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Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one time, the study of phonology only related to the study of the systems of phonemes in spoken languages. Now it may relate to
Sign languages have a phonological system equivalent to the system of sounds in spoken languages. The building blocks of signs are specifications for movement, location and handshape.
The word 'phonology' (as in the phonology of English ) can also refer to the phonological system (sound system) of a given language. This is one of the fundamental systems which a language is considered to comprise, like its syntax, its morphology and its vocabulary.
Phonology is often distinguished from phonetics . While phonetics concerns the physical production, acoustic transmission and perception of the sounds of speech,phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language or across languages to encode meaning. For many linguists, phonetics belongs to descriptive linguistics, and phonology to theoretical linguistics, although establishing the phonological system of a language is necessarily an application of theoretical principles to analysis of phonetic evidence. Note that this distinction was not always made, particularly before the development of the modern concept of the phoneme in the mid 20th century. Some subfields of modern phonology have a crossover with phonetics in descriptive disciplines such as psycholinguistics and speech perception, resulting in specific areas like articulatory phonology or laboratory phonology.
The word phonology comes from Ancient Greek φωνή, phōnḗ, "voice, sound," and the suffix -logy (which is from Greek λόγος, lógos, "word, speech, subject of discussion"). Definitions of the term vary. Nikolai Trubetzkoy in Grundzüge der Phonologie (1939) defines phonology as "the study of sound pertaining to the system of language," as opposed to phonetics, which is "the study of sound pertaining to the act of speech" (the distinction between language and speech being basically Saussure's distinction between langue and parole). More recently, Lass (1998) writes that phonology refers broadly to the subdiscipline of linguistics concerned with the sounds of language, while in more narrow terms, "phonology proper is concerned with the function, behavior and organization of sounds as linguistic items." According to Clark et al. (2007), it means the systematic use of sound to encode meaning in any spoken human language, or the field of linguistics studying this use.
Early evidence for a systematic study of the sounds in a language appears in the 4th century BCE Ashtadhyayi , a Sanskrit grammar composed by Pāṇini. In particular the Shiva Sutras , an auxiliary text to the Ashtadhyayi, introduces what may be considered a list of the phonemes of the Sanskrit language, with a notational system for them that is used throughout the main text, which deals with matters of morphology, syntax and semantics.
The study of phonology as it exists today is defined by the formative studies of the 19th-century Polish scholar Jan Baudouin de Courtenay, who (together with his students Mikołaj Kruszewski and Lev Shcherba) shaped the modern usage of the term phoneme in a series of lectures in 1876–1877. The word phoneme had been coined a few years earlier in 1873 by the French linguist A. Dufriche-Desgenettes. In a paper read at 24 May meeting of the Société de Linguistique de Paris,Dufriche-Desgenettes proposed that phoneme serve as a one-word equivalent for the German Sprachlaut. Baudouin de Courtenay's subsequent work, though often unacknowledged, is considered to be the starting point of modern phonology. He also worked on the theory of phonetic alternations (what is now called allophony and morphophonology), and may have had an influence on the work of Saussure according to E. F. K. Koerner.
An influential school of phonology in the interwar period was the Prague school. One of its leading members was Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy, whose Grundzüge der Phonologie (Principles of Phonology),published posthumously in 1939, is among the most important works in the field from this period. Directly influenced by Baudouin de Courtenay, Trubetzkoy is considered the founder of morphophonology, although this concept had also been recognized by de Courtenay. Trubetzkoy also developed the concept of the archiphoneme . Another important figure in the Prague school was Roman Jakobson, who was one of the most prominent linguists of the 20th century.
In 1968 Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle published The Sound Pattern of English (SPE), the basis for generative phonology. In this view, phonological representations are sequences of segments made up of distinctive features. These features were an expansion of earlier work by Roman Jakobson, Gunnar Fant, and Morris Halle. The features describe aspects of articulation and perception, are from a universally fixed set, and have the binary values + or −. There are at least two levels of representation: underlying representation and surface phonetic representation. Ordered phonological rules govern how underlying representation is transformed into the actual pronunciation (the so-called surface form). An important consequence of the influence SPE had on phonological theory was the downplaying of the syllable and the emphasis on segments. Furthermore, the generativists folded morphophonology into phonology, which both solved and created problems.
Natural phonology is a theory based on the publications of its proponent David Stampe in 1969 and (more explicitly) in 1979. In this view, phonology is based on a set of universal phonological processes that interact with one another; which ones are active and which are suppressed is language-specific. Rather than acting on segments, phonological processes act on distinctive features within prosodic groups. Prosodic groups can be as small as a part of a syllable or as large as an entire utterance. Phonological processes are unordered with respect to each other and apply simultaneously (though the output of one process may be the input to another). The second most prominent natural phonologist is Patricia Donegan (Stampe's wife); there are many natural phonologists in Europe, and a few in the U.S., such as Geoffrey Nathan. The principles of natural phonology were extended to morphology by Wolfgang U. Dressler, who founded natural morphology.
In 1976, John Goldsmith introduced autosegmental phonology. Phonological phenomena are no longer seen as operating on one linear sequence of segments, called phonemes or feature combinations, but rather as involving some parallel sequences of features which reside on multiple tiers. Autosegmental phonology later evolved into feature geometry, which became the standard theory of representation for theories of the organization of phonology as different as lexical phonology and optimality theory.
Government phonology, which originated in the early 1980s as an attempt to unify theoretical notions of syntactic and phonological structures, is based on the notion that all languages necessarily follow a small set of principles and vary according to their selection of certain binary parameters. That is, all languages' phonological structures are essentially the same, but there is restricted variation that accounts for differences in surface realizations. Principles are held to be inviolable, though parameters may sometimes come into conflict. Prominent figures in this field include Jonathan Kaye, Jean Lowenstamm, Jean-Roger Vergnaud, Monik Charette, and John Harris.
In a course at the LSA summer institute in 1991, Alan Prince and Paul Smolensky developed optimality theory—an overall architecture for phonology according to which languages choose a pronunciation of a word that best satisfies a list of constraints ordered by importance; a lower-ranked constraint can be violated when the violation is necessary in order to obey a higher-ranked constraint. The approach was soon extended to morphology by John McCarthy and Alan Prince, and has become a dominant trend in phonology. The appeal to phonetic grounding of constraints and representational elements (e.g. features) in various approaches has been criticized by proponents of 'substance-free phonology', especially by Mark Hale and Charles Reiss.
An integrated approach to phonological theory that combines synchronic and diachronic accounts to sound patterns was initiated with Evolutionary Phonology in recent years.
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An important part of traditional, pre-generative schools of phonology is studying which sounds can be grouped into distinctive units within a language; these units are known as phonemes. For example, in English, the "p" sound in pot is aspirated (pronounced [pʰ]) while that in spot is not aspirated (pronounced [p]). However, English speakers intuitively treat both sounds as variations (allophones) of the same phonological category, that is of the phoneme /p/. (Traditionally, it would be argued that if an aspirated [pʰ] were interchanged with the unaspirated [p] in spot, native speakers of English would still hear the same words; that is, the two sounds are perceived as "the same" /p/.) In some other languages, however, these two sounds are perceived as different, and they are consequently assigned to different phonemes. For example, in Thai, Bengali, and Quechua, there are minimal pairs of words for which aspiration is the only contrasting feature (two words can have different meanings but with the only difference in pronunciation being that one has an aspirated sound where the other has an unaspirated one).
Part of the phonological study of a language therefore involves looking at data (phonetic transcriptions of the speech of native speakers) and trying to deduce what the underlying phonemes are and what the sound inventory of the language is. The presence or absence of minimal pairs, as mentioned above, is a frequently used criterion for deciding whether two sounds should be assigned to the same phoneme. However, other considerations often need to be taken into account as well.
The particular contrasts which are phonemic in a language can change over time. At one time, [f] and [v], two sounds that have the same place and manner of articulation and differ in voicing only, were allophones of the same phoneme in English, but later came to belong to separate phonemes. This is one of the main factors of historical change of languages as described in historical linguistics.
The findings and insights of speech perception and articulation research complicate the traditional and somewhat intuitive idea of interchangeable allophones being perceived as the same phoneme. First, interchanged allophones of the same phoneme can result in unrecognizable words. Second, actual speech, even at a word level, is highly co-articulated, so it is problematic to expect to be able to splice words into simple segments without affecting speech perception.
Different linguists therefore take different approaches to the problem of assigning sounds to phonemes. For example, they differ in the extent to which they require allophones to be phonetically similar. There are also differing ideas as to whether this grouping of sounds is purely a tool for linguistic analysis, or reflects an actual process in the way the human brain processes a language.
Since the early 1960s, theoretical linguists have moved away from the traditional concept of a phoneme, preferring to consider basic units at a more abstract level, as a component of morphemes; these units can be called morphophonemes, and analysis using this approach is called morphophonology.
In addition to the minimal units that can serve the purpose of differentiating meaning (the phonemes), phonology studies how sounds alternate, i.e. replace one another in different forms of the same morpheme (allomorphs), as well as, for example, syllable structure, stress, feature geometry, and intonation.
Phonology also includes topics such as phonotactics (the phonological constraints on what sounds can appear in what positions in a given language) and phonological alternation (how the pronunciation of a sound changes through the application of phonological rules, sometimes in a given order which can be feeding or bleeding,) as well as prosody, the study of suprasegmentals and topics such as stress and intonation.
The principles of phonological analysis can be applied independently of modality because they are designed to serve as general analytical tools, not language-specific ones. The same principles have been applied to the analysis of sign languages (see Phonemes in sign languages), even though the sub-lexical units are not instantiated as speech sounds.
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or phones, or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. For example, in English, and the aspirated form are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as Thai and Hindi. On the other hand, in Spanish, and are allophones for the phoneme, while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English.
In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, spoken or signed, that differ in only one phonological element, such as a phoneme, toneme or chroneme, and have distinct meanings. They are used to demonstrate that two phones are two separate phonemes in the language.
In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language.
Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Russian Empire-born American linguist and literary theorist.
Prince Nikolai Sergeyevich Trubetzkoy was a Russian linguist and historian whose teachings formed a nucleus of the Prague School of structural linguistics. He is widely considered to be the founder of morphophonology. He was also associated with the Russian Eurasianists.
Phonetic transcription is the visual representation of speech sounds by means of symbols. The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Acoustic phonetics is a subfield of phonetics, which deals with acoustic aspects of speech sounds. Acoustic phonetics investigates time domain features such as the mean squared amplitude of a waveform, its duration, its fundamental frequency, or frequency domain features such as the frequency spectrum, or even combined spectrotemporal features and the relationship of these properties to other branches of phonetics, and to abstract linguistic concepts such as phonemes, phrases, or utterances.
In the field of dialectology, a diasystem or polylectal grammar is a linguistic analysis set up to encode or represent a range of related varieties in a way that displays their structural differences.
In linguistics, a segment is "any discrete unit that can be identified, either physically or auditorily, in the stream of speech". The term is most used in phonetics and phonology to refer to the smallest elements in a language, and this usage can be synonymous with the term phone.
John Rupert Firth, commonly known as J. R. Firth, was an English linguist and a leading figure in British linguistics during the 1950s. He was Professor of English at the University of the Punjab from 1919–1928. He then worked in the phonetics department of University College London before moving to the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he became Professor of General Linguistics, a position he held until his retirement in 1956.
A diaphoneme is an abstract phonological unit that identifies a correspondence between related sounds of two or more varieties of a language or language cluster. For example, some English varieties contrast the vowel of late with that of wait or eight. Other English varieties contrast the vowel of late or wait with that of eight. This non-overlapping pair of phonemes from two different varieties can be reconciled by positing three different diaphonemes: A first diaphoneme for words like late, a second diaphoneme for words like wait, and a third diaphoneme for words like eight.
Clinical linguistics is a sub-discipline of applied linguistics involved in the description, analysis, and treatment of language disabilities, especially the application of linguistic theory to the field of Speech-Language Pathology. The study of the linguistic aspect of communication disorders is of relevance to a broader understanding of language and linguistic theory.
Connected speech, or connected discourse, in linguistics, is a continuous sequence of sounds forming utterances or conversations in spoken language. Analysis of connected speech shows sound changes affecting linguistic units traditionally described as phrases, words, lexemes, morphemes, syllables, phonemes or phones. The words that are modified by those rules will sound differently in connected speech than in citation form.
George Nickerson Clements was an American theoretical linguist specializing in phonology. Clements was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and educated in New Haven, Paris and London. He received his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 1973, defending a thesis on the Ewe language based on a year of field work in Ghana. He was a visiting scientist at M.I.T. (1973–75) and held appointments as professor at Harvard (1975–82) and Cornell (1982–91) before moving to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S.) in Paris in 1992. He died of cancer in Chatham, Massachusetts, at the age of 68.
Junko Itō is a Japanese-born American linguist. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics in 1986 from the University of Massachusetts Amherst under the supervision of Alan Prince. She is currently a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she served as chair of the department from 1999-2006.
Panchronic phonology is an approach to historical phonology. Its aim is to formulate generalizations about sound changes that are independent of any particular language or language group.
Jacqueline Vaissière is a French phonetician.
Donca Steriade is a professor of Linguistics at MIT, specializing in phonological theory.
Annie Rialland is a French linguist who is Director of Research emerita of the CNRS Laboratory of Phonetics and Phonology (Paris). Her main domains of expertise are phonetics, phonology, prosody, and African languages.
Dr. Monik Charette is a French-Canadian linguist and phonologist who taught at SOAS the University of London, in the United Kingdom. She specializes in phonology, morphophonology, stress systems, vowel harmony, syllabic structure and word-structure, focusing on Altaic languages, Turkish, and French.