In the chapter, Phonological Preliminaries, formal phonological analysis is applied to the problem of describing and explaining the vowel inventory of English. The approach taken attempts to explain the surface distribution of phonological features without reference to morphological factors. This approach may well be wrong. Most of phonology assumes that the regularities of the phonological surface are epiphenomenal, the result of the application of various processes to underlying morphological forms.
In the study of syntax in the 1970's, the role of surface structure become increasingly central, so that today, deep (syntactic) structure (in those theories that retain it), logical form and semantic interpretation, and phonological form are all related directly to surface structure. A similar tendency has not gone as far in phonology. Proposals have been made of ``upside-down'' phonology (Leben), where the more abstract forms are derived from the surface phonological structure, rather than the reverse. And recent work has emphasized well-formedness conditions on phonological representations, including conditions that hold true on the surface.
The present work carries this trend to a logical conclusion, and presents a grammar of some aspects of the surface phonological structures directly. It leaves open how other aspects of the system, such as the representation of consonants and the distribution of stress, are to be handled formally, as well the phonological aspects of morphological derivation, inflection, morpheme structure constraints, and so forth.
The approach taken here derives from two concerns. First, the crucial phonological question of this work is, What are the surface phonological representations which are the input to the phonetic interpretation system? Phonetic interpretation can be made sense of only when the phonological features and forms that are phonetically interpreted are first established. Thus it was necessary to describe surface phonological structure. Second, there are interesting phonological generalizations which are true on the phonological surface in English.
The basic forms of linguistic evidence used here are contrast and complementary distribution. Also used are intuitions about syllable-counting, and observations of various historical and synchronic phonetic processes, as evidence for abstract phonological representations. Contrast is used to determine the presence of phonological distinctions (which need not be underlying in the lexical phonology, but are present in the post-lexical, or surface phonology). Complementary distribution is evidence for two conclusions at the same time: first, that the two items which are complementarily distributed may be the same thing at a deeper level, and second, that there is some process or alternation through which the surface distinction between the two is derived. For example, the phonetic vocalization of /l/ in some dialects is used to infer a phonological restructuring of the vowel system, which may be born out through predictable consequences for phonetic form and phonological contrast (page ).
This chapter thus provides a distinctive approach to English post-lexical phonology, somewhat independent of lexical (or morpho-) phonology. It shows that phonology can derive interesting, significant results by observing patterns on the phonological surface.