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dirk elzinga wrote:

>A way of thinking about the phoneme is to consider it to be the
>minimal unit of sound which serves contrastive function. Thus any
>feature or property of a sound which does not function contrastively
>may not be part of the phoneme. This actually allows quite a bit of
>latitude. In Shoshoni for example, the 'phoneme' /p/ is realized
>variously as [p], [b], [B], and [F] (the last two voiced and voiceless
>bilabial fricatives, respectively). So what is necessary for the
>Shoshoni speaker? Not the fact that /p/ is voiceless, since there is
>no /b/ which contrasts. Not the fact that it is a stop, since there
>are no /B/ or /F/ which contrast. Only the fact that it is bilabial
>and oral (rather than nasal; there is a contrasting /m/) seems to be
>relevant.

I'd like to point out another example of this involving free variation. In
Japanese, the moraic nasal word finally can be realized as absolutly any
nasal at all. The consultant I used for my phonetics work pronounced _hon_
'book' as [ho~], [hoN], [hom], and [hon]. She really didn't care as long as
the last sound was nasal. This kind of thing is difficult for a phoneme
based approach to phonology, which says that there must be an underlying
form. Deriving all the difference by a whole bunch of rules seems to miss
the point that they freely vary.

>Optimality Theory is a current phonological theory

As a syntactician I take offense to you claiming it is a "phonological
theory". :) It works quite well for syntax too.




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Marcus Smith
AIM:  Anaakoot
"When you lose a language, it's like
dropping a bomb on a museum."
   -- Kenneth Hale
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