Feature (linguistics)

A feature is a concept applied to several fields of linguistics, typically involving the assignment of binary or unary conditions which act as constraints.

In phonology

In phonology, segments are categorized into natural classes on the basis of their distinctive features. Each feature describes a quality or characteristic of the natural class, such as voice or manner. A unique combination of features defines a phoneme.

Examples of phonemic or distinctive features are: [+/- voice ] , [+/- ATR ] (binary features) and [ CORONAL ] (a unary feature; also a place feature).

Surface representations can be expressed as the result of rules acting on the features of the underlying representation. These rules are formulated in terms of transformations on features.

In morphology

In morphology and syntax, words are often organized into lexical categories or word classes, such as "noun", "verb", "adjective", and so on. These word classes have grammatical features (also called "categories" or "inflectional categories"), which can have one of a set of potential values (also called the "property", "meaning", or "feature" of the category). [Kibort, Anna & Corbett, Greville G. [http://www.grammaticalfeatures.net/inventory.html Grammatical Features - Feature Inventory] ]

For example, consider the pronoun in English. Pronouns are a "lexical category". Pronouns have the person "feature", which can have a "value" of "first", "second", or "third". English pronouns also have the number "feature", which can have a value of either "singular" or "plural". As a result, we can describe the English pronoun "they" as a pronoun with [person:3] and [number:plural] .

In semantics

In semantics, words are categorized into semantic classes. Intersecting semantic classes share the same semantic features.

See also

* Semantic feature
* Distinctive feature


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