In linguistics, distributed is a binary feature that marks whether a sound is made with a broad or narrow contact (or approach) of the tongue to the solid parts of the mouth. It is a subdivision of the [Coronal] feature.

The term was introduced into phonology by Chomsky and Halle in their The Sound Pattern of English (1968), commonly referred to as SPE. They had a major feature [coronal] but needed to break it down into four distinct places of articulation, so they used two more binary features [anterior] and [distributed].

In articulatory terms [+distributed] corresponds to the laminal consonants, those made with the blade of the tongue. These have a relatively long region front to back where the tongue either contacts or approaches the top of the mouth, giving a less sharp airflow. Distributed sounds normally include the dental series (English th) and the postalveolar (sh ch j). The [-distributed] sounds correspond to the apical ones, made with the tip of the tongue, and include alveolars such as English t d s z n l. In most languages dental sounds are lamino-dental and alveolars are apico-alveolar.


In computing and related areas, distributed refers to a method of parcelling out tasks among multiple systems and getting results back from them, with no one machine or system crucially in charge. It has also been extended to Project Gutenberg's world-wide collaborative proofreading project, called Distributed Proofreading.

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