21. Phonotactics III (with rhyming dictionary)

     Note: Make sure that you have the Lucida Sans Unicode font installed in your computer so that the IPA symbols will display correctly.

      To do the chapter 4 exercises of the Ladefoged text, we need to find words with certain endings or rhymes, i.e. nucleus + coda. A regular dictionary is arranged alphabetically, according to the order of letters starting from the beginning of the word. A rhyming dictionary matches the last part of a word to find rhyming words. For two words to rhyme, they should share the same vowel in their final stressed syllable, and all sounds after this vowel must be the same as well. A rhyming dictionary can make it easier for us to find words ending in certain specified sounds.

      Here we will throw in a few relevant and hopefully interesting literary notions and terms: single syllable rhymes like mat and pat are called masculine rhyme; rhymes of a stressed plus unstressed syllable, e.g. middle and riddle, are called feminine rhyme; three-syllable or trisyllabic rhyme is called triple rhyme, e.g. practical and tactical (this kind of rhyme is usually used for comic effect); and a rhyme in which at least one of the rhymes extends over more than one word is called mosaic rhyme, e.g. pneumonia and phone ya. We are mainly interested in syllable structure and thus masculine rhyme; but these literary terms for types of rhyme are useful ones to know.

      Below follows a link to a free downloadable rhyming dictionary with over 100,000 words (946K) from a company called AnalogX (AnalogX develops and makes available lots of interesting audio-related freeware – check their other offerings), called simply Rhyme:


     This dictionary is mainly intended for use by songwriters and poets, but you will find that it is a useful tool in your study of phonetics and phonology as well. You need to first enter a word to rhyme, then the number of phonemes and syllables you want matched. You must use regular English spelling rather than IPA to input the sounds, but you need only provide one possible spelling and the dictionary will match words with various spellings but the same sound. For example, if you input ate you will get words spelled with ait, like gait and bait in addition to words like rate. For this example, choose 'Reverse - Rhyme from right to left', '2' phonemes, '1' syllable. This way you will also get word matches with more than one syllable; if you choose 'Reverse - Matching syllables', you will get only one-syllable word matches. Be sure to input a real existing word rather than just a final rhyme; for example, you will find no matches for ait, but there will be lots for gait. This is a minor drawback since you have to know an existing word to find the matches and cannot just input a bare rhyme, but with a little resourcefulness it is largely overcomeable. To find
matches for [ɔɪn] try inputting coin. You can type in little for [ɪɾl̩] rhymes.

     "Rhyme" can also find words that match the beginning sounds of your chosen word, much like you could do with a conventional dictionary. For example, if you input play and choose to match '3' phonemes and '1' syllable, and click on 'Forward - Rhyme from left to right', you will get matches such as place, placate, plague, plane and plate. You will need to play around with "Rhyme" a bit to find out how to get it to give you the output you want. Remember to have fun while doing this!

     If you'd rather not install new software, you can use one or more of these convenient and easy-to-use online rhyme dictionaries:




   Here is a link to a page with some very useful online word pattern matching functions, originally meant as tools for playing the crossword board game Scrabble. With 'Pattern match', you can find words similar to the one that you input by using a period '.' for a letter or letters you wish to be replaced, e.g. ca. will yield words such as cab, cad, cam, cat, cap. .lea. will call up words such as bleak, blear, bleat, clear, cleat, fleas, plead, pleas, together with longer words like pleasure and released. Click on 'HELP' for other search methods, and to learn a bit about how PERL regular expressions work. 'Words in letters' is an anagram function which will give you a list of words spelled with the same letters (or some of them) in different orders. outside, for example, will give results such as tedious, suited, studio, ousted, duties, tides, and edits. Both of these pattern search functions can show you the common phonotactic patterns of English words for given letters/sounds. Note that these lists will also include many infrequently used words. Click on the link for more useful puzzle solving tools from Wordplays.com.


     The next page has some practice exercises for you to try your new phonotactic tools out on.

Next: Phonotactics IV: Practice Exercises (with PC desktop dictionary)

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