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

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.

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