One of the most fundamental problems in research on spoken language is to understand how the categorical, systemic knowledge that speakers have in the form of a phonological grammar maps onto the continuous, high-dimensional physical speech act that transmits the linguistic message. The invariant units of phonological analysis have no invariant analogue in the signal—any given phoneme can manifest itself in many possible variants, depending on context, speech rate, utterance position and the like, and the acoustic cues for a given phoneme are spread out over time across multiple linguistic units. Speakers and listeners are highly knowledgeable about the lawfully structured variation in the signal and they skillfully exploit articulatory and acoustic trading relations when speaking and perceiving. For the scientific description of spoken language understanding this association between abstract, discrete categories and continuous speech dynamics remains a formidable challenge. Articulatory Phonology and the associated Task Dynamic model present one particular proposal on how to step up to this challenge using the mathematics of dynamical systems with the central insight being that spoken language is fundamentally based on the production and perception of linguistically defined patterns of motion. In Articulatory Phonology, primitive units of phonological representation are called gestures. Gestures are defined based on linear second order differential equations, giving them inherent spatial and temporal specifications. Gestures control the vocal tract at a macroscopic level, harnessing the many degrees of freedom in the vocal tract into low-dimensional control units. Phonology, in this model, thus directly governs the spatial and temporal orchestration of vocal tract actions.
Birgit Alber and Sabine Arndt-Lappe
Work on the relationship between morphology and metrical structure has mainly addressed three questions: 1. How does morphological constituent structure map onto prosodic constituent structure, i.e., the structure that is responsible for metrical organization? 2. What are the reflexes of morphological relations between complex words and their bases in metrical structure? 3. How variable or categorical are metrical alternations? The focus in the work specified in question 1 has been on establishing prosodic constituency with supported evidence from morphological constituency. Pertinent prosodic constituents are the prosodic (or phonological) word, the metrical foot, the syllable, and the mora (Selkirk, 1980). For example, the phonological behavior of certain affixes has been used to argue that they are word-internal prosodic words, which thus means that prosodic words may be recursive structures (e.g., Aronoff & Sridhar, 1987). Similarly, the shape of truncated words has been used as evidence for the shape of the metrical foot (cf., e.g., Alber & Arndt-Lappe, 2012). Question 2 considers morphologically conditioned metrical alternations. Stress alternations have received particular attention. Affixation processes differ in whether or not they exhibit stress alternations. Affixes that trigger stress alternations are commonly referred to as 'stress-shifting' affixes, those that do not are referred to as 'stress-preserving' affixes. The fact that morphological categories differ in their stress behavior has figured prominently in theoretical debates about the phonology-morphology interface, in particular between accounts that assume a stratal architecture with interleaving phonology-morphology modules (such as lexical phonology, esp. Kiparsky, 1982, 1985) and those that assume that morphological categories come with their own phonologies (e.g., Inkelas, Orgun, & Zoll, 1997; Inkelas & Zoll, 2007; Orgun, 1996). Question 3 looks at metrical variation and its relation to the processing of morphologically complex words. There is a growing body of recent empirical work showing that some metrical alternations seem variable (e.g., Collie, 2008; Dabouis, 2019). This means that different stress patterns occur within a single morphological category. Theoretical explanations of the phenomenon vary depending on the framework adopted. However, what unites pertinent research seems to be that the variation is codetermined by measures that are usually associated with lexical storage. These are semantic transparency, productivity, and measures of lexical frequency.
The word accent system of Tokyo Japanese might look quite complex with a number of accent patterns and rules. However, recent research has shown that it is not as complex as has been assumed if one incorporates the notion of markedness into the analysis: nouns have only two productive accent patterns, the antepenultimate and the unaccented pattern, and different accent rules can be generalized if one focuses on these two productive accent patterns. The word accent system raises some new interesting issues. One of them concerns the fact that a majority of nouns are ‘unaccented,’ that is, they are pronounced with a rather flat pitch pattern, apparently violating the principle of obligatoriness. A careful analysis of noun accentuation reveals that this strange accent pattern occurs in some linguistically predictable structures. In morphologically simplex nouns, it typically tends to emerge in four-mora nouns ending in a sequence of light syllables. In compound nouns, on the other hand, it emerges due to multiple factors, such as compound-final deaccenting morphemes, deaccenting pseudo-morphemes, and some types of prosodic configurations. Japanese pitch accent exhibits an interesting aspect in its interactions with other phonological and linguistic structures. For example, the accent of compound nouns is closely related with rendaku, or sequential voicing; the choice between the accented and unaccented patterns in certain types of compound nouns correlates with the presence or absence of the sequential voicing. Moreover, whether the compound accent rule applies to a certain compound depends on its internal morphosyntactic configuration as well as its meaning; alternatively, the compound accent rule is blocked in certain types of morphosyntactic and semantic structures. Finally, careful analysis of word accent sheds new light on the syllable structure of the language, notably on two interrelated questions about diphthong-hood and super-heavy syllables. It provides crucial insight into ‘diphthongs,’ or the question of which vowel sequence constitutes a diphthong, against a vowel sequence across a syllable boundary. It also presents new evidence against trimoraic syllables in the language.