Phonology

phonology, study of the sound systems of languages. It is distinguished from phonetics, which is the study of the production, perception, and physical properties of speech sounds; phonology attempts to account for how they are combined, organized, and convey meaning in particular languages. Only a fraction of the sounds humans can articulate is found in any particular language. For example, English lacks the click sounds common to many languages of S Africa, while the sound th often poses problems for people learning English. Also, possible combinations of sounds vary widely from language to language—the combination kt at the beginning of a word, for example, would be impossible in some languages but is unexceptional in Greek. In phonology, speech sounds are analyzed into phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can change the meaning of a word. A phoneme may have several allophones, related sounds that are distinct but do not change the meaning of a word when they are interchanged. In English, l at the beginning of a word and l after a vowel are pronounced differently, so that the l in lit and the l in gold are allophones of the phoneme l; in other languages the difference between the two sounds could change the meaning of a word and so would be considered different phonemes.

See N. Chomsky and M. Halle, The Sound Pattern of English (1968); M. Kenstowicz and C. Kisseberth, Generative Phonology (1979); P. Hawkins, Introducing Phonology (1984).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Phonology: Analysis and Theory
Edmund Gussmann.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Phonetics and Phonology in Language Comprehension and Production: Differences and Similarities
Niels O. Schiller; Antje S. Meyer.
Mouton de Gruyter, 2003
A Dictionary of Phonetics and Phonology
R. L. Trask.
Routledge, 1996
Introductory Phonetics and Phonology: A Workbook Approach
Linda I. House.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998
Fundamental Concepts in Phonology: Sameness and Difference
Ken Lodge.
Edinburgh University Press, 2009
Derivations and Constraints in Phonology
Iggy Roca.
Clarendon Press, 1997
Phonology and Language Use
Joan Bybee.
Cambridge University Press, 2001
Psycholinguistic Research: Implications and Applications
Doris Aaronson; Robert W. Rieber.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1979
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Phonology"
Children's Language
Keith E. Nelson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, vol.4, 1983
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "The Role of Play in Phonological Development" and Chap. 8 "Cognitive Aspects of Phonological Development: Model, Evidence, and Issues"
The Phonology of English: A Prosodic Optimality-Theoretic Approach
Michael Hammond.
Oxford University Press, 1999
Lexical Phonology and the History of English
April McMahon.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Historical Outlines of English Sounds and Inflections
Samuel Moore.
George Wahr Publishing, 1969
Foreign Accent: The Ontogeny and Phylogeny of Second Language Phonology
Roy C. Major.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2001
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