What is this thing called Phonology? 

Phonology is...

  • A branch of linguistics          
  • Study of the sound structure of languages
  • How speech sounds are used to convey meaning.

Phonemes V. Allophones

Phonemes are the meaningfully different sound units in a certain language (the smallest units of sound). For example, 'pat' and 'bat' differ in their first phoneme.

Allophones are the various ways in which the phonemes can be realized as actual phonetic speech sounds, and can give rise to different pronunciations of the same word.

Phonology looks at many different things...

  • Why do related forms differ?  Sane—Sanity.  Electric—Electricity/ Atom—Atomic
    • Phonology finds the systematic ways in which the forms differ and explains them  
  • What is stored in the mind?
    • Phonology studies abstract mental entities, such as structures and processes.  This contrasts with phonetics, which deals with the actual production and acoustics of the sounds of language.
  • What sounds go together?
    • Looks at what sounds/sound combinations are accepted and why.
  • How are sounds organized into syllables?
    • With the use of phonological trees syllables are broken up more easily.  Syllables made up of Rime and Onset.  Rime made up of Nucleus and Coda.
  • What are the differences between languages?
    • For example, different languages can used different phonemes, or different syllable structures (what sounds can go together to make sequences or words) and phonology identifies these differences. 

One Last thing...    

It's Important to know the different between phonetics and phonology as they have very different meanings.  Here is a video (extremely cheesy, we know) that helps to lay out those differences. 

Also refer Phonetics to get a better idea of the differences and similarities between these two related areas of linguistics.