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27. The Organization of Features

Christian Uffmann

Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Phonology

Key-Topics acoustic, formal grammars

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184236.2011.00029.x


Early generative theory assumed that segments were specified by a bundle of distinctive features, but that there was no intrinsic order to these features, which were unordered lists. This position was not held for any principled reasons; it was born out of necessity, made explicit in The sound pattern of English(SPE ; Chomsky and Halle 1968 ). In their discussion of distinctive features in chapter 7 , Chomsky and Halle group them into sets of articulatorily related features but go on to state that This subdivision of features is made primarily for purposes of exposition and has little theoretical basis at present. It seems likely, however, that ultimately the features themselves will be seen to be organized in a hierarchical structure which may resemble the structure that we have imposed on them for purely expository reasons. ( Chomsky and Halle 1968 : 300) It was the advent of Autosegmental Phonology ( Goldsmith 1976, 1990 ; see also chapter 14 : autosegments ) that allowed the imposition of a hierarchical order on distinctive features by grouping features into sets that are characterized by similar articulatory properties and by common participation in phonological processes. These new models of segment-internal feature organization became known as feature geometries. This chapter will outline the main models of feature geometry that emerged from the mid-1980s onwards and ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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