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I have said that for this problem /ə/ → [a] / when part of [+stressed] and/or [+long] $
 however my friend told me that you can't use [+stressed] as a feature. Is this true? If so, I can't find a way that that [ə] and [a] are in complementary distribution. Does this mean that they form two separate phonemes?

C.   KAROK (California)

1   ʔátra:x   arm           5   ʔəʧna:t   rat
2   tátəʧ   mama           6   ʔáxək   two
3   sárə   bread             7   ʔásər   wet
4   ʧəná:k   mosquito     8   tənukjá:nər   shovel

Are [a ə] allophones of one phoneme? State your evidence.

Phonetic notes:
   [  ́ ] in this problem represents a combination of strong stress and high pitch.
   Unmarked vowels have low pitch.

My solution:

[a] occurs only in syllables which are stressed and/or lengthened
[ə] occurs only in syllables which are neither stressed nor lengthened

Thus, [a] and [ə] are in complementary distribution and are two allophones of one phoneme /ə/.


/ə/ → [a] / as part of [+stressed] and/or [+long] $
     → [ə] / elsewhere

/ə/ → [a] / when part of [+stressed] and/or [+long] $

Where $ = syllable

For this problem - I have found that they are not in complementary distribution, but am I missing out on an essential feature?

B.   VENDA (South Africa)

1   ha n̪ u
   at your place               7   ene   he
2   l̪ i n̪ o   tooth               8   hana   childhood
3   m u n̪ e   master          9   khouno   there
4   n̪ a r i   buffalo             10   βatanu   five
5   pf ʰ e n̪ e   baboon         11   βonani   see!
6   β a n̪ a   four                 12   zʷino   now

Are [n̪   n] allophones of one phoneme? State your evidence.

Phonetic notes:
   [n̪] is a dental, [n] is an alveolar, voiced nasal.
   [l̪] is a dental lateral approximant.
   [β] is a voiced bilabial fricative.

My solution:

[n̪ ] and [n] both occur between:

They thus share four identical contexts, and are therefore not in complementary dis-tribution, forming two separate phonemes.

We're not going to do homework for you (the point of homework is that it's practice for you to do!), but if you can ask a very specific question we may be able to help with that. The assignment should not be so difficult that you can't do it yourself, possibly with help from your instructor at office hours.

I know, of course I don't expect that - that's why I have already completed the assignment myself. I just wanted some help with questions 2 and 3 - i have changed the post to make it more specific :)

If your instructor said "You can't use "+stressed as a feature", then that's the rule. If your friend said that, get a better friend. It is true that we have a different way of talking of stressed stuff that doen't involve a feature, but for the level you're dealing with, it's a perfectly legitimate feature. It is harder to say "in a stressed syllable" using conventional rule formalism. As a general rule, if you have a simple and true generalization and can't find a way to formalize it in a rule, the problem probably lies in your understanding of rule formalism or in the theory of formalism itself, and not in the solution.

Does your instructor require you to write one rule for each allophone, or can you write one rule for the variant in context X and no rule is necessary for "elsewhere"? If you can get away with one rule, you should explore the consequences of different assumptions about the underlying value of the vowel in question.

My objection to your Venda solution is that you don't identify any examples where [n̪] and [n] both occur in comparable contexts. Extra points for clarity and explicitness.

Ok thanks so much!!

I'm just a bit unsure about what you mean by the underlying value of the vowels?


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