Edward Sapir (18841939). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. 1921.
of articulation that we are not familiar with, such as the typical dental position of Russian or Italian t and d; or the cerebral position of Sanskrit and other languages of India, in which the tip of the tongue articulates against the hard palate. As there is no break at any point between the rims of the teeth back to the uvula nor from the tip of the tongue back to its root, it is evident that all the articulations that involve the tongue form a continuous organic (and acoustic) series. The positions grade into each other, but each language selects a limited number of clearly defined positions as characteristic of its consonantal system, ignoring transitional or extreme positions. Frequently a language allows a certain latitude in the fixing of the required position. This is true, for instance, of the English k-sound, which is articulated much further to the front in a word like kin than in cool. We ignore this difference, psychologically, as a non-essential, mechanical one. Another language might well recognize the difference, or only a slightly greater one, as significant, as paralleling the distinction in position between the k of kin and the t of tin.
The organic classification of speech sounds is a simple matter after what we have learned of their production. Any such sound may be put into its proper place by the appropriate answer to four main questions:What is the position of the glottal cords during its articulation? Does the breath pass into the mouth alone or is it also allowed to stream into the nose? Does the breath pass freely through the mouth or is it impeded at some point and, if so, in what manner? What are the precise points of articulation in the mouth? 13 This four-fold
Note 13. Points of articulation must be understood to include tongue and lip positions of the vowels. [back]