Subsegments and the emergence of segments

Stephanie S. Shih, Sharon Inkelas


Q Theory proposes that the most granular and basic temporal unit of abstract phonological representation is not the segment, as widely assumed in classic generative phonology, but the quantized subsegment. With a more granular quantization of the speech stream, Q Theory provides phonological grammar with the representational capability to model behaviors that affect both the parts and the wholes of segments. In Q Theory, segments are emergent from strings of subsegments and from subsegmental interactions based on the principles of similarity, proximity, and co-occurrence that already underlie phonological operations. Evidence is presented from linguistic typology, and mechanics are drawn from speech segmentation and recognition. Q Theory makes it possible to develop an advanced theory of complex segments.


Q Theory; segments; subsegments; complex segments; Autosegmental Phonology; Aperture Theory; Articulatory Phonology; speech segmentation; natural language processing

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Copyright (c) 2019 Stephanie S Shih, Sharon Inkelas

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