- This post is available for download as an audio file.
In this post, I'll take you through a warm-up exercise for your articulators, in particular the consonant sounds that make friction. But first I'll talk you through a little theory about consonants, and fricatives in general. If you already know about these sounds, or just want to skip right to the exercise, click here.
If the phonetic symbols in this post don’t match the symbols in the image above, please make sure that you have installed a Unicode font that includes all the IPA symbols, for example Charis SIL.Also note that some older versions of Internet Explorer and Safari have bugs that prevent the proper display of certain phonetic symbols. If you’re experiencing problems, I recommend you try the free browsers Firefox or Opera.
Consonant sounds can be categorized by three qualities:
- Where in the mouth they are made, known as "Place",
- How they are made, known as "Manner", and
- Whether the vocal folds are vibrating or not, known as "Voicing."
One of the "manners" of consonants are Fricatives, sounds that are made in such a way that they generate a friction by causing air turbulence as the sound is made. In English, the fricative consonants are heard in the paired words THose things, Vine fine, Zoo sue, Jacques shack. As you may notice, each of those fricative pairs is made in the same place, and all that makes them different from one another is their voicing. For example, TH in "those" is voiced (vd.), while th in "things" is voiceless (vs.). If you can't tell the difference right away, put your finger on your throat so that you can feel the vibration of the voiced sounds.
I'll be using the International Phonetic Alphabet to refer to these sounds, so if you're unfamiliar with these symbols, listen up:
|Spelling||as in…||IPA Symbol||Made with…|
|th (vs.)||thing||θ||tongue between the teeth|
|f (vs.)||fine||f||lower lip and upper front teeth|
|s (vs.)||Sue||s||the tongue grooving right behind the upper front teeth|
|sh (vs.)||shack||ʃ||the tongue grooving behind the alveolar ridge|
Getting your head around these pairs, [θ ð, f v, s z, ʃ ʒ] isnʼt too difficult. Only 4 of them are new symbols!
For this exercise, we're going to alternate between these pairs, in order to drill each sound's articulation, and embed its muscularity into your muscle memory. We'll work each pair individually, and then we'll put the pairs together into a much more challenging exercise. The vowel we'll work with today is our old standby, "uh," as in "cup, mother," (IPA [ʌ]). However, you could do this exercise with any vowel sound, if you wanted to.
We'll start by repeating [θʌ ðʌ] ("thuh THuh") over and over, tryinɡ to really feel the vibration on the voiced [ð] sound. Now we'll reverse that, and initiate with the voiced sound: [ðʌ θʌ] ("THuh thuh"), repeated over and over. Finally, we'll pair the two patterns: [θʌ ðʌ – ðʌ θʌ] ("thuh THuh – THuh thuh.")
From here on, we'll do exactly the same pattern with each of the other pairs. It's a fairly simple pattern: vs. vd., vd. vs., and vs. vd. – vd. vs. So that's:
[θʌ ðʌ], [ðʌ θʌ], [θʌ ðʌ – ðʌ θʌ]
[fʌ vʌ], [vʌ fʌ], [fʌ vʌ – vʌ fʌ]
[sʌ zʌ], [zʌ sʌ], [sʌ zʌ – zʌ sʌ]
[ʃʌ ʒʌ], [ʒʌ ʃʌ], [ʃʌ ʒʌ – ʒʌ ʃʌ]
Repeat each group in square brackets 5 times ( [θʌ ðʌ, θʌ ðʌ, θʌ ðʌ, θʌ ðʌ, θʌ ðʌ].)
Once you've mastered that, try grouping all the pairs into one drill:
[θʌ ðʌ, fʌ vʌ, sʌ zʌ, ʃʌ ʒʌ] (repeat 5x.)
Finally, combine the reversals into a single drill:
[θʌ ðʌ – ðʌ θʌ, fʌ vʌ – vʌ fʌ, sʌ zʌ – zʌ sʌ, ʃʌ ʒʌ – ʒʌ ʃʌ] (and repeat as often as you can bear it!)
Fricative sounds demand a little time to make them. As you work on these drills, be sure to allow each sound to take enough time without overdoing it.
- You can download this step of the warm-up in a condensed form which you can practice along with.
Next Step: Jawless Text