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Phonology

One of the central components of a language’s grammar is its phonology. The phonology of a language is a highly structured, intricate linguistic system that governs pronunciation. It interfaces most directly with the lexicon and word-formation processes. The phonological component of grammar is responsible for regulating (a) the speech sounds that can and cannot occur in a particular language (i.e., the phonetic inventory); (b) the function of sounds in distinguishing the meaning of words (i.e., the phonemic inventory); (c) the distribution of sounds, sound sequences, and stress within words (i.e., phonotactics); and (d) the behavior of sounds in different phonetic contexts (i.e., phonological processes). This entry highlights some basic accounts of these facts as they derive from contemporary generative theories of phonology.

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