:: Linguistics :: 17.12.05

Phonology: Distinctive Features

Distinctive Features

Phonological knowledge goes beyond the ability to produce all the phonetically different sounds of a language. In phonology, every different sounds called phonemes. Thus, phoneme is a distinctive speech sound,and it can change the meaning of a word. In Bahasa Indonesia, for example, the minimal pair ‘aku’ and ‘abu’represent different phonomes.
The sounds [k] and [b] cause the change of the words meaning. Furthermore, in order for two phonetic forms to differ and to contrast meaning, there must be phonetic difference between the substitued sounds. It is a distinctive feature.

Distinctive feature refers to a minimal contrastive unit used as a means of explaining how the sound system of language is organised. The first of these views is found in the approach of the Praque School, whereas the phonome is seen as a bundle of phonetic distinctive feature: the English phoneme /p/, for example, can be seen as the result of the combination of the feature of bilabial, voice, plosive, etc. According to Victoria Fromkin and Robert Rodman in their book ‘An Introduction to Language’ page :73, distinctive feature is a feature that distinguishes one phoneme from another.

Further, for features indicating opposite traits, we can employ a binary system using the symbols [+] and [-] (pluses and minuses) to show whether or not the attribute is present. For example, we need set up only a single feature [voiced] for two separate labels, such as voiced and voiceless. Then, voiced sound can be specified as [+voiced] and voiceless ones as [-voiced]. This binary notation is ideal for all features indicating opposite qualities. This binary system also gives advantage that we can show explicitly how members of pairs such as voiced-voiceless or nasal-oral, are related to each other in a way in which other possible pairing.

A. The Major Class Features

1. Sonorant/Nonsonorant

S. A. Schane in his book ‘Generative Phonology’ states that the feature [sonorant] refers to the resonan quality of sounds. Vowels are always [+sonorant] as are nasals,liquids, and semivowels. The obstruent stops, fricatives, affricates, and glides are, of course [-sonorant].
Sonorants are sounds produced when the vocal tract cavity configurates in which spontaneous voicing is possible, while obstruents are produced with a cavity configuration that makes this kind of voicing is impossible.

2. Vocalic/Nonvocalic

When the most radical constriction does not exceed that found in the high vowels [i] and [u] and the position of the vocal cords allow the spontaneous voicing, the vocalic sounds are produced. Meanwhile, non-vocalic sounds are produced when one or both of these conditions are not satisfied.
Therefore, vocalic sounds are the voiced vowels and liquids, whereas glides, nasals, obstruents as well as voiceless vowels and liquids are not vocalic.

3. Consonantal/Nonconsonantal

Consonantal sounds are produced with a radical obstruction in the midsaggital region of the vocal tract; nonconsonatal sounds are produced without such kind of construction.Further, the term consonantal refers to sounds that produced by a narrowed in the oral cavity-either total occlussion or frication. Stops, fricatives, affricates, nasals, and liquids are [+consonantal], while vowels and semivowels, withou ths degree of narrowing are [-consonantal].

4. Syllabic/Nonsyllabic

In general, vowels are [+syllabic], whereas consonants are [-syllabic]. This features are also necessary for differentating syllabic nasal and liquids ([+syllabic]).
A segment is viewed as syllabic if it constitutes the nucleus or peak of syllable.

A set of features makes explicit claims concerning the relationship of different segment types. The more feature values shared by different classes, more they have in common. Thus, classes which differ in only one feature value are more closely related than those which differ in two or three feature values.

B. Cavity Feature

Cavity feature refers to place of articulation. They specify where in the vocal tract modification of the air stream take place in the production of particular sounds.

1. Primary Structures

1.1 Coronal/Noncoronal

Coronal sounds are produced with the blade of the tongue raised from its neutral position; noncoronal sounds are produced with blade of the tongue is in the neutral position.
Dental, alveolar, and palato-alveolar consonants are coronal, as are the liquids articulated with the blade of the tongue. The uvulars, glides, retroflex vowels are noncoronal.

1.2 Anterior/Nonanterior

The sounds that are produced with an obstruction that is located in front of the palato-alveolar region of the mouth is called anterior sounds. Nonanterior sounds are produced without such kind of construction.
Vowels which are produced without construction in the oral cavity are anterior sounds, as well as consonants and liquids. Palato-alveolar, retroflex, palatal, velar, uvular, or pharyngeal are therefore nonanterior, whereas labials, dentals, and alveolas are anterior.

C. Feature Related to the Body of the Tongue

Another features that related to the position of the body of the tongue are deal with the features high, low, and back. Using the binary feature, we can devide them high-nonhigh, low-nonlow, and back-nonback.
High sounds are produced by raising the body of the tongue above the level that it occupied in the neutral position.; nonhigh sounds are produced without such a raising of the tongue body.

Low-nonlow sounds are produced by lowering the body of the tongue below the level that it occupies in the neutral position, nonllow sound are produced without such kind of lowering of the body of the tongue.
Meanwhile, back sounds are produced by retracting the body of the tongue from the neutral position; nonback sounds are produced without such a restraction from the neutral position.

D. Rounded-Unrounded

Rounded sounds are sounds that are produced with a narrowing of the lip; unrounded sounds are produced without such kind of narrowing.
All classes of sounds may manifest rounding. In glides and nonlow vowels, rounding is commonly correlated with the feature ‘back’: sounds that are also round, those that are nonback are nonround.
The degree of rounding is always determinable from other features. In the vowels and glides it is corelated with the maximum degree of constriction in the oral cavity. Glides and high vowels have most rounding; low vowels, least.

E. Distributed- nondistributed

Distributed sounds are produced with a constriction that extents for a considerable distance along the direction of the air flow; nondistibuted sounds are produced with a constriction that extends only for a short distance in this directon.


At 12:39 PM, Blogger mash said...

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but u have 2 explain with examples

At 12:43 PM, Blogger mash said...

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At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an M.A Student of linguistics
actually I appreciate your work very much

thank You
I wish if you included sound symbols of the categories

At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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