sábado, 3 de diciembre de 2011

Phonology concepts

In this blog we will give some exrtra information and the most common concepts related with Fonology and phonetics. The contrast betwen each of them and some of the rules.

What is pfonology?

Phonology is the study of how sounds are organized and used in natural languages.

The phonological system of a language includes
  • an inventory of sounds and their features, and
  • rules which specify how sounds interact with each other.
Phonology is just one of several aspects of language. It is related to other aspects such as phonetics, morphology, syntax, and pragmatics.
Here is an illustration that shows the place of phonology in an interacting hierarchy of levels in linguistics:

Comparison: Phonology and phonetics
Phonetics …
Phonology …
Is the basis for phonological analysis.
Is the basis for further work in morphology, syntax, discourse, and orthography design.
Analyzes the production of all human speech sounds, regardless of language.
Analyzes the sound patterns of a particular language by
  • determining which phonetic sounds are significant, and
  • explaining how these sounds are interpreted by the native speaker.

Models of phonology
Different models of phonology contribute to our knowledge of phonological representations and processes:
  • In classical phonemics, phonemes and their possible combinations are central.
  • In standard generative phonology, distinctive features are central. A stream of speech is portrayed as linear sequence of discrete sound-segments. Each segment is composed of simultaneously occurring features.
  • In non-linear models of phonology, a stream of speech is represented as multidimensional, not simply as a linear sequence of sound segments. These non-linear models grew out of generative phonology:
    • autosegmental phonology
    • metrical phonology
    • lexical phonology


Midsagittal section of head
Before the study of the parts of speech, subject-verb agreement, or the passive voice there was sound. A person can make nonsense noises all day long, and that is all that they would be, nonsense, but when you add meaning to those sounds you have PHONEMES, and the study of these phonemes is called PHONOLOGY. You must look beyond the letters themselves on paper and concentrate on the sounds of these sounds like vowel sounds (AEIOU) and consonants (BCTRD). Isolating these sounds will help in the learning process of phonology. Phonology is a very broad study and goes into great detail. The objectives that have been focused on will give you a general idea of what phonology is all about.


Speech sounds begin in the lungs and with the air that we breathe in and out every day. It is up to us to utilize the oral cavity or mouth along with the air to form the sounds that we want to make. We decide whether or not the sound we want to make should be released through the nose or the mouth, if the sound should be voiced or voiceless, how and where we will change the air flow through the mouth, and if certain syllables should be stressed or unstressed. We make these decisions every day without even being conscious of it. The two images below, which are from An Introduction to Language, show the different parts of the speech apparatus which we use to make sounds. The second of the two pictures is a table showing howtopronouce the phonemes.


In the production of the sounds /p/ and /b/, the air is stopped at the lips. The only difference between them is that the /p/ is voiceless and the /b/ is voiced. Try pronouncing the following words and see if you can feel the difference:



You may notice or feel a sense of vibration when you pronounce the phoneme /b/. This indicates the difference between voiced and voiceless sounds. Our vocal chords are at work in order to produce the vibration that is felt between the lips and in the vocal chords. If you feel a vibration, then the phoneme is voiced; if not, then the phoneme is voiceless.

In order to produce some sounds, the tip of the tongue stops the air flow at the velum on the roof of the mouth. In the pronunciation of the sounds /k/ and /g/, it feels as if the air is stopped at the back of the throat. Try pronouncing these words in order to feel a difference between the /k/ phoneme and the /g/ phoneme and see if you can tell which one is voiced and which one is voiceless.


If you said that the /k/ is voiceless and that the /g/ is voiced, then you are correct.

When a speaker pronounces fricative consonants, parts of the mouth such as the teeth and bottom lip partially block the flow of air. It is as though something has obstructed the air flow, and it is fighting its way out. Again, fricatives can be voiced or voiceless also. Some examples of fricative phonemes are the /f/ and the /v/ and the (theta) and the (eth).
The /f/ and the /v/ phonemes are called labio-dental fricatives. This means that the air comes through the teeth and the lips. The pronunciation of the following words will give you a better understanding of the /f/ phoneme, which is voiceless, and the /v/, which is voiced.


Another set of fricative phonemes are the interdental fricatives. We already know that there is an obstruction with the pronunciation of fricatives; this time the obstruction comes between the teeth. These may be more difficult to differentiate because this pair is identical in spelling, "th"; however, they are different in pronunciation. Here are some examples:
Because one can feel the vibration in the tongue when pronouncing works such as "the" and "bathe," we know that the phoneme (eth) is voiced, and the (theta) is voiceless.

The production of this sound results from an obstruction of the air flow at the alveolar ridge. Instead of being located near or on the lips, the tongue is now on the alveolar ridge. Two alveolar fricatives are the /s/ phoneme, which is voiceless, and the voiced /z/. Pronounce the following words and see if you can find a difference:



Phonemes represent a range of sound. Sounds or phonemes vary among the differences between speakers whether they be native English speakers or non-native speakers. In Understanding English Grammar, Martha Kolln and Robert Funk give the example of a conversation between a native Spanish speaker and a native speaker of English. The conversation goes something like this:
Amy: "Hey Jose! How was your trip? Did you fly or travel by train?"
Jose: "No, I came by sheep."
Amy: "Sheep? You must mean ship."
Jose: "Yes, that's what I said--sheep."
Instead of using the phonemes in English, Jose is using the phonemes that he knows in the Spanish language. We are aware of the differences between the vowel (i) in sheep and the vowel (I) in ship. Spanish does not have a difference between the vowel sounds; therefore, the pronunciation is different.
Because phonemes are such distinctive sounds, vowels and consonants can change the FORM AND MEANING of a word. Form and meaning go hand in hand. In order to understand a language, one must learn both. Even if you know the meaning of a word, you may not know how to pronounce it; likewise, if you know how to prounounce a word, you don't necessarily know what that word means. Look and consider the forms and meanings of the following words:
  • tip/sip
  • dine/line
  • bunk/dunk
All of the above words seem similar, but differ from one another in meaning. The difference between dine and line is that the initial sound of dine is /d/ and the initial sound in line is /l/. The sounds of these two words are identical except for the initial sounds, which are consonants. Each of these consonants is considered a phoneme.

When studying phonemes, check to see whether changing a phoneme in a word creates a new word; if it does, then these two words are "minimal pairs," and you have two different phonemes. In other words, if the two different words are identical except for a single sound segment that occurs in the same place, then the two words are called a minimal pair. The words "link" and "pink," "fine" and "wine," and "thrive" and "drive" are all minimal pairs. Remember that all minimal pairs must sound alike in the same place of the word. If they don't, then they are not a minimal pair. Words like "seed" and "soup" are not a minimal pair.

A "phonetic segment" is called a phone. The different phones that come from a phoneme are called allophones of that particular phoneme. In the English language, an allophone can be both oral and nasalized for each vowel phoneme. These occurrences don't happen at random, but are rule-governed, as shown by a general principle. As stated before, these rules are known instinctively by the native English speaker, so these are not taught, but are learned as we grow from a child to an adult and listen to the people around us.

When words are pronounced separately, the sound is quite different than when words are pronounced together. Try pronouncing the following sentences to see a difference:
Would you please pass the jelly?
Did you finish your homework?
You can notice how the voiced /d/ and the voiceless /y/ are connected in the pronunciation. This is called assimilation. Assimilation is used primarily in conversation. If you were to pronounce these words separately, as in a list, then put them in a sentence, you would notice a difference and the role that assimilation plays.

Using the phonetic alphabet, rewrite the word according to the way that it sounds.
  1. sign
  2. bomb
  3. door
  4. girl
  5. baby
  6. bath
  7. assure
  8. cold
  9. cheese
  10. phone
  11. look
  12. buy

Consonants place and manner of articulation and vowels


Some authorities claim one or two fewer consonants than I have shown above, regarding those with double symbols (/tʃ/ and /dʒ/) as “diphthong consonants” in Potter's phrase. The list omits one sound that is not strictly a consonant but works like one. The full IPA list of phonetic symbols includes some for non-pulmonic consonants (not made with air coming from the lungs), click and glottal sounds. In some varieties of English, especially in the south of Britain (but the sound has migrated north) we find the glottal plosive or glottal stop, shown by the symbol /ʔ/ (essentially a question mark without the dot at the tail). This sound occurs in place of /t/ for some speakers - so /botəl/ or /botl/ (bottle) become/boʔəl/ or /boʔl/.
We form consonants by controlling or impeding the egressive (outward) flow of air. We do this with the articulators - from the glottis, past the velum, the hard palate and alveolar ridgeand the tongue, to the teeth and lips. The sound results from three things:
  • voicing - causing the vocal cords to vibrate
  • where the articulation happens
  • how the articulation happens - how the airflow is controlled.
All vowels must be voiced - they are caused by vibration in the vocal cords. But consonants may be voiced or not. Some of the consonant sounds of English come in pairs that differ in being voiced or not - in which case they are described as voiceless or unvoiced. So /b/ is voiced and /p/ is the unvoiced consonant in one pair, while voiced /g/ and voiceless /k/ form another pair.
We can explain the consonant sounds by the place where the articulation principally occurs or by the kinds of articulation that occurs there. The first scheme gives us this arrangement:

Articulation described by region
  • Glottal articulation - articulation by the glottis. We use this for one consonant in English. This is /h/ in initial position in house or hope.
  • Velar articulation - we do this with the back of the tongue against the velum. We use it for initial hard /g/ (as in golf) and for final /ŋ/ (as in gong).
  • Palatal articulation - we do this with the front of the tongue on the hard palate. We use it for /dʒ/ (as in jam) and for /ʃ/ (as in sheep or sugar).
  • Alveolar articulation - we do this with the tongue blade on the alveolar ridge. We use it for /t/ (as in teeth), /d/ (as in dodo) /z/ (as in zebra) /n/ (as in no) and /l/ (as inlight).
  • Dental articulation - we do this with the tip of the tongue on the back of the upper front teeth. We use it for /θ/ (as in think) and /ð/ (as in that). This is one form of articulation that we can observe and feel ourselves doing.
  • Labio-dental articulation - we do this with the lower lip and upper front teeth. We use it for /v/ (as in vampire).
  • Labial articulation - we do this with the lips for /b/ (as in boat) and /m/ (as in most). Where we use two lips (as in English) this is bilabial articulation.

Articulation described by manner
This scheme gives us a different arrangement into stop(or plosive) consonants, affricates, fricatives, nasal consonants, laterals and approximants.
  • Stop consonants (so-called because the airflow is stopped) or plosive consonants(because it is subsequently released, causing an outrush of air and a burst of sound) are:
    • Bilabial voiced /b/ (as in boat) and voiceless /p/ (as in post)
    • Alveolar voiced /d/ (as in dad) and voiceless /t/ (as in tap)
    • Velar voiced /g/ (as in golf) and voiceless /k/ (as in cow)
  • Affricates are a kind of stop consonant, where the expelled air causes friction rather than plosion. They are palatal /tʃ/ (as in cheat) and palatal /dʒ/ (as in jam)
  • Fricatives come from restricting, but not completely stopping, the airflow. The air passes through a narrow space and the sound arises from the friction this produces. They come in voiced and unvoiced pairs:
    • Labio-dental voiced /v/ (as in vole) and unvoiced /f/ (as in foal)
    • Dental voiced /ð/ (as in those) and unvoiced /θ/ (as in thick)
    • Alveolar voiced /z/ (as in zest) and unvoiced /s/ (as in sent)
    • Palatal voiced /ʒ/ (as in the middle of leisure) and unvoiced /ʃ/ (as at the end of trash)
  • Nasal consonants involve closing the articulators but lowering the uvula, which normally closes off the route to the nose, through which the air escapes. There are three nasal consonants in English:
    • Bilabial /m/ (as in mine)
    • Alveolar /n/ (as in nine)
    • Velar /ŋ/ (as at the end of gong)
  • Lateral consonants allow the air to escape at the sides of the tongue. In English there is only one such sound, which is alveolar /l/ (as at the start of lamp)
  • Approximants do not impede the flow of air. They are all voiced but are counted as consonants chiefly because of how they function in syllables. They are:
    • Bilabial /w/ (as in water)
    • Alveolar /r/ (as in road)
    • Palatal /j/ (as in yet)


English has twelve vowel sounds. In the table above they are divided into seven short and five long vowels. An alternative way of organizing them is according to where (in the mouth) they are produced. This method allows us to describe them as front, central and back. We can qualify them further by how high the tongue and lower jaw are when we make these vowel sounds, and by whether our lips are rounded or spread, and finally by whether they are short or long. This scheme shows the following arrangement:

Front vowels
  • /i:/ - cream, seen (long high front spread vowel)
  • /ɪ/ - bit, silly (short high front spread vowel)
  • /ɛ/ - bet, head (short mid front spread vowel); this may also be shown by the symbol /e/
  • /æ/ - cat, dad (short low front spread vowel); this may also be shown by /a/

Central vowels
  • /ɜ:/- burn, firm (long mid central spread vowel); this may also be shown by the symbol /ə:/.
  • /ə/ - about, clever (short mid central spread vowel); this is sometimes known asschwa, or the neutral vowel sound - it never occurs in a stressed position.
  • /ʌ/ - cut, nut (short low front spread vowel); this vowel is quite uncommon among speakers in the Midlands and further north in Britain.

Back vowels
  • /u:/ - boob, glue (long high back rounded vowel)
  • /ʊ/ - put, soot (short high back rounded vowel); also shown by /u/
  • /ɔ:/ - corn, faun (long mid back rounded vowel) also shown by /o:/
  • /ɒ/- dog, rotten (short low back rounded vowel) also shown by /o/
  • /ɑ:/ - hard, far (long low back spread vowel)
We can also arrange the vowels in a table or even depict them against a cross-section of the human mouth. Here is an example of a simple table:

Highɪ    i:ʊ    u:
Midɛə    ɜ:ɔ:
Lowæʌɒ    ɑ: