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A Theory of Phonological Features

San Duanmu


This study determines a system of phonological features that is minimally sufficient to distinguish all consonants and vowels in the world’s languages. It differs from previous studies in several ways. First, evidence is drawn from two databases, UPSID (451 sound inventories) and P-base (628 sound inventories), while many previous studies do not use large datasets. Second, interpreting phonetic transcriptions from different languages has been an outstanding problem. This study proposes a solution, using the notion of contrast: X and Y are different sounds if and only if they contrast in some l ... More

Keywords: phonological features, inventory databases, principle of contrast, complex sounds, affricates, consonant–glide units, consonant–liquid units, clicks, ejectives, implosives

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2016 Print ISBN-13: 9780199664962
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199664962.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

San Duanmu, author
Professor of Linguistics, University of Michigan