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Phonological contrast and its phonetic enhancement: dispersedness without dispersion*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 April 2011

Daniel Currie Hall
Saint Mary's University


This paper offers a novel account of a familiar typological observation, namely the tendency of phonological inventories to consist of segments that are dispersed through the available auditory space. In contrast to previous approaches, which have treated dispersion as a goal explicitly encoded in the grammar, this paper shows that the cross-linguistic pattern follows automatically from the interaction of two independently motivated factors: phonological representations in which only contrastive features are specified, and the enhancement of these features in phonetic implementation. The merits of this approach are illustrated by examples involving both vocalic and consonantal inventories.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2011

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