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9. Methods of phonological analysis

The aim of the phonological analysis is, firstly, to determine which differences of sounds are phonemic and which are non-phonemic and, secondly, to find the inventory of phonemes of the language.

SEMANTIC METHOD is based on a phonemic rule that phonemes can distinguish words and morphemes when opposed to one another. This method consists:

1) In finding minimal pairs of words and their grammatical forms. By minimal pair we mean a pair of words or morphemes which are differentiated by only one phoneme in the same position. For ex: cat-bat.

2) in systematic substitution (замена) of one sound for another in order to find out in which cases the phonetic context remains the same, such replacing leads to a change of meaning.

a) the pronunciation of a different word form

b) the pronunciation of a meaningless sequence of sounds

c) a different repetition variant pronunciation of the same word or form.


Two Laws of phonemic and allophonic distribution.

1) allophones of different phonemes always occur in the same phonemic context

2) allophones of the same phoneme never occur in the same phonemic context and always occur in different positions.

If more or less different speech sounds occur on the same phonetic context, they should be allophones of different phonemes. There are three types of distribution: contrastive, complementary and free variation.

We should remind you here that the features of a phoneme that are capable of differentiating the meaning are termed as relevant or distinctive. The features that do not take part in differentiating the meaning are termed as irrelevant or non-distinctive. The latter may be of two kinds:

a) incidental or redundant features, for example, aspiration of voiceless plosives, presence of voice in voiced consonants, length of vowels:

b) indispensable or concomitant features, for example, tenseness of English long monophtongs, the checked character of stressed short vowels, lip rounding of back vowels.

It is well to remember that a single opposition remains single if it members differ from each other irrelevant both incidental and concomitant features.

10. The distinctive and constitutive functions of segmental phonemes

The phoneme is a minimal abstract linguistic unit realized in speech in the form of speech sounds opposable to other phonemes of the same language to distinguish the meaning of morphemes and words. Shcherba was the first to define a phoneme as a real, independent, distinctive unit which manifests itself in the form of allophones. The professor Vasiliev developed this theory and presented a detailed definition of the phoneme in his book “English Phonetics”. He wrote that a phoneme is a dialectal unity of three aspects:

1) material, real, objective;

2) abstactional and generalized;

3) functional.

It serves to perform the following functions.

1. distinctive

2. constitutive

3. recognative

Firstly, the phoneme is a functional unit. In phonetics function is usually understood as a role of the various units of the phonetic system in distinguishing one morpheme from another, one word from another or one utterance from another. The opposition of phonemes in the same phonetic environment differentiates the meaning of morphemes and words: e.g. bath-path, light-like. Sometimes the opposition of phonemes serves to distinguish the meaning of the whole phrases: He was heard badly - He was hurt badly. Thus we may say that the phoneme can fulfill the distinctive function.

Secondly, the phoneme is material, real and objective. That means it is realized in speech in the form of speech sounds, its allophones. The phonemes constitute (составляют) the material form of morphemes, so this function may be called constitutive function.

Thirdly, the phoneme performs the recognative function, because the use of the right allophones and other phonetic units facilitates normal recognition. We may add that the phoneme is a material and objective unit as well as an abstract and generalized one at the same time.

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