Monday, October 5, 2009

Differentiating Between Phonemes - Theta and Eth

While teaching my class last week I was looking for a better way to illustrate the difference between the "theta" and "eth" phonemes because they are particularly hard for some people to differentiate.

I came across a wonderful post on Notes from a Linguistic Mystic that I have excerpted below:

A Tale of Two TH’s

Say “This thistle” a few times. Now, pay very close attention to the TH sounds at the beginning of each word. Put your hand on your Adam’s Apple (or equivalent area on your neck) while you say them. After a few tries, you’ll notice that, in the words of a friend of mine, the “TH” in “This” is “more buzzy”, or, put more scientifically, voiced. This sound, the TH in “This, That, The, There, Then, Those…”, is called an Eth (pronounced with a voiced, Eth sound). In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), it has this symbol:

The TH in “thistle”, or “theater, theory, think, thought, throw, through…” is called a Theta, and is Eth’s voiceless counterpart (Theta is to Eth as T is to D). Theta’s IPA symbol is, shockingly, a theta, as shown here: Aside from voicing, there is no difference between them. The sounds are produced with the tongue in the same position, the tongue is doing the same thing for both, and all the other various phonetic phactors (I couldn’t resist) are the same. The only difference between the the Theta and the Eth is vocal fold vibration, but what a difference it makes.

-Thank you Linguistic Mystic, this is one of the pest (Oops, I meant to say 'best' but I temporarily lost my voice) examples I have seen.


Lidz said...

ðɪs ɪntræktɪv çart ɪz gret! It has many different examples of how each phoneme looks and sounds

Wordacious said...

Lidz - Thanks for sharing. It is a great chart and I have actually included a link to it on BlackBoard for my class.

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