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Introduction To Phonological Units

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Prior to starting to read this material, you must have been told that you need adequate knowledge of the segments of English.

Personally, I expect you to know them because this material will not explicate on place and manner of articulation or voicing (as regards consonants); or on tongue height, tongue horizontal position, duration and tenseness, or shape pf the lips (as regards vowels).

If you do not understand the aforementioned, it would be appreciated if you steered clear of this material for now. Otherwise, I daresay, you are likely preparing your mind for confusion. Also indicted in this palaver are those who cannot transcribe to save their own lives even at gunpoint. If the IPA symbols infuriate you, the exit window is still wide open. You will surely encounter the symbols in this material; thus, it is expected that you prepare your mind.

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Furthermore, you would do yourself a lot of good if you tweaked your perspective on this phonology thing. You may have studied (or have been studying) the segmentals as a semester course. That is fine. But the whole segmental thing has been relegated to a small chunk in this course, a perfect parallelism of course outlines of subsequent courses on Phonology.

In this material, you will be introduced to three other phonological units asides the phoneme.

Phonological units are components of spoken language and they are hierarchical: one lower/smaller unit combines with a similar unit to form a higher one. The four phonological units which will be discussed in this material are, in their hierarchical order: the phoneme, the syllable, the foot and the tone group. Diagrammatically, they can be represented as:

These units will form, respectively, the first focal points in this course, and they will be discussed in detail.

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Finally, it behoves you to know that when you move up from the Segmentals to the Suprasegmentals and other advanced concepts in Phonology, it is synonymous to moving from dealing with one step to dealing with ten steps. You can say that it is a massive jump from step one to step ten, if you will.

Let this thought guide you as you peruse this material, not to cause unnecessary panic or fear in you but to motivate you to buckle down and keep at it, no matter what.

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