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Midterm Study Problems

Introduction to Linguistics

Answers to Midterm Study Problems


Problem 2.5 Farsi

There are three sounds here, which I represent as follows:

[R*] voiceless trill

[D] voiced flap

[R] voiced trill

There are no minimal pairs (or triplets) in the data. In fact, the three sounds are in complementary distribution, as follows.

[R*] occurs at the ends of words;

[D] occurs between vowels;

[R] occurs elsewhere (at the beginnings of words, after a vowel and before a consonant, after a consonant and before a vowel).

Thus, they are all allophones of a single phoneme.

The basic allophone is the voiced trill, [R]. This is because the phonetic environments in which it occurs cannot be described as a natural class. It would therefore be very awkward to pick one of the other sounds as the basic allophone and write a rule to turn it into [R]. It is easier to take [R] as the basic allophone and write rules to turn it into each of the other sounds.

Hence, in the phonemic representation, only /R/ occurs. Farsi has two phonological rules which convert the phonemic representation into a phonetic one:

/R/ becomes voiceless ([R*]) at the ends of words;

/R/ becomes a flap ([D]) between vowels.

If neither rule applies, then /R/ is pronounced [R], the voiced trill.

Introduction to Linguistics
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