Notes for Chapter 5 - Understanding Phonology - required readings only

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25 Apr 2012
Understanding Phonology - 3rd edition
Chapter 5 Underlying and Surface Representations
5.1 Introduction
- A speaker can systemically vary the pronunciation of the same word as a function of the
phonological context
- Phonologists assume multiple levels of representation to account for this
5.2 Allophonic Variation
- Much of the variation typically displayed by many segments is systematic
- Style and phonological context are responsible for the variation
o Style, or the level of formality of the situation, results in varied pronunciation of
some segments
o Context-dependent variants are called allophones
Allophones are variants of a particular phoneme (i.e. [ph] is an allophone of
phoneme /p/
- Allophonic variation in different languages may show some similarities but a given segmental
difference may be phonemic in one language and allophonic in another
- When a segmental difference is contrastive (used to differentiate between morphemes), there
will be minimal pairs present
- Allophonic variation is predictable
- Allophonic differences occur typically because certain contexts allow particular adaptations
in the production of the segment
o Therefore, allophones are in complementary distribution; the allophones of a
phoneme do not occur in the same environments and together they make up the
phonological context in which the underlying segment occurs (the phoneme)
5.3 Two Levels of Representation
- 3 arguments as to why phonologists assume there are two levels of representation
o Economy: why store allophonic information in lexical entries if it can be stated in
allophonic rules
o Relatedness: with only a single level of representation, it would not be possible to express
phonological relatedness of morpheme alternants
Example: plural suffix with two levels of representation, it is possible to state
that the underlying form is [z], even though in surface forms it shows up as [z],
[s], and [ɪz]
o Validity: many generalizations are only valid at a level other than the surface level
5.4 Neutralization
- Neutralization rule: rules that produce segments in positions where such segments already
appear; produces an output that already existed in the context in question
5.5 Choosing the Underlying Form
- An underlying form needs to be chosen when there are a number of alternants
- A good underlying form allows you to write rules that do not lose segmental contrasts of the
language and allows you to write rules that are easy to state
- Vacuous rule application application without effect
- A correct choice of the underlying form leads to correct linguistic generalizations
5.6 Conclusion
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