Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Comparison of Consonant Sounds of English and Urdu Languages

Subject: Phonetics and Phonology

Assignment: Comparison of Consonant Sounds of English and Urdu Languages


Phonetics is “scientific study of the production, transmission and reception of speech sounds.” It studies all possible speech sounds, whereas, Phonology is the branch of linguistics which studies the sound system in a language. Bloomfield argues “Phonology is the organization of sounds into patterns”. So the subject “Phonetics and Phonology” we study the description and classification of speech sound as well as the principles that govern the way the sounds are organized in languages and to explain the variations that occur.

The assignment which we are supposed to submit is also based on the study of Consonant sounds. The assignment includes the basic characteristics of Urdu and English Phonology, in which some common and uncommon characteristics of both of the languages are discussed in detail. After then a comparison is carried out between the Consonant sounds of Urdu and English languages with respect to its characteristics. As we are the native speakers of Urdu Language but non-native speakers of the English language, so this comparison will eliminate the ambiguities of the English language in our minds as well as point out the differences in both languages.

In this assignment a speech analysis is also being carried out of a connected speech with reference to the place of articulation, manner of articulation and its aspiration. This analysis pointed out major mistakes in pronunciation which are followed by recommendations. Keeping in view the whole assignment, a conclusion is also deduced.

English and Urdu Phonology

English and Urdu, both languages have some common characteristics which are based on
1) Place of articulation 2) Manner of articulation and 3) Aspiration (voiced/voiceless)

Place of articulation tells us where the consonants are produced. For each consonant two parts of the mouth are involved, and the name given to it reflects it. Starting from the front, some consonants are made using both lips and these are called bilabial consonants. The sound made by an interaction between the tongue and the teeth are just dental sounds. When you run your tongue back behind your teeth, you come to a bony ridge called an alveolar ridge, several sounds are made on or just behind the ridge. It produces either alveolar or palato-alveolar sounds. Moving back from alveolar ridge you come to a hard but smoother zone called the hard palate.

Notice that there is now a difference in the way the tongue is used. The velum is the soft part of the palate, closest to the throat. It is the body of the tongue. The sounds produced are called velar sounds. And the only sound left /h/ is produced by air passing from the windpipe through the vocal cords, or glottis. It’s a glottal sound.

After Place of articulation, we need to consider Manner of Articulation, which tells us how consonants are produced. The comparison of the consonants of English and Urdu language is mainly based on Place of articulation and Manner of articulation. Most important categories are: Plosive sounds also called stop sounds are formed by the air being completely blocked in the mouth and then suddenly released.


Starting with the plosives, in English phonology /p/ and /b/ are plosives having bilabial articulation. /p/ is voiceless and /b/ is voiced. The alternatives for these sounds in Urdu phonology are /pe/ (پ)and /bay/(ب) which are denoted be /p/ and /b/ respectively. These plosives have the same characteristics as that of English plosives. /t/ and /d/ are alveolar sounds. They are plosives. /t/ is voiceless and /d/ is voiced. In Urdu phonology the same symbols /t/ and /d/ have a matching characteristics where /t/ is pronounced as /te/ (ت) and /d/ as /dāl/ (د). But in comparison with /t/ and /d/ plosives of the English language we come across sounds /ʈ/ and /ɖ/ pronounced as /ṭe/ (ٹ) and /āl/ (ڈ). /ʈ/ is voiceless and /ɖ/ is voiced. They are plosives but differ because they are retroflex i.e. post-alveolar (without being palatalized). Their sounds are quite matching with that of English plosives.