View table of contents for this book View table of contents for LinguaLinksLibrary Go to LinguaLinks home page
 

What is phonology?

 

Definition
 

Phonology is the study of how sounds are organized and used in natural languages.

Discussion
 

The phonological system of a language includes

 
  • an inventory of sounds and their features, and
  • rules which specify how sounds interact with each other.
 

Phonology is just one of several aspects of language. It is related to other aspects such as phonetics, morphology, syntax, and pragmatics.

 

Here is an illustration that shows the place of phonology in an interacting hierarchy of levels in linguistics:

 
Comparison: Phonology and phonetics
 

Phonetics …

Phonology …

Is the basis for phonological analysis.

Is the basis for further work in morphology, syntax, discourse, and orthography design.

Analyzes the production of all human speech sounds, regardless of language.

Analyzes the sound patterns of a particular language by

  • determining which phonetic sounds are significant, and
  • explaining how these sounds are interpreted by the native speaker.
Models of phonology
 

Different models of phonology contribute to our knowledge of phonological representations and processes:

 
  • In classical phonemics, phonemes and their possible combinations are central.
  • In standard generative phonology, distinctive features are central. A stream of speech is portrayed as linear sequence of discrete sound-segments. Each segment is composed of simultaneously occurring features.
  • In non-linear models of phonology, a stream of speech is represented as multidimensional, not simply as a linear sequence of sound segments. These non-linear models grew out of generative phonology:


Context for this page:

Go to SIL home page This page is an extract from the LinguaLinks Library, Version 5.0 published on CD-ROM by SIL International, 2003. [Ordering information.]

Page content last modified: 5 January 2004

© 2004 SIL International