Government Phonology



John Rennison


Government phonology (GP) is a theoretical framework of linguistics and more specifically of phonology. The framework aims to provide a non-arbitrary account for phonological phenomena by replacing the rule component of phonology with a restricted set of universal principles and parameters. As in Noam Chomsky’s Principles and Parameters approach to syntax, the differences in phonological systems across languages are captured through different combinations of parametric settings.
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In GP, phonological representations consist of zero (e.g. vowel-zero in French) or more combinations of elements. These elements are the primitives of the theory and are deemed to be universally present in all human phonological systems. They are assumed to correspond to characteristic acoustic signatures in the signal, or hot features as previously referred to.
There are 6 elements believed to be existent across all languages, namely (A), (I), (U),(?),(L) and (H). They represent backness, frontness, roundness, stopness, a low tone and a high tone respectively.
As in French, it is possible to have empty nuclei, marked (_), which are subject to the phonological Empty Category Principle (ECP) . Unlike features, each element is a monovalent, and potentially interpretable phonological expression. Its actual interpretation depends on what phonological constituent dominates it, and whether it occupies a head or operator position within a phonological expression.
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Related Links:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. 〈An X’bar Theory of Government Phonology〉
  3. By John Rennison
  4. 〈A Useful Guide to Government Phonology(GP)〉
  5. 〈A Government Phonology Analysis of Turkish Conconants〉
  6. By Ercan Balci
  7. 〈Consonants Ranking, Government Licensing and the Fate of Final Empty Nuclei〉   By Krisztina Polagáradi (French)


    1. Markus Pöchtrager
    2. Charette, Monik (1991): Conditions on phonological government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    3. 《A Lateral Theory of Phonology: What is Cvcv And Why should it be?(Studies in Generative Grammar)》By Tobias Scheer


Last updated 06/12/08