36 votes
Accepted

Is the "p" in "spin" really a "b"?

It is kind of convention to assign the phonemic value /p/ to the p in spin, since there is no minimal pair /p/:/b/ in this environment (words like *sbin don't exist). Now comes the fun part: In ...
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29 votes

How does the nonsense word "frabjous" conform to English phonotactics?

You mention the pronunciation /ˈfɹæb.dʒəs/ in the comments; this is how I would pronounce it too. Phonotactics are usually explained in terms of constraints ("you can't do this"), so the ...
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  • 51k
27 votes
Accepted

Is there an effort to prove phonemes?

In theory, any language could be analyzed as having only two phonemes, /0/ and /1/. Then we could say [p] is the realization of /00000/, and [t] is the realization of /00001/, and [k] is the ...
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  • 51k
22 votes
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Phonetic distortion when words are borrowed among languages

The term is loanword adaptation. It happens every time someone tries to use a word from a different language when speaking another. It's because every language has a different set of sounds that can ...
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  • 4,652
16 votes

Why does schwa have a special place among vowels?

When I pronounce this vowel, I would say it is the only one where there is absolutely no contraction of any muscle (except vibrating vocal chords) or any change in the mouth/throat/larynx/pharynx, and ...
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15 votes

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

This is a well-written argument, but I think it's mistaken to conclude that they are the same phoneme; or, more to the point, I think this is a case that highlights a limit of phoneme/allophone ...
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15 votes
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Why does schwa have a special place among vowels?

This is a framework-dependent question. My guess is that he is referring to the representation of schwa, and the premise that it is "featureally empty". That is, front vowels have a frontness property,...
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15 votes

Is the "p" in "spin" really a "b"?

First, there is a lot of variation in English, so don't expect the facts to be the same for all speakers. Second, it's unclear what you mean by "really". There is phonological analysis, and there is ...
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15 votes

Is there a British English language minimal pair for the schwa and the 'long schwa?'

Yes: forward /ˈfɔːwəd/ vs. foreword /ˈfɔːwɜːd/.
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  • 4,652
14 votes

Why isn't there a dental trill?

May be this doesn't exactly answer the question, but pure dental consonants are cross-linguistically rare. Ladefoged and Maddieson discuss in detail how stops which are generally labeled dental, are ...
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13 votes
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Can a vowel and a consonant be allophones of the same phoneme?

I think this question may be trickier to answer than you realize--it largely depends on your definition of vowel and consonant. If you take a structural phonological approach to defining those terms (...
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13 votes
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Why don't any languages have strictly one character for every single phonetic sound?

There seem to be several common confusions in your question: Phonetic vs. phonemic Phoneme is a collection of sounds that serve the same function. For example, English phoneme /p/ sounds like [p] ...
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13 votes

Is there an effort to prove phonemes?

Even if you had a full set of minimal pairs, that actually would not rigorously establish the number of phonemes in English because it doesn’t tell you how the phonemes are segmented: you could make ...
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12 votes
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Which language has the most vowel phonemes?

This is one of those "it depends" questions. Dinka (Bor dialect) has the vowels [i e ɛ ɔ o u a], as well as long and over-long versions of these (21 vowels), and 4 phonatory contrasts (breathy, hollow,...
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11 votes
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How linguists select phonemes to construct an alphabet for a language

You should not be surprised if I tell you that the process is highly variable. Very roughly speaking, you start by eliciting a bunch of words and writing them down. Linguists have varying degrees of ...
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11 votes

Phonetic distortion when words are borrowed among languages

It's not "deliberate" – it's the automatic, nigh-inevitable result of fitting a set of sounds from one language's inventory into a different inventory. It's like changing a photo from RGB to CMYK or ...
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  • 2,208
11 votes

Can loudness of speech sounds influence meaning?

Intensity is the physical correlate of loudness, and is also a correlate of stress in some languages. Moreover, stress can create differences in meaning in some languages (e.g. PRO-test vs. pro-TEST); ...
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11 votes

Who decides the phonemes of a given language?

The linguists describing the language. As user6726 mentioned, phonemes are a theoretical construct. We can't actually take quantitative measurements that prove that this is a /k/ and this is a /t/, ...
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11 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

As you mentioned Chinese, Standard Mandarin only contrasts /ʂ/, /ɕ/ and /s/. For example 殺/ʂᴀ⁵⁵/ 蝦/ɕᴀ⁵⁵/ and 撒/sᴀ⁵⁵/. In fact the complete contrasts are between the three groups /ʈ͡ʂ ʈ͡ʂʰ ʂ/, /t͡ɕ ...
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10 votes
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Does any language using the Latin alphabet have a unique name for "w"?

In many Germanic languages it's /ve/, as fdb said In other Germanic languages, including German, its name is similar to that of English V https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W#Name In Polish it's /...
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10 votes
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Does sample text exist that includes most English sounds represented by the International Phonetic Alphabet?

The most widely used reading passage in research on English phonetics and phonology is The North Wind and the Sun. It includes most English phonemes and is used, for example, in the Illustrations of ...
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10 votes
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Why does the NATO Spelling alphabet contain words with more than two syllables

The goal of the NATO spelling alphabet is to make the symbols as easily-distinguishable as possible, even over noisy channels (such as radio). Brevity (keeping the words short) is secondary to that. ...
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10 votes
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Any languages that consider the alveolar and uvular trill distinct consonant phonemes?

Phoible is a useful database for phonological questions containing more than 3000 inventories for more than 2000 languages They have just 19 inventories with a /ʀ/ (i.e. with a phonemic uvular trill). ...
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10 votes

Are there any natural languages in which /ʂ/ and /ʃ/ are distinct phonemes?

Skimming Phoible, stopping with languages beginning with n, I found as putative examples from: Abkhaz, Acoma, Arara do Acre, Basero, Basque, Bench, Burushaski, Cajamarca Quechua, Camsa, Candoshi-...
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9 votes

How many different distinctive sounds can an average human make?

The notion of 'distinctive' sounds indicates that the discussion must be limited to phoneme inventories found in a single language. To do this we can consider the largest known inventories of ...
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9 votes

List of French minimal pairs

Update: I have cleaned up and organized this list significantly, and it is now available here. I had the same question as you, and ended up throwing together some perl scripts to scrape Wikipedia's ...
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  • 592
9 votes
Accepted

Was the change in spelling from "cw" to "qu" in English associated with any difference in pronunciation?

Anglo-Norman French (or Anglo-Norman) was a dialect of Old French that died out as a spoken language by the beginning of the 13th century. It was used by by the ruling elite, which constituted no more ...
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9 votes
Accepted

Did Persian ever have a hard or soft "th" sound?

There are two different issues here. First: New Persian never had a voiceless /ϑ/, at least not in words of Persian origin (though it is possible that in early Islamic times bi-lingual speakers did ...
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9 votes
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The meaning of /ě/ (ѣ)

Nothing specific. When linguists started working with Old Church Slavonic, they weren't sure exactly how the yat was pronounced (since it had shifted in different directions in different daughter ...
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  • 51k
9 votes
Accepted

Evidence that ø and œ are separate phonemes in French?

There is an opposition between /ʒøn/ in "jeûne" and /ʒœn/ in "jeune" but the opposition between ø and œ is clearly not productive anymore. addendum #1: as you said, the opposition ...
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