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What is phonology all about?

While phonetics covers the areas of how individual speech sounds are produced, transferred and received, phonology concerns itself with how speech sounds are distributed, interacted and combined into larger linguistic units.

It is possible that two different languages may have the same inventory of speech sounds but it is unlikely that those speech sounds show the same features of distribution, interaction and combination in two languages. For example, both Japanese and English have the speech sounds t and s, and both languages allow them to be combined into ts. However, Japanese allows it to appear at the beginning of a word, e.g. tsunami whereas English doesn't. Due to this restriction, English speakers simply drop the beginning t sound when pronouncing this borrowed word. A similar example is pneumonia, which is borrowed from Greek: the starting p sound is dropped by native English speakers, as there is no such distribution of p followed by n in a word.


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