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CS 551/651: Structure of Spoken Language Lecture 6: Phonological Processes John-Paul Hosom Fall 2010. Phonological Processes Phonemes undergo systematic variation depending on their context

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CS 551/651:

Structure of Spoken Language

Lecture 6: Phonological Processes

John-Paul Hosom

Fall 2010


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Phonemes undergo systematic variation depending on theircontext

  • For example, forming the past tense:cause /k aa z/ caused /k aa z d/talk /t aa k/ talked /t aa k t//d/ vs. /t/ is predictable based on voicing of word-final phoneme

  • Allophones can be viewed as systematic variations of phonemesthat are a result of cultural and/or physiological processes, butdo not distinguish meaning of utterance

  • For example, /p/ and /ph/ in English is predictable: word or syllable initial voiceless stops are aspiratedpit [ph ih t[h]] tip [th ih p[h]] kin [kh ih n]spit [s p ih t[h]] stick [s t ih k[h]] skin [s k ih n]


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Phonological Processes

/ph ih th th ih ph kh ih n/

/s p ih th s t ih kh s k ih n/


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Other types of phonetic processes:Assimilation, Deletion, Reduction, Insertion, Substitution,Me'tathesis (switching order of two phonemes)

  • Assimilation“A feature of one segment is shared by a neighboring segment”

  • Examples of Assimilation Nasalization of vowels before nasal consonants in- (negative prefix) becomes im- in words beginning with bilabial consonant (imbalance, imperfect, indifferent, intolerance)


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Assimilation may be due to coarticulation, or it may belanguage-specific, “arbitrary”: “word-final alveolar obstruent may take on place of articulation of following word-initial segment if word-initial segment is palato-alveoar”this /dh ih s/ shop /sh aa ph/ this shop /dh ih sh sh aa ph/this /dh ih s/ fish /f ih sh/ this fish /dh ih s f ih sh/this /dh ih s/ thing /th ih ng/ this thing /dh ih s th ih ng/

  • also, depending on dialect, not within-word:

  • misshapen /m ih s sh ei p en/


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/dh ih sh sh aa pcl ph dh ih s f ih sh/


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Substitution: common in foreign accents or speaking impairments:welcome /v eh l k ah m/McDonald /m a k uw d ow n aa r uw d ow/Roger /w aa jh er/

  • Metathesis: changing order of two phonemes within a word (dialect variation)pretty /p er dx iy/ ask /ae k s/

For the history of ask/aks, Google “axe ask england”:

http://www.randomhouse.com/wotd/index.pperl?date=19991216


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Deletion:Barbara /b aa r b ax r ah/  /b aa r b r ah/Memory /m eh m ax r iy/  /m eh m r iy/

  • Reduction: unstressed vowels become /ax/conduct(verb) /k ax n d ah k t/conduct(noun) /k aa n d ax k t/

  • Insertion: voiceless stop inserted between nasal and voiceless consonant; voiceless stop always has same place of articulation as nasal fancy /f ae n t s iy/Chomsky /ch aa m p s k iy/ schwa inserted after word-final nasalnine /n ay n ax/

dictionary pronunciation=


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/m eh m r iy/


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/f ae n t s iy ch aa m p s k iy/


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  • Phonological Processes: Ladefoged Rules

  • [–voiced, +stop]  [+aspirated] when syllable initialpit vs. spit

  • [ax]  [–voiced] after syllable-initial [–voiced, +stop] and before [–voiced, +stop]potato

  • [+consonantal]  longer at end of phrasebib, did, don, nod

  • [–voiced, +stop]  [–aspirated] after syllable-initial /s/spew, stew, skew

  • [+vowel]  shorter before unvoiced phonemes in same syllablecap vs. cab, back vs. bag


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/ph ax tcl th ey dx ow/

/d aa n n aa dcl d/


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/khae pc ph kh ae bc b b ae kc kh b ae gc g/


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  • Phonological Processes: Ladefoged Rules

  • [–voiced]  longer when at end of syllablesass, shook vs. push

  • [+stop]  unreleased before [+stop]apt, act (often see some mark in spectrogram)

  • [–voiced, +alveolar, +stop]  [+glottal stop] when before an alveolar nasal in same wordbeaten /b iy q en/

  • [+nasal]  [+syllabic] at word end when following [+obstruent]chasm /k ae z em/ NOT film (obstruent = complete closure of airway; /l/ is not)

  • [+liquid]  [+syllabic] at word end and following [+consonant]paddle, whistle, kennel, razor, hammer, tailor NOT snarl; change to “following [+obstruent]”?


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/ae pcl tcl th ae kcl tcl th/

/bcl b iy q tcl en ax_h/


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  • Phonological Processes: Ladefoged Rules

  • [+alveolar, +stop]  [+voiced, +flap] when between two vowels, second of which is unstressed This rule has speaker-dependent variations

  • [+alveolar, +stop]  omitted between two consonantsmost people, sandpaper, grand master

  • [+consonant]  shortened before identical [+consonant]

  •  [–voice, +stop] between [+nasal] and [–voice, +fricative] when following vowel absent or unstressedprince vs. prints (e'penthesis)

  •  [&] following word-final [+nasal, +consonantal]nine come sang (e'penthesis)


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/m ow s pc ph iy pc ph el n gc g r ae n m ae s tc th er z yu z s ae n pc ph ey pc ph er/


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/n ay n ax kcl kh ah m ax s ae ng ax/


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  • Phonological Processes: Ladefoged Rules

  • [+vowel]  longer in open syllablessea vs. seed vs. seatsigh vs. side vs. sight(equalize length of syllables with differing numbers of segments)

  • [+vowel]  longer in stressed syllablebelow vs. billow(stressed syllables are longer in duration than unstressed)

  • [+vowel]  [+nasal] before [+nasal] consonant

  • [+vowel, –stressed]  schwa (vowel reduction)able vs. abilityCanada vs. Canadianphotograph vs. photography


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/s ay s ay dcl d s a tcl th/


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/b ax l ow b ih l ow/


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Why is this useful? (a) Providing models of known phenomenon is better than having classifier learn the phenomenon from data

  • (b) Provides humans with appropriate cues for understanding, naturalness

  • (c) Accurate phonetic modeling improves ability of classifier to discriminate between classes

  • Example for Text-to-Speech (case (b)): Create a TTS system Don’t shorten vowels before voiceless plosives Creates, by default, acoustic cue for voiced plosives Decrease intelligibility or at least naturalness of system


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  • Phonological Processes

  • Example for Automatic Speech Recognition (case (c)): Train a speech recognizer using “dictionary” pronunciation Then, in all cases where [–voice, +stop] between [+nasal] and [–voice, +fricative] such as “fancy” (in CMU dictionary as /f ae n s iy/), acoustics show alveolar stop, but trained as either nasal /n/ or fricative /s/. Decreases ability of model to discriminate classes Decreases performance of system

  • Difficulty is in providing comprehensive, accurate rulesthat are not inappropriately “forced” on a system


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