Free variation

Free variation in linguistics is the phenomenon of two (or more) sounds or forms appearing in the same environment without a change in meaning and without being considered incorrect by native speakers. Examples from English include:
*glottalization of voiceless stops in word-final position: for example, the word "stop" may be pronounced with a plain unaspirated IPA| [p] , IPA| [stɑp] , or with a glottalized IPA| [pˀ] , IPA| [stɑpˀ]
*the word "economics" may be pronounced with IPA|/i/ or IPA|/ɛ/ in the first syllable; although individual speakers may prefer one or the other, and although one may be more common in some dialects than others, both forms are encountered within a single dialect and sometimes even within a single idiolect
*the comparative of many disyllabic adjectives can be formed either with the word "more" or with the suffix "-er", for example "more stupid" or "stupider".

When phonemes are in free variation, speakers are sometimes strongly aware of the fact, and will note, for example, that "tomato" is pronounced differently in British and American English, or that "either" has two pronunciations which are fairly randomly distributed. However, only a very small proportion of English words show such variations. In the case of allophones, however, free variation is exceedingly common, and, along with differing intonation patterns, is the most important single feature in the characterising of regional accents.

ee also

* Allomorph
* Allophone
* Complementary distribution
* Contrastive distribution
* Phoneme
* Sociolinguistics
* Variable rules analysis


*cite book | first= Yallop Collin, Fletcher Janet| last=Clark John |year=2007 | title=Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology | chapter= | editor= | others= | pages=(pp)110, 116-118 | location=Oxford | publisher=Blackwell | id= | url= | authorlink=

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