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By "generative grammar", I take the widest interpretation and do not mean "Chomsky's theory of syntax today", thus HPSG and LFG would be instances of GG(broad). Phonology has a concept "feature", and there are two competing theories of features. One is that a feature is a value-attribut pair, for example "-coronal" where the attribute "coronal" has the value "-". There are various theories of what the values are (+,-,integers,u,m....) and what the attributes are: I don't care about that. The competing theory is the privative theory, that features are only attributes.

Earlier versions of syntactic theory e.g. Aspects employed a value-attribute model so that there are things that are [+N,-V]. My question is where in any domain other than phonology, has it been posited that features are privative, that is, are they just attributes and never values. My recollection of HPSG is hazy enough that I don't know if that is an example. It would be useful for me to know about mixed theories (where some features might be binary and come privative). I don't know anything about the theory of features in minimalist syntax.

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  • Does this distinction really matter? What is the difference between an attribute coronal (that can be present or absent) and a value-attribute pair +coronal/-coronal? Jun 30 at 20:59
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    The question is not whether one theory or the other is empirically better, or whether they predict exactly the same things, the question is whether both theories exist in practice, outside of phonology. The specific answer in phonology depends on the theory of features and feature structures you use, also the theory of rules. A really quick answer is that the privative theory is simpler, but understanding that point requires a lot of theoretical background.
    – user6726
    Jun 30 at 21:23

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