Questions tagged [phonology]

The study of the abstract aspect of the sounds or *phonemes* in a given language.

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63
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10answers
88k views

When should one use slashes or square brackets when transcribing in IPA?

When should one use /fubar/ and when [fubar] when transcribing in IPA? What are the differences?
43
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15answers
473k views

What's the difference between phonetics and phonology?

Having practiced armchair linguistics for some years I should be able to sum up the difference off the top of my head, yet often I don't know which term to use. And looking them up on Wikipedia doesn'...
43
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6answers
5k views

How do linguists place the vowels of a language precisely on the vowel trapezoid?

Since vowels in human speech are a continuous spectrum rather than a discrete set, many descriptions of languages I’ve seen — not only on Wikipedia — place the vowels of a language as dots in a two-...
30
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5answers
14k views

Is there a difference between an affricate and a plosive+fricative consonant cluster?

Is there a difference between an affricate and a plosive+fricative consonant cluster? According to wikipedia, there is a difference between a plosive+fricative sequence, as in the following example ...
26
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5answers
2k views

Is the seeming relation between the sound /n/ and negativity purely coincidental?

I have noticed that in many languages, words for "no", negative verb forms, etc. often begin with the sound /n/. Although I understand it is by no means universal, is there any relationship between ...
26
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8answers
5k views

American English : are [ə] and [ʌ] different phonemes? (schwa vs. chevron)

What case can be made for considering whether [ə] and [ʌ] are different phonemes or not in American English? Please note the focus is on standard American English. EDIT: i.e.: on General American. ...
26
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2answers
1k views

Is it common to use the minor third for calling someone?

In German, calling someone's two-syllable name is tied very strongly to the minor third. In languages that like to have a stressed last syllable, I would expect the last syllable to be higher than ...
25
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5answers
1k views

Are consonant mutations in Indo-European languages specific of the Celtic group?

Consonant mutations are a strong characteristic of the Celtic languages. An example in Breton would be: Khaz /kaz/: cat Ar c'haz /aʁ.xaz/: the cat The /k/ is altered to /x/ after ar. According ...
22
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2answers
2k views

Do onomatopoeias resist sound change?

Regular sound changes can of course affect phonemes used in onomatopoeias. For example, consider a language containing /mjaw/, referring to the call of a cat. Suppose that final /w/ is sound-changed ...
21
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2answers
32k views

Why is /h/ called voiceless vowel phonetically, and /h/ consonant phonologically?

Why is /h/ called voiceless vowel phonetically, and /h/ consonant phonologically?
21
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4answers
3k views

Where did Spanish get its /x/? Arabic influence?

Most Romance languages don't have /x/ (like the j in hijo), nor did Latin. Where did Spanish /x/ come from? Internal development, Arabic influence, or something else? Since Moroccan Arabic also has /x/...
20
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4answers
2k views

Is the schwa sound consistent?

The first syllable in "about" (ə'baʊt) is schwa, so is the second one in the "salad" ('sæləd), but iv'e never heard them pronounced the same way. in salad it sounds more like the i in "trick". ...
19
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1answer
873 views

How do tone languages assign phonemic tones to loanwords from non-tone languages?

How do tone languages assign phonemic tones to loanwords from non-tone languages? For example, does such assignment vary according to the phonological context in each loanword? Alternatively, does ...
18
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6answers
734 views

Which phenomena compensate for sound losses in languages?

There is a tendency in all of the world’s languages to drop word sounds, especially unstressed syllables. One example is the word for “winter” in Proto-Algonquian, “peponwi”, which developed into “aa” ...
18
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3answers
994 views

Is it possible to predict language changes?

The comparative method is used to reconstruct unattested languages from the attested ones. By comparing different sounds for the same words in various sister languages, it is possible to infer some ...
17
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7answers
2k views

What about the sound change initial n -> initial l?

While learning (a little) Cantonese, I was annoyed by the fact that every initial [n] was converted to [l], so that the word "you", written néih hóu in guidebooks is universally pronounced léih ...
17
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3answers
1k views

How did the Arabic word “allah” come to have an /lˤ/ (“emphatic l”)?

In Modern Standard Arabic, phonemic /lˤ/ (a.k.a. "emphatic l") only occurs in one native word: Allah /ʔalˤˈlˤaːh/. (According to the linked article, it also occurs in a few loanwords.) This seems ...
17
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4answers
847 views

Why do rhotics pattern together?

Looking at the IPA, many different types of sounds are given symbols based of of the Latin R,r: approximants, trills, taps/flaps; both coronal and uvular segments. Sometimes, these sounds are ...
16
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2answers
2k views

How could one generate gibberish that mimics a specific language?

If given a list of languages the listener was able to understand or classify, how would you generate textual output using a standard phonetic alphabet, for example IPA, that would sound like a ...
16
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2answers
2k views

Where did the nasal sound in the Portuguese word “sim” come from?

Among the descendants of the Latin word sic ("thus, so, or just like that"), only the Portuguese word sim ends with a nasal consonant. Actually, in modern Portuguese, it ends with a nasal vowel, [sĩ], ...
15
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8answers
4k views

Is the very concept of the phoneme disputed?

I believe there was some important research published in recent decades which brought a fundamental change to the way linguists think about phonemes. Or is it that the concept of the phoneme has ...
15
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3answers
3k views

Can loudness of speech sounds influence meaning?

In Chinese, words can have different meanings if their tones are changed, e.g. 是 (shì) and 十 (shí). In Italian, words can have different meanings if a consonant is geminated, e.g. sete and sette. My ...
15
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2answers
1k views

In Japanese, why do certain consonants change depending on the vowel?

I was wondering why in Japanese, certain consonants change depending on the vowel. For example: Consonants that do not change: ka / ki / ku / ke / ko na / ni / nu / ne / no Consonants that do ...
15
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3answers
3k views

What does Optimality Theory explain that rule-based phonology doesn't?

I understand how basic Optimality Theory (as applied to phonology) works, but I've never understood how it came into popularity. I'm guessing, though, that there are good reasons why it arose. So ...
15
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3answers
1k views

Did Ancient Greek have a rising intonation for questions?

Unlike English, Ancient (e.g. Attic) Greek does not reorder words to formulate a question. The particle "ἆρα" does modify a statement into a question, but is not always present. In that case, I ...
15
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6answers
8k views

Why do stem-changing verbs have a vowel change in Spanish?

It may just be that I'm demonstrating my gross ignorance, but I can't seem to find a 'why' for stem-changing verbs in Spanish. I understand that there is some sort of perceived weakness in the vowel ...
14
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3answers
12k views

What is a mora?

What is a mora? I tried to read the Wikipedia article that answers this question, but found it difficult to understand. Ditto with the related LSE question: Is the concept of syllables ...
14
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2answers
3k views

Is the “principle of least effort” a real factor behind language change?

I have heard and read several times that one of the forces that drive language change is the so called "principle of least effort". According to this account, several changes are caused by an economy ...
13
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3answers
12k views

Is the “p” in “spin” really a “b”?

Daniel Everett claims in Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes (Ch. 11) that the English "p" and "b" in "pin" and "bin" are separate phonemes, since they alone distinguish the words "pin" and "bin," whereas ...
13
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9answers
7k views

Textbook suggestions for syntax, semantics/pragmatics and phonetics/phonology

I am coming to linguistics from a completely non-linguistic background; I was a mathematician. Next year I will start taking some serious (Master's level) linguistics courses and I would like to have ...
13
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1answer
1k views

Have ejective consonants ever arisen on their own?

In an old comment on another question, jlawler mentions in passing: Much the same can be said about ejective consonants -- other languages can pick them up, but nobody knows where they come from. ...
13
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1answer
315 views

Whispering in languages heavily dependent on pitch or phonation distinctions

When whispering in English all (segmental) phonological distinctions can – as far as I am aware – still be made, which may be due to redundancy (or simply because voicing is optional). I even ...
13
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3answers
2k views

What's the evidence for and against isochrony?

The question What evidence is currently known that favors or disfavors the hypothesis that a regular beat of some kind—that is, an “isochrony”—plays some important role in languages? I've run across ...
13
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2answers
482 views

If two syllables in Mandarin have the same vowels but different tones, can the syllables be said to rhyme?

If two syllables in Mandarin have the same vowels but different tones, can the syllables be said to rhyme according to native speakers? I was tempted to ask this question about all tone languages, ...
13
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1answer
4k views

How does vowel harmony typically arise in a language?

How does vowel harmony typically arise in a language? Here's a definition of vowel harmony from the WALS chapter on Vowel Quality Inventories: http://wals.info/chapter/2. "When a language is ...
13
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2answers
643 views

Dental fricatives for Brazilian Portuguese speakers

Whenever I observe my fellow Brazilian countrymen learning to speak English, a clear sound change pattern stands out: [θ] → [f] [ð] → [d], syllable-initial [f], syllable-final So, for example,...
12
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3answers
3k views

Why does schwa have a special place among vowels?

What makes schwa so special? On my phonology exam my tutor phrased the question something like: Why is schwa the ruler/king of vowels? I don't know what he meant by this but I suppose it's got ...
12
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8answers
7k views

Are there any languages without /a/ or /i/?

Arabic languages include only three vowels: /a/, /i/ and /u/. Japanese is the only language I know about that doesn't have a /u/ sound - it has /ɯ/ instead. Do there exist any languages that do not ...
12
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2answers
3k views

Why IPA does not indicate “soft” consonants in English?

I am a native Russian speaker. Sometimes I encounter English speakers who are trying to learn Russian and wonder how to pronounce "soft" consonants. At the same time while learning English I noticed ...
12
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4answers
1k views

Any languages that consider the alveolar and uvular trill distinct consonant phonemes?

I am intrigued by the difference between alveolar and uvular trills (and related phones) within and across languages, e.g., per this map of European /r/ usage (taken from this comment), which seems to ...
12
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10answers
6k views

Is there an easy way to type IPA?

I'm currently using the virtual IPA keyboard on TypeIt, but it takes forever. Is there an easy way to type IPA? I've found this list of Unicode keyboards on SIL.org but I'm not too sure how to ...
12
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1answer
368 views

Why do onsets not count for syllable weight in phonological processes?

Whether a syllable has a heavy or light rime is often important in whether it will participate in phonological processes, and whether it will receive stress. For example, in Latin, stress is on the ...
11
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2answers
3k views

How does the nonsense word “frabjous” conform to English phonotactics?

I am aware that this question is rather more complex than I am treating it, but I am looking for a few general rules (e.g. basic phonotactic constraints) that would lead to the conclusion that the ...
11
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7answers
22k views

Why are consonants distinguished differently than vowels?

Consonants are distinguished normally by features like place of articulation, manner of articulation, voiced/voiceless, etc. while vowels are usually distingusihed by stuff like tongue's position and ...
11
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2answers
1k views

Why don't minimal pairs like “быть” and “бить” prove that /ɨ/ and /i/ are separate phonemes in Russian?

In analyses of Russian, there's a dispute about whether the vowels /ɨ/ and /i/ (typically represented in the orthography as "ы" and "и", respectively) are separate phonemes, or if [...
11
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3answers
12k views

Is a diphthong one phoneme or two, or does it depend?

In Mitch's answer to "What is the difference between a diphthong and a glide?" and its comments it seems more than one of us is at least a bit confused as to how many phonemes a single diphthong ...
11
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4answers
16k views

When you think one word, but write another, similar sounding word?

If you are writing or typing and you are thinking of one word, but then type another word made of the same phonemes, what is that called and what are the linguistic and /or psychological phenomena ...
11
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3answers
6k views

Common problems in second language pronunciation

Transfer of some phonetic/phonological features from the first language to a second language is common in second language acquisition. For example, aspiration is not phonemic in English. Voiceless ...
10
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4answers
1k views

How did the pitch-accent system of Western South Slavic emerge?

Uniquely among Slavic languages, and unusually among modern Indo-European languages, the Western South Slavic languages (Serbo-Croatian, and apparently some dialects of Slovenian) have a lexical pitch-...
10
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3answers
2k views

How well do Semitic languages preserve consonants over time?

I'm not too familiar with the details of Semitic languages, but as far as I can tell it seems the tri-consonantal roots of words are relatively important. If the consonants change over time, did they ...

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