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Article

Phonological Variation and Change in Brazilian Portuguese  

Elisa Battisti

Brazilian Portuguese is the native language of more than 200 million people living in Brazil. Spoken in South America since around the year 1500, Brazilian Portuguese has peculiar phonological traits, many of them variable. The extensive language contact that has taken place in Brazil caused Brazilian Portuguese to break up into regional dialects. Various phonological processes affect Brazilian Portuguese at the segmental and suprasegmental levels. Some of the processes target consonants, such as the regressive palatalization of /t, d/, the fricatization of /r/ in syllabic onset; some processes target vowels, such as the raising and lowering of unstressed /e, o/ vowels; others target the intonation of utterances, such as the rising of the nuclear stress of yes–no questions. The results of several empirical studies on varieties of Brazilian Portuguese show that not all of the processes correspond to change in progress in Brazilian Portuguese; some of them are stable variables. They also show that not every variable is present in all dialects and that some variables are socially salient and stigmatized. Compared to present European Portuguese, the phonology of Brazilian Portuguese seems to be conservative in some aspects, such as in the raising of vowels in unstressed, word-final syllables; innovative in others, such as in the vocalization of /l/ in syllabic coda.

Article

Palatalizations in the Romance Languages  

Daniel Recasens

Major dialect-dependent differences in articulatory fronting and strengthening for the front lingual affricate and fricative outcomes of Latin sequences composed of /t, d, k, g/ and a following front vocalic segment in the Romance languages may be accounted for assuming that those outcomes were issued from (alveolo)palatal or palatalized stop realizations exhibiting variable closure fronting degrees. The place and manner of articulation characteristics of the front lingual affricate and fricative outcomes in question depend on several aspects about the Latin stop sequences: stop closure location and voicing status, whether the vocalic segment was a vowel or a glide, and word position. While differences in fronting and strengthening associated with etymological stop voicing occur in both Eastern and Western Romance, those related to the other factors hold mostly in Western Romance and especially in Raetoromance. Several diachronic pathways are difficult to interpret; thus, in early times, [c] derived from Latin /ki,e/ and /kj/ may have been more anterior in Western Romance than in Eastern Romance, or else the initial outcome [tʃ] of the affrication process stayed palatoalveolar in the latter domain and fronted to [ts] in the former. Gestural blending accounts not only for the realizations [c, ɟ] of /t, d, k, g/ before a front vocalic segment but also for the alveolopalatal and palatoalveolar end products of the Latin sequences /kt/ ([c]), /nj/ ([ɲ]), /lj, kl/ ([ʎ]) and /sj, ks/ ([ʃ]).

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in European French  

Nigel Armstrong

We discuss here the considerable amount of phonological variation and change in European French in the varieties spoken in France, Belgium, and Switzerland, the major francophone countries of Europe. The data discussed here derive from the perceptual and especially behavioral studies that have sought to extend the Labovian paradigm beyond Anglo-American variable linguistic phenomena to bear upon Romance. Regarding France, what emerges is a surprisingly high degree of uniformity in pronunciation, at least over the non-southern part of the country, and most Southern French varieties are also showing convergence to the Parisian norm. Pockets of resistance to this tendency are nevertheless observable. The Belgian and Swiss situations have in common the looming presence of a supralocal and indeed supranational norm playing a role often attested in other discussions of standard or legitimized languages, that of the variety representing what commonly corresponds to the nonlocal. Indeed, it may be that Belgium and Switzerland typify the local–standard relation most often reported, while the French situation, because of its relatively leveled character, is less easily described as one of standardization.

Article

Phonological Templates in Development  

Marilyn May Vihman

Child phonological templates are idiosyncratic word production patterns. They can be understood as deriving, through generalization of patterning, from the very first words of the child, which are typically close in form to their adult targets. Templates can generally be identified only some time after a child’s first 20–50 words have been produced but before the child has achieved an expressive lexicon of 200 words. The templates appear to serve as a kind of ‘holding strategy’, a way for children to produce more complex adult word forms while remaining within the limits imposed by the articulatory, planning, and memory limitations of the early word period. Templates have been identified in the early words of children acquiring a number of languages, although not all children give clear evidence of using them. Within a given language we see a range of different templatic patterns, but these are nevertheless broadly shaped by the prosodic characteristics of the adult language as well as by the idiosyncratic production preferences of a given child; it is thus possible to begin to outline a typology of child templates. However, the evidence base for most languages remains small, ranging from individual diary studies to rare longitudinal studies of as many as 30 children. Thus templates undeniably play a role in phonological development, but their extent of use or generality remains unclear, their timing for the children who show them is unpredictable, and their period of sway is typically brief—a matter of a few weeks or months at most. Finally, the formal status and relationship of child phonological templates to adult grammars has so far received relatively little attention, but the closest parallels may lie in active novel word formation and in the lexicalization of commonly occurring expressions, both of which draw, like child templates, on the mnemonic effects of repetition.

Article

Caucasian Languages  

Marina Chumakina

Languages from at least five genetically unrelated families are spoken in the Caucasus, but there are only three endemic linguistic families belonging to the region: Kartvelian, West Caucasian, and Northeast Caucasian. These families are rather heterogeneous in terms of the number of languages and the distribution of the speakers across them. The Caucasus represents a situation where languages with millions of speakers have coexisted with one-village languages for hundreds of years, and where multilingualism has always been the norm. The richness of Caucasian languages on every linguistic stratum is dazzling: here we find some of the largest consonant inventories, inflectional systems where the mere number of word forms strains credibility (one of the Caucasian languages, Archi, is claimed to have over a million and a half word forms), and challenging syntactic structures. The typological interest of the Caucasian languages and the challenges they present to linguistic theory lie in different areas. Thus, for Kartvelian languages, the number of factors at play in the verbal system make the task of the production of a correct verbal form far from trivial. West Caucasian languages represent an instance of polysynthetic polypersonal verb inflection, which is unusual not only for Caucasus but for Eurasia in general. East Caucasian languages have large systems of non-finite forms which, unusually, retain the ability to realize agreement in gender and number while their non-finite nature is determined by the inability to head an independent clause and to express certain morpho-syntactic categories such as illocutionary force and evidentiality. Finally, all Caucasian languages are ergative to some extent.

Article

Stem Change (Apophony and Consonant Mutation) in Morphology  

Thomas W. Stewart

Segment-level alternations that realize morphological properties or that have other morphological significance stand either at an interface or along a continuum between phonology and morphology. The typical source for morphologically correlated sound alternations is the automatic phonology, interacting with discrete morphological operations such as affixation. Traditional morphophonology depends on the association of an alternation with a distinct concatenative marker, but the rise of stem changes that are in themselves morphological markers, be they inflectional or derivational, resides in the fading of phonetic motivation in the conditioning environment, and thus an increase in independence from historical phonological sources. The clearest cases are sole-exponent alternations, such as English man~men or slide~slid, but it is not necessary that the remainder of an earlier conditioning affix be entirely absent, only that synchronic conditioning is fully opaque. Once a sound-structural pattern escapes the unexceptional workings of a language's general phonological patterning, yet reliably serves a signifying function for one or more morphological properties, the morphological component of the grammar bears a primary if not sole responsibility for accounting for the pattern’s distribution. It is not uncommon for the transition of analysis into morphology from (morpho)phonology to be a fitful one. There is an established tendency for phonological theory to hold sway in matters of sound generally, even at the expense of challenging learnability through the introduction of remote representations, ad hoc triggering devices, or putative rules of phonology of very limited generality. On the morphological side, a bias in favor of separable morpheme-like units and syntax-like concatenative dynamics has relegated relations like stem alternations to the margins, no matter how regular, productive, or distinct from general phonological patterns in the language in question overall. This parallel focus of each component on a "specialization" as it were has left exactly morphologically significant stem alternations such as Germanic Ablaut and Celtic initial-consonant mutation poorly served. In both families, these robust sound patterns generally lack reliable synchronic phonological conditioning. Instead, one must crucially refer to grammatical structure and morphological properties in order to account for their distributions. It is no coincidence that such stem alternations look phonological, just as fossils resemble the forms of the organisms that left them. The work of morphology likewise does not depend on alternant segments sharing aspects of sound, but the salience of the system may benefit from perceptible coherence of form. One may observe what sound relations exist between stem alternants, but it is neither necessary nor realistic to oblige a speaker/learner to generate established stem alternations anew from remote underlying representations, as if the alternations were always still arising; to do so constitutes a grafting of the technique of internal reconstruction as a recapitulating simulation within the synchronic grammar.

Article

Phonetics of Consonants  

Susanne Fuchs and Peter Birkholz

Consonants are a major class of sounds occurring in all human languages. Typologically, consonant inventories are richer than vowel inventories. Consonants have been classified according to four basic features. Airstream mechanism is one of these features and describes the direction of airflow in or out of the oral cavity. The outgoing airflow is further separated according to its origin, that is, air coming from the lungs (pulmonic) or the oral cavity (non-pulmonic). Consonants are also grouped according to their phonological voicing contrast, which can be manifested phonetically by the presence or absence of vocal fold oscillations during the oral closure/constriction phase and by the duration from an oral closure release to the onset of voicing. Place of articulation is the third feature and refers to the location at which a consonantal constriction or closure is produced in the vocal tract. Finally, manner of articulation reflects different timing and coordinated actions of the articulators closely tied to aerodynamic properties.

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in European Spanish  

José Antonio Samper Padilla

Spanish is a language characterized on the phonetic level by a rich variation in consonantism, especially in the syllable-final position (both word-inner and word-final), whereas vocalism shows a more fixed character and a less relevant variation. Thus, it is not strange that the majority of variationist studies have focused on consonantism. Investigations addressing prosodic variation are fewer and more recent and will not be broached here because of space limitations. In the field of consonant variation, studies focusing on the weakening effect on certain elements of the coda stand out. The most relevant among these phenomena is the one which affects /s/, and this is so for various reasons: (a) because has been considered to be one of the isoglosses that divide the two great norms of current Spanish (Castilian and Atlantic); (b) because of its geographical extent; and (c) because it has led to theoretical approaches about the possible impact on number (singular/plural) and grammatical person (second/third-person singular) differentiation that implies the frequent presence of word-final -s. Additionally, variation which affects the liquid consonants (/l/ and /r/), leading to processes of both weakening and change in these two types of consonants, has been studied quite extensively (at least in Andalusia and the Canary Islands). The weakening process affecting the final nasal consonant, with velarization as a first step and potential elision as a second one, has been less frequently studied in Spain (much less than in the case of Caribbean Spanish, for example). In the field of syllabic tension, there is another phenomenon that has often been studied due to its geographic extent: the weakening of intervocalic /d/, which yields very different data depending on dialectal variety (evidence of the greater or lesser degree of progress in that weakening process). Sociolinguistic analyses also focus on the increasing expansion of yeísmo, a phenomenon usually conditioned by age as an explanatory factor in this advanced stage of the process. In Andalusian Spanish, the alternation between different pronunciations of the phonemes /s/ and /θ/ (mainly distinction, seseo and ceceo), the defricativization of /tʃ/ and the alternation between the realizations of /x/ as [x] and [h] have also been analyzed. In the case of vowels, as has been said before, it should be pointed out that cases of sociolinguistic variation in Spanish are not as numerous or as relevant; therefore, they have been less appealing to researchers. Among the main phenomena, we shall discuss the vocalic metaphony registered in Cantabria and Asturias.

Article

Old and Middle English Phonology  

Donka Minkova

Old English (OE) is a cover term for a variety of dialects spoken in Britain ca. 5th–11th century. Most of the manuscripts on which the descriptive handbook tradition relies date from the latter part of the period. These late OE manuscripts were produced in Wessex and show a degree of uniformity interrupted by the Norman Conquest of 1066. Middle English (ME) covers roughly 1050–1500. The early part of the period, ca. pre-1350, is marked by great diversity of scribal practices; it is only in late ME that some degree of orthographic regularity can be observed. The consonantal system of OE differs from the Modern English system. Consonantal length was contrastive, there were no affricates, no voicing contrast for the fricatives [f, θ, s], no phonemic velar nasal [ŋ], and [h-] loss was under way. In the vocalic system, OE shows changes that identify it as a separate branch of Germanic: Proto-Germanic (PrG) ē 1 > OE ǣ/ē, PrG ai > OE ā, PrG au > OE ēa. The non-low short vowels of OE are reconstructed as non-peripheral, differing from the corresponding long vowels both in quality and quantity. The so called “short” diphthongs usually posited for OE suggest a case for which a strict binary taxonomy is inapplicable to the data. The OE long vowels and diphthongs were unstable, producing a number of important mergers including /iː - yː/, /eː - eø/, /ɛː - ɛə/. In addition to shifts in height and frontness, the stressed vowels were subject to a series of quantity adjustments that resulted in increased predictability of vowel length. The changes that jointly contribute to this are homorganic cluster lengthening, ME open syllable lengthening, pre-consonantal and trisyllabic shortening. The final unstressed vowels of ME were gradually lost, resulting in the adoption of <-e># as a diacritic marker for vowel length. Stress-assignment was based on a combination of morphological and prosodic criteria: root-initial stress was obligatory irrespective of syllable weight, while affixal stress was also sensitive to weight. Verse evidence allows the reconstruction of left-prominent compound stress; there is also some early evidence for the formation of clitic groups. Reconstruction of patterns on higher prosodic levels—phrasal and intonational contours—is hampered by lack of testable evidence.

Article

(High) German  

Simon Pickl

(High) German is both a group of closely related West Germanic varieties and a standardized language derived from this group that comprises a wide range of dialects and colloquial varieties in addition to its standardized form. The two terms have related, and to an extent overlapping, but distinct meanings: German refers to a Standard Average European language spoken predominantly in Central Europe by some 96 million speakers and by minority speech communities around the globe. High German has a double meaning: On the one hand, it is another term for Standard German. On the other hand, it refers to the High German linguistic group within West Germanic, the linguistic basis for the German language. As such, it is defined by the High German consonant shift, a sound change that affected Germanic obstruents and set it apart from its immediate neighbors within (West) Germanic, that is, Low German and Low Franconian. The High German consonant shift around the 7th century, together with the onset of written transmission in the 8th century, marks the beginning of the history of (High) German. Traditional dialects perpetuate patterns of areal variation that arose in the wake of this sound change. Standard German developed out of High German written varieties, especially based on East Central German, through processes of leveling, koineization, metalinguistic reasoning, and codification. During that process, the emergent supra-regional norm superseded Low German in northern Germany and Upper German regional norms in the south, as well as influencing spoken registers, but (Standard) German remains a pluricentric and pluriareal language. Today, colloquial, regional varieties that combine features of Standard German and traditional dialects dominate oral language use, and in social media the written language, too, is developing new colloquial forms that build on standard orthography as well as on regional, informal forms of spoken language usage.

Article

Contrastive Specification in Phonology  

Daniel Currie Hall

The fundamental idea underlying the use of distinctive features in phonology is the proposition that the same phonetic properties that distinguish one phoneme from another also play a crucial role in accounting for phonological patterns. Phonological rules and constraints apply to natural classes of segments, expressed in terms of features, and involve mechanisms, such as spreading or agreement, that copy distinctive features from one segment to another. Contrastive specification builds on this by taking seriously the idea that phonological features are distinctive features. Many phonological patterns appear to be sensitive only to properties that crucially distinguish one phoneme from another, ignoring the same properties when they are redundant or predictable. For example, processes of voicing assimilation in many languages apply only to the class of obstruents, where voicing distinguishes phonemic pairs such as /t/ and /d/, and ignore sonorant consonants and vowels, which are predictably voiced. In theories of contrastive specification, features that do not serve to mark phonemic contrasts (such as [+voice] on sonorants) are omitted from underlying representations. Their phonological inertness thus follows straightforwardly from the fact that they are not present in the phonological system at the point at which the pattern applies, though the redundant features may subsequently be filled in either before or during phonetic implementation. In order to implement a theory of contrastive specification, it is necessary to have a means of determining which features are contrastive (and should thus be specified) and which ones are redundant (and should thus be omitted). A traditional and intuitive method involves looking for minimal pairs of phonemes: if [±voice] is the only property that can distinguish /t/ from /d/, then it must be specified on them. This approach, however, often identifies too few contrastive features to distinguish the phonemes of an inventory, particularly when the phonetic space is sparsely populated. For example, in the common three-vowel inventory /i a u/, there is more than one property that could distinguish any two vowels: /i/ differs from /a/ in both place (front versus back or central) and height (high versus low), /a/ from /u/ in both height and rounding, and /u/ from /i/ in both rounding and place. Because pairwise comparison cannot identify any features as contrastive in such cases, much recent work in contrastive specification is instead based on a hierarchical sequencing of features, with specifications assigned by dividing the full inventory into successively smaller subsets. For example, if the inventory /i a u/ is first divided according to height, then /a/ is fully distinguished from the other two vowels by virtue of being low, and the second feature, either place or rounding, is contrastive only on the high vowels. Unlike pairwise comparison, this approach produces specifications that fully distinguish the members of the underlying inventory, while at the same time allowing for the possibility of cross-linguistic variation in the specifications assigned to similar inventories.