The Theory of Markedness in Generative Grammar

M.-L. Kean, 1975

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The theory of markedness is a theory of the distinctive features which characterize the segments of languages at all levels of phonological representation.  Following Jakobson, it is assumed that there is a relatively small set of features with binary specifications which are sufficient for the representation of the segments of all languages.  It is further held that the same class of segmental representations which are required for the characterization of "surface" phonological representations is the class which is required for the characterization of underlying representations.  There is no segmental representation which is found only at the surface.  A set of universal rules is postulated which characterize the "optimal" (most likely) conjunctions of specified features within segments.  It is proposed that based on these rules certain substantive universal properties of the underlying and surface segmental inventories can be captured.  Furthermore, it is claimed that these universal rules play an overt role in the mapping of underlying representations onto surface representations.  That is, the theory proposed here is a theory of the universal properties of sound systems at all levels of representation.

Thesis Supervisor:         Morris Halle

Title:                             Professor of Linguistics

Table of Contents

Preface                                                                                                                         6

Chapter 1         On the Structure of Segmental Systems                                     15

Chapter 2         Conditions on Segmental Alternation                                                     75

Chapter 3         Three Recent Approaches to a Theory of Segmental Systems    134

Appendix                                                                                                                     162