Lingua::Phonology::Segment - a module to represent a segment as a bundle of feature values.


        use Lingua::Phonology;
        $phono = new Lingua::Phonology;

        # Define a feature set
        $features = $phono->features;

        # Make a segment
        $segment = $phono->segment;

        # Set some values
    # Segment is now voiced labial stop, i.e. [b]

        # Reset the segment


A Lingua::Phonology::Segment object provides a programmatic representation of a linguistic segment. Such a segment is associated with a Lingua::Phonology::Features object that lists the available features and the relationships between them. The segment itself is a list of the values for those features. This module provides methods for returning and setting these feature values. A segment may also be associated with a Lingua::Phonology::Symbols object, which allows the segment to return the symbol that it best matches.


As of Lingua::Phonology v0.32 (Lingua::Phonology::Segment v0.4), string conversion of segments is overloaded. When you use a Lingua::Phonology::Segment in string context, the spell() method is automatically called, and the representation of the segment from the current symbolset is returned. String comparison operators (cmp eq ne lt le gt ge) are also overloaded. Therefore, the following work correctly, assuming that you have a Lingua::Phonology object correctly set up in $phono.

    my ($b, $k) = $phono->symbols->segment('b', 'k');

    print "Segments: $b, $k\n";                  # Prints "Segments: b, k";
    print "$b is greater than $k\n" if $b gt $k; # Won't print
    print "$b is less than $k\n" if $b lt $k;    # Prints 'b is less than k';
    print "$b is equal to $k\n" if $b eq $k;     # Won't print

    my $b2 = $b->duplicate;
    print "$b is equal to $b2\n" if $b eq $b2    # Prints 'b is equal to b';

Note that stringification is not overloaded if the symbolset is not properly set. However, it turns on as soon as a symbolset is available:

    my $b = Lingua::Phonology::Segment->new($features);

    print "$b\n";             # Prints 'Lingua::Phonology::Segment=HASH(0x88af598)'
                              # or something similar, because there is no symbolset
                              # defined for spelling the segment.

    print "$b\n";             # Prints 'b'

Number conversion is not overloaded.



        my $seg = Lingua::Phonology::Segment->new($features);
        my $new_seg = $seg->new();

When called as a class method, this method takes one argument, a Lingua::Phonology::Features object. The Features object provides the list of available features. If no such object is provided, this method will carp and return undefined. When called as an object method, the featureset may be omitted, in which case the feature set from the calling object will be provided. When called as an object method, new() does not copy the features values of the calling object, only the feature set. To create a complete duplicate of the calling object, use "duplicate".

In either case, a second argument may be provided, which must be a hash reference. If this argument exists, it must contain feature => value pairs used to initialize the segment. If you call this as an object method and do not wish to provide a Features object, you need to include an undef as a place-holder. For example:

        my $seg = Lingua::Phonology::Segment->new($features, { foo => 1, bar => 0 });
        my $new_seg = $seg->new(undef, { foo => 1, bar => 0 });


    $features = $seg->featureset();

Returns the Lingua::Phonology::Features object currently associated with the segment. May be called with one argument, a Lingua::Phonology::Features object, in which case the current feature set is set to the object provided.


    $symbols = $seg->symbolset();

Returns a Lingua::Phonology::Symbols object currently associated with the segment. You may call this method with one argument, in which case the symbol set is set to that argument.


Takes one, two, or three arguments. The first argument must be the name of a feature, the second argument, if any, is the value to set the feature to, and the third argument is a hash reference naming values to pass on to children of the feature.

Most of the time you will only use the first two arguments. This can usually be as simple as the following:

        # Retrieve this segment's value for $feature
        $val = $seg->value($feature);

        # Set this segment's value for $feature to $val
        $seg->value($feature, $val);

Note that the second argument passed to value() is passed through the number_form() method in Lingua::Phonology::Features before it is assigned. This has the effect of taking whatever number or text value you passed in and changing it into a numeric representation appropriate for the type of the feature you are assigning to. Read the Lingua::Phonology::Features documentation for details on this transformation.

If you give a scalar reference as the second argument, then additional magic happens. This is discussed below in "value_ref";

Everything beyond this point is probably not necessary for you, and potentially very confusing. You have been warned.

With the third value, things get more complex. The third argument must be a hash reference. In its simplest form, you may simply specify feature => value pairs for the children you wish to assign to. For example, the following sets [Coronal] itself to 1, and sets the child features [anterior] to 1 and [distributed] to 0:

        $seg->value('Coronal', 1, { anterior => 1, distributed => 0 });

However, if you also want to assign to children of those children (grandchildren), then the values of the feature => value pairs must be array references. The first element in the array reference is the value assigned, and the second element must be a hash reference containing feature => value pairs just like those above. (This is identical to the arguments to value() itself, but with the final two arguments turned into an array reference.) For example, the following sets Lingual to 1, [labial] to 1, and Coronal and its children to the same values as shown in the previous example:

        $seg->value('Lingual', 1, { labial => 1,
                                        Coronal => [ 1 , { anterior => 1, distributed => 0 } ]

This gets awkward pretty quickly, and we don't imagine you'll do it much. The three-argument form of value() exists mostly so that the following always works correctly and makes $seg1 and $seg2 equal for [feature] and all children of [feature]:

    $seg1->value('feature', $seg2->value('feature'));

There is a special exception made for when you call value() with three arguments, the second of which is undefined. Normally if the second argument to value() is undefined, the value for the feature is explicitly set to undef, and a key representing this fact will appear in subsequent calls to all_values(). However, in cases like the one just illustrated, it is often necessary to add undef as a placeholder, so in this situation the value() method assumes that this is the case and doesn't attempt to assign undef as a value. (This is an exception, but it's almost always what you want).

The return value of value() in scalar context is the value of the feature itself, UNLESS that value is undefined, in which case a hash reference with feature => value pairs conforming to the description above is returned. If no children of the feature in question are defined either, this also returns undef (rather than returning an empty hash reference).

In list context, two values are returned: the value of the feature, and a hash reference containing feature => value pairs as described above. If there would be no keys in the hash or if all children of the feature are undefined, undef is returned instead. In the case of a feature that is undefined and has no defined children, a list of two undefs is returned. This behavior is designed so that the return value of any call to value() can be the argument to another call and have the effect of setting the features in question to be identical. Like so:

        $seg1->value('feature', $seg2->value('feature'));

This makes $seg1 and $seg2 identical for 'feature' and its descendants. This behavior also mimics the default behavior of nodes from previous versions, so that backwards compatibility is disrupted as little as possible.


    $text = $seg->value_text('feature');

This method is equivalent to value(), and takes the same arguments. However, the return from value() is first passed through the text_form() function of Lingua::Phonology::Features and then returned. For details on this conversion see Lingua::Phonology::Features.


    $ref = $seg->value_ref('feature');

This method is identical in arguments to value(), taking a feature name as the first argument and a value as the optional second argument. However, it returns a scalar reference rather than a real value. Why? Read on:

Internally, all of the values for a Segment object are stored as scalar references rather than direct values. When you call value(), all of the referencing and dereferencing is done for you, so you never have to think about this. However, at times it may be useful to cause two or more Segments to have references to the same value, in which case you may use the value_ref() method to return the reference from one of the objects. If the value that you give to value(), value_text(), or value_ref() is a scalar reference, then rather than setting the value that the current reference points to, the current reference will be replaced by the reference you provided. This can cause two segments to "share" a feature, so that changes made to one segment automatically appear on the other. This example should make things clearer:

        # Assume you have a Lingua::Phonology::Features object called $features with the default feature set
        $seg1 = Lingua::Phonology::Segment->new($features);
        $seg2 = Lingua::Phonology::Segment->new($features);

        # If we assign direct values, the segments can vary independently
        $seg1->value('voice', 1); 
        $seg2->value('voice', $seg1->value('voice'));     # $seg2->value('voice') also returns 1
        $seg1->value('voice', 0);                         
    # Now $seg1 return 0 for [voice], but $seg2 still returns 1

        # If we assign references, then the segments are linked to each other for that value
        $seg1->value('voice', 1');
        $seg2->value('voice', $seg1->value_ref('voice')); # $seg2 now returns 1 for voice
        $seg1->value('voice', 0);
    # Now both $seg1 and $seg2 return 0 for voice, because they both internally
    # reference the same value

    # To break the connection between segments, pass one of them a new
    # reference.
    $seg1->value('voice', \1);
    # Now $seg1 returns 1, and $seg2 returns 0

As this example illustrates, any of the value_*() functions can be passed any kind of argument (numeric, textual, or reference). The functions only differ in what their return value is.

Calling feature names as methods

You can also return and set values to a segment by using the name of a feature as a method. This is usually easier and more readable than using value(). The following are exactly synonymous:

        $seg1->value('voice', 1);

Calling a feature-name method like this is always equivalent to calling value(), and never equivalent to calling value_text() or value_ref().

WARNING: If you use a feature name that is the same as a reserved word (function or operator) in Perl, you can cause a non-terminating loop, due to the implementation of autoloaded functions. Use the longer form with value() instead.

Takes a list of arguments, which are names of feature, and removes the values for those features from the segment. The values for those features will subsequently be undefined. This method does not affect the value that the internal reference points to, so other segments that may be pointing to the same value are unaffected. For example:

        $seg2->voice($seg1->value_ref('voice')); # $seg1 and $seg2 refer to the same value

        $seg2->voice(undef);                     # now both $seg1 and $seg2 will return 'undef' for voice

        $seg1->voice(1);                         # both will now return 1
        $seg2->delink('voice');                  # now $seg2 returns 'undef', but $seg1 returns 1

As an additional effect, the hash returned from "all_values" will include a key-value pair like feature => undef if you assign an undef to a value, as in line 4 above, while if you use delink(), no key for the deleted feature will appear at all.

Calling delink() on a feature with children causes all children of the feature to be delinked recursively. This is the only way to reliably undefine a feature and all of its children.

In scalar context, this method returns the number of items that were delinked. In list context, it returns a list of the former values of the features that were delinked. If you are delinking a feature with children you will get a list of the values of the children of that feature, in a consistent but not predictable order.


    %values = $seg->all_values();
    $values = $seg->all_values();

Takes no arguments. In list context, returns a hash with feature names as its keys and feature values as its values. In scalar context returns similar hash reference. The feature names present in the hash or hash reference will be those that have defined values for the segment, or those features that were explicitly set to be undef (as opposed to being delinked).


    print $seg->spell();

Takes no arguments. Returns a text string indicating the symbol that the current segment best matches if a Lingua::Phonology::Symbols object has been defined via symbolset(). Returns undef and prints an error if symbolset() has not been set.


    $seg2 = $seg->duplicate();

Takes no arguments. Returns a new Lingua::Phonology::Segment object that is an identical deep copy of the current object. The new segment will have all of the same feature values as the original segment, but does NOT share any references--the two segments will be able to diverge completely independently.



Takes no arguments. Clears all values from the segment. Calling "all_values"() after calling clear() will return an empty hash.


A bug in the implementation of overloading can cause infinite loops and segmentation faults when using the debugger with Lingua::Phonology::Segment.


Lingua::Phonology::Features, Lingua::Phonology::Symbols


Jesse S. Bangs <>


This module is free software. You can distribute and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.