Even before the beginning of the XIX century, no one knew what a phoneme was. After all, it was not isolated from the stream of human sounds, as a separate linguistic element. It was in the second half of the XIX century that the doctrine of phonemes arose. Its founder was I. A. Baudouin de Courtenay – Russian and Polish linguist. In the twentieth century, the phonetic structure of the language was at the center of scientific research of many linguists.
So, what is a phoneme? A phoneme is the smallest sound unit that has the ability to distinguish between words and their forms. In Russian there are 43 (St. Petersburg Phonological School) or 39 (Moscow Phonological School) phonemes.
Separation of phonemes into vowels and consonants is the biggest opposition in the sound system of language. The designation of phonemes on the letter – phonetic transcription – is enclosed in square brackets (). In itself, none of the phonemes is meaningful (neither lexical nor grammatical), but it can influence the change of these meanings of words. For example:
If we replace one phoneme with another, we get an entirely new word ([p] pointing to [m] point); if we replace the order of phonemes’ pronunciation in the general flow, we also get another meaning of the word ([rhyme] – [firm]); if you remove from the word at least one phoneme, the word will become different (mo [p] yes – mod).
Phonetics studies phonetics (from the Greek phonetikos – “sound”) – a section of linguistics that explores the sound composition of the language and the various sound changes that occur in the flow of speech.