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Clin Linguist Phon. 1992;6(4):259-81. doi: 10.3109/02699209208985536.

Developmental implications of nonlinear phonological theory.

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School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, University of British Columbia, 5804 Fairview Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6T 123, Canada.


For the past 20 years the field of linguistics has provided a basis for assessment and treatment methods for speech and language disorders. Since Goldsmiths (1976) dissertation showing tone as an independently functioning autosegment, new and robust phonological frameworks have become available, i.e. nonlinear phonological frameworks. This paper outlines major aspects of nonlinear phonology and its developmental implications. Based in generative phonology, nonlinear frameworks adhere to many of the tenets of the generative grammar tradition, such as markedness and autonomy of linguistic components. The major difference between classical and nonlinear generative phonology is the latters emphasis on representation rather than on rules or processes. This enriched representation is hierarchical and multitiered, rather than being strictly sequential as in classical generative phonology, and includes syllabic structure and segmental information. Phonological rules or processes result from, and are constrained by, principles of association between the various autonomous levels. If a child comes to the language-learning situation with a representional framework, a set of universal 'templates' are then available to utilize for decoding and encoding. The incorporation of both syllabic (prosodic level) and segmental information in representation suggests that the child will come to the language-learning process primed with expected syllable structure bases as well as with an expected segmental 'feature inventory'. The concept of autonomy implies possible independent learning for information on the various tiers, e.g. between the prosodic and segmental levels. The concept of hierarchy suggests that prominent system units in tree structure may have developmental precedence over deeply embedded units. These and other concepts are developed in the following pages.


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