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 What is phonology?
 Contrastive vs. non-
contrastive sounds
 Phonemes vs. allophones
 Complementary distribution

Readings: 4.1- 4.2

 The study of the inventory of sounds in a
language; of how speech sounds may
pattern together, or contrast.
Questions of interest to a phonologist:
• How do speech sounds pattern in this language?
• How are they organized? How do they function? a phonetician:
• What is a possible human speech sound?
• How do humans manipulate our articulatory physiology to produce speech?
• How are different articulatory configurations heard as speech? One area of overlap with
phonology: What properties of speech sounds does Language X use to achieve contrast?
 Contrastiveness vs. noncontrastiveness

Do the sounds function to distinguish

 Two sounds are contrastive if inter-
changing the two can change meaning of
the word
 English /p/~/b/:
㻾 kQp㼀 ‘cap’ vs. 㻾 kQb㼀 ‘cab’
 Hindi 㻒㼓 㼋 㻒~㻒㼓㻒:
㻾 ph´l㼀 ‘fruit’ vs. 㻾 p´l㼀 ‘moment’
Types of Transcription
 Hindi 㻒㼓 㼋 㻒~㻒㼓㻒:
㻾 ph´l㼀 ‘fruit’ vs. 㻾 p´l㼀 ‘moment’
Need to represent more than just the phoneme
/p/ to show how contrast works
Add a diacritic [㼋 ] to the phoneme symbol [p]
Types of Transcription
/ / Broad phonetic transcription: representation of the basic
sound units used to pronounce words

[ ] Narrow phonetic transcription:

-- phonetics: representation of the phonetic detail of a sound, necessary
for understanding crucial features of sounds, below the level of contrast
-- phonology: all phonetic detail necessary for contrast.
Minimal pair
 Two (or more) words that differ only by a
single sound in the same position and
that have different meanings
 m/n: [s^ʌm] ‘sum’ vs. [s^ ʌn] ‘sun’
 k/g: 㻾 kIl㼀 ‘kill’ vs. 㻾 gIl㼀 ‘gill’
 s/S: 㻾 mEsi㼀 ‘messy’ vs. 㻾 mESi㼀 ‘meshy’
 㼌㻒I㻒E: [fil] ‘feel’ vs. 㻾 fIl㼀 ‘fill’ vs. [fEl] ‘fell’
 While whole sounds can contrast, so can
parts of sounds (i.e., features):
 Voicing: 㻾 tIl㼀 ‘till’ vs. 㻾 dIl㼀 ‘dill’
 Place: [sʌ^m] ‘sum’ vs. [s^ ʌN] ‘sung’
 Manner: 㻾 mEs㼀 ‘mess’ vs. [mEt] ‘met’
 Sounds in a minimal pair…
 …contrast
 …are unpredictable (i.e., must be learned)
 …belong to different phonemes
Phoneme vs. allophone
 Phoneme:
 A minimal unit of sound that serves to
distinguish meaning between words
 May be composed of a set of sounds
(‘allophones’) that are considered by native
speakers to be the ‘same’ sound
 Allophone: the different phonetic
realizations of a phoneme
top stop little kitten
㻾 㼗 㼋 㼄㼓 㼀 㻾 㼖㼗㼄㼓 㼀 㻾 lIRl㼀 㻾 kI/n㼀
| |

phoneme  㻒㼗㻒

allophones  㻾 㼗 㼋㼀 㻾 㼗㼀 㻾 R㼀 㻃㻃㻃㻃㻃㻃㻾 /㼀
 Contrastive distribution: When sounds
can occur in the exact same phonetic
environment (thereby forming a minimal
pair), e.g.,
 Initial: 㻾 su㼀 ‘sue’, 㻾 zu㼀 ‘zoo’
 Medial: 㻾 bʌ^sIN㼀 ‘bussing’, 㻾 b ʌ^zIN㼀 ‘buzzing’
 Final: 㻾 kloUs㼀 ‘close’, 㻾 kloUz㼀 ‘clothes’
 Complementary distribution: When
two (or more) phonetically similar sounds
never occur in exactly the same
environment, but in complementary or
mutually-exclusive environments
 p/ph: 㻾 spQt㼀 ‘spat’ 㻾 phQt㼀 ‘pat’
[spul] ‘spool’ [phul] ‘pool’
[spik] ‘speak’ [phik] ‘peak’
 speech/beach/peach demonstration
 Sounds in complementary distribution…
 …are allophones of a single phoneme
 …do not occur in minimal pairs
 …are noncontrastive
 …are predictable (based on environment)
Real-life analogy of complementary
Two people or one person?
 Do you ever see Superman and Clark
Kent in the same environment?

Superman is always
found in the environment
of an emergency.
No Emergency

Clark Kent is seen

in the environment
when there is no
We can conclude:

Clark Kent and Superman are different

identities of the same person.
The analogy
 Clark Kent and Superman are like
 They are noncontrastive.
 They appear in complementary
 Just as allophones are different forms of the
same phoneme, Clark Kent and Superman are
different realizations of the same person.

/Superman/ /p/

[Clark Kent] [Superman] 㻾 㼓 h㼀 [p]