Linguistics: An Introduction

By William B. McGregor



2.3 — Sample layout of a phonological problem

On pp. 48–49 of the text a Gooniyandi problem is discussed, illustrating the reasoning processes involved in solving the problem. Here we give a sample of how to lay out your answers to questions in phonology in your tests or exams.

Question 1

Based on the following Gooniyandi data, are [d] and [ɖ] distinct phonemes or allophones of a single phoneme? Justify your claim.

[ɟʊdu] 'straight'   [laɾgaɖi] 'boab tree'
[ŋaɭʊdu] 'three'   [lambaɖi] 'little'
[waɖa] 'star'   [bɪɖi] 'thigh'
[lambadi] 'father in law'   [mɑːdi] 'cold'
[ɟʊɖu] 'dust'   [t̪aɻɪdi] 'heavy'
[bɪdi] 'they'   [lawɑdi] 'shoulder'

Model answer

The phones [d] and [ɖ] represent two different phonemes in Gooniyandi, /d/ and /ɖ/.

First, the two phones are suspicious pairs: both are made with the tip of the tongue in roughly the same region: the alveolar ridge for [d], and just behind it, in the pre-palatal region, for [ɖ]. They are therefore sufficiently similar phonetically to be possible allophones.

Second, there are minimal pairs in the list provided that show that [d] and [ɖ] do actually occur contrastively in the same phonetic environments. The minimal pairs are:

[ɟʊdu] 'straight'   [ɟʊɖu] 'dust'
[lambadi] 'father in law'   [lambaɖi] 'little'; and
[bɪdi] 'they'   [bɪɖi] 'thigh'

This demonstrates that the two segments are phonemically distinct.

Updated: Feb. 11, 2009