Dynamic  Phonology

  * Introduction

  * The Phonetic Evidence

  * Contributions of Dynamic Phonology 

  * The Structure of Dynamic Phonetics

  * Reference


Dynamic model is constructed by Mermelstein(1973). The production of vowel-consonant-vowel utterances is considered physiologically based and is found upon measurements with relation to jaw, hyoid, tongue blade, lips, velum, and maxilla and pharyngeal wall.

Mermelstein's model is a logical step in a series of phonetic developments over the preceding decades, The main contribution of this model is to be found in its mathematical predictability. Also, another important aspect is the process of hierarchical application of articulatory movements. 

Dynamic phonology is the natural consequence of the combination of the latest development in physiological and acoustic phonetics and the traditional structural/functional theories of linguistics. In phonetics, the old  segmental approach has long since given way to dynamic phonetics, leaving linguists in the position of either ignoring the dynamic evidence and continuing with segmental and semisegmental phonology or of adopting the dynamic evidence within their overall theories of language structure and function.

 Phonologists generally have recognized that speech sound is not segmental, that the process of segmentation is merely a method of organization without any basis in the acoustic or the physiological data justification in this process does call into question the role of segmentation in theory, the use of segmentation in practice has been necessary in the past because of a lack of any evidence of natural relationships that obtain between phonetic characteristics that could be used in the more abstract levels of the structure.


The Phonetic Evidence

 Both the evidence from the spectrogram and the evidence from cineradiogram give us precisely measurable, concrete items from which we can determine features and from which we can abstract oppositions. Moreover, as these instrumental readings occur within real time, they give us the means of dynamically measuring the actual occurrences of speech, a point central to the development of a dynamic phonology. 

 Moreover, further use of the segment in phonology is still necessary unless such evidence is provided from the fields of phonetics. Again, if such evidence is found, we are obligated by the inner approach and by the process of abstraction to abstract any relationships that obtain between the various characteristics of the phonetic data which can be used for the organization of phonetically and phonologically pertinent oppositions.


The Structure of Dynamic Phonetics

In the syllable division, supposed variants can also be found to be the result of coarticulation of nonsegmental prosodic constraints. In Old High German, for example, there is, in segmental terminology, an alternation between the high back rounded vowel in wurm [wurm] “worm” and the high front rounded vowel in the plural form of the word wurmi [wyrmi] (as originally unmarked in the orthography).

As this variation is predictable from the nonoccurrence or occurrence of the high front vowel in the following syllable, the two phones [u] and [y] have traditional been taken to be allophones of the phoneme/u/. Once more, there is a discrepancy between two segments in the phonetic structure and one in the phonological.

 That analysis is the result of the segmental view that the two vowels are separated by a discrete consonantal segment. In the dynamic approach, the pertinent vocal feature characteristics are not separated, but occur in a flow from syllable to syllable (the vocalic pattern), a flow which is only constrained by consonantal obstruction and not interrupted by it . Thus in the dynamic analysis, vowel height and lip roundedness can be considered as the distinctive markers of opposition, and vowel frontness is free to act as a syllable prosody, able to extend its domain across syllable boundaries, just as aspiration is able to extend its domain across the syllable. As in the case of aspiration, only one high rounded vowel in the phonetic structure relates to one high rounded in the phonological, and depth (frontness) is simply a coarticulation prosodic feature associated with the syllabic vowel in the following syllable.

 With no discrepancies between the phonetic structure and the phonological structure, an interesting development can take place in the construction of a model of phonology. As all categories and all relationships of the phonological structure are directly abstracted from the categories and the relationships of the phonetic structure with no structural with no structural changes incurred in the process, therefore those categories and relationships from which the phonology structure is constructed and which indeed constructed the phonological structure itself form a proper subset of the phonetic structure by reason of identity.

The question now becomes one of attribution: By what characteristic are the categories and relationships of that subset of phonetics known as phonology to be identified? The answer is implicit in the very basis of structural/functional linguistics: By function. Those categories and relationships within the structure of dynamic phonetics which serve a contrastive function in the linguistic system of a language belong to that language's phonology, to that language's functional  phonetics. 


Contributions of Dynamic Phonology 

The successful development of dynamic phonetic model constitutes an important contribution not only to the fields of phonetics, but also to the surface structure of the phonology, for if such a phonetic model is produced, it must have some form of phonetically-justifiable organization between the characteristics from which we abstract the features in opposition. This phonetic organization would provide the observable set of relationships obtaining between the various phonetic characteristics needed for abstraction into the phonology. If such abstraction can be performed, we would no longer have to rely on segmentation for the organization of feature oppositions. Instead, we could organize the opposition in a dynamic manner consistent with the observable data, allowing ourselves a greater degree of correlation between the phonology and the phonetic data.

          One should see the rather strong influences of the Prague school, particularly the concepts and theories of Trubetzkoy; of the Copenhagen school of Hjelmslev, as well as the stratificational descendant typified by the works of Lamb and others; and perhaps most strikingly of the London school in the tradition of Firth. Indeed, while the incorporation of dynamic phonetics into phonology was initially carried out deliberately within Prague-school theory, the prosodic analysis of the London School came to be drawn upon more and more frequently and to the point that as its present level of development, dynamic phonology may in many ways be considered outgrowth of Firthian theory.

         With the basic observational evidence in dynamic phonetics and the theoretical foundations in traditional structural/functional linguistics, it represents no new theory, nor does it pretend to discover new phonetic evidence. Rather, this model of phonology offers the linguist a method of analyzing the sound structure of a language in keeping with the newest, most reliable findings of dynamic phonetics and within the traditional framework of linguistics- the framework within which the rest of the linguistic structure is analyzed. 



Toby D.Griffen.1985.Aspects of Dynamic Phonology. Benjamins North Amsterdam