CSD 232 Home      Distinctive Features

The Articulatory Correlates of the Distinctive Features

(from Halle and Clements’ Problem Book in Phonology)

1. syllabic/nonsyllabic: [+syl]. Syllabic sounds are those that constitute syllable peaks, nonsyllabic sounds are those that do not. Syllabic sounds are typically more prominent than contiguous nonsyllabic sounds. (Vowels, syllabic consonants vs. glides, nonsyllabic consonants.)

2. consonantal/nonconsonantal: [+cons]. Consonantal sounds are produced with a sustained vocal tract constriction at least equal to that required in the production of fricatives; nonconsonantal sounds are produced without such a constriction. (Obstruents, nasals, liquids vs. vowels and glides.)

3. sonorant/obstruent: [ + son]. Sonorant sounds are produced with a vocal tract configuration sufficiently open that the air pressure inside and outside the mouth is approximately equal. Obstruent sounds are produced with a vocal tract constriction sufficient to increase the air pressure inside the mouth significantly over that of the ambient air. (Vowels, glides, liquids, nasals vs. stops and fricatives.)

4. coronal/noncoronal: [+cor]. Coronal sounds are produced by raising the tongue blade toward the teeth or the hard palate; noncoronal sounds are produced without such a gesture. (Dentals, alveolars, palato-alveolars, palatals vs.labials, velars, uvulars, pharyngeals.)

5. anterior/posterior: [+ant]. Anterior sounds are produced with a primary constriction at or in front of the alveolar ridge, while posterior sounds are produced with a primary constriction behind the alveolar ridge. (Labials, dentals, alveolars vs. palato-alveolars, palatals, velars, uvulars, pharyngeals.)

6. labial/nonlabial: [+lab]. As the term implies, labial sounds are formed with a constriction at the lips, while nonlabial sounds are formed without such a constriction. (Labial consonants, rounded vowels vs. all other sounds.)

7. distributed/nondistributed: [+distr]. Distributed sounds are produced with a constriction that extends for a considerable distance along the midsaggital axis of the oral tract; nondistributed sounds are produced with a constriction that extends for only a short distance in this direction. (Sounds produced with the blade or front of the tongue vs. sounds produced with the tip of the tongue. This feature may also distinguish bilabial sounds from labiodental sounds.)

8. high/nonhigh: [+high]. High sounds are produced by raising the body of the tongue toward the palate; nonhigh sounds are produced without such a gesture. (Palatals, velars, palatalized and velarized consonants, high vowels and glides vs. all other sounds.)

9. back/nonback: [+back]. Back sounds are produced with the tongue body relatively retracted; nonback or front sounds are produced with the tongue body relatively advanced. (Velars, uvulars, pharyngeals, velarized and pharyngealized consonants, central vowels and glides, back vowels and glides vs. all others.)

10. low/nonlow: [+low]. Low sounds are produced by drawing the body of the tongue down away from the roof of the mouth; nonlow sounds are produced without such a gesture. (Pharyngeal and pharyngealized consonants, low vowels vs. all others.)

11. rounded/unrounded: [+round]. Rounded sounds are produced with protrusion of the lips; unrounded sounds are produced without such protrusion. (Rounded consonants and vowels vs. unrounded consonants and vowels.)

12. continuant/stop: [+cont]. Continuants are formed with a vocal tract configuration allowing the airstream to flow through the midsaggital region of the oral tract; stops are produced with a sustained occlusion in this region. (Vowels, glides, r-sounds, fricatives vs. nasal and oral stops, laterals.)

13. lateral/central: [+lat]. Lateral sounds, the most familiar of which is [1], are produced with the tongue placed in such a way as to prevent the airstream from flowing outward through the center of the mouth, while allowing it to pass over one or both sides of the tongue; central sounds do not involve such a constriction. (Lateral sonorants, fricatives and affricates vs. all other sounds.)

14. nasal/oral: [+nas]. Nasal sounds are produced by lowering the velum and allowing the air to pass outward through the nose; oral sounds are produced with the velum raised to prevent the passage of air through the nose. (Nasal stops, nasalized consonants, vowels and glides vs. all other sounds.)

15. advanced/unadvanced tongue root: [+ATR]. As its name implies, this feature is implemented by drawing the root of the tongue forward, enlarging the pharyngeal cavity and often raising the tongue body as well; [-ATR] sounds do not involve this gesture. ([+ATR] vowels such as [i,u,e,o] vs. [-ATR] vowels such as .)

16. tense/lax: [+tense]. Tense vowels are produced with a tongue body or tongue root configuration involving a greater degree of constriction than that found in their lax counterparts; this greater degree of constriction is frequently accompanied by greater length. (Tense vowels vs. lax vowels.) We note that this feature and the last (ATR) are not known to cooccur distinctively in any language and may be variant implementations of a single feature category.

17. strident/nonstrident: [+strid]. Strident sounds are produced with a complex constriction forcing the airstream to strike two surfaces, producing high-intensity fricative noise; nonstrident sounds are produced without such a constriction. (Sibilants, labiodentals, uvulars vs. all other sounds.) The feature [+strid] is found only in fricatives and affricates.

18. spread/nonspread glottis: [+spread]. Spread or aspirated sounds are produced with the vocal cords drawn apart, producing a nonperiodic (noise) component in the acoustic signal; nonspread or unaspirated sounds are produced without this gesture. (Aspirated consonants, breathy voiced or murmured consonants, voiceless vowels and glides vs. all others.)

19. constricted/nonconstricted glottis: [+constr]. Constricted or glottalized sounds are produced with the vocal cords drawn together, preventing normal vocal cord vibration; nonconstricted (nonglottalized) sounds are produced without such a gesture. Ejectives, implosives, glottalized or laryngealized consonants, vowels and glides vs. all others.)

20. voiced/voiceless [+voiced]. Voiced sounds are produced with a laryngeal configuration permitting periodic vibration of the vocal cords; voiceless sounds lack such periodic vibration. (Voiced vs. voiceless consonants.)

21. vocalic/nonvocalic [+vocalic]. Vocalic sounds are produced with an oral cavity constriction no greater than that associated with the vowels /i/ and /u and with adducted vocal folds. Vocalic sounds include the vowels and liquids.

22. delayed release/nondelayed release [+del rel]. Delayed release stops have a slow release of the stop closure, resulting in local friction noise. [delayed release] is used to distinguish affricates ([+del rel]) from plosives ([-del rel]).