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Foundational Issues in Linguistic TheoryEssays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud$
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Robert Freidin, Carlos P. Otero, and Maria Luisa Zubizarreta

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780262062787

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262062787.001.0001

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The Logic of Contrast

The Logic of Contrast

(p.358) (p.359) 14 The Logic of Contrast
Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory

B. Elan Dresher

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the notion of contrast in phonology and gives a formal account of two competing approaches to assigning contrastive feature specifications: contrast based on an ordering of features (Full Specification approach) and contrast based on logical redundancy (Contrastive Hierarchy approach). It shows how the Full Specification approach fails because it cannot differentiate the phonemes in a language while the Contrastive Hierarchy approach succeeds not only in differentiating the phonemes but also in clarifying some issues in underspecification theory. Under the Full Specification approach, the mutual redundancy of voice and nasality for an inventory /p, m/ leaves the segments with no non-redundant features, hence failing to differentiate the phonemes. Under the Contrastive Hierarchy approach, contrast can be successfully determined via hierarchical ordering of phonological features. The chapter explores the uses of contrast in the generative phonology literature and compares P. Kiparsky’s (1985) theory of structure preservation in phonology with J. Emonds’s (1976) theory of the same name in syntax.

Keywords:   contrast, phonology, features, Full Specification approach, logical redundancy, Contrastive Hierarchy approach, phonemes, underspecification theory, theory of structure preservation, syntax

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