4.1 Define the term phonology and the structure and function of sounds
Phonology is the study of human speech sounds in terms of the following:
(i) The function of sounds.
In every human language, sounds are used in words in order to convey meaning. In Chapter 1, we learned that each language constitutes its phonetic inventory from the central pool of human speech sounds. Each language utilizes this selection of sounds in its phonetic inventory to create words of different meanings. For instance, Gikuyu has the sounds /t/ and /h/ in its phonetic inventory. Gikuyu utilizes these sounds to create words of different meanings.
/he/ give me /te/ throw away
(ii) The structure of sounds
In terms of structure, sounds are classified as plosives, trills, flaps or taps, fricatives, approximants and vowels. In terms of function they are classified as consonants and vowels.
(iii) The sounds that occur in a particular language
Each language, as discussed in Chapter 1, utilizes only a small percentage of the human speech sounds. It is, therefore, possible to identify a language’s phonemes and form the language’s phonetic inventory.
(iv) The restrictions of occurrence
Each language has rules that determine what is well formed or ill-formed in a combination of sounds.
Each language also determines the gaps that exist in the language. These could be accidental or systematic gaps. For such gaps, the language also determines the accidental gap – fillers.
Sounds representation at the phonological level
Sounds representation is based on sound segments as units which function as a system.
The segments are transcribed using transcription that is phonetic and represented between slants/ slashes, / /. This level only gives the distinctive or non-redundant features of the sound segment.
Examples /pin/; /slæb/