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Functionalload

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Functionalload­Wikipedia,thefreeencyclopedia

Inlinguisticsandespeciallyphonology,functionalload(alsoreferredtoasphonemicload)refersto

theimportanceofcertainfeaturesinmakingdistinctionsinalanguage.Inotherwords,ahighfunctional

loadwillmakeithardtoguesstheidentityofaphonemeincontextwhenthephonemehasnotbeen

heard.

Contents

  1 Overview   2 Examples 2.1 English 2.2 Mandarin
 

1 Overview

  1 Overview   2 Examples 2.1 English 2.2 Mandarin
 

2 Examples

  1 Overview   2 Examples 2.1 English 2.2 Mandarin

2.1 English

  1 Overview   2 Examples 2.1 English 2.2 Mandarin

2.2 Mandarin

  1 Overview   2 Examples 2.1 English 2.2 Mandarin

3 References

Overview

Theterm"functionalload"goesbacktothedaysofthePragueSchool;referencestoitcanbefoundin

theworkofVilemMathesiusin1929.ItsmostvocaladvocatewasAndréMartinet,ahistoricallinguist

whoclaimeditwasafactorinthelikelihoodofaphonologicalmerger. [1]

Thefirstsuggestedmeasurementforfunctionalloadwasthenumberofminimalpairs,butthisdoesnot takeintoaccountwordfrequencyandisdifficulttogeneralizebeyondbinaryphonemicoppositions. CharlesHockettproposedaninformationtheoreticdefinitionin1955, [2] whichhassincebeen generalized. [3] Now,givenalargetextcorpus,onecancomputethefunctionalloadofanyphonological contrastincludingdistinctivefeatures,suprasegmentals,anddistinctionsbetweengroupsofphonemes. Forinstance,thefunctionalloadoftonesinStandardChineseisashighasthatofvowelsi.e.the informationlostwhenalltonessoundalikeisasmuchasthatlostwhenallvowelssoundalike. [4]

Martinetpredictedthatperceptuallysimilarpairsofphonemeswithlowfunctionalloadwouldmerge. Thishasnotbeenprovedempirically;indeed,allempiricaltestshavecomeoutagainstite.g./n/merged

with/l/inCantoneseinword­initialpositioninthelate20thcenturydespitethefactthatofall

consonantsinbinaryoppositionto/n/,onlythe/n/­/m/oppositionhadahigherfunctionalloadthanthe /n/­/l/opposition. [3]

Examples

English

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Functionalload­Wikipedia,thefreeencyclopedia

Englishvowels,forexample,haveaveryhighfunctionalload.Thereareinnumerablesetsofwords

distinguishedjustbytheirvowels,suchaspin,pen,pan,pun,pain,pine.Voicingissimilar,ascanbe

seeninpat­bad,sue­zoo.Speakerswhodonotcontrolthesedifferencesmakeitverydifficultfor

otherstounderstandthem.

However,althoughvoicingisgenerallyimportantinEnglish,thevoicingdifferencebetweenthetwo

fricativeswrittenth,/θ,ð/,hasaverylowfunctionalload:itisdifficulttofindmeaningfuldistinctions

dependentsolelyonthisdifference.Oneofthefewexamplesisthighvs.thyalthoughthetwocanbe

distinguishedfromcontextalone.Similaristhedifferenceof/dʒ/(writtenj,ge,etc.)versus/ʒ/

(resultingfrom/z+j/,orthej,ge,etc.insomerecentFrenchloanwords),asinvirginvs.version.

Thedifferencebetweenthetwongsounds,[ŋ,ŋɡ],foundinsingerandfinger,issounimportantthatit

makesnopracticaldifferenceifonemixesthemup,andsomedialectspronouncethesoundsthesamein

bothwords.Thefunctionalloadisnearlyzero—­notsurprisingsincethephoneme/ŋ/originatedasa

coalescenceof[ŋɡ]whenword­final.

AnongoingexamplewouldbethemergeroftheAIRandEARvowelsinNewZealandEnglish.The

phoneticsimilaritybetweenwordslikehereandharedoesnotseemtohamperoralcommunicationin

anymajorwayaslongasthecontextisprovided.Therefore,thosevowelshavelowfunctionalloadin

NewZealandEnglishdespitetheirhighfrequencyofoccurrencesinthatdialect.

Mandarin

AnotherexampleisthefunctionalloadoftoneinMandarinChinese,whichisasnearlyashighasthatof

theirvowels.ThismeansthatthelossofinformationwhenalltonessoundalikeinMandarinis

approximatelyequaltothatwhenallvowelssoundalikeinthelanguage.Bycontrast,inmanyBantu

languages,thetoneshavealowfunctionalload,andinSwahilitonesdisappearedaltogether.

References

1.Économiedeschangementsphonétiques:Traitédephonologiediachronique.ParANDRÉMARTINET.

(Bibliothecaromanica,Seriesprima:Manualiaetcornrnentationes,No.10.)Pp.396.Berne:editionsA.

FranckeS.A.,1955

2.Amanualofphonology.ByCHARLESF.HOCKETT(InternationaljournalofAmericanlinguistics,Vol.

21,No.4,Part1October1955=IndianaUniversitypublicationsinanthropologyandlinguistics,Memoir11

ofIJAL.)Pp.v,246.Baltimore:WaverlyPress(forIndianaUniversity,undertheauspicesof[the]Linguistic

SocietyofAmerica[andthe]AmericanAnthropologicalAssociation),1955.

thetheoryoflinguisticchange.IncommemorationofEugenioCoseriu(1921­2002),OleNedergaardThomsen

(editor),Amsterdam&Philadelphia:Benjamins.

102.

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