The other hand, phonology is concerned with abstract, grammatical characterization of systems of sounds.
Definition: Phonology is the study of how sounds are organized and used in natural languages. 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.


Phonemes include all significant differences of sound, including features of voicing, place and manner of articulation, accents, and secondary features of nasalization and labialization. Whereas phonetics refers to the study of the production, perception, and physical nature of speech sounds.

Definition Phonemes

1. Trask (1996: 264) says: phoneme is the smallest unit which can make a difference in meaning’….
2. Hayman (1975: 59) defines the phoneme as ‘a minimal unit of sound capable of distinguishing words of different meanings. Thus, both /t/ and /d/ are phonemes in English because they are able to make a meaning difference, as in the word ‘ten’ and ‘den’.
3. Gleason (1955: 261) defines the phoneme as “a class of sounds which: (1) they are phonetically similar and (2) show certain characteristic patterns of distribution in the language or dialect under consideration”.

An essential property of a phoneme is that it functions contrastively. We know that there are two phonemes /f/ and /v/ in English because they are the only basis of the contrast in meaning between the forms fat and vat, or fine and vine. This contrastive property is the basic operational test for determining the phonemes which exist in a language.
If we substitute one sound for another in a word and there is a change of meaning, then the two sounds represent different phonemes. For example: /p/ can be characterized as [-voice, +bilabial, +stop] and /k/ as [-voice, +velar, +stop]. Since these two sounds share some features, they are sometimes described as members of a natural class of sounds.
The prediction would be that sounds which have features in common would behave phonologically in some similar ways. A sound which does not share those features would be expected to behave differently. For example, /v/ has the features [+voice, +labiodentals, +fricative] and so cannot be in the same ‘natural class’ as /p/ and /k/.
Although other factors will be involved, this feature-analysis could lead us to suspect that there may be a good phonological reason why words beginning with /pl-/ and /kl-/ are common in English, but words beginning /vl-/ are not.

In written English we use punctuation to signal some things like emphasis, and the speed with which we want our readers to move at certain points. In spoken English we use sounds in ways that do not apply to individual segments but to stretches of spoken discourse from words to phrases, clauses and sentences. Such effects are described as non-segmental or suprasegmental – or, using the adjective in a plural nominal (noun) form, simply suprasegmentals.
Among these effects are such things as stress, intonation, tempo and rhythm – which collectively are known as prosodic features. Other effects arise from altering the quality of the voice, making it breathy or husky and changing what is sometimes called the timbre – and these are paralinguistic features. Both of these kinds of effect may signal meaning. But they do not do so consistently from one language to another, and this can cause confusion to students learning a second language.
Prosodic features
· Stress or loudness – increasing volume is a simple way of giving emphasis, and this is a crude measure of stress. But it is usually combined with other things like changes in tone and tempo. We use stress to convey some kinds of meaning (semantic and pragmatic) such as urgency or anger or for such things as imperatives.
· Intonation – you may be familiar in a loose sense with the notion of tone of voice. We use varying levels of pitch in sequences (contours or tunes) to convey particular meanings. Falling and rising intonation in English may signal a difference between statement and question. Younger speakers of English may use rising (question) intonation without intending to make the utterance a question.
· Tempo – we speak more or less quickly for many different reasons and purposes. Occasionally it may be that we are adapting our speech to the time we have in which to utter it (as, for example, in a horse-racing commentary). But mostly tempo reflects some kinds of meaning or attitude – so we give a truthful answer to a question, but do so rapidly to convey our distraction or irritation.
· Rhythm – patterns of stress, tempo and pitch together create a rhythm. Some kinds of formal and repetitive rhythm are familiar from music, rap, poetry and even chants of soccer fans. But all speech has rhythm – it is just that in spontaneous utterances we are less likely to hear regular or repeating patterns.

· An allophone is a phonetic variant of a phoneme in a particular language.
· A predictable phonetic variant of a phoneme.
For example, the aspirated t of top, the unaspirated t of stop, and the tt (pronounced as a flap) of batter are allophones of the English phoneme /t/.


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