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Each minimal pair exemplifies a possible consonant opposition

/m/ /w/ /f/ /v/ /e/ /a/ /t/ /d/ /n/

pike— pen— pine— pan— pin— pine— pin— park— piece-
mike when fine van thin thine tin dark niece
boss— bind— boot— ban— brash— bat— bill— bide— beer-
moss wind loot van thrush that till died near
mind— meet— mice— room— mine— man— mad— mine—
wind feet vice Ruth thine tan dad nine

wind— went— wick— wine— will— wide— weed-
find vent thick thine till died need

fife— loaf—
five loath thine ught- deer taught

fear— fear— near

vane— vow-thane thou

van— veal— vice-tan deal nice

thigh- Uy— thin— thick­
ly they din Nick

these— they— thine—
tease day nine

beats— tight-
beads night





/r/ /I/

/k/ /S/ /0/

vant or not, whether the opposition is single, double or multiple, e.g. /t/ and /d/ differ along the following lines:

/t/ /d/

voiceless fortis voiced lenis

Their other characteristic features are irrelevant, thus /t/ and M/ have only one distinctively relevant feature — single opposition. We can prove that this opposition is really phonemic by the minimal pairs: tenden, time — dime, try — dry. If there are two distinc-

Commutation Table 4
(other examples can be found by the students).

M N IV Ш № /r/ /i/ /к/ /g/ /о/ /Ь/

perch— pope— pay— pine, — rope— pipe— top— play— pig— pip— pen-
search pose lay shine rouge ripe toy clay gig ping hen

birch— best— bay— bob— babe— bound- bell— bar— bide— bib— be—

search zest lay bosh beige round yell car guide bing he

mad— meal— mike— make— room— mice— mel- mad— met— rum— mouse-
sad zeal like shake rouge rice low— cad get rung house


wo- west— wife— whine— — wipe— well— wave— wave— — we-

und— zest life shine ripe yell cave gave atth—

sound health

found— feel— fife— fee— roof— foot— • folk— fat— fame— rough— force-
sound zeal life she rouge root yoke cat game rung horse

veal— veal— vice— veer— — vice— veer— van— vet— have— view-
seal zeal lice sheer rice year can get hang bue

thin- think— thaw— thief- ruth- thumb- thaw- throw— throw— hath— third-
sin zinc law shief rouge runt your crow grow hang heard

they— thee— thy— thy- bathe- thy- then- that- these- with— there-
say zee lie shy beige rye yen cat geese wing here

talk— booty— tight— toe— root— talks— tongue- tin— tap— sit— Toby-
sock boozy tight shoe rouge rock young kin gap sing hobby

died— deal— dives— death— rude— doe— door— dan- died— bad— dear-
side zeal lives chef rouge row your cer— guide bang hear


knock— known- knife— nave— bane— knock- hap— night— name— Ian— near-
sock nose life shave beige rock yap kite game fang hear

peace— sock— sock— base— — sock— sore— city— same— sis— sit—

peas rock slock beige rock your kitty game sing hit

zest— zone— ruse— sest— zoo— zinc— easel— has— zero—

lest shown rouge rest you kink eagle hang hero

look— rule— lice— less— lick— lame— silk— late—

shook rouge rice yes kick game sink bate

ruche— shock— shell— shin— shame- wish— she-
rouge rock yell kin game wing he

rouge— — beige— — — —
Ruhr bake

rack— rid— rag— — roof-
yak kid gag hoof

yap— yes— —

cap guess

coat— sock— calf-
goat song half

bag— gear-
bang hear

tively relevant features, the opposition is double, e.g. /p/ and /d/ differ along the following lines:

/p/ /d/

voiceless fortis voiced lenis labial, bilabial | lingual, forelingual, apical, alveolar

This opposition is really phonemic. It can be proved by the minimal pairs: piedie, paildale, prydry. The opposition /b/ —


Table 5


Comparative Table of Phonemes in Different Languages  
Language Conso­nants Vowels Total Language Conso­nants Vowels Total
Russian English French 36 24 17 6 20 15 42 44 32 German Abkhazian Finnish 22 68 13 IS 3 8. 40 71 21

is multiple because these phonemes differ along the following linesi

/b/ /h/

voiced lenis voiceless fortis

labial, bilabial pharyngal

occlusive constrict ive

The phonemic nature of this opposition can be proved by minimal pairs, e.g. behe, bithit, baithate.

Soviet phoneticians perform commutation tests on the basis of the knowledge of the grammatical form and the meaning of the words, they apply the semantic method of phoneme identification.

The method of minimal pairs helps to establish the inventory of phonemes, it is one of the two main problems of phonological analy­sis. The other big problem phonologists are confronted with is to define the phonemic status of the sound in the neutral position.

There is one more big problem in phonology — theory of distinc­tive features.

It was originated by N. S. Trubetskoy and developed by such fo­reign scientists as R, Jackobson, C. G. Fant, M. Halle, N. Chomsky, P. Ladefoged, H. Kucbra, G. K. Monroe and many Soviet phonolo­gists, such as L. R. Zinder, G. S. Klychkov, V. Ya. Plotkin, Stepona-vicius and many others.

The taxonomy of differentiator features is being constructed on the basis of objective reality of phonological distinction, which really exist in phonemic classes. Distinctive features are the main, basic elements of variability in different languages. The commutation of meaning and utterance is effected due to these features.

Enriching the theory of distinctive features Prof. G. S. Klychkov introduces a modal feature of " turbulency" to make the hierarchy of consonants more logical. He states that the main question of dis­tinctive theory is the criterion of frequency and the direction of markedness.

There are different opinions on the nature of the phoneme and its
definition. v

I. I. A Baudouin de Courteney (1845-1929) defined the phoneme as a psychical image of a sound. He originated the so called " menta-Jist view of the phoneme. In our days Prof. V. Ya. Ptotkin thinks it appropriate to revive the terms " kinema" and " acousma" coined 52

by Baudouin deCourteneyfor the psychic images of articulatory move­ments and their auditory counterparts and blended into " kinakeme" to designate the bilateral psychophonic unit He states that experimen­tal investigations demonstrate the impossibility of accepting the pho­neme as the basic unit in the production and perception of oral speech. Speech production and perception are cerebral activities first and fore­most, while the sound chain is the vehicle for their externalization. Thus phonemes are composed of kinakemes which possess the paradignr-atic, syntagmatic and semantic properties, characteristic of -other phonological units, and are ultimate phonological units. The accept­ance of the kinakeme makes the notion of distinctive phonemic fea­tures redundant in phonemic theory because the kinakeme covers prac­tically the same ground as the notion of " distinctive feature". (G. Fant considers the term " minimal category" or " distinction" much better than " distinctive feature".) V. Ya. Plotkin suggests two dichotomies:

jl. Kinakemic system consists of two sub-systems: vocalic and con: sonantal, which are not rigidly separated.

2. All kinakemes are divided into two categories: modal and lo-cational.

Modal kinakemes are concerned with the origin of sounds and the vertical dimensions of the vocal tract. (1) Obstructional: a) occlu­sion, b) constriction, (2) Phonal: a) sonority, b) discordance.

Consonantal modal kinakemes determine the mode of obstruc­tion and the acoustic type of sound-tone or noise, their vocalic kina­kemes deal with the height of the vocal tract.

Locational kinakemes: vocalic and consonantal, function on the horizontal plane, activating certain areas along the vocal tract, (1) Articulatory: a) prelinguality, b) postlinguality. (2) Pointal: a) prealveolarity, b) postalveolarity.

" The-phoneme retains its status of the minimal unit of sound in the language system. Its indivisibility should be qualified as inability to be broken up into smaller units of sound." " As for the ultimate pho­nological unit, it is an instrument for the linguistic structuring of extralinguistic substance which might be called prephonic rather than phonic." 1

II. The abstraction^ conception of the phoneme was originated
by Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), the famous Swiss linguist and
the Danish linguist L. Hjelmsley (1889-1965). It was.advocated by
their pupils in the Copenhagen Linguistic Circle'. The " abstract" view
regards the phoneme independent of the phonetic properties.

III. N. S. Trubetzkoy (1890-1938), L. vBloomfield (1887-1949),
R, Jakobson (1896-1982) viewed the phoneme as the minimal sound
units by which meanings may be differentiated. They stated that the
features of the phoneme involved in the differentiation of words are
called distinctive. They can be found in contrastive sets.

1 Plotkin V. Ya. Systems of Ultimate Phonological Units // Phonetica, 1976.— P. 82.

IV. The physical view on the phoneme was originated by D. Jones
(1881-1967). He defined the phoneme as a " family" of sounds. The
members of the family show phonetic similarity. No member of the
family can occur in the same phonetic context as any other member.

This view was shared by the American scientists B. Bloch and G. Trä ger. They define the phoneme as a class of phonetically similar sounds, contrasting and mutually exclusive with all similar classes in the language.

V. The problem of the phoneme can be solved on a " populational
basis" (J. A. Perry, 1974), that is on the definition of the phoneme as
a unit of an idiolect (D. Jones, K. Pike), a dialect (L. Bloomfield),
a multidialect — the phoneme is a unit of the English Language as
a whole (G. Trager, H. Smith), or a " supralect" — the phoneme is a
unit of a standard form, by which the dialects and idiolects may be
compared (J.A. Perry),

VI. L. V. Shcherba (1880-1944) was the first to define the phoneme
as a real, independent distinctive unit which manifests itself in the
form of allophones. Prof. V. A. Vassilyev developed Shcherba's theo­
ry and presented a detailed definition of the phoneme in his book
" English Phonetics. A Theoretical Course", where he writes that a
phoneme is a dialectical unity of three aspects: (1) material, real and
objective, (2) abstractional and generalized, (3) functional. It serves
to perform the following functions: (a) constitutive, (b) distinctive
and (c) recognitiye. V. A. Vassilyev states that phoneme is material,
real and objective because it really exists in the material form of
speech sounds, allophones. It is an objective reality, existing inde­
pendently from our will, or intention. It is an abstraction, because we
make it abstract from concrete realizations for classificatory pur­
poses; it functions to make one word or its grammatical form distinct
from the other, it constitutes words and helps to recognize them.


1. What is phonology? 2. How are phonemes discovered? 3. What is commutation test? 4. What is the difference between phonemes and allophones? How are they represented in writing? 5. How are allo­phones classified? 6. What patterns of phoneme distribution do you know? 7. Speak on the method of discovery of minimal distinctive features. 8. What are the main problems of phonological analysis?

9. What do you know about the history of the phoneme discovery?

10. What is a kinakeme? П. How is the phoneme defined by Soviet


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