allophonic
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In
phonology Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonology
, an allophone (; from the
Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of ...
, ''állos'', "other" and , ''phōnē'', "voice, sound") is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or ''
phones A telephone is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far apart to be heard directly. A telephone converts sound, typically and most efficiently the human voice, into electronic ...
'', or signs used to pronounce a single
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
in a particular language. For example, in
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
, (as in ''stop'' ) and the aspirated form (as in ''top'' ) are allophones for the phoneme , while these two are considered to be different phonemes in some languages such as
Thai Thai or THAI may refer to: * Of or from Thailand, a country in Southeast Asia ** Thai people, the dominant ethnic group of Thailand ** Thai language, a Tai-Kadai language spoken mainly in and around Thailand *** Thai script *** Thai (Unicode block) ...

Thai
and
Hindi Hindi (Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida . ''May Śiv ...

Hindi
. On the other hand, in
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
, (as in ''dolor'' ) and (as in ''nada'' ) are allophones for the phoneme , while these two are considered to be different phonemes in English. The specific allophone selected in a given situation is often predictable from the phonetic context, with such allophones being called positional variants, but some allophones occur in
free variation In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include p ...
. Replacing a sound by another allophone of the same phoneme usually does not change the meaning of a word, but the result may sound non-native or even unintelligible. Native speakers of a given language perceive one phoneme in the language as a single distinctive sound and are "both unaware of and even shocked by" the allophone variations that are used to pronounce single phonemes.


History of concept

The term "allophone" was coined by
Benjamin Lee Whorf Benjamin Lee Whorf (; April 24, 1897 – July 26, 1941) was an American linguist and fire prevention engineer. Whorf is widely known as an advocate for the idea that differences between the structures of different languages shape how their spea ...
circa 1929. In doing so, he placed a cornerstone in consolidating early
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
theory. The term was popularized by
George L. Trager George Leonard Trager (; March 22, 1906 – August 31, 1992) was an American linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language) ...
and Bernard Bloch in a 1941 paper on English phonology and went on to become part of standard usage within the American structuralist tradition.


Complementary and free-variant allophones and assimilation

Whenever a user's speech is vocalized for a given phoneme, it is slightly different from other utterances, even for the same speaker. That has led to some debate over how real and how universal phonemes really are (see
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
for details). Only some of the variation is significant, by being detectable or perceivable, to speakers. There are two types of allophones, based on whether a phoneme must be pronounced using a specific allophone in a specific situation or whether the speaker has the unconscious freedom to choose the allophone that is used. If a specific allophone from a set of allophones that correspond to a phoneme must be selected in a given context, and using a different allophone for a phoneme would cause confusion or make the speaker sound non-native, the allophones are said to be ''complementary''. The allophones then complement each other, and one of them is not used in a situation in which the usage of another is standard. For complementary allophones, each allophone is used in a specific phonetic context and may be involved in a
phonological Phonology is a branch of that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sign system of any particular language variety. At on ...

phonological
process. In other cases, the speaker can freely select from '' free variant'' allophones on personal habit or preference, but free variant allophones are still selected in the specific context, not the other way around. Another example of an allophone is assimilation, in which a phoneme is to sound more like another phoneme. One example of assimilation is
consonant voicing and devoicing In phonology, voicing (or sonorization) is a sound change where a voiceless consonant becomes voiced due to the influence of its phonological environment; shift in the opposite direction is referred to as devoicing or desonorization. Most commo ...
, in which voiceless consonants are voiced before and after voiced consonants, and voiced consonants are devoiced before and after voiceless consonants.


Allotone

An allotone is a tonic allophone, such as the
neutral tone This article summarizes the phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or constituent parts of signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound or sig ...
in
Standard Mandarin Standard Chinese, in linguistics known as Standard Northern Mandarin, Standard Beijing Mandarin or simply Mandarin, is a Mandarin Chinese#Subgrouping, dialect of Mandarin that emerged as the lingua franca among the speakers of various Mandarin ...
.


Examples


English

There are many allophonic processes in English: lack of plosion, nasal plosion, partial devoicing of sonorants, complete devoicing of sonorants, partial devoicing of obstruents, lengthening and shortening vowels, and retraction. * Aspiration: In English, a voiceless plosive is aspirated (has a strong explosion of breath) if it is at the beginning of the first or a stressed syllable in a word. For example, as in ''pin'' and as in ''spin'' are allophones for the phoneme because they cannot distinguish words (in fact, they occur in
complementary distribution In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ph ...
). English-speakers treat them as the same sound, but they are different: the first is aspirated and the second is
unaspirated In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
(plain). Many languages treat the two phones differently. * Nasal plosion – In English, a plosive () has nasal plosion if it is followed by a nasal, whether within a word or across a word boundary. * Partial devoicing of
sonorant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical pro ...
s: In English, sonorants () are partially devoiced after a voiceless sound in the same syllable. * Complete devoicing of sonorants: In English, a sonorant is completely devoiced after an aspirated plosive (). * Partial devoicing of
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
s: In English, a voiced obstruent is partially devoiced next to a pause or next to a voiceless sound within a word or across a word boundary. * Retraction: In English, are retracted before . Because the choice among allophones is seldom under conscious control, few people realize their existence. English-speakers may be unaware of the differences among six allophones of the phoneme : unreleased as in ''cat'', aspirated as in ''top'', glottalized as in ''button'', flapped as in
American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English is the most influential form of ...
''water'', nasalized flapped as in ''winter'', and none of the above as in ''stop''. However, they may become aware of the differences if, for example, they contrast the pronunciations of the following words: *''Night rate'': unreleased (without a
word space In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis inclu ...
between and ) *''Nitrate'': aspirated or retracted A flame that is held before the lips while those words are spoken flickers more for the aspirated ''nitrate'' than for the unaspirated ''night rate.'' The difference can also be felt by holding the hand in front of the lips. For a
Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is a member of a bureaucracy and can compose the administration o ...
-speaker, for whom and are separate phonemes, the English distinction is much more obvious than for an English-speaker, who has learned since childhood to ignore the distinction. Allophones of English may be noticed if the 'light' of ''leaf'' is contrasted with the 'dark' of ''feel'' . Again, the difference is much more obvious to a
Turkish Turkish may refer to: * of or about Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country straddling Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. It shares borders with Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), offi ...

Turkish
-speaker, for whom and are separate phonemes, than to an English speaker, for whom they are allophones of a single phoneme. These descriptions are more sequentially broken down in the next section.


Rules for English Consonant Allophones

Peter Ladefoged Peter Nielsen Ladefoged ( , ; 17 September 1925 – 24 January 2006) was a British linguist Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
, a renowned
phonetician Phonetics is a branch of linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of lingu ...

phonetician
, clearly explains the
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
allophones In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , ''állos'', "other" and , ''phōnē'', "voice, sound") is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds, or ''phone (phonetics), phones'', or signs used to pronounce a single phonem ...
of
English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval England, which has eventually become the World language, leading lan ...

English
in a precise list of statements to illustrate the language behavior. Some of these rules apply to all the consonants of English; the first item on the list deals with consonant length, items 2 through 18 apply to only selected groups of consonants, and the last item deals with the quality of a consonant. These descriptive rules are as follows: # Consonants are longer when at the end of a phrase. This can be easily tested by recording a speaker saying a sound like “bib”, then comparing the forward and backward playback of the recording. One will find that the backward playback does not sound like the forward playback because the production of what is expected to be the same sound is not identical. #
Voiceless In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis include ...
stops are aspirated when they come at the beginning of a syllable, such as in words like "pip, test, kick" . You can compare this with voiceless stops that are not
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
initial like "stop" tɑp The voiceless stop follows the (fricative) here. #
Voiced Voice or voicing is a term used in phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize i ...
obstruentsAn obstruent is a speech sound such as , , or that is manner of articulation, formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorants, which have no such obstruction and so resonate. All obstruents are consonants, but sonorants include ...
, which include stops and
fricatives Fricatives are consonants manner of articulation, produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two Place of articulation, articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the bac ...
, such as , that come at the end of an utterance like in "improve" or before a voiceless sound like in "add two") are only briefly voiced during the articulation. # Voiced stops and
affricates An affricate is a consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronounced with the front of the tongue; , pr ...
in fact occur as voiceless at the beginning of a syllable unless immediately preceded by a voiced sound, in which the voiced sound carries over. #
Approximants Approximants are speech sounds that involve the articulators approaching each other but not narrowly enough nor with enough articulatory precision to create turbulent airflow. Therefore, approximants fall between fricatives Fricatives are conso ...
(in English, these include ) are partially voiceless when they occur after syllable-initial like in "play, twin, cue" . # Voiceless stops are not aspirated when following after a syllable initial fricative, such as in the words "spew, stew, skew." # Voiceless stops and affricates are longer than their voiced counterparts when situated at the end of a syllable. Try comparing "cap" to "cab" or "back" to "bag". # When a stop comes before another stop, the explosion of air only follows after the second stop, illustrated in words like "apt" and "rubbed" . # Many English accents produce a
glottal stop
glottal stop
in syllables that end with voiceless stops. Some examples include pronunciations of "tip, pit, kick" . # Some accents of English use a glottal stop in place of a when it comes before an alveolar nasal in the same word (as opposed to in the next word), such as in the word "beaten" . # Nasals become syllabic, or their own syllable, only when immediately following an obstruent (as opposed to just any consonant), such as in the words "leaden, chasm" . Take in comparison "kiln, film"; in most accents of English, the nasals are not syllabic. # The lateral , however, is syllabic at the end of the word when immediately following any consonant, like in "paddle, whistle" . ## When considering as
liquids A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid In physics, a fluid is a substance that continually Deformation (mechanics), deforms (flows) under an applied shear stress, or external force. Fluids are a Phase (matter), phase of matter and incl ...
, is included in this rule as well as present in the words "sabre, razor, hammer, tailor" . # Alveolar stops become voiced taps when they occur between two vowels, as long as the second vowel is
unstressed In linguistics Linguistics is the science, scientific study of language. It encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the methods for studying and modeling them. The traditional areas of linguistic analysis includ ...
. Take for instance mainly American English pronunciations like "fatty, data, daddy, many" . ## When an
alveolar nasal The voiced alveolar nasal is a type of al sound used in numerous spoken s. The symbol in the that represents , , and is , and the equivalent symbol is n. The vast majority of languages have either an alveolar or dental nasal. There are a f ...
is followed by a stop, the is lost and a nasal tap occurs, causing "winter" to sound just like "winner" or "panting" to sound just like "panning". In this case, both alveolar stops and alveolar nasal plus stop sequences become voiced taps after two vowels when the second vowel is unstressed. This can vary among speakers, where the rule does not apply to certain words or when speaking at a slower pace. # All alveolar consonants assimilate to
dentals
dentals
when occurring before a dental. Take the words "eighth, tenth, wealth". This also applies across word boundaries, for example "at this" . # Alveolar stops are reduced or omitted when between two consonants. Some examples include "most people" (can be written either as or with the
IPA IPA commonly refers to: * India pale ale, a style of beer * International Phonetic Alphabet The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation based primarily on the Latin script Latin script, also ...
, where the is inaudible, and "sand paper, grand master", where the is inaudible. # A consonant is shortened when it is before an identical consonant, such as in "big game" or "top post". # A
homorganic In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical p ...
voiceless stop may be inserted after a nasal before a voiceless fricative followed by an unstressed vowel in the same word. For example, a
bilabial In phonetics, a bilabial consonant is a labial consonant place of articulation, articulated with both lips. Transcription The bilabial consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are: Owere Igbo language, Igbo has a six-wa ...

bilabial
voiceless plosive can be detected in the word "something" even though it is orthographically not indicated. This is known as
epenthesis In phonology Phonology is a branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds (or signs, in sign languages). The term also refers to the sound system of any particular language variety. At one t ...
. However, the following vowel must be unstressed. # Velar stops become more
front Front may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * ''The Front'' (1943 film), a 1943 Soviet drama film * '' The Front'', 1976 film Music * The Front (band), an American rock band signed to Columbia Records and active in the 1980s and e ...
when the following vowel sound in the same syllable becomes more front. Compare for instance "cap" vs. "key" and "gap" vs. "geese" . # The lateral is Velarization, velarized at the end of a word when it comes after a vowel as well as before a consonant. Compare for example "life" vs. "file" or "feeling" vs. "feel" .


Other languages

There are many examples for allophones in languages other than English. Typically, languages with a small phoneme inventory allow for quite a lot of allophonic variation: examples are Hawaiian language#Consonants, Hawaiian and Toki Pona#Allophony, Toki Pona. Here are some examples (the links of language names go to the specific article or subsection on the phenomenon): * Consonant allophones **Consonant voicing and devoicing#Final devoicing, Final devoicing, particularly final-obstruent devoicing: Arapaho language#Allophony, Arapaho, Consonant voicing and devoicing#English, English, Nahuatl#Allophony, Nahuatl, Catalan language, Catalan and many others ** Consonant voicing and devoicing#Initial voicing, Voicing of initial consonant ** Consonant voicing and devoicing#Voicing assimilation, Anticipatory assimilation ** Aspiration changes: Algonquin language#Aspiration and allophony, Algonquin ** Frication between vowels: Dahalo language#Allophony, Dahalo ** Lenition: Manx language#Consonants, Manx, Corsican language, Corsican ** Voicing of clicks: Dahalo language#Allophony, Dahalo ** Allophones for : Arapaho language#Allophony, Arapaho, Xavante language#Allophony, Xavante ** Allophones for : Xavante language#Allophony, Xavante ** Allophones for : Bengali phonology#Allophony, Bengali ** Allophones for : Xavante language#Allophony, Xavante ** Allophones for : Manam language#Allophony, Manam ** Allophones for : Garhwali language#Allophony, Garhwali ** and as allophones: a number of Varieties of Arabic, Arabic dialects ** and as allophones: Some dialects of Hawaiian language#Consonants, Hawaiian, and some of Mandarin dialects, Mandarin (e.g. Southwestern Mandarin#Syllable, Southwestern and Lower Yangtze Mandarin#Phonology, Lower Yangtze) ** Allophones for *** : Finnish language#Phonology, Finnish,
Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Canada * Spanish River (disambiguation), the name of several ...

Spanish
and many more. *** wide range of variation in Japanese phonology#The moraic nasal /ɴ/, Japanese (as archiphoneme /N/) ** Allophones for : Xavante language#Allophony, Xavante ** Allophones for : Bengali phonology#Allophony, Bengali ** Allophones for : Bengali phonology#Allophony, Bengali, Taos phonology#Consonant phonetics and allophony, Taos ** and as allophones: Hawaiian language#Consonants, Hawaiian ** Allophones for : *** and : Hindustani phonology#Allophony of %5Bv%5D and %5Bw%5D, Hindustani, Hawaiian language#Consonants, Hawaiian *** fricative before unrounded vowels: O'odham language#Allophony and distribution, O'odham ** Allophones for : Bengali phonology#Allophony, Bengali * Vowel allophones ** and are allophones of and in closed final syllables in Malay language, Malay and Portuguese language, Portuguese, while and are allophones of and in Indonesian language, Indonesian. ** as allophones for short , and as allophones for short in various Varieties of Arabic, Arabic dialects (long , , , are separate phonemes in most Arabic dialects). ** Polish phonology#Vowel allophony, Polish ** Russian phonology#Allophony, Russian ** Allophones for , and : Nuxálk language#Allophony, Nuxálk * Vowel/consonant allophones ** Vowels become Glide consonant, glides in diphthongs: Manam language#Allophony, Manam


Representing a phoneme with an allophone

Since phonemes are abstractions of speech sounds, not the sounds themselves, they have no direct phonetic transcription. When they are realized without much allophonic variation, a simple broad transcription is used. However, when there are complementary allophones of a phoneme, the allophony becomes significant and things then become more complicated. Often, if only one of the allophones is simple to transcribe, in the sense of not requiring diacritics, that representation is chosen for the phoneme. However, there may be several such allophones, or the linguist may prefer greater precision than that allows. In such cases, a common convention is to use the "elsewhere condition" to decide the allophone that stands for the phoneme. The "elsewhere" allophone is the one that remains once the conditions for the others are described by phonological rules. For example, English has both oral and nasal allophones of its vowels. The pattern is that vowels are nasal only before a nasal consonant in the same syllable; elsewhere, they are oral. Therefore, by the "elsewhere" convention, the oral allophones are considered basic, and nasal vowels in English are considered to be allophones of oral phonemes. In other cases, an allophone may be chosen to represent its phoneme because it is more common in the languages of the world than the other allophones, because it reflects the historical origin of the phoneme, or because it gives a more balanced look to a chart of the phonemic inventory. An alternative, which is commonly used for archiphonemes, is to use a capital letter, such as /N/ for [m], [n], [ŋ]. In rare cases, a linguist may represent phonemes with abstract symbols, such as dingbats, to avoid privileging any particular allophone.


See also

*Allo- *Allophonic rule *Allomorph *Alternation (linguistics) *Diaphoneme *List of phonetics topics


References

{{Reflist


External links


Phonemes and allophones
Phonetics Phonology