Introductory Phonology
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Introductory Phonology

Bruce Hayes

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eBook - ePub

Introductory Phonology

Bruce Hayes

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About This Book

Accessible, succinct, and including numerous student-friendly features, this introductory textbook offers an exceptional foundation to the field for those who are coming to it for the first time.

  • Provides an ideal first course book in phonology, written by a renowned phonologist
  • Developed and tested in the classroom through years of experience and use
  • Emphasizes analysis of phonological data, placing this in its scientific context, and explains the relevant methodology
  • Guides students through the larger questions of what phonological patterns reveal about language
  • Includes numerous course-friendly features, including multi-part exercises and annotated suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter

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1.1 Phonetics and Phonology

There are two branches of linguistic science that deal with speech sounds: phonetics and phonology.
Phonetics is primarily an experimental science, which studies speech sounds from three viewpoints:
  • Production: how sounds are made in the human vocal tract
  • Acoustics: the study of the waveforms by which speech is transmitted through the atmosphere
  • Perception: how the incoming acoustic signal is processed to detect the sound sequence originally intended by the speaker
Phonology is also, sometimes, an experimental science, though it also involves a fair degree of formal analysis and abstract theorizing. The primary data on which phonological theory rests are phonetic data, that is, observations of the phonetic form of utterances. The goal of phonology is to understand the tacit system of rules that the speaker uses in apprehending and manipulating the sounds of her language (more on this in chapter 2).
Since phonological data are phonetic, and since (as we will see) the very nature of phonological rules depends on phonetics, it is appropriate for beginning students to study phonetics first. In particular, a phonologist who tries to elicit data from native speakers without prior training in the production and perception of speech sounds will be likely to have a hard time. The material that follows can be taken to be a quick review of phonetics, or else a very quick introduction that can be amplified with reading and practical training from materials such as those listed at the end of the chapter.
In principle, a phonologist should understand all three of the areas of phonetics listed above: production, acoustics, and perception. Of these, production probably has the greatest practical importance for the study of phonology. Since it is also the simplest to describe, it is what will be covered here.

1.2 The Vocal Tract

The term “vocal tract” designates all the portions of the human anatomy through which air flows in the course of speech production (see figure 1.1). These include (from bottom to top):
  • The lungs and lower respiratory passages
  • The larynx (colloquially: “voice box”). This is the primary (but not the only) source of sound in speech production
  • The passages above the larynx, called the pharynx, oral cavity (mouth), and nasal cavity
Figure 1.1 The vocal tract
The lungs and respiratory muscles produce a fairly steady level of air pressure, which powers the creation of sound. There are occasional momentary peaks of pressure for certain speech sounds and for emphatically stressed syllables. Air from the lungs ascends through the bronchial tubes, which join to form the trachea (windpipe). The bronchial tubes and the trachea form an inverted Y-shape.

1.2.1 The larynx

The larynx is a complex structure of cartilage and muscle, located in the neck and partly visible in adult males (whose larynxes are the largest) as the “Adam’s apple.” Figure 1.2 shows two diagrams of the larynx:
Figure 1.2 The larynx
The larynx contains the vocal cords (not “chords”), which are parallel flaps of tissue extending from each side of the interior larynx wall. The vocal cords have a slit between them, called the glottis. The vocal cords are held at their rear ends by two small cartilages called the arytenoid cartilages. Since these cartilages are mobile, they can be used to adjust the distance between the vocal cords.
When the vocal cords are held tightly together, the sound known as a glottal stop is produced; it can be heard in the middle of the expression “uh-oh” and is used as a speech sound in many languages.
If the vocal cords are placed close to each other but not tightly shut, and there is sufficient airflow from the lungs, then the vocal cords will vibrate, creating voicing. This is the configuration shown in figure 1.2(a). Voicing is the most important and noticeable sound source in speech.
The vocal cords can also be spread somewhat apart, so that air passing through the glottis creates turbulent noise. This is the way an “h” sound is produced. The vocal cords are spread farther still for normal breathing, in which airflow through the larynx is smooth and silent. This is the configuration shown in figure 1.2(b).
The cartilages of the larynx, especially the thyroid cartilage to which the front ends of the vocal cords attach, can stretch and slacken the vocal cords, thus raising and lowering the pitch of the voice. This is some...

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