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Encyclopedia > Sound change

Sound change or phonetic change is a historical process of language change consisting in the replacement of one speech sound or, more generally, one phonetic feature by another in a given phonological environment. Sound change is supposed to be regular, which means that it should be expected to apply mechanically whenever its structural condition is met, irrespective of any non-phonological factors (such as the meaning of the words affected). Hence the somewhat hyperbolic term sound law, introduced in the 19th c. and still applied traditionally to some of the historically important sound changes, e.g. Grimm's law. While real-world sound changes often admit of exceptions (for a variety of known reasons, and sometimes without a known reason), the expectation of their regularity or "exceptionlessness" is of great heuristic value, since it allows historical linguists to define the notion of regular correspondence (see: comparative method). The International Phonetic Alphabet. ... Phonetic (pho-NET-ic) is a nationwide voicemail-to-text messaging service available for most digital mobile phones in which a subscriber is provided a custom voice mailbox for the purpose of receiving all incoming voice messages as actual transcribed text for reading via short messaging (also known as SMS... In computing, Unicode provides an international standard which has the goal of providing the means to encode the text of every document people want to store on computers. ... Grimms law (also known as the [First] Germanic Sound Shift; German: Erste Deutsche (Germanische) Lautverschiebung) was the first non-trivial systematic sound change ever to be discovered; its formulation was a turning-point in the development of linguistics, enabling the introduction of rigorous methodology in historical linguistic research. ... The comparative method (in linguistics) is a method used to detect genetic relationships between languages and to establish a consistent relationship hypothesis by reconstructing: the common ancestor of the languages in question, a plausible sequence of regular changes by which the historically known languages can be derived from that common...


Each sound change is limited in space and time. It means it functions within a specified area (only in some dialects / ethnolects) and within a specified period of time. These limitations are one of the reasons for which some scholars refuse using the term "sound law" (asserting that laws should not have such spatial and temporal limitations) and replace it with phonetic rule. A dialect (from the Greek word διάλεκτος, dialektos) is a variety of a language used by people from a particular geographic area. ... Ethnolect is a variant of a language distributed according to ethnic/cultural social identity. ...


Sound change is part of the larger process of language change.

Contents


The formal notation of sound change:

A > B
is to be read, "A changes into (or is replaced by, is reflected as, etc.) B". It goes without saying that A belongs to an older stage of the language in question, whereas B belongs to a more recent stage. The symbol ">" can be reversed:
B < A
"(more recent) B derives from (older) A"

For example,

POc. *t > Rot. f
= "Proto-Oceanic *t is reflected as [f] in the Rotuman language." This is actually a compressed account of a sequence of changes (*t changed first into a dental fricative [θ] like the initial consonant of English thin, which has yielded present-day [f]).

Unless a change operates unconditionally (in all positions), we have to specify the context in which it applies: The Oceanic languages are a subgroup of the Austronesian languages, conatining approximately 450 languages. ...

A > B /X__Y
= "A changes into B when preceded by X and followed by Y." For example:
It. b > v /[vowel]__[vowel]
= "Intervocalic [b] (inherited from Latin) became [v] in Italian" (e.g. in caballum, dēbet > cavallo 'horse', deve 'owe (3sg.)'
PIr. [-cont] > [+cont]/[__,-voice]C
= "Preconsonantal voiceless non-continuants (i.e. voiceless stops) changed into corresponding voiceless continuants (fricatives) in Proto-Iranian", so that e.g. Proto-Indo-European *pr, *pt > Proto-Iranian *fr, *ft (features not mentioned explicitly in the formulation of the change, such as the place of articulation, are assumed not to change).

If the symbol "#" stands for a word boundary (initial or final), the notation "/__#" = "word-finally", and "/#__" = "word-initially". For example: Fricative consonants are produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. ...

Gk. [stop] > zero /__#
= "Word-final stops were deleted (replaced by zero) in Greek."

Rules of Sound Change

Sound change has no memory: Sound change does not discriminate between the sources of a sound. If a previous sound change causes X,Y > Y (features X and Y merge as Y), a new one cannot affect only original X's. If it helps, think of a stampede of animals, each erasing its predecessor's footprints.


Sound change ignores grammar: A sound change can only have phonological restraints, like X>Z in unstressed syllables. It cannot drop final W, except on adjectives, or the like. The only exception to this is that a sound change may or may not recognise word boundaries, even when they are not indicated by prosodic clues. Prosody may mean several things: Prosody consists of distinctive variations of stress, tone, and timing in spoken language. ...


Sound change is exceptionless: If a sound can happen at a place, it will. It affects all sounds that meet the criteria for change. Exceptions are possible, due to either analogy and other regularization processes, or another sound change. This is the traditional view, expressed by the Neogrammarians. In past decades it has been shown that sound change doesn't necessarily affect all the words it in principle could. However, when a sound change is initiated, it usually expands to the whole lexicon given enough time. An analogy is a comparison between two different things, in order to highlight some form of similarity. ... The Neogrammarians (also Young Grammarians, German Junggrammatiker) were a German school of linguists, originally at the University of Leipzig, in the late 19th century who proposed the Neogrammarian hypothesis of the regularity of sound change. ... A lexicon is a list of words together with additional word-specific information, i. ...


Sound change is unstoppable: Nobody knows why, but all languages vary from place to place and time to time. Writing does not keep languages from changing. This would be true if we learnt languages from reading books. We do not. We learn our native tongue by imitating the speakers in our environment. Only dead languages, artificially resurrected and kept alive languages like Latin, and international languages like Esperanto are immune to sound change. (The only thing that has stopped Esperanto from having dialects is the fact that it is spoken almost entirely as a second-language. If Esperanto speakers speak the language to their children, and they do the same and so on, sound change will happen.) Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international language. ...


Types of Sound Change

Sound change is informally divided into influenced and spontaneous. Influenced sound changes are sound changes affected by adjacent sounds. Spontaneous sound changes are the opposite. There is some overlap between the two types.


Spontaneous Sound Change

The "Sound Laws" of Grimm and Verner and others are spontaneous sound changes. Another spontaneous sound change transformed Old English [sk] into Middle English [ʃ]. The collapse of many of Middle English's consonant clusters is also a spontaneous sound change. For example, Middle English [kn]>[n] in Modern English. Grimms law (also known as the [First] Germanic Sound Shift; German: Erste Deutsche (Germanische) Lautverschiebung) was the first non-trivial systematic sound change ever to be discovered; its formulation was a turning-point in the development of linguistics, enabling the introduction of rigorous methodology in historical linguistic research. ... Verners law, stated by Karl Verner in 1875, describes a historical sound change in the Proto-Germanic language whereby voiceless fricatives *f, *þ, *s and *x, when immediately following an unstressed syllable in the same word, underwent voicing and became respectively *b, *d, *z and *g. ...


Influenced Sound Change

There are several types of influenced sound change:

  • Assimilation: two adjacent sounds become closer together. Example: the [p] and [b] in "cupboard" became a single [b].
  • Dissimilation: the opposite of assimilation, two sounds move farther apart. Example, "February" is now pronounced like "Febyuary".
  • Metathesis: two sounds switch places. Example: Old English "thridda" is Modern English "third".
  • Tonogenesis: a devoicing of consonants influences the pitch of the vowels, causing tonemes. Example: the rising tone of Mandarin is the reflex of old voiced consonants.
  • Liaison: the introduction of a sound between words. Examples: French "il y a" becomes "y a t-il" when inverted. The postvocalic [ɹ] in some English dialects is pronounced only if the following word starts with a vowel.
  • Elision, Apocope, and Syncope: these are all loss of sounds. Elision is the loss of unstressed sounds, apocope is the loss of medial sounds, and syncope is final sounds. Elision example: in the southeastern United States, unstressed schwas tend to drop, so "American" is not /əˈmɛɹəkən/ but /ˈmɚkən/. Apocope example: the Old French word for "state" is "estat," but the "s" has dropped since then, yielding, "état." Syncope example: the final "e" in Middle English was pronounced, but was dropped when the next word started with a vowel sound.
  • Epenthesis: the introduction of a sound between others. Example: in English, a schwa is sometimes inserted between the diphthongs [ɔɪ aɪ aʊ] and following [ɹ l], so "fire" = /ˈfaɪ.ɚ/.
  • Prothesis: the addition of a sound to a word. It differs from liaison in that prothesis always affects a word, whereas liaison depends on other words. Example: /s/ + stop clusters in Latin gained a preceding /e/ in Old Spanish and Old French; hence, the Spanish word for "state" is "estado," deriving from Latin "status."
  • Haplology: the loss of syllables because nearby syllables sound similar. Example: Old English "Anglaland" became Modern English "England", or the common pronunciation of 'particularly' as 'particuly'. Haplology would reduce to *haplogy if it were a common word.
  • Nasalization: the loss of nasal consonants following vowels in favor of nasalization of the vowel. French "-in" words used to be pronounced [in], but are now pronounced as [ɛ ̃], with the [n] not being pronounced.

Assimilation, from Latin assimilatio meaning to render similar, is used to describe various phenomena: The process of assimilating new ideas into a schema (cognitive structure). ... Dissimilation, in the context of phonology, is a phenomenon whereby similar consonant sounds in a word have a tendency to become different over time, so as to ease pronunciation. ... Metathesis is a sound change that alters the order of phonemes in a word. ... Tonogenesis is the appearance of contrasting tone in a previously non-tonal language, generally as a result of regular phonological changes. ... Mandarin   listen?(Traditional: 北方話, Simplified: 北方话, Hanyu Pinyin: BÄ›ifānghuà, lit. ... This article should be translated from material at fr:Liaison. ... In music, see elision (music). ... Apocope, in linguistics, refers to the loss or leaving out, or elision, of the last sound, syllable, or part of a word. ... Syncope has two distinct and apparantly unrelated meanings, one in linguistics and another in medicne. ... In poetry and phonetics, epenthesis (Greek epi, on × en, in + thesis, putting) is the insertion of a phoneme or syllable into a word, usually to facilitate pronunciation. ... Prothesis is the addition of a sound to a word. ... Haplology is defined as the elimination of a syllable when two consecutive identical or similar syllables occur. ... In phonetics, nasalization is the production of a sound while the velum is lowered, so that air escapes partially or wholly through the nose during the production of the sound. ...

Examples of specific historical sound changes


  Results from FactBites:
 
Sound change at AllExperts (1342 words)
Sound change or phonetic change is a historical process of language change consisting in the replacement of one speech sound or, more generally, one phonetic feature by another in a given phonological environment.
Sound change is supposed to be regular, which means that it should be expected to apply mechanically whenever its structural condition is met, irrespective of any non-phonological factors (such as the meaning of the words affected).
While real-world sound changes often admit of exceptions (for a variety of known reasons, and sometimes without a known reason), the expectation of their regularity or "exceptionlessness" is of great heuristic value, since it allows historical linguists to define the notion of regular correspondence (see: comparative method).
Language Change - Title (3898 words)
Another fact about language change, clearly established on the basis of approximately 100 studies, is that women are usually a generation ahead of men in sound change.
Sounds change in a number of ways, and sound change is one of the most well understood aspects of language change, thanks to the long history of work in comparative/historical linguistics, and also to the research on sound change in progress by another member of the Penn linguistics faculty, Dr. Bill Labov.
Sound changes work to change the actual phonetic form of the word in the different languages, but we can still recognize them as originating from a common source because of the regularities within each language.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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