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Chapter7 Phonemic Analysis . PHONOLOGY (Lane 335). What is Phonology?. It’s a field of linguistics which studies the distribution of sounds in a language as well as the interaction between those different sounds. What is Phonology?. Phonology tackles the following questions:

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chapter7 phonemic analysis

Chapter7Phonemic Analysis

PHONOLOGY (Lane 335)

what is phonology
What is Phonology?

It’s a field of linguistics which studies the distribution of sounds in a language as well as the interaction between those different sounds.

what is phonology3
What is Phonology?

Phonology tackles the following questions:

  • What sounds in a language are predictable?
  • What is the phonetic context that predict the occurrence of these sounds?
  • Which sounds affect the meaning of words?
phonetics vs phonology
Phonetics Vs Phonology
  • Phonetics: studies how speech sounds are produced, their physical properties & how they are interpreted.
  • Phonology: studies the organization of speech sounds in a particular language.
distinctive and non distinctive sounds
Distinctive and Non-distinctive Sounds
  • Distinctive (contrastive) Sounds: make a difference in meaning; e.g. /p/ & /b/ in pin, bin.
  • Non-distinctive (non-contrastive) Sounds: Does Not make a difference in meaning; e.g. /p/ in pin & spin.


/t/ in : top [thɒp]

Stop [stɒp]

Little [liɾ l]

Kitten [kiʔ n]

Hunter [hʌ nr]


phoneme and allophone
Phoneme and Allophone
  • A phoneme: a class of speech sounds that are identified by a native speaker as the same sound; e.g. /t/; unpredictable
  • A phoneme is an abstract representation & can’t be pronounced (not a speech sound)
  • An allophone: the actual phonetic segment produced by a speaker & has been classified as belonging to some phoneme; e.g. [th]; predictable
  • Or an allophone: the various ways that a phoneme is pronounced; e.g. [ʔ], [ɾ]
phoneme and allophone7
Phoneme and Allophone
  • The phonological system of a language has two levels:

1- the more concrete level which involves the physical reality of phonetics segments, the allophones represented by [ ](greater number).

2- The abstract (underlying) level which involves phonemes represented by / / (small inventory).

  • /p/ has 3 allophones ([p], [ph], [p̚ ])
  • Similar to natural sciences (H2O is realized as ice, water, & water vapor)
distribution of speech sounds
Distribution of Speech Sounds
  • The distribution of a phone: the set of phonetic environments in which it occurs.
  • Contrastive Sounds: if two sounds are separate phonemes, they are contrastive

(interchanging the two, change the meaning of a word)

  • Non-contrastive Sounds: if two phones are allophones of the same phoneme, they are non-contrastive

(interchanging the phones, doesn’t change the meaning of a word)

minimal pairs
Minimal Pairs
  • A way to determine whether sounds are distinctive or not.
  • Defined as a pair of words with different meanings which are pronounced exactly the same way except for one sound that differs.
  • In some languages, no minimal pairs, but we can establish phonemes
  • Near Minima Pairs ‘mission’ & ‘vision’
  • Example:
  • [ti:m] and [di:m]: /t/ & /d/ are separate phonemes.
  • [ti:m] & [ti:n]
kinds of phonemic distribution
Kinds of Phonemic Distribution
  • Overlapping Distribution: when the sets of phonetic environments in which two sounds occur are partially or completely identical.

bait [bet] date [det]

lobe [lob] load [lod]

knobs [nabz] nods [nadz]

bleat [blit]

Two Kinds:

1- contrastive distribution (give different meanings= belong to different phonemes = appear in minimal pairs)

2- Free Variation (never cause a contrast in meaning = allophones of the same phoneme = no minimal pairs)

kinds of phonemic distribution11
Kinds of Phonemic Distribution
  • Complementary Distribution (mutually exclusive, non-overlapping): when sounds DON’T occur in the same phonetic environment

spat [spæt] pat [phæt]

spool [spul] pool [phul]

speak [spik] peek [phik]

  • No minimal pairs for such sounds
  • Phones in CD are allophones of a single phoneme
  • The appearance of one allophone or the other is PREDICTABLE.
phonological rules
Phonological Rules
  • Two levels of representation:

1- underlying (phonemic, mental)

2- surface (phonetic)

  • Why do we need rules?

- link the two levels

- show when a particular allophone should show up on the surface

phonological rules13
Phonological Rules


(underlying form)



(surface form)

phonological rules14
Phonological Rules
  • state that some item becomes some other item in some specific environment
  • The common way of expressing rules:

A B/ X____ Y

  • A becomes ( ) B in the environment of (/) being preceded by X and followed by Y
  • ____ represents the position of the item affected by the rule
phonological rules15
Phonological Rules
  • Example:

˷ ˷

  • [fæn]: /æ/ /æ//____/n/
  • Vowels in English are nasalized before any nasal stop.
  • [+ syllabic] [+nasal]/ __ [+nasal]
choosing the underlying form
Choosing the Underlying Form
  • How we decide on the representation at the phonemic level?
  • Phonemes and their allophones SHARE some phonetic features
  • The choice is “phonetically natural”
  • Take the form which has the widest distribution (occurs in the largest number of environments)
phonetic naturalness phonological analysis
Phonetic naturalness & Phonological Analysis
  • Natural means “to be expected”, “frequently found across languages”
  • Does NOT mean “English-like”
  • No words in English begin with onset clusters like [ps], [pn], [pt].
  • Clusters appear word initial in other languages like German, Greek, & French.
phonetic similarity
Phonetic Similarity
  • To choose the phonemic form, we have to consider phonetic similarity.
  • Example: [h] occurs syllable-initially [hæ m]

[ŋ ] occurs only syllable-finally [brɪ ŋ]

  • Not allophones of the same phoneme
  • They lack phonetic similarity
  • [h]: non-nasal, obstruent, continuant
  • [ŋ] nasal, sonorant, non-continuant
pattern congruity
Pattern Congruity
  • Phonologists consider the consequences of choosing one morpheme over the other
  • Pattern Congruity: the systematic organization of the set of phonemes and their distribution.
  • Choosing an allophone depends on the overall patterns found in the phonological system (pattern congruity)
  • For example:

In English: obstruent clusters have uniform voicing

Either all members of the cluster are [+ voice], or [- voice].

‘Mixed voice’ DON’T occur phonemically

process naturalness
Process Naturalness
  • In choosing the underlying form, the linking processes should be considered
  • pass [pæ s] pass you [pæʃ ju]
  • this [ðɪ s] this year [ðɪʃjiə ]
  • [s] appears in more environments
  • Assimilation:
  • [s] alveolar [+coronal, +anterior] becomes [ʃ] palato-alveolar [+coronal, - anterior] when followed by [j] palatal [+ coronal, - anterior]
  • Phonology is concerned with the organization of the system underlying the speech sounds
  • The phonemic level represents native speakers’ knowledge of the sound system of their language
phonology vs phonetics
Phonology vs. phonetics
  • Phonology: is a cognitive study deals with the representation of knowledge in the mind
  • Phonetics: deals with the physical properties of speech sounds