Feature economy is a principle of sound systems according to which languages tend to maximise the ratio of sounds over features. The major goal of this study is to confirm the predictions of feature economy at the synchronic level, using an objective sampling technique applied to a genetically and areally balanced sample of the world's languages. It also shows that feature economy can be used as a tool in phonological feature analysis, and offers voiced aspirates, voiceless sonorants and various types of glottalised sounds as illustrations. Feature economy applies not only to distinctive feature values, but to redundant values of features that are distinctive or phonologically active elsewhere in the system. Feature economy cannot be reduced to a purely phonetic principle of gesture economy, but may reflect a general principle of linguistic organisation according to which the active categories of a grammatical system tend to be used to maximal effect.
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