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Six Levels of Linguistic Analysis











(6. Paralinguistic level prosody, nonverbal cues)

Five Levels of Language Analysis

Language : the set of all acceptable,
well formed sentences in the language.
Three Levels of analysis involve
Grammar : The complete set of rules
that will generate or produce all of the
acceptable sentences, and will not
produce unacceptable sentences.
Three Levels of Grammar :
Phonology : Rules of how a language
sounds, and how and when certain
sounds can be combined.
Syntax : rules concerning word order
Semantics : combining separate word
meanings into a sensible, meaningful

Those three levels are the primary focus

of linguists.
Psycholinguists are also interested in
two higher levels of analysis :
Conceptual Knowledge :
Beliefs :
The following sentence show the
importance of adding these two levels of
John and Mary saw the mountains
while flying to California
Questions like "Who saw the
mountains ?"
"What did John and Mary see ? "
Can be easily answered with the first
three levels of analysis.

However, to answer the question

"Who(what) was flying ?" Draws on
conceptual knowledge and beliefs about
the probability that mountains.
Assessing Language Fluency
One key difference first raised by
Chomsky is the distinction between :
Language Competence : the basic
knowledge of language and its rules that
fluent speakers have.
Language Performance : the actual
language behavior a speaker generates.
Language performance typically
underestimates true language
We can usually understand more
language than we will produce.

Language performance frequently

suffers from dysfluencies , irregularities
and errors in language production.

Three Levels of Grammar in More Depth

Phonology : the sounds of language.
Lets examine Individual speech sounds
first, and then look at how we combine
these sounds.
Phone : The smallest unit of sound
Phoneme : a language category, within
which different phones are classified as
the same
About 200 phonemes exist world wide,
English uses only 46 different

phonemes; Native Hawaiian speakers

only use 15.
The P in "Spot, Pot, Spoon, Pat" are
phonetically different (the acoustic
pattern is not identical), but all represent
the same phoneme.

Phonetics: examines how language

sounds are produced.
We can define consonant phoneme
production with respect to three factors.
1. Place of Articulation : Where is the
airflow in the vocal tract obstructed
when producing a particular phoneme ?
From the front of the mouth to the throat

Bilabial (P,B) : Labiodental (F,V) : Dental

(TH,TH) : Alveolar (T,D) : Velar (K,G):
Glottal (H) :
2. Manner of Articulation : Is the air flow
fully stopped, as in P,B,T,D,K,G
Fricatives :or only partially stopped, as
in F,V,S,Z,H
Nasals : M, N, NG,
Liquids : R
Glides : W, Y
Third characteristic of Phoneme
3. Voicing : Do the vocal chords vibrate
immediately after the air is stopped (or
partially obstructed), or is there a short

Voiced : vocal chord starts vibrating

Voiceless : There is a short delay after
the release of air before the vocal
chords vibrate.
Voiced Stops : B, D, G
Voiceless Stops : P, T, K
Vowels, on the other hand, are
produced by varying tongue position as
air flows through the vocal tract.
The tongue may be held in a low, middle
or high position; and may arch in
different positions : Front of mouth,
center of mouth, or the back of the
Spectrographs and language
production :

Spectrographs are the visual

representation of acoustical information.
Spectrographs display concentrations of
physical energy in the spoken signal.
These concentrations, which show up
as dark bands, are called formants.
Multiple formants make up each
intelligible speech sound.
Categorical Perception : we perceive
physically different sounds as the same
phoneme , Cool and Keep
If however, the two phones are similar in
sound but cross a phonemic barrier,
then we will perceive the two sounds as
different phonemes.
Lieberman et. Al. (57) used a computer
synthesized speech signal to explore
phonemic boundaries.
Combining Phonemes into words

Very young, we learn the phonemic

rules for combining sound. This learning
is automatic, and occurs without
Yet, as adults we know that "abt" is not a
word when we hear it, although we have
no problem with "apt".
We have extensive knowledge of
Phonemic Competence, even though
we may be unable to list the rules we
use in daily speech.
Parallel Transmission : separate
phonemes are transmitted at the same
This is also referred to as
coarticulation : different phonemes
within a syllable or word are articulated

Top Down processing, which involves

the understanding of the context in
which language is spoken, is vital in
understanding words.
Pollack & Pickett (1964)
Recorded several conversations.
Subjects in their experiment had to
identify the words in the conversation.
When Pollack & Pickett spliced
individual words out of the conversation
and then presented them auditorily,
subjects identified the correct word only
47% of the time.
The longer the segment of speech from
the conversation played, the more
intelligible the individual words became.
Speech analysis is both Bottom Up and
Top Down. The conceptual knowledge
helps to aid the identification of basic
phonetic utterances.