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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: June 2012

11 - Problems, theories and representations


In this chapter…

In the last chapter we began to see that phonemes (which from another, and quite proper, point of view should be regarded as the smallest meaningful units of speech) can be conceived as expressions of their sum of distinctive features. So far in this book we've hinted at the existence of three such features – [voice], [long] and [tense] – but we've not yet done any systematic, thorough work on what a feature inventory might be. How many features are there? How do they work? How, if at all, are they patterned? How can they help us make our analyses more cogent, economical and elegant? Part of chapter 11 (11.1–11.2), therefore, is devoted to looking at distinctive features in more detail. At the same time, such detail can serve as an introduction to distinctive feature theory – a theory from which many more advanced textbooks start, and of which some prior knowledge is often assumed (see e.g. Durand 1990, Harris 1994 among many others). This theory is sometimes called classical generative phonology. (I'm using the adjective ‘classical’ here to distinguish the brand of phonology which developed distinctive features from later kinds of phonology that also have a claim to be called ‘generative’.) Such a theory, based on work accomplished in the second half of the last century, has remained very influential, and in 11.3 in particular we examine some of the theory's apparent strengths as these apply to basic issues of syllable structure.

Further reading
Distinctive features and phonological rules
Chomsky, Noam and Halle, Morris. 1968. The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper and Row.
Clark, John and Yallop, Colin. 1990. An introduction to phonetics and phonology. Oxford: Blackwell.
Durand, Jaques. 1990. Generative and non-linear phonology. Harlow, Essex and New York: Longman.
Hyman, Larry. 1975. Phonology: theory and analysis. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Schane, Sanford A. 1973. Generative phonology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.
Harris, John. 1994. English sound structure: an introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.
Other approaches to the internal organisation of segments
Anderson, John M. and Ewen, Colin. 1987. Principles of dependency phonology. Cambridge University Press.
Anderson, John M. and Durand, Jacques. eds. 1987. Explorations in dependency phonology. Dordrecht: Foris.
Durand, Jacques. ed. 1986. Dependency and non-linear phonology. London: Croom Helm.
Optimality Theory
Archangeli, Diana and Langendoen, Terence. eds. 1997. Optimality theory: an overview. Oxford: Blackwell.
Kager, René. 1999. Optimality theory. Cambridge University Press.
Prince, Alan and Smolensky, Paul. 1993. Optimality theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Ms., Rutgers University Center for Cognitive Science Technical Report #2. (And see below.)
McCarthy, John and Prince, Alan. 1993. ‘Generalized alignment.’ In Booij, G.E. and Marle, J.. eds. 1993. Yearbook of morphology. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 79–153.