Phonology (Greek phonē = voice/sound and logos =
word/speech), is a subfield of linguistics which studies the sound
system of a specific language (or languages). Whereas phonetics is about
the physical production and perception of the sounds of speech,
phonology describes the way sounds function within a given language or
An important part of phonology is studying which
sounds are distinctive units within a language. In English, for example,
/p/ and /b/ are distinctive units of sound, (i.e., they are phonemes /
the difference is phonemic, or phonematic). This can be seen from
minimal pairs such as "pin" and "bin", which mean different things, but
differ only in one sound. On the other hand, /p/ is often pronounced
differently depending on its position relative to other sounds, yet
these different pronunciations are still considered by native speakers
to be the same "sound". For example, the /p/ in "pin" is aspirated while
the same phoneme in "spin" is not.
In addition to the minimal
meaningful sounds (the phonemes), phonology studies how sounds
alternate, such as the /p/ in English described above, and topics such
as syllable structure, stress, accent, and intonation.
of phonological theory have also been applied to the analysis of sign
languages, in which it is argued that the same or a similar phonological
system underlies both signed and spoken languages. (Signs are
distinguished from gestures in that the latter are non-linguistic or
supply extra meaning alongside the linguistic message.)
Phonemic distinctions or allophones
two similar sounds do not constitute separate phonemes, they are called
allophones ,(an allophone is one of several similar phones that belong
to the same phoneme. A phone is a sound that has a definite shape as a
sound wave, while a phoneme is a basic group of sounds that can
distinguish words (i.e. changing one phoneme in a word can produce
another word); speakers of a particular language perceive a phoneme as a
single distinctive sound in that language. Thus an allophone is a phone
considered as a member of one phoneme.
Each allophone is used in a
specific phonetic context and many times there is some sort of
phonological process. Not all phonemes have significantly different
allophones, but there are always minor differences in articulation from
one piece of speech to the next.
For example, [pʰ] as in pin and [p]
as in cap are allophones for the phoneme /p/ in the English language
because they occur in complementary distribution. English speakers
generally treat these as the same sound, but they are different; the
latter is unaspirated (plain). Plain [p] also occurs as the p in spin
[spɪn], or the second p in paper [pʰeɪ.pɚ]. Outside of contexts where
plain p appears in English, speakers may hear it as b since English b is
of the same underlying phoneme. For
instance, voiceless stops (/p/, /t/, /k/) can be aspirated. In English,
voiceless stops at the beginning of a word are aspirated, whereas after
/s/ they are not aspirated. (This can be seen by putting your fingers
right in front of your lips and notice the difference in breathiness as
you say 'pin' and 'spin'.) There is no English word 'pin' that starts
with an unaspirated p, therefore in English, aspirated [pʰ] (the [ʰ]
means aspirated) and unaspirated [p] are allophones of an underlying
Another example of allophones in English is how the /t/
sounds in the words 'tub', 'stub', 'but', and 'butter' are all
pronounced differently, yet are all perceived as "the same sound."
example: in English, the liquids /l/ and /ɹ/ are two separate phonemes
(minimal pair 'life', 'rife'); however, in Korean these two liquids are
allophones of the same phoneme, and the general rule is that [ɾ] comes
before a vowel, and [l] does not (e.g. Seoul, Korea). A native speaker
will tell you that the [l] in Seoul and the [ɾ] in Korean are in fact
the same letter. What happens is that a native Korean speaker's brain
recognises the underlying phoneme /l/, and, depending on the phonetic
context (whether before a vowel or not), expresses it as either [ɾ] or
[l]. Another Korean speaker will hear both sounds as the underlying
phoneme and think of them as the same sound. This is one reason why most
people have an accent when they attempt to speak a language that they
did not grow up hearing; their brains sort the sounds they hear in terms
of the phonemes of their own native language.
In phonology, minimal pairs
are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in
only one phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have a distinct meaning. They
are used to demonstrate that two phones constitute two separate phonemes
in the language.
English "let" + "lit" proves that phones [ɛ] and
[ɪ] do in fact represent distinct phonemes /ɛ/ and /ɪ/. The phones do
not have to be vowels, as the English minimal pair of "pat" + "bat"
shows. In fact, this pair differs in voice onset time of the initial
consonant as the configuration of the mouth is same for [p] and ; however, there is also a possible difference in duration, which visual analysis using high quality video supports.
differentiation may vary between different dialects of a language, so
that a particular minimal pair in one accent is a pair of homophones in
another. This does not necessarily mean that one of the phonemes is
absent in the homonym accent; merely that it is not present in the same
range of contexts.
Morphology :is a subdiscipline of
linguistics that studies word structure. While words are generally
accepted as being the smallest units of syntax, it is clear that in most
(if not all) languages, words can be related to other words by rules.
For example, any English speaker can see that the words dog, dogs and
dog-catcher are closely related. English speakers can also recognize
that these relations can be formulated as rules that can apply to many,
many other pairs of words. Dog is to dogs just as cat is to cats, or
encyclopædia is to encyclopædias; dog is to dog-catcher as dish is to
dishwasher. The rule in the first case is plural formation; in the
second case, a transitive verb and a noun playing the role of its object
can form a word. Morphology is the branch of linguistics that studies
such rules across and within languages.
Lexemes and word forms
word "word" is ambiguous in common usage. To take up again the example
of dog vs. dogs, there is one sense in which these two are the same
"word" (they are both nouns that refer to the same kind of animal,
differing only in number), and another sense in which they are different
words (they can't generally be used in the same sentences without
altering other words to fit; for example, the verbs is and are in The
dog is happy and The dogs are happy).
The distinction between these
two senses of "word" is probably the most important one in morphology.
The first sense of "word," the one in which dog and dogs are "the same
word," is called lexeme. The second sense is called word form. We thus
say that dog and dogs are different forms of the same lexeme. Dog and
dog-catcher, on the other hand, are different lexemes; for example, they
refer to two different kinds of entities. The form of a word that is
chosen conventionally to represent the canonical form of a word is
called a lemma or citation form.
Inflection vs. word-formation
the notion of a lexeme, it is possible to distinguish two kinds of
morphological rules. Some morphological rules relate different forms of
the same lexeme; while other rules relate two different lexemes. Rules
of the first kind are called inflectional rules, while those of the
second kind are called word-formation. The English plural, as
illustrated by dog and dogs, is an inflectional rule; compounds like
dog-catcher or dishwasher are an example of a word-formation rule.
Informally, word-formation forms "new words" (that is, lexemes), while
inflection gives you more forms of the "same" word (lexeme).
a further distinction between two kinds of word-formation: derivation
and compounding. Compounding is a kind of word-formation which involves
combining complete word forms into a compound; dog-catcher is a
compound, because both dog and catcher are words. Derivation involves
suffixes or prefixes that are not independent words; the word
independent is derived from the word dependent by prefixing it with the
derivational prefix in-, and dependent itself is derived from the verb
The distinction between inflection and word-formation is not
at all clear-cut. There are many examples where linguists fail to agree
whether a given rule is inflection or word-formation. However, the next
section will clarify this distinction further.
Paradigms and morphosyntax
notion of a paradigm is closely related to that of inflection. The
paradigm of a lexeme is the set of all of its word forms, organized by
their grammatical categories. The familiar examples of paradigms are the
conjugations of verbs, and the declensions of nouns. The word forms of a
lexeme can usually be arranged into tables, by classifying them by
shared features such as tense, aspect, mood, number, gender or case. For
example, the personal pronouns in English can be organized into tables,
using the categories of person, number, gender and case.
categories used to group word forms into paradigms cannot be chosen
arbitrarily; they must be categories that are relevant to stating the
syntactic rules of the language. For example, person and number are
categories that can be used to define paradigms in English, because
English has grammatical agreement rules that require the verb in a
sentence to appear in an inflectional form that matches the person and
number of the subject. In other words, the syntactic rules of English
care about the difference between dog and dogs, because they determine
which form of the verb must be used; but in contrast, no syntactic rule
of English cares about the difference between dog and dog-catcher, or
dependent and independent. The first two are just nouns, and the second
two just adjectives, and they generally behave like any other noun or
The major difference between inflection and word
formation is that inflectional forms of lexemes are organized into
paradigms, which are defined by the requirements of syntactic rules. The
part of morphology that covers the relationship between syntax and
morphology is called morphosyntax, and it concerns itself with
inflection and paradigms, but not with word-formation or compounding.
Allomorphy and morphophonology
the exposition above, morphological rules are described as analogies
between word forms: dog is to dogs as cat is to cats, and as dish is to
dishes. In this case, the analogy applies both to the meaning of the
words and to their forms: in each pair, the word in the left always
means "one of X" and the one on the right "many of X", and at the
distinction is always signaled by having the plural form have an -s at
the end, which the singular does not have.
One of the largest sources
of complexity in morphology is that this sort of one-to-one
correspondence between meaning and form hardly ever holds. In English,
we have word form pairs like ox/oxen, goose/geese, and sheep/sheep,
where the difference between the singular and the plural is signaled in a
different way from the regular pattern, or not signalled at all. Even
the case we consider "regular", with the final -s, is not quite that
simple; the -s in dogs is not pronounced the same way as the -s in cats,
and in a plural like dishes, we have an "extra" vowel before the -s.
These cases, where the same distinction is effected by different changes
of form for different lexemes, are called allomorphy.
several kinds of allomorphy. One is pure allomorphy, where the
allomorphs are just arbitrary. The most extreme cases here are called
suppletion, where two forms related by a morphological rule are just
arbitrarily different: for example, the past of go is went, which is a
On the other hand, other kinds of allomorphy are due
to interaction between morphology and phonology. Phonological rules
constrain which sounds can appear next to each other in a language, and
morphological rules, when applied blindly, would often violate
phonological rules, by resulting in impossible sound sequences. For
example, if we were to try to form the plural of dish by just putting a
-s at the end, we'd get *dishs, which is not permitted by the phonology;
to "rescue" the word, we put a vowel sound in between, and get dishes.
Similar rules apply to the pronunciation of the -s in dogs and cats: it
depends on the quality (voiced vs. unvoiced) of the preceding phoneme.
study of allomorphy that results from the interaction of morphology and
phonology is called morphophonology. Many morphophonological rules fall
under the category of sandhi.
is the branch of morphology that deals with the lexicon, which,
morphologically conceived, is the collection of lexemes in a language.
As such, it concerns itself primarily with word-formation: derivation
Models of morphology
three major families of approaches to morphology, which try to capture
the distinctions above in different ways. These are:
• Morpheme-based morphology, which makes use of an Item and Arrangement approach.
• Lexeme – based Morphology, which normally makes use of an Item and Process approach.
• Word – based Morphology , which normally makes use Word – and – Paradigm approach.
morpheme-based morphology, word forms are analyzed as sequences of
morphemes. A morpheme is defined as the minimal meaningful unit of a
language. In a word like independently, we say that the morphemes are
in-, depend, -ent, and ly; depend is the root and the other morphemes
are, in this case, derivational affixes.In a word like dogs, we say that
dog is the root, and that -s is an inflectional morpheme. This way of
analyzing word forms as if they were made of morphemes put after each
other like beads on a string, is called Item-and-Arrangement.
morpheme-based approach is the first one that beginners to morphology
usually think of, and which laymen tend to find the most obvious. This
is so to such an extent that very often beginners think that morphemes
are an inevitable, fundamental notion of morphology; and many
five-minute explanations of morphology are, in fact, five-minute
explanations of morpheme-based morphology. This is, however, not so; the
fundamental idea of morphology is that the words of a language are
related to each other by different kinds of rules. Analyzing words as
sequences of morphemes is a way of describing these relations, but is
not the only way. In actual academic linguistics, morpheme-based
morphology certainly has many adherents, but is by no means absolutely
Applying a morpheme-based model strictly quickly leads to
complications when one tries to analyze many forms of allomorphy. For
example, it's easy to think that in dogs, we have the root dog, followed
by the plural morpheme -s; the same sort of analysis is also
straightforward for oxen, with the stem ox, and a suppletive plural
morpheme -en. But then, how do we "split up" the word geese into root +
plural morpheme? How do we do so for sheep?
Theorists who wish to
maintain a strict morpheme-based approach often preserve the idea in
cases like these by saying that geese is goose followed by a null
morpheme (a morpheme that has no phonological content), and that the
vowel change in the stem is a morphophonological rule. It is also common
for morpheme-based analyses to posit null morphemes even in the absence
of any allomorphy. For example, if the plural noun dogs is analyzed as a
root dog followed by a plural morpheme -s, then one might analyze the
singular dog as the root dog followed by a null morpheme for the
is (usually) an Item-and-Process approach. Instead of analyzing a word
form as a set of morphemes arranged in sequence, we think of a word form
as the result of applying rules that alter a word form or stems, to
produce a new one. An inflectional rule takes a stem, does some changes
to it, and outputs a word-form; a derivational rule takes a stem, and
outputs a derived stem; a compounding rule takes word-forms, and outputs
a compound stem.
The Item-and-Process approach by passes the
difficulty described above for Item-and-Arrangement approaches. Faced
with a plural like geese, we don't have to assume there is a zero-morph;
all we say is that while the plural of dog is formed by adding an -s to
the end, the plural of goose is formed by changing the vowel in the
is a (usually) Word-and-Paradigm approach. This kind of theory takes
paradigms as a central notion. Instead of stating rules to combine
morphemes into word forms, or to generate word-forms from stems,
word-based morphology states generalizations that hold between the forms
of inflectional paradigms. The major point behind this approach is that
many such generalizations are hard to state with either of the other
approaches. The examples are usually drawn from fusional languages,
where a given "piece" of a word, which a morpheme-based theory would
call an inflectional morpheme, corresponds to a combination of
grammatical categories, for example, "third person plural."
Morpheme-based theories usually have no problems with this situation,
since one just says that a given morpheme has two categories.
Item-and-Process theories, on the other hand, often break down in cases
like these, because they all too often assume that there will be two
separate rules here, one for third person, and the other for plural, but
the distinction between them turns out to be artificial.
Word-and-Paradigm approaches treat these as whole words that are related
to each other by analogical rules. Words can be categorized based on
the pattern that they fit into. This applies both to existing words and
to new ones. Application of a different pattern than the one that was
used historically can give rise to a new word, such as older replacing
elder (where older follows the normal pattern of adjectival
superlatives) and cows replacing kine (where cows fits the regular
pattern of plural formation). While a Word-and-Paradigm approach can
explain this easily, other approaches have difficulty with phenomena
such as this.
In the 19th
century, philologists devised a new classic classification of languages
in terms of their morphology. According to this typology, some languages
are isolating, and have little or no morphology; others are
agglutinative, and their words tend to have lots of easily-separable
morphemes; while yet others are fusional, because their inflectional
morphemes are said to be "fused" together. The classic example of an
isolating language is Chinese; the classic example of an agglutinative
language is Turkish; both Latin and Greek are classic examples of
When one considers the variability of the world's
languages, it becomes clear that this classification is not at all
clear-cut, and many languages don't neatly fit any one of these types.
However, examined against the light of the three general models of
morphology described above, it is also clear that the classification is
very much biased towards a morpheme-based conception of morphology. It
makes direct use of the notion of morpheme in the definition of
agglutinative and fusional languages. It describes the latter as having
separate morphemes "fused" together (which often does correspond to the
history of the language, but not to its synchronic reality).
three models of morphology stem from attempts to analyze languages that
more or less match different categories in this typology. The
Item-and-Arrangement approach fits very naturally with agglutinative
languages; while the Item-and-Process and Word-and-Paradigm approaches
usually address fusional languages.
immediate constituent analysisalso called ICA analysis, in
linguistics, a system of grammatical analysis that divides sentences
into successive layers, or constituents, until, in the final layer, each
constituent consists of only a word or meaningful part of a word. (A
constituent is any word or construction that enters into some larger
construction.) In the sentence “The old man ran away,” the first
division into immediate constituents would be between “the old man” and
“ran away.” The immediate constituents of “the old man” are “the” and
“old man.” At the next level “old man” is divided into “old” and “man.”
The term was introduced by the United States linguist Leonard Bloomfield
in 1933, though the underlying principle is common both to the
traditional practice of parsing and to many modern systems of