Chapter 3: Transcribing Speech Sounds
1. The video indicated that the word funnel can be transcribed to indicate that the second syllable consists of a syllabic [l̩]. The word elbow is also spelled with the letters ‘el’. Say the two words to yourself several times. Which is the correct transcription for elbow?
2. The words human and manager both contain a syllable that is spelled with the letters ‘man’. In which word does that syllable contain a syllabic [n̩]?
3. In the word umbrella, is the [m] syllabic?
These sonorous consonants can sometimes serve as the nucleus of a syllable in their own right. In other words, there are some syllables that don’t have a vowel at all, just a sonorous consonant. Let’s look at some examples.
In the word rhythm, the second syllable is unstressed, and it’s pretty short. Most of the time, in ordinary rapid speech, that second syllable doesn’t have a vowel in it at all. Our articulators go right from the [ð] sound at the end of the first syllable into the [m] sound. The [m] itself becomes the nucleus of the syllable. It is said to be a syllabic consonant, and we use a special notation to transcribe it: [ɹɪðm̩]. Look at that little vertical line below the [m] symbol — that’s called a diacritic. Diacritics are special additional notations we add to IPA symbols to give extra information about the sounds. That vertical line is the diacritic for a syllabic consonant.
Here’s an example of a liquid consonant becoming syllabic. When we speak the word funnel, we don’t produce a vowel in the second, unstressed syllable. Instead, we pronounce the [l] as a syllabic [l̩], so that it is the nucleus of the syllable. The notation is the same, with the diacritic for the syllabic [l̩]: [fʌnl̩].