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View Full Version : Does anyone know why \tʃ\ and \dʒ\ are considered English phonemes?


Skald the Rhymer
06-05-2010, 06:59 PM
For those not in the know, \tʃ\ is the sound spelled ch in "church" and, while \dʒ\ is the sound spelled j and dg in "judgment." The former is a combination of t and ʃ (the sound as the beginning and end of shush; the latter is its voiced counterpart, the sound in the middle of "measure," and is a combination of \d\ and \ \ʒ\. (\ʒ\ never occurs initially in native English words.)

Does anybody know why those two are considered phones, when, say, \b\ + \l\ and \d\ + \r\ are not?

Polycarp
06-05-2010, 07:39 PM
They are called "affricates", and consist of a "single sound" created by the utterance of a stop followed by a fricative in rapid succession, sounding to the ear like a single phoneme.

Other combinations are clearly two distinct sounds conjoined, rather than ones that 'fuse' as affricates do.

Skald the Rhymer
06-05-2010, 08:30 PM
They are called "affricates", and consist of a "single sound" created by the utterance of a stop followed by a fricative in rapid succession, sounding to the ear like a single phoneme.

Other combinations are clearly two distinct sounds conjoined, rather than ones that 'fuse' as affricates do.

I realize that they are called affricates, Polycarp, and the sound at the beginning of blend for instance, is a blend of the plosive \b\ and the lateral \l\. (By contrast, \ʃ\ though usually spelled sh, is not in fact a combination of the sibilant \s\ and the glottal \h\.) But to my ear, \b\ + \l\ sounds no more distinct that \tʃ\, but only one of those is considered a phonene, and I was wondering why.

One tihing that occurs to be is that \tʃ\ and \dʒ\ can occur both terminally and initially, while \b\+\l\, \b\+\r\, \t\+\r\, and the other blends can only be initial. But \h\ & \w\ can only be initial. Admittedly, both of those are more clearly independent sounds than \tʃ\ and \dʒ\.

I also wonder if it's because there is no single English letter always associated with \\tʃ\ the way that \b\ is with b (although there is obviously such a one for \dʒ\). At any rate, I was looking for information on the history of the decision-making process.

Wendell Wagner
06-05-2010, 09:02 PM
Here's the Wikipedia entry on phonemes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoneme

In your first post, you used both the terms "phoneme" and "phone" as if they were synonymous. They aren't. A phone is the way a phoneme is pronounced in a particular context in a language. A phoneme is anything that is contrasts minimally with another phoneme. English speakers consider that, say, the words "choo," "zoo," "Sue," "Jew," "Lou," "goo," and "two" contrast minimally. No native English speaker, if asked to drop the first sound in "choo" or "zoo" would say that "shoe" or "zhue" would be left. They would say that "oo" is left, just as they would say that that is what's left if you dropped the first sound in "Sue," "Jew," "Lou," "goo," or "two." The definition of a phoneme depends on the native speaker's feeling for the language, not the phonetic reality.

Skald the Rhymer
06-05-2010, 09:11 PM
Here's the Wikipedia entry on phonemes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoneme

In your first post, you used both the terms "phoneme" and "phone" as if they were synonymous. They aren't. A phone is the way a phoneme is pronounced in a particular context in a language. A phoneme is anything that is contrasts minimally with another phoneme. English speakers consider that, say, the words "choo," "zoo," "Sue," "Jew," "Lou," "goo," and "two" contrast minimally. No native English speaker, if asked to drop the first sound in "choo" or "zoo" would say that "shoe" or "zhue" would be left. They would say that "oo" is left, just as they would say that that is what's left if you dropped the first sound in "Sue," "Jew," "Lou," "goo," or "two." The definition of a phoneme depends on the native speaker's feeling for the language, not the phonetic reality.

Wendell, I know the difference between phoneme and phone; the latter, in my OP, was a typo. I make tons of those.

Polycarp
06-05-2010, 11:46 PM
The point, Skald, is that they function as a single phoneme, are heard (accurately or not) as being a single phoneme. While "chat" and "brat" consist of four sounds (tʃęt and bręt respectively), no native hearer is going to distinguish the \t\ and \ʃ\ as two sounds -- they'll say \ch\ meaning \tʃ\ is the first sound. In contradistinction, they'll readily identify the \b\ and \r\ in brat as distinct sounds.

BigT
06-06-2010, 02:36 AM
You also may want to look at the history. Every use of /t͡ʃ/ or /d͡ʒ/ as single phonemes seems to have evolved from other single phonemes. A good example is their use as palatalizations of /k/ and /g/. The actual palatalizations, [kj] and [gj] sound very similar to [t͡ʃ] and [d͡ʒ], respectively, to the point where most English speakers would consider them the same phoneme. (Most likely they were merged back in Vulgar Latin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulgar_Latin).)

Another example is how /j/ split, undergoing fortition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortition) to [ɟ], which sounds quite similar to [gj], and thus to [d͡ʒ]. In fact, [ɟ] is such a difficult sound to articulate, it rarely isn't affricated* to one of the other two sounds.

*turned into an affricate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affricate)

Wendell Wagner
06-06-2010, 02:51 AM
I make typos too, and that's never stopped anyone here from deciding that such a mistake doesn't show that I can make a typo. They always decide that it must mean that I don't know what I'm talking about. You made a typo. It changed the word into another word that is a closely related technical term. It was an obvious choice to decide that you didn't understand the difference between the two terms.

Skald the Rhymer
06-06-2010, 03:29 PM
I make typos too, and that's never stopped anyone here from deciding that such a mistake doesn't show that I can make a typo. They always decide that it must mean that I don't know what I'm talking about. You made a typo. It changed the word into another word that is a closely related technical term. It was an obvious choice to decide that you didn't understand the difference between the two terms.

You're right. I shouldn't have implied that your deduction was unreasonable. I was just annoyed with myself.

Skald the Rhymer
06-06-2010, 03:33 PM
The point, Skald, is that they function as a single phoneme, are heard (accurately or not) as being a single phoneme. While "chat" and "brat" consist of four sounds (tʃęt and bręt respectively), no native hearer is going to distinguish the \t\ and \ʃ\ as two sounds -- they'll say \ch\ meaning \tʃ\ is the first sound. In contradistinction, they'll readily identify the \b\ and \r\ in brat as distinct sounds.

Ah, I dunno. I'm a native speaker, and when I say or here \tʃ\, the \t\ and \ʃ\ seem quite distinct to me (though it's harder for the \d\ and \ʒ\) as clearly as I hear the \b\ and \r\, or other such blends.

ETA: Maybe a better question would have been "Can you hear the two separate sounds that make up the phoneme at the beginning and end of church?"

SciFiSam
06-06-2010, 03:50 PM
Ah, I dunno. I'm a native speaker, and when I say or here \tʃ\, the \t\ and \ʃ\ seem quite distinct to me (though it's harder for the \d\ and \ʒ\) as clearly as I hear the \b\ and \r\, or other such blends.

ETA: Maybe a better question would have been "Can you hear the two separate sounds that make up the phoneme at the beginning and end of church?"

I kinda can, but if you were to say 'church' reeaally slowly, would you say 't sh er t sh'? (Can't be bothered finding the IPA symbols). Try it - it doesn't sound like you're saying church. OTOH, if you say 'blend' really slowly, the b and l are obviously separate.

Ch and djz also only require the movement of the tongue, not the lips and the tongue[/i], like bl, pr and so on do. (I mean, obviously the lips move as you open your mouth, but they aren't doing any work on their own). It's, ahem, a single smooth tongue action. :D

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