Redundancy and Relevancy. Levels of Abstraction

Part of the Kommunikation und Kybernetik in Einzeldarstellungen book series (COMMUNICATION, volume 2)


The analytic procedure described in the preceding chapter was based on the supposition that one single feature may constitute the difference between pairs in opposition and pairs in contrast, following the type example that /p/ is identical (structurally) with /b/ except for one feature, the distinctive voice and that, consequently, /b/ can be regarded as /p/+ voice, etc. In a corresponding way, French or German /y/ = /i/+ labiality, French /ε̃/=/ε/, etc. In other words, we suppose that in the sound wave (phase 7 of our scheme, Fig. 3) certain physical features are necessarily the carriers of information about certain discrete minimal units (phonemes, etc.). Within the Prague school, the establishment of relevant versus irrelevant sound features was one of the essential tasks of the phonemic analysis, as was pointed out in Chap. IV. The theoretical foundation of the concept of relevancy was laid by Karl Bühler (“Prinzip der abstrakten Relevanz”). Numerous are the discussions in phonological literature about interpretations of this kind, numerous the answers given by different phonemicists. In certain cases, such questions may be resolved with reference to structural facts (e.g. distribution). In other cases the answer may seem arbitrary, due to superficial analogies, to the speakers’ subjective feeling, to orthoeraphy. etc.


Chapter Versus Stressed Syllable Vowel Length Syllable Boundary Tone Language 
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Bibliographical Notes

  1. Bühler’s principle of “abstract relevancy” (“Prinzip der abstrakten Relevanz”) is exposed in “Sprachthéorie”, 1933, pp.42–48. For the concepts relevant and irrelevant, see e.g. Trubetzkoy, “Grundzüge”, particularly pp.29ff. For redundancy from the point of view of information theory, see e.g. Meyer-Eppler, “Grundlagen”, pp.60ff. (Chapter “Informationsgehalt /Entropie/ und Redundanz”); Herdan, “Language as Choice and Chance”, pp. 167–169.Google Scholar
  2. An extremely important contribution to the form-substance problem was given by E. Coseriu in “Formay substancia en los sonidos del lenguage”, 1954. My own analysis of French consonants was presented in “Le système consonan-tique du français moderne”, 1943 (partly modified in my article in “Orbis”, 1962).Google Scholar
  3. For Wang’s and Fillmore’s distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic cues, see their article in “Journal of Speech and Hearing Research” IV, 1961, No.2, pp. 130–136; Jespersen’s is to be found in “Lehrbuch der Phonetik”, § 12.3; mine in “Die Quantität als phonetisch-phonologischer Begriff”, 1944, p. 28–32.Google Scholar
  4. The syllable has been treated recently by D. Jones in “Zeitschrift für Phonetik” IX, 1956, pp.99–107;Google Scholar
  5. by A. Rosetti, “Sur la théorie de la syllabe”, 1959;Google Scholar
  6. by A. Skaliökova in “Zeitschrift für Phonetik” XI, 1958, pp. 160–165;Google Scholar
  7. by B. Hâla, “La syllabe, sa nature, son origine et ses transformations” /Orbis X, 1961, pp. 69 – 143/; and by the author of this book, particularly in “The Phonetic Basis for Syllable Division”/Studia linguistica IX, 1955, pp.80 – 87; also ibid. X, 1956, pp.35 – 37/; in “Remarks on a Recent Contribution to the Problem of the Syllable” /Studia linguistica XV, 1961, pp. 1 – 9/; and in “Juncture and Syllable Division” (“In Honour of Daniel Jones”, 1964).Google Scholar
  8. Cf. also R. H. Stetson, “Motor Phonetics” 2nd ed. 1951. — The question of levels of abstraction in expression analysis has been treated in some more detail in my article “Levels of Abstraction in Phonetic and Phonemic Analysis” (Phonetica VIII, 1962, pp. 220–243). The Swedish word accent was analysed instrumentally and structurally in the following publications of mine: “Recherches expérimentales sur l’accent musical du mot en suédois” /Archives néerlandaises de phonétique expérimentale XVI, 1940, pp.62–76/; “Sydsvensk ordaccent”, 1953; “Observations on the Swedish Word Accent” /Haskins Laboratories, Report, 1955/; “Bemerkungen zum schwedischen Wortakzent” /Zeitschrift für Phonetik XII, 1959, Calzia-Festgabe, pp. 193 – 207/; and “Questions de méthode en phonétique synchronique” /Studia linguistica X, 1955, pp. 1–44/. A preliminary structural interpretation was proposed in my report to the 4th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Helsingfors 1961, and in my article “Levels of Abstraction” (quoted above). — For Fry’s experiments, see “Duration and Intensity as Physical Correlates of Linguistic Stress” /Haskins Laboratories, Report, 1954/, and in “Experiments in the Perception of Stress” /Language and Speech I, 1958, pp. 126–152/. Similar problems were discussed by Fischer-Jørgensen in “Die Bedeutung der funktionellen Sprachbeschreibung für die Phonetik” /Phonetica IV, 1959, pp. 7 – 27/, and in her report to the VIIIth International Congress of Linguists. Oslo 1958, pp.433–478. For the Danish stød, see Smith’s work quoted in the preceding chapter. For Norwegian tones, see e.g. the numerous publications by E. W. Selmer in the series “Opuscula Phonetica”, Oslo University.Google Scholar
  9. Tones in whispered Chinese have been studied by e.g. F. Giet, in “Lingua” V, 1956,pp. 372–381; cp. also Meyer-Eppler,in “Journal of the Acoustical Society of America” XXIX, 1957, pp. 104–106, and my article in “Zeitschrift für Phonetik” XII, 1959, p. 207. Lisker’s experiments concerning the American English voiced-voiceless distinction has been reported in “Language” XXX, No. 1, 1957, pp.42–49. For Danish vowel phonemes, see e.g. Poul Andersen, “Dansk fonetik” in “Nordisk laerebog for talepedagoger” I, 1954. Ladefoged’s and Broadbent’s experiments are reported in “Journal of the Acoustical Society of America” XXIX, 1957, pp.98–104.Google Scholar

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin · Heidelberg 1967

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArtsUniversity of LundSweden

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