phonotactics
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Phonotactics (from
Ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language used in ancient Greece and the ancient world from around 1500 BC to 300 BC. It is often roughly divided into the following periods: Mycenaean Greek (), Dark Ages (), the Archaic peri ...
"voice, sound" and "having to do with arranging") is a branch of
phonology Phonology is the branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds or, for sign languages, their constituent parts of signs. The term can also refer specifically to the sound or sign system of a ...
that deals with restrictions in a
language Language is a structured system of communication. The structure of a language is its grammar and the free components are its vocabulary. Languages are the primary means by which humans communicate, and may be conveyed through a variety of met ...
on the permissible combinations of
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme () is a unit of sound that can distinguish one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlands and the north-west o ...
s. Phonotactics defines permissible
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often considered the phonological "bu ...
structure,
consonant cluster In linguistics, a consonant cluster, consonant sequence or consonant compound, is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word ''splits''. In the education fie ...
s and
vowel A vowel is a syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of speech sounds, the other being the consonant. Vowels vary in quality, in loudness and also in quantity (leng ...
sequences by means of ''phonotactic constraints''. Phonotactic constraints are highly language-specific. For example, in
Japanese Japanese may refer to: * Something from or related to Japan, an island country in East Asia * Japanese language, spoken mainly in Japan * Japanese people, the ethnic group that identifies with Japan through ancestry or culture ** Japanese diaspor ...
, consonant clusters like do not occur. Similarly, the clusters and are not permitted at the beginning of a word in Modern English but are in
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) ** Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ge ...
and
Dutch Dutch commonly refers to: * Something of, from, or related to the Netherlands * Dutch people () * Dutch language () Dutch may also refer to: Places * Dutch, West Virginia, a community in the United States * Pennsylvania Dutch Country People E ...
(in which the latter appears as ) and were permitted in Old and
Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) is a form of the English language that was spoken after the Norman conquest of 1066, until the late 15th century. The English language underwent distinct variations and developments following the Old English p ...
. In contrast, in some
Slavic languages The Slavic languages, also known as the Slavonic languages, are Indo-European languages spoken primarily by the Slavic peoples and their descendants. They are thought to descend from a proto-language called Proto-Slavic, spoken during the Ear ...
and are used alongside vowels as syllable nuclei. Syllables have the following internal segmental structure: *
Onset Onset may refer to: *Onset (audio), the beginning of a musical note or sound *Onset, Massachusetts Onset is a census-designated place (CDP) in the town of Wareham, Massachusetts, United States. The population was 1,573 at the 2010 census. Geog ...
(optional) *
Rhyme A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds (usually, the exact same phonemes) in the final stressed syllables and any following syllables of two or more words. Most often, this kind of perfect rhyming is consciously used for a musical or aesthetic ...
(obligatory, comprises nucleus and coda): **
Nucleus Nucleus ( : nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom * Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA Nucl ...
(obligatory) **
Coda Coda or CODA may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Films * Movie coda, a post-credits scene * ''Coda'' (1987 film), an Australian horror film about a serial killer, made for television *''Coda'', a 2017 American experimental film from Na ...
(optional) Both onset and coda may be empty, forming a vowel-only syllable, or alternatively, the nucleus can be occupied by a
syllabic consonant A syllabic consonant or vocalic consonant is a consonant that forms a syllable on its own, like the ''m'', ''n'' and ''l'' in some pronunciations of the English words ''rhythm'', ''button'' and ''bottle''. To represent it, the understroke diacrit ...
. Phonotactics is known to affect
second language A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the native language (first language or L1) of the speaker, but is learned later. A second language may be a neighbouring language, another language of the speaker's home country, or a fo ...
vocabulary acquisition Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), as well as to produce and use words and sentences to ...
.


English phonotactics

The English syllable (and word) ''twelfths'' is divided into the onset , the nucleus and the coda ; thus, it can be described as CCVCCCC (C = consonant, V = vowel). On this basis it is possible to form rules for which representations of phoneme classes may fill the cluster. For instance, English allows at most three consonants in an onset, but among native words under standard accents (and excluding a few obscure loanwords such as ''
sphragistics Sigillography, also known by its Greek-derived name, sphragistics, is the scholarly discipline that studies the wax, lead, clay, and other seals used to authenticate archival documents. It investigates not only aspects of the artistic design a ...
''), phonemes in a three-consonantal onset are limited to the following scheme: : +
stop Stop may refer to: Places * Stop, Kentucky, an unincorporated community in the United States * Stop (Rogatica), a village in Rogatica, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina Facilities * Bus stop * Truck stop, a type of rest stop for truck d ...
+
approximant 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, which do produce a ...
: :* + + ::*''stream'' :* + + (not in most accents of
American English American English, sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native to the United States. English is the Languages of the United States, most widely spoken lan ...
) ::*''stew'' :* + + ::*''sputum'' ::*''sprawl'' ::*''splat'' :* + + ::*''skew'' ::*''scream'' ::*''sclerosis'' ::*''squirrel'' This constraint can be observed in the pronunciation of the word ''blue'': originally, the vowel of ''blue'' was identical to the vowel of ''cue'', approximately . In most dialects of English, shifted to . Theoretically, this would produce . The cluster , however, infringes the constraint for three-consonantal onsets in English. Therefore, the pronunciation has been reduced to by
elision In linguistics, an elision or deletion is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. However, these terms are also used to refer more narrowly to cases where two words are run toget ...
of the in what is known as
yod-dropping The phonological history of the English language includes various changes in the phonology of consonant clusters. H-cluster reductions The H-cluster reductions are various consonant reductions that have occurred in the history of English, inv ...
. Not all languages have this constraint; compare
Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Can ...
or French . Constraints on English phonotactics include: * All syllables have a
nucleus Nucleus ( : nuclei) is a Latin word for the seed inside a fruit. It most often refers to: *Atomic nucleus, the very dense central region of an atom * Cell nucleus, a central organelle of a eukaryotic cell, containing most of the cell's DNA Nucl ...
* No
geminate consonant In phonetics and phonology, gemination (), or consonant lengthening (from Latin 'doubling', itself from ''Gemini (constellation), gemini'' 'twins'), is an articulation of a consonant for a longer period of time than that of a singleton consonan ...
s * No onset * No in the
syllable coda A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of Phone (phonetics), speech sounds typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel) with optional initial and final margins (typically, consonants). Syllables are often considered t ...
(except in
Hiberno-English Hiberno-English (from Latin ''Hibernia'': "Ireland"), and in ga, Béarla na hÉireann. or Irish English, also formerly Anglo-Irish, is the set of English dialects native to the island of Ireland (including both the Republic of Ireland a ...
) * No
affricate An affricate is a consonant that begins as a stop and releases as a fricative, generally with the same place of articulation (most often coronal). It is often difficult to decide if a stop and fricative form a single phoneme or a consonant pair. ...
s or in complex onsets * The first consonant in a complex onset must be an
obstruent An obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorants, which have no such obstruction and so resonate. All obstruents are consonants, but sonorants include vowels as well as ...
(e.g. ''stop''; combinations such as ''*ntat'' or *''rkoop'', with a
sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is produced with continuous, non-turbulent airflow in the vocal tract; these are the manners of articulation that are most often voiced in the world's languages. Vowels are ...
, are not allowed) * The second consonant in a complex onset must not be a voiced obstruent (e.g. ''*zdop'' does not occur) * If the first consonant in a complex onset is not , the second must be a
liquid A liquid is a nearly incompressible fluid that conforms to the shape of its container but retains a (nearly) constant volume independent of pressure. As such, it is one of the four fundamental states of matter (the others being solid, gas, a ...
or a
glide Glide may refer to: * Gliding flight, to fly without thrust Computing *Glide API, a 3D graphics interface *Glide OS, a web desktop *Glide (software), an instant video messenger *Glide, a molecular docking software by Schrödinger (company), Schr ...
* Every subsequence contained within a sequence of consonants must obey all the relevant phonotactic rules (the substring principle rule) * No glides in syllable codas (excluding the s of
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel sounds within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: that is, the tongue (and/or other parts of the speech o ...
s) * The second consonant in a complex coda must not be , , , or (compare ''
asthma Asthma is a long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and easily triggered bronchospasms. Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, cou ...
'', typically pronounced or , but rarely ) * If the second consonant in a complex coda is voiced, so is the first * An obstruent following or in a coda must be homorganic with the nasal * Two obstruents in the same coda must share voicing (compare ''kids'' with ''kits'' )


Sonority Sequencing Principle

Segments of a syllable are universally distributed following the Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP), which states that, in any syllable, the nucleus has maximal sonority and that sonority decreases as you move away from the nucleus. Sonority is a measure of the amplitude of a speech sound. The particular ranking of each speech sound by sonority, called the sonority hierarchy, is language-specific, but, in its broad lines, hardly varies from a language to another, which means all languages form their syllables in approximately the same way with regards to sonority. To illustrate the SSP, the
voiceless alveolar fricative The voiceless alveolar fricatives are a type of fricative consonant pronounced with the tip or blade of the tongue against the alveolar ridge (gum line) just behind the teeth. This refers to a class of sounds, not a single sound. There are at least ...
is lower on the sonority hierarchy than the
alveolar lateral approximant The voiced alveolar lateral approximant is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents dental, alveolar, and postalveolar lateral approximants is , and the eq ...
, so the combination is permitted in onsets and is permitted in codas, but is not allowed in onsets and is not allowed in codas. Hence ''slips'' and ''pulse'' are possible English words while ''*lsips'' and ''*pusl'' are not. The SSP expresses a very strong cross-linguistic tendency, however, it does not account for the patterns of all complex syllable margins. It may be violated in two ways: the first occurs when two segments in a margin have the same sonority, which is known as a ''sonority plateau''. Such margins are found in a few languages, including English, as in the words ''sphinx'' and ''fact'' (though note that ''phsinx'' and ''fatc'' both violate English phonotactics). The second instance of violation of the SSP is when a peripheral segment of a margin has a higher sonority than a segment closer to the nucleus. These margins are known as reversals and occur in some languages including English (''steal'' , ''bets'' ) or French (' but originally , ' ).


Notes and references


Notes


References

* Bailey, Todd M. & Hahn, Ulrike. 2001. Determinants of wordlikeness: Phonotactics or lexical neighborhoods? ''Journal of Memory and Language'' 44: 568–591. * Coleman, John S. & Pierrehumbert, Janet. 1997. Stochastic phonological grammars and acceptability. ''Computational Phonology'' 3: 49–56. * Frisch, S.; Large, N. R.; & Pisoni, D. B. 2000. Perception of wordlikeness: Effects of segment probability and length on processing non-words. ''Journal of Memory and Language'' 42: 481–496. * Gathercole, Susan E. & Martin, Amanda J. 1996. Interactive processes in phonological memory. In ''Cognitive models of memory'', edited by Susan E. Gathercole. Hove, UK: Psychology Press. * Hammond, Michael. 2004. Gradience, phonotactics, and the lexicon in English phonology. ''International Journal of English Studies'' 4: 1–24. * Gaygen, Daniel E. 1997. Effects of probabilistic phonotactics on the segmentation of continuous speech. Doctoral dissertation, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY. * Greenberg, Joseph H. & Jenkins, James J. 1964. Studies in the psychological correlates of the sound system of American English. ''Word'' 20: 157–177. * {{cite book, last1=Laufer, first1=B., year=1997 , chapter=What’s in a word that makes it hard or easy? Some intralexical factors that affect the learning of words , title=Vocabulary: Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy , isbn=9780521585514, publisher=Cambridge University Press, location=Cambridge, pages=140–155 * Luce, Paul A. & Pisoni, Daniel B. 1998. Recognizing spoken words: The neighborhood activation model. ''Ear and Hearing'' 19: 1–36. * Newman, Rochelle S.; Sawusch, James R.; & Luce, Paul A. 1996. Lexical neighborhood effects in phonetic processing. ''Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance'' 23: 873–889. * Ohala, John J. & Ohala, M. 1986. Testing hypotheses regarding the psychological manifestation of morpheme structure constraints. In ''Experimental phonology'', edited by John J. Ohala & Jeri J. Jaeger, 239–252. Orlando, FL: Academic Press. * Orzechowska, Paula; Wiese, Richard. 2015; Preferences and variation in word-initial phonotactics: a multi-dimensional evaluation of German and Polish. ''Folia Linguistica'' 49: 439-486. * Pitt, Mark A. & McQueen, James M. 1998. Is compensation for coarticulation mediated by the lexicon? ''Journal of Memory and Language'' 39: 347–370. * Storkel, Holly L. 2001. Learning new words: Phonotactic probability in language development. ''Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research'' 44: 1321–1337. * Storkel, Holly L. 2003. Learning new words II: Phonotactic probability in verb learning. ''Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research'' 46: 1312–1323. * Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. 1998. When words compete: Levels of processing in perception of spoken words. ''Psychological Science'' 9: 325–329. * Vitevitch, Michael S. & Luce, Paul A. 1999. Probabilistic phonotactics and neighborhood activation in spoken word recognition. ''Journal of Memory and Language'' 40: 374–408. * Vitevitch, Michael S.; Luce, Paul A.; Charles-Luce, Jan; & Kemmerer, David. 1997. Phonotactics and syllable stress: Implications for the processing of spoken nonsense words. ''Language and Speech'' 40: 47–62. * Vitevitch, Michael S.; Luce, Paul A.; Pisoni, David B.; & Auer, Edward T. 1999. Phonotactics, neighborhood activation, and lexical access for spoken words. ''Brain and Language'' 68: 306–311.


External links


The Irvine Phonotactic Online Dictionary (IPhOD)

World Phonotactics Database
Phonology