Unit 3: Phonology?

15 Mar

What is Phonology?

Is the study of features of sounds that we produce. In English these features include phonemes, word stress, sentence stress and intonation.

A phoneme is the smallest unit of the sound that can make a difference to meaning in a language. These are represented in writing by phonemic symbols such as /aʊ / and /ʃ / each one represent only one phoneme.

But, there is more! In phonology we have to use these phonemic symbols in a phonetic transcription which is a set of phonetic symbols and when they are written one after the other to represent a word or a group of words and it has to be written with slashes “/______/” at the beginning of the word and at the end of it, too. e.g. Important /ɪm´pɔ:tnt/

Also, when we pronounce a word in most cases it has stress on it. What does the stress mean? Is when we stress only one syllable of the word, we say it with greater energy and usually higher. Are we going to stress all the words of a sentence? No! Every sentence is made with content words (nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjective) and function words (or structural words: prepositions, articles, pronouns and determiners).  We are going to stress the content words which most of the time give us the most important information. Do we have to mark the stress in the phonetic transcription? Yes, the stress it’s writing with a sign like this:

Moreover, in phonology there is also intonation, what am I mean? Is it not the same like stress? No, intonation is when we change the level of our voice when we’re speaking and it gives a different meaning to the sentence too. Intonation has two different ways to be pronounce, there is the falling intonation and the rising intonation. We are going to find the falling intonation in:

  • Sentences: I’m studying.
  • Commands: Do it today.
  • WH questions: How do we get to the place?

The falling intonation is represented with a downward arrow. The pitch of your voice goes down at the end of the utterance. But, before it goes down, it rises on the vowel sound of the most important word that is stressed.

Did you get it? Now, what about the rising intonation? We’re going to find it in:

  • Yes-No questions: Did you see him?
  • Choices: He went to England, France, Spain, and Russia.

In the rising intonation the pitch of the voice goes up at the end of the utterance. It rises on the vowel sound (of the stress syllable) of the most important word and continues to rise. We also use rising intonation when naming items on a list or offering choices, except for the last item or choice, for the last one use the falling intonation. Let me show you:

However, there is more to learn about phonology but time is flying, so I’ll do an effort to give you more information about this in a future.

Now, I have added a new activity to practice what we have learned, so click on the next Icon and practice it!


Phoneme Phonology Word stress Sentence stress Intonation Diphthongs
Content words Structural words Connected speech Minimal pairs Rhythm Rhyme


Have a nice day!


Posted by on 15/03/2012 in PERSONAL SUBJECTS, UNIT 3


2 responses to “Unit 3: Phonology?

  1. I can do this

    16/03/2012 at 1:14 pm

    You really do provide a deep insight into many aspects of phonology. You have done your research and a great reflection using the words from your glossary. Now, a reflection, how much do you need to know in order to teach English?

    • yesyhd

      21/03/2012 at 3:27 am

      Well, I think it doesn’t matter at all Ellen, because if teaching would be only for those who could speak and transcript perfectly every word, I think it would be very hard to find a job as an English teacher. In my opinion, phonology could help those who have been having trouble in pronunciation, those who can’t identify how we have to pronounce a verb with –ed ending, little things like that that make a big difference in speaking. Personally, I’ve had a lot of problems in pronunciation that’s why I’m still working on it, and it could take me ages to learn phonology, in other words to learn the transcription of a lot of words, however, for those who are interested in it, it’s enjoyable when you learn the correct pronunciation or when you discover some important rules that phonology has. In a few words, Phonology is important to learn the basics rules about it, and for those who really enjoy working with this subject.


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