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Sound Changes. Prof. Julia Nee Comparative Linguistics Spring 2014, LaSalle University. The Importance of Sound Changes. Useful in the comparative method of determining how languages are related Helpful in discovering which words are loanwords from other languages

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sound changes

Sound Changes

Prof. Julia Nee

Comparative Linguistics

Spring 2014, LaSalle University

the importance of sound changes
The Importance of Sound Changes
  • Useful in the comparative method of determining how languages are related
  • Helpful in discovering which words are loanwords from other languages
  • Used to trace the evolution of languages from a common proto-language by comparison of how sounds shifted from the original form to the modern form
the speech string
The Speech String
  • Speech is seamless:
    • The good can decay many ways.
    • The stuffy nose can lead to problems.
    • Some others I’ve seen.
  • Sounds of a word cannot be completely separated; they blend into one another
  • Watotowaafrikayamasharikiwanapendasanakusomanakuchezawatotowadogowanaanzamasomokatikashulezachekecheabaadayashuleyachekecheawaohuendashuleyamsingiwatotohusomashuleyachekecheakwamwakammojaaumiakamiwili.
  • WatotowaAfrikayaMasharikiwanapendasanakusomanakucheza. Watotowadogowanaanzamasomokatikashulezachekechea. Baadayashuleyachekecheawaohuendashuleyamsingi. Watotohusomashuleyachekecheakwamwakammoja au miakamiwili.
  • Children in East Africa like to study and play. Small children begin their studies in kindergarten. After kindergarten, they go to elementary school. They go to kindergarten for one or two years.
the speech string1
The Speech String
  • Mabasiyakuendamjiniyakowapi?
  • Hoteliyanguikowapi?
  • Kituochabasikikowapi?
  • Vipininawezakuendakituochatreni?
  • Naulikiasigani?
  • Where are the buses to the city?
  • Where is my hotel?
  • Where’s the bus station?
  • How do I get to the train station?
  • What’s the fare?
the speech string2
The Speech String
  • Mabasiyakuendamjiniyakowapi?
  • Hoteliyanguikowapi?
  • Kituo cha basikikowapi?
  • Vipininawezakuendakituo cha treni?
  • Naulikiasigani?
  • Where are the buses to the city?
  • Where is my hotel?
  • Where’s the bus station?
  • How do I get to the train station?
  • What’s the fare?
phoneme inventory
Phoneme Inventory
  • Each language has a particular set of phonemes that it uses
  • Acceptable Patterns:





syllable structure
Syllable Structure
  • Phonemes are assembled into Syllables
  • Languages have their own rules about how syllables can be built
    • English: Rime can be V + C (C) (C)
    • Japanese: C + V
phonetics phonemics
Phonetics / Phonemics
  • The sounds that we have stored in our heads change before they come out of our mouths
  • Phones = the sounds that actually occur
  • Phonemes = the ideas that are stored in our heads
  • How are phonetics and phonemics different?
    • Some phones are stored the same way phonemically
    • ‘t’ sound of ‘but’ vs. ‘butter’
how are phones and phonemes different
How are phones and phonemes different?
  • What are the sounds in “tap” and “pat”?
  • Different ‘p’: /tæp/ and /phæt/
  • Use minimal pairs to find phonemes:
    • /cæt/ vs. /cot/
    • /como/ vs. /cono/
  • If you can’t find minimal pairs, then you may have two allophones of a phoneme!
let s try
Let’s try…
  • Does /ŋ/ occur in your dialect of Spanish? Where? Is it a phoneme or an allophone?
  • What is the distribution of the flapped vs. the trilled ‘r’?
phonetic rules
Phonetic Rules
  • Rules can be applied to the phonemes stored in our heads based on their environments
  • The result is different phonetic outputs
  • Multiple rules can apply to the same word
    • i > ei / _ t
    • t > ɾ / V _ V
    • ‘write’  /wreit/
    • /wreiting/  /wreiɾing/
the regularity principle
The Regularity Principle
  • Sound change is regular
    • The change takes place whenever the sound or sounds which undergo the change are found in the circumstances or environments that condition the change
    • Spanish: p > b / V_V (“p” becomes “b” between vowels)
  • Essential to our ability to reconstruct proto-languages
conditioned unconditioned
Conditioned / Unconditioned
  • Conditioned changes: changes that take place only in certain contexts
    • Ex: p > b / V_V
  • Unconditioned changes: changes that take place generally, no matter what sounds are around it
    • Ex: ly > y in Latin American Spanish (calye > caye)
let s try1
Let’s try…
  • Apply the rule and determine which words are pronounced in the same way:
    • C > [+voiced] / V_V

Cady Slinking Razor

Catty Slinging Racer

/Kɑdi/ /slɪŋkɪŋ/ /reɪzər/

/Kɑti/ /slɪŋgɪŋ/ /reɪsər/

phonemic non phonemic allophonic
Phonemic / Non-Phonemic (Allophonic)
  • Phonemic Changes: affect the inventory of phonemes
  • Non-Phonemic (Allophonic) Changes: don’t affect the phonemes in the language; shift in pronunciation only
    • Ex: t > ɾ / V _ V
    • Flaps don’t exist anywhere else in English, so we don’t even realize we have that sound!
  • We will focus on PHONEMIC changes
  • A, B > B or A, B > C
    • ly, j > j (Latin American Spanish)
    • e, o, a > a (Sanskrit)
  • Mergers are irreversible
  • Once a merger is complete, children learn the new sound
  • Ex: b, p > b
    • Bebi > bebi
    • Papi > babi
  • A separation of b and p would end up being distributed differently: b > p / _a
  • Splits follow mergers
  • In splits, the sounds in question don’t change, but their phonetic status is changed because of the merger of sounds in their environment
  • One sound becomes more similar to another
  • Change is brought about by a neighboring sound
  • Total – Partial
    • Total: one sound becomes another sound; Caribbean Spanish: h > C / _C
    • Partial: one sound takes one some of the characteristics of another; English: d > t / [-voiced]_
other types of common sound changes
Other Types of Common Sound Changes
  • Deletions
  • Epentheses or insertions
  • Compensatory lengthening
  • Metathesis
  • Palatalization
  • Voicing
  • Devoicing