Alternation (linguistics)


Alternation (linguistics)

In linguistics, an alternation is the phenomenon of a phoneme or morpheme exhibiting variation in its phonological realization. Each of the various realizations is called an alternant. The variation may be conditioned by the phonological, morphological, and/or syntactic environment in which the morpheme finds itself.

Alternations provide linguists with data that allow them to determine the allophones and allomorphs of a language's phonemes and morphemes and to develop analyses determining the distribution of those allophones and allomorphs.

Phonologically conditioned alternation

An example of a phonologically conditioned alternation is the English plural marker commonly spelled "s" or "es". [cite book |last=Cohn |first=Abigail |chapter=Phonology |pages=202–203 |title=The Handbook of Linguistics |editor=in Mark Aronoff and Janie Rees-Miller (eds.), |year=2001 |publisher=Blackwell Publishers |location=Oxford |isbn=0-631-20497-0] This morpheme is pronounced IPA| [s] , IPA| [z] , or IPA| [ɪz] , depending on the nature of the preceding sound.

# If the preceding sound is a sibilant consonant (one of IPA|/s/, /z/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /tʃ/, or IPA|/dʒ/), the plural marker takes the form IPA| [ɪz] . Examples:
#*"mass" IPA| [mæs] , plural "masses" IPA| [ˈmæsɪz]
#*"fez" IPA| [fɛz] , plural "fezzes" IPA| [ˈfɛzɪz]
#*"mesh" IPA| [mɛʃ] , plural "meshes" IPA| [ˈmɛʃɪz]
#*"mirage" IPA| [mɪˈrɑʒ] , plural "mirages" IPA| [mɪˈrɑʒɪz]
#*"church" IPA| [tʃɝtʃ] , plural "churches" IPA| [ˈtʃɝtʃɪz]
#*"bridge" IPA| [brɪdʒ] , plural "bridges" IPA| [ˈbrɪdʒɪz]
# Otherwise, if the preceding sound is voiceless, the plural marker takes the form IPA| [s] . Examples:
#*"mop" IPA| [mɑp] , plural "mops" IPA| [mɑps]
#*"mat" IPA| [mæt] , plural "mats" IPA| [mæts]
#*"pack" IPA| [pæk] , plural "packs" IPA| [pæks]
#*"cough" IPA| [kɔf] , plural "coughs" IPA| [kɔfs]
#*"myth" IPA| [mɪθ] , plural "myths" IPA| [mɪθs]
# Otherwise, the plural marker takes the form IPA| [z] .
#*"dog" IPA| [dɔg] , plural "dogs" IPA| [dɔgz]
#*"glove" IPA| [glʌv] , plural "gloves" IPA| [glʌvz]
#*"ram" IPA| [ræm] , plural "rams" IPA| [ræmz]
#*"doll" IPA| [dɑl] , plural "dolls" IPA| [dɑlz]
#*"toe" IPA| [toʊ] , plural "toes" IPA| [toʊz]

Alternation related to meaning

Morphologically conditioned alternation

An example of a morphologically conditioned alternation is found in French, where many adjectives have a consonant at the end in the feminine gender that is missing in the masculine: [cite book |last=Steriade |first=Donca |year=1999 |chapter=Lexical conservatism in French adjectival liaison |editor=in Jean-Marc Authier, Barbara E. Bullock and Lisa A. Reed (eds.), |title=Formal Perspectives in Romance Linguistics |publisher=John Benjamins |pages=243–70 |chapterurl=http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/steriade/papers/FrenchLiaison.pdf |location=Amsterdam |isbn=90-272-3691-3]
*masculine "petit" IPA| [pəti] , feminine "petite" IPA| [pətit] "small"
*masculine "grand" IPA| [gʁɑ̃] , feminine "grande" IPA| [gʁɑ̃d] "big"
*masculine "gros" IPA| [gʁo] , feminine "grosse" IPA| [gʁos] "tall"
*masculine "joyeux" IPA| [ʒwajø] , feminine "joyeuse" IPA| [ʒwajøz] "merry"
*masculine "franc" IPA| [fʁɑ̃] , feminine "franche" IPA| [fʁɑ̃ʃ] "sincere"
*masculine "bon" IPA| [bɔ̃] , feminine "bonne" IPA| [bɔn] "good"

yntactically conditioned alternation

Syntactically conditioned alternations can be found in the Insular Celtic languages, where words undergo various initial consonant mutations depending on their syntactic position. [cite journal |last=Green |first=Antony D. |year=2006 |title=The independence of phonology and morphology: The Celtic mutations |journal=Lingua |volume=116 |pages=1946–85 |issn=0024-3841 |url=http://roa.rutgers.edu/files/652-0404/652-GREEN-0-0.PDF |doi=10.1016/j.lingua.2004.09.002] For example, in Irish, an adjective undergoes lenition after a feminine singular noun:
*unmutated "mór" IPA| [oːɾˠ] "big", mutated in "bean mhór" IPA| [bʲan woːɾˠ] "a big woman"In Welsh, a noun undergoes soft mutation when it is the direct object of a finite verb:
*unmutated "beic" IPA| [bəik] "bike", mutated in "Prynodd y ddynes feic" IPA| [ˈprənoð ə ˈðənɛs vəik] "The woman bought a bike"

ee also

* Sandhi
* Allophone

References


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