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History of Phonology. with an emphasis on recent history. 1900-1930. Development of Phonetics are a special branch of linguistics Unlike historical linguistics, also concerned with sounds through its preoccupation with sound change, phonetics was firmly rooted in synchronic analysis

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history of phonology

History of Phonology

with an emphasis on recent history

1900 1930
  • Development of Phonetics are a special branch of linguistics
  • Unlike historical linguistics, also concerned with sounds through its preoccupation with sound change, phonetics was firmly rooted in synchronic analysis
  • Articulatory phonetics
  • Acoustic phonetics
new tools
new tools
  • spectrograph
  • X-ray photo’s (and films)
  • sound recordings
  • Off-shoot of phonetics
  • Strictly devoted to those aspects of sound structure which are linguistically relevant
  • E.g. pitch differences related to tone or accent are phonologically important, pitch differences related to sex are not
  • First International Congress of Linguists in The Hague in 1928 is often viewed as the beginning of phonology, set off by
prague school
Prague school
  • definition of phoneme
  • importance of binary oppositions
  • marked vs unmarked member of pair
  • neutralization
  • languages are ‘systems’: you can’t take out one thing and study it separately – that way you lose information about various contrasts within the language
jakobson s accomplishments
Jakobson’s accomplishments
  • wide-ranging scholar
  • worked on Russian case, phonological theory, poetics, and numerous other topics
  • introduced the Prague school to the USA
  • integrated work on language acquisition and language loss by aphasia in linguistic theory
generative phonology
Generative phonology
  • Morris Halle and Noam Chomsky started working on phonology in the 1950’s
  • Culminating in The Sound Pattern of English (1968)
morris halle continued
Morris Halle, continued
  • student of Roman Jakobson
  • likewise of Russian (actually, Latvian) descent
  • worked primarily on Slavic and English
  • in his The Sound Pattern of Russian, Halle attacked the classical phoneme
  • with Chomsky, developed generative phonology (1956-1968; after 1968 Chomsky stopped doing phonology)
the sound pattern of english 1968
The Sound Pattern of English 1968
  • Authors: Chomsky and Halle
  • Should have been: Halle and Chomsky
  • Important for its formalization of phonological representations, rules, and its methodology
  • Discusses many major issues in the phonology of English, including phonotactics, phonological rules, and stress assignment in underived, derived and compound words
  • defined as a “bundle of features”
  • e.g.: feature-1 +
  • feature-2 -
  • feature-3 +
  • feature-4 -
  • etc.

Features have a standard phonetic interpretation, in terms of articulation (Jakobson had proposed an acoustic interpretation)

one exception to binary features
One exception to binary features
  • To capture four levels of stress, Chomsky and Halle used numeral values for stress features: [1 stress], [2 stress], [3 stress] and [4 stress]
  • So features, in SPE, come in 2 types:
  • boolean valued features (+/-)
  • numerically valued features
  • context-sensitive rules
  • A → B / C __ D
  • however, not involving whole segments, but features, or sets of features
  • many new notational devices were introduced, to formulate rules: α notation, curly brace notation, etc.
  • economy basic principle
  • feature-counting evaluation metric
  • highly abstract underlying forms
  • complex derivations, involving the phonological cycle
  • phonotactics done by rule
  • synchronic analysis became a mirror of diachronic analysis in SPE
  • Dutch has no diphtongs before /r/
  • Historical account: diphtongization never took place before /r/
  • Possible synchronic account: assume diphtongs are underlying monophongs, and diphtongize them unless followed by /r/
  • Advantages: reduces the inventory of underlying segments (economy), and derives the phonotactic generalization
  • Need to use exception features, e.g. for loans that came into the language after the sound change (minuut, titel)
  • Mixes up diachrony and synchrony
  • Overly abstract: learnability issue
reactions to spe
Reactions to SPE
  • immediate and wide following
  • many phonologists embraced the methodology, notation and ideas, to describe phonological problems in a variety of languages, thus creating the field of generative phonology
however there was also an immediate backlash
However, there was also an immediate backlash
  • Abstractness: natural phonology (David Stampe, Patricia Donegan, Theo Vennemann, Joan Bybee (Hooper))
  • Morphology: new separation of word-based sound regularities from general sound regularities (Mark Aronoff, Paul Kiparsky)
  • Autosegmental phonology: explosion of the segment (John Goldsmith, Nick Clements, etc.)
  • Need for absolute neutralization?
  • Absolute neutralization: underlying form never shows up as surface form
  • In SPE, this was a common phenomenon
  • Learnability problem: only if children use the same methodology as Chomsky and Halle, will they arrive at the same underlying forms
autosegmental phonology
Autosegmental phonology
  • originated in the study of tone languages, where it was noted that
  • tonal features (like High Tone) may stretch over many segments, sometimes entire words
  • and when they change, e.g. through assimilation, all segments bearing the tone change
suggestion goldsmith
Suggestion (Goldsmith)
  • get rid of the absolute slicing hypothesis
  • put tonal features on a separate level (called tier), and then connect them to the various segments bearing the tonal features
  • allow the connection to be not one-to-one, but many-to-many
  • One segment may bear two tones (e.g. Hi-Lo, heard as falling tone and Lo-Hi, heard as rising)
  • And one tone may be connected to many segments



Tonal tier:






floating tones
Floating tones
  • are tonal features not (yet) associated with a segment
  • can be linked in the course of a derivation
  • may be separate morpheme
  • or originate through deletion of a segment