What is phonology?
The study of how speech sounds form patterns.
The study of the organization of speech sounds in a language:
1. How they function
2. How they are distributed

Phonologists ask these kinds of questions:
What is the phonetic context that allows us to predict the occurrence of these sounds?
Which sounds affect the meaning of words?

From phonetics to phonology
– is the basis for phonological analysis
– analyzes the production of all human speech
– is the basis for further work in morphology, syntax, discourse and orthography design
– analyzes the sound pattern

Two sounds are contrastive if interchanging the two can change meaning of the word.
English [p]/[b]:
[kæp] ‘cap’ vs. [kæb] ‘cab’
Hindi [ph]/[p]
[phal] ‘blade’ vs. [pal] ‘take care of’

Minimal Pair
A minimal pair consists of two forms with distinct meanings that differ by only one segment found in the same position in each form.
m/n: [sʌm] ‘sum’ vs. [sʌn] ‘sun’
k/g: [kɪl] ‘kill’ vs. [gɪl] ‘gill’

Sounds in minimal pair…
are unpredictable (i.e. must be learned)
belong to different phonemes

Phoneme vs. allophone
– a class of sounds which are identified by a native speaker as the same sound.
– distinctive speech sounds; that is, they create meaningful differences in words
– Marked as /p/

– the members of these sounds
– the actual phonetic segments produced by a native speaker
– predictable phonetic realization of a phoneme
– marked as [ph], [p]

Contrastive distribution: When sounds can occur in the exact same phonetic environment (thereby forming a minimal pair).

Complementary distribution: When two (or more) phonetically similar sounds never occur in exactly the same environment, but in mutually exclusive (i.e. complementary) environments.
Example: aspirated voiceless stop such as the initial sound in pill [ph] and unaspirated voiceless stop in spill [p]

Sounds in complementary distribution…
…are allophones of a single phoneme
…do not occur in minimal pairs
…are noncontrastive
…are predictable (based on environment)

Do you ever see Superman and Clark Kent in the same environment?
Emergency –> Superman
No emergency –> Clark Kent
Clark Kent and Superman are different identities of the same person.

Phonological Analysis


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