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Main thrends in phonemic theory Essay

Methods of Phonological Analysis.

The Main Trends in the Phoneme Theory It is generally acknowledged that the phoneme is one of the basic language units. However, it is described by different scholars and representatives of different linguistic schools in different ways. Before we look at the most significant theories, lets say a quick word on the history of phonological studies and mention the names of outstanding scholars who contributed to the understanding of this complicated language phenomenon. In the 1960s there appeared the so-called new phonology which was aimed at explaining how speech is actually produced and understood by the humans. Generative phonology represented by a well-known American linguist N.Chomsky viewed phonology in close connection with syntax and semantics. The ideas of generative phonology were represented in the book by Chomsky and M.Halle The Sound Pattern of English. Classical static phonological models were aimed at creating classifications of the sound system of a particular language. Dynamic models were aimed at establishing the sound pattern of an utterance on the basis of its semantic and grammar characteristics.

Now lets try to group these schools into bigger categories and see what is the main criterion in the approach of linguists to the phoneme. In fact, the main criterion is three aspects of the phoneme. Some linguists exaggerate the abstract aspect of the phoneme and ignore the material aspect. Others, on the contrary, pay more attention to the material aspect and ignore the abstract one. We must admit that no theories ignore the functional aspect. I. Conceptions that pay special attention to the abstract aspect. According to mentalistic and psychological view, the phoneme is an ideal mental image, it doesnt exist objectively, it exists only in the mind of the speaker. Actual speech sounds are imperfect realization of it. These ideals were expressed by Baudauin de Courtenay and by Sommerfelt. II.  Conception that can be called functional because special focus is given to the ability of the phoneme to differentiate the meaning. III. The group concerned with the material aspect.

The physical view represented by Daniel Jones and B.Bloch regards the phoneme as the family of related sounds. In other words the phoneme is a mechanical sum of its allophones. So, similarity between sounds is considered to be the main criterion for attributing them to a particular phoneme. We see that the representatives of this approach ignore the abstract and functional aspect of the phoneme. 1) to establish distinctive difference between sounds, that is to establish relevant features 2) to create the inventory of the phonemes and establish the phonemic system of a language.


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