Position, Phonological

Position, Phonological


the conditions in which phonemes are realized in speech. These conditions include the phoneme’s immediate phonetic environment (sound combinations), its place within a word (beginning or end of a word, within a morpheme or at a morpheme boundary), and its position relative to the stress (stressed or unstressed syllable).

If a phoneme remains distinct from all other phonemes, the position is termed strong; otherwise the position is said to be weak. In strong position, the phoneme is represented by a form known as the main variant of the phoneme. In weak position, the phoneme undergoes quantitative and/or qualitative modifications, resulting in a neutralization of the differences between two or more phonemes and their merging in a single variant. In Russian, for example, the phonemes /d/ and /t/ merge at the end of a word and before a pause into the variant [t], since the position is a weak one for the opposition of voiceless and voiced consonants. Modifications of the main variant of the phoneme that do not violate phonemic distinguishability are called phonemic variants. For example, in the word siad’ (“sit!”), the vowel is not a frontal [ä] sound, which is a phonemic variant of the phoneme /a/ between soft consonants; in sad (“garden”) the same phoneme is realized by a back vowel sound.

The concept of position is also used in analysis on other linguistic levels.


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