Describing and analysing language Essay Example

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Part 1 – Phonetics

The audio file for this task is available on Moodle (transcription_assignment.mp3). This is a recording of a language spoken in our region. Below is a sample transcription (rather detailed) of the first 12 seconds of the recording. Your task is to transcribe the remainder of the recording using the International Phonetic Alphabet; you may not be able to manage the level of detail in the sample but you should aim to transcribe as much as possible of what you hear. (12 marks)

Sample Transcription (0:00 – 0:12): ʔɐwkaːŋkiˑ βiʔɔmɐʔɐwʔkɔnɛkmɛsɛʔʔɐ̰w̰ ʊ̰ːɐbʔejkʔwɐbmɛt̪ɔʔkɔt̪ɔsʔɐmɐɾasɪʔəwhʊt̪ɔːnnɔkkʊɐnnɛkmɛsɛʔ

nɛkmɛsɛ ak ɔːthos k ɔːtho

nɛkmɛsɛ erio


Part 2 – Phonology

A. Vowels (6 marks)

Consider the vowels [ʊ] and [ɯ] in the following data:

1. ʊpːʊ ‘salt’ 2. ʊmi ‘husk’

3. mʊɾɔ̃ ‘winnowing fair’ 4. pʊʐʊ ‘worm’

5. paːʐɯ ‘waste’ 6. t̪eɾɯ ‘street’

7. uːɾʊ ‘village’ 8. aðɯ ‘it’

9. puːʈːʊ ‘lock’ 10. t̪oːlʊ ‘leather’

11. t̪oːɭʊ ‘shoulder’ 12. neːt̪ːɯ ‘yesterday’

13. miːn̪ɯ ‘fish’ 14. nɛɲǰɯ ‘heart’

  1. What feature distinguishes the two vowels? (1 mark)

[ɯ] is a near unrounded back vowel and the [ʊ] is the rounded back vowel. Therefore, what distinguishes the two is the feature of roundness.

  1. Is their distribution complementary, or do the two vowels contrast?

Give evidence for your answer. (3 marks)

There distribution is contrast. The vowel [ʊ] comes before the voiced sounds. For example, in the words ʊpːʊ and ʊmi.

The vowel [ɯ] comes at end of the voiceless sounds. For example in the words nɛɲǰɯ, neːt̪ːɯ and miːn̪ɯ

  1. If you think the two vowels are in complementary distribution, write a rule which describes their allophonic relationship. If you think the vowels contrast, give examples which show the contrast. (2 marks)

The vowels are in complimentary distribution. This is because the two vowel sounds are found in different contexts. For instances, the vowel [ɯ] comes at end of the voiceless sounds for example miːn̪ɯ. On the other hand, the vowel [ʊ] comes before the voiced sounds in words such as ʊmi and pʊʐʊ.

B. Consonants (7 marks)

The data below come from a language spoken in Kenya. The nasal prefix n— may attach to verbs to indicate a first person subject. Two different phonological processes may occur when [n] stands before another consonant, as illustrated by the following data. The symbols [β], [ɲ], [ɟ] and [x] represent, respectively, a voiced bilabial fricative, a palatal nasal, a voiced palatal plosive, and a voiceless velar fricative.

‘I hold’

‘I scream’

‘I move’

‘I jump’


‘I watch’

‘I cut’

‘I divide’

‘I pour’

‘I weigh’

‘I add’

‘I do’

‘I roam’

‘I perish’

‘I trample’

‘I cook’

‘I dress’

‘I break’

‘I count’

  1. How does the behaviour of the nasal prefix differ according to the type of obstruent it precedes? (2 marks)

The occurs at the end of the syllables.

Takes place whenever there is a voice obstruent in the syllable that follows.

  1. What are the names of the two phonological processes at work here? (1 mark)

The phonological processes are palletisations and friction

  1. Write phonological rules to capture the facts described in (i). You will receive up to one bonus mark for generalizing. (4 marks + 1 bonus mark)

The nasal comes before [m], [n], [N]

In the voiced obstruents, there is half lengthening of all the vowels

There is rounding is before the rounded vowel such as [S]