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General Documents

  • Goals and background of the CUNY Phonology Forum
    Charles Cairns
    The field of phonology has not agreed on two important theoretical questions: How should phonological objects be represented? What is the optimal architecture for phonological theory? The goal of the Forum is to facilitate productive discussion of these questions, which cut across different schools within the discipline.

CUNY Symposyum Phonological Theory 2004

  • The Role of Features in Phonological Inventories
    G.N. Clements
    Phonological inventories are structured in terms of distinctive features, rather thanfiner-grained phonetic categories. Five general principles are discussed and exemplified withrespect to data drawn from the expanded UPSID database containing 451 phoneme inventories.By Feature Bounding, features place an upper bound on the number of potentially contrastive categories in a language. By Feature Economy, features tend to be combined maximally. ByMarked Feature Avoidance, certain feature values tend to be avoided. By Robustness, highly-valued feature contrasts tend to be employed before less highly-valued contrasts. ByPhonological Enhancement, marked features are often introduced to reinforce weak perceptual contrasts. These principles interact to defined broad properties of sound systems, such assymmetry and the tendency of sounds to be dispersed in auditory space. Further phonetically-based principles fine-tune the realization of phonological categories at the phonetic level. It issuggested that these general properties of sound systems may have their explanation in the nature of early language acquisition.

CUNY Workshop on Phonological Features 2005

  • Contrast and Phonological Activity in the Nez Perce Vowel System
    Sara Mackenzie and B. Elan Dresher
  • Contrast and Phonological Activity in Manchu Vowel Systems
    B. Elan Dresher and Xi Zhang
    Contrast plays an important role in the patterning of vowel systems in the Manchu languages.
    Contrastive feature values are phonologically active, triggering rules of ATR and labial harmony,
    whereas redundant feature values are phonologically inert. We will argue that in order to
    determine which feature values are contrastive in any given segment, an ordering of features must
    be established. This ordering, or contrastive hierarchy, determines the relative contrastive scope
    of each feature. Our analysis of the Written Manchu contrastive hierarchy is supported by
    synchronic and diachronic evidence from Spoken Manchu and Xibe, where a realignment of
    vowel contrasts results in new patterns of phonological activity. We will show that our analysis
    is consistent with the observed typology of ATR and labial harmony systems. We will argue
    further that the concept of phonological contrast is not reducible to functional phonetic or
    perceptual notions. We will discuss the relationship between contrast and underspecification, and
    show that constraint-based theories such as OT are not alternatives to the theory of contrast
    proposed here.
  • Feature Hierarchies and contrast in vowel harmony (handout)
    B. Elan Dresher

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