distinctive features
Definition - A systematic breakdown of the set of speech-organ activities that are used to form a phoneme.

For example, the phoneme /n/ is composed of the following distinctive features:
(1) [+ nasal] (air passes through the nose)
(2) [- continuant] (air is blocked from passing through the mouth)
(3) [+ coronal] (the tip of the tongue is elevated)

1. All of the features are binary, which means they are either present (+) or absent (-).
2. About 20 distinctive features are needed to describe all of the sounds made by all of the world's languages.

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