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Unit 3: The Rules of Language

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Psychology 2134A/B
Marc Joanisse

Unit 3 The Rules of LanguageOutlineThe Basic Elements of Languagey Phonologyo the sound pattern of a language y Morphology o the structure of words Making new words from familiar onesy Syntax o sentence structure y Semanticso the literal meanings of words and sentences y Pragmaticsogoing beyond literal meaningPhonology Which word seems better ptakstap Why Is it that pt is not an acceptable sequence of sounds in English Maybe notwe use it in words like aptitude and raptor The reason is a bit more nuanced pt cannot appear at the beginning of a word in English Fun fact ptak is perfectly acceptable in many other languages So theres nothing inherently bad about ptspeakers use this sequence at the start of words in other languages like Greek and Russian Instead English phonological grammar does not permit this sequence Like in the case of syntax different languages have different phonological phonological rules English Phonology In this course we will focus on English phonology Most of what we will learn also applies to other language as well though The first principle is that words can be analyzed into smaller segments called phonemes These are the smallest segments of speech and are combined to create words English uses about 40 different phonemes Other languages can use more or fewer Phonemes can be divided into different classes The simplest division is between vowels and consonants One complication is that English only uses 26 letters So how can we say that English has 40 phonemes The reason is that letters and phonemes are not the same thing Instead we use letters in different ways to denote different phonemes For instance the letter A makes different sounds depending on context HAT HATE and HEAT each have a different vowel sound in spite of the fact that they all use A in the vowel position Because of this confusion we need a different way of indicating phonemes So we use the IPA the international phonetic alphabet Each symbol in the IPA denotes a different phoneme Let me warn you that in spite of similarities the IPA is not the same as the English alphabetWhen we transcribe something into IPA we usually put it in slashes so that its clear we are using a phonetic transcriptionBasic Phonetics We can describe phonemes using different dimensions each describing a different physical characteristic about how it is produced There are three such dimensions 1 Voicing Consonants can be either voiced or voiceless It depends on whether the vocal cords are vibrating while you produce it For example try saying the first sound in the following words zoot vs suit gap vs cap Note that in each case the contrast is not the position of your tonguelips or jaw as you produce these it is whether your vocal folds are vibrating while you produce them In the case of z and g you are producing voicing in s and c you are not producing voicing NB Vowels are also produced with voicing There is no such thing as a voiceless vowel in English 2 Place of Articulation This refers to the point at which the tongue or lower lip is closest to the top of the vocal tract The diagram below will help you understand what we mean by each place of articulationy labial contracting the upper and lower lips as in the sound b y labiodental holding the lower lip against the upper teeth as in the sound f y alveolar moving the tip of the tongue against the alveolar ridge which is located just behind the front teeth as in d y palatal moving the body of the tongue against the hard palate as in the sound sh y velar moving the back of the tongue against the soft palate or velum as in the sound g 3 Manner of Articulation This is the type of articulation being made which is described as the way in which air flows or fails to flow as you produce them y Stops airflow is completely interrupted and then released as in the sound d y Fricatives turbulent airflow due to very close constriction as in the sound s y Affricate this is a combination of stop and fricative where a stop is produced and thenimmediately changes to a fricative Eg the first sound in change contain the t stop and the sh fricativey Nasal in this case air passes only through the nose For example the m sound y Liquidsglides air passes freely through oral tract with no constrictionConsonants of English
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