Perceptual sources for closed-syllable vowel laxing and derived environment effects
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Edward Flemming, Michael Kenstowicz, and Donca Steriade.
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This dissertation claims that allowing perceptual factors to play a role in phonology helps make some progress on the understanding of two challenging phenomena: closed-syllable vowel laxing (CSVL), i.e. the tendency for vowels to be lowered and centralized before word-final and preobstruent consonants, and phonologically-derived environment effects (PDEEs), i.e. patterns where a phonological process is blocked unless accompanied by another phonological process. CSVL is challenging because the mechanism that relates vowel quality and the postvocalic context is not obvious. In particular, CSVL cannot be analyzed as a coarticulatory effect driven by vowel shortening. PDEEs are challenging because they imply that a smaller input-output change may be worse than a strictly larger one, in violation of a basic principle of faithfulness. Part I proposes that CSVL is a strategy to enhance contrasts among postvocalic consonants in contexts where these consonants lack good release cues and are therefore perceptually weak. In particular, laxing is argued to enhance contrasts of place of articulation (e.g. contrasts involving [p], [t], [k]). This hypothesis is supported by the results of a perception experiment showing that, in French, [p], [t], and [k] are generally more distinct after lax mid vowels than after tense mid vowels. An analysis of CSVL is proposed using constraints on contrasts. Part II proposes that PDEEs follow from the hypothesis that the input-output distance is perceived logarithmically: this predicts that a feature change may be less salient perceptually and therefore represent a smaller violation of faithfulness if accompanied by another feature change. This theory has two desirable consequences: it reconciles the analysis of PDEEs with the idea of a minimal input-output modification bias and it derives a number of perceptual constraints on the features that can interact in PDEEs, therefore providing a restrictive account of the typology.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, 2017.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 227-241).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Linguistics and Philosophy.