The London Phonological School

Tradition of phonetic and phonological studies in England. Theoretical and methodological study of English phonetics at The London Phonological School. Basic concepts of the London school of structuralism. Sweet Henry English philologist and phonetician.

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Theme: The London Phonological School


1. The London Phonological School

2. The “phonemic” period,

3. London School of Linguistics

4. Sweet Henry English philologist and phonetician

5. Early Linguistics

6. Modern linguistics

1. The London Phonological School

There is long tradition of phonetic and phonological studies in England. One of the first linguists who made a serious study in English phonetics was Henry Sweet. He distinguished broad and narrow trans-in his Handbook of Phonetics» (Oxford, 1877).

Under “The London Phonological School” we mean the theory and methods of phonetic and phonological analysis proposed by the British linguists. This school is represented by J. R. Firth, Daniel Jones, D.Abercrombie, I. Ward, L. Armstrong, D. B. Fry, H. Kingdon, J. D. O'Connor, A. C. Gimson .The British linguists presented original ideas on phonemic and prosodic analysis. Well- know British linguists D. Jones and J. R. Firth gave brief explanations of the phoneme concept.

D. Jones admits the fact that the idea of the phoneme was first introduced to him by Leningrad professor L. V. Shcherba in 1911, but both the theory and the term itself had existed for more than thirty years even then. D. Jones wrote: “According to J. R. Firth the term “phoneme” was invented as distinct from “phone” in 1879by Krushevsky”. Thus, both outstanding English linguists were familiar with the theory and term “phoneme” used by Russian linguists. The “prephoneme” period, I.e. when there was no distinction between “speech sound” and “phoneme” until 1870.

2. The “phonemic” period

The “phonemic” period, which began in 1870 and includes the twentieth century. In this period the basic phonemes as functional units of the language was recognized. The first linguist to point out this distinction was I.A.Baudouin de Courtenay (1845 -1929), an outstanding Russian and Polish scholar.

I.A. Baudouin de Courtenay defined the phoneme as the “psychological” equivalent of the speech sound». But he was aware of the fact that acoustic and motor i mages of the speech sound do not correspond to each other .I.A.Baudouin de Courtenay also tried to analyse phonemes on the bases of phonetic alternations in morphemes. Besides psychological and morphological definitions of the phoneme, he could considered that words may be realized in notions. I.A.Baudouin de Courtenay repeatedly stated that semantically the utterance breaks up into sentences, into significative words, words into morphological components or morphemes and morphemes into phonemes. As a morpheme is only divided into divided into components of the same nature as itself: these components -phonemes must also be significative.

3. London School of Linguistics

London School of Linguistics or the London school of structuralism, a trend in contemporary structural linguistics (J. R. Firth, W. Sidney Allen, R. H. Robins, and M. A. K. Halliday).

The London school of linguistics is involved with the study of language on the descriptive plane (synchrony), the distinguishing of structural (syntagmatics) and systemic (paradigmatics) concepts, and the social aspects of language. In the forefront is semantics. The school's primary contribution to linguistics has been the situational theory of meaning in semantics (the dependence of the meaning of a linguistic unit on its use in a standard context by a definite person; functional variations in speech are distinguished on the basis of typical contexts) and the prosodic analysis in phonology (the consideration of the phenomena accruing to a sound: the number and nature of syllables, the character of sound sequences, morpheme boundaries, stress, and so on). The distinctive function is considered to be the primary function of a phoneme.

The London school rejects the concepts of the speech collective and social experience and studies the speech of the individual person; it is subject to terminological and methodological inaccuracy and proves in many aspects to be linguistics of speech and not language.

Phonology the branch of linguistics that deals with the sound structure of language and that studies the structure and function of the meaningless, minimum distinctive units of a language, that is, syllables and phonemes.

Phonology, in contrast to phonetics, focuses not on sounds as individual phenomena but on the function they fulfill in speech as components of more complex semantic units--morphemes and words. For this reason, phonology is sometimes called functional phonetics. The Russian linguist N. S. Trubetskoi defined the relationship between phonology and phonetics as follows: the basis of any phonological description is the determination of distinctive sound oppositions, and a phonetic description is the basis and the source of material for a phonological description.

The basic unit of phonology is the phoneme, and phonology focuses on the study of phonemic oppositions, which in their aggregate constitute a language's phonological system, or its phonological paradigmatics. A phonemic system is described in terms of distinctive features, which are the basis of phonemic oppositions. Distinctive features are combinations of articulatory and acoustic properties of sounds and are manifested in such phonemic contrasts as voiced-voiceless and open-closed. A major concept of phonology, that of position, facilitates the description of phonological syntagmatics, that is, the principles according to which phonemes are manifested within the different environments of the speech sequence. In particular, phonological syntagmatics deals with the principles according to which phonemic oppositions and phonemic positional variations are neutralized.

In accordance with the widely accepted theory of the organization of language into levels, phonology distinguishes segmental (phonemic) and suprasegmental (prosodic) levels of language. In suprasegmental levels of language there are units that correspond to such phonemes on the segmental level as the prosodeme and toneme. These phonemes are also described in terms of certain distinctive features, for example, the features of register and contour, which describe tonal oppositions. The main function of both segmental and suprasegmental units of phonology is to identify and differentiate meaningful units of language.

Phonology also investigates the demarcative function of sound units, that is, the signaling of word and morpheme boundaries in the spoken chain. An example of a phonological boundary signal is the fixed stress in Czech, which indicates the beginning of a word. The German phonemes [h] and [?] may occur only at the beginning and end of a word, respectively, thus indicating its boundaries. A final function of phonological units, and particularly of such suprasegmental features as duration and pitch, is to express the emotional state of the speaker and his attitude toward what is being said.

Synchronic phonology studies the phonological system of a language at a certain historical period. Diachronic phonology, on the other hand, provides a phonological explanation of phonetic changes taking place during the history of a language by describing the phonologization, dephonologization, and rephonologization of sound distinctions, that is, the transformation of positional variants of a single phoneme into independent phonemes, the elimination of a given phonemic opposition, and alterations in the basis of phonemic opposition, respectively.

During the 1970's, generative phonology has developed within generative grammar. Generative phonology is essentially a system of rules for the placement of stress and for the transformation of abstract morphemic symbols into concrete sound chains. The primary unit in generative phonology is not the phoneme but the distinctive feature, since all phonological rules are formulated in terms of distinctive features and positions. The concepts of generative phonology are used in both synchronic and diachronic phonology.

Phonology became an independent linguistic discipline in the 1920's and 1930's. Its founders were N. S. Trubetskoi, R. Jakobson, and S. O. Kartsevskii, who presented the fundamental concepts of phonology at the First International Congress of Linguists, held in 1928 in The Hague. A landmark in the development of phonology was Trubetskoi's Principles of Phonology (1st German ed., 1939), the first systematic discussion of the aims, principles, and methods of phonology. However, the foundations of phonology had been laid in the late 19th century by the German linguist J. Winteler and the British linguist H. Sweet. F. de Saussure and K. Biihler helped develop the theoretical basis of phonology. Of particular importance was the contribution of I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay, who established the concept of the phoneme and its features, although this concept was to change over the course of time. phonological school henry sweet

4. Sweet Henry English philologist and phonetician

Henry Sweet - Born September 15,1845, in London; died Apr. 30, 1912, in Oxford. He was British linguist; founder of the British school of phoneticians. Member of the London Philological Society (1869-85).

Sweet Henry, (1845-1912) English philologist and phonetician and one of the founders of modern phonetics. An authority on Anglo-Saxon and the history of the English language, Sweet was also a pioneer in modern scientific phonetics. His History of English Sounds (1874) was a landmark in that study. In 1901 he was made a reader in phonetics at Oxford. Among his other writings are A Handbook of Phonetics (1877), A New English Grammar (2 parts, 1892-95), The History of Language (1900), The Sounds of English (1908), and works on Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Icelandic. Sweet was the model for Professor Higgins in G. B. Shaw's play Pygmalion.

Sweet studied at the University of Heidelberg in 1864 and, beginning in 1869, at Oxford University. In 1901 he became a lecturer of phonetics at Oxford. He made a major contribution to the elaboration of a theory of phonology and also worked on the typology of the phonological systems of the world's languages. His principal works dealt with phonetics, English and German philology, and Old English dialectology. His works are following:

A History of English Sounds From the Earliest Period, 2nd ed. Oxford, 1888.

A Handbook of Phonetics. Oxford, 1877.

A Short Historical English Grammar. Oxford, 1892.

Collected Papers. Oxford, 1913.

Two Russian schools of phonology were based on the studies of Baudouin de Courtenay: the Leningrad school, which included L. V. Shcherba, L. R. Zinder, M. I. Matusevich, and L. V. Bondarko, and the Moscow school, which included V. N. Sidorov, R. I. Avanesov, P. S. Kuznetsov, A. A. Reformatskii, A. M. Sukhotin, and M. V. Panov. Also based on the work of Baudouin de Courtenay were the original concepts of S. I. Bernshtein. The Moscow and Leningrad schools differed in their concept of the phoneme and in their view of the degree to which phonology is independent of morphology, that is, in their view of the role of morphological criteria in determining the identity of phonemes.

Phonology was the subject of analyses by members of the Prague Linguistic Circle, the center of phonological studies in Europe. Phonology is presently studied at the London School of Linguistics, founded by D. Jones in the 1930's, and by the English School of Phonology. Linguists associated with this center, including J. Firth, W. Allen, F. Palmer, and R. Robins, made important contributions to the development of suprasegmental phonology from the 1940's through the 1960's. Phonology has been developed to a lesser degree by the Copenhagen Linguistic Circle.

Several scholars not formally associated with any linguistic school but ideologically closest to the Prague Linguistic Circle have made major contributions to the development of phonology, among them A. Martinet, J. Kurylowicz, B. Malmberg, and A. Sommerfelt. Other important contributions have been made by the American descriptive linguists L. Bloomfield and E. Sapir and by their students M. Swadesh and W. Twaddell. An important achievement of American phonology has been the development of the method of distributional analysis by C. Hockett, H. Gleason, B. Bloch, G. Trager, and K. Pike.

Firth identifies features which characterize particular aspects of a property with a function is called a prosody. A given property may be treated as prosody because its manifestation extends over a number of positions within the structure. Even if a property is only realized at a single position in a structure, however, it is treated as prosody if its occurrence is specifically characteristic of that position. For instance, in a language which has both aspirated and plain consonants in syllable initial position, but only plain consonants elsewhere, it may be appropriate to establish a prosody of aspiration which is realized as aspiration specifically of the syllable-initial consonant (and whose absence implies non-aspiration), rather than positing both aspirated and plain consonants in the syllable-initial system.

The nature of a prosodic analysis is an apportioning of the phonic data of utterances among the elements of structure, prosodies associated with particular units of structure (phrase, word, syllable, or parts of syllables), which may form systems connected with those units. Although the nature of a prosodic analysis is a sort of deduction based on the phonetic material alone; but it should be stressed that Firth and his students did not at all maintain a separation of phonological from grammatical analysis. In fact, actual prosodic descriptions show extensive grammatical conditioning.

The important difference between prosodic and phonemic analyses was alluded to above: the status of nondistinctive properties. Most schools of phonemic analysis (and at least early generative phonology as well) took the position that any property, which does not serve to distinguish forms from one another should be excluded from the phonological description. At best, it is included in the definitions of the allophonic realizations of phonological units, but it certainly does not play a part in the definition of the primes of phonological structure. Prosodic analysis, in contrast, is concerned just as much with the nondistinctive as with the distinctive properties. Prosodies are defined in terms of all of the systematic syntagmatic regularities that are associated with one another in a given structure. In Sprigg's (1955) analysis of tone in Tibetan, for example, the exponents of either of the two tonal prosodies include (a) features of vowel pitch; (b) features of duration of the vowel; (c) features of aspiration, etc. in the initial consonant; and (d) features of voice quality in the vowel. Only one of these properties would need to be taken as distinctive, but all are included in the definition of the prosodies.

Autosegments in representations are closely similar to prosodies, and metrical and skeletal representations are quite close to Firthian `structures' within which systems of phonematic units and prosodies operate. The notion of as autosegment's being linked lexically to a particular segment, for example, correspond closely to the Firthian notion that a prosody may have a `focus'. There are some interesting differences as well, however. For example, a prosody may extend over several structural positions, just as an autosegment can, but there is no case in which more than one prosody from the same system can be associated with the same structural position, as in the autosegmental analysis of contour tones (which involve two or more independent tonal autosegments attached to the same vowel).

Prosodic theory also allows a richer array of possibilities in some respects than autosegmental theory. A prosody, for example, may involve any arbitrary combination of phonetic properties, so long as they are systematically related to one another in syntagmatic way: thus aspiration, tone, length, and voice quality (realized in different positions within the syllable) are all part of the same tonal prosodies in Sprigg's analysis of Tibetan. An autosegment, on the other hand, is simply a particular feature whose relation to structural positions in the skeletal structure is not one-to-one. It must thus be an individual, phonetically coherent feature. Another difference is that prosodies represent general syntagmatic dependencies, whatever their nature, while autosegments represent a particular property with scope greater (or less) than a single segment.

5. Early Linguistics

Before the 19th cent., language was studied mainly as a field of philosophy. Among the philosophers interested in language was Wilhelm von Humboldt, who considered language an activity that arises spontaneously from the human spirit; thus, he felt, languages are different just as the characteristics of individuals are different. In 1786 the English scholar Sir William Jones suggested the possible affinity of Sanskrit and Persian with Greek and Latin, for the first time bringing to light genetic relations between languages. With Jones's revelation the school of comparative historical linguistics began. Through the comparison of language structures, such 19th-century European linguists as Jakob Grimm, Rasmus Rask, Karl Brugmann, and Antoine Meillet, as well as the American William Dwight Whitney, did much to establish the existence of the Indo-European family of languages.

Structural Linguistics

In the 20th century the structural or descriptive linguistics school emerged. It dealt with languages at particular points in time (synchronic) rather than throughout their historical development (diachronic). The father of modern structural linguistics was Ferdinand de Saussure, who believed in language as a systematic structure serving as a link between thought and sound; he thought of language sounds as a series of linguistic signs that are purely arbitrary, as can be seen in the linguistic signs or words for horse: German Pferd, Turkish at, French cheval, and Russian loshad'. In America, a structural approach was continued through the efforts of Franz Boas and Edward Sapir, who worked primarily with Native American languages, and Leonard Bloomfield, whose methodology required that nonlinguistic criteria must not enter a structural description. Rigorous procedures for determining language structure were developed by Kenneth Pike, Bernard Bloch, Charles Hockett, and others.

In the 1950s the school of linguistic thought known as transformational-generative grammar received wide acclaim through the works of Noam Chomsky. Chomsky postulated a syntactic base of language (called deep structure), which consists of a series of phrase-structure rewrite rules, i.e., a series of (possibly universal) rules that generates the underlying phrase-structure of a sentence, and a series of rules (called transformations) that act upon the phrase-structure to form more complex sentences. The end result of a transformational-generative grammar is a surface structure that, after the addition of words and pronunciations, is identical to an actual sentence of a language. All languages have the same deep structure, but they differ from each other in surface structure because of the application of different rules for transformations, pronunciation, and word insertion. Another important distinction made in transformational-generative grammar is the difference between language competence (the subconscious control of a linguistic system) and language performance (the speaker's actual use of language). Although the first work done in transformational-generative grammar was syntactic, later studies have applied the theory to the phonological and semantic components of language.

In contrast to theoretical schools of linguistics, workers in applied linguistics in the latter part of the 20th cent. have produced much work in the areas of foreign-language teaching and of bilingual education in the public schools (in the United States this has primarily involved Spanish and, in the Southwest, some Native American languages in addition to English). In addition, such subfields as pragmatics, sociolinguistics, and psycholinguistics have gained importance.


Linguistics the science of language. Linguistics studies the structure, functioning, and historical development of language-- the entire scope of the properties and functions of language. At various times, however, different aspects of language have been interpreted as the immediate subject of linguistics. From classical antiquity until the late 18th century, linguistics was not yet distinguished from logic, and the subject of linguistics, as a part of logic and philosophy, was the unified, universal means of expressing thought.

Linguistics study of the nature and structure of language. It traditionally encompasses semantics, syntax, and phonology. Synchronic linguistic studies aim to describe a language as it exists at a given time; diachronic studies trace a language's historical development. Greek philosophers in the 5th century BC who debated the origins of human language were the first in the West to be concerned with linguistic theory. The first complete Greek grammar, written by Dionysus Thrax in the 1st century BC, was a model for Roman grammarians, whose work led to the medieval and Renaissance vernacular grammars.

With the rise of historical linguistics in the 19th century, linguistics became a science. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Ferdinand de Saussure established the structuralist school of linguistics (see structuralism), which analyzed actual speech to learn about the underlying structure of language. In the 1950s Noam Chomsky challenged the structuralist program, arguing that linguistics should study native speakers' unconscious knowledge of their language (competence), not the language they actually produce (performance). His general approach, known as transformational generative grammar, was extensively revised in subsequent decades as the extended standard theory, the principles-and-parameters (government-binding) approach, and the minimalist program. Other grammatical theories developed from the 1960s were generalized phrase structure grammar, lexical-functional grammar, relational grammar, and cognitive grammar. Chomsky's emphasis on linguistic competence greatly stimulated the development of the related disciplines of psycholinguistics and neurolinguistics. Other related fields are anthropological linguistics, computational linguistics, mathematical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and the philosophy of language.

In the 19th century, linguistics became a separate discipline, and an evolutionary view of language was developed. Linguistics at this time came to be concerned with various languages and their histories. In the 20th century, linguistics has studied language as a universal, integral property of man, Homo sapiens, and has investigated languages in their various historical forms. The dual subject of linguistics may be explained by the duality of its object--language.

The system of linguistic disciplines. Modern linguistics is divided into two areas according to the nature of its subject matter: general linguistics, which is concerned with human language per se; and specific branches of linguistics, which study individual languages and their groups, such as Russian linguistics and Romance linguistics. Linguistic study often encompasses both areas.

General linguistics studies the universal properties of language, primarily the most general rules of its structural-systematic and semiotic organization, including the linguistic sign; the semantics and syntax of natural and machine languages; and the phonetics of natural languages. The universality of the structural-systematic and semiotic properties of language results from the existence of language as a special type of sign system. The universality of semantics is a condition of the unity of the objective world, the reflection of the world in consciousness, and the transformation of the world in social practice. The universality of syntax is a condition of the purpose of language--to serve the goals of communication--which determines the common features of the structure of utterances in all languages. The universality of phonetics results mainly from the singular structure and functioning of the human speech apparatus. The common rules of semiotic organization, structure, semantics, syntax, and phonetics are studied mainly by means of various forms of the hypothetical-deductive method, including logical and psychological modeling. Such rules usually become the subjects of special disciplines: theoretical (or general) semantics, syntax, and phonetics; the theory of language systems and structures; and the theory of generative grammars.

The special branches of linguistics study specific languages and their manifestations in speech. National and historical distinctions among languages are associated primarily with the specific rules of phonetics, semantics, and syntax as well as with the various ways in which the basic rules of these categories are formed, that is, with the phonology, morphology, lexicon, and stylistics of each individual language or group of related languages. Phonology, morphology, the lexicon, and stylistics are also governed by more specific historical rules (as opposed to the universal rules of semantics, syntax, and phonetics) and constitute the primary subject of special linguistics.

6. Modern linguistics

Modern linguistics has preserved the traditional division into the following disciplines:

(1) Disciplines dealing with the internal structure of language, or microlinguistics: phonetics and phonology (with a separate category for prosody); grammar, with subdivisions into morphology and syntax (sometimes with a separate category for morphophonemics); lexicology (with a separate category for phraseology); semantics (sometimes with a separate category for semasiology); stylistics; and typology.

(2) Disciplines dealing with the historical development of language: the history of language; historical grammar, which is sometimes synonymous with the history of language in the broad sense; comparative-historical grammar; the history of literary languages; and etymology.

(3) Disciplines dealing with the function of language in society, or metalinguistics: dialectology, linguistic geography, areal linguistics, and sociolinguistics.

(4) Disciplines dealing with multifaceted problems and involving more than one branch of science: psycholinguistics; mathematical linguistics; computational linguistics, which is sometimes understood as an applied discipline; and the disciplines of applied linguistics proper, which include experimental phonetics, lexicography, statistical linguistics, paleography, the history of writing systems, and the decipherment of unknown writing systems (seeAPPLIED LINGUISTICS).

Depending on the object of study (language as a universal property of man or languages in their various historical forms), 20th-century linguistics has at its disposal two types of methods. The first type are the deductive-logical methods used in studying any kind of system, particularly information transmission systems, which include language systems in general. In addition to various structural methods, deductive-logical methods include the following: the generative, or constructive, method; logical calculation methods; algorithmic methods; and modeling, or simulation, methods. The second type are historical methods and methods of observation and experimentation, including the comparative-historical method, field observation, and methods used in studying specific historical languages, including the interrogation of informants. The two types of methods can be related on the basis of regular rules in accordance with the empirical and theoretical levels of cognition.

An intermediate group between the two main types of methods consists of psycholinguistic methods, which are used in studying the properties of language in general as well as specific historical languages. Some linguistic methods, including logical calculation and psychological experimentation, are borrowed from other sciences, and other sciences in turn borrow methods from linguistics. The structural methods of distribution and opposition, for example, are used in cultural anthropology and literary theory and criticism and, in generalized form, serve as the basis for semiotics and several special branches of mathematics. Owing to the particular features of its subject and methods, in particular, the universal features of language, linguistics exerts an influence on literary theory and criticism, cultural anthropology, psychology, mathematics, cybernetics, and philosophy.

Main literature

1. Abduazizov A.A. Theoretical Phonetics of Modern English. ?Т.: Ў?итувчи, 1986. ?192 б.

2. Abduazizov A.A. English Phonetics. A Theoretical course. ?Т.: Ў?итувчи, 2006. ?256 б.

3. Arnold I.V. The English Word. ? M.: Higher School Publishing House. 1983. ?Pp. 306.

4. Бондарко Л.В., Вербицкая Л.А. Основы общей фонетики. ? М.: Академия, 2002. ?192 с.

5. Vassilyev V.A. English Phonetics. A Theoretical course. Higher School Publishing House. ?M.: 1980. ?Pp. 323.

J. R.Firth (related workes)

Firthian Declarative Phonology

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