Sounds and Words
Linguistics Tripos Part I and Part IIA: Paper Li1
MML Tripos Part IB: Paper Li1
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We can analyse words as being made up of smaller meaningful elements, such as meaning- and -ful, and endings such as the one which signals the third person singular in a word like walks. Morphology, the study of these elements and their combination, is one of the aspects of language dealt with in this paper. Languages vary enormously in their morphology. For instance some, like Latin or Russian, have what seems to an English speaker a very complex system of case endings which signal the role of a noun phrase in the sentence; others, like Chinese, have less of such 'inflectional' morphology even than English. This paper explains how morphology can be analysed.
Words and morphemes are expressed using sounds. The term 'sounds' is ambiguous. We can talk about sounds as abstract units in the language, and say that the word kit is made up of three sounds or phonemes (in this case, just as the spelling would imply). The study of the sound inventory of languages, how sounds can combine to make morphemes, which combine to make words, and the changes they can undergo in different contexts, forms phonology, and both the general principles of phonology and descriptions of sound patterns in different languages is dealt with.
The other aspect of 'sounds' is how they are produced and conveyed. Phonetics focuses on the speech organs, the acoustic nature of the sounds when they are spoken, and how sounds can be described and classified in relation to these physical properties of sounds. Like morphology and phonology it is also concerned with the general principles behind human language, and with understanding why, despite the huge variety of sound systems which do occur in the languages of the world, many more conceivable types of system do not.
- A working knowledge of the following core areas of description in linguistics: phonetics, phonology, and morphology
- Familiarity with the range of variation found between languages in these areas
- An awareness of the overlap between these areas, and the difficulties of separating them in actual analysis
- An appreciation of how variation between languages in their morphology, phonology, and phonetics is not limitless, but governed by general principles
Crystal, D. (1997) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (Chapters 27-29, 40). Cambridge University Press.
Pinker, S. (1995) The language instinct (Chapters 5 & 6). Penguin.
Ashby, M. & Maidment, J. (2005) Introducing Phonetic Science. Cambridge University Press.
Davenport, M. & Hannahs, S.J. (2005) Introducing Phonetics and Phonology. Hodder Education.
International Phonetic Association (1999) Handbook of the International Phonetic Association. Cambridge University Press.
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