Chemical phonology: Relating phonemes and elements of the chemistry periodic table

Research Article

Chemical phonology: Relating phonemes and elements of the chemistry periodic table

DOI: 10.2989/16073614.2022.2127411
Author(s): Humphrey M. Kapau University of the Western Cape, South Africa , Felix Banda University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Abstract

Framed in the social constructivist and funds of knowledge framework, the article relates descriptions of phonemes in linguistics and elements of the periodic table in chemistry to show how the concept of a phoneme can be explained in a multidisciplinary manner to further the understanding of phoneme characteristics. The article argues that the concept of a phoneme can be understood to be similar to an element (with atoms as phonologically distinctive features), while an allophone is like an isotope. While some phonemes are like monatomic and diatomic molecules, others are like polyatomic molecules. In the formation of syllables, sounds combine with other sounds in a manner that can be imagined to be similar to chemical reactions in chemistry. The study comes up with the idea of Humphrey Kapau Spaces (HK Spaces) to account for the elasticity and endless manipulation of language and the possible adoption of new linguistic and phonetic features such as new allophones and phonemes and new words and idioms. Lastly, the article introduces the chemical phonology model (CPM), which draws from linguistics and chemistry for its explanatory power to re-imagine phonemes and the teaching and learning of aspects of phonology, and for enriched and more powerful cumulative discipline-crossing knowledge.

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