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A Bottom-Up Approach to Vowel Systems: The Case of Yadu Qiang*

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Examining vowel harmony processes at work in Yadu Qiang reveals the smallest set of features needed to account for vowel oppositions, hence vowel structure. Arguments are evaluated for binarity/unarity of features, and the roles of marginal and disappearing contrasts. A minimal set of features that accounts for vowel processes predicts the existence of abstract vowels, which are shown to be active in the vowel system. The required binary features are Front, A TR, and Low, while Round and Rhotic are unary features. The study draws paralleis with Hyman's (2003) analysis of Kalong, in which all vowel features are shown to be unary.


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