Phonetics PhonologyPhonology is the study of the sound patterns that occur within languages. Phonology is concerned with anatomy and physiology – the organs of speech and how we learn to use them. The root of phonology ‘phone’ originates from the greek
word phoneme which means sound. Phonology is also connected to socio-linguistics and this makes us think of how accent, intonation, rhythm and pronunciation affect social attitudes. Man is unique among primates in that he has the necessary apparatus to produce the sounds of speech, and yet most humans learn to speak without ever knowing much about these organs or how they work. Described briefly, we use our lungs to breathe out air, produce vibrations in the larynx and then use our tongue, teeth and lips to modify the sounds that are produced. As we produce these sounds we can shape them into vowels by allowing air to escape from the mouth and nose unblocked; and consonants, by covering more of the vocal tract with the tongue and trapping air in the mouth which when released in various ways and at varying speeds produces friction and the different consonant sounds.
is an intonation language which means that the pitch of the voice is used syntactically and so can convey different emotions such as surprise, irony or even to change a statement into a question. In english
intonation patterns are on groups of words, which are called tone groups, tone units, intonation groups or sense groups; stress also figures strongly within the english
language in that certain syllables, both within words and within phrases, get a relative prominence or loudness during pronunciation whilst others do not. Stress is also used in english
to distinguish between certain verbs and their noun counter parts. We must also look at pitch which plays a larger part in english
than in most other languages, because with pitch we can convey certainty with a falling pitch, or uncertainty with a rising pitch. Pitch can affect the meaning within the sentence, and indicate the attitude, enthusiasm or emotion of the speaker, and sometimes if at the end of the sentence something is left unsaid, we change the pitch level to indicate that there is more to come or to insinuate something else entirely. We can also use pitch to distinguish acronyms that might otherwise be mistaken for common words. We will often speak at varying speeds for different reasons and purposes, this is called tempo, and it may be that we adjust our speech to the time we have in which to utter it, or more usually, we are changing our tempo to reflect a meaning or attitude, for example we may speak a rapid answer to a question to convey distraction or irritation.
Together, tempo, pitch and stress combine to form a pattern and we call this rhythm. Some kinds of formal and repetitive rhythms are familiar from music, poetry or even chants like within a football game, but all speech has rhythm, it is just less noticeable in spontaneous utterances to hear regular or repeating patterns. Everyone’s use of the sound system is unique and personal, and few people use sounds consistently in all contexts but adapt them to different situations. Most humans will adjust their speech and sounds to resemble that of those around them, so that some identifiable groups of people will share a collection of sounds that are not found elsewhere, we call this an accent. People may think of an accent as marking out people by a geographical region but an accent can also mark out someone from various social classes or even of their education.
Over time each language, accent and even individual sounds will change and evolve into something new and different. Looking back over the centuries I find it fascinating to think of the various peoples from different countries and cultures that have contributed to what we call today, modern english