A phoneme is the smallest contrastive linguistic unit which may bring about a change of meaning. For example "p", "b", "d", and "t" in the English words "pad", "pat", "bad", and "bat".

Two words which differ in meaning through a contrast of a single phoneme are called minimal pairs.

Different languages share many of the same phonemes. A family of 50 or 60 phonemes is sufficient to describe all of the world's languages.

The phoneme was conceptualized as a holistic unit (template) until some linguists came up with the concept of distinctive features, which were properties that distinguished among the different phonemes (e.g. voicing). It turned out that only about a dozen distinctive features were necessary to describe all the phonemes in a particular language.


1   Study

Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies the articulation, acoustics and speech perception.

In contrast, phonology is concerned with the abstract characterization of systems of sounds or signs.

There are three basic areas of study in phonetics:

  1. Acoustics
  2. Articulation
  3. Auditory phonetics

Auditory phonetics is the study of the reception and perception of speech sounds by the listener.

Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans analyze sounds into syllables and pattern them appropriately.

1.1   Substance

An allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme.

From LING 110:

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the organized of sound in languages. Phonology is distinguished from phonetics in that while phonetics concerns the physical production, acoustic transmission and perception of the sounds of speech, phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language or across languages to encode meaning.

A phone is a speech sound with distinct perceptual properties. Phones are written with square brackets.

A phoneme is a basic unit of a language's phonology, which is combined with other phonemes to form meaningful units such as word or morphemes. Phonemes are equivalence classes of phones.

# Phonetic features

## Airstream mechanisms

Speech sounds are made from columns of air in motion, then making the column of air vibrate.

  • Pulmonic egressive (controlled outward breathing) - almost everything produced this way

## Phonation types

  • Voiced
  • Voiceless

A voiced sound is one in which the vocal cords vibrate. For instance, voicing accounts for the difference between the pair of sounds associated with the English letters "s" and "z".

"zzz" is voiced. Vocal cords vibrate loosely.
  • b, d, g, j, l, m, n, ng, r, v, z, th, vowels
"sss" is voiceless. Vocal cords are held apart and don't vibrate together.
  • ch, f, h, k, p, s, sh, t, th

TODO: I don't see the difference.

## Nasality

  • Nasal - Made with nasal passage open. [m, n, ng]
  • Oral (default) - nose closed off

## Consonants

### Place of articulation

Where the narrowest constriction is.

#### Bilabial

Bring lips together.

[p] - voiceless, oral stop [b] - voiced, oral stop [m] - nasal voiced

#### Labiodental

#### Alveolar

Also a "triad"

[t], [d] - oral stops [n] - nasal

Used in Germanic languages. (Romance languages use dental stops.)

#### Postalveolar

#### Palatal

#### Velar

Third "triad" - Tongue contact velum to close off air.

[k], [g] - oral stops [ng] - nasal

#### Glottal

### Manner of articulation

How constricted is it?

  • Stop
    • Air is completely stopped
  • Approximant
    • Closure, but enough to cause friction / turbulence
  • Fricative
    • Narrow opening turbulence in air flow
  • Affricate
    • Stop and fricative run together
  • Trill
  • Tap / flap

### Laterality

Closure along midline of mouth, leave one or both sides lowered ('l' sounds)

  • Lateral
  • Central

## Vowels

  • In English, more variation in vowels that consonants.
  • Vowel: anything more open than an approximate
  • All either palatal or velar
  • Classified by "frontness" and height - How high the higest part of the tongue is raised
  • Dipthongs = sliding vowel
    • raid


Peter Ladefoged booked on linguistics

  • [t] in stick
  • [t^h] tick
  • [_t^h] trick, tongue is further back
  • [_t] string
  • [t] width, dental t
  • [t^n] button

All same 't' --> /t/

Some phonetic differences matter, some don't.

Define "mattering" in terms of meaning. If phonetic differences are significant, then replacing one sound with another results in a different word with a different meaning or nonsense. What you don't get is a different pronunciation of the same word.

Two sounds contrast if you can use the difference between them to make different word with different meaning.

ab diff different ab mng meaning

Phoneme: Class of sounds not confused with each other, but do contrast with every other member of other phoneme

Members of phoneme are called allophomes are denoted with square brackets.

Need a way to find phonemes of a language.

Minimal pairs (sets)-- words which are identical except at one place. e.g.

[p^hai] [bai] [fai] [vai] [mai] [wai] [t^hai] [dai] [sai] [nai] [rai] [thai] [yai] [kai] [gai] [hi] ...

Find a minimal pair gets proof of contrast.