15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003


Feature Economy as a Phonological Universal

G. N. Clements

Laboratoire de Phonétique et Phonologie-CNRS/Sorbonne-Nouvelle, Paris, France

This paper compares two approaches to the study of sound inventories, one phonological and the other phonetic. The first maintains that speech sounds tend to be organized by a principle of feature economy, according to which languages maximize the combinatory possibilities of a few phonological features to generate large numbers of speech sounds. The other holds that sound systems are organized by a principle of maximal dispersion, according to which speech sounds tend to be maximally dispersed in perceptual space. A comparison of these two principles with respect to the UPSID-92 data base of phoneme inventories provides strong support for the first.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Clements, G. N. (2003): "Feature economy as a phonological universal", In ICPhS-15, 371-374.