Alternations are also widely spread on the synchronic level in the present-day English and are known as contextual. In connection with contextual sound alternations there arises a problem of phonemic identification of alternated sounds. The study of the relationship between phonemes and morphemes is called morphophonemics. The interrelation of phonology and morphology is also known as morphophonology оr mоrрhоnоlogy which is actually the phonology of morphemes. Morphonology studies the way in which sounds can alternate in different realizations of one and the same morpheme.
We are interested in the sound in its weak position. Scholars of
different trends are not unanimous in solving the problem.
The so-called morphological (Moscow phonological) school supports
the theory of neutralization of phonemes. The concept of
neutralization derives originally from the Prague School of
phonology. Neutralization occurs when two or more closely related
sounds, which are in contrast with each other in most positions,
are found to be non-contrastive in certain other positions. That
means that there are environment where the two sounds do not
contrast with each other, even though they normally do. When this
happens, the opposition between the two sounds is said to be
neutralized. The loss of one or more distinctive feature(s) of a
phoneme in the weak position is called phonemic neutralization.
The Moscow philologists claim that interchange of sounds manifests
close connection between phonetics and morphology. Alternations are
observed in one and the same morpheme and actualize the phonemic
structure of the morpheme. Thus, phonemic content of the
morpheme/is constant. It should be noted here that alternations of
morphemes cannot be mistaken for the oppositions of minimal pairs
in different stems of words. Lets us compare some examples: postman
[ə] < [æ], sixpence [ə] < [e]. Thus, one and the same sound
may belong to different phonemes
The supporters of the morphological trend define the phoneme as
follows «Это функциональная единица, представленная рядом
позиционно чередующихся звуков» (М.В. Панов). The notion of
«фонетический ряд», suggested by R.I. Avanesov, demonstrates
positionally determined realizations of the phoneme. Positionally
alternating sounds are grouped into one phoneme whether they are
similar or have common features (that is common allophones) with
The Russian preposition с + noun may have the following
realizations: с Колей — [c], с Тимошей — [c'], с Галей — [з], с
Димой — [з'], с Шypoй — [ш]. с Женей — [ж], с Щукарём — [ш'].
In the morphological conception the alternations of the phonemes
are not analyzed apart from the morpheme, as form and content make
dialectical unity. The phonetic system is not isolated from the
grammatical and lexical structure of the language, and the unity
between the form and the content cannot be destroyed.
Yet as an answer to the problem is not entirely satisfactory since
ordinary speakers are in no doubt that the sound which occurs in a
word like гриб is [п] not [б], and in English word speak [ph] is
nothing but [p]. The perception of the listeners makes us find the
morphological conception too discrepant and confiding.
The so-called Leningrad (Petersburg) school asserts that the
phoneme is independent of the morpheme. The supporters of this
conception claim that the phoneme cannot lose any of its
distinctive features. In the line of words of the same root
morpheme (гриб - грибы) the sound [п] is an allophone of the
phoneme /п/ and the sound [б] manifests the phoneme /б/.
Consequently, the consonants  and [п] do not lose any their
distinctive features and represent different phonemes. It seems
that according to this point of view the unity between the form and
the content is destroyed, thus phonology is isolated from
According to N.S. Trubetzkoy, an archiphoneme is defined as a
combination of distinctive features common to two phonemes. It
consists of the shared features of two or more closely related
phonemes but excludes the feature which distinguishes them. For
example: archiphoneme [П] consists of the features: bilabial,
plosive, but excludes voicing which separates them.
One of the disadvantages in extending the notion of an archiphoneme
is that the Prague School phonologists limited neutralization to
closely related phonemes. A neutralization can be said to occur
only if there is uncertainty about the identity of the sound in the
position of neutralization. Before two phonemes can be neutralized,
they must have common qualities which do not occur in other
phonemes. Thus [p], [b] can neutralize because they are the only
labial plosives in the language, they share these two features, but
no other sounds share them. However, [n] and [ŋ] cannot neutralize,
so any neutralization of nasals must involve all the three of them
- [n], [ŋ], [m].
Contextual alternations in English