Phonology is the division of linguistics that studies the sound structure of a language. Research areas within phonology include:

  • Developing a compilation of the sounds of a particular language. For instance, a compilation of the sounds of Japanese would not make a distinction between the phonemes /l/ and /r/, while a compilation of the sounds of English would.
  • Finding the rules that determine how these sounds can be combined to form words that sound natural to native speakers. For example, in Enlish, the sequence of sounds given by /l/ and /m/ cannot form the initial segment of a word (like 'lmab'), but they can be used in other parts of a word (like 'balm').
  • How a language's sounds can change in the context of other sounds. An example in English would be the /p/ sound in "pot" compared to the /p/ sound in "spot." The latter contrasts with the former, since the /p/ sound becomes aspirated (accompanied by a short exhalation).
  • The timing, stress and intonation patterns of sounds in a language.

See Also: Phoneme, Phonetics, Linguistics.

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