LECTURE_6_Phonotactics and syllable

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PHONOTACTICS
AND
SYLLABLE
THE PHONEME
Speech – continuous stream of sounds
 Study of speech – dividing the stream into
segments
 The total number of sounds actually
produced – infinite; yet, what is important
is whether their interchange brings about
the change in meaning
 If yes, the sound is called the phoneme


A phoneme - the smallest ‘distinctive sound unit ’ of a
language

It distinguishes one word from another in a given
language.

changing a phoneme in a word produces another
word, that has a different meaning. In the pair of words
(minimal pairs) 'cat' and 'bat', the distinguishing sounds
/k/ and /b/ are both phonemes.

The phoneme is an abstract term (a speech sound
as it exists in the mind of the speaker) and it is specific
to a particular language.
A phoneme may have several allophones,
related sounds that are distinct but do not
change the meaning of a word when they
are interchanged.
 The sounds corresponding to the letter ´t´
in the English words 'tea' and 'trip' are not
in fact quite the same. The position of the
tongue is slightly different, which causes a
difference in sound detectable by an
instrument such as a speech spectrograph.
Thus the [t] in 'tea' and the [t] in 'trip' are
allophones of the phoneme /t/.

ALLOPHONES

If there is a strict separation of places
where particular realizations of a phoneme
(i.e. allophones of a phoneme) can occur,
they are said to be in complementary
distribution (e.g. the aspirated and
unaspirated realizations of ´t´, like in
´tin´ and ´trip´)
SYLLABLE
Just like sounds, syllables can be defined
both phonetically and phonologically
 Phonetically: they consist of a centre with
minor or no obstruction to the airflow,
and the beginning and end with
greater obstruction to the airflow
 Phonologically: vowels and consonants
having different distribution

SYLLABLE
Minimum syllable: a single vowel in
isolation: /a:/, /‫כּ‬:/, /∫/, /m/
 Some syllables have an onset (more than
silence before the central vowel): ´bar´
 Some syllables have a coda more than
silence after the central vowel): ´ease´
 Some syllables have onset and coda:
´run´

PHONOTACTICS
is the study of the possible phoneme
combinations of a language: what can
occur at a word beginning or end
 In English, a word can begin with a vowel,
1, 2, or 3 consonants
 In English, a word can end in a vowel, 1,
2, 3 or 4 consonants

SYLLABLE INITIAL SOUNDS

-
-
Syllable onsets:
A vowel (any vowel but /υ/) = zero onset
A consonant (any cons. but /ŋ/,/ζ/ is rare)
Two or more cons. = consonant cluster
pre-initial /s/ + initial
/p/,/t/,/k/,/f/,/m/,/n/,/l/,/w/,/r/,/j/ (´sphere´)
a set of some 15 cons. as initial + one of cons.
/l/,/r/,/w/,/j/ as post-initial (´clear´)
Three-cons. initial cluster: pre-initial /s/ +
initial /p/,/t/,/k/ + post-initial /l/,/r/,/w/ (´split´)
SYLLABLE FINAL SOUNDS




-
-
Zero coda = no final cons.
Final cons.=any cons. except /h/,/r/,/w/,/j/
Two-cons. clusters:
pre-final /m/n/ŋ/l/s/ + final (´bank´)
final + post-final /s/z/t/d/θ/ (may be separate
morphemes) (´beds´)
Three-cons. clusters:
pre-final+final+post-final (twelfth)
final+post-final 1 +post-final 2 (fifths)
pre-final+final+post-final 1+ post-final 2 (twelfths)
final+ post-final 1+post-final 2+ post-final 3 (sixths)
BORDER CASES?
Syllabic consonants at the centre of the
syllable instead of a vowel
 Q: How many syllables are there in
´students´ /´stju:dnts/?
 A: One or two!!!

RECENT PHONOLOGICAL TIPS
Syllable
rhyme
onset
peak
(centre/
nucleus)
coda
SYLLABLE DIVISION
Alternative analyses possible in many
cases: e.g. ambisyllabic cons. in ´carry´
 The ´extra´ case – much discussed
 The ´standing´ case – much discussed
 The ´boundary´ case – much discussed
 No obvious way of deciding whether to
follow the phonetic (CVC) or grammatical
instinct (base form + extension)

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