Basic units of phonology.
The phoneme, the allophone. Distinctive features of phonemes. Complementary distribution. Free variations. The functions of the phoneme. Modifications of phoneme in speech: assimilation, accommodation, elision, reduction. Sound insertion.
1. The unit of phonetics is a speech sound, the unit of phonology is a phoneme.
Linguists about the phoneme:
I.A.Baudouin de Courteney: a psychical image of a sound.
N.S.Trubetzkoy, L.Bloomfield, R.Jakobson: the minimal sound units by which meanings are differentiated.
D.Jones: a “family” of sounds occurring in the same phonetic context
L.V.Shcherba: a real, independent distinctive unit which manifests itself in the form of allophones; a functional, material and abstract unit.
V.A.Vassilyev: “The segmental phoneme is the smallest language unit that exists in the speech of all the members of a given language community as such speech sounds which are capable of distinguishing one word from another word of the same language or one grammatical form of a word from another grammatical form of the same word.”
The actual speech sounds are variants, or allophones, of phonemes.
The most representative variant, free from the influence of the neighbouring phonemes is called typical, or principal. The variants used in actual speech are called subsidiary.
Positional allophones are used in certain positions traditionally.
Combinatory allophones result from the influence of one phoneme upon another.
2. Distinctive (relevant) features make speech sounds allophones of different phonemes. Non-distinctive (irrelevant) features do not make speech sounds allophones of different phonemes.
The minimal distinctive feature is only one distinctive feature in which the phonemes differ.
The phonemes of a language form a system of oppositions in which any one phoneme is usually opposed to any other phoneme in at least one position in at least one lexical or grammatical minimal or sub-minimal pair.
1. The distributional method is based on two laws of phonemic and allophonic distribution:
1) if more or less different sounds occur in the same phonetic context they should be allophones of different phonemes. In this case they are said to be in contrastive distribution.
2) if more or less similar speech sounds occur in different positions and never occur in the same phonetic context they are allophones of one and the same phoneme. In this case their distribution is complementary.
In the case with the English [h] and [ŋ] the criterion of phonetic similarity/dissimilarity is applied. Articulatory features are taken into account as well.
Free variants of a single phoneme are sounds that occur in the same phonetic context but do not discriminate the meaning.
4. Functions of the phoneme
The creation of the sound image:
! distinctive function: 1) morpheme-distinctive (/-ə/ (-er) – an allomorph of the morpheme denoting the doer of an action vs. /-ı/ (-y, -ie) – an allomorph of an adjective-forming morpheme, 2) word-distinctive (the morpheme-distinctive function becomes at the same time its word- or form-distinctive function, e.g. dreamer – dreamy; phonemes can also perform their word-distinctive function directly, through their mutual opposition in simple words, e.g. /pen/ pen - /ten/ ten), 3) sentence-distinctive (is performed mostly inderectly, through the word-distinctive function: It was cold. – It was gold).
5. Modifications of phonemes in connected speech
Assimilation can be: 1) progressive, when the first of the two sounds affected by assimilation makes the second sound similar to itself (desks, pegs); 2) regressive, when the second of the two sounds affected by assimilation makes the first sound similar to itself (at the - the alveolar [t] becomes dental); 3) double, or reciprocal, when the two adjacent sounds influence each other (twice – [t] is rounded] and [w] is partly devoiced)
Accommodation: the influence of the vowel on the consonant or the consonant on the vowel
Vowel reduction: qualitative or quantitative weakening of vowels in unstressed positions, e.g. board – blackboard, man – postman.
Elision: complete loss of sounds, both vowels and consonants
Modifications of consonants in connected speech
1. According to the place of articulation.
The sounds commonly changing their place of articulation are plosives and nasals.
1) Fronting (dentalization) of alveolars before interdental consonants. For example, in seventh [n] becomes dental, before the interdental [θ]; in sit there [t] becomes dental, before the interdental [ð] (partial regressive assimilation);
2) Backing of alveolars before post-alveolar and palato-alveolar consonants. For example, the alveolar [t], [d] under the influence of the post-alveolar [r] become post-alveolar (partial regressive assimilation): tree, true, the third room; the alveolar [s], [z] before palato-alveolar [∫] become palato-alveolar (complete regressive assimilation): horse-shoe [ʹhɔ:∫∫u:], does she [ʹdΛ∫∫i:];
3) Fronting and raising (palatalization) of velars before front vowels. Since this coarticulatory effect moves velars to a palatal place of articulation, it can be referred to as palatalization. For example, backlingual [k], [g] before front-retracted [ɪ], [ɪə] in kid, gear or before front [æ], [e] in cat, get (accommodation);
4) Backing (palatalization) of alveolars before back vowels. Such backing generally moves alveolar consonants to a (pre-)palatal position, where it is still possible to articulate with the tongue tip. For example, alveolar [t] before back [ɒ] in top (accommodation). Compare: tick-tock;
5) Place assimilation of nasals. Nasals generally assimilate to the place of the following phoneme, as in: in bed [ɪmbed], alveolar [n] changes into bilabial [m], in symphony [m] is actually labio-dental followed by the labio-dental [f]; in thank [n] assimilates to the velar consonant becoming velar [ŋ].
2. According to the manner of articulation.
Different types of assimilation affecting the manner of articulation may be illustrated as follows:
1) loss of plosion – in the sequence of two plosive consonants the former loses its plosion: glad to see you, great trouble (partial regressive assimilation);
2) nasal plosion – in the sequence of a plosive followed by a nasal sonorant the manner of articulation of the plosive sound and the work of the soft palate are involved, which results in the nasal character of plosion release: sudden, at night (partial regressive assimilation);
3) lateral plosion – in the sequence of a plosive followed by a lateral sonorant [l] the noise production of the plosive stop is changed into that of the lateral stop: settle, table (partial regressive assimilation);
4) affrication - the combinations [t + j], [d + j] are often realized as affricates (incomplete regressive assimilation), e.g. graduate [ʹgræʤueıt], congratulate [kənʹgræt∫uleıt;
in clusters where a nasal precedes a sibilant, a homorganic stop may arise as a transition between the nasal and the oral consonant, as in: rinse [rɪnts], lens [lendz];
5) stopping of sibilants – before a weak syllable with [n], a sibilant may be closed to form a stop, as in: business [bɪdnɪs] , isn’t [ɪdnt].
3. According to the voicing value.
The voicing value of a consonant may also change through assimilation. This type of assimilation affects the work of the vocal cords and the force of articulation. In particular voiced lenis sounds become voiceless fortis when followed by another voiceless sound, e.g. newspaper (news [z] + paper); five past two [ʹfaıf pα:st ʹtu:] (regressive assimilation); your aunt’s coming, what’s your name? (partial progressive assimilation). English sonorants [m, n, r, l, j, w] preceded by the fortis voiceless consonants [p, t, k, s] are partially devoiced, e.g. smart, tray, twins, play (partial progressive assimilation).
4. According to the lip position.
The lip position may be affected by the accommodation, the interchange of consonant + vowel type. Labialization of consonants is traced under the influence of the neighbouring back vowels, e.g. pool, moon, rude. It is possible to speak about the spread lip position of consonants followed or preceded by front vowels [i:], [ɪ], e.g. tea – beat, sit –miss.
6. Elision. Elision, or complete loss of sounds, both vowels and consonants, marks the following sounds: 1) loss of [h] in personal and possessive pronouns he, his, her, him and the forms of the auxiliary verbs have, has, had, e.g. What has he done? [ʹwot əz i· ,dΛn]; 2) [l] tends to be lost when preceded by [ɔ:], e.g. always [ʹɔ:wız], all right [ɔ:ʹraıt]; 3) alveolar plosives are often elided in case the cluster is followed by another consonant, e.g. next day [ʹneks ʹdeı], just one [ʤΛs ʹwΛn]. Examples of historical elision are also known. They are initial consonants in write, know, knight, the medial consonant [t] in fasten, listen, whistle, castle.
7. Sound insertion.
While the elision is a very common process in connected speech, we also occasionally find sounds being inserted. When a word which ends in a vowel is followed by another word beginning with a vowel, the so-called intrusive ‘r’ is sometimes pronounced between the vowels, e.g. Asia and Africa [eı∫ər ənd ʹæfrıkə], the idea of it [ði:aʹıdıər əv ıt]. The so-called linking ‘r’ is a common example of insertion, e.g. clearer, a teacher of English. The linking and intrusive [r] are both part of the same phonetic process of [r] insertion. When the word-final vowel is a diphthong which glides to [ɪ] such as [aɪ], [eɪ] the palatal sonorant [j] tends to be inserted, e.g. saying [ʹseıjıŋ], trying [ʹtrajıŋ]. In case of the [ʊ]-gliding diphthongs [əʊ], [aʊ] the bilabial sonorant [w] is sometimes inserted, e.g. going [ʹgəuwıŋ], allowing [əʹlaʊwıŋ].
Modifications of vowels in connected speech
The modifications of vowels in a speech chain are traced in the following directions: they are either quantitative or qualitative.
The decrease of the vowel quantity or in other words the shortening of the vowel length is known as a quantitative modification of vowels:
1) the shortening of the vowel length occurs in unstressed positions, e.g. blackboard [ɔ:]. Form words often demonstrate quantitative reduction in unstressed positions, e.g. Is he [hi:] or she to blame? But: At last he [hi] has come (quantitative reduction).
2) English vowels are said to have positional length, e.g. knee – need – neat (accommodation). The vowel [i:] is the longest in the final position, it is obviously shorter before the lenis voiced consonant [d], and it is the shortest before the fortis voiceless consonant [t].
Qualitative modification of most vowels occurs in unstressed position:
1) in unstressed syllables vowels of full value are usually subjected to qualitative changes, e.g. man [mæn] – sportsman [ʹspɔ:tsmən], conduct [ʹkɒndəkt] – conduct [kənʹdΛkt] - In such cases the quality of the vowel is reduced to the neutral sound [ə] (qualitative reduction);
2) slight degree of nasalization marks vowels preceded or followed by the nasal consonants [n], [m], e.g. never, no, then (accommodation).
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