Learning poetry

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What is phonology?

Phonology is the study of the sound system of languages. It is a huge area of language theory and it is difficult to do more on a general language course than have an outline knowledge of what it includes. In an exam, you may be asked to comment on a text that you are seeing for the first time in terms of various language descriptions, of which phonology may be one. At one extreme, phonology is concerned with anatomy and physiology - the organs of speech and how we learn to use them. At another extreme, phonology shades into socio-linguistics as we consider social attitudes to features of sound such as accent and intonation. And part of the subject is concerned with finding objective standard ways of recording speech, and representing this symbolically.
For some kinds of study - perhaps a language investigation into the phonological development of young children or regional variations in accent, you will need to use phonetic transcription to be credible. But this is not necessary in all kinds of study - in an exam, you may be concerned with stylistic effects of sound in advertising or literature, such as assonance, rhyme or onomatopoeia - and you do not need to use special phonetic symbols to do this.

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