Underlying representation

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In some models of phonology as well as morphophonology in the field of linguistics, the underlying representation (UR) or underlying form (UF) of a word or morpheme is the abstract form that a word or morpheme is postulated to have before any phonological rules have applied to it.[1][2] By contrast, a surface representation is the phonetic representation of the word or sound. The concept of an underlying representation is central to generative grammar.[3]

If more phonological rules apply to the same underlying form, they can apply wholly independently of each other or in a feeding or counterbleeding order. The underlying representation of a morpheme is considered to be invariable across related forms (except in cases of suppletion), despite alternations among various allophones on the surface.

Examples[edit]

In many cases, the underlying form is simply the phonemic form. For example, in many varieties of American English, the phoneme /t/ in a word like wet can surface either as a glottalized [tˀ] or as a flap [ɾ], depending on environment: [wɛtˀ] wet vs. [ˈwɛɾɚ] wetter. (In both cases, however, the underlying representation of the morpheme wet is the same: its phonemic form /wɛt/.)

Phonological rules may change the phonemes involved. In such cases, pipes ("|") or double slashes may be used in transcription to distinguish the underlying form from its phonemic realization. For example, the word "cats" has the phonemic representation /kæts/. If it is assumed that the underlying form of the English plural suffix is a [z] sound, the underlying form of "cats" would be //kætz//. (The [z] surfaces as an [s] because of the phonological process of devoicing after an unvoiced consonant.)

Sandhi, such as tone sandhi in Chinese, is another phonological process that changes the phonemes of a morpheme from its underlying form.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bromberger, Sylvain; Morris Halle (2006). "Phonology". In Donald M. Borchert. Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. 551–553. 
  2. ^ O'Grady, William; John Archibald (2005). Contemporary Linguistics. Boston: Bedord/St. Martin's. p. 92. 
  3. ^ Crystal, David (2009). "underlying (adj.)". Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics. Hoboken: Wiley. p. 501.