Talk:Phoneme

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No archiphonemic analysis[edit]

For example a lot of time is wasted here saying untrue things. For example, in German /x/ is actually in complementary distribution with /h/, so not really rare for final /h/ at least europe-wise. Also, the article admits this archiphonology in the case of the lack of Caucasian /k/. Furthermore, in the case of Hupa, there is a /q/ sound alone, but there is little difference between uvulars and velars. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 73.57.144.205 (talk) 07:32, 26 December 2017 (UTC)

Different ways of analysing a language phonemically[edit]

The article at present doesn't seem to make it clear that not everyone agrees on how many phonemes any particular language has. One linguist might analyse the diphthong [oj] as one phoneme, another as two, for example. It should also mention marginal phonemes, which occur only in one or two words, such as the nasal vowel in "restaurant" in some people's pronunciation. Kanjuzi (talk) 09:54, 26 December 2017 (UTC)

The idea of a marginal phoneme is briefly touched upon at Segment (linguistics), but I agree it's worth covering here too. Nardog (talk) 12:59, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
It's a bit surprising that this issue doesn't figure more prominently in the article. In the development of phoneme theory in the mid-20th century there was a great deal of debate about the possibility of alternative phonemic analyses of the phonology of a language, the debate being sometimes labelled "God's truth vs. hocus-pocus". Many of the papers are reprinted in M. Joos 'Readings in Linguistics'. This may be mainly of historical importance nowadays, but it is a issue that hasn't gone away. Maybe it is covered in another WP article? RoachPeter (talk) 15:35, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
That's certainly interesting. I think it should be added to the article, if anyone has access to a library and can find the book. Kanjuzi (talk) 15:42, 26 December 2017 (UTC)
I know languages that tripled their numbers of phonemes from the 1950s to the early 2000s - not because of language change but because of changes in phonological theory away from seeking the most parsimonious inventory to seeking an inventory that gives the best fit with phonetic reality and phonological processes.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 19:05, 26 December 2017 (UTC)

Peer Review[edit]

Hello, -This section is a good addition to the article -I think images would be a nice addition -Good use of citation in second paragraph -First paragraph needs support with citation -perhaps elaborate more on articulation bundles -the neutral nature of the article could possibly benefit from orientating the section to be more objective as opposed to comparing to spoken language — Preceding unsigned comment added by Jpeliz (talkcontribs) 03:58, 19 March 2018 (UTC)

Merge with Chereme[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
Chereme was merged into phonology. Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 08:50, 29 November 2018 (UTC)

I'm not sure there's much use in having a separate article for a historical term that has been entirely subsumed by this one, especially considering how little information is in that article that isn't already in this one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2620:0:1004:4:E80B:CF39:B356:4833 (talk) 17:45, 24 July 2018 (UTC)

Totally agree. A redirect pages could be created for these words. If someone else endorses, I will merge them. Peacedance (talk) 21:50, 13 October 2018 (UTC)

Endorsed. The term is largely historical/political. All the peer-reviewed sign language linguistics I've read has used "phonology" since well before the turn of the millennium. --Terpatron9000 (talk) 13:00, 23 October 2018 (UTC)

I agree as well, so I went ahead and did it. Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 08:50, 29 November 2018 (UTC)


The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

"It is virtually impossible to find a minimal pair to distinguish English /ʃ/ from /ʒ/"*[edit]

Peter Ladefoged, in his book A Course in Phonetics, cites Aleutian vs allusion as one of very few such pairs in English, and then only for some speakers.

So, it is, after all, possible to find such a pair. --Theurgist (talk) 16:37, 20 August 2018 (UTC)

@Theurgist: "Virtually impossible" means very close to impossible, so it doesn't contradict there being a minimal pair. But as it is apparently likely to be misinterpreted, maybe it would be best to reword it. — Eru·tuon 17:20, 20 August 2018 (UTC)
Maybe "measure" vs. "mesher" (something that meshes)... AnonMoos (talk) 14:33, 30 August 2018 (UTC)
Also an interesting example lunch and lunge, which differ only by [tʃ]/[dʒ]--demistalk 09:37, 10 April 2019 (UTC)
The site minimal pairs has: cheese/G's, chin/Jane, cheap/jeep, chunk/junk, choke/joke, chive/jive, cello/jello. −Woodstone (talk) 10:25, 11 April 2019 (UTC)
Maybe then ashery 1 and azury 2? Rare words but not as rare as mesher for example, yet aren't proper nouns like Aleutian. Unfortunately, variation in pronunciation exists but seems to be of a lesser degree compared to Aleutian also. So far these two are best candidates I think--138.246.2.199 (talk) 13:34, 13 April 2019 (UTC)
Another example I thought of is zhoosh [ʒʊʃ] and shush [ʃʊʃ]--demistalk 16:38, 16 April 2019 (UTC)
There's a 1970s book "Pronunciation Contrasts in English" by Don L.F. Nilsen and Aileen Pace Nilsen, which is basically entirely devoted to English minimal pairs. However, this book completely omits [ʒ] (except when part of a [dʒ] unit)... AnonMoos (talk) 18:49, 19 April 2019 (UTC)

Cleaup/rewrite[edit]

Article needs a rewrite. Phonology as most people use the term is cognitive, the article barely mentions the cognitive aspect. Because of deep cognitive assignment, native phonologies come easily, whereas foreign phonologies are difficult. -Inowen (nlfte) 07:23, 3 February 2019 (UTC)

The phoneme concept dates basically to the 1930s (with many partial precursors), and is associated with structural linguistics. Cognitive linguistics didn't start to develop as a distinct academic sub-field until maybe around 1970. So the classical structuralist phoneme pre-dates generative phonology and cognitive linguistics. AnonMoos (talk) 17:15, 30 April 2019 (UTC)

Distinguishing phonemes from morphophonemes[edit]

The article currently says that the phoneme of [ɾ] belongs to can be recovered from morphological evidence. However, this seems to conflate pure phonemes, as in the distinctive units of speech, with morphophonemes, which talks about underlying representations of morphemes independent of environment. In a purely phonemic representation, the same phone in the same environment cannot represent more than one phoneme. The section in which the dubious passage stands talks about the loss of distinction between phonemes, and their representation as archiphonemes. It is by this definition that the phoneme cannot be recovered from the word. A listener cannot recover the phoneme from purely phonological information, the phone is inherently ambiguous, which is why an achiphonemic representation is needed. The process of recovering the /d/ vs /t/ distinction belongs to morphophonology, since it involves the comparison of the same morpheme occurring in different environments. But on a purely phonemic basis this information is not available; the phone cannot be assigned either phoneme and thus the actual morpheme to which it belongs isn't recoverable from phones alone. Instead, the speaker has to analyse the sentence, guess which of the two homophones is the one that was intended, and then recover the morpheme based on that guess. All of this falls under the domain of morphophonology. Thus, the sentence is wrong in stating that the phoneme can be recovered through a morphological analysis. The phoneme cannot be recovered, since it is purely phonological. The morphophoneme is what gets recovered, but only if the speaker is able to guess the morpheme from context. Rua (mew) 23:42, 3 May 2019 (UTC)

I don't get what you're trying to say here, but the section in question is talking about contextual neutralization of phonemes for which a number of proposals other than archephonemes have been provided and which do not rely on bi-uniqueness or the isolation of phonology from other domains of grammar (see, for example, the dispursion theoretic account of context neutralization in Fleming 2017). Let's say we have a toy grammar with "bed", "bet", the suffix "-ing" and an intervocalic flapping rule. The phonological input /ˈbɛtɪŋ/ would have [ˈbɛɾɪŋ] as its phonetic output. The input [ˈbɛdɪŋ] would also have [ˈbɛɾɪŋ] as its phonetic output. If we didn't have access to the phonological inputs but have these two strings, how do we determine what the underlying representation should be? We look at what the root is for both strings, in one case the root is /bɛt/, in the other it is /ˈbɛd/. Because we know there is an intervocalic flapping rule /t,d/->[ɾ]/V_V which neutralizes the t/d contrast in "bet" and "bed", we can conclude that [ɾ] is an allophone of both /t/ and /d/ based on morphophonological evidence. Biuniqueness as a requirement for phoneme specification was abandoned with the generativist turn in the 70s and 80s, and this example is one of the reasons it was abandoned. See for example, Brittanica's entry on Phonology: "A second important principle of the post-Bloomfieldian approach was its insistence that phonemic analysis should be carried out prior to and independently of grammatical analysis. Neither this principle nor that of bi-uniqueness was at all widely accepted outside the post-Bloomfieldian school, and they have been abandoned by the generative phonologists." The article you link to, Morphophonology, even points this out: "Until the 1950s [...] phonological analysis was split into two parts: a morphophonological part, where neutralizing rules were developed to derive phonemes from morphophonemes; and a purely phonological part, where phones were derived from the phonemes. Since the 1960s (in particular with the work of the generative school, such as Chomsky and Halle's The Sound Pattern of English) many linguists have moved away from making such a split, instead regarding the surface phones as being derived from the underlying morphophonemes (which may be referred to using various terminology) through a single system of (morpho)phonological rules." Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 01:19, 4 May 2019 (UTC)
It's perhaps true that some linguists take a different approach to it now, but it's not the traditional approach and per WP:DUE, minor views should be represented as such. If the modern approach really disavows morphophonology entirely and considers it part of phonology, then both articles should give sourced statements saying that. But as of right now, the morphophonology article contradicts the phonology article because of that one dubious statement. The underlying representation cannot both be phonological and morphophonological, unless there are still different schools of thought on the matter and then WP:DUE applies. And so, the statement remains dubious because it does not agree with my own understanding of the subject and there is no sourced indication that this is the modern approach to phonology except for that one statement, which could easily be a minority view. Rua (mew) 10:49, 4 May 2019 (UTC)
First off, I'm by no means convinced that "bedding" and "betting" are absolute homonyms in all American English dialects with "flapping" (in at least some dialects in some circumstances, there seems to be a surviving phonation distinction), so the example is maybe not that great in the first place.
Rua -- what you're talking about is known as "biuniqueness" (the supposed recoverability of phonemes from phonetic forms without the need for any non-phonetic information), but the tendency of the last 60 years in linguistics has been against upholding phonemic "biuniqueness" (as discussed briefly in the article). The phoneme concept still has a place in introductory linguistics, and in practical considerations of providing writing systems for unwritten languages (or providing reformed writing systems for languages with inadequate orthographies), but as far as I know, very few linguists nowadays consider biuniqueness in the 1950s structuralist sense to be an overriding basic principle. Morphophonemics still survives in modern theory, in a way, with respect to morphemes which have phonologically unpredictable alternants (i.e. knife has the plural knives with anomalous [v], while fife has the plural fifes with predictable [f]), but phonologically predictable morpheme alternants are another matter... AnonMoos (talk) 11:58, 4 May 2019 (UTC)
What I understand from this article is that archiphonemes are an addition to biuniqueness, that account for the fact that phones can sometimes result from multiple phonemes through neutralisation. In this sense, "pure" biuniqueness is indeed untenable, but biuniqueness + archiphonemes still makes sense. However, there is still the matter of whether the flap [ɾ] can be assigned a phoneme, as the dubious sentence originally claimed, or whether it is an archiphoneme that is inherently ambiguous about the nature of the phoneme. It cannot be claimed that it's both, so if different schools of thought analyse the situation differently, we need to state who thinks what, rather than assigning one of them absolute truth as was done before. Rua (mew) 12:15, 4 May 2019 (UTC)

[k] and [kʰ] being the same phoneme[edit]

In § Assignment of speech sounds to phonemes, it is shown that an [skɪl] and [skʰɪl] would both be recognized as "skill" and therefore [k] and [kʰ] are the same phoneme. But wouldn't English speakers take [kʰɪl] to mean "kill" and [kɪl] to mean "gill"? I'm wondering if an example using a word-initial [k] could be used. (Please ignore this post if this is something that's obvious to native English speakers.)Þjarkur (talk) 20:48, 27 May 2019 (UTC)

This gets into a more complex aspect of the structuralist phoneme which is complementary distribution. We have the minimal pairs /kad/ -> [kʰad], /gad/->[kad]; /tak/->[tak], /tag/->[tag]. From these we can show that [k] and [g] are in different phonemes and [kʰ] and [k] are in different phonemes. From more general knowledge of English, we can show that [kʰ] never appears in the same environment as [k] meaning that we can argue [kʰ] is part of the same phoneme as [k], and since [k] is less restricted ([kʰ] only appears word initially) we'll call that phoneme /k/. Since /kad/-> [kʰad], how do we get [kad]? Well, for [k] to appear word initially it must not be part of /k/ in that instance. So [k] word initially is part of some other phoneme. Given perceptual evidence from English speakers, they tend to assume it's a /g/, so we can say that /g/->[k] word initially. So [k] and [g] are in the phoneme /g/ and [kʰ] and [k] are in the phoneme /k/. Like I said this is a complex explanation, and perhaps a simpler one using English fricatives (which don't have this pattern) would be better. Wugapodes [thɑk] [ˈkan.ˌʧɹɪbz] 17:03, 28 May 2019 (UTC)
This analysis matches well with the difficulties English speakers have perceiving plosive aspiration (and voicing) in Thai, where both phonemes [k] and [kʰ] occur word-initially. Many English instructional texts transcribe [k] as ⟨g⟩ and [kʰ] as ⟨k⟩. This leads the learners to pronounce ⟨g⟩ as [g], which seems accurate to them, but sounds very awkward to Thai native speakers (there is no phone [g] in Thai]). The situation is different for [p, pʰ, b] and [t, tʰ, d], where the same texts use transcriptions ⟨bp, p, b⟩ and ⟨dt, t, d⟩. In these parallels, the [g] is an outlier, where a systematic approach would have written ⟨gk⟩, which I have never seen used. The Thai government system of transcription stays closer to IPA by using ⟨k, kh, -⟩, ⟨p, ph, b⟩ and ⟨t, th, d⟩. −Woodstone (talk) 05:59, 29 May 2019 (UTC)