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[Summary] Phonology

Saturday, April 22, 2017 5:44 PM

Phonology is the study of the system of sound patterns in a language.

The phonemic level is the psychologically abstract level of sounds.

Phonemes are the phonological units into which predictable variants (allophones) of non-
contrastive segments are grouped. They represent a contrast in meaning and have distinctive
sound classes in a language. Phonemes are represented in slashes /t/. Each phoneme may have
one or more allophones.

Allophones are variants of a phoneme, usually in complementary distribution or in free

variation, and phonetically similar. It's hard to notice the difference between allophones of
the same phoneme. They do not signal a contrast in meaning and are represented in square
brackets [t] [th].

How do we know if two sounds belong to the same phoneme (are

allophones of the same phoneme) or to different phonemes?
We conduct the Minimal Pair Test.
- We have a minimal pair when two words are different in meaning and differ by only one
segment found in the same position in each word.
Ex. [phk] pack vs. [bk] back
- If a minimal pair is present, the two words belong to two different phonemes (/p/ and
/b/ in our example).
- If there is a near-minimal pair (where the local, immediate environments are the same)
they are still two different phonemes.
Ex. [sak] (#_a) vs. [zaki] (#_a)

Complementary Distribution of Allophones

Allophones of the same phoneme are phonetically similar but may have different phonetic
properties, depending on their environment.
Ex. The aspirations of voiceless stops before vowels.
Complementary distribution => allophones of the same phoneme never occur in the same

Phonological rules derive allophones from phonemes.

Phonological rules of Canadian English

Rule 1: Aspiration of voiceless stops
Voiceless stops are aspirated at the beginning of a syllable before vowels.
- Ex. [thip]
Rule 2: Devoicing of glides and liquids
Glides and liquids become voiceless after voiceless stops.
- Ex. [p ej]
Rule 3: Flapping
Alveolar stops become a flap between vowels if the first vowel is stressed.
- Ex. [b r]
Rule 4: L-Velarization
Lateral /l/ is realized as a dark (velarized) [ ] at the end of a syllable (or before a syllable-final

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- Ex. [ ]
Rule 5: Dentalization of [n]
Alveolar nasal becomes dental before interdentals.
- Ex. [ ]
Rule 6: Vowel Nasalization
Vowels are nasalized before nasal consonants.
- Ex. [ ]
Rule 7: Vowel Lengthening
Vowels are lengthened before voiced obstruents.
- Ex. [lu:z]
Rule 8: Canadian Raising
Canadian raising occurs before voiceless consonants. /aj/ is realized as [j] and /aw/ is realized
as [w].
- Ex. [rjt]
Rule 9: Vowel Diphthongization
English mid tense vowels, e and o, get a [j] glide or a [w] glide, respectively. /e/ -> [ej], /o/ ->

To transcribe phonetic words to phonemic, we exclude all predictable aspects (so anything
from the rules above).
- Ex. [ljk] -> /lajk/
- Ex. [sow] -> /so/

Phonotactics are rules of segment combinations (what phonemes can go where). Actual
sequences are sequences which may occur (ex. /stIk/, flg/). Accidental gaps are sequences
which could occur in a language but just happen not to (ex. /flg/). Systematic gaps are
sequences which cannot occur in the language because they violate the phonotactics or
phonological patterns of the language (ex. /ptawfm/). Phonotactics are language-specific.

Syllabic tree
Syllable () - a unit of linguistic structure that consists of a syllabic element and any segments
that are associated with it. A syllable can be defined as a sequence of sounds with a single
sonority peak.
- Nucleus (N) is a vocalic element that forms the core of a syllable.
- Onset (O) is the longest sequence of consonants to the left of each nucleus that does
not violate the phonotactic constraints of a language.
- Coda (C) is the elements that follow the nucleus in the same syllable.
- Rime (R) is the nucleus and the coda of a syllable.

Three consonant clusters in English onsets

/sp {l r j}/ splash, spray, spew

/st {r j}/ string, stupid

/sk {l r j w}/ sclerosis, scream, skew, squid

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