I'm wondering if there are good software tools or libraries that can be used to evaluate how well a given token conforms to English phonological rules.

Ideally open-source, freeware. In a perfect world, I'd have a simple function that takes a token as input and outputs a rating of how well the token conforms. I'm not at all concerned with meaning. So a token such as 'minoplatish' would rank much higher than 'cejewoadvjije'.

I'm especially interested in very short tokens -- 5 letters or less.

1 Answer 1


This is an interesting question, but there are a number of decisions you need to make about terms.

Are you talking about phonemes or graphemes ('letters')? If it's graphemes, you'd need to perform some conversion between the two (a fairly messy but doable process, because English spelling is non-transparent), because 'phonological rules' are going to be over phonemes.

What kind of measure of 'conformity' are you thinking about? There are a lot of issues here, both theoretical and practical. It's not a settled question as to what English speakers use to determine 'word goodness', but there are many hypotheses involving both frequency- and neighbor-based approaches; even ignoring the human side, you have to determine a useful measure. A plain legal/illegal distinction is much simpler to obtain, but it sounds like you need more.

In what way do you operationalize 'English phonological rules'? Computationally, n-gram methods are common, but phonologists have also made use of various rule-based frameworks.

  • I agree it's possible but messy due to the mapping from orthography to phonemic representation being one to many (bow, sewer, etc); then more than one English "standard" (British RP, General American, etc); then more than one analysis of each "standard" English into a set of phonemes. So the result would be either multiple outputs, a probability, or a "yes/no" that is to some degree arbitrary that would mean some wrong answers. Nov 11, 2013 at 5:58

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