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English Phonology: An Introduction by Heinz J. Giegerich
Do you want to learn more about the sounds and patterns of English? Are you interested in how phonology can help you improve your pronunciation, spelling and communication skills? If so, you might want to check out this book by Heinz J. Giegerich, one of the leading experts in the field of English phonology. In this article, we will give you an overview of what phonology is, who Heinz J. Giegerich is, and what his book English Phonology: An Introduction has to offer.
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What is phonology and why is it important?
Phonology is the branch of linguistics that studies the sound system of a language. It deals with questions such as:
What are the basic units of sound (phonemes) in a language and how are they distinguished from each other?
How do these units combine to form larger units (syllables, words, phrases) and what are the rules that govern their distribution and interaction?
How do these units convey meaning, emphasis, emotion and other aspects of speech?
Phonology is important for several reasons. First, it helps us understand how languages work and how they change over time. By comparing the phonological systems of different languages or dialects, we can discover their similarities and differences, their historical origins and their social implications. Second, it helps us improve our language skills and abilities. By learning the phonological rules and patterns of a language, we can improve our pronunciation, spelling, reading and writing skills. We can also avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication caused by phonological errors or variations.
The basic concepts of phonology
To study phonology, we need to master some basic concepts and terminology. Here are some of the most important ones:
Phonemes, allophones and phonetic features
A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound that can make a difference in meaning. For example, in English, /p/ and /b/ are two different phonemes because they can distinguish words like pat and bat. A phoneme can have different realizations or variants depending on the context. These variants are called allophones. For example, in English, /p/ can be pronounced as [p] (as in pat) or as [pʰ] (as in pot). These are two allophones of the same phoneme /p/. To describe the phonemes and allophones of a language, we use a system of phonetic symbols and features. A phonetic symbol is a letter or a combination of letters that represents a particular sound. For example, /p/ and /b/ are phonetic symbols for the sounds [p] and [b]. A phonetic feature is a property or characteristic of a sound, such as voicing, place of articulation, manner of articulation, etc. For example, /p/ and /b/ differ in the feature of voicing: /p/ is voiceless and /b/ is voiced.
Syllables, stress and intonation
A syllable is a unit of sound that consists of a vowel (or a vowel-like sound) and optionally one or more consonants. For example, in English, cat has one syllable, happy has two syllables, and computer has three syllables. A syllable can be divided into two parts: the onset and the rhyme. The onset is the consonant or consonant cluster that precedes the vowel, and the rhyme is the vowel and any consonant(s) that follow it. For example, in cat, the onset is /k/ and the rhyme is /æt/. In happy, the first syllable has an onset /h/ and a rhyme /æ/, and the second syllable has no onset and a rhyme /pi/. Syllables can have different degrees of prominence or loudness depending on the stress pattern of a word or phrase. Stress is the relative emphasis given to a syllable by increasing its pitch, length and loudness. For example, in English, computer has stress on the first syllable, com, and photograph has stress on the second syllable, to. Intonation is the variation of pitch or melody across a sentence or utterance. It can convey different meanings, attitudes or emotions. For example, in English, a rising intonation can indicate a question, a surprise or a doubt, while a falling intonation can indicate a statement, a certainty or a command.
Phonological rules and processes
A phonological rule is a statement that describes how a sound or a sequence of sounds changes in a specific context. For example, in English, there is a rule that says that /t/ becomes [ʔ] (a glottal stop) when it occurs between two vowels within the same word. This rule explains why we pronounce butter as [bʌʔər] and not as [bʌtər]. A phonological process is a type or category of phonological rules that share some common features or motivations. For example, assimilation is a process that makes sounds more similar to their neighboring sounds. An example of assimilation in English is nasal place assimilation, which changes the place of articulation of a nasal consonant to match that of the following consonant. This process explains why we pronounce input as [ɪmpʊt] and not as [ɪnpʊt]. Other common phonological processes are deletion, insertion, metathesis, lenition, fortition, etc.
Who is Heinz J. Giegerich and what is his approach to phonology?
Heinz J. Giegerich is a German-born linguist who specializes in English phonology. He is currently an emeritus professor of English linguistics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has published numerous books and articles on various aspects of phonological theory and analysis, especially on lexical phonology and morphology, word stress and inflectional endings.
His academic background and achievements
Giegerich was born in 1947 in Germany. He studied English and German at the University of Freiburg and received his PhD in 1979 with a dissertation on English word formation. He then moved to Scotland and joined the University of Edinburgh as a lecturer in 1980. He became a professor in 1995 and retired in 2012. He has also held visiting positions at various universities around the world, such as Stanford University, University of California Berkeley, University of Texas Austin, University of Tromsø, etc. He has received several awards and honors for his academic work, such as the Humboldt Research Award (2006), the Fellowship of the British Academy (2007), the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2010), etc.
His main contributions to phonological theory
Lexical phonology and morphology
One of Giegerich's main contributions to phonological theory is his development and refinement of lexical phonology and morphology (LPM), a framework that integrates phonology and morphology within the lexicon. The lexicon is the mental dictionary that stores the words and morphemes of a language and their properties. LPM assumes that the lexicon has a hierarchical structure with different levels or strata, each with its own phonological and morphological rules and constraints. For example, in English, there are three levels: Level 1 (the core level), Level 2 (the word formation level) and Level 3 (the post-lexical level). Level 1 contains the basic or root morphemes of a language, such as cat, dog, run, etc. Level 2 contains the derived or complex words that are formed by adding affixes to root morphemes, such as cat-like, doggy, runner, etc. Level 3 contains the inflected or grammatical words that are formed by adding endings to derived words, such as cats, doggies, runners, etc. LPM claims that different levels have different phonological rules and processes that apply in a cyclic or sequential manner. For example, in English, stress assignment is a phonological rule that assigns primary stress to one syllable of a word. This rule applies differently at different levels: at Level 1, stress is assigned to the first syllable of a root morpheme, such as /ˈkæt/, /ˈdɒg/, /ˈrʌn/; at Level 2, stress is assigned to the first syllable of a derived word, unless it is preceded by another stressed syllable, such as /ˈkætlaɪk/, /ˈdɒgi/, /ˈrʌnə/; at Level 3, stress is not assigned to inflectional endings, but it can shift to an earlier syllable if it is followed by two unstressed syllables, such as /ˈkæts/, /ˈdɒgiz/, /ˈrʌnəz/. LPM also claims that different levels have different morphological rules and constraints that determine how affixes can combine with root morphemes. For example, in English, there are two types of suffixes: Level 2 suffixes and Level 3 suffixes. Level 2 suffixes are more productive and can attach to any root morpheme, regardless of its category or meaning. For example, the suffix -er can attach to any verb to form a noun meaning 'someone who does something', such as writer, singer, teacher, etc. Level 3 suffixes are less productive and can only attach to certain root morphemes, depending on their category or meaning. For example, the suffix -s can only attach to nouns to form plurals, such as writers, singers, teachers, etc.
The metrical grid and word stress
Another major contribution of Giegerich to phonological theory is his analysis of word stress in English using the metrical grid, a formal device that represents the rhythmic structure of words and phrases. The metrical grid consists of rows and columns of symbols that indicate the relative prominence or strength of syllables. The symbols are X for strong syllables and x for weak syllables. The rows correspond to different levels of metrical structure: the lowest row represents the syllabic level, where each symbol corresponds to one syllable; the higher rows represent the metrical feet, which are groups of syllables that form units of stress; the highest row represents the word level, where one symbol corresponds to one word. The columns correspond to different positions within a metrical foot or a word: the leftmost column represents the head position, which is the most prominent or stressed position; the rightmost column represents the non-head position, which is the least prominent or unstressed position; the middle columns represent the medial positions, which are intermediate in prominence or stress. For example, here is how we can represent the word photograph using the metrical grid:
X X x X x x
This representation shows that photograph has three syllables, /ˈfəʊtəgrɑːf/, and that the first syllable is the most prominent or stressed, as indicated by the X symbol in the head position of the word level and the metrical foot level. The second and third syllables are less prominent or unstressed, as indicated by the x symbols in the non-head positions of the metrical foot level and the syllabic level. Giegerich uses the metrical grid to explain how word stress is assigned and how it can change in different contexts. He proposes a set of rules and principles that determine how many metrical feet a word can have, how many syllables a metrical foot can have, and where the head position of a metrical foot or a word is located. For example, he proposes that English words can have only one metrical foot at the word level, that a metrical foot can have either one or two syllables, and that the head position of a metrical foot or a word is always on the leftmost column. He also proposes that word stress can shift to an earlier syllable if it is followed by two unstressed syllables, as explained above. He accounts for this phenomenon by introducing a principle called Rhythmic Lengthening, which states that a syllable becomes longer or heavier if it is followed by two unstressed syllables, and that a longer or heavier syllable attracts stress.
The phonology of English inflectional endings
A third major contribution of Giegerich to phonological theory is his analysis of the phonology of English inflectional endings, such as -s, -ed, -ing, etc. He argues that these endings are not simple suffixes that attach to words, but complex morphemes that have internal structure and phonological properties. He proposes that these endings consist of two parts: a base and an exponent. The base is an abstract element that carries the grammatical information of the ending, such as number, tense, aspect, etc. The exponent is a concrete element that realizes the base phonetically, such as [s], [z], [ɪz], [t], [d], [ɪd], [ɪŋ], etc. He also proposes that these endings have different phonological behaviors depending on their level of attachment: Level 2 endings or derivational endings behave like regular suffixes and trigger phonological rules and processes; Level 3 endings or inflectional endings behave like clitics and do not trigger phonological rules and processes. For example, he explains why the ending -s has different pronunciations and effects depending on whether it is attached to a noun or a verb. When -s is attached to a noun to form a plural, it is a Level 3 ending or an inflectional ending. It has three possible exponents: [s], [z] or [ɪz], depending on the final sound of the noun. For example, cats has [s], dogs has [z] and horses has [ɪz]. This variation is determined by a phonological rule called Voicing Assimilation, which makes the ending agree in voicing with the final sound of the noun. However, this rule does not affect the stress pattern or the syllable structure of the noun. For example, cat and cats have the same stress and syllable structure: /ˈkæt/ and /ˈkæts/. When -s is attached to a verb to form a present tense singular, it is a Level 2 ending or a derivational ending. It has only one possible exponent: [z], regardless of the final sound of the verb. For example, run and runs both have [z]: /rʌn/ and /rʌnz/. This lack of variation is due to a morphological constraint called Uniform Exponence, which requires that derivational endings have only one exponent. However, this constraint does affect the stress pattern and the syllable structure of the verb. For example, import and imports have different stress and syllable structure: /ɪmˈpɔːt/ and /ˈɪmpɔːts/. This difference is due to a phonological rule called Stress Shift, which moves the stress to an earlier syllable if it is followed by two unstressed syllables.
What is the content and structure of his book English Phonology: An Introduction?
Giegerich's book English Phonology: An Introduction is a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the phonology of English. It covers all the major topics and issues in the field, such as phonemes and allophones, syllables and stress, intonation and prosody, phonological rules and processes, lexical phonology and morphology, word stress and inflectional endings, etc. It also provides historical and comparative perspectives on the development and variation of English phonology across time and space. It is suitable for undergraduate and graduate students of linguistics, English language and literature, as well as for teachers and researchers who want to update their knowledge and skills in phonology.
The aim and scope of the book
The aim of the book is to provide a clear and comprehensive account of the sound system of English, both in its synchronic and diachronic aspects. The book adopts a descriptive and analytical approach, rather than a prescriptive or normative one. It does not aim to teach the readers how to pronounce or spell English correctly, but rather to explain how and why English sounds and patterns are the way they are. The book also adopts a theoretical and formal approach, rather than a practical or applied one. It does not aim to solve specific problems or issues related to phonology, such as speech recognition, speech synthesis, speech therapy, etc., but rather to present the general principles and methods of phonological analysis and theory. The book focuses on the phonology of standard British English (also known as Received Pronunciation or RP), which is the variety of English that is widely used as a model or reference in academic and educational contexts. However, it also acknowledges and discusses the phonological diversity and variation that exist among different varieties and dialects of English around the world.
The organization and layout of the book
The book is divided into three main parts: Part I: Preliminaries, Part II: Segmental Phonology, and Part III: Suprasegmental Phonology. Each part consists of several chapters that cover specific topics or issues within each domain of phonology. Each chapter follows a similar structure: it starts with an introduction that outlines the main objectives and questions of the chapter; it then presents the relevant data and examples that illustrate the phenomena under discussion; it then provides the analysis and explanation of the data using appropriate theoretical tools and concepts; it then summarizes the main points and conclusions of the chapter; it then offers some suggestions for further reading and study; it then ends with some exercises that test the readers' understanding and application of the material covered in the chapter. The book also includes a glossary that explains the key terms and concepts used in the book; a list of references that cites the sources and works consulted in the book; an index that helps the readers locate specific topics or issues in the book; and an appendix that provides some additional information on phonetic symbols and features.
Part I: Preliminaries
the smallest unit of sound that can make a difference in meaning; explains how to identify and classify phonemes using phonetic features and symbols; explains how to describe and analyze the variation and distribution of phonemes using allophones and phonological rules; explains how to compare and contrast the phonemic systems of different languages or dialects using phonemic inventories and charts.
Part II: Segmental Phonology
nasal deletion, nasal insertion, nasalization, etc.
Part III: Suprasegmental Phonology
Part III consists of four chapters that deal with the phonology of larger units or suprasegments. Chapter 9: The Phonology of Syllables introduces the concept of the syllable as a unit of sound that consists of a vowel (or a vowel-like sound) and optionally one or more consonants; explains how to describe and classify syllables using features such as onset, rhyme, nucleus, coda, etc.; explains how to analyze the patterns and processes that affect syllables, such as syllabification, syllable structure, syllable weight, etc. Chapter 10: The Phonology of Stress introduces the concept of stress as a relative prominence or loudness given to a syllable by increasing its pitch, length and loudness; explains how to describe and classify stress using features such as primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.; explains how to analyze the patterns and processes that affect stress, such as stress assignment, stress shift, stress clash, stress lapse, etc. Chapter 11: The Phonology of Intonation introduces the concept of intonation as a variation of pitch or melody across a sentence or utterance; explains how to describe and classify intonation using features such as pitch accent, boundary tone, phrase accent, etc.; explains how to analyze the patterns and processes that affect intonation, such as intonational phrasing, tonal alignment, tonal movement, etc. Chapter 12: The Phonology of Prosody introduces the concept of prosody as a combination of suprasegmental features that convey meaning, emphasis, emotion and other aspects of speech; explains how to describe and classify prosody using features such as rhythm, tempo, loudness, pause, etc.; explains how to analyze the patterns and processes that