With renewed attention to pronunciation in language teaching, has come a revival of interest in the concept of “Articulatory Setting”. However, historically there has been considerable inconsistency in the understanding of this notion. The terms “Basis of Articulation” (BA), commonly used on the Continent and the predominantly British “Articulatory Setting” (AS) are usually considered synonyms.  However, BA was originally conceived as a language specific posture of the tongue maintained in speech-ready and inter-speech positions (ISP). According to modern research, this posture is related to the language specific centre of mass of the tongue. It affects all aspects of speech production such as vowel quality, place of articulation etc. This gross position generally corresponds to the articulations of language specific “neutral” vowels and hesitation vowels.

Contrarily, AS is usually presented as a “nexus” of “particular articulations of individual speech sounds” or some “long-term muscular tensions” of articulatory organs. Therefore, BA and AS refer to two distinct aspects of speech articulation: the static and the dynamic. They should not be confused.

Recently a view of language as a complex system that emerges from the interaction of its components has been gaining support. Such a system is considered as heterogeneous i.e. made up of both agents and elements and including subsystems “nested” in one another. The agents, elements and subsystems of a complex system are in a state which can be described as “mutual causality”, but such relations are not always symmetrical and there may be some agents which exert more influence and form a nucleus of stability of the system. The BA could be one such global agent.

This does not mean that the well established notion of AS should be discarded. It should remain as a convenient and well accepted all-inclusive umbrella term. The notion of the AS as a “Dynamic System” is well established; therefore, by including BA as one of its elements, we can elevate it to a “Complex Dynamic System”. In this way both concepts can be used for what they really are: the causative static agent or “basis” in the case of the BA and the complex system or “nexus”, comprising both static and dynamic aspects, for the AS. The special role of the BA within such a system is that of a causative agent and a stabilising centre.

This approach has some interesting implications for pronunciation teaching. If a language specific BA is indeed an active agent in the complex system of speech production then training students to be aware of it and to be able to change it to match as closely as possible the BA of a target language could lead to a natural and systemic change in both vowel and consonant quality, leading to more native-like pronunciation.

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