You are on page 1of 2


The study of how sounds are organized and used in languages

Languages differ regarding which sounds speakers consider to be
“separate sounds”
 English:
seat [sit]
VS sit [sIt]
 Spanish:
singular [singular] VS
si [si]
 In English we view these vowels as separate sounds, although
Spanish people would not see a difference in vowel sounds.

In Spanish, [i] and [I] can NEVER be in the same environment
 [i] is when the syllable ends in a vowel i.e. si
 [I] when the syllable ends in a consonant i.e. siNgular
 These phonemes are in complementary distribution, which
means they are allophones of the same phoneme
 Seat [sit] and sit [sIt]
 They are in the same environment/setting
 These sounds can be used in the same environment and change
the meaning of a word.
 They are in contrastive distribution, they have separate
phonemes and can change meaning
 [I] and [i] are separate phonemes

 [pH] [tH] [kH] are produced with a puff of air on stop consonants,
and are called aspirated phonemes
 pop [pHap]
 tot [tHat]
 kick [kHIk]
 [tH] and [t] in English are like Superman & Clark Kent, you don’t
see them in the same environment ever! They are in
complementary distribution
 Aspirated stops occur in the beginning of words
 Aspirated/unaspirated doesn’t change the meaning of the word
 Aspirated/unaspirated stops are not separate phonemes. They are
both allophones of the same phoneme

   Free Variation
 Sometimes sounds can be pronounced in more than one way
 Sounds in free variation are allophones of the same phoneme
 No change in meaning

See if there is a rule. Make a tabulation -if yes… state the rule complementary distribution -if no… look at step 3 3. Look for minimal pairs… ex) pot and bot -if yes… contrastive distribution (separate phonemes. look at step 2 2. the phoneme /p/ is pronounced as [pH] when it is at the beginning of a word .Analysis   Steps to identify the distribution of two sounds: 1. stop procedure) -if no…. They are not separate phonemes! They do not consistently varying by a rule Therefore they freely vary and their distribution is unpredictable /p/ is a phoneme (in the slashes) [p] is a pronunciation (in brackets) Phonological Rules /p/  [pH]/#_______  = ‘is pronounced as’ / = ‘when it is’ # = ‘beginning or end of a word’ ____ = ‘the position of the phoneme in question’  So. sound different to the speaker.