Variation in element theory
This paper introduces the Element Theory approach to segmental structure, and describes the variation that exists between different versions of the theory. Elements are unlike traditional features in several respects: they have only positive values, they represent categories motivated solely by phonological behavior, they map on to acoustic patterns in the speech signal, and they are segment-sized units that can be pronounced independently. The standard version of Element Theory recognizes six elements, giving the phonology a level of expressiveness that is capable of capturing most contrasts, natural classes and phonological processes without overgenerating significantly. Furthermore, standard Element Theory compares favorably with two other forms of the theory, conservative and progressive. These employ different element inventories, which distinguish them from the standard theory at a superficial level. Fundamentally, however, all versions of Element Theory are united by a shared conceptual approach and a common set of assumptions and structural principles. Keywords: phonology; elements; features; segmental structure; head-dependency; generative restrictiveness; natural classes; consonant-vowel unity; markedness
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