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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 ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
30 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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28 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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
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22 votes
Accepted

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 ...
Nardog's user avatar
  • 4,951
22 votes

Should orthographies represent phonemes or phones?

Consult the speech community. The orthography must fit the needs of the speech community, they are the primary users of it. When the speech community wants a phonetic representation (helping ...
Sir Cornflakes's user avatar
16 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 ...
hunter's user avatar
  • 792
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 ...
Stephane Rolland's user avatar
15 votes
Accepted

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,...
user6726's user avatar
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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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
15 votes

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

Yes: forward /ˈfɔːwəd/ vs. foreword /ˈfɔːwɜːd/.
Nardog's user avatar
  • 4,951
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 ...
sami.spricht.sprache's user avatar
13 votes
Accepted

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. ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
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 ...
brass tacks's user avatar
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12 votes
Accepted

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,...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
12 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 ...
lilysirius's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

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 /...
Lưu Vĩnh Phúc's user avatar
11 votes
Accepted

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 ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
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 ...
Luke Sawczak's user avatar
  • 2,442
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); ...
WavesWashSands's user avatar
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/, ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
11 votes
Accepted

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-...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
11 votes
Accepted

Representation of /o/ phoneme in Cuneiform

It's likely that Hittite had an /o/ (and represented it in cuneiform!), but most transcriptions still don't reflect this. In Hittite cuneiform, the signs U and Ú were both used frequently for phonetic ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
10 votes
Accepted

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). ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,809
10 votes

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

Ubykh is an extinct Northwest Caucasian language (and thus in the same family as Adyghe) that contrasted the following ʃ-like phonemes: /ʃ/, /ʃʷ/, /ɕ/, /ɕʷ/, /ʂ/.
Greg Nisbet's user avatar
  • 1,288
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 ...
fdb's user avatar
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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 ...
Draconis's user avatar
  • 67.1k
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 ...
suizokukan's user avatar
  • 2,007
9 votes

Is there a way to classify all languages that have a guttural ch (as in Achmed) sound?

You are actually describing a selection of different sounds Hebrew has one such phoneme: /x~χ/ (the ~ means that both variants are found) /x/ is a voiceless velar fricative: made with the tongue ...
Tristan's user avatar
  • 8,809
9 votes

Is tone actually phonemic in Mandarin?

Tone actually is phonemic in Mandarin. For example, it is the only thing that distinguishes dā "to hang over", dá "to answer", dǎ "to beat" and dà "big". There ...
user6726's user avatar
  • 83.2k
9 votes

/ / vs [ ] - when to use which?

There are two slightly different conventions for the use of these symbols. In phonetics—the study of the actual sounds produced by the vocal tract, transmitted through the air, and received by the ear—...
Draconis's user avatar
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