The Rules of Phonology

The Rules of Phonology

Charles X. Li (Central Washington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8467-4.ch014

Abstract

This chapter focuses on formulating North American English (NAE) phonological rules and discussing their pedagogical implications. It begins with a brief account of NAE phonology as a rule-governed system and then outlines feature-based phonology as a theoretical framework in which phonological rules operate. The chapter further defines an inventory of distinctive features for characterizing the NAE phonological system. After discussing rule components and matrix underspecification, the chapter presents phonological rules subsumed under seven categories: deletion, epenthesis, metathesis, reduction, assimilation, dissimilation, and morphophonology. Most rules are couched in three expressions—prose, semi-formal, formal—to meet different needs of readers. Pedagogical implications of phonological rules, discussed in the last section, are explicated in the framework of language transfer and universal grammar. The same section also emphasizes the importance of balancing linguistic analysis and classroom practice.
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A Theoretical Framework Of Feature-Based Phonology

Feature-based phonology posits two levels of sound representation as its theoretical framework. The most basic form, i.e., the phonemic form, of a lexical item, such as /hænd/ for hand, is called an underlying representation (UR). UR is viewed as what a native speaker knows about the abstract sound image of a word, and by extension, about the underlying sound system of his or her native language. What a word is actually and physically realized as, like [hæ̃ːm] for hand, is called its surface representation (SR). The process of converting UR to SR is called a derivation or a derivational process, and can be modeled below:

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