic /h/, even if the resulting allophone don't qualify as [ç] proper.

    If the confusion is significant enough, diacritics can always be used to show the [ç] as being lowered and somewhat backed in the case of heat.

    I do think we need to describe what is happening with the /h/ in a word like heat, though, and using [ç] (perhaps modified by diacritics) seems to be the closest IPA symbol we have to do this.

    Anyway, I guess this is straying a bit. It would be insightful to hear from some native speakers who preserve a high /ɪ/ and possess the /h/ → [ç] alteration as to whether there is any hint of [ç] in words like hit.

    JE
     
  7. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    /ɪ/ has always been significantly lower than /i/. The question you raised in the OP was in relation to /e/.
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  8. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    You mean to tell me that you believe the process mentioned in the OP to be a case of raising /e/ rather than lowering /ɪ/?

    I don't think that is what is happening; I think my /ɪ/ is significantly lower than in the standard forms of either BE or AE. My followup questions were an attempt to figure out just how much higher /ɪ/ is in other dialects than in my own speech. The issue of whether or not /ɪ/ triggers allophonic variations similar to those triggered by /i/ was an attempt to address that question.

    One thing I note is that who triggers a similar process with the /h/ while hook and hoof (/hʊf/) do not. I haven't yet measured my /ʊ/ yet, though, to see exactly how high it is, and whether its height is comparable to the height of /ɪ/ in other dialects.

    JE
     
  9. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    No, I meant lowering /ɪ/ even further. /ɪ/ was never so high that is could cause /h/ to sound "[ç]-ish". I could relate to your description that /h/ in heat can have a hissing touch; but never in hit; /ɪ/ is never so high, so much fronted and so tense that it could cause such a modification of a preceding /h/.
    <deleted>
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2012
  10. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    US
    US English
    Having discussed the realization of /h/ before /i/ in an abstract way in several posts, maybe it's time for us to take advantage of modern technology and look at some actual data.:)

    JE, you said, "Saying heat with [h] is awkward for me". It doesn't seem awkward to me, and when I listen to recordings of "he" and "heat" I usually hear [hi(t)]. Can you make available a recording of "heat" as you naturally say it? Then we'd know for sure what we're talking about.

    Alternatively (or, better, in addition), can you listen to the three recordings of "he" at www.forvo.com/word/he/#en They all sound natural to me; I wonder how you hear them.

    ---
    Earlier in the thread there was a discussion of a possible merger between /I/ and /ɛ/ and mention was made of Southern US dialects that merge these phonemes before /m/ and /n/ and realize them in a distinctly diphthongized way. In fact the merger is more widespread, involving a large section of the central US and applies before /m/, /n/, and often /l/. Here the vowel is not diphthongized more than in standard US speech.

    ---
    With respect to determining height and backness of vowels thru measurement of formants F1 and F2 (the focus of the original post): I'm aware of the general tendency for vowel height to be correlated with lower F1 and vowel backness to be correlated with lower F2, but I wonder how literally these correspondences should be taken. Articulatorily there's more to tongue control than just height and backness, and acoustically and perceptually there's more to the spectrum than just F1 and F2. Also, most English vowels show some degree of diphongization (not to mention transitions into and out of consonants), so stating a meaningful F1 and and F2 for a given vowel is not a trivial matter.
     
  11. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    I just did a recording. Definitely different /h/ realizations in heat and hot. I will see about getting them uploaded somewhere.


    With a clear recording it isn't too bad finding the formants, at least in my opinion.

    JE
     
  12. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    @JuanEscritor. I think I finally understand what you mean about /h/ becoming /ç ish/. If I take the word "heat" and say it really slowly like hhhhhiiiiiii::t there is some kind of constriction that forms similarly but not exactly identical to /ç/. But at normal speed there is absolutely nothing, just /hi:t/. Do you mean you do this even when you say "heat" normal speed?

    Moderator note: Copied from other thread.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The recording (most clearly audible in escott6371's) show a secondary, palatal constriction, but the basic glottal fricative, defining characteristic of /h/, is unmistakably there. Compare to the German pronunciation of Chi [çi:] here.

    The problem is that /h/ and /i:/ are merged in escott6371's pronunciation. If you download the sample and separate the voiced onset from the voiced nucleus you will find a short and faint onset one could indeed transcribe [ç]. But the is overlaid by a glottal [ɦ]. To double check it is not just an idiosyncratic way to pronounce [i:], compare the same speaker's pronunciation of [i:] in Enoch where this glottal part is completely absent.

    By contrast, in the German guy's pronunciation of Chi you can see a full force, full length unvoiced [ç] followed by an unmodified [i:].
     
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2012
  14. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    This is interesting.
    This reminded me of when I was 12 and my English teacher told me I wasn't pronouncing correctly the word he.
    In neither of my native languages this sound exists: in Italian the /h/ consonant simply doesn't exist; while in Chinese we have /x/ as the closest consonant to English /h/, and it's pronounced [h] in Southern varieties (and by me) but it can carry any vowel, but not * (at that time I used to pronounce all English /ɪ/ as /i/).
    Furthermore, in Chinese and in Italian the /i/ is pronounced with the tongue touching the palate.
    Basically I was trying to pronounce /hi/, but I was touching the palate with my tongue, and it came out a weird sound, with a sort of "clacking sound" caused by the contact of the tongue with the palate, maybe something close to the [ç] you're talking about.
    My teacher told me: "No... Don't use your tongue, it's [hɪ]! Not [çi]..." -- but I couldn't manage to pronounce it correctly.
    Now when I pronounce he or heat, I try to pronounce [
    hɪ] or [hi:] with the mouth open wider, without the tongue touching the palate, and it seems OK.
    Then I have a doubt: is English pronounced with a greater tongue-palate distance than Italian or Chinese?

    *Chinese transliterates English /hɪ~hi/ sounds as /ɕi/, as in Himalaya: 喜马拉雅 /ɕimalaja/; or Hillary: 希拉里 /ɕilali/.
     
  15. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    <...>

    Moderator note: Copied from other thread.

    As for [ç], I use this all the time in stressed words involving initial /hi/ or /hj/. It is awkward for me to pronounce them [hi] and [hj]. Gives my jaw a funny feeling.

    JE
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  16. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    I have never heard of he being pronounced [hɪ]. Where was your teacher from, or was s/he not a native speaker?

    JE
     
  17. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    Same for me. The same feeling of trying to use the [k] of 'cow' as the first sound in 'key' - my jaw just doesn't like it and I pull a really stupid face when trying to consciously do it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2012
  18. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    I have been asked to upload my own production of some of these words where /h/ changes to be [ç]-like; here are the recordings:

    View attachment HEAT.mp3
    View attachment HUMAN.mp3
    View attachment HOT.mp3
    View attachment HUE_QUEUE_PEW.mp3
    View attachment Ç_H.mp3

    As part of the aspiration of words with /pi/, /pj/, /ki/, /kj/, the aspiration is produced in a [ç]-like manner; It is not as consistently produced this way in words with /ti/. Also, in /ki/ and /kj/ words I have /k/ → [c] as Alxmrphi mentioned. Combinations with /j/ have a higher tongue position on the '[ç]' than combinations with /i/. Only in very forceful speech do I produce anything approaching a [ç] when /ɪ/ is involved, so I didn't include any examples of this.

    Enjoy.
     
  19. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    I would like to let you listen a recording I made recently, where I read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in English.
    Recording 1
    Recording 2
    There aren't many word with "h", but the word "human" appears twice, then the last word is "brotherhood" (in which I pronounce the h)
    Cause I can't distinguish the sounds [h] and [ç], would you analyse my speech, and tell me which sound I actually pronounce?
    Thank you very much.
     
  20. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    JuanEscritor, listening to your recordings, I don't think you pronounce the /h/ any differently than I do. I don't really hear /ç/ in "heat" but maybe that's just me.

    Youngfun. I think in the second recording you say /çuman/. Your pronunciation seems great to me! Your /h/ is bit stronger than I would pronounce it.
     
  21. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    It's definitely there. Not many people do because of the nature of the switch. It's an allophonic variant and the whole reason we can call it allophonic is that it's generally below the level of consciousness and quite conditioned. It's completely normal for a lot of people to pick up on it, not some defect of your own. Before studying phonetics, I would not have been able to hear it either.

    Try repeating the names "Howard" and "Hugh" and focus on where the initial sound is coming from in Hugh. Try to use that sound in "Howard", you'll hear how absolutely weird/wrong it sounds, which should be illustrative of the difference You should realise that the front vowel has dragged that original [h] so far forward it's not even in a place compatible to start pronouncing the name Howard. You need to pull it significantly further back to start saying Howard. This is the distinction.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  22. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I am not so sure. I hear a sound that would qualify as a phonemic /ç/ in my language, that has phonemic distinction between the sounds, in the pronunciation of human but not in the pronunciation of heat.

    This is how the fictitious words hiet and chiet would sound in German View attachment hiet-chiet.mp3 . To me, the recording of heat is definitely closer to the former.
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  23. Alxmrphi Senior Member

    Reykjavík, Ísland
    UK English
    I see what you mean. It's definitely there in hju- clusters but less 'strictly' with forwarded vowels. I can say heat with a forwarded version [ç] and also not that far forward (but much more forward than [h]) and I am not sure which one I would choose in casual speech, probably a mixture of them both. I admit I was less focused on labelling it phonetically but more trying to show a forward/back distinction based on the following vowel, which the earlier posted indicated by not being able to hear a difference.

    Oh my, I thought the earlier poster said they couldn't hear it in human and not heat. My bad.
    So many h-words floating around :).
     
  24. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Germany
    German & AmE
    German has this sound, so I'm used to hearing it, but what Youngfun pronounces there is not really a /ç/, at least not a very strong one.
    Here's my recording: http://vocaroo.com/i/s0NfHmYBJ1KW
    The first one is human with normal H, the second with a /ç/. Try and compare. German actually has three of these similar sounds, so here's a recording of the three different sounds, for you to compare:
    http://vocaroo.com/i/s0b3JcVXtOzp
    1) ich /ɪç/
    2) hab' /ˈhaːb/
    3) mach /ˈmaχ/
     
  25. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Thanks Roy. I can distinguish these sounds in German, no problem. /ç/ is almost like an sh- sound in "ich". I just don't hear them in English. /çi:t/ for heat with that sound seems bizarre. In "human" I can see the palatizing effect more easily but still not to the point of /çuman/ with the German sound.
     
  26. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Germany
    German & AmE
    I agree. /çi:t/ sounds completely wrong to my ears, /çuman/ not so much. I notice a slight difference in my pronunciation of human when it is preceded by a word ending in t, but it's not a /ç/. It reminds me more of Czech Ť, merging T and U to a certain extent, but even that is not an accurate description.
    This topic has now actually made me unsure about my pronunciation :D I normally pronounce it with a silent h, thus starting with u as in universe. Could this assumed /ç/ pronunciation maybe stem from a silent H consonant at the beginning?
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  27. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    Czech Ť, merging T and U to a certain extent isn't /tju/? Or maybe I'm trying to acquaint it with Russian soft t followed by a soft vowel.... Russian has no /h/ but /x/ before e/i moves forward a bit but it's not /ç/ either. Now I'm trying to figure out just what it is.:confused: I think you have to do something in the front of your mouth in German with /ç/ like smile a little bit, no?:)

    A lot of people say /ju:man/ without the /h/ as in "a yuman being" particularly in the Northeast.
     
  28. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Germany
    German & AmE
    Czech Ť is a T with a J directly following it, so you wouldn't pronounce Ťu like the Spanish 'tú', but more like the 'tue' in 'tuesday'.

    EDIT:
    I've just checked Wiktionary on the word human and it provides us with the following pronunciations:
    /ˈçjuː.mən̩/ and /ˈhjuː.mən̩/
    (NY, some other US dialects) IPA: /ˈjuː.mən̩/

    So my pronunciation of 'human' seems to match the one of the NY dialect. And, who would've thought, the word human indeed contains a /ç/! Now the question remains how trustworthy Wiktionary really is.

    Furthermore, the English Wikipedia article on English phonology doesn't list it under consonants, but the German one does.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  29. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    Yes, human in recording 2 is very different than how I say it; I don't here a glide [j] between the [ç] and in your recording.

    I'll have to listen to the rest of it later and see what other interesting things there are.

    Thanks for uploading these by the way!

    JE

    ABE: The second instance of human doesn't sound like it uses [ç] at all; just [h].
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  30. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual

    So, do you think I'm saying [çuman]?

    Thanks everybody for comments about my recording.
    I listened to Roy's recording of the German [ç], and it sounds like something between h and sh, maybe approaching Chinese [ɕ] (their IPA symbol are also similar)... but I don't think it's the same as how I pronounce the h in human.

    And Roy, yes, I think you pronounce human with silent h ;). I also used to pronounce words like human and humid with a silent h (as most Italian also do), but one of my English teachers (who wasn't a native but Ucrainian) didn't understand me at first, then when he understood he taught to pronounce with h.

    Many of you say I pronounce the H stronger than natives, is it possibile that I pronounce a [x] instead of [h]?
     
  31. Roy776

    Roy776 Senior Member

    Germany
    German & AmE
    [ɕ] is the sound closest to the German [ç], yes :) I know many pages that compare the Polish [ɕ] (ś) with German [ç]. It is not a real sh, but you're right in saying that its sound gets pretty close to one.

    What you pronounced there is definitely not a real [ç], but it's also not a normal [h]. And for a [x], the sound sounds way too soft. If you ask me, it could perhaps be this phoneme [ɦ], which I know from Dutch. Some people I know say it resembles the sound of a an [x], just softer.
     
  32. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    It crossed my mind that you were pronouncing /x/, Francesco, but then I ruled it out. It just sounds like you are trying really hard to give importance to the /h/, stress it and make it heard. People who have h-less languages tend to do that. They also have teachers at school that really push it. I knew a Ukrainian lady who got angry at some anglophones for pronouncing the /h/ too soft. She said she couldn't hear the "h's" and her teachers back in Ukraine had said it had to be a very important audible sound. It's usually a weak sound, like an aspiration, in English. I pronounce it in human but don't in words like have, him, her, he, here.
     
  33. Dan2

    Dan2 Senior Member

    US
    US English
    I wonder how literally you mean this. There are well-known weak forms involving some of these words, for ex.,
    "I can see him" -> "I c'n see'im"
    but do you really pronounce "over here" as "over ear", even in informal speech? "Her book is on the table" as "Er book ..."? Do you say, "I was talking to 'im, not 'er"?

    Admittedly the h-words are contrastively stressed in the last example; but not in the first two. And more importantly, compare the words above to "hour" and "honor". These words have no /h/ no matter how strongly stressed they are. I'm concerned that when you say categorically, "I don't pronounce the /h/ in 'here', etc" you are suggesting to our non-NS readers that "here", etc are words like "hour".
     
  34. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    Well, I don't think it is a [ɦ] either, which is a voiced glottal fricative, i.e. the voiced version of [h]. I think the aspirated sounds should be mostly voiceless. At least, this [ɦ] doesn't sound aspirate to me.
    I know because this phoneme exists in my native Chinese dialect, distinct from /h/.
    According to Wikipedia, in RP is an allophone of intervocalic /h/.

    Maybe you are right. In Italy a lot of people even pronounce "I'm" as /haim/ for hypercorrection. :)
    It's true that when speaking English I always pronouce a quite strong /h/ to make it heard.
    But as I said above, /h/ is a sound that exists in my native dialect, and perhaps even being the same phoneme, it could be pronounced slightly differently.
    Another difficulty is that in my native dialect, /h/ never appears in front of /i/ or /jV/, that makes the pronunciation quite difficult for me.

    When I speak Mandarin Chinese, I probably pronounce a [h] which is the sound of my native dialect, instead of the Standard Mandarin sound /x/. I've notived that when saying some words, such as the famous ni hao in casual speech, sometimes I would pronounce it as [niɦao~ni.ao]. I've noticed that my dad also makes a lot this reduction.
    Probably it's unversal that the /h/ sounds gets weakened or disappears in, indeed, "weak forms".
    But Northern people that speak more Standard Mandarin with /x/ sound never do these kinds of reduction.
     
  35. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    A bit of background information:

    In West-Germanic, [x] and [ç] were originally allophonic variants of /h/. [h] was the realization at the beginning of a syllable and [x] or [ç] at the end of a syllable. This is why "gh" in English and "ch" in German and Scots (in Scots it exists of course but then represents a palatalized "k" //) never occurs at the beginning of a word (except for foreign words).

    Perception of initial /h/ as [
    ç] in in front of certain vowels and consonants seems to have existed already in old West-Germanic languages: Old-Franconian names are often spelled in Latin with initial CH- where etymologically H- would be expected. An example where /hi-/ or /hɪ-/ was obviously perceived as [çi-] of [çɪ-] is the name of the Merovingian king Childeric (Inscription on his signet ring:CHILDERICI REGIS). The name contains the root hild- or hilt- = fight.

    Syllable final /h/ was and and in many languages and dialects still is realized as [x] with variant [ç] depending on the preceding sound. Dutch & Swiss German never do this, Austrian and Bavarian only in after /i/, Standard German after /i:/, /ɪ/, /e/, /ɛ/, /ɛ:/ and all consonants, some dialects of Scots after /i/ or /ɪ/ (it's a bricht moonlicht nicht, the nicht).
     
  36. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    The /h/ in front of /i/ "blends" into the vowel which it doesn't do in front of /j/. You could describe this is a transition [çɦi-] with a very short and faint [ç] component. You can check this by saying heat and human and touching your larynx with thumb and index finger. You will feel the vibration caused by voicing more or less right away while you will notice a delay when saying human.
     
  37. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    It does sound somewhat [x]-like, which makes sense, because without the [j], the sound might easily assimilate to the back vowel /u/ and so become [x] instead of [ç].

    As for [ɦ], I think it's presence is unrelated to [ç] and [x]; it typically shows up intervocalically in English: behind → ~[bəɦɑɪnd].
     
  38. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    I was only thinking of cases when I don't pronounce "h" when I wrote the message. I didn't mean to sound categorical. Perhaps I should have added "often". I'm certainly not advising dropping "h's" either. I don't advocate any pronunciation actually. I link words with "h" like the ones I suggested to the preceding word and don't pronounce it. Even if I don't make the contraction I say "I 'ave a book" probably not "over ear". If I'm stressing the "h" or it's at the beginning of the word I do usually pronounce it, so I wouldn't say "er book" or "ee is" or "ave a nice day".


    Yes, I hear those hypercorrections all the time in France. "High hunderstand" is frequent. High school teachers really stress the "h" so students fear not pronouncing something important but curiously enough these teachers forget to teach distinguishing "it, eat" or "seat, sit, set", the vowel of "look as opposed to Luke" or other things like linking words together, question/declaration intonation, stressed-time rhythm etc. For me "think versus sink" is also important. In my list of do's and don't's "h" is at the bottom of the priorities.

    I hear a Chinese class going on from afar every day. The teacher is from Beijing. I noticed there were lots of /x/ and /r/ sounds. She says a lot of "Woah sure".
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  39. Youngfun

    Youngfun Senior Member

    Pekino, Ĉinujo
    Chinese/Italian - bilingual
    When I try to say hhhhhhhhh, I don't feel any vibration, but when I say /hi/ or /hju/ I can feel a little.

    I learnt none of the things you said at school, but as self-taught, with a lot of conversation and listenings, and English courses outside school more focused on oral practice.
    It's just strange that "th" becomes s/z in some countries like China, France and Germany, but t/d in others like Italy.
    What seems strange to most people, is that actually taking some English courses in China helped me improve my pronuciation, not only my Italian accent got milder (maybe acquired a light Chinese accent?), but I would ask myself: why I pronounce the th as "t", but they pronounce it as "s"? Then I learned that the proper pronounciation of th is neither of two, but like something between "s" and "t".
    In China they teach us to pronounce a "s" but with the tongue out of the teeth.
    Recently I saw a research that says that listening to various foreign accents of English helps to improve the pronunciation, from my experience I can say it's true.

    "Woah sure" should be 我是 /wɔ ʂɨ˞ / = I am. The r's you hear should be [ɻ~ʐ], especially in syllable coda it's used the [ɻ] that blends together with the vowel, which sounds like a Texan r.
    My pronunciation, influenced by my native Southern dialect, should use [h] instead of /x/, and [z] instead of the initial r's, and weaker (if not at all) "r-colouring".
     
  40. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    Moderator note: Please keep focused on the topic. We are talking about /h/ here.
     
  41. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    There has been a lot made about the fact that what has been described as [ç] in English is not equivalent to the /ç/ sound in other languages that use it phonemically. I think this is something of a non-issue--given the complete lack of phonemic palatal fricatives in English, a voiced palatal approximant raised and devoiced is close enough to be considered English's version of [ç], regardless of how much this sound may differ from a similar sound in other languages.

    On top of this, the /h/ in heat may be realized lower than the /h/ in hue, but it is still closer to [ç] than it is to [h]; in fact, of the sounds for which the IPA has distinct symbols I cannot think of a single sound to which the /h/ in heat is more similar than [ç].

    I think the point of all this is that English /h/ changes in front of high vowels and approximants--taking on the features of the sound it precedes. The same thing that happens in front of /i/ and /j/ happens in front of /u/ and /w/: /hu/ → ~[xuː], /hwɪʧ/ → ~[ʍɪʧ]. We might be fooled by the fact that there are different symbols involved here, but that is an artifact of the IPA's preferential attention given to European languages, especially English. Much like we have a symbol showing the realized combination /hw/, we could have a symbol showing the realized combination /hj/; we could also have a separate symbol showing the initial sound of heat and hoot as being something in between an approximant and fricative.

    The situation looks messy when we try to categorize all the sounds involved using just the symbols of the IPA; it would be much more straight-forward to think of the processes in terms of the feature changes taking place:

    [+glottal +fricative -voice] + [+glide +voice] → [+'fricative glide' -voice]

    This covers the processes in words with /hj/ and /hw/ combinations. Similarly for our high vowels:

    [+glottal +fricative -voice] + [+vowel +high] → [+'fricative high vowel' -voice]

    This, I believe, more accurately covers the processes involved while avoiding the difficulties of trying to understand everything in terms of what sounds the creators of the IPA thought important-enough to devote separate symbols to.

    JE
     
  42. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I always agreed with that, i.e.[ç] in human. The disagreement was about heat.

    It seems we have a fundamental problem here to agreeing what actually constitutes an [h]. The sound you hear in who is still compatible with the general definition, especially taking into account this:
    It may have a glottal place of articulation. However, it may have no fricative articulation, in which case the term 'glottal' only refers to the nature of its phonation, and does not describe the location of the stricture nor the turbulence.

    By postulating a [ç] in heat and a [x] in who you imply the slightest hint of a palatal constriction constitutes already a [ç] and the slightest hint of a velar constriction a [x]. And I reject that view.

    The word which never ever in the history of English contained an /h/. /ʍ/ has always been a phoneme in its own right. In most modern varieties, /ʍ/ and /w/ are merged, i.e. witch and which sound the same. But that is a different story.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2012
  43. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    I suppose to summarize your theory, you believe there is a roaming /h/ in English that moves from /x/ to /ç/ to /h/ with possible sounds in the middle depending on what vowel sound follows it.
    I'm a bit skeptical as I think I pronounce a weak /h/ wherever, but perhaps there is some movement, but not much... Who as /xu:/ definitely not.
    Do you really make this difference between "which" and "witch"?
     
  44. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    About 15% of English native speakers in the US and Canada maintain the distinction between /w/ and /ʍ/. In England and Wales, the distinction has completely disappeared. If it occurs, it is usually hyper-correct because children learn(ed?) in school that it "ought" to sound differently. In Scottish accents, the difference is usually maintained.

    Your comment reminds me of the characterization of /h/ as an "unvoiced vowel" you sometimes hear. This might help to explain why the the /h/ is human is [ç] bit [h] in heat and who: While the [ç] in human is the unvoiced counterpart of [j], the [h] in heat is the unvoiced counterpart of and the [h] in who is the unvoiced counterpart of and not [x] which is the unvoiced counterpart of [ɣ].
     
  45. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast


    An unvoiced vowel, well there still is aspiration which would make it a consonant. This discussion reminds me a bit of the n and m in Spanish which change to /m/, /n/ /ɳ/ /ɲ/ /ŋ/ depending on the consonant that follows. But that's another thread.

    I remember a nursery rhyme. "If two witches watch two watches, which witch would watch which watch?" so I don't think I or my teachers ever made that distinction.
     
  46. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    Minnesota
    English - AE
    That has not been an intended implication at all; the sounds are [ç]-like and [x]-like in the sense that they involve similar oral constrictions; but the sounds are not exactly [ç] and [x], nor are the constrictions as complete as in [ç] and [x].

    In that case, neither has the word human—absolutely no native speaker of English pronounces this word with an [h].

    Then I think we could argue phonemicity of /çj/ as well, since it creates minimal pairs with /j/ in words such as hue, you. The same process is involved for turning /w/ into [ʍ] as for turning /j/ into [çj] (i.e., devoicing combined with a slight raising of the tongue to create a stricture), and so if /ʍ/ is phonemic there is no excuse for /çj/ not to be as well.

    Or, instead of adding phonemes to the English language as it pleases us, we can simply accept that English has an allophonic process that melds the properties of /h/ with following high vowels and glides. I think a smaller phonemic inventory with a few rules is preferable, especially when the rules can be applied to whole sound classes and involve all the same variations.

    Anyway, I might be going slightly off topic...

    JE
     
  47. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    I add nothing. It has been an independent phoneme at least for the last 6000 years. The Romans spelt it "qu" as in "quo", In Greek it became "t" or "p" as in "to" (Latin "quo") or "hippos" (Latin "equus") and the English reflex was spelled "hw" in Old English and "wh" since Middle English.
     
  48. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    "Aspiration" and "unvoiced vowel" pretty much express the same idea. If you describe [ha] as an "unvoiced a" followed by a "voiced a" or as an [a] with aspiration is the same thing.
    These things are very well researched and the percentage I gave isn't my invention. Look for "wine-whine merger" in any textbook.
     
  49. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    France
    USA Northeast
    But I'm not doubting what you say in any way, Berndf :confused::). I know very well these two phonemes existed historically and are still distinguished in certain areas. I just meant to say they don't exist in my environment. Just saw the following:
    That didn't occur in my school.
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2012
  50. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    If you re-read my post you will notice that this comment was about England and Wales where the wine-whine merger is complete and any distinction of the two is a hyper-correction.Did you attend school in England or Wales?
     

Share This Page