When I look at some grammar rules such as:

  • With (He, she and it) we add (es) to verbs ending with (sh, o, ch and ss) in present simple, and so on.

I wonder if there is a link between grammar and phonetics; in other words does phonetics affect shaping grammar rules?

Note: I'm not a native English speaker, and I study English at college as my specialization.

Use as many examples as you can! Thank you!

  • Rules are designed to be broken. He radios ahead, for example. – FumbleFingers Feb 29 '16 at 21:12
  • Well, obviously the way a word sounds determines what it means. Written language is incidental to the overall process. As to how the peculiar habit of adding an "es" sound to verbs for the third person singular developed, that's a matter for the etymologists who dig around in the detritus of old, dead languages. – Hot Licks Feb 29 '16 at 21:12

Yes, it does. "Grammar" is a pretty vague term though; in fact, phonology (the study of the sound systems of languages) is apparently considered part of its scope. Aside from that, the section of grammar that is most obviously connected to phonetics is "morphology," which deals with the grammatical structure within single words. As you've noticed, the suffix /z/, which is used to mark the plural of nouns, the present-tense singular of verbs, and the genitive of nouns or noun phrases, regularly takes different forms depending on the preceding sound. The past tense suffix /d/ is regularly devoiced to [t] after a voiceless consonant, and irregularly in other contexts for some words such as "dreamt" and "burnt." The suffixes "-er" and "-est" tend to be used to form the comparative of adjectives with fewer syllables, while the separate words "more" and "most" tend to be used with adjectives that have more syllables.

Spelling the plural of words with "o" as "oes" doesn't have anything to do with phonetics, though. It's purely a written convention.


There is a very close relationship between phonology and word structure; however if by the term phonetics you mean specifically subphonemic phonetic detail, then no. Arguably, the structure of words (whose study is morphology) is not relevant to subphonemic phonetics. (There are probably some exceptions to this.)

It may be that syntax, the structure of phrases, is relevant to subphonemic phonetics, however. I don't have any examples from English for you, but several interesting interactions in Korean are discussed in Lexicon and Syntax in Korean Phonology.

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