Up: Finding Phonemes
Previous: Phonetic conditioning.
. 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
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
- Economy: If you use it once, you use it again: eliminates the
need to introduce another kind of contrast.
- Simplicity: We prefer an analysis that is simple, because we
believe that phonological structure tends toward simplicity. If one
analysis has 5 points of articulation and another reduces this to 3,
we prefer the simpler one.
- Symmetry: system is balanced; there are no (or few) gaps in it.
Fri Jan 17 09:48:04 EST 1997