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FEATURE

SYSTEMS

Michael Andrew B. Arevalo


MA-ESL/GML11
LIST OF FEATURES
ACOUSTIC COVER
ARTICULATOR
ABSTRACT
Y
ACCURACY AND
PERCEPTUAL UNIVERSALITY
DISCRETENESS OF
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES
ACOUSTIC
Describe through measurable scales or
parameters such as intensity or frequency
of spectral components
Rarely systematized fully independently of
articulation and perception
Some analysts have nevertheless tried to
take account of acoustic properties in
drawing up sets of features.
ARTICULATOR
Y
Regarded articulation as the ultimate substance of speech
Feature systems that use articulatory terms includes:
Ladefogeds linguistic phonetic features (2006)
Chomsky and Halles phonetic features (1968)
Halle (1983) suggested that features should be taken to be
neural commands which activated certain articulators with
specific muscular gestures.
To represent the relationships among these articulatory features,
generative phonologists have developed a feature tree showing
both how features are related to articulators and how they are
hierarchically ordered. This model is explained in Halle (1992)
and a detailed account in Kenstowicz (1994).
ARTICULATORY FEATURE TREE
[ continuant]
[ strident]
[ lateral]

[ stiff vf]
[ slack vf]
[ spread gl] Glottal
[ constr gl] Laryngeal consonantal
sonorant
[ ATR] Tongue root
[ RTR]

[ nasal] Soft palate

[ round] Labial Supralaryngeal

[ anterior] Coronal Oral place


[ distributed]

[ high]
[ low] Dorsal
[ back]
PERCEPTUAL
It is noteworthy that most languages do have
terms to describe perceived qualities of sounds.
Some of these terms may be auditory descriptives
used also of nonspeech sounds, such as hiss or
buzz; others represent synesthetic impressions,
such as dull, heavy, or sharp.
Speech perception is focused on differences or
distinctions, not as ends in themselves, but in
order to discriminate utterances.
DISTINCTIVE
Jakobson (1939, 1949), drawing on earlier
phonological concepts of de Saussure and
Hjelmslev, pointed to the limited number of
differential qualities or distinctive features that
appeared to be available to languages.
Jakobson and Halle (1956) employed only 12
features, which were listed with articulatory
(generic or motor) correlates as well as acoustic
cues.
Each feature is nevertheless binary.
Distinctive
Feature
Distinguishes vowels and vowel-like sounds from nonvocalic sounds
Vocalic/nonvocalic
like stops and fricatives

Consonantal/ Distinguishes sounds with low energy and relatively substantial


nonconsontal obstruction in the vocal tract from nonconsonantal sounds
Refers to acoustic spectrum and distinguishes sounds with energy
concentrated in the central region of the spectrum such as velar
Compact/diffuse
consonants from those with a more diffuse spread of energy such as
labial and alveolar consonants

Tense/lax

Voiced/voiceless

Nasal/oral

Discontinuous/contin
uant
Distinctive
Feature
Distinguishes noisy sounds like sibilant [s] from more mellow
Strident/mellow
fricatives []

Refers to the higher rate of energy discharge in glottalized sounds and


Checked/unchecked
therefore distinguishes ejectives from pulmonic sounds

Refers to the acoustic spectrum and distinguishes sounds with more


energy in the lower frequency ranges (such as back vowels and labial
Grave/acute
and velar consonants) from those with greater concentration of energy
in the upper frequencies (alveolar consonants)

Refers to the lowering or weakening of upper frequencies created by


some kind of narrowed aperture: distinguishes lip-rounded sounds
Flat/plain from nonrounded, as well as other articulations with comparable
acoustic consequences, notably pharyngealized consonants from their
plain counterparts.

More or less the opposite of flat/plain and refers to the upward shift of
Sharp/plain
upper frequencies characteristic of palatalized consonants
p t k b d g f s v z h m n
Vocalic - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Consonantal + + + + + + + + + + - + + +
Compact - - + - - + - - - - o - - +
Tense + + + - - - - - - - o - - -
Voiced - - - + + + - - + + - + + +
Nasal - - - - - - - - - - - + + +
Discontinuous + + + + + + - - - - - - - -

Strident - - - - - - + + + + - - - -
Checked o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Grave + - + + - + + - + - o + - +
Flat o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Sharp o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
COVER
Jakobsonian concept of distinctive features revives a prospect already
entertained in Sanskrit phonetics, and certainly perpetuated by 2oth
century linguists such as Sapir (1952), namely that, within a particular
linguistic system, sounds may be classified by criteria that transcend
acoustic or articulatory properties.
Example:
/ l r w j / - the only English consonants that can form clusters with
preceding voiceless plosives and they show a common tendency to devoicing
in this environment.
Cover feature has a critical overtone and was originally intended to refer
to precisely those features which had no measurable phonetic correlate
but which covered a class of sounds (Sommerstein, 1977)
It is convenient to say that cover features provide label for combination of
other features.
ABSTRACT
Sapirs contention (1925) that there are criteria by which one can
determine the place of a sound in a system over and above its
natural classification on organic or acoustic grounds argues for a
certain abstraction in phonological description.
There may nevertheless be linguistic justification for abstraction of
the kind that is responsive to systemic criteria, such as patterns of
distribution and assimilation.
Example: the nouns of a language end in /p/ /t/ /m/ or /n/ and that their plurals
are signaled by these changes in the final consonant: p f, t s, m b, n d
Sapir himself explicitly defended the notion that sounds could be
felt by native speakers to be other than what they were
phonetically.
Example: English speakers feel [] to be a sequence of two consonants, [g].
ACCURACY AND
UNIVERSALITY
Descriptive accuracy requires that we recognize the
principled distinction among different kinds of
features.
Fudge (1967, 1973), particularly with respect to
acoustic, articulatory, and perceptual (auditory)
features, each of which represents a different
perspective on speech.
Some phonologists, in generative tradition, opposed
to this differentiation. In which their view, features
should not be of different kinds at different level.
ACCURACY AND
UNIVERSALITY
NATURAL CLASS : an important principle of
generative tradition
It is expected that the class of sounds that are
relevant in the description of particular
languages will be natural that they have a clear
phonetic foundation.
Example: /s/
sp spy, spear, spoon s sthenia,
sthenic
st sty, steer, stool sm smile,
smear
ACCURACY AND
UNIVERSALITY
SYSTEMATIC RESTRICTION : a group of sounds is
systematically excluded from following (e.g. /s/) at the
beginning of a syllable, namely voiced stops and fricatives.
Examples: /sb/ /sd/ /sg/ /sv/

Still these consonants are of natural class, given that


they can be defined as voiced obstruents.
ACCURACY AND
UNIVERSALITY
Another, consonants that require a vowel in the plural
suffix. For nouns, the plural suffix is /s/ or /z/ depending on
the voicing of the preceding segment:
bits, locks, cliffs, and moths all have /s/ following a
voiceless consonant
bids, logs, buns, and seas all have /z/ following a
voiced sound. e
But after a sibilant fricative or affricate, the plural suffix is /
z/ or /z/, as in:
masses, losses, buzzes, mazes, rashes, dishes, riches,
ditches, ridges, judges
The relevant consonants are again a natural class
(sibilants)
UNIVERSAL
FEATURE SYSTEM
The classic feature systems, such as Jakobson and Halles
(1956) and Chomsky and Halles (1968), have put
considerable emphasis on universal validity.
Chomsky and Halle (1968): The total set of features is
identical with the set of phonetic properties that can in
principle be controlled in speech; they represent the
phonetic capabilities of man and, we would assume, are
therefore the same for all languages.
The trend, at least in classical generative phonology, has
been to favor rule complexity within a unified feature
system.
FEATURES AND
DISCRETENESS
Differences among languages are such that if there
are universals of human speech they are found not in
a universal inventory of phonetic properties but in the
universal nature of sound waves and articulatory
organs, and in the universality of systematic
discreteness.
DISCRETENESS: both paradigmatic and syntagmatic
FEATURES AND
DISCRETENESS
Paradigmatically, the continua of acoustics and
articulation are converted, via perceptual choices
into a finite set of sounds.
Jakobson (1949) puts it: Where nature presents
nothing but an indefinite number of contingent
varieties, the intervention of culture extracts
pairs of opposite terms.
Syntagmatically, this discreteness entails linear
segmentation of speech.
Halle (1954) extended Jakobsons point (1949) as
he noted that humans are capable of listening
to speech (a continuous flow of sound, an
EXAMPLE FEATURE
MATRIX

p
-voice n +voice +voice
+labial -labial
-labial
+stop -stop
-stop -high -high
-high
-back -back
-back
REFERENCE

Clark, J., Yallop, C., and Fletcher, J. () An Intorduction


to Phonetics and Phonology, Third Edition,
p.372-392.