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Phonology

From Academic Kids

Phonology (Greek phone = voice/sound and logos = word/speech), or phonemics, is a subfield of grammar (see also linguistics). Whereas phonetics is about the nature of sounds (or phones) per se, phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language. For example, and in English are distinctive units of sound, (i.e., phonemes.) We can tell this from minimal pairs such as "pin" and "bin", which mean different things, but differ only in one sound.

Note that the principles of phonological theory have also been applied to the analysis of signed languages, with gestures and their relationships as the object of study.

Linguistics
Theoretical linguistics
Phonetics
Phonology
Morphology
Syntax
Semantics
Lexical semantics
Structural semantics
Prototype semantics
Stylistics
Prescription
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Applied linguistics
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Generative linguistics
Cognitive linguistics
Computational linguistics
Descriptive linguistics
Historical linguistics
Etymology
List of linguists
Contents

Phonemes and spelling

In some languages the phonemes are directly linked to spelling, i.e., a phoneme is represented by a graphical symbol or a combination of them, a letter or a letter combination. However in English different phonemes can be spelled the same way ("good" and "food" have different vowel sounds), so one should use the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) to denote phonemes. To indicate that one means names instead of phones the phoneme or sequence of phonemes is enclosed by two slashes (or solidi) " / / " (without the quotes or pluralization; see above examples).

Doing a phoneme inventory

Part of the phonological study of a language involves looking at data (phonetic transcriptions of the speech of native speakers) and trying to deduce what the underlying phonemes are and what the sound inventory of the language is.

Even though a language may make distinctions between a small number of phonemes, speakers actually produce many more phonetic sounds. Thus, a phoneme in a particular language can be pronounced in many ways.

Looking for minimal pairs forms part of the research in studying the phoneme inventory of a language. However with this method it is often not possible to detect all phonemes so other approaches are used as well. A minimal pair is a pair of words, both from the same language, that differ by only a single phoneme, and that are recognized by speakers as being two different words.

When there is a minimal pair, then those two sounds constitute separate phonemes, otherwise they are called allophones of the same underlying phoneme. For instance, voiceless stops () can be aspirated. In English, word initial voiceless stops are aspirated, whereas non word-initial voiceless stops are not aspirated (This can be seen by putting your fingers right in front of your lips and notice the difference in breathiness as you say 'pin' and 'spin'). There is no English word 'pin' that starts with an unaspirated p, therefore in English, aspirated (the means aspirated) and unaspirated [p] are allophones of an underlying phoneme /p/.

This is not true of all languages however - both Cantonese and Thai make the distinction between and , so in those languages, and are separate phonemes.

Another example... in English, the liquids and are two separate phonemes (minimal pair 'life', 'rife'); however, in Korean these two liquids are allophones of the same phoneme, and the general rule is that comes before a vowel, and doesn't (e.g. Seoul, Korea). A native speaker of Korean will tell you that the in Seoul and the in Korea are in fact the same letter. What happens is that a native Korean speaker's brain uses the underlying phoneme , and depending on the phonetic context (before a vowel or not) this phoneme gets expressed as either the sound or the sound. Another Korean speaker will hear both sounds as the underlying phoneme and think of them as the same sound. This is one reason why most people have an accent when they attempt to speak a language that they did not grow up hearing; their brains sort the sounds they hear in terms of the phonemes of their own native language.

Generative phonology

Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle presented in The Sound Pattern of English a view of phonology where a phonological representation (surface syntactic form) is a structure whose phonetic part is a sequence of units which have characteristic features. Although there are no phonemes in generative phonology, these units are often loosely referred to as phonemes, nonetheless. The features describe aspects of articulation and perception, are from a universally fixed set and have the binary values + or -. Ordered phonological rules govern how this phonological representation (also called underlying representation) is transformed into the actual pronunciation (also called surface form.) An important consequence of the great influence SPE had on phonological theory was the downplaying of the syllable and the emphasis on segments.

Change of a phoneme inventory over time

The particular sounds that a language decides to make distinctions between can change over time as new children learn the language. At one point, and were allophones in English, and these changed later into separate phonemes. This is one of the main factors of historical change of languages as described in historical linguistics (another being fast change resulting from influence by another language, e.g. French influence on English after the Norman Conquest).

Other language features studied in phonology

Stress and intonation are also part of phonology. In some languages, stress is non-phonological, e.g. in Finnish or in all ancient Germanic languages, e.g. Old Norse, Old English and Old High German as well as some modern Germanic languages such as Icelandic. However, in most modern-day Germanic languages such as German or English, stress is indeed phonologically distinctive, although there are only few minimal pairs, e.g. 'August (the name)' versus 'August (the month)' in German, or (RP) (GenAm) 'converse (to hold a conversation)' and (RP) (GenAm) 'converse (the opposite of something)' in English.

Development of the field

The posthumous work of Nicholas Trubetskoy, the Principles of Phonology (1939), is usually taken as a starting point in the history of phonology as a linguistic discipline quite distinct from phonetics.

In 1976 John Goldsmith introduced autosegmental phonology. The phonological phenomena are no longer seen as one linear sequence of segments called phonemes or feature combinations but rather as some parallel sequences of features which reside on multiple tiers.

In a course at the LSA summer institute in 1991, Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky developed Optimality Theory—an overall architecture for phonology according to which languages choose a pronunciation of a word that best satisfies a list of constraints which is ordered by importance: a lower-ranked constraint can be violated when the violation is necessary in order to obey a higher-ranked constraint. The approach was soon extended to morphology by John McCarthy and Alan Prince, and became a dominant trend in phonology of the 1990s and beyond.

Government Phonology, which originated in the early 1980s as an attempt to unify theoretical notions of syntactic and phonological structures, is based on the notion that all languages necessarily follow a small set of principles and vary according to their selection of certain binary parameters. That is, all languages' phonological structures are essentially the same, but there is restricted variation that accounts for differences in surface realizations. Principles are held to be inviolable, though parameters may sometimes come into conflict. Prominent figures include Jonathan Kaye, Jean Lowenstamm, Jean-Roger Vergnaud, Monik Charette, John Harris, and many others.

See also

External Links

Bibliography

  • Anderson, John M.; & Ewen, Colin J. (1987). Principles of dependency phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bloch, Bernard. (1941). Phonemic overlapping. American Speech, 16, 278-284.
  • Bloomfield, Leonard. (1933). Language. New York: H. Holt and Company. (Revised version of Bloomfield's 1914 An introduction to the study of language).
  • Chomsky, Noam. (1964). Current issues in linguistic theory. In J. A. Fodor & J. J. Katz (Eds.), The structure of language: Readings in the philosophy language (pp. 91-112). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Chomsky, Noam; & Halle, Morris. (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Clements, George N. (1985). The geometry of phonological features. Phonology Yearbook, 2, 225-252.
  • Clements, George N.; & Samuel J. Keyser. (1983). CV phonology: A generative theory of the syllable. Linguistic inquiry monographs (No. 9). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0-2625-3047-3 (pbk); ISBN 0-2620-3098-5 (hbk).
  • Firth, J. R. (1948). Sounds and prosodies. Transactions of the Philological Society 1948, 127-152.
  • Gilbers, Dicky; & de Hoop, Helen. (1998). Conflicting constraints: An introduction to optimality theory. Lingua, 104, 1-12.
  • Goldsmith, John A. (1979). The aims of autosegmental phonology. In D. A. Dinnsen (Ed.), Current approaches to phonological theory (pp. 202-222). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Goldsmith, John A. (1989). Autosegmental and metrical phonology: A new synthesis. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Halle, Morris. (1954). The strategy of phonemics. Word, 10, 197-209.
  • Halle, Morris. (1959). The sound pattern of Russian. The Hague: Mouton.
  • Harris, Zellig. (1951). Methods in structural linguistics. Chicago: Chicago University Press.
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  • Jakobson, Roman. (1949). On the identification of phonemic entities. Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Copenhague, 5, 205-213.
  • Jakobson, Roman; Fant, Gunnar; & Halle, Morris. (1952). Preliminaries to speech analysis: The distinctive features and their correlates. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Kaisse, Ellen M.; & Shaw, Patricia A. (1985). On the theory of lexical phonology. In E. Colin & J. Anderson (Eds.), Phonology Yearbook 2 (pp. 1-30).
  • Kenstowicz, Michael. Phonology in generative grammar. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Ladefoged, Peter. (1982). A course in phonetics (2nd ed.). London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Martinet, Andr. (1949). Phonology as functional phonetics. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Martinet, Andr. (1955). conomie des changements phontiques: Trait de phonologie diachronique. Berne: A. Francke S.A.
  • Pike, Kenneth. (1947). Phonemics: A technique for reducing languages to writing. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  • Sapir, Edward. (1925). Sound patterns in language. Language, 1, 37-51.
  • Sapir, Edward. (1933). La ralit psychologique des phonmes. Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologique, 30, 247-265.
  • de Saussure, Ferdinand. (1916). Cours de linguistique gnrale. Paris: Payot.
  • Stampe, David. (1979). A dissertation on natural phonology. New York: Garland.
  • Swadesh, Morris. (1934). The phonemic principle. Language, 10, 117-129.
  • Trager, George L.; & Bloch, Bernard. (1941). The syllabic phonemes of English. Language, 17, 223-246.
  • Trubetzkoy, Nikolai. (1939). Grundzge der Phonologie. Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague 7.
  • Twaddell, William F. (1935). On defining the phoneme. Language monograph no. 16. Language.ca:Fonologia

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