Phonological universal

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1. PHONOLOGICAL UNIVERSAL 2. PHONOLOGICAL UNIVERSAL 3. /ü/ - this symbol represents a high front rounded vowel as in the word rue‘street’; /ø/ - is an upper mid…
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  • 1. PHONOLOGICAL UNIVERSAL
  • 2. PHONOLOGICAL UNIVERSAL
  • 3. /ü/ - this symbol represents a high front rounded vowel as in the word rue‘street’; /ø/ - is an upper mid rounded vowel as in /fø/ feu ‘fire’; - is a lower mid rounded vowel as in beurre ‘butter’; and are nasal vowels.
  • 4. The first thing these four examples demonstrate is that different languages may have very different sets of vowels: English has several vowels in its inventory that French does not have, and vice versa.
  • 5. Second, the number of vowels in a language can vary considerably. Quechua has only 3 distinct vowels; along with the vowel systems of Greenlandic Eskimo and Moroccan Arabic, the Quechua vowel system is one of the smallest in the world. Hawaiian has 5 vowels, a very common number among the world’s languages. At the other end of the spectrum, English has 13 vowels and French has 15, including the four nasal vowels.
  • 6. Comparing the charts, we find that all languages include in their vowel inventory a high front unrounded vowel (/i/ or ), a low vowel (/a/), and a high back rounded (/u/ or ) or unrounded ( ) vowel.
  • 7. These vowels have allophones in some languages, particularly in languages with few vowels. In Greenlandic Eskimo, for example, /i/ has the allophones [i], [e], depending on the consonants that surround it; but there are no minimal pairs that depend on these variants. Small variations also exist, but these variations do not really contradict the universal rule.
  • 8. 1. All languages have a high front unrounded vowel, a low vowel, and a high back rounded or unrounded vowel in their phoneme inventory. Note: that this first universal rule describes what constitutes the minimal type and what is included in all other types.
  • 9. 2. Of the languages that have four or more vowels, all have vowels similar to /i a u/ (as indicated by the first universal rule) plus either a high central vowel (as in Russian ‘you’) or a mid front unrounded vowel /e/ or / /. we can uncover from our vowel charts is this:
  • 10. 3. Languages with a five-vowel system include a mid front unrounded vowel. In the five-vowel system of Hawaiian, for example, /e/ has allophones and [e]. Other languages with five-vowel inventories include Japanese (whose inventory is and Zulu .
  • 11. 4. Languages with five or more vowels in their inventories generally have a mid back rounded vowel phoneme. This rule is stated in a different way from the first three rules in that it is not absolute. But it is a useful observation because it describes a significant tendency across languages.
  • 12. 1. When a language has nasal vowels, the number of nasal vowels never exceeds the number of oral vowels. example; Standard French, has four nasal vowels and eleven oral vowels. Punjabi (a language of northern India) has ten of each. But there are no languages with a greater number of nasal vowels than oral vowels.
  • 13. 2. The second universal rule of interest is not a rule in the usual sense but a description of the most common vowel system: a five-vowel system consisting of a high front unrounded vowel (/i/ or ), a mid front unrounded vowel (/e/ or / /), a low vowel (/a/), a mid back rounded vowel (/o/ or / /), and a high back rounded vowel (/u/ or ). Hawaiian is an example of such a system, as you can see by looking at the symmetry in the chart for Hawaiian vowels (page 22). Each vowel is maximally distant from the others, which minimizes the possibility of two vowels being confused.
  • 14. Vowel systems are not the only area of phonology in which universal rules operate. The consonant inventories of the languages of the world also exhibit many universal properties.
  • 15. The sounds /p t k/ are voiceless stops. Every language has at least one of these voiceless stops as a phoneme. While some languages lack affricates or trills, voiceless stops are found in all languages. In fact, most languages have all three of these sounds, even languages with small consonant inventories.
  • 16. Example, Niuean (a Polynesian language), has only three stops, three nasals, three fricatives, and an approximant, totaling ten consonants (in contrast to the twenty four of American English). Yet the three stops are /p t k/.
  • 17. Put in the form of a universal, this generalization reads; 1. Most languages have the three stops /p t k/ in their consonant inventory. This universal suggests that these three consonants are in some sense more basic than others.
  • 18. It is clear, given our discussion, that this universal is not an absolute rule. Hawaiian (a language related to Niuean) has only /p/ and /k/. (That is why English words with the sound /t/ are borrowed into Hawaiian with a /k/, like kikiki ‘ticket’). This universal is thus a tendency, rather than a statement of what is and isn’t found among the world’s languages.
  • 19. Another important universal referring to stops has already been mentioned. Recall that the difference between the two sets of stops /p t k/ and /b d g/ is that the first set is voiceless, the second voiced. All six sounds have phonemic status in English, as is true in French, Spanish, Quechua, and many other languages.
  • 20. In some languages, however, we find only voiceless stops, such as in Hawaiian (and all other Polynesian languages), Korean, and Mandarin Chinese. Thus far, we have identified two types of languages. 1. languages with both voiced and voiceless stops, and
  • 21. 2. languages with only voiceless stops. As noted, every language has at least one voiceless stop in its inventory; consequently, there are no languages that have voiced stops but no voiceless stops, and no languages that have neither voiced nor voiceless stops. This typology allows us to derive the following universal rule:
  • 22. No language has voiced stops without voiceless stops. Note that of the universals of stop inventories explored thus far, only one rule (and it is only a tendency) says anything about which stops are included in the inventories of languages. But there are other universals that deal with this question. We give only one example here: If a language lacks a stop, there is a strong tendency for that language to include in its inventory a fricative sound with the same place of articulation as the missing stop.
  • 23. For instance, Standard Fijian, Amharic (the principal language of Ethiopia), and Standard Arabic all lack the phoneme /p/, which is a labial stop. As predicted by the universal rule, all these languages have a fricative /f/ or /v/, whose place of articulation is similar to that of /p/. The fricative thus “fills in” for the missing stop. This rule, too, is only a tendency, as there are languages that violate it. Hawaiian, which lacks a /t/, has none of the corresponding fricatives /ð/, , /z/, or /s/. But most languages do follow the rule.
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