Phones, Phonemes, Allophones and Phonological Rules

Introduction

After having spent quite some time on phonetics and the different branches of it, we will now turn our attention to its more theoretical counterpart, phonology. During one of our first joint sessions, you have already briefly come across the two terms in opposition to each other in connection with the defintion of consonants and vowels.
Task 1:

1. Reconstruct the two views (phonetics ‘vs.’ phonology) on the definition of the consonant.
2. Then, try to embed those views into a broader definition of phonetics opposed to phonology by surfing the web for definitions and present your results to the class.

Two links that you may find useful:

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonetics
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonology

First task in developing a phonological description of a particular language:

* determine which sounds can convey a difference in meaning (same thing a child has to do when beginning to learn a language and realize that, for example, there is a difference between the words white and right)
* when two sounds can be used to differentiate words, they belong to different phonemes
* however: there may be small shades of sounds that cannot be used to distinguish words, e.g. differences between the consonants at the beginning and end of the word pop (puff of air vs. no puff of air; opening of lips vs. no opening of lips) — both belong to the same phoneme
* NOTE: phoneme not a single sound, but usually a group of sounds
* phonemic transcription (or broad transcription) = records only those sound variations that cause a difference in meaning (vs. allophonic or narrow transcription)

Phonetic variability

Speech does not simply consist of a string of target articulations linked by simple movement between them. In fact, articulation of individual sound segments is almost always influenced by the articulation of neighboring segments, often to the point of considerable overlapping of articulatory activities. Phonetic variability is due not just to differences among individual speakers, but very often also to the phonetic context (context sensitivity). However, those variations usually do not pose any difficulty to a listener – in fact, variations can be decoded with apparently unconscious ease.
Examples of context-sensitive variation:

* nasalization of oral vowels if preceding a nasal consonant (as in sand, can’t, bend)
* palatalization of [s] when preceding a [j] — turns into [ʃ] (as in this year, tissue)
* peripheral vowels may become centralized, esp. in rapid speech if unstressed (vowel reduction towards [ə])

There are three types of assimilation:

1. assimilation of place (as in ratbag or oatmeal — [t] often realized as [p])
2. assimilation of manner (as in Indian pronounced as [ɪnʤən] — stop [d] and approximant [j] merge to form an affricate [ʤ])
3. assimilation of voicing (as in have to — [v] often realized as [f], assimilating to unvoiced [t])

Yet another special case: Elision – instance of complete sound deletion, e.g.

* in consonant clusters, such as facts (deletion of [t]) or fifths (deletion of [θ]) — to ease the articulation process
* when unstressed, the word and often loses its [d]
* entire unstressed syllables are often elided from longer words, such as February and library

Phonemes and Allophones
Phonemes

Contrastive systems range in complexity from languages with less than 20 distinctive consonants and vowels to languages with 60 or more. English, depending on the particular dialect, has up to 24 consonants and up to about 20 vowel sounds (Warlpiri (=Australian Aboriginee language): only 3 distinctive vowel sounds — /a/, /i/, and /u/).

* phoneme = contrastive/distinctive sound within a particular language (notation: /�/)
* allophone (also variant) = sound which counts as an alternative way of saying a phoneme in a particular language (notation: [�])

Examples:

* English /r/ may be realized as [r], [ɹ], etc. (different realizations of /r/ do not cause a change in meaning, contrary to, e.g., Spanish (e.g. pero (= but) vs. perro (= dog)))
* Warlpiri /a/ may be realized as [ɒ], [æ], etc. (in Warlpiri, different realizations of /a/ do not cause a change in meaning, contrary to, e.g., English)

English /n/ and its allophones:

* [n̪] – dental by assimilation before a dental fricative, e.g. tenth, month
* [n:] – lengthened before a voiced obstruent in the same syllable such as [d], [z], or [ʤ], e.g. tend, tens, plunge
* [n] – normal quality elsewhere, e.g. net, ten, tent
* NOTE: [ŋ] not relevant here because sound exists as distinctive phoneme in the English sound system, e.g. in sin vs. sing, ban vs. bang)

In sum – Two views of the phoneme:

1. functional: focus on differences in pronunciation which have an effect on the meaning of a word; phonemes = sounds that serve to differentiate words from each other, cf. as in minimal pairs* such as red vs. led, real vs. zeal
2. phonetic: focus on actual pronunciation of phonemes (demands narrow phonetic description) and phonetic variability within a single phoneme; phonemes = set of related sounds (phones) — if a phoneme has more than one variant: phoneme consists of a set of allophones standing in complementary distribution

* minimal pair = word pairs whose sound structures are identical except one minimal difference, a single sound segment that occurs in the same place in the string — the substitution of one for the other makes a different word, e.g. crick and creek (all the possible variations – crick, creek, crook, croak, crake, crack and crock – constitute a minimal set)
Task 2:
Decide whether the following pairs of words are minimal pairs or not and give reasons!

* Oma : Opa
* Rand : Rat
* Rad : Rat
* bitten : bieten
* Rosen (pronounced with an alveolar trill) : Rosen (pronounced with an uvular trill)
* Buch : Bücher
* dir : Tier
* Rasen : rasen
* Sache : Sachen
* Milch : mild
* blau : Bau
* Weg : Steg
* chunk : hunk

Allophones

In general: allophones = conditioned variants of a phoneme; generated by phonological conditioning(= a matter of language-specific ‘rules of pronunciation’)
Examples of allophones:
/a/

* [ã] before a nasal consonant (Engl. sand)
* [a] elsewhere

/k/

* [g] between two voiced sounds (in languages where there is no difference between voiced and voiceless sounds, e.g. many Australian Aboriginal languages)
* [k] elsewhere

/n/

* [ŋ] before a velar consonant (Span. banca, mango)
* [n] elsewhere

/d/

* [ð] between two vowels (Span. Toledo; see also Span. realizations of /b/ and /g/ as in Cuba and Diego — weakening from plosive to fricative manner)
* [d] elsewhere

In most of the above examples, it is rather easy to point to the conditioning factors responsible for allophonic variation. However, note that these tendencies do not yield identical consequences in all languages! Furthermore, some instances of allophonic variation cannot be explained that easily.
Example from Korean:
/r/

* [r] word-initial or intervocalic
* [l] elsewhere

Problematic here:

* ‘similarity’ of [r] and [l] not easy to justify
* note, however: [r] and [l] prone to confusion even in the English language, as in meteorological, corollary, irrelevantly, etc.

Another allophonic adjustment in English:
/l/

* [ɫ] post-vocalic (dark /l/ – velarized by raising of the back of the tongue towards the soft palate)
* [l] elsewhere (pre-vocalic)

Note that …

* in extreme cases (dialects of London, South Australia) the raising of the back of the tongue virtually creates an [u] vowel
* type of assimilation not found in many of the world’s languages (cf. German kalt, Italian caldo)

The range of allophonic variation encountered in natural languages means that it is not easy to predict which sounds can or cannot be allophones of a single phoneme.
Phonemic norms: Phoneme & Allophone – Which one should be which?

* allophones = variations from a norm (the phoneme)
* frequently, one of all allophones suggests itself as the normal value/phoneme

Examples:

1. if English /w/ is voiceless after voiceless plosives (e.g twin, quit), and voiced elsewhere (i.e. under all other circumstances), then /w/ (rather than /w̥/) is the phoneme
2. if the two allophones of a single phoneme are [ŋ] before a velar consonant, and [n] elsewhere, then /n/ (rather than /ŋ/) is the phoneme
3. if the two allophones of a single phoneme are [ã] before a nasal consonant, and [a] elsewhere, then /a/ (rather than /ã/) is the phoneme

Free variation
Free variation vs. complementary distribution:

* complementary distribution = allophonic variation dependent on the phonetic environment the phoneme occurs in (e.g. [ɫ] vs. [l] in English)
* free variation = allophonic variation independent of the phonetic environment the phoneme occurs in; random interchangeability

Example of free variation of a consonantal phoneme:

* realization of word-initial th (as in then, this, there) as either [ð] or [d] (possibly due to reasons of unawareness or indifference of choice)
* [ð] and [d] = free variants (freely fluctuating allophones) of the phoneme; unconditioned by their phonetic environment

Example of free variation of a vowel phoneme:

* realization of e in economics as either /ɛ/ or /i:/; realization of the ei in either as /i:/ or /aɪ/
* each of the vowel sounds above are separate phonemes (cf. head, heed, and hide, or men, mean, and mine) which are not interchangeable in most words
* variation often dependent on regional and stylistic preferences (e.g. (oversimplified!) categorization as ‘American’ vs. ‘British’ for pronunciation of either)

How ‘free’ is free variation really?

Careful: Allophonic variation that happens independently of the phonetic environment the sound occurs in is not always as free as it appears! The variation is often strongly dependent on regional or stylistic influences (shifting pronunciation: just as speakers shift between lexical style registers, they may also shift between phonetic registers for stylistic reasons).
Exercise on German [x] vs. [ç]:

(adapted from Ramers 1998, 47)
Task:
Consider these German words. In each of them, you will find an instance of either [x] or [ç].

Becher, Buch, Biochemie, Bucht, Chemie, Dach, doch, durch, euch, Flüche, Frauchen, hoch, ich , Küche, Löcher, Lache, manche, Milch, rächen, rauchen, reich, riechen

1. Now, find out in which contexts German uses [x] and in which contexts it uses [ç]. To do that,
* group the instances of [x] and [ç] together
* state the segment each of these instances of ch is preceded by
* group segments together that have something in common
* try and find the rules which determine which allophone to use
2. Can you think of a minimal pair that would distinguish [x] and [ç] as separate phonemes?
3. What do you think of the proposed minimal pair Kuhchen (as in ‘little cow’) versus Kuchen? Would you accept this? Why (not)?

Computer-assisted language learning: Encyclopedia II – Computer-assisted language learning – History

Computer-assisted language learning – History

The History of CALL website traces the development of CALL from its origins on mainframe computers in the 1960s to the present day: http://www.history-of-call.org

Early CALL favoured an approach that drew heavily on practices associated with programmed instruction. This was reflected in the term Computer Assisted Language Instruction (CALI), which originated in the USA and was in common use until the early 1980s, when CALL became the dominant term. Throughout the 1980s CALL widened its scope, embracing the communicative approach and a range of new technologies, especially multimedia and communications technology. An alternative term to CALL emerged in the early 1990s, namely Technology Enhanced Language Learning (TELL), which was felt to provide a more accurate description of the activities which fall broadly within the range of CALL. The term TELL has not, however, gained as wide an acceptance as CALL.

Typical CALL programs present a stimulus to which the learner must respond. The stimulus may be presented in any combination of text, still images, sound, and motion video. The learner responds by typing at the keyboard, pointing and clicking with the mouse, or speaking into a microphone. The computer offers feedback, indicating whether the learner’s response is right or wrong and, in the more sophisticated CALL programs, attempting to analyse the learner’s response and to pinpoint errors. Branching to help and remedial activities is a common feature of CALL programs.

Wida Software (London, UK) was one of the first specialist businesses to develop CALL programs for microcomputers in the early 1980s. Typical software of the first generation of CALL included Wida’s “Matchmaster” (where students have to match two sentence halves or anything else that belongs together); “Choicemaster” (the classic multiple-choice test format); “Gapmaster” (for gapped texts); “Textmixer” (which jumbles lines within a poem or sentences within a paragraph); “Wordstore” (a learner’s own private vocabulary database, complete with a definition and an example sentence in which the word to be learned is used in a context); and “Storyboard” (where a short text is blotted out completely and has to be restored from scratch). Wida’s packages continue to be popular and are now merged into one general-purpose, multimedia authoring program known as “The Authoring Suite”: http://www.wida.co.uk

Another specialist business, Camsoft (Maidenhead, UK), has enjoyed similar success with its “Fun with Texts” authoring package, which was first produced in 1985 and is now available in an updated multimedia version: http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk

Other CALL activities in the early days of computer use in schools included working with generic packages such as word-processors, which revolutionised text production assignments by enabling language learners to continually revise and have peer reviewed what they are writing before printing out the final version of their composition.

Using Volunteers in your ESL Classroom: Suggestions for Newer Teachers

Kate Singleton
morganca [at] erols.com
Arlington Education and Employment Program (Arlington, Virginia, USA)

Picture this: You’ve just received word from your volunteer coordinator that a brand new, eager volunteer will be starting with your class next Monday. What are you going to do?

Volunteers can be a tremendous asset in the ESL classroom. They can help you give extra attention to all of the students while the class is engaged in practice activities, or they can give extra help to small groups or individuals in the class.

However, as you begin to use volunteers in your classroom, you will need to put a little extra time into planning how you’d like to put them to use, and you will need to designate time either before or during class (sometimes volunteers have to arrive late because of their work schedules) for clarifying your plans with the volunteer. The time it takes to do the extra planning is well worth it, though; it also decreases as you get used to it and build up your supply of strategies for using volunteers. And as your volunteer becomes more acquainted with your students’ needs and your teaching style, he or she usually requires less explanation of activities. In general, the gains to your students and yourself far outweigh the bit of extra effort initially needed in using volunteers.

Here are some tried and true ideas for using volunteers in your class. They have been collected from teachers who have used volunteers successfully for many years. They are listed in order from basic to more elaborate.

Classroom Monitor

As you circulate through your class to monitor student progress during activities, the volunteer does the same. S/he can be checking for:

  • accurate pronunciation
  • reading comprehension
  • accurate grammar
  • general comprehension of the activity
  • or whatever else you choose to focus the activity on.

S/he can also provide extra conversation for shyer or quieter students, and opportunities to interact with another native speaker (if the volunteer is in fact a native speaker). As you present new activities, the volunteer can sit with students who are a little lower than the others and help them understand your instructions.

Co-presenter

The volunteer can assist you in the presentation of new activities. For example, a volunteer can:

  • take a role in a dialogue with you. If you are presenting a conversation to your class, the volunteer can take the other part so that it will sound and appear more authentic for the students.
  • model the activity with you. If you want the students to do pair work, you and the volunteer can demonstrate how it should be done. For instance, you ask a question, and the volunteer answers with an appropriate response. It’s best if you let the volunteer know exactly what you are looking for in advance.
  • read half of a dictation. After you have set the pace of the dictation, the volunteer can read part of it, to challenge the students with a different speaker.

Nurturer

Especially in lower level classes, often the big thing holding many students back is low self-confidence. Volunteers can play a very important role simply by sitting among them and encouraging the under-confident and inexperienced students. The importance of this role cannot be overstated.

Half-group Teacher

For part of a class session, you can divide the class in two and have the volunteer teach one group while you teach the other. Both groups can cover the same material. This set-up gives the advantage of smaller groups and therefore more attention and opportunities for participation for the students. It is best to have had your volunteer do a lot of monitoring prior to teaching a group. The volunteer needs to know what you expect to accomplish in the group. Monitoring experience will expose the volunteer to your teaching style and goals for the class, and s/he will have become familiar with individual students.

Pull-out Group Leader

A pull-out group is a group of like-ability students who work separately from the whole class for part of the class session. The groups can:

  • address special needs that the students have in common, like reading, writing or pronunciation problems.
  • provide more challenging work for higher students.
  • give students an opportunity to focus on skills like conversation with a lot of feedback that you can’t always provide in a large group.

You provide your volunteer with materials and detailed instructions for working with the group, and a place to work (e.g. an empty classroom or office that is available to you, desks in the hallway, or the other half of your classroom). Leveled materials, such as the Personal Stories (Palatine, IL: Linmore Publishing, 1985) or True Stories (White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman Publishing, 1996 ) series are helpful to use for reading pull-out groups, because while you work with one level of the text, the volunteer can work with another. Less planning is required, and students feel like they are all doing the same thing, not missing out on something another group is doing.

One-on-one Tutor

You can provide your volunteer with materials, instructions and a place to help one student with special needs at their own pace for part of the class. This can be helpful for a student with literacy problems that are more extreme than the others in the class. It can also be helpful if a student tells you that there is a certain challenging situation coming up in their life that they need to prepare for, like a test for a driving permit or citizenship, or a job interview, and it is not appropriate for the whole group to work on the topic at that time.

Teacher Conferencing

Many teachers like to conference with students individually about their progress and/or study needs. Your volunteer, given detailed instructions and materials, can serve as teacher to the class while you take students out one at a time.

Special Project Assistant

When you want to conduct special projects with the class, volunteers can be extremely helpful. Here are some examples that teachers have used in the past:

Job Interviews

After you have practiced interviews in class for a while, a volunteer can role play a potential employer and conduct final interviews with students. In a location separate from the classroom, your volunteer can make the situation as real-life as possible, greeting the student formally and asking a variety of questions specific to the job the student is interested in. If you have access to video equipment, the volunteer can operate the camera by remote to record the interviews and play them back for the class later.

Class Newspapers or News Shows

You and your volunteer can divide up the parts of the paper or show that students choose to work on, and you can each guide the students’ work on your respective parts.

Giving Instructions/Describing an Interest

One teacher wanted her high beginners to make a presentation for the class describing how to do an activity of their choosing. To introduce the project, the class’s volunteer, a cycling enthusiast, demonstrated how to pump up a bike tire. Students had to answer questions about the steps and repeat back the instructions.

Special Talents

It is good to keep sight of the fact that every volunteer brings special talents and interests to your class, not to mention a different outlook on American life to share with your students. As you learn more about your volunteers, you may discover that some of their particular talents can contribute something extra to your students. Recently one volunteer who is a professional cameraman brought in video equipment and gave beginning level students instructions as if they were on a tv set while they recorded dialogues they had been practicing. The students enjoyed the “tv production” atmosphere and got a real kick out of seeing themselves on video speaking English. Another volunteer specializes in theatrical vocal training, which keeps her weekly phonics/beginning literacy pull-out groups very lively and creative for students. One volunteer who worked for America OnLine was particularly helpful at locating internet sites that would be useful and interesting for a pre-academic class.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you feel more comfortable about using volunteers. In closing, here are a some important considerations for using volunteers.

Golden Rules of Using Volunteers

  1. Clear communication is key!
    Give clear instructions and adequate materials to your volunteer. From the onset, ask your volunteer what they want to get out of volunteering with your class, and explain what you and your students need from a volunteer.
  2. Feedback, feedback, feedback!
    Your volunteer needs feedback on how s/he is doing. Many feel just as nervous about teaching as your students do about studying. Also, you need feedback on how volunteer-led activities go, to find out about student progress and to make sure the volunteer feels comfortable doing what you’ve asked.
  3. If it’s just not a good match.
    If you find yourself having difficulty working with a particular volunteer, try to clear things up as soon as possible. It may be that you and the volunteer just have different expectations of the volunteer’s role. If you continue to have difficulties after you discuss the situation with the volunteer yourself, contact the volunteer coordinator for your program. The volunteer coordinator can speak with the volunteer and find the best solution. That might mean clarifying the class’s and teacher’s needs to the volunteer and the volunteer’s concerns to the teacher, or it could mean reassigning the volunteer to another part of the program where they will be more comfortable.

Conceptual, Semantic, Syntactic, and Lexical Model Cassie Thomas

Overview

A model is often used to help designers in developing a piece of software. These theories, models, and principles offer a skeleton where issues can be discussed, and compared to enhance a system, or a piece of software. The Conceptual, Semantic, Syntactic, and Lexical model as developed by Foley and Van Dam is an example of a high-level theory. It is a four-level approach, which is an easy to understand model. The four levels are Conceptual, Semantic, Syntactical, and Lexical. When a user is working on an interactive system, a mental model is often developed; this describes the Conceptual level of the approach [2]. When the user enters in input to the system, and the computer generates output based on that input. The Semantic level describes the meanings between the input and output. The Syntactic level is a set of rules to create a sentence, which will give the computer a set of instructions to complete a particular task. The Lexical level deals with input device dependencies, in which the user will specify the exact syntax [2].

Scope, Application, and Limitations

This approach creates a top-down framework, which is easy and convenient for designers. The top-down nature of this approach is easy to comprehend and explain to others. It allows the user (designer) to move from a real-world concept analysis to a system implementation. The concepts and functions required to design and implement the system are identified. Then the designer must consider how the concepts and functions will be expressed in the interface of the computer system [3]. For each function, the model directs the designer to specify details of the sequence of actions that need to be carried out to perform a task. When a piece of software is designed designers usually have two choices, the top-down approach or the bottom up approach. The top-down approach is when the designers have an overall high level concept and then begin designing the software or system piece by piece. In other words, design the main program and large objects first, structure those, fill in the details and functions, and the minor details are the last thing to complete the system. In the bottom up approach the designers start with a low level piece being a function or tiny piece of the system and begin to put these pieces together to make an entire system. So in a system or software design, this approach matches the way that software or systems are typically designed, and it also allows for modularity. This model was derived from compiler theory and language work, so it is mostly applicable to non-Direct Manipulation interfaces.

The Foley & Dam model while it laid the foundation for future theories in HCI, such as Normans theories, it presents some limitations. When the idea was first conceived, the focus of attention in building systems, such as DOS or vi, was at the syntactic and semantic level. As time and research have progressed in HCI, this model has less relevance because of the simplification of syntactic and lexical lines, and the standard of semantic issues of cut-copy-paste. While this theory, it laid the foundation for other theories, is not widely used today.

Principles

Conceptual

The conceptual level identifies the set of familiar task-oriented objects and actions the user needs to know about in order to use the system. Describe the conceptual model in terms of objects, relations between objects, actions on objects, and attributes of objects [1].

Semantic

Documents the semantic specification for each action you have identified in the conceptual design, plus any other actions which are needed. The semantic specification includes a description of the function, including its parameters, feedback, and potential error conditions.

Syntactic

The syntactic level identifies the sequence of inputs and output. The input may be a sequence that is represented by a particular grammar. For example: a regular grammar as defined in Perl (a programming language, often used for scripting). The input defines the set of rules for combining tokens into a legal sentence/instruction for the computer to understand. The output will include spatial and temporal factors.
Figure 1: Figure 1: As described by Jacobs, Tufts University [4]

Example

The following are examples of how the each component of the Foley&Dam Model can be applied to design a piece of software or system.

Conceptual: Provides a mental model

Example: text editor objects = characters, files, paragraphs
relationships = files contain paragraphs contain chars
operations = insert, delete, etc.

Semantic: meaning/desired function

Example: move the paragraph

Syntactic: how the semantic command is formed

Example: prefix vs. postfix
(Edit, Highlight, Cut, Paste)

Lexical: sequence of actions

Example: how mouse and keyboard combined into menu, button, string, pick, etc.
Point to edit on menu bar->click ->select option within edit menu.

Applicability to HCI

For design, methodological power resides in the designer’s virtuosity of expression. It is from this methodological context — combining the methodologies of discovery, invention, and design that this model lays down the foundation for a designer. It allows a designer to design a system, in a way that is top-down, and easy to understand [3]. The designer has the high level specification of how the system should work. This model allows the designer to break down the problem into four areas of concentration to get the system down to its low level modular pieces.

References

[1] Foley, J.D., van Dam, A., Feiner, S.K., and. Hughes, J.F. (1990) Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice, Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley.

[2] Schneiderman, Ben, Designing the User Interface. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley: 1998.

[3] R. Jacob, “Using Formal Specifications in the Design of a Human-Computer Interface,” Communications of the ACM 26(4) pp. 259-264 (1983).

[4] http://www.cs.tufts.edu/~jacob/171/assns.html

[5] http://artsandtechnology.humber.ac.uk/~rspilberg/hci/wk6.ppt

Phoneme and Allophone

Robert Mannell, Macquarie University, 2008

Phoneme and Allophone: Introduction

Trubetzkoy (1939) wrote

“It is the task of phonology to study which differences in sound are related to differences in meaning in a given language, in which way the discriminative elements … are related to each other, and the rules according to which they may be combined into words and sentences.”

Linguistic units which cannot be substituted for each other without a change in meaning can be referred to as linguistically contrastive or significant units. Such units may be phonological, morphological, syntactic, semantic etc.

Logically, this takes the form:-

IF unit X in context A GIVES meaning 1
AND IF unit Y in context A GIVES meaning 2
THEN unit X AND unit Y belong to separate linguistic units
eg. IF sound [k] in context [_æt] GIVES meaning “cat”
AND IF sound [m] in context [_æt] GIVES meaning “mat”
THEN sound [k] and sound [m] belong to separate linguistic units

Phonemes

Phonemes are the linguistically contrastive or significant sounds (or sets of sounds) of a language. Such a contrast is usually demonstrated by the existence of minimal pairs or contrast in identical environment (C.I.E.). Minimal pairs are pairs of words which vary only by the identity of the segment (another word for a single speech sound) at a single location in the word (eg. [mæt] and [kæt]). If two segments contrast in identical environment then they must belong to different phonemes. A paradigm of minimal phonological contrasts is a set of words differing only by one speech sound. In most languages it is rare to find a paradigm that contrasts a complete class of phonemes (eg. all vowels, all consonants, all stops etc.).

eg. the English stop consonants could be defined by the following set of minimally contrasting words:-

i) /pɪn/ vs /bɪn/ vs /tɪn/ vs /dɪn/ vs /kɪn/

Only /ɡ/ does not occur in this paradigm and at least one minimal pair must be found with each of the other 5 stops to prove conclusively that it is not a variant form of one of them.

ii) /ɡɐn/ vs /pɐn/ vs /bɐn/ vs /tɐn/ vs /dɐn/

Again, only five stops belong to this paradigm. A single minimal pair contrasting /ɡ/ and /k/ is required now to fully demonstrate the set of English stop consonants.

iii) /ɡæɪn/ vs /kæɪn/

Sometimes it is not possible to find a minimal pair which would support the contrastiveness of two phonemes and it is necessary to resort to examples of contrast in analogous environment (C.A.E.). C.A.E. is almost a minimal pair, however the pair of words differs by more than just the pair of sounds in question. Preferably, the other points of variation in the pair of words are as remote as possible (and certainly never adjacent and preferably not in the same syllable) from the environment of the pairs of sounds being tested. eg. /ʃ/ vs /ʒ/ in English are usually supported by examples of pairs such as “pressure” [preʃə] vs “treasure” [treʒə], where only the initial consonants differ and are sufficiently remote from the opposition being examined to be considered unlikely to have any conditioning effect on the selection of phones. The only true minimal pairs for these two sounds in English involve at least one word (often a proper noun) that has been borrowed from another language (eg. “Confucian” [kənfjʉːʃən] vs “confusion” [kənfjʉːʒən], and “Aleutian” [əlʉːʃən] vs “allusion” [əlʉːʒən]).

A syntagmatic analysis of a speech sound, on the other hand, identifies a unit’s identity within a language. In other words, it indicates all of the locations or contexts within the words of a particular language where the sound can be found.

For example, a syntagm of the phone [n] in English could be in the form:-
( #CnV…, #nV…, …Vn#, …VnC#, …VnV…, etc.)

whilst [ŋ] in English would be:-
(…Vŋ#, …VŋC#, …VŋV…, etc)

but would not include the word initial forms of the kind described for [n].

Note that in the above examples, “#” is used to represent a word or syllable boundary, “V” represents any vowel, and “C” represents another consonant.

For example, examples of the type “#CnV…” would include “snow” [snəʉ], “snort” [snoːt] and “snooker” [snʉkə]. In this case, the only consonant (for English) that can occupy the initial “C” slot is the phoneme /s/, and so the generalised pattern could be rewritten as “#snV…”.

Allophones

Allophones are the linguistically non-significant variants of each phoneme. In other words a phoneme may be realised by more than one speech sound and the selection of each variant is usually conditioned by the phonetic environment of the phoneme. Occasionally allophone selection is not conditioned but may vary form person to person and occasion to occasion (ie. free variation).

A phoneme is a set of allophones or individual non-contrastive speech segments. Allophones are sounds, whilst a phoneme is a set of such sounds.

Allophones are usually relatively similar sounds which are in mutually exclusive or complementary distribution (C.D.). The C.D. of two phonemes means that the two phonemes can never be found in the same environment (ie. the same environment in the senses of position in the word and the identity of adjacent phonemes). If two sounds are phonetically similar and they are in C.D. then they can be assumed to be allophones of the same phoneme.

eg. in many languages voiced and voiceless stops with the same place of articulation do not contrast linguistically but are rather two phonetic realisations of a single phoneme (ie. /p/=[p,b],/t/=[t,d], and /k/=[k,ɡ]). In other words, voicing is not contrastive (at least for stops) and the selection of the appropriate allophone is in some contexts fully conditioned by phonetic context (eg. word medially and depending upon the voicing of adjacent consonants), and is in some contexts either partially conditioned or even completely unconditioned (eg. word initially, where in some dialects of a language the voiceless allophone is preferred, in others the voiced allophone is preferred, and in others the choice of allophone is a matter of individual choice).

eg. Some French speakers choose to use the alveolar trill [r] when in the village and the more prestigious uvular trill [ʀ] when in Paris. Such a choice is made for sociological reasons.

Phonetic similarity

Allophones must be phonetically similar to each other. In analysis, this means you can assume that highly dissimilar sounds are separate phonemes (even if they are in complementary distribution). For this reason no attempt is made to find minimal pairs which contrast vowels with consonants. Exactly what can be considered phonetically similar may vary somewhat from language family to language family and so the notion of phonetic similarity can seem to be quite unclear at times. Sounds can be phonetically similar from both articulatory and auditory points of view and for this reason one often finds a pair of sounds that vary greatly in their place of articulation but are sufficiently similar auditorily to be considered phonetically similar (eg. [h] and [ç] are voiceless fricatives which are distant in terms of glottal and palatal places of articulation, but which nevertheless are sufficiently similar auditorily to be allophones of a single phoneme in some languages such as Japanese).

eg. In English, /h/ and /ŋ/ are in complementary distribution. /h/ only ever occurs at the beginning of a syllable (head, heart, enhance, perhaps) whilst /ŋ/ only ever occurs at the end of a syllable (sing, singer, finger). They are, however, so dissimilar that no one regards them as allophones of the one phoneme. They vary in place and manner of articulation, as well as voicing. Further the places of articulation (velar vs glottal) are quite remote from each other and /h/ is oral whilst /ŋ/ is nasal.

According to Hockett (1942), “…if a and b are members of one phoneme, they share one or more features”. Phonetic similarity is therefore based on the notion of shared features. Such judgments of similarity will vary from language to language and there are no universal criteria of similarity.

The following pairs of sounds might be considered to be similar.

i) two sounds differing only in voicing:
[pb] [td] [kɡ] [ɸβ] [θð] [sz] [ʃʒ] [xɣ] etc…

ii) two sounds differing in manner of articulation only as plosive vs fricative. The sibilant or grooved fricatives [s,z,ʃ,ʒ] are excluded from this category as they are quite different auditorily from the other (“central”) fricatives.
[pɸ] [kx] [bβ] [ɡɣ] etc…

iii) Any pairs of consonants close in place of articulation and differing in no other contrastive feature:
[sʃ] [zʒ] [nɲŋ] [lɭ] [lʎ] [mɱ], etc…

iv) Any other pairs of consonants which are close in articulation and differ by one other feature but are nevertheless frequently members of the same phoneme
[lɹ] [cɡ] [tθ] [dð]

In languages where voicing is non-contrastive, two phones differing in voicing and only slightly in place of articulation might be considered similar eg. [cɡ] etc.)

Further, for the purposes of this type of analysis, the place of articulation of the apicodental fricatives [θ,ð] is considered to be close enough to that of the alveolar stops [t,d] to be considered phonetically similar.

v) Any two vowels differing in only one feature or articulated with adjacent tongue positions
[æ ɐ] [i ɪ] [ɐː ɐ] [i y] [ɑ ɑ̃]

Although it is implied above that the notion of “phonetic similarity” is in some way less linguistically abstract (more phonetic?) than the notion of complementary distribution, it is, nevertheless, a quite abstract concept. The are no obvious and consistent acoustic, auditory or articulatory criteria for phonetic similarity. Further, since a notion of similarity implies a continuum the following question must be asked of two phones in complementary distribution. How similar must they be before they are to be considered members of the same phoneme?

There are many examples of very similar phones which are perceived by native speakers to belong to separate phonemes. In English, for example, a word terminal voiceless stop may be either released and aspirated or unreleased. The homorganic (1) voiced stop may also be released or unreleased. Often the unreleased voiced and voiceless stops may actually be identical in every way except that the preceding vowel is lengthened before the phonologically voiced stop. In terms of phonetic similarity, the two unreleased stops may actually be identical and yet be perceived by native speakers to belong to different phonemes.

For example:-
/kɐp/→[kɐpʰ] … [kɐp̚]
/kɐb/→[kɐˑb] … [kɐˑb̚] … [kɐˑp̚]
(nb. ” ̚ ” means unreleased stop and ” ˑ ” means partially lengthened vowel)

Conversely, phones which are very dissimilar (at least from certain perspectives) may be felt by native speakers to belong to a single phoneme.

eg. Japanese(2) /h/ [ɸ] before /u/ eg.[ɸuku] “luck”
[ç] before /i/ eg.[çito] “man”
[h] before /e,a,o/ eg.[hana]

From an articulatory perspective, these phones seem very dissimilar (bilabial, palatal, and glottal) being produced at the extreme ends of the vocal tract. They are, however, relatively similar acoustically and auditorily (they are all relatively weak voiceless fricatives). This kind of phonetic similarity is listener orientated rather than speaker orientated.

eg. English /t/ [ʔ] medially and finally in some dialects
eg. Cockney – “butter”, “wait”
[t] initially
nb. /k/ [k,ʔ] does not occur although they are articulatorily closer

Phonemic Pattern

A pair of phones in complementary distribution may sometimes be classified into separate phonemes on the basis of phonemic pattern. In other words, is there a group of phonemes which exhibit a similar pattern of distribution (eg. clustering behaviour, morphology, etc.) to one of the phones being examined? In the case of the pair [h], [ŋ] there are some similarities in patterning between [h] and certain fricatives, and between [ŋ] and the nasals.

For example, there is a suffix which when placed before a word commencing with a stop has the effect of negating the original meaning. The suffix has the form /ɪ/ plus the nasal homorganic with the stop.

ie. “impossible” [ɪmp…]
“intolerable” [ɪnt…]
“incalculable” [ɪŋk…] or [ɪnk…]
(free variation in citation form, but homorganic predominating in rapid speech)

Clearly, this pattern suggests that [ŋ] behaves in some instances with the same phonological pattern as the other nasals. It does in fact raise the question of [ŋ] being an allophone of /n/. This was indeed the case until the 1600’s, but now there are quite a few minimal pairs which have since crept into the language. (“sin”/”sing”, “run”/”rung”).

Phonological Space

The greater the distance between a phoneme and its nearest neighbours, the greater the scope for allophonic variation. In other words, the larger the number of redundant features (ie. features which when changed will not create another phoneme) the greater the number of allophones which can actually occur.

eg. English /p/ [-voice]
[+bilabial]
[+stop]
[+/-aspirated]

(nb. + indicates that a feature is present, – indicates that a feature is absent, +/- indicates that a feature is optional)

Changing the feature [-voice] to [+voice] will create /b/, changing the feature [bilabial] will create /t,k/ (or potential allophones of them) and changing the feature [stop] will create /w,f,m/. The only feature with complete freedom of movement is aspiration, and variation of this feature does indeed create the main pair of allophones of this phoneme in English.

eg. English /r/ [ɹ] alveolar approximant
[ɹ̥] voiceless alveolar approximant (after voiceless sounds)
[ɻ] retroflex approximant (West England)
[ɾ] alveolar flap (Scottish) eg. [ɡɾɪn]
[ʁ] uvular fricative (Tyneside)

The possible varieties of /r/ seem to include variations of manner, place and voicing. The only restrictions are that its allophones may not overlap with those of /l/ and /w/.


The Premises of Practical Phonemics

(This section is after Pike (1947) (chapter 4, pp 57-66), all text below in quotes has been taken from this source)

This section examines some of the basic assumptions behind phonemic analysis. The first four premises are particularly important to remember during the process of phonemic analysis.

“Phonemic analysis cannot be made with phonetic data alone; it must be made with phonetic data plus a series of phonemic premises and procedures”.(p65)

“Phonemic procedures… must be founded upon premises concerning the underlying universal characteristics of languages of the world… .” (p57)

1. “Sounds tend to be modified by their environments” (coarticulation, producing allophones)

The actual details of these processes vary from language to language.

2. “Sound systems have a tendency towards phonetic symmetry”

eg. IF unequivocal evidence that [p] vs [b] and [k] vs [ɡ] are separate phonemes then it is likely that [t] vs [d] are separate phonemes

3. “Sounds tend to fluctuate”

Free variation of allophones, eg. sometimes /tas/ = [tas] and sometimes /tas/ = [das]

4. “Characteristic sequences of sounds exert structural pressure on the phonemic interpretation of suspicious segments or suspicious sequences of segments”

For example, in the interpretation of syllable structure:-

eg1. [ma] “cat”
[bo] “to run”
[su] “sky”
[sa] “leaf”
[ia] “moon”
[tsa] “ten”

If in all non-suspicious words the syllable structure was found to be CV then

[ia] /ja/
[tsa] / t͡sa/

which would agree with the CV structure.

eg2. [maba] “dog”
[nasaɡ] “elephant”
[saplam] “egg”
[pasak] “to eat”

All clear syllable initials are found at the start of the words and are always $CV… . All clear syllable finals are found at the end of words and are either ..VC$ or ..V$. There are no unambiguous examples of CC clusters at the start or end of a syllable therefore the most likely analysis would be to place the syllable boundary in [saplam] thus /sap$lam/. In the cases of [maba],[nasaɡ] and [pasak] the most satisfactory syllabification would be to place the medial consonant in the second syllable (placing at the end of the first syllable would require an additional syllable initial $V… which is not unambiguously attested (ie. no words begin with a vowel)).

Some extra premises (Pike lists more but these are the most important)

1. “Every language has consonants and vowels”

2. “Certain kinds of segments may be vowels in one language but consonants in another.”
eg. [ia] →/ia/ in language 1 (L1) but [ia] = /ja/ in language 2 (L2)

3. “The dichotomy between vowel and consonant is not strictly an articulatory one but is in part based on distributional characteristics.”

4.”A long vowel or consonant may in some languages constitute two phonemes.”
eg. [aː] →/a/ in L1 and /aa/ in L2

5. “A sequence of two segments may in some languages constitute a single phonetically complex phoneme.”
eg. [atsa] →/at$sa/ in L1 and /atsa/ in L2 (nb. $ = syllable boundary)
It may be that L2 only allows open syllables (V and CV) and so the L1 form would be illegal.

6. “Some segments may be non-significant transition sounds”
eg. in English /eɡ/ may be [ʔeɡ], where the glottal stop is phonemically non-significant.

7. “If two segments are sub-members of a single phoneme, the NORM of the phoneme is that sub-member [allophone] which is least limited in its distribution and least modified by its environments.”
eg. /n/ → [ŋ] /__ {k/ɡ} and [n] elsewhere (here, [ŋ] is clearly an environmental modification)

8. “In order to be considered sub-members of a single phoneme, two segments must be (a) phonetically similar and (b) mutually exclusive as to the environments in which they occur.”

9. “When two phonemic conclusions each appear to be justifiable by the other premises, and each seems to account for all the available facts of all types, that conclusion is assumed to be correct (a) which is the least complex, and (b) which gives to suspicious data an analysis parallel with analogous non-suspicious data, and (c) which appears most plausible in terms of alleged [coarticulations in] specific environments.


Reference

The following books/papers were referred to but aren’t required reading.

Hockett, C.F. (1942) “A System of Descriptive Phonology”, Language, 18(1), 3-21

Pike, K.L. (1947) Phonemics, U.Michigan

Trubetzkoy, N.S. (1939) “Grundzüge der Phonologie”. Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague 7, Reprinted 1958, Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht. Translated into English by C.A.M.Baltaxe 1969 as Principles of Phonology, Berkeley: University of California Press.

Phones, Phonemes, Allophones and Phonological Rules

Introduction

After having spent quite some time on phonetics and the different branches of it, we will now turn our attention to its more theoretical counterpart, phonology. During one of our first joint sessions, you have already briefly come across the two terms in opposition to each other in connection with the defintion of consonants and vowels.

Task 1:

  1. Reconstruct the two views (phonetics ‘vs.’ phonology) on the definition of the consonant.
  2. Then, try to embed those views into a broader definition of phonetics opposed to phonology by surfing the web for definitions and present your results to the class.

Two links that you may find useful:

First task in developing a phonological description of a particular language:

  • determine which sounds can convey a difference in meaning (same thing a child has to do when beginning to learn a language and realize that, for example, there is a difference between the words white and right)
  • when two sounds can be used to differentiate words, they belong to different phonemes
  • however: there may be small shades of sounds that cannot be used to distinguish words, e.g. differences between the consonants at the beginning and end of the word pop (puff of air vs. no puff of air; opening of lips vs. no opening of lips) — both belong to the same phoneme
  • NOTE: phoneme not a single sound, but usually a group of sounds
  • phonemic transcription (or broad transcription) = records only those sound variations that cause a difference in meaning (vs. allophonic or narrow transcription)

Phonetic variability

Speech does not simply consist of a string of target articulations linked by simple movement between them. In fact, articulation of individual sound segments is almost always influenced by the articulation of neighboring segments, often to the point of considerable overlapping of articulatory activities. Phonetic variability is due not just to differences among individual speakers, but very often also to the phonetic context (context sensitivity). However, those variations usually do not pose any difficulty to a listener – in fact, variations can be decoded with apparently unconscious ease.

Examples of context-sensitive variation:

  • nasalization of oral vowels if preceding a nasal consonant (as in sand, can’t, bend)
  • palatalization of [s] when preceding a [j] — turns into [ʃ] (as in this year, tissue)
  • peripheral vowels may become centralized, esp. in rapid speech if unstressed (vowel reduction towards [ə])

There are three types of assimilation:

  1. assimilation of place (as in ratbag or oatmeal — [t] often realized as [p])
  2. assimilation of manner (as in Indian pronounced as [ɪnʤən] — stop [d] and approximant [j] merge to form an affricate [ʤ])
  3. assimilation of voicing (as in have to — [v] often realized as [f], assimilating to unvoiced [t])

Yet another special case: Elision – instance of complete sound deletion, e.g.

  • in consonant clusters, such as facts (deletion of [t]) or fifths (deletion of [θ]) — to ease the articulation process
  • when unstressed, the word and often loses its [d]
  • entire unstressed syllables are often elided from longer words, such as February and library

Phonemes and Allophones

Phonemes

Contrastive systems range in complexity from languages with less than 20 distinctive consonants and vowels to languages with 60 or more. English, depending on the particular dialect, has up to 24 consonants and up to about 20 vowel sounds (Warlpiri (=Australian Aboriginee language): only 3 distinctive vowel sounds — /a/, /i/, and /u/).

  • phoneme = contrastive/distinctive sound within a particular language (notation: /�/)
  • allophone (also variant) = sound which counts as an alternative way of saying a phoneme in a particular language (notation: [�])

Examples:

  • English /r/ may be realized as [r], [ɹ], etc. (different realizations of /r/ do not cause a change in meaning, contrary to, e.g., Spanish (e.g. pero (= but) vs. perro (= dog)))
  • Warlpiri /a/ may be realized as [ɒ], [æ], etc. (in Warlpiri, different realizations of /a/ do not cause a change in meaning, contrary to, e.g., English)

English /n/ and its allophones:

  • [n̪] – dental by assimilation before a dental fricative, e.g. tenth, month
  • [n:] – lengthened before a voiced obstruent in the same syllable such as [d], [z], or [ʤ], e.g. tend, tens, plunge
  • [n] – normal quality elsewhere, e.g. net, ten, tent
  • NOTE: [ŋ] not relevant here because sound exists as distinctive phoneme in the English sound system, e.g. in sin vs. sing, ban vs. bang)

In sum – Two views of the phoneme:

  1. functional: focus on differences in pronunciation which have an effect on the meaning of a word; phonemes = sounds that serve to differentiate words from each other, cf. as in minimal pairs* such as red vs. led, real vs. zeal
  2. phonetic: focus on actual pronunciation of phonemes (demands narrow phonetic description) and phonetic variability within a single phoneme; phonemes = set of related sounds (phones) — if a phoneme has more than one variant: phoneme consists of a set of allophones standing in complementary distribution

* minimal pair = word pairs whose sound structures are identical except one minimal difference, a single sound segment that occurs in the same place in the string — the substitution of one for the other makes a different word, e.g. crick and creek (all the possible variations – crick, creek, crook, croak, crake, crack and crock – constitute a minimal set)

Task 2:

Decide whether the following pairs of words are minimal pairs or not and give reasons!

  • Oma : Opa
  • Rand : Rat
  • Rad : Rat
  • bitten : bieten
  • Rosen (pronounced with an alveolar trill) : Rosen (pronounced with an uvular trill)
  • Buch : Bücher
  • dir : Tier
  • Rasen : rasen
  • Sache : Sachen
  • Milch : mild
  • blau : Bau
  • Weg : Steg
  • chunk : hunk

Allophones

In general: allophones = conditioned variants of a phoneme; generated by phonological conditioning(= a matter of language-specific ‘rules of pronunciation’)

Examples of allophones:

/a/

  • [ã] before a nasal consonant (Engl. sand)
  • [a] elsewhere

/k/

  • [g] between two voiced sounds (in languages where there is no difference between voiced and voiceless sounds, e.g. many Australian Aboriginal languages)
  • [k] elsewhere

/n/

  • [ŋ] before a velar consonant (Span. banca, mango)
  • [n] elsewhere

/d/

  • [ð] between two vowels (Span. Toledo; see also Span. realizations of /b/ and /g/ as in Cuba and Diego — weakening from plosive to fricative manner)
  • [d] elsewhere

In most of the above examples, it is rather easy to point to the conditioning factors responsible for allophonic variation. However, note that these tendencies do not yield identical consequences in all languages! Furthermore, some instances of allophonic variation cannot be explained that easily.

Example from Korean:

/r/

  • [r] word-initial or intervocalic
  • [l] elsewhere

Problematic here:

  • ‘similarity’ of [r] and [l] not easy to justify
  • note, however: [r] and [l] prone to confusion even in the English language, as in meteorological, corollary, irrelevantly, etc.

Another allophonic adjustment in English:

/l/

  • [ɫ] post-vocalic (dark /l/ – velarized by raising of the back of the tongue towards the soft palate)
  • [l] elsewhere (pre-vocalic)

Note that …

  • in extreme cases (dialects of London, South Australia) the raising of the back of the tongue virtually creates an [u] vowel
  • type of assimilation not found in many of the world’s languages (cf. German kalt, Italian caldo)

The range of allophonic variation encountered in natural languages means that it is not easy to predict which sounds can or cannot be allophones of a single phoneme.

Phonemic norms: Phoneme & Allophone – Which one should be which?

  • allophones = variations from a norm (the phoneme)
  • frequently, one of all allophones suggests itself as the normal value/phoneme

Examples:

  1. if English /w/ is voiceless after voiceless plosives (e.g twin, quit), and voiced elsewhere (i.e. under all other circumstances), then /w/ (rather than /w̥/) is the phoneme
  2. if the two allophones of a single phoneme are [ŋ] before a velar consonant, and [n] elsewhere, then /n/ (rather than /ŋ/) is the phoneme
  3. if the two allophones of a single phoneme are [ã] before a nasal consonant, and [a] elsewhere, then /a/ (rather than /ã/) is the phoneme

Free variation

Free variation vs. complementary distribution:

  • complementary distribution = allophonic variation dependent on the phonetic environment the phoneme occurs in (e.g. [ɫ] vs. [l] in English)
  • free variation = allophonic variation independent of the phonetic environment the phoneme occurs in; random interchangeability

Example of free variation of a consonantal phoneme:

  • realization of word-initial th (as in then, this, there) as either [ð] or [d] (possibly due to reasons of unawareness or indifference of choice)
  • [ð] and [d] = free variants (freely fluctuating allophones) of the phoneme; unconditioned by their phonetic environment

Example of free variation of a vowel phoneme:

  • realization of e in economics as either /ɛ/ or /i:/; realization of the ei in either as /i:/ or /aɪ/
  • each of the vowel sounds above are separate phonemes (cf. head, heed, and hide, or men, mean, and mine) which are not interchangeable in most words
  • variation often dependent on regional and stylistic preferences (e.g. (oversimplified!) categorization as ‘American’ vs. ‘British’ for pronunciation of either)

How ‘free’ is free variation really?

Careful: Allophonic variation that happens independently of the phonetic environment the sound occurs in is not always as free as it appears! The variation is often strongly dependent on regional or stylistic influences (shifting pronunciation: just as speakers shift between lexical style registers, they may also shift between phonetic registers for stylistic reasons).

Exercise on German [x] vs. [ç]:

(adapted from Ramers 1998, 47)

Task:

Consider these German words. In each of them, you will find an instance of either [x] or [ç].

Becher, Buch, Biochemie, Bucht, Chemie, Dach, doch, durch, euch, Flüche, Frauchen, hoch, ich , Küche, Löcher, Lache, manche, Milch, rächen, rauchen, reich, riechen

  1. Now, find out in which contexts German uses [x] and in which contexts it uses [ç]. To do that,
    • group the instances of [x] and [ç] together
    • state the segment each of these instances of ch is preceded by
    • group segments together that have something in common
    • try and find the rules which determine which allophone to use
  2. Can you think of a minimal pair that would distinguish [x] and [ç] as separate phonemes?
  3. What do you think of the proposed minimal pair Kuhchen (as in ‘little cow’) versus Kuchen? Would you accept this? Why (not)?

Critical Approaches to Literature


“It’s inevitable that people will ponder, discuss, and analyze the works of art that interest them.”
X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia,
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama

Standard critical thinking tools, so useful elsewhere, are readily adaptable to the study of literature. It’s possible to analyze, question, interpret, synthesize, and evaluate the literary works you read in the course of pondering, analyzing and discussing them. Literary criticism is the field of study which systematizes this sort of activity, and several critical approaches to literature are possible. Some of the more popular ones, along with their basic tenants, are listed below. The source for these brief summaries is The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature.

FORMALIST CRITICISM

1. Literature is a form of knowledge with intrinsic elements–style, structure, imagery, tone, genre.

2. What gives a literary work status as art, or as a great work of art, is how all of its elements work together to create the reader’s total experience (thought, feeling, gut reactions, etc.)

3. The appreciation of literature as an art requires close reading–a careful, step-by-step analysis and explication of the text (the language of the work). An analysis may follow from questions like, how do various elements work together to shape the effect on the reader?

4. Style and theme influence eachother and can’t be separated if meaning is to be retained. It’s this interdependence in form and content that makes a text “literary.” “Extracting” elements in isolation (theme, character, ploy, setting, etc.) may destroy a reader’s aesthetic experience of the whole.

5. Formalist critics don’t deny the historical, political situation of a work, they just believe works of art have the power to transcend by being “organic wholes”–akin to a being with a life of its own.

6. Formalist criticism is evaluative in that it differentiates great works of art from poor works of art. Other kinds of criticism don’t necessarily concern themselves with this distinction.

7. Formalist criticism is decidedly a “scientific” approach to literary analysis, focusing on “facts amenable to “verification” (evidence in the text).

BIOGRAPHICAL CRITICISM


1. Real life experience can help shape (either directly or indirectly) an author’s work.

2. Understanding an author’s life can help us better understand the work.

3. Facts from the author’s life are used to help the reader better understand the work; the focus is always on the literary work under investigation.

HISTORICAL CRITICISM


1. Historical criticism investigates the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced it. This investigation includes the author’s biography and the social milieu.

2. Historical criticism often seeks to understand the impact of a work in its day, and it may also explore how meanings change over time.

3. Historical criticism explores how time and place of creation affect meaning in the work.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CRITICISM


1. These critics hold the belief that great literature truthfully reflects life and is a realistic representation of human motivation and behavior.

2. Psychological critics may choose to focus on the creative process of the artist , the artist’s motivation or behavior, or analyze fictional characters’ motivations and behaviors.

MYTHOLOGICAL CRITICISM


1. Mythological criticism studies recurrent universal patterns underlying most literary works (for example, “the hero’s journey”).

2. It combines insights from a variety of academic disciplines–anthropology, psychology, history, comparative religion…it concerns itself with demonstrating how the individual imagination shares a common humanity by identifying common symbols, images, plots, etc.

3. Mythological critics identify “archetypes” (symbols, characters, situations, or images evoking a universal response).

MARXIST (SOCIOLOGICAL) CRITICISM


1. These critics examine literature in its cultural, economic, and political context; they explore the relation between the artist and the society–how might the profession of authorship have affected what’s been written?

2. It is concerned with the social content of literary works, pursuing such questions as: What cultural, economic or political values does the text implicitly or explicitly promote? What is the role of the audience in shaping what’s been written?

3. Marxist critics assume that all art is political.

4. Marxist critics judge a work’s “ideology”–giving rise to such terms as “political correctness.”

READER-RESPONSE CRITICISM

1. This type of criticism attempts to describe the internal workings of the reader’s mental processes. it recognizes reading as a creative act, a creative process.

2. No text is self-contained, independent of a reader’s interpretive design.

3. The plurality of readings possible are all explored. Critics study how different readers see the same text differently, and how religious, cultural, and social values affect readings.

4. Instead of focusing only on the values embedded in the text, this type of criticism studies the values embedded in the reader. Intersections between the two are explored.

DECONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM


1. Deconstructive critics believe that language doesn’t accurately reflect reality because it’s an unstable medium; literary texts therefore have no stable meaning.

2. Deconstructive criticism resembles formalist criticism in its close attention to the text, its close analysis of individual words and images. There the similarity ends, because their aims are in fact opposite. Whereas formalist criticism is interested in “aesthetic wholes” or constructs, deconstructionists aim to demonstrate irreconcilable positions–they destruct (or deconstruct)–by proving the instability of language, its inability to express anything definite.