This article surveys the history of contrast in phonology from Bell's (1867) until Chomsky & Halle's (1968). Phonological contrast can be viewed at the segmental and subsegmental (feature) levels. As contrast at the segmental level involves the phoneme, whose later history has been extensively documented, I concentrate on the origins of the concept in the work of Sweet. Subsequently, I focus on subsegmental-level contrast. After a look at its treatment in phonological analyses that operated without an explicit theory of features, I turn to Trubetzkoy, in whose work we find the seeds of later approaches. The article explores the foundations of the main methods of computing contrastive features: minimal differences and hierarchical feature ordering. It concludes with a discussion of contrast in early generative phonology and reviews some of the reasons for its decline at the end of the 1960s.


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