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The so-called hot-phonon effect that accompanies the rapid relaxation processes in the photoinjected plasma in semiconductors is analyzed, resorting to a nonlinear quantum kinetic theory based on a nonequilibrium ensemble formalism. We concentrate the study on the process of generation and decay of the nonequilibrium longitudinal optical phonon population per mode. Particular attention is paid to the question of the influence of the conditions of excitation imposed on the system, which determine the occurrence of different regimes of relaxation by means of carrier–phonon interactions. Comparison of the relaxation dynamics in the case of several semiconductors with different polar strengths is done. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.