handout features 1 SAMPA

handout features 1 SAMPA - Linguistics 304 / 504 / Anthro...

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Linguistics 304 / 504 / Anthro 317 Notes on feature systems and natural classes The primary motivations for using distinctive features are to: enable classification and grouping of classes of sounds; identify properties of sounds that can be autonomous (independent). For example, any dimension that can assimilate independently should be a feature or group of related features. An earlier interpretation was that features expressed contrast between phonemes. The feature was the name for the difference between two sounds that differed minimally. The choice of features to be used depends in part on the level of distinctions among segments that are being represented. These distinctions may be at the level of lexical representation, phonemic contrast or phonetic difference. Representing more fine-grained phonetic differences normally requires more, or different, features than representing lexical distinctions. In fact, for characterizing small phonetic differences, phoneticians often use descriptive terms rather than features. Most often it is assumed that the same feature set ought to apply to all languages. A single set of features must enable us to describe, at a minimum, the difference between any pair of sounds in any one language. We do not expect a single feature system to be able to describe the difference between any two sounds selected from different languages. Different languages may have similar (but not identical) sounds that differ in a way that never serves to distinguish between two sounds in the same language. Example: Some languages have voiceless lateral fricatives, other languages have voiceless lateral approximants. No single language has both. We do not need a feature that distinguishes between voiceless lateral fricatives and voiceless lateral approximants, because we will never need to describe a phonological process that distinguishes these. The previous point is especially important with respect to vowel systems. The languages of the world use a wide assortment of vowel sounds, which may differ very slightly from language to language. It would not be useful to create a set of features numerous enough to distinguish among all of these different sounds. Although the same set of features is available in all languages, languages differ as to which features they choose to exploit. Languages with fewer contrasts may require fewer features. A language with five vowels, such as Spanish, requires fewer vowel features than a language like English, with a dozen or so vowels. Similarly, a language lacking any nasal segments (example: Puget Sound Salish) would not require the feature [nasal]. In some cases, the same feature may be used for different effects in different languages.
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handout features 1 SAMPA - Linguistics 304 / 504 / Anthro...

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