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202 Channel Surfing Tuning into the Sounds of English Kristy Beers Fägersten In this chapter, in which the subjects of phonetics and phonology are introduced and illustrated, no one single television series is featured. Rather, a number of different series and episodes are invoked, the reason being that phonetics and phonology are concerned with the sound system of a language, most readily observable in pronunciation. If, as in the other chapters of this volume, our choice of featured television series was based on which one distinguishes itself by illustrating phonetic and phonological features and the sound patterns of English, there would be many candidates: all of the television series included in this volume, for example, feature spoken dialogue, and thus their characters routinely produce and exemplify the sounds of English. However, phonetics and phonology are fundamentally about studying and describing the discrete features and properties of the sounds of a language, and to a large extent, this practice highlights the differences between sounds. As experienced speakers, we are accustomed to both producing and recognizing different sounds. We are furthermore able to process various combinations of different sounds, which we in turn recognize as different words. All of this we do constantly and probably without even noticing—until, that is, I would like to thank Philip Carr, professor of linguistics at Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, for his contribution to this chapter and guidance in identifying and explaining key terms and concepts of phonetics and phonology. Any errors or misrepresentations in this chapter are solely my own. Channel Surfing | 203 we encounter a deviation, for example a foreign accent or a mispronunciation . Our awareness of sounds and maybe even of their production process is suddenly raised when we encounter pronunciations very different from our own. Few television series, however, feature a cast of characters with wildly deviant pronunciation patterns—this would risk compromising intelligibility. But many series feature characters with noticeable accents, many series have included episodes in which an important mispronunciation occurs, and many series have developed story lines that highlight pronunciation or the production of sounds. Therefore, in this chapter, we will be engaging in the familiar pastime of channel surfing, encountering a number of different series whose titles will help illustrate the sounds of English, and some episodes of which will allow us to focus on differences between these sounds. This channel surfing will help us raise our awareness of the phonetic and phonological properties of English. Before moving on, however, it is important to point out that this chapter differs from the other chapters of this volume in yet another way. The linguistic concepts presented here are, in comparison, not as obviously self-contained. That is to say, that despite the fact that background and contextual information are provided along with the dialogue extracts being analyzed, the actual sounds on which we wish to focus can only be represented graphically in this written medium. Ideally, the reader would have the possibility to actually listen to the featured episodes, but this chapter attempts to eliminate listening as a necessity by introducing and explaining both the sound system of English and the linguistic conventions used to capture and accurately represent pronunciation. This chapter thus involves the reader in a form of what is known as reduced listening (Chion 1994; Schaeffer 1968), which is a “listening mode that focuses on the traits of the sound itself, independent of its cause and of its meaning” (Chion 1994, 1). Proper reduced listening is thus actually a very abstract exercise in that it requires listeners to consider sounds extracted from their source and contextual meaning. As Michel Chion (1994, 2) observes, “it is no mean task to speak about sounds in and of themselves, if the listener is forced to describe them independently of any cause, meaning, or effect.” This chapter does not require such extremely reduced listening, 204 | Kristy Beers Fägersten but its goals are nevertheless to encourage readers to focus on discrete sounds and to provide readers with linguistic tools that will allow them to talk accurately about what they hear on TV. Phonetics vs. Phonology It is common to distinguish between phonetics, the study of human speech sounds, and phonology, the study of human language sound systems . Phonetics is concerned with the descriptive representation of the articulatory aspects of sounds, focusing on consonants and vowels. Phonology , on the other hand, considers sounds as part of a greater system. The majority of English words, for example, represent a...


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