Notes for Chapter 1 - Understanding Phonology

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25 Apr 2012
Understanding Phonology - 3rd edition
Chapter 1 - Structures in Languages
1.1 - Introduction
- all human languages have phonological structure and morphosyntactic structure
1.2 - Observing Linguistic Structure
- languages vary greatly in structure - speakers of a language are often not aware of their
language’s structure
- structural awareness depends on the demand and will to look into such issues, and the
salience of structural elements (i.e. how easy it is to recognize certain elements)
- segment awareness arises because the letters used to write words have a relation to the sound
produced when that word is spoken
o i.e. ‘tea’ - rather than one unit of sound, is made of two segments - [t], [i]
o segment ≠ syllable
- a language’s orthography can also be a hindrance to learning language structure because of
irregular relations between letters and segments (i.e. laugh: a word with 5 letters, but 3
segments), which can cause confusion for speakers as they try to separate the two
o hence why segments are assigned special symbols (IPA)
- Japanese - ‘mora’: a short vowel; each half of a long vowel; smaller than a syllable
1.2.1 - What Linguists Do
- try to become aware of the entire structure of the languages they study
- aim to discover the entire structure of all languages, which is unrealistic because languages
are dying out quickly
- give evidence (language-internal and phonetic measurement) to why they assume some
structures to exist, how children acquire language, and to explain language change over time
o phonetic measurement: acoustic properties of speech, articulatory gesture tracking,
listener stimuli response
- further goal of linguists: what factors allow linguistic structures to exist?; what factors
account for the distribution of those structures across languages?
o cognitive factors (from the brain), phonetic factors (from the perceptual and speech
production systems), social factors
- behavioural experiments: register responses to specific tasks to find evidence of linguistic
- 1960s - psychologists research goal: to understand mental processes that allow listeners to
understand and produce speech
- when listening to a foreign language, you cannot tell where the words are - because there are
no silent intervals between words in coherent phrases
o but if pauses = brief silent moments, there would be many occurring within words
and at the edges of words (i.e. aspiration)
- psycholinguists: during speech perception - listeners briefly hear strings of sounds inside
words as possible words, but below our awareness
1.3 - Morphosyntactic Structure
1.3.1 Morphological Structure
- smallest morphosyntactic unit - morpheme
- free morpheme - morpheme that can be a word by itself
- bound morpheme - morpheme that needs to combine with a free morpheme to be a word
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