LSA 121: Phonetic naturalness and unnaturalness in phonology

Eugene Buckley | session 1 | TuTh 1:30 – 3:15, 106 Moffitt Hall

Most phonological patterns are phonetically natural, insofar as we can identify the articulatory, acoustic, or perceptual basis for the change encoded by the corresponding rule or constraint ranking. Theories that incorporate a notion of markedness aim to capture such naturalness in the formalization of rules or constraints; potentially, only natural patterns can be expressed by the basic tools of the theory. But this approach leaves little room for less common but nevertheless productive processes that are phonetically unnatural. The crucial question is whether unnatural processes are fundamentally different in their patterning. For example, are they more like allomorphy than phonology? Do they tend to disappear more quickly over time? Are they harder to learn? In this course we will consider a range of evidence bearing on the status of phonetic naturalness in language, and the implications for theories of phonological knowledge.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Prerequisites: A previous course in phonological theory.

Areas of linguistics: Phonetics, phonology, and morphology

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