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Phonology: The Sounds of Language

Phonology is like the music of language. It deals with the study of speech sounds and how they are used to create meaning. Just as musical notes combine to form melodies, speech sounds combine to form words and sentences. Understanding phonology helps us communicate clearly and effectively.

Key Concepts:


  1. Phonemes:

  2. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound in a language. They are like the building blocks of words, and changing a phoneme can change the meaning of a word.

    For example, changing the first sound in “cat” from /k/ to /h/ makes it “hat.”

    Examples of English Phonemes:
    • /p/ as in “pat”
    • /b/ as in “bat”
    • /m/ as in “mat”
    • /t/ as in “top”
    • /d/ as in “dog”
    • /n/ as in “not”
    • /k/ as in “cat”
    • /g/ as in “go”
    • /s/ as in “sit”
    • /z/ as in “zip”
  3. Allophones:

  4. Allophones are variations of phonemes that occur due to differences in pronunciation but don’t change the meaning of a word. They are like different flavors of the same sound.

    For example, the /p/ sound in “pat” is slightly different from the /p/ sound in “spin,” but they are both allophones of the same phoneme /p/.

    Examples of English Allophones:
    • /p/ as in “pat” [p] and “spin” [p̪]
    • /t/ as in “top” [t] and “stop” [t̪]
    • /k/ as in “cat” [k] and “school” [k̟]
  5. Phonological Rules:

  6. Phonological rules govern how phonemes and allophones are used in a language. They explain the changes in pronunciation that occur in different contexts.

    For example, in English, the /t/ sound in “top” becomes a “d” sound [d] in “dog” due to a phonological rule called voicing assimilation.

    Voicing Assimilation:
    When a voiced sound (/b/, /d/, /g/, etc.) is followed by an unvoiced sound (/p/, /t/, /k/, etc.), the voiced sound becomes unvoiced to match the following sound.
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