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3. The theory of the phoneme in its historical development

The founder of the phoneme theory was Baudouin de Courtenay, the Russian scientist of Polish origin. He defined the difference between a phoneme and a speech sound. He treated a phoneme as a meaningful unit, and a speech sound as a unit of speech, not connected with any meaning. He regarded the phoneme as an ideal mental image. His conception was called “mentalist view of the phoneme”.

The theory was further developed by Shcherba, the head of the Leningrad linguistic school, who stated that in the spoken language a much greater number of various sounds are pronounced than we usually think and these sounds in every language are united in a comparatively small number of sound types, which are capable of distinguishing the meaning and the form of words; i.e. they serve the purpose of social intercommunication.

Such sounds he called PHONEMES. The actually pronounced speech sounds are variants or ALLOPHONES. In other words he defined the phoneme as a real independent distinctive unit which manifests itself in the form of allophones. This conception is called materialistic.

Allophones are realized in concrete words. They have similarity from the phon. point of view, i.e. the acoustic and articulatory pitches have much in common. At the same time they differ in some degree and are incapable of differentiating words. Ex, in speech we pronounce not the sound type /t/ which is alveolar, forelingual, apical, occlusive, plosive, voiceless, strong, according to the classificatory definition, but one of its variants. For ex, labialized in the word “twice”, dental in the word “eighth”, post-alveolar in “try”, exploded nasally in “written” and exploded literary in “little”.

The number of phonemes in each language is much smaller than the number of allophones.

Subsidiary allophones may be positional and combinatory. Pos. are used in certain positions traditionally. Ex, the Eng phoneme /l/ is realized in actual speech as a pos. allophone: it’s clear in the initial position [l] and dark in the terminal position [l зачеркн.]. ex, light-let, hill-mill.

Combinatory allophones appear in the process of speech and results from the influence of one phoneme on another.

4. The theory of the phoneme in foreign phonological schools

The founder of the phoneme theory was Baudouin de Courtenay, the Russian scientist of Polish origin. Then it was developed by Shcherba, the head of the Leningrad linguistic school. But many foreign schools have been also interested in this question.

1. FERDINAND DE SASUR, the Swiss linguist. He viewed phonemes as the sum of acoustic impressions and articulatory movements. He regarded the phoneme independent of the phonetic properties. This conception is called abstractional.

2. THE FUNCTIONAL CONCEPTION regards the phoneme as the minimal sound unit by which meanings may be differentiated without much regard to actually pronounced speech sounds. Meaning differentiation is taken to be a defining characteristic of phonemes, thus the absence of palatalisation in [dark l] and palat-on in [clear l] in English do not differentiate meanings and therefore cannot be assigned to dif. phonemes, but both form allophones of the phoneme /l/. The same articulatory features of Russian [л],[л’] do differentiate meanings and must be assigned to different phonemes in Russian. Ex., мол-моль, лог-лёг, дол-доля. This view is shared by Trubetskoy (the head of the Prague Linguistic School), Bloomfield, Jakobson.

3. THE PHYSICAL CONCEPTION was originated by Daniel Jones, the head of the London School of Phonology. He defined the phoneme as a family of sounds. The members of the family must show phonetic similarity to one another, in other words be related in character. No member of the family can occur in the same phonetic context as any other member. This view was shared by the American scientists Bloch and Trager. They define the phoneme as a class of phonetically similar sounds, contrasting and mutually exclusive (взаимоисключающий) with all similar classes in the language. This approach may seem to be vulgarly materialistic since it views the phoneme as a group of articulatory similar sounds without any regard to its functional and abstract aspects.

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