Start Encyclopedia69 Dictionary | Overview | Topics | Groups | Categories | Bookmark this page.
dictionary -  encyclopedia  
Full text search :        
   A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z   #   




  Phonology (Greek, ‘study of sound’) is a main branch of linguistics. The human speech organs have the capacity to produce an extremely diverse range of sounds, but an individual language will only make use of a strictly limited subset of the total in order to convey meaning systematically. By focusing on the way speech sounds are organized as part of the language system, phonological enquiry represents a distinct move away from the study of the purely physical qualities of speech sounds (see phonetics). Of great significance was the discovery of the phoneme, an abstract unit which helps account for the way one word can be distinguished from the next. For example, in the word ‘shoe’, we can recognize two phonemes one consonant /∫/and one vowel /u:/), to give the phonological transcription /∫u:/. The word ‘who’ differs phonologically only in the substitution of /h/in place of /∫/, to give /hu:/. These examples also show the importance of disregarding the orthographic conventions of a language in producing a phonemic representation. English spelling conventions in particular are notable for their lack of correspondence to the sounds they represent. Consider, for example, the word ‘thing’, with five letters but only three phonemes /θIÅ‹/.

Many aspects of the acoustic properties of speech are not in fact necessary for conveying meaning. For instance, the [p] sound in the word ‘pill’ is aspirated, which means that it is produced with a short puff of breath, whereas there is no aspiration in the [p] sound of ‘spill’. In a phonetic representation, this information would be included. In a phonological description, however, this information can be omitted, since it is entirely irrelevant when it comes to distinguishing one word from another in English. The two realizations, or allophones, of the /p/phoneme, although physically different, are treated as the same sound by English speakers, who are not normally even aware of the difference. Allophones often occur in complementary distribution, which means that each is found in a distinct and mutually exclusive range of environments. For instance, only the aspirated version of /p/is found at the beginning of syllables. Although aspiration is not phonemically distinctive in English, it is important to bear in mind that languages vary greatly in the features of sound which are chosen to convey contrasts in meaning. Thus, in Thai, aspiration does provide a phonemic contrast, such that /phaa/means to split, whereas /paa /means forest.

The main problem with a purely phonemic analysis is that it presents an image of speech as a series of discrete units of sound strung together like so many beads on a string. However, several aspects of speech sound organization clearly span several segments. Examples of such suprasegmental phenomena include pitch, intonation and the rhythmic properties of speech, which languages also exploit in systematic ways to convey meaning. MS

Further reading R. Lass, Phonology: an Introduction to Basic Concepts.



Bookmark this page:



<< former term
next term >>


Other Terms : Masque | Sacrament | Bacteriology
Home |  Add new article  |  Your List |  Tools |  Become an Editor |  Tell a Friend |  Links |  Awards |  Testimonials |  Press |  News |  About |
Copyright ©2009 GeoDZ. All rights reserved.  Terms of Use  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us