Ah the Alvelor Ridge Isn t dat were de dese dose and deres come from. Just wondering. When I asked one of more articulat Chinese colleagues about the /th/Message 1 of 17 , Aug 30, 2001View SourceAh the Alvelor Ridge
Isn't dat were de dese dose and deres come from.
When I asked one of more articulat Chinese colleagues about
the /th/ problem, he explained that it has two basic root
causes. First /th/ is not a natural chinese sound thus
they have never tried to enunciate /th/. Second to place
ones tongue between their teeth is a cultural taboo because
it is a sign of great disrespect much like our more extreme
'sticking ones tongue out at somebody'.
Thus they have two very major problems to overcome.
I am surprised no one has mentioned that in fact there are two th sounds in English, one is the voiced and the other unvoiced. The voiced the sound we hearMessage 1 of 17 , Aug 31, 2001View SourceI am surprised no one has mentioned that in fact
there are two "th" sounds in English, one is the voiced
and the other unvoiced. The voiced the sound we hear
in the words "The" "This" "These" "Those", etc.
Whereas the unvoiced is the sound we hear words
like "Think" "Thin" "Although" and such like.
These two sounds are written differently in the
international phonetic alphabet. And while perhaps not
altogether important for lower level students,
ought nonetheless be something the teacher is
capable of illustrating to more advanced students
should the need arise. I find the best way to
teach sounds is simply by exaggerating them
extremely and repeating them many times.
If you speak Chinese, or in my case Korean,
comparison and switching similar sounds is also
Cheers, Ben in Korea, but coming to China
When I was a nundergraduate speech major there were two required courses we all hated. Phonetics and The Bases of Speech. The course dealt with theMessage 1 of 17 , Aug 31, 2001View SourceWhen I was a nundergraduate speech major there were two
required courses we all hated. Phonetics and The Bases of
Speech. The course dealt with the physiology of speech and
was taught by a Professor of Speech Therapy who had masterd
the art of taking something potentially interesting and
making terribly boring. Getting through this course
required endurance, perserverance and a great deal of
complaining. With the exception of the three or four
Speech Ed majors that, in our arrogance, we tended to
ignore, we were all interested in Rhetoric, Argumentation
and Persuasion. It was only after I began teaching that I
realized the importance of the speech physiology. What
little I remember from that class has paid off handsomely
here in China.
Now to the point.
The /th/ phoneme is an interdental. The tip of the tongue
is extended between the teeth. As it is enuciated, the
blade flattens so that air can pass both over and under the
The /t/ phoneme is upper-alvelor-dental plosive. The tip
of the tongue touches the back of the teeth and the alvelor
ridge simultaneously effectively damming the air and then
drops to allow air to pass. Whereas the /d/ is an
alvelor-plosive. To make the /d/ sound the tip of the
tongue recedes from the teeth.
Most native speakers enunciate the /d/ as a replacement for
internal /t/ in words such as /settle/, /bottle/ , etc.
With the exception of the difference in vowel formation,
the /t/ in settle and the /d/ in saddle are enunciated in
the same manner.
This is amost impossible to explain to chinese students but
I shall try here. Our tongues are basically lazy. Tongues
will do no more than is absolutely necessary to produce
understandable morphemes. There is a reason for this. Our
tongues are much more efficient than we are. The tongue is
alway preparing for the next sound in a sequence so it will
take shortcuts. Because of it's many travels the tongue
move to the /d/ position instead of /t/ on its way to the
It is able to do this because what we produce as speakers
is not always the same as what we perceive as listeners .
Thus our production of /d/ is perceived as /t/ because we
"know" that the word /settle/ has internal /t/. Likewise
we will percieve /d/ as /d/ in "saddle" because we "know"
that "saddle" contains internal /d/.
We will also change a terminal /t/ to a /d/ or eliminate
the terminal /t/ depending on the initial phoneme the next
word in the sequence. This is the result oif word
compression. For example,
if we see a small child climbing precariously to reach
we may yell "geddown from there." We will percieve 'get
What I find, even from my very best students and even the
Chinese english speakers is that their pronunciation is
often so precises that it is annoying. Of course I would
never tell them their diction is annoying.
The biggest problem we have in teaching /th/ or any other
non-chinese phoneme, is that they have no bases of
perception for a particular phoneme. They cannot hear /th/
Teaching them the /th/ is purely mechanical, much like
trying to teach the deaf to speak.
In retrospect perhaps a course in teaching speech to the
hearing impaired might be a good idea. The pedagogy will
readily translate to what we are trying to do.
Does anybody here know anybody at Gaulladet Uiversity?
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Hey, A native speaker doesn t have to be a rocket scientist to try to say th by putting the tongue on the alveolar ridge, then trying again by putting theMessage 1 of 17 , Aug 31, 2001View SourceHey,
A native speaker doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to try to say "th" by
putting the tongue on the alveolar ridge, then trying again by putting the
forward part of the tongue (as opposed to the very tip) between the teeth,
and trying to say "th".
The sound is made by air passing OVER the tongue and UNDER the upper teeth.
By placing the tongue tip on the alveolar ridge, one blocks the natural flow
of air, kind of forcing it around the sides of the tongue instead of over the
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
I was told to have your students place their index finger against their lips and pronounce the TH sound. They should be doing it correctly if the tip ofMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 1, 2001View SourceI was told to have your students place their index finger against their lips
and pronounce the 'TH' sound. They should be doing it correctly if the tip
of their tongue is touching the finger.
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in reply to George R (or grose, whatever) My spanish linguistics teacher (that is he was both a spaniad and a linguist and a teacher of the linguistics ofMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 1, 2001View Sourcein reply to George R (or grose, whatever) My spanish linguistics teacher (that is he was both a spaniad and a linguist and a teacher of the linguistics of spanish) taught at Gaulladet for two year while a visiting scholar. he loved it, but at the time (he admits with a little rue) he was busy with the John Krashen theories of teaching language. hmmmm, maybe it cured him, he didn't say.
also, because of the tongues inherent laziness/efficiency and due to phonemic interpretation (to disagree with Charles in Japan on phonemic theory) there is (according to all my various and sundry linguistics and phonetics teachers this funny phonemic variant of /t/ and /d/ that is called a "flap" and is usually marked with and upsidedown and backwards "r".
the flap is marked this way because it's closest phonetic cousin is a trilled "r" in either french, spanish or dutch, with the dutch, by my guess being the closest. it replaces the /t/ and /d/ when they are between two vowels, either word internal or inhalation phrase internal, and is different from the /t/ and /d/ only in the fact that there is less plosion and the fact that it is always voiced (because of its placement between vowels.
it is in the "r" family of sounds because we make some of our "r"'s in this region the tip of the tongue near the alveolar ridge, but this is where trills are made, so it is classed as an "r". silly classification for us really, probably because the early phonetics work was done by some swiss person (little linguist joke, haha).
all of this is practically useless for teaching our students however, i think. for accent reduction it does become important, and if we were working with advanced students it is valuable.
my point earlier had to do with this other variant of the "th" which is also made around the alveolar ridge. it happens infrequently i think, but i find it in a phrase such as "bathe him" where the "th" is naturally voiced and, when the "h: of him is dropped, falls between two vowels. of course i can't remember the last time i said "bathe him", so i think it is moot in that case, but it is also possible in something like "in there" when spoken rapidly the "n" would just nasalize the "i" the tongue would already be tipped on the alveolar ridge and "th" would be between vowels and the tongue would tend to just approach the alveolar ridge to produce the fricative. too close and you get "in dere" which is a common dialect practice in my home area.
still, while i find it interesting (i hadn't recognized that this happened, although i can feel it in certain cases like the above) i still think we've discussed it to death and i hope that all of us will teach the "th" as an interdental fricative and not as one of it's curious and interesting variants
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Great idea!!! ... [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]Message 1 of 17 , Sep 1, 2001View SourceGreat idea!!!
> I was told to have your students place their index finger against their lips[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> and pronounce the 'TH' sound. They should be doing it correctly if the tip
> of their tongue is touching the finger.
Hi Jim I agree with you. I just try to stay away from the technical terminology because many of the list members are not linguists. I read your going awayMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 3, 2001View SourceHi Jim
I agree with you. I just try to stay away from the
technical terminology because many of the list members are
not linguists. I read your going away message with a sense
of sadness because I do enjoy your postings and find them
I, and I am sure that many others will miss your presence.
Do drop a line or two from time to time.
Have a good year
My best to you and your family.
... their lips ... the tip ... A quick survey of Brits, Australians, Americans, Canadians and Chinese revealed that when saying This is the thing I wasMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 3, 2001View Source"Stephen Jobson" wrote:
> I was told to have your students place their index finger againsttheir lips
> and pronounce the 'TH' sound. They should be doing it correctly ifthe tip
> of their tongue is touching the finger.A quick survey of Brits, Australians, Americans, Canadians and Chinese
revealed that when saying "This is the thing I was thinking about'
none of them touched their finger with their tongue.
I know two people who put their tongue between their teeth to form
'th". They were trained to do this by a speech therapist because they
had a speech defect.
I think that teaching learners to protrude their tongues in this
manner may make them noticeable and may lessen their communicative
I suggest teaching them to do more or less as you do when making the
sound in connected speech, unless you come from Sam Weller's neck of
... the office repeating the above sentence several times with my finger in front of my face! However, I did discover (as a British Australian!!)that I do notMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 4, 2001View Source
>the office repeating the above sentence several times with my finger in front
>A quick survey of Brits, Australians, Americans, Canadians and Chinese
>revealed that when saying "This is the thing I was thinking about'
>none of them touched their finger with their tongue.
>Well, I'm sure all my colleages are now convinced I'm crazy after sitting in
of my face! However, I did discover (as a British Australian!!)that I do not
touch my finger but the tip of my tongue is still between my teeth. As long
as it doesn't impede communication or give an inappropriate paralinguistic
message, who cares!!
... and due to phonemic interpretation (to disagree with Charles in Japan on phonemic theory) there is (according to all my various and sundry linguistics andMessage 1 of 17 , Sep 4, 2001View Source--- In teflchina@y..., nobodie@n... wrote (in part):
> also, because of the tongues inherent laziness/efficiencyand due to phonemic interpretation (to disagree with Charles
in Japan on phonemic theory) there is (according to all my
various and sundry linguistics and phonetics teachers this
funny phonemic variant of /t/ and /d/ that is called
a "flap" and is usually marked with and upsidedown and
>One problem with a theory that seeks to explain how language
is spoken because of what the tongue wants is that it might
not take into account what the ears easily hear. A tongue
that has to repeat itself with emphasis actually ultimately
does more work. Spoken language is pushed and pulled between
the needs of the speaker and the listener (just as writing
systems have to fit the needs of those who write and those
who read). Going toward language that is rather indistinct
and overlaps sounds (features) might make it faster for the
speaker, but this only has to be optimized to the level of
how fast a listener can take it in (which has physical
limits--say 300 wpm as a ballpark estimate). Rate of output
way beyond that point does not contribute to the efficiency
of production or reception since it would cause a breakdown
Different languages, dialects, and accents arrive at
different sets/constellations of articulatory gestures to
get the job done. If there is considerable overlap of
grammar and lexicon, then mutually intelligible forms of
languages can exist, despite quite a bit of variation in
things are pronounced.
Any number of ways could arrive at basically the same speed
of output for optimum reception and would be well below our
maximum speed of output if our lazy tongues ruled our heads.
But what would be the point of being able to speak so fast
and indistinctly that no one could understand you?
About phonemes, those structuralist pimples on the ugly butt
of ELT's approaches to language.
How would you phonemically interpret the schwa? One account
is to say it is a phoneme in its own right and that when it
alternates with other vowels, this is a morphophonemic
alternation. However, what if we said the schwa is just a
phonetic variant of most of the vowels of English? Afterall,
there is enough phonetic similiarity to make the case.
How do you phonemically interpret vowels in languages with
diphthongs and triphthongs?
How do you phonemically interpret the 'ng' sound(s) at the
end of 'ring' or 'sing'? Native intuition is that they are
two sounds--or two concurrent features (which is why no one
has a real problem with the digraph). But you could put
these words into minimal pairs and come up with all sorts of
contrasts. Ring vs. rig. , sing vs. sin, etc. One phonemic
account might make the sound fall under the same category
as /h/--except the problem of phonetic similarity then
I believe that the 'phoneme' does not hold up to any close
linguistic scrutiny of how languages are actually spoken and
understood. Real speech doesn't naturally segment--we don't
speak in blips of Morse code. You can artificially segment
spoken English, for example, but the sounds you will
encounter will far exceed the 44-48 inventories phonemicists
The phoneme can't be found in the mouth, it can't be found
in the air coming out of the mouth, it can't be found in the
air going to someone's ear, and it can't be found in
someone's ear. So then it's supposed to be a socially
(structuralist) or psychologically real object, in which
case we hardly need phonetic criteria to delimit it. And
this is why phonetic analysis of phonemes always flounders
on phonological nonsense.