LINGUIST List 29.2517

Wed Jun 13 2018

Software: Phono, software for historical phonology

Editor for this issue: Kenneth Steimel <>

Date: 12-Jun-2018
From: Lee Hartman <>
Subject: Phono, software for historical phonology
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Phono, 2018 version, is a free, Windows-based program for creating and testing models of regular historical sound change in natural languages.

Etymons for input, whether documented (e.g. Latin for Spanish) or reconstructed (e.g. Proto-Algonquian for Shawnee), are typed on the keyboard. Keyboard characters are encoded as arrays of binary feature values. Sound-change rules are applied in succession to the feature values. After each change, feature values are decoded and the results are displayed as a string of IPA phonetic symbols for each stage in the word's history.

Phono's unique rule notation consists of an ''if-clause''—or a hierarchy of if-clauses—and one or more ''then-clauses'', all expressed in terms of binary feature values. Phono's internal rule editor enables the user to compose rules of some complexity by clicking buttons and choosing options on pop-up menus.

The chronological order of rules can be manipulated; any rule can be temporarily disabled; and any rule can be marked as ''persistent''—that is, reapplying throughout the history whenever the rule's if-conditions become true.

In addition to the ''interactive'' mode (one word at a time), Phono can be run in a ''batch'' mode, processing dozens or hundreds of words in quick succession to compare computed reflexes with documented modern words, as a measure of the overall accuracy of the model.

The program is bundled with models for Spanish, Shawnee, and Pig Latin (children's ''secret'' language). The Spanish and Pig Latin models can be operated online. With the downloadable version, users can create and edit their own models.

The link is .

Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
                            Historical Linguistics

Page Updated: 13-Jun-2018