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Overall patterning and symmetry

. Languages tend to be symmetrical in various ways. If there is a contrast between [p, t, k,] and [b], there will also probably be [d] and [g]. (Lack of [d] and/or [g] would leave a `gap' in the system, and it would be asymmetrical.) That is, if a feature (manner of articulation) like voicing is used once, it will be used again. If a point of articulation is used, it will be used again with another manner.

A phonological contrast in one area may be paralleled by the same contrast in another. Aspiration in Indo-Aryan, Thai found in many consonants, not just one; palatalization in Slavic is a feature of most consonants; voicing in Indo-European, glottalization in Salish, etc.

There is an overall pattern to the system; there is symmetry in the system; the distribution of allophonic variation is economical and systematic. In fact these are all criteria used to judge phonological analyses:

Harold Schiffman
Fri Jan 17 09:48:04 EST 1997