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말소리 no.27/28, 1994년, pp.27 - 56  

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A new feature specification for vowel height

박천배    (서울대 어학연구소  );
  • 초록

    Processes involving the change of vowel height are natural enough to be found in many languages. It is essential to have a better feature specification for vowel height to grasp these processes properly, Standard Phonology adopts the binary feature system, and vowel height is represented by the two features, i.e., [\pm high] and [\pm low]. This has its own merits. But it is defective because it is misleading when we count the number of features used in a rule to compare the naturalness of rules. This feature system also cannot represent more than three degrees of height, We wi31 discard the binary features for vowel height. We consider to adopt the multivalued feature [n high] for the property of height. However, this feature cannot avoid the arbitrariness resulting from the number values denoting vowel height. It is not easy to expect whether the number in question is the largest or not It also is impossible to decide whether a larger number denotes a higher vowel or a lower vowel. Furthermore this feature specification requires an ad hoc condition such as n > 3 or n \geq 2, whenever we want to refer to a natural class including more than one degree of height The altelnative might be Particle Phonology, or Dependency Phonology. These might be apt for multivalued vowel height systems, as their supporters argue. However, the feature specification of Particle Phonology will be discarded because it does not observe strictly the assumption that the number of the particle a is decisive in representing the height. One a in a representation can denote variant degrees of height such as [e], [I], [a], [a ] and [e ]. This also means that we cannot represent natural classes in terms of the number of the particle a, Dependency Phonology also has problems in specifying a degree of vowel height by the dependency relations between the elements. There is no unique element to represent vowel height since every property has to be defined in terms of the dependency relations between two or more elements, As a result it is difficult to formulate a rule for vowel height change, especially when the phenomenon involves a chain of vowel shifts. Therefore, we suggest a new feature specification for vowel height (see Chapter 3). This specification resorts to a single feature H and a few >'s which refer exclusively to the degree of the tongue height when a vowel is pronounced. It can cope with more than three degrees of height because it is fundamentally a multivalued scalar feature. This feature also obviates the ad hoc condition for a natural class while the [n high] type of multivalued feature suffers from it. Also this feature specification conforms to our expection that the notation should become simpler as the generality of the class increases, in that the fewer angled brackets are used, the more vowels are included, Incidentally, it has also to be noted that, by adopting a single feature for vowel height, it is possible to formulate a simpler version of rules involving the changes of vowel height especially when they involve vowel shifts found in many languages.


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