# Determining the number of phonemes from set of phones

For this exercise, I'm to determine the number of phonemes from a set of phones and then write their allophonic rules for each phoneme

phones: [b], [ɣ], [β], [l], [t], [d], [g]

However, I think I'm confusing myself with the definitions and subsequently am having trouble completing this exercise.

Phones: sounds within a language; e.g. [p] and [b]
Phonemes: sounds that people perceive as different sounds in a language e.g. [t] & [d]
Allophones: variations of a phoneme, e.g. /p/ -> [p̚], [p], or [pʰ] in different phonetic environments

Free variation: a phoneme that can be pronounced differently but will not alter the meaning of the word, e.g. wa[t]er vs wa[ɾ]er

Is this correct?

Then, for instance if

/β/ -> [b] / C_
/β/ -> [β] elsewhere

would that mean β and b are one phoneme with 2 allophones?

• It is impossible to determine the number of phonemes in a language by looking at the list of phones only. We also need examples of morphemes/words whith those phones. If by substituting one phone with another the meaning of the word changes, those two phones belong to two different phonemes. If two phones are in the complementary distribution, then they're allophones of the same phoneme, and so on, there're other cases, too. Those 7 phones in your exercise can represent 7 phonemes in one language, but in another languagege they can be allophones of a single phoneme. Sep 17 at 8:00
• hi! I was indeed given a set of words to determine my rules from but I didn't want to post in case of some plagiarism thing. I had a bit of trouble with the rules because there weren't any minimal or near minimal pairs. I pretty much just went off of whether I could predict the sound used, and whether the phones shared in any manner of articulation I mainly wanted to clarify the definitions so that I can structure my answer accordingly Sep 17 at 8:04
• Then look for instances of complementary distribution. Also, look for word forms — adding an affix can change phones on the morpheme boundary, those that change are allophones. In fact, your question doesnt meet the criteria of our SE guidelines, you'd better edit it and re-formulate, don't mention it's an exercise, just ask what makes phones allophones and what makes them phonemes. Ask specifically about the rules, and remember, you cannot do without words and their meanings in this question. Sep 17 at 8:17
• Also, have a look at the similar questions with answers: linguistics.stackexchange.com/search?q=phoneme+allophone Sep 17 at 8:19
• Just FYI, a rule that turns /b/ into [β] inter- or postvocalically (with possible variations) is much more common than having /β/ as the phoneme and [b] only as an allophone after consonants. Not to say it can never happens, but while I can think of at least half a dozen languages that have the former, most famously Spanish, I don’t know of any languages that have the latter. Sep 17 at 9:03