top-rated free essay

The Significance/Function of Phonological Rules in Language

By climber368 Jul 29, 2004 802 Words
The Significance/Function of Phonological Rules in Language

In a language it is often difficult to tell what the phonetic transcription of a sound will be, when not in isolation. That is, the pronunciation of a sound in a word or sentence is influenced by the sounds around it, and thus, may not be the same as our mental phonemic representation. We can determine the proper phonetic transcriptions/representations of these sounds by first applying phonological rules to the phonemic representations.

Every language has a set of phonological rules that are learned sub-consciously by the native speaker. These rules can be applied to individual sounds, but mainly they apply to groups of sounds called natural classes (Fromkin, p.270). The rules help us to understand, what may appear to be irregularities in our language, to actually be predictable forms of speech. A non-native speaker may not be aware of these rules and thus may have difficulty with certain utterances. By being aware of these rules, a non-native speaker may become more native like in his/her speech.

There are many phonological rules, but I will discuss only three of them here: assimilation rules, feature-addition rules and segment deletion rules.

Assimilation rules are considered feature-changing rules, that is, the value of phonemic features are changed. The assimilation rule states that a sound becomes more similar to a neighboring sound. This is in large part due to the difference in the manner and place of articulation of each sound. When moving from one sound to another we want to move our articulators as little as possible. This easing of the articulators results in the assimilation of the two sounds. Palatalisation is an example of assimilation (Fromkin, p.477).

In palatalisation the alveolar 'sounds /d/ and /t/ are pronounced further back in the mouth' (Avery, p.89). They occur in the same position as the palatal glide /j/and are thus palatised. This usually occurs in fast or casual speech when you have words like what or did followed by a word beginning with the sound /j/. The resulting sounds would be: /d/ + /j/ = dZ and /t/ + /j/ = tS . Examples of this are:

Spelling Pronunciation(Fast speech)

Could you help me? kUdZ@helpmi

Not yet natSet

Feature-addition rules are rules that add non-distinctive features to a sound. These non-distinctive features are predictable and do not affect the meaning of a word. An example of the feature-additional rule in English is the aspiration rule. This rule states that the voiceless stop consonants /k/, /p/ and /t/ are aspirated when they occur at the beginning of a word. Aspiration means that there is puff or burst of air when the voiceless stop is released. Look at the following words:

core score

pool spool

tool stool

Take a piece of paper and hold it close to your mouth. Say the words in the list above. You should notice that the paper moves when you say the words in the left column, but not in the right column. This is because of the aspiration rule. The voiceless stops in the first column are aspirated, but un-aspirated in the second column. If you switch the aspiration you will not get a change in meaning, therefore it is a non-distinctive feature.

A third phonological rule is the Segment Deletion Rules. These rules state that whole phonemic segments can be deleted. An example of this, in the English language, is final consonant clusters. When a final consonant cluster is followed by a word beginning with a consonant, the final consonant in the cluster can be released or deleted (Avery, p.86). However, if the following word began with a vowel, the final consonant cannot be dropped. Look at the following examples:

Cluster Example Pronunciation

a) nd hand out h{nd aUt

b) th fifth inning fIfT InIN

c) nd hand rail h{n reIl

d) th fifth wheel fIf wi5

In examples a) and b) the final consonant cannot be dropped, but in c) and d) it is possible to drop the final consonant. This usually occurs in fast speech and can be confusing to non-native listeners (Schramm, 2001).

From the above examples we can see that the phonetic representations of words can differ greatly from the phonemic representations. We can also see that some rules are optional (like the deletion rule example). Fromkin best summarises the significance of rules by saying that "if the differences created by rules were unpredictable, it would be difficult to explain how we understand what we hear or how we produce utterances that represent the meaning we wish to convey."(Fromkin, 2000: 286). In other words, without knowing these rules it would be difficult for us to correctly speak a language.


Avery, P., & Elrlich, S. (1997). Teaching American English Pronunciation (6th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fromkin, V., Blair, D., & Collins, P. (2000). An Introduction to Language (4th ed.). Marrickville, NSW: Harcourt.

Schramm, A. (2001). Lesson 9.2: Phonological Rules. Retrieved 3/16/2004 from

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • What is the Significance and Function of Phonological Rules in Language?

    ...What is the significance/function of phonological rules in language? Illustrate your answer with reference to three such rules (in English or any language you are familiar with), and give examples of how each rule operates. (968 words) INTRODUCTION Phonological rules are a system of writing, using formal notation, which allows linguists to exp...

    Read More
  • Phonological rules

    ...Why Do Phonological Rules Exist? PHONOLOGY VS. PHONETICS: Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages. It has traditionally focused largely on study of the systems of phonemes in particular languages, but it may also cover any linguistic analysis either at a level beneath the ...

    Read More
  • Power and Function of Language

    ...For my Power and Function of language assignment I have chosen research the language of police officers.. I chose this subject because I thought I wanted to find out a little bit how police officers communicate and I could interview my Dad. Dad has been a PO for about 25 years and has worked in many different sections of the police force, like F...

    Read More
  • Jakobsons functions of language

    ...Roman Jakobson's "The Speech Event and the Functions of Language." (Jakobson's terms honored over Yaguello's) Sue Smith, Yaguello, Marina. Language through the Looking Glass: Exploring Language and Linguistics. Trans. Marina Yaguello and Trevor Harris. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. The speech event, an act of verbal communica...

    Read More
  • Cultural Function of Language

    ...Culture Function of Language Aynur Huseynaliyeva (magistr) Qafqaz universiteti People from different cultures have different world views that are reflected in their language.  Culture is said to be the beliefs and values that are used to manage people's life in a particular society and people use the la...

    Read More
  • Nature And Function Of Language

    ...Topic 2 (ii): Nature and Function of Language “Non-verbal communication tends to provide the context of verbal communication and has the power to disambiguate or invalidate the content of linguistic expressions”, (Krippendorff, 1986) Discuss and provide relevant evidence to justify your arguments. The concept of communication as Shann...

    Read More
  • Functions of Language

    ...1) What are the functions of language? (450 – 500 words) All forms of human life communicate with each other and humans are not unique in this capacity. Human forms of communication include verbal forms, body language and gestures. However, this communication system is learned instead of being biologically inherited. Children for exampl...

    Read More
  • Functions of Language

    ...Function of language Tutorial WEEK 3 Identify the function used (examples of sentence) 1. Referential The party is going to start at 8 pm 2. Emotive Oh, really? What a surprise! 3. Conative Patrick, you should be there at 7.45 pm sharp. You have to prepare as you’ll give the opening speech in front of us later. 4. Phatic ...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.