Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Whats Of Phonological Rules In English

In the complicating world of languages, phonetic environment influences how a sound is pronounced. In most times, non-native speakers of English can be rather sensitive to such deviations from the expected pronunciation.

Phonological rules can be divided into 4 groups
  1. Assimilation. Rules of this kind describe processes where a sound becomes more similar to a neighboring sound. This is the kind of rule that occurs in the English plural rule described above - the -s becomes voiced or voiceless depending on whether or not the preceding consonant is voiced.
  2. Dissimilation. When a sound changes one of its features to become less similar to an adjacent sound, usually to make the two sounds more distinguishable. This type of rule is often seen among people speaking a language that is not their native language, where the sound contrasts may be difficult.
  3. Insertion. When an extra sound is added between two other. For example, when we pronounce the word 'hamster' at a regular speed, most of us will say and hear 'hampster' with a 'p'. This also occurs in the English plural rule: when the plural morpheme -s is added to "bus", "bus-s" would be unpronounceable, so a short vowel is inserted between the two 's's.
  4. Deletion. When a sound, such as a stressless syllable or a weak consonant, is not pronounced. For example, most American English speakers do not pronounce the 'd' in 'handbag'. Also, when pronouncing the word 'police', the word often sounds like 'pleace' and may be confused with please if one is not used to hearing voiced 's'.

Phonological rules are very versatile. Speakers apply these rules without being aware of it and they acquire the rules early in life without any explicit teaching. The rules give speakers intuitions about what words are 'well-formed' or 'acceptable'. If a speaker hears a word that does not conform to the language's phonological rules, the word will sound foreign or ill-formed.

"Phonological Rules Introduction To Linguistics" 2001. Andreas Schramm and Hamline University. Web. May 31st 2009.
"Phonological Rule" 2009. Wikipedia. Web. May 31st 2009.

Yang Su Ying

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