Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- In Quebec, an allophone is a person whose mother tongue is a language other than French or English. See Allophone (Quebec).
In phonetics, an allophone is one of several similar phones that belong to the same phoneme. A phone is a sound that has a definite shape as a sound wave, while a phoneme is a basic sound that can distinguish words (i.e. changing one phoneme in a word can produce another word); speakers of a particular language perceive a phoneme as a single distinctive sound in that language. Thus an allophone is a phone considered as a member of one phoneme.
Each allophone is used in a specific phonetic context. Not all phonemes have significantly different allophones, but there are always minor differences in articulation from one piece of speech to the next.
For example, p as in pin and p as in spin are allophones for the phoneme p in the English language because they occur in complementary distribution. English speakers generally treat these as the same sound, but they are different. The latter is unaspirated: it sounds a little more like the b of English. This may be noticed by English speakers if they hear the unaspired p without the preceding s. The s is the usual context for the unaspirated allophone.
Similarly, English-speaking people may become aware of the difference between two allophones of the phoneme t when they consider the pronunciations of the following phrases:
- night rate
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