Typology of Phonological Systems

Ian Maddieson

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Typology

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199281251
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Typology of Phonological Systems

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  • Linguistics
  • Linguistic Typology
  • Phonetics and Phonology


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This article describes the three classes of factors used to construct phonological typologies, based respectively on prosodic patterns, segmental patterns, and the structures of longer elements such as syllables and words. Word-level phonological differences between languages can involve more complex distributional patterns. The directions for typological research are finally presented. The time when the phonology of a large number of languages can be characterized in the probabilistic way envisaged in new models may be some way off, or indeed may never be reached, since the quantity of data required to be processed may never be obtained for the majority of the world's languages. Typological studies which take into account at least some evaluation of the relative frequency of the elements of the analysis promise to provide more sensitive measures of some of the properties that are of interest.

Keywords: phonological typologies; prosodic patterns; segmental patterns; syllables; words; languages

Article.  6570 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Linguistic Typology ; Phonetics and Phonology

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