Week 2: Linguistic Form
a.k.a “baby linguistics”
This week:
• Sounds of language
• Sound production
• “Phonemics”
• Morphology
Human Language
What do children learn when they learn a
What do adults know when they have
acquired language?
What is linguistics?
Linguists study different SYSTEMS that
make up human language.
Even chaotic conversations have been
shown to operate on certain principles.
Linguistic anthropologists must understand
these systems in order to see how they
interact with culture and social interaction.
Sounds of Human Language
Phonetics: focuses on identification and
description of human language sounds
- basic units are phones, represented in [ ]
Phonemics (phonology): analysis of the way
sounds are arranged in languages
- basic units are phonemes, represented in / /
Ottenheimer pp. 34-5
• acoustic phonetics (acoustics) – studies
properties of speech sound waves
• auditory phonetics – studies perception of
language sounds
• articulatory phonetics – studies production
of language sounds
Producing sounds
How are speech sounds made?
Speech sounds for spoken (not sign)
languages are produced using the vocal
Lungs 
Speech sounds vary according to:
• Place of articulation (the position of your
vocal apparatus when making the sound,
or shape of your mouth for vowels)
• Manner of articulation (how you move your
articulators as you make the sound)
• International Phonetic Alphabet
• You can reach this link through the
Ottenheimer textbook website
Vocal cords
• Air moves through the larynx from the lungs
– If the vocal cords are open and relaxed, they
don’t vibrate, creating voiceless sounds, e.g.
– If the vocal cords are closed and tense, they
vibrate, creating voiced sounds, e.g. [zzzzzz]
Voiceless sounds (e.g. ssssss)
Voiced sounds (e.g. zzzzzzzz)
• Speech sounds are either voiced or
• Voiceless = vocal cords not vibrating
• Voiced = vocal cords vibrating
• Voiceless/voiced pairs: p/b t/d
• Nasal sounds allow air to escape through
the nose; oral sounds don’t.
• Say “mmmmm” and “zzzzzzz”
• So, when we have a cold, instead of
sounding “nasal,” we sound “oral”
Consonant vs. Vowel
• Consonants: Sounds made by a closure
or narrowing of the vocal tract, producing
blockage or considerable friction in the
airflow; sounds with audible constriction in
the airflow
• Vowels: sounds made without a complete
closure in the mouth or narrowing that
would produce considerable friction;
sounds with minimal constriction in the
Key Features of Consonants
• Place of articulation – where is the air flow
restricted? e.g. labio-dental; alveolar
• Manner of articulation – how is the airflow
restricted? e.g. stop; fricative
• Examples: Velar stop = k
Bilabial stop = b
Bilabial trill = [raspberry]
labio-dental fricative = f
Vowels are formed by changing the shape of
the space inside the mouth by using your
tongue and lips:
beet, bit, bait, bet, bat, but, bite, bout,
bought, boot, book, boat
Using the IPA avoids the confusion of
English spelling!
“The vowel space”
• height of tongue – beet vs. bat
• place of tongue – beet vs. bet
• rounding of lips – beet vs. boot
Basic phonology (phonemics)
A phonological system includes all of the
differences that are SIGNIFICANT to
speakers of a particular language.
Speech sounds
• We perceive sounds as different from one
another because they vary in particular
• Speakers of different languages “hear”
different distinctions.
For example:
English distinguishes between:
BUT, Japanese only distinguishes the “r”
sound, Cantonese, the “l” sound. Native
speakers of those languages may not
“hear” the difference between lip and rip.
Ottenheimer pg. 47: Sounds that function to
distinguish one word from another in a
bill; kill; dill; gill; hill; Jill; mill; nil; pill; rill; sill;
till; will
Each language has a distinct set of
Example: In English, palatalizing (squishing your
tongue up against the roof of your mouth while
pronouncing it) an “n” doesn’t change the
meaning of a word, but in Russian, it does.
English: “not” vs. “nyot”
(it’s still “not,” you just sound weird)
Russian: “nos” vs “nyos”
he carried
Another example: Aspiration
Aspiration is a “puff” of air following a consonant
[See Ottenheimer, pp. 50-51]
In English, aspiration is an important part of
how we distinguish between voiced and
voiceless consonants (* means that a usage
doesn’t follow the rules of English):
(can you say [pin]?)
[p] and [ph] are allophones of /p/ in English.
• Variations of the same phoneme. Each variant
occurs in a different environment. This is called
conditioned variation. [Ottenheimer pg. 51]
• Speakers of a language “hear” all of the
allophones of a phoneme as the “same” sound
• Example: [ph ] and [ p ] in “pin” and “spin”
• [ph ] occurs at the beginning of words and [ p ]
occurs after [s]
Another example: /t/
Compare “ton” and “stun” [thun] and [stun]
Another allophone of /t/ in many dialects of English
is the glottal stop, which occurs when “t” appears
in the middle of words.
mitten [mi?n]
th occurs at the beginnings of words
t occurs at ends of words, or after consonants (like
s) and in some dialects between vowels
? (glottal stop) occurs between vowels (some
Because they occur in complementary distribution
[always in different locations], these sounds are
part of the same PHONEME, or ALLOPHONES.
Phoneme test
• Are sounds in complementary or similar
distribution? (Ottenheimer, pg. 51)
bat, pat
dun, ton
phin, spin
thon, stun
only in similar distribution,
these are different phonemes
only in complementary distribution
these are the same phoneme
Different languages
Each language has its own system of phonemes.
Ottenheimer gives an example from Hindi, where
[ph] and [p] are two different phonemes:
[phəl]= fruit
[pəl] = rum
Suprasegmental features
• Stress – record (n) vs. record (v)
• Pitch – important in tone languages like
Mandarin Chinese
• Length – vowel and consonant length
can distinguish phonemes.
– Tewa
/si/ (six) vs. /si:/ (intestine)
Suprasegmental features in English
In English, suprasegmental features do not have a
phonemic function, but they do have a function:
the WHITE house/ the white HOUSE
When he approaches, the girls don’t pay attention to him
When he approaches the girls, don’t pay attention to him
JACK likes fish. Jack LIKES fish. Jack likes FISH.
That’s a biiiiiiig piece of cake!
Review: phonology
phonetics refers to the study of the sounds
of all human languages
A phonological system includes all of the
differences are SIGNIFICANT to speakers
of a particular language.
• Phonemes are units of sound perceived by
people using a phonological system
• It is important to remember that phonemes
are made up of several phones (sounds)
that speakers perceive as being “the
same” even though they are different.
• example: the “p” in pin and the “p” in spin
Phonology: Minimal pairs
• A minimal pair is a pair of words that vary
ONLY by ONE phoneme in the same
position in the word.
• If you have a minimal pair, the sounds in
similar (overlapping) distribution (same
place in the word) are separate
e.g.: PIN/BIN
Phoneme test
• Are sounds in complementary or overlapping
distribution? (Ottenheimer, pg. 51)
bat, pat
dun, ton
phin, spin
thon, stun
overlapping distribution,
these are different phonemes
complimentary distribution
these are the same phoneme
Phonemes vs.
• Recognized by speakers
as separate sounds
• Speakers hear them as
the same sound
• Differentiate between
words (kill/dill/will), so
they appear in
overlapping distribution
with each other (all at the
same place in a word)
• Allophones are different
versions of the same
phoneme, so they never
appear in the same place
in a word: thun, but not
sthun. “sthun” and “stun”
aren’t different words.
• Phonemes are the
separate sounds of a
• That means allophones of
a single phoneme appear
in complementary
• Many languages make phoneme
distinctions that English does not.
Example: Walpiri, an Austronesian language
Does Warlpiri have “3 r sounds”?:
marru house
tjarra flame
maru black
liquid (approximant)
tjara fat
mardu wooden bowl retroflex flap
tjarda sleep
What mistakes might an English speaker
make when learning Walpiri?
Say the word “arrow” with these three “r”s
To English speakers, these “r”s may all
sound like one phoneme, that is, we don’t
use the differences between these sounds
to make the distinction between different
words. However, for Warlpiri speakers,
these are THREE phonemes, producing
distinct words.
Film excerpt:
The Human Language Evolves
• Call # VID 1747 vol. 3
• This part focuses on phonetics and the
evolution of the human language
• How the evolution of language led to
• Complexity of language as an evolutionary
Morphology is the study of the smallest units
of meaning in a language, and how these
units are put together to make words.
(Ottenheimer, pg. 61)
• A morpheme is a part of a word that has a
consistent meaning or function.
Morphemes can carry lexical meaning or
grammatical meaning.
Words can be made up of one morpheme, or
many morphemes.
free morphemes can stand on their own as
words (“help”)
bound morphemes must be attached to
another word – they can’t stand alone (“anti”
or “ism” or “er”)
Morpheme types
base is the foundation of a word
- in English, these are often separate words,
but in other languages, they may not be
affixes are added to the base to make more
base: farm
affixes: -er, -s, -ing, -ed
farm, farmer, farms, farmers, farming, farmed
• Prefixes precede stems
• Suffixes follow stems
• Infixes appear within the stem itself
English has prefixes and suffixes:
happy (base)
un-happy (prefix+base)
un-happi-ness (prefix + base + suffix)
Each language has a hierarchy, or order for affixes.
For example, help-er-s, NOT help-s-er
cat, catty, cattiness NOT catnessy
English also has an intensive infix, used to
insert curse words into the middle of a
word (some dialects).
abso-f***ing-lutely, fan-bloody-tastic
Other languages use infixes the same way
English uses other types of affixes:
Bontoc, a language of the Philippines uses infixes
/fikas/ strong
/fumikas/ he is
becoming strong
Other affixes
• circumfixes – attach simultaneously to
both ends of a word
– Example: Russian “na-/-sja” na-el-sja “he
ate enough”
– Muskogean “i-/-o” i-kchokm- o “he is not
• reduplication – creating an affix from the
base and adding it on: “pee-pee”
– “mpolempole” – very slowly
Morpheme test
To test for whether something is a morpheme, ask: Can
you isolate a meaning for a piece of a word? The
meaning may be grammatical.
slow and –ly are morphemes
- ow- is not a morpheme
pereshivat’ = to resew
pere, shi,
“re” “sew” “many times (aspect)” “to” (verb/infinitive)
• Different forms of the same morpheme
that occur in different (sound) contexts
• Ottenheimer [pg. 70] gives the English
example of the “in-” (not) prefix
• im-possible (used before [p])
• il-logical
(used before [l])
• in-describable (used before [d] [t] [s])

Week 2: Linguistic Form