sábado, 2 de marzo de 2013

What is a phoneme?

Definition
  A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language.
Discussion
  Phonologists have differing views of the phoneme. Following are the two major views considered here:
 
  • In the American structuralist tradition, a phoneme is defined according to its allophones and environments.
  • In the generative tradition, a phoneme is defined as a set of distinctive features.
Comparison
  Here is a chart that compares phones and phonemes:
 
A phone is …
A phoneme is …
One of many possible sounds in the languages of the world.
A contrastive unit in the sound system of a particular language.
The smallest identifiable unit found in a stream of speech.
A minimal unit that serves to distinguish between meanings of words.
Pronounced in a defined way.
Pronounced in one or more ways, depending on the number of allophones.
Represented between brackets by convention.
Example: [b], [j], [o]
Represented between slashes by convention.
Example: /b/, /j/, /o/
Examples (English): Minimal pair
  Here are examples of the phonemes /r/ and /l/ occurring in a minimal pair:
 
  • rip
  • lip
  The phones [r] and [l] contrast in identical environments and are considered to be separate phonemes. The phonemes /r/ and /l/ serve to distinguish the word rip from the word lip.
Examples (English): Distinctive features
  Here are examples of the English phonemes /p/ and /i/ specified as sets of distinctive features:
  /p/ /i/
  -syllabic +consonantal -sonorant +anterior -coronal -voice -continuant -nasal+syllabic -consonantal +sonorant +high -low -back -round +ATR -nasal

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