Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
position of the movable partsthe tongue and the lips. As the tongue is raised or lowered, retracted or brought forward, held tense or lax, and as the lips are pursed (rounded) in varying degree or allowed to keep their position of rest, a large number of distinct qualities result. These oral qualities are the vowels. In theory their number is infinite, in practice the ear can differentiate only a limited, yet a surprisingly large, number of resonance positions. Vowels, whether nasalized or not, are normally voiced sounds; in not a few languages, however, voiceless vowels9 also occur.
The remaining oral sounds are generally grouped together as consonants. In them the stream of breath is interfered with in some way, so that a lesser resonance results, and a sharper, more incisive quality of tone. There are four main types of articulation generally recognized within the consonantal group of sounds. The breath may be completely stopped for a moment at some definite point in the oral cavity. Sounds so produced, like t or d or p, are known as stops or explosives.10 Or the breath may be continuously obstructed through a narrow passage, not entirely checked. Examples of such spirants or fricatives, as they are called, are s and z and y. The third class of consonants, the laterals, are semi-stopped. There is a true stoppage at the central point of articulation, but the breath is allowed to escape through the two side passages or through one of them. Our English d, for instance, may be readily transformed into l,
Note 9. These may be also defined as free unvoiced breath with varying vocalic timbres. In the long Paiute word quoted on page 31 the first u and the final ü are pronounced without voice. [back]
Note 10. Nasalized stops, say m or n, can naturally not be truly stopped, as there is no way of checking the stream of breath in the nose by a definite articulation. [back]