Paul de Lacy

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:

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The term “phonology” has several meanings. It is often used to refer to generalizations about sounds and sound combinations (often called sound patterns) in and across languages. In contrast, within generative grammar “phonology” refers to a particular cognitive module. Many generative theories propose that the module takes inputs, consisting of strings of symbols (called phonological symbols, segments, phonemes, underlying forms, or the input, depending on the theory). The symbols may be accompanied by information about morphology, syntax, and perhaps even some aspects of meaning. The module produces an output representation, which serves as the input to the phonetic modules; these modules ultimately provoke muscle movements that can result in speech sounds. A common point of confusion is the belief that the phonological module manipulates speech sounds; in fact the phonology manipulates representations that are sent to the phonetic module, which then converts them into phonetic representations that are then implemented as muscle movements that, given the right factors, can produce audible sound. The two meanings of “phonology” are not in opposition. Phonology (sound patterns) makes up some of the data used in theorizing about the phonology (the cognitive module). There are large variations in sound patterns across languages. For example, Hawai’ian has nine contrastive consonants, whereas Ubykh has eighty-six. However, there are commonalities too, though many are disputed. For example, every language has either an alveolar voiceless stop of some kind or a glottal stop or both. Similarly, no language lacks words that start with a consonant. There are also large variations in phonological modules among humans; however, a great deal of research contends that all phonological modules share common properties, at least in their underlying structures. Although the outputs of languages are diverse, much work has argued that the representations and processes used to generate phonological outputs are very similar—perhaps identical—in all phonological modules, with only certain aspects of the phonological module (e.g., rules, constraint ranking) differing between modules.

Article.  13365 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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