Practice Time

Exercises 3 and 4 are adapted from How Language Works available here.

© 2006. Indiana University and Michael Gasser.

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Exercise 1. In some varieties of English, mostly spoken in the Midwestern U.S.A., the vowel in the first, unstressed syllable of the word is deleted in words like police, believe, parade, pollution, terrific, collision, but is not deleted in words like detective, dependent, majestic, pedantic. Answer the following questions about the natural class of sounds that follow the deleted vowel.

  1. Describe the natural class in words.
  2. Use a feature matrix to represent the natural class.

Exercise 2. Here is a set of data transcribed from German. Examine the data and pay attention to these three segments:

[ç] (voiceless palatal fricative)

[ʃ] (voiceless post-alveolar fricative)

[x] (a voiceless velar fricative)

You may also wish to know the following:

[ø] is a mid-high, front, rounded tense vowel

[y] is a high, front, rounded tense vowel

[ɪç] I [byʃə] bushes [bux] book
[manç] some [tuʃə] ink [dɑx] roof
[durç] through [nɑʃən] nibble [nɑxən] small boat
[tøçtər] daughters [kɪrʃə] cherry [nɔx] still, yet
[meːdçən] girl [fɪʃtə] fished [tux] scarf
[kɪrçə] church [mɛnʃən] people [kuxən] cake
[fɪçtə] pine [ʃpiːlən] to play [ɑxɑːt] agate
[mɛnçən] little man [ʃtɑːt] state [lɑxst] (you) laugh
  • Describe clearly in words the observations you’ve made about the three segments [ç] [ʃ] [x]. Also, include examples from the data to support your observations.
  • Based on your observations, what conclusions can you make about how the segments [ç] [ʃ] [x] are represented in the grammar of German?

Exercise 3. The Japanese phoneme /s/ has two allophones: [s] and [ʃ]. Examine the following dataset, and then describe in words what environments each allophone appears in.

[saja] pod [heso] navel [ʃite] doing
[kasa] umbrella [suʃi] sushi [kuʃi] skewer
[senkjo] election [hanasu] speak [saʃimi] sashimi
[mise] store [ʃiku] spread [meʃi] rice
[sono] that [ʃima] island [sasemaʃita] caused


Exercise 4. In Modern English, as you know, the fricatives [f, v, θ, ð, s, z] are six different phonemes. But in Old English, these six segments were categorized as only three different phonemes, each with a voiced and a voiceless allophone, [f, v], [θ, ð], [s, z]. The following words from Old English show the distribution of these segments.

[fæder] father [iːzern] iron
[l̥ɑːf] bread [wrɑθ] angry
[fæðm] fathom [kweðɑn] to say
[stɑvɑs] letters [eorðe] earth
[smiθ] blacksmith [yvele] evil
[ræːzɑn] to attack [heovon] sky
[θɑːx] thrived [furðor] further
[æːvre] always [ræːzde] attacked
  • Write a sentence that describes the distribution of the allophones. Use the format, “x becomes y in the environment …”
  • Using the notation from Section 4.5, write a phonological rule that describes how these segments are organized in the grammar of Old English.


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