Quantity in Slovak and in British English

 Renáta Gregová 


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Data sheet

Author:Renáta Gregová
Year of publication:2012
Edition:1st edition
Document type:Monograph
Publication language:Slovak
Number of pages:154
Faculty:Faculty of Arts
Department:Department of British and American Studies

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The monograph presents a comparative analysis of quantity (syllabic length) behaviour in standard Slovak and in British English with concentration on the phonic materialization and phonological application of this sound phenomenon in English.

            The introductory chapter of the work (chapter I) indicates the basic methodological problems that accompany the research of the given sound phenomenon in languages as different as Slovak and English definitely are. The ‘theoretical’ part of the work is opened by the phonetic and phonemic delimitation of syllable in both languages (chapter II). Since it is well-known that although linguists agree on the fact that native language users usually can intuitively count the number of syllables in a word, linguistic definitions of the substance, origin, structure and function of this unit are not uniformly subscribed to. Then the phonetic and phonemic characteristics of syllabic nuclei follows (chapter III). The emphasis is laid on the articulatory-acoustic description of vocalic segments and the delimitation of their distinctive features. The important portion of the theoretical part of the monograph is presented by the summary of theories about the function of quantity in Slovak and (British) English (chapter IV) and about the relationship of this prosodic feature to other suprasegments, especially to stress and rhythm. Quantity – the prosodic phenomenon signalled by the duration of the articulatory air stream – is realised on sonantic phones/phonemes. The quantitative measurements of segments (phones) pronounced in continuous sentences in Slovak have shown that the individually realised lengths of sounds (phones) depend on the actual speed of the utterance, its pace. The experimental research on quantity realisation in standard Slovak (Sabol 1984) has shown that the sound materialization of this suprasegmental phenomenon is influenced also by other factors. First, the speed of the utterance (tempo, pace) is connected with the semantic ‘saturation’ of the text which is significantly differentiated according to the style of speech. Thus, if the relation between quantity and tempo is included, the language style to which the analysed text belongs must be taken into consideration. Next, the duration of a sound is influenced by the placement of the long syllable in a given word.  The closer the proximity of the syllable containing a long syllabicity bearer to the beginning of a word, the more accurate the realisation of the long sonant is. Additionally, the results of experimental research have also shown that sonant duration depends on the vocalic type of the phone on which the long chrona is realised, on the sound environment, i. e. on the sound character of the preceding and the following consonant, on the type of morpheme with the long sonant, and on the stressed/unstressed character of the given syllable (co-operation of quantity and stress). As to the English language, the quantity of English vowels is not absolute, as it is, for example, in Czech or in Slovak, but is relative. The duration of an English vocalic segment depends on the character of the following consonant, on its tension (voice), and on the stressed or unstressed character of the syllable in which the given vowel occurs.  A vowel in a stressed syllable is always longer than a corresponding vowel in an unstressed syllable. The lengthening or shortening of English vowels is also influenced by the final position in a word or a sentence, since a stressed syllable in a word’s final position is always the longest.

            The core of the monograph (chapter V) is the presentation of the results of an analysis of the extensive research material. The material starting point for phonetic analysis is the recordings of news broadcasting from radio stations whose pronunciation styles can be considered standard in both languages. The recordings in standard Slovak are those of Rádio Východ. While those in English are from the BBC because of its use of Received Pronunciation (RP English). With regard to the fact that not all varieties of English have the same number of phonemes and that there are not the same pronunciation rules in all varieties of English, it is the RP that serves as the basis for description of the sound level of British English in most works on phonetics and phonology.

            The main aim of the experimental phonetic research was the application of the factors that have influence on the length of syllables in Slovak on the English research material. The results of this comparative/contrastive research are presented in the Conclusion (chapter VII).

            In chapter VI, there is the statistical processing of the data about the length of sonantic nuclei in both compared languages.

            The monograph also contains the Appendix. It encompasses the graphic representations of the time realisation of an acoustic signal of all Slovak and English vowels in the form of oscillograms and sonagrams.  The detailed Summary in the English language (chapter VIII) ends the monograph. 


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