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Linguistics Handout - Phonemes the smallest class of sounds...

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Phonemes – the smallest class of sounds in a language that distinguish meaning. In English, this is roughly analogous with our alphabet, though some letters, e.g., the vowels, may stand for more than one sound. All human languages use a limited number of sounds or phonemes. Minimal Pairs – Linguists and linguistic anthropologists try to find minimal pairs, words with a difference of only one sound, to determine the phonemes of a language. Examples of minimal pairs in English: b it – s it map – mad h oney – m oney d inner – w inner li d – la d la dder – lea der hi de – hee d w ine - v ine bi te – migh t (notice, it is the pronunciation, not the spelling that is important) Allophones – two or more different sounds that may be substituted for each other and yet not change the meaning in a language. Ex. The English word “butter”. Many Americans actually pronounce this word as “budder”. The same can be
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