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Rhythm is functioning as a frame work of speech organization and is very effective means of expressiveness. Rhythm is a difficult thing to teach/ learn. ER is the stumbling block for Russians. Faulty rhythm (intonation) make your speech poor, unnatural, highly intelligible.


The Phoneme conceptions in our country and abroad





to exaggerate

underestimate (over)


The conceptions of phoneme put forward at various times in our country and abroad are really too numerous and various. Many of them have common features which provide a basis for classifying this conceptions into certain groups according to which aspect of the phoneme is denied, ignored or underestimated.

Most linguists consider the phoneme to be one of the basic language units. But not all of them have described it in the same way. Some of them define the phoneme in purely “psychological” terms. Others prefer physically grounded definitions. Some scholars take into consideration only the abstractional aspect of the phoneme. Others stick to its material aspect. This has divided the various schools of phonology.


1) “The mentalistic (psychological) view” regards the phoneme as an ideal mental image or a target at which the speaker aims. It is characterized by the denial of the material aspect and the exaggeration of the abstractionally generalized aspect of the phoneme.

This view was originated by the founder of the phonetic theory – Иван Александрович Бодуэн де Куртене. According to his conception, phonemes don’t exist objectively. To his understanding, they only exist in the mind of the speaker and actually pronounced speech sounds are just imperfect realizations of ideal psychical images.

So the phoneme is defined as “психологический эквивалент звука”.

His conception has a clearest psychological colouring. Thus, “a phoneme doesn’t exist objectively, it exists in the mind of the speaker as a complex perception of articulatory movements and muscular sensations. He views phonemes as fictitious units. Just like an invention of scientists and nothing else.

It’s an idealistic conception, since it treats phoneme as a mental units, existing in the mind but not in the reality.

2) Anyway, his theory was developed by Щерба, his decipal. He was under his influence and at first shared his conception. But later (middle 30th) he gave a truly materialistic conception.

Thus, he was the first to define the phoneme as a real independent distinctive unit which manifests itself in the form of phonetic variants – that is allophones.

3) But Professor Васильев who was an admirer of Щерба's conception developed his theory and finally presented a detailed definition. He states that “a phoneme is a dialectical unity of three aspects. The phoneme serves to perform the following functions: constitutive, distinctive and recognitive”. He writes that the phoneme is material, real and objective because it really exists in the material form of speech sounds – allophones. It is an objective reality existing independently from our will or intention. It is an abstraction because we make it abstract from concrete realizations. It functions to make one word or its grammatical form distinct from the other. It constitutes words and helps to recognize them.

4) The, so-called, “functional view” regards the phoneme as the minimal sound unit by which meanings may be differentiated without much regard to actually pronounced speech sounds, but mining differentiation should be a defining characteristic of phonemes. Thus, the absence of palatalization in [€] and palatalization in [L] don’t differentiate meanings.

Лet – let (phonetic mistake; doesn’t change a meaning)

Therefore dark and L cannot be assigned to different phonemes, because both form allophones of the phoneme [L]. If we turn to the Russian language, the same articulatory features of the Russian Л and ЛЬ do differentiate meaning, thus they must be assigned to different phonemes in Russian.

Пыл – пыль

Мол – моль

Лог – лёг

Угол – уголь

According to this conception the phoneme is not a family of sounds because in every sound only a certain number of the articulatory features are involved into differentiation of meaning. So this function approach takes non-distinctive features from the phonemes, thus divorcing the phoneme from actually pronounced speech sounds. This view is actually shared by many linguists: Bloomfield and Jasperson.


5) “The abstractional view of the phoneme” have originated by Фердинанд де Соссюр. They denied the objective reality of the phoneme and defined the phoneme as something totally abstractional. Mr. Twaddle, an American phonetician, declares a phoneme “as an abstractional, fictitious unit, a scientific fiction”. But as a matter of fact, these are only declarations, because he offers his own definition of the phoneme which is only terminologically new. (He introduces the word “microphoneme” which is equivalent to minimal distinctive feature. And “macrophoneme” which is actually equivalent to phoneme. To his understanding, macrophoneme is a sum total of microphonemes which is equivalent to Bloomfield definition of the phoneme as a branch or a bundle of distinctive features.


These theories can be qualified as idealistic, existing in the mind, but not in the reality.


6) “The physical view of the phoneme” was originated by Daniel Jones, the head of the London phonological school. He defined a phoneme as a “family” of related sounds. According to Daniel Jones “a phoneme is a family of sounds in a given language, which are related in character and are used in such a way, that no member of the “family” ever occurs in a word in the same phonetic context that any other” He regards the phoneme as a mechanical total sum of it allophones, but he exaggerated in fact the material aspect of the phoneme and underestimated it’s functional and abstractional aspects. This approach seems to be vulgarly materialistic.


To sum it up, we may say, that the materialistic conception of the phoneme, first put forward by Щерба and later developed by профессор Васильев may be regarded as the most suitable for the purpose of teaching.


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