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Published by callura

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Published by: callura on Jan 03, 2011
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01/03/2011

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Chapter 5:
 Phonological structure: The Phoneme and its allophones. Segmental  specification: Distinctive Features in various phono-logical theories
5.10. The use of features for segmental specification and for thedescription of phonological processes
The features were not devised, construed and described just for the sake of enriching the conceptual inventory handled by phoneticians and phonologists. From thevery beginning they were meant to adequately describe the segmental units at the phonological level and to cast light on various phonological alternations or changes. Thedescription of a segment should include as many features as necessary to keep it apartfrom any other segment in the language. The overall number of features itself wasconsidered to be the minimal set needed to provide distinct descriptions for each andevery phoneme of the language (in other words, no two different segments should get thesame description). Segments were considered combinations (bundles) of features, eachfeature working as a bipolar axis along which an opposition could be achieved. Thus, if /
p
/ can be contrasted to /
b
/ along the feature [+/-
voiced 
], both labial plosives can becontrasted to another labial stop, /
m
/, along the feature [+/-
nasal 
]. The completespecification of a segment was only used to keep it apart from any other phoneme in thelanguage. Some features, it was noticed, could be, however, inferred from others. For instance if we know that a segment is [
+
vocalic
] and [-
consonantal 
] (a vowel, that is),features like [+
voiced 
] automatically result from the previous ones, since we know thatall vowels are voiced. In the case of English vowels we can also add [-
nasal 
] since thereare no nasal vowel phonemes in English, English vowels being only contextuallynasalized. Such features in the specification of a segment that can be inferred from theothers and need not be included in a minimal specification of the respective segment arecalled redundant features. A rule that helps us enrich the specification of a segment withits redundant features is called a
redundancy rule
.

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