Functional aspect of speech sounds. The phoneme theory

Ph studies sounds as articulatory and acoustic units, phonology investigates sounds as units which serve communicative purposes. The unit of phonetics is a speech sound, the unit of phonology is a phoneme. Phonemes can be discovered by the method of minimal pairs. This method consists in finding pairs of words which differ in 1 phoneme, e.g. if we replace [b] by [t] in the word ban we produce a new word tan, ban-tan is a pair of words distinguished in meaning by a single sound change. 2 words of this kind are termed minimal pairs.

The phonemes of a lang form a system of oppositions, in which any one phoneme is usually opposed to any other phoneme in at least 1 position.

The founder of the phoneme theory was Baudouin de Courteney. His theory of phoneme was developed and perfected by Shcherba, who stated that in actual speech we utter a much greater variety of sounds than we are aware of, and that in every lang these sounds are united in a comparatively small number of sound types, which are capable of distinguishing the meaning and the form of words. It is these sound types that should be included into the classification of phonemes and studied as differentiatory units of the lang. The actually pronounced speech sounds are variants or allophones of phonemes. Allophones are realized in concrete words. They have phonetic similarity, at the same time they differ in some degree and are incapable of differentiating words, e.g. in speech we pronounce not the sound type [t] which is asperated, alveolar, forelingual, apical, occlusive, plosive, voiceless-fortis – according to the classificatory definition, but one of its variants, e.g. labialized in the word twice, dental in the word nineth, post-alveolar in try and so on. The number of sound types, or phonemes, in each lang is much smaller than the number of sounds actually pronounced.

Phonemic variants or allophones are very important for lang teaching, their mispronunciation doesn’t influence the meaning of the words, their misuse makes a person’s speech sound as foreign.

The variants used in actual speech are called subsidiary. Susidiary allophones can be positional and combinatory. Posit alloph are used in certain positions traditionally, e.g. the Eng [l] is realized in actual speech as a positional alloph: it is clear in the initial position and dark (твердый) in terminal position, e.g. let and mill. Rus positional alloph can be obserdved in such words as рубль. Combinatory allophones appear in the process of speech and result from the influence of the phoneme upon another.

Each phoneme manifests itself in a certain pattern of distribution. The simplest of them is free variation, that is the variation of one and the same phoneme pronounced differently, e.g. the pronunciation of the initial [k] with different degree of aspiration. Complementary distribution is another pattern of phoneme environment, when one and the same phoneme occurs in a definite set of context in which no other phoneme ever occurs. Contrastive distribution is one more pattern of phoneme environment, e.g. bad – bed, pit – peat – these are minimal pairs.

Minimal distinctive features are discovered through oppositions. This method helps to prove whether the phonemic difference is relevant or not, whether the opposition is single, double or multiple, [d], [t] have only one distinctively relevant feature – single opposition. If there are two distinctively relevant features, the opposition is double , e.g. [p] and [d] differ after following lines: [p] – voiceless, fortis, labial, bilabial; [d] – voiced, lenis, lingual, forelingual, apical, alveolar. The opposition [b], [h] is multiple, because these phonemes differ along the following lines: [b] - voiced, lenis, labial, bilabial, occlusive; [h] - voiceless, fortis, pharingal, constrictive.

Бодуэн-де-Куртене defined the phoneme as a physical image of a sound, he originated the so called “mentalist” view of the phoneme.


The rules of word stress in English

1. in words of 2-3 syll, the primary str mostly falls on the 1 syl.

2. in prefixal words the primary str falls on the syl following the prefix, recall.

3. in prefixal words with prefixes having their own meaning the place of str is on the prefix, exminister

4. in prefixal verbs which are distinguished from similarly spelled nouns and adjs have their str on the initial syl (‘increase-to in’crease)

5. in compound words the 1st element is stressed when: 1 they are written as 1 word,2 nouns are compounded of a verb and an adv(make up),3 nouns in the possessive case are followed by another noun (a doll’s house).

In compound words the 2nd element is stressed when: 1food items have the 1st elem which is of a material used in manufacturing the whole (appletree), 2names of roads, parks,squares, 3 parts of the house – kitchenwindow, 4 adj-s with past participles, characterizing person, 5 comp nouns ending in –er or –ing are followed by an adv (passer’by)

2 equal str-s are observed in compositive verbs: give up,in numerals 13-19


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