Phonetics Case

Categories: LinguisticsPhone


The aim of this thesis is to give a systematic description of some aspects of English morphophonemic. The thesis falls into 2 chapters:
The first chapter, which is an introduction, presents a short sketch of the title, the problem, the purpose of the study,phonological rules. The second chapter is devoted to some of the basic concepts required in the study of morphophonemic. It starts with various definitions of morpheme, allomorph.

The thesis ends with some conclusions, a list of bibliography.

Morphophonemic Analysis designates the analytic procedures whereby paradigms with phonological alternations are reduced to underlying representations and phonological rules. The term “morphophonemic analysis” has a now obscure origin. In the 1940s and 1950s, many phonologists worked with a theory in which (roughly) all neutralizing rules were assumed to apply before all allophonic rules. This in effect divided the phonology into two components: a neutralizing component, whose units were called “morphophonemes,” and a non-neutralizing component, which dealt with phonemes and allophones.

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This bifurcated-phonology theory is widely considered untenable today, but “morphophonemics” remains a useful term for characterizing the study of neutralizing phonological rules as they apply in paradigms.

When we conduct morphophonemic analysis, we seek to establish a connection between data and theory. The theory in question is that morphemes are stored in the lexicon in an invariant phonemic form, are strung together by morphological and syntactic rules, and are then converted to their surface forms by a sequence of phonological rules (often neutralizing), applied in a particular order. The purpose of morphophonemic analysis is to discover a set of underlying forms and ordered rules that are consistent with the data; and the payoff is that seemingly complex patterns are often reduced to simplicity.

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Morphophonemic analysis may be contrasted with phonemic analysis. Phonemic analysis is a more limited form of phonological analysis that seeks only to discover the non-neutralizing (allophonic) rules of the phonology. In phonemic analysis, only the distribution and similarity of the phones is examined. Therefore, the data need not be grouped in paradigms, but need only comprise a sufficiently large and representative set of words. Like phonemic analysis, morphophonemic analysis can be pursued with a systematic method.

The main purpose of my work consists in making exact definition of a phoneme and allophone and be able to distinguish them. To understand what is morphophonemic?  Problems of my work are: morphophonemic and morphophonological rules, types of morphophonological changes, relation between phonology and morphophonology, isolation forms, rule ordering, morphophonology and orthography.

Morphophonology (also morphophonemics, morphonology) is a branch of linguistics which studies the interaction between morphological and phonological or phonetic processes. Its chief focus is the sound changes that take place in morphemes (minimal meaningful units) when they combine to form words. Morphophonological analysis often involves an attempt to give a series of formal rules that successfully predict the regular sound changes occurring in the morphemes of a given language. Such a series of rules converts a theoretical underlying representation into a surface form that is actually heard. The units of which the underlying representations of morphemes are composed are sometimes called morphophonemes. The surface form produced by the morphophonological rules may consist of phonemes (which are then subject to ordinary phonological rules to produce speech sounds or phones), or else the morphophonological analysis may bypass the phoneme stage and produce the phones itself. Morphophonemes and morphophonological rules

When morphemes combine, they influence each other’s sound structure (whether analyzed at a phonetic or phonemic level), resulting in different variant pronunciations for the same morpheme. Morphophonology attempts to analyze these processes. A language’s morphophonological structure is generally described with a series of rules which, ideally, can predict every morphophonological alternation that takes place in the language. An example of a morphophonological alternation in English is provided by the plural morpheme, written as “-s” or “-es”. Its pronunciation alternates between [s], [z], and [ɪz], as in cats, dogs, and horses respectively. A purely phonological analysis would most likely assign to these three endings the phonemic representations /s/, /z/, /ɪz/.

On a morphophonological level, however, they may all be considered to be forms of the underlying object //z//, which is a morphophoneme. The different forms it takes are dependent on the segment at the end of the morpheme to which it attaches – these dependencies are described by morphophonological rules. (The behaviour of the English past tense ending “-ed” is similar – it can be pronounced [t], [d] or [ɪd], as in hoped, bobbed and added.) Note that the plural suffix “-s” can also influence the form taken by the preceding morpheme, as in the case of the words leaf and knife, which end with [f] in the singular, but have [v] in the plural (leaves, knives).

On a morphophonological level these morphemes may be analyzed as ending in a morphophoneme //F//, which becomes voiced when a voiced consonant (in this case the //z// of the plural ending) is attached to it. This rule may be written symbolically as: /F/ -> [αvoice] / __ [αvoice]. In the International Phonetic Alphabet, pipes (| |) are often used to indicate a morphophonemic rather than phonemic representation. Another common convention is double slashes (// //), as above, implying that the transcription is ‘more phonemic than simply phonemic’. Other conventions sometimes seen are double pipes (|| ||) and curly brackets ({ }). Types of morphophonological changes

Inflected and agglutinating languages may have extremely complicated systems of morphophonemics. Examples of complex morphophonological systems include: 1. Sandhi, the phenomenon behind the English examples of plural and past tense above, is found in virtually all languages to some degree. Even Mandarin, which is sometimes said to display no morphology, nonetheless displays tone sandhi, a morphophonemic alternation. 2. Consonant gradation, found in some Uralic languages such as Finnish, Estonian, Northern Sámi, and Nganasan. 3. Vowel harmony, which occurs in varying degrees in languages all around the world, notably Turkic languages. 3. Ablaut, found in English and other Germanic languages. Ablaut is the phenomenon wherein stem vowels change form depending on context, as in English sing, sang, sung. Relation between phonology and morphophonology

Until the 1950s, many phonologists assumed that neutralizing rules generally applied before allophonic rules. Thus phonological analysis was split into two parts: a morphophonological part, where neutralizing rules were developed to derive phonemes from morphophonemes; and a purely phonological part, where phones were derived from the phonemes. Since the 1960s (in particular with the work of the generative school, such as Chomsky and Halle’s The Sound Pattern of English) many linguists have moved away from making such a split, instead regarding the surface phones as being derived from the underlying morphophonemes (which may be referred to using various terminology) through a single system of (morpho)phonological rules.

The purpose of both phonemic and morphophonemic analysis is to produce simpler underlying descriptions for what appear on the surface to be complicated patterns. In purely phonemic analysis the data is just a set of words in a language, while for the purposes of morphophonemic analysis the words must be considered in grammatical paradigms to take account of the underlying morphemes. It is postulated that morphemes are recorded in the speaker’s “lexicon” in an invariant (morphophonemic) form, which, in a given environment, is converted by rules into a surface form. The analyst attempts to present as completely as possible a system of underlying units (morphophonemes) and a series of rules that act on them, so as to produce surface forms consistent with the linguistic data.

Isolation forms

The isolation form of a morpheme is the form in which that morpheme appears in isolation (when not subject to the effects of any other morpheme). In the case of a bound morpheme, such as the English past tense ending “-ed”, it will generally not be possible to identify an isolation form, since such a morpheme does not occur in isolation. It is often reasonable to assume that the isolation form of a morpheme provides its underlying representation. For example, in some American English, plant is pronounced [plænt], while planting is [ˈplænɪŋ], where the morpheme “plant-” appears in the form [plæn]. Here the underlying form can be assumed to be //plænt//, corresponding to the isolation form, since rules can be set up to derive the reduced form [plæn] from this (while it would be difficult or impossible to set up rules that would derive the isolation form [plænt] from an underlying //plæn//).

This is not always the case, however; sometimes the isolation form itself is subject to neutralization that does not apply to some other instances of the morpheme. For example, the French word petit (“small”) is pronounced in isolation without the final [t] sound, although in certain derived forms (such as the feminine petite) the [t] is heard. If the isolation form were adopted as the underlying form, the information that there is a final “t” would be lost, and it would be hard to explain the appearance of the “t” in the inflected forms.

Rule ordering

Morphophonological rules are generally considered to apply in a set order. This means that the application of one rule may sometimes either prevent or enable the application of another rule provided the rules are appropriately ordered. If the ordering of two rules is such that the application of the first rule can have the effect of making it possible to apply the second, then the rules are said to be in feeding order. For example, if a language has an apocope rule (A) which deletes a final vowel, and a cluster reduction rule (CR) that reduces a final consonant cluster, then the rules are in feeding order if A precedes CR, since the application of A can enable application of CR (for example, a word ending /-rpa/ is not itself subject to CR, since the consonant cluster is not final, but if A is applied to it first, leaving /-rp/, then CR can apply). Here rule A is said to feed rule CR. If the rules are ordered such as to avoid possible feeding (in this case, if CR applies before A) then they are said to be in counter-feeding order. On the other hand, if rules are ordered such that the application of the first rule can have the effect of preventing application of the second, then the rules are said to be in bleeding order.

For example, if a language has an epenthesis rule (E) that inserts a /w/ before certain vowels, and a vowel deletion rule (D) that deletes one of two consecutive vowels, then the rules are in bleeding order if E precedes D, since the application of E can prevent application of D (for example, a word containing /-iu-/ would be subject to D, but if E is applied to it first, leaving /-iwu-/, then D can no longer apply). Here rule E is said to bleed rule D. If the rules are ordered such as to avoid possible bleeding (in this case, if D applies before E) then they are said to be in counter-bleeding order. The terminology of feeding and bleeding is also applied to other linguistic rules, such as those of historical sound changes.

Morphophonology and orthography

The principle behind alphabetic writing systems is that the letters (graphemes) represent phonemes. However in many orthographies based on such systems the correspondences between graphemes and phonemes are not exact, and it is sometimes the case that certain spellings better represent a word’s morphophonological structure rather than the purely phonological. An example of this is that the English plural morpheme is written -s regardless of whether it is pronounced as /s/ or /z/; we write cats and dogs, not dogz. The above example involves active morphology (inflection), and morphophonemic spellings are common in this context in many languages. Another type of spelling that can be described as morphophonemic is the kind that reflects the etymology of words. Such spellings are particularly common in English; examples include science /saɪ/ vs. unconscious /ʃ/, prejudice /prɛ/ vs. prequel /priː/, sign /saɪn/ signature /sɪɡn/, nation /neɪ/ vs. nationalism /næ/, and special /spɛ/ vs. species /spiː/.

Conclusions according to this chapter

Morphophonology (also morphophonemics, morphonology) is a branch of linguistics which studies: 1. The phonological structure of morphemes.

2. The combinatory phonic modifications of morphemes which happen when they are combined. 3. The alternative series which serve a morphological function. Examples of a morphophonological alternatives in English include these distinctions: Plurals “-es” and “-s”, as in “bus, buses”, vs. “bun, buns”. Plural of “-f” is “-ves”, as in “leaf, leaves”.

Different pronunciations for the past tense marker “-ed”.

English, having lost its inflection, does not have much morphophonology. Inflected and agglutinating languages may have extremely complicated systems, e.g., consonant gradation. A morphophonemic rule has the form of a phonological rule, but is restricted to a particular morphological environment. Morphophonemic rules are sensitive to their environment, unlike phonological rules. Whenever morphological information is required to specify the environment for an allophonic rule, the rule is morphophonemic. The prefix /in-/ has the allomorphs [il] and [ir]:

/in-/ + responsible irresponsible
/in-/ + logical illogical

Therefore, there must be a morphophonemic rule which determines the allomorphs [il] and [ir] of the prefix /in-/. The purpose of both phonemic and morphophonemic analysis is to produce simpler underlying descriptions for what appear on the surface to be complicated patterns. When morphemes are clustered or grouped in words than changes in the phonological structures of these words occur. Such changes are called morphophonemic changes. Assuming that we allow phonological rules to apply in sequence, we can cycle through them using the output of the first rule as the input to the second. For many cases in the data set, at most one phonological rule introduces a structural change. But in cog, tail, or comb we see a single derivation that involves both rules. Furthermore, such cases are not rare in English. Any word that begins with a voiceless stop and contains a vowel that precedes a voiced consonant will require the application of both rules. We use cog as an illustrative example:


Central to the concept of the phoneme is the idea that it may be pronounced in many different ways. In English (BBC pronunciation) we take it for granted that the r sounds in ‘ray’ and ‘tray’ are “the same sound” (i.e. the same phoneme), but in reality the two sounds are very different – the r in ‘ray’ is voiced and non-fricative, while the r sound in ‘tray’ is voiceless and fricative. In phonemic transcription we use the same symbol r for both, but we know that the allophones of r include the voiced nonfricative sound ɹ and the voiceless fricative one . In theory a phoneme can have an infinite number of allophones, but in practice for descriptive purposes we tend to concentrate on a small number that occur most regularly.


This is the fundamental unit of phonology, which has been defined and used in many different ways. Virtually all theories of phonology hold that spoken language can be broken down into a string of sound units (phonemes), and that each language has a small, relatively fixed set of these phonemes. Most phonemes can be put into groups; for example, in English we can identify a group of plosive phonemes p, t, k, b, d a group of voiceless fricatives f, θ, s, ʃ, h, and so on. An important question in phoneme theory is how the analyst can establish what the phonemes of a language are. The most widely accepted view is that phonemes are contrastive and one must find cases where the difference between two words is dependent on the difference between two phonemes: for example, we can prove that the difference between ‘pin’ and ‘pan’ depends on the vowel and that i and are different phonemes.

Pairs of words that differ in just one phoneme are known as minimal pairs. We can establish the same fact about p and b by citing ‘pin’ and ‘bin’. Of course, you can only start doing commutation tests like this when you have a provisional list of possible phonemes to test, so some basic phonetic analysis must precede this stage. Other fundamental concepts used in phonemic analysis of this sort are complementary distribution, free variation, distinctive feature and allophone. Different analyses of a language are possible: in the case of English some phonologists claim that there are only six vowel phonemes, others that there are twenty or more (it depends on whether you count diphthongs and long vowels as single phonemes or as combinations of two phonemes). It used to be said that learning the pronunciation of a language depended on learning the individual phonemes of the language, but this “building-block” view of pronunciation is looked on nowadays as an unhelpful oversimplification.


When the importance of the phoneme became widely accepted, in the 1930s and 40s, many attempts were made to develop scientific ways of establishing the phonemes of a language and listing each phoneme’s allophones; this was known as phonemics. Nowadays little importance is given to this type of analysis, and it is considered a minor branch of phonology, except for the practical purpose of devising writing systems for previously unwritten languages.


An allophone is a phonetic variant of a phoneme in a particular language.
A phoneme is the smallest contrastive unit in the sound system of a language.
A phone is one of many possible sounds in the languages of the world.
Phonemics a branch of linguistic analysis involving the study of phonemes, the structure of a language in terms of phonemes.

General conclusion

Morphophonemics, in linguistics, study of the relationship between morphology and phonology. Morphophonemics involves an investigation of the phonological variations within morphemes, usually marking different grammatical functions; e.g., the vowel changes in “sleep” and “slept,” “bind” and “bound,” “vain” and “vanity,” and the consonant alternations in “knife” and “knives,” “loaf” and “loaves.”

The ways in which the morphemes of a language are variously represented by phonemic shapes can be regarded as a kind of code. This code is the morphophonemic system of the language. The morphophonemics of English is never so simple. There are always many instances of two or more morphemes represented by the same phonemic shape, and there are always cases in which a single morpheme is represented now by one phonemic shape, now by another. Therefore the morphophonemics of English is never trivial.

1. Hayes, Bruce (2009). “Morphophonemic Analysis” Introductory Phonology,
pp. 161–185. Blackwell. 2. R. Jakobson, C. G. Fant, and M. Halle, Preliminaries to Speech Analysis, Fundamentals of Language (Mouton and Company, The Hague, 1956). 3. P. Roach (2004). “English Phonetics and Phonology”, Cambridge. 4.


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Phonetics Case. (2016, Oct 26). Retrieved from

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