Languages & Cultures of East Asia

Trad 101, Sections 18-19-20-21   Fall 2000

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Lecture Outline, 10/30/00 - Phonology


the sound system of a language

What are possible sounds in the language
     English /k/, /t/, but clicks?

the patterning of sounds
     splash, spring

Whether a sequence of sounds is a possible syllable
     /kait/ 'kite'

spelling and transcription
"buy" /bai/
"I" /ai/
"taxi" /tęksi /
"women" /wimschwan/
"enough" /inschwaf/

phonemes: sounds that differentiates words

fine/vine, sip/zip, chunk/junk

/s/ and /z/ can distinguish or contrast words.
They are distinctive sounds in English.
Such distinctive sounds are called phonemes.

It is the presence of contrast that shows the phonemic distinctions.

Minimal pairs
sip/zip, fine/vine, big/pig
Two different words are identical in every way except for one sound segment that occurs in the same place in the string

1) sit/zip
2) play/plea
3) brother/sister
4) feel/fears
5) speak/speaker

Which feature distinguishes between the two sounds /s/ and /z/?
Answer: Voicing.

Other features:
     vowel quality: e.g. heat, hit, hat, hot
     stress: e.g. permit

Not all sounds that occur phonetically in a language represent separate phonemes.

top stop little kitten

top: [th]
stop: [t]
little: [flap]
kitten: [glottal]

Speakers feel all of the words have /t/ in them, at the psychological level.
They feel it is the same sound even though there are 4 ways to pronounce it.

allophones of the phoneme /t/.

phoneme /t/
predictable phonetic variants of phonemes
choice between [th] and [glottal] does not change meaning
If someone says "little" with [th], we would not feel he is saying a different word.

Basic vs. derived allophones

"top" - beginning of word
"stop" - after /s/
"little" - after short vowels and before / r/, / l/, / m/
"kitten" "button" - before / n/

If two sounds are allophones of the same phoneme, they are in complementary distribution: they never occur in the same environment

Voicing distinguishes words;
     e.g. "sip" and "zip"
Aspiration does not distinguishes words
     e.g. "little" [flap] [th]


to split
to pound
to do





Phonetic segments

/p/ -----> [p] <-----
/ph/ -----> [ph]
/b/ -----> [b] <----- /b/

Question: Are two sounds X and Y separate phonemes or allophones of the same phoneme?

Steps to follow:
1. Is there a minimal pair?
If yes--> X and Y are separate phonemes
       --> done

If no--> Step 2 (they are probably in complementary distribution)

2. Where do X and Y occur?
E.g. If X: before a vowel
         Y: anywhere except before a vowel
    --> X and Y are allophones of the same phoneme
    --> Step 3

3. Where sound, X or Y, occurs in more environments?
If it is X --> X is the basic allophone
           --> Y is the derived allophone
           --> done